Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Jimmie Johnson

Everything you need to know for Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 at Darlington

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One of NASCAR’s toughest tests comes this Saturday night, as the venerable Darlington Raceway hosts the Sprint Cup Series for the first time on its new April date.

The 1.366-mile, egg-shaped oval is one of the series’ most historic tracks and one of its most difficult as well. Not many cars emerge from a Darlington race without having met up with the wall at some point, giving it a “Darlington stripe.”

And after being repaved in 2008, time has weathered the ‘new’ track to the point where some of its old, abrasive characteristics have returned – adding another obstacle for drivers.

Courtesy of NASCAR’s public relations and statistics teams, here’s all the important numbers and notes you need to know going into Saturday’s Bojangles’ Southern 500 – Round 8 of the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.


Greg Biffle (No. 16 3M/ Red Cross Ford)
· Two wins, two top fives, five top 10s; two poles
· Average finish of 13.9
· Average Running Position of 10.3, fifth-best
· Driver Rating of 107.5, third-best
· Series-high 286 Fastest Laps Run
· 452 Green Flag Passes, 10th-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.878 mph, fifth-fastest
· 2,441 Laps in the Top 15 (73.7%), fifth-most
· 291 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), third-most

Kyle Busch (No. 18 M&M’s Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, five top 10s
· Average finish of 14.4
· Average Running Position of 9.0, third-best
· Driver Rating of 106.2, fifth-best
· 230 Fastest Laps Run, third-most
· 492 Green Flag Passes, fifth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.996 mph, third-fastest
· 2,790 Laps in the Top 15 (84.3%), second-most
· Series-high 337 Quality Passes

Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 88 National Guard Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, eight top 10s
· Average finish of 14.9
· Average Running Position of 12.2, eighth-best
· Driver Rating of 91.4, 10th-best
· 547 Green Flag Passes, second-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.451 mph, 11th-fastest
· 2,277 Laps in the Top 15 (68.8%), eighth-most
· 273 Quality Passes, fifth-most

Carl Edwards (No. 99 Ford EcoBoost Ford)
· Three top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 12.5
· Average Running Position of 12.8, 10th-best
· Driver Rating of 93.4, ninth-best
· 151 Fastest Laps Run, seventh-most
· 480 Green Flag Passes, seventh-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.593 mph, ninth-fastest
· 2,248 Laps in the Top 15 (67.9%), ninth-most
· 279 Quality Passes, fourth-most

Jeff Gordon (No. 24 Drive To End Hunger Chevrolet)
· Seven wins, 19 top fives, 22 top 10s; three poles
· Average finish of 11.5
· Series-best Average Running Position of 8.1
· Series-best Driver Rating of 111.8
· 194 Fastest Laps Run, fifth-most
· Series-best Average Green Flag Speed of 160.130 mph
· Series-high 2,982 Laps in the Top 15 (90.1%)
· 272 Quality Passes, sixth-most

Denny Hamlin (No. 11 Sport Clips Toyota)
· One win, four top fives, seven top 10s
· Average finish of 5.4
· Average Running Position of 8.6, second-best
· Driver Rating of 108.9, second-best
· 182 Fastest Laps Run, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.977 mph, fourth-fastest
· 2,488 Laps in the Top 15 (84.6%), fourth-most
· 266 Quality Passes, seventh-most

Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 KOBALT Tools Chevrolet)
· Three wins, eight top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 8.8
· Average Running Position of 9.9, fourth-best
· Driver Rating of 107.5, fourth-best
· 233 Fastest Laps Run, second-most
· 485 Green Flag Passes, sixth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 160.069 mph, second-fastest
· 2,504 Laps in the Top 15 (75.6%), third-most
· 252 Quality Passes, eighth-most

Kasey Kahne (No. 5 Great Clips Chevrolet)
· Three top fives, four top 10s; four poles
· Average finish of 14.2
· Average Running Position of 10.4, sixth-best
· Driver Rating of 99.1, sixth-best
· 217 Fastest Laps Run, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.655 mph, eighth-fastest
· 2,318 Laps in the Top 15 (70.0%), seventh-most

Matt Kenseth (No. 20 Home Depot Husky Toyota)
· One win, two top fives, nine top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 16.7
· Average Running Position of 14.3, 12th-best
· Driver Rating of 90.9, 11th-best
· 113 Fastest Laps Run, ninth-most
· 469 Green Flag Passes, eighth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.346 mph, 12th-fastest
· 223 Quality Passes, 12th-most

Ryan Newman (No. 31 Caterpillar Chevrolet)
· Seven top fives, 10 top 10s; one pole
· Average finish of 12.3
· Average Running Position of 11.6, seventh-best
· Driver Rating of 95.8, seventh-best
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.708 mph, seventh-fastest
· 2,425 Laps in the Top 15 (73.3%), sixth-most

Tony Stewart (No. 14 Mobil 1/Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet)
· Four top fives, 11 top 10s
· Average finish of 12.0
· Average Running Position of 13.9, 11th-best
· Driver Rating of 89.6, 12th-best
· 105 Fastest Laps Run, 10th-most
· Series-high 563 Green Flag Passes
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.535 mph, 10th-fastest
· 2,144 Laps in the Top 15 (64.8%), 11th-most
· 300 Quality Passes, second-most

Martin Truex Jr. (No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet)
· One top five, three top 10s
· Average finish of 11.4
· Average Running Position of 12.4, ninth-best
· Driver Rating of 94.8, eighth-best
· 125 Fastest Laps Run, eighth-most
· 510 Green Flag Passes, fourth-most
· Average Green Flag Speed of 159.745 mph, sixth-fastest
· 250 Quality Passes, ninth-most


Darlington Raceway Track Data
Season Race #: 8 of 36 (04-12-14)
Track Size: 1.366-miles
Banking/Turns 1 & 2: 25 degrees
Banking/Turns 3 & 4: 23 degrees
Banking/Frontstretch: 6 degrees
Banking/Backstretch: 6 degrees
Frontstretch Length: 1,229 feet
Backstretch Length: 1,229 feet
Race Length: 367 laps / 501.3 miles

Top 10 Driver Ratings at Darlington
Jeff Gordon………………………… 111.8
Denny Hamlin………………………. 108.9
Greg Biffle………………………….. 107.5
Jimmie Johnson…………………… 107.5
Kyle Busch…………………………. 106.2
Kasey Kahne………………………… 99.1
Ryan Newman……………………….. 95.8
Martin Truex Jr………………………. 94.8
Carl Edwards………………………… 93.4
Dale Earnhardt Jr…………………… 91.4
Note: Driver Ratings compiled from 2005-2013 races (nine total) among active drivers at Darlington Raceway.

Qualifying/Race Data
2013 Coors Light pole winner: Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 181.918 mph, 27.032 secs., May 10, 2013
2013 race winner: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 141.383 mph, (03:32:45), May 11, 2013
Track qualifying record: Kurt Busch, Chevrolet, 181.918 mph, 27.032 secs., May 10, 2013
Track race record: Matt Kenseth, Toyota, 141.383 mph, (03:32:45), May 11, 2013

Darlington Raceway History
· Darlington Raceway was built as a 1.25-mile paved superspeedway in 1949-1950.
· Darlington Raceway hosted the first 500-mile race in NASCAR history and the first on asphalt on Sept. 4, 1950. – won by Johnny Mantz.
· The track was re-measured to 1.375 miles in 1953.
· The track was re-configured to 1.366 miles following the spring race in 1970.
· The track was repaved in 1995.
· The 2005 race was the first Saturday night race at Darlington.
· The track was repaved again prior to the 2008 season.

Darlington Raceway Notebook
· There have been 110 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington Raceway. The 1.366-mile track has hosted the fourth most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points paying races.
· 702 drivers have competed in at least one NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Darlington Raceway; 426 in more than one.
· NASCAR Hall of Famer Richard Petty leads the series in starts at Darlington with 65. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 33 starts; followed by Joe Nemechek with 27.
· Curtis Turner won the inaugural Coors Light pole at Darlington in 1950 with a speed of 82.034 mph.
· 47 drivers have Coors Light poles at Darlington, led by David Pearson with 12. Kasey Kahne leads all active drivers with four.
· Nine drivers have won consecutive Coors Light poles at Darlington. David Pearson holds the record for most consecutive poles at Darlington with five (1975 – 1977).
· Youngest Darlington pole winner: Kurt Busch (09/02/2001 – 23 years, 0 months, 29 days).
· Oldest Darlington pole winner: David Pearson (09/06/1982 – 47 years, 8 months, 15 days).
· 46 different drivers have won at Darlington Raceway, led by David Pearson with 10. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with seven.
· Youngest Darlington winner: Kyle Busch (05/10/2008 – 23 years, 0 months, 8 days).
· Oldest Darlington winner: Harry Gant (09/01/1991 – 51 years, 7 months, 22 days).
· Hendrick Motorsports has the most wins at Darlington in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with 14.
· 11 different manufacturers have won in the NSCS at Darlington; led by Chevrolet with 40 victories; followed by Ford with 28.
· 19 of the 110 (17.2%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the Coors Light pole; the most recent was Dale Jarrett in 1997. NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson has won from the pole four times at Darlington – the series’ most.
· The Coors Light pole starting position is the most proficient starting position in the field, producing more winners (19) than any other starting position at Darlington. The outside front row (second-place) has produced the second most wins (17).
· 36 of the 110 (32.7%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from the front row: 19 from the pole and 17 from second-place.
· 95 of the 110 (86.3%) NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Darlington have been won from a top-10 starting position.
· Six of the 110 (5.4%) NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Darlington have been won from a starting position outside the top 20.
· The deepest in the field that a race winner has started at Darlington was 43rd by Johnny Mantz in 1950 – the inaugural NSCS event.
· Buddy Baker and Richard Petty are tied for theseries most runner-up finishes at Darlington with eight each. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in second-place finishes at Darlington with four.
· Richard Petty leads the series in top-five finishes at Darlington with 25. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 19.
· Bill Elliott leads the series in top-10 finishes at Darlington with 35. Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers with 22.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average starting position at Darlington with a 6.758.
· Denny Hamlin leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in average finishing position at Darlington with a 5.375.
· Two active NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers have an average finish in the top 10 at Darlington: Denny Hamlin (5.3) and Jimmie Johnson (8.8).
· 13 drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series have posted consecutive wins at Darlington; Dale Earnhardt (1989-1990)and Jeff Gordon (1995-1996)are tied for theseries lead in consecutive wins at Darlington with three each.
· All six active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners at Darlington Raceway participated in at least two or more races before visiting Victory Lane. Among active drivers, Kyle Busch won at Darlington in the fewest previous appearances (three).
· Matt Kenseth competed at Darlington Raceway 19 times before winning last season; the longest span of any the six active NASCAR Sprint Cup Series winners.
· Joe Nemechek leads the series among active drivers with the most NASCAR Sprint Cup Series starts at Darlington without visiting Victory Lane at 27.
· Since the advent of electronic scoring the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington Raceway was the (03/16/2003) race won by Ricky Craven with a MOV of 0.002 second – the MOV is tied with the 2011 Talladega race as the closest finishes in the NSCS using electronic scoring.
· There have been three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races resulting with a green-white-checkered finish at Darlington Raceway: 2005 (367/370), 2011 (367/370) and 2012 (367/368).
· Eight of the 110 races at Darlington Raceway have been shortened due to weather conditions; the most recent was the fall race of 2000.
· Qualifying has been cancelled due to weather conditions in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington Raceway five times; most recently was the fall race of 2004.
· Terry Labonte (09/04/1978) made his series debut at Darlington Raceway.
· Ken Schrader (03/29/1987), Kurt Busch (09/02/2001) and Clint Bowyer (05/13/2007) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coors Light poles at Darlington.
· Regan Smith (05/07/2011) and Terry Labonte (09/01/1980) posted their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Darlington.
· Jeff Gordon leads all active drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in laps led at Darlington with 1,736 laps led in 33 starts.
· Three female drivers have competed at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series:

  • Janet Guthrie, Southern 500, Sept. 5, 1977 – Started 26th, Finished 16th
  • Shawna Robinson, Carolina Dodge Dealers 400, March 17, 2002 – Started 42nd, Finished 42nd
  • Danica Patrick, Bojangles’ Southern 500 – Finished 31st  in 2012, Finished 28th in 2013

NASCAR in South Carolina
· There have been 220 NASCAR Sprint Cup races among 10 tracks in South Carolina. Darlington has hosted 110 of them. The other tracks are: Columbia Speedway (43), Greenville-Pickens Speedway (29), Piedmont Interstate Fairgrounds (Spartanburg, 22), Rambi Race Track (Myrtle Beach, 9), Coastal Speedway (Myrtle Beach, 2), Lancaster Speedway (2), Gamecock Speedway (Sumter, 1), Hartsville Speedway (1), and Newberry Speedway (1)
· 133 drivers in NASCAR national series history have their home state recorded as South Carolina.
· 11 drivers from South Carolina have won at least one race in NASCAR’s three national series; eight have won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

  • David Pearson – 105 Cup wins, 1 NNS win
  • Cale Yarborough – 83 Cup
  • Rex White – 28 Cup
  • Cotton Owens – 9 Cup
  • Tiny Lund – 5 Cup
  • James Hylton – 2 Cup
  • Johnny Allen – 1 Cup
  • Joe Eubanks – 1 Cup
  • Larry Pearson – 15 NNS
  • Jason Keller – 10 NNS
  • Butch Lindley – 6 NNS

2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Preview

xxxx during previews for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
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Veteran Formula 1 journalist Joe Saward raised quite an interesting point in his most recent blog post ahead of this weekend’s season finale in Abu Dhabi.

“There are times when one wonders whether NASCAR is smarter than F1 by making sure that every championship showdown has four contenders,” he wrote.

“Why is F1 so stuck in its own mud that it will not consider any kind of play-off format? I know that it was not like that ‘in my father’s day’, but a scoring system is a scoring system – and teams deal with the rules they are given. In any case, points systems have changed in F1 many times, so comparing the different eras is of no great value.”

Indeed, Joe is right. The Chase, while having its critics, does ensure that the NASCAR season has a dramatic and exciting finale – something that F1 risks not having, and so frequently misses out on.

2015 is one such example. The championship was mathematically settled in Austin one month ago, yet there has been little doubt since Italy who would be winning the title. In fact, some may say that Lewis Hamilton had the championship in the bag as early as Hungary last year when he crushed Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes mind-games.

And yet we arrive in Abu Dhabi for the final race of the year with so much to play for and plenty still waiting to be settled. There are engine dramas still ongoing, two seats on the 2016 grid to be confirmed, and a revival from Rosberg that Hamilton will be so very keen to put a stop to.

For one last time in 2015, here is your complete weekend preview featuring talking points, track stats and TV times ahead of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Talking Points

Nico’s charge continues

Five straight pole positions and two comfortable victories in Mexico and Brazil not only confirmed that Rosberg will finish this year as runner-up to Hamilton once again, but have set the German up nicely for a renewed charge in 2016.

Rosberg was wry when told on the podium in Brazil that he needed to drive like this earlier in the year, but knows it to be true. If this form is anything to go by though, at a time when Hamilton seems to have become almost too comfortable, Rosberg may yet be a genuine candidate for the championship once again next year.

Victory in Abu Dhabi on Sunday would also act as some kind of pain relief for Rosberg at the site of his bitter loss last year. The demons of 2014 are slowly being chased away. It may have taken him a year to do so, but Rosberg looks to be turning a corner.

Catch me if you can

Ferrari’s performance in Brazil once again stoked the fire for a close fight at the front of the pack in 2016 between F1’s two biggest manufacturers as Sebastian Vettel applied pressure on Rosberg and Hamilton throughout the race.

We therefore arrive in Abu Dhabi with hopes of a repeat, which at at track where the SF15-T should fare better still and in a race with a knack of the unexpected could offer a tremendous battle at the head of the field.

Just as Rosberg is banishing the misery of last year and suggesting that the best is still to come in 2016, Ferrari will want to do exactly the same thing on Sunday.

Fight to the Finnish

Apologies for re-using this pun, but the fight for supremacy between Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen has rumbled on for many weeks now. Their rivalry – if such a thing is possible between Finns – has been one of the interesting subplots in F1 of late thanks to their clashes in Russia and Mexico.

It’ll finally be settled this weekend in Abu Dhabi, but we all know that Bottas is the real winner. Beating Raikkonen in an inferior car is an impressive feat. However, not beating Felipe Massa with comfort in the same car may have ended his hopes of replacing Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2017.

A year changes plenty

Lots has changed in F1 over the past 12 months. Last year, there was no sign of Marussia, yet it outlived Caterham who did race at Yas Marina. Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton have both added to their greatness with impressive seasons, while the stock of others – mainly those powered by Honda – has fallen.

It’ll be interesting to see where we stand in one year’s time. The 2017 driver market promises to be one of the most active and eventful in years with plenty of top seats up for grabs, while we’ll have been back to Germany and even to Azerbaijan at this point in 2016.

And we’ll most probably either have a four or five-time world champion on our hands. Either way, we’re witnessing greatness in this period.

Say hello, wave goodbye?

On the same day that a number of teams have announced new sponsorship deals, we must also consider those who we may be waving goodbye to following this weekend’s race in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull and Toro Rosso’s future may still not be totally sewn up, but both will be on the grid next year. The same cannot be said of Roberto Merhi, though, who is likely to lose his seat at Manor, while the team itself faces an uncertain winter after the exits of Graeme Lowdon and John Booth.

We’re also not sure what the future holds for Lotus. Autosport reported on Thursday that the team needed help to make it to Abu Dhabi from Bernie Ecclestone, as the deal with Renault is still being finalized.

One thing we do know for sure is that Haas F1 Team will be joining the grid next year – they’ve even got a pit gantry – without a toaster in sight (props if you get that US F1 joke…).

2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Yas Marina Circuit
Laps: 55
Corners: 21
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:40.279 (Red Bull, 2009)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft (Option); Soft (Prime)
2014 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2014 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:40.480
2014 Fastest Lap: Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) 1:44.496
DRS Zone: T7 to T8; T10 to T11

2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4am ET 11/27
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 11/27
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5am ET 11/28
: CNBC 8am ET 11/28
Race: NBCSN 7am ET 11/29

Lance Stroll joins Williams F1 development programme

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Williams has confirmed the signing of Lance Stroll to its development programme ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season.

Stroll, 17, raced in the FIA F3 European Championship throughout 2015 after winning the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand over the winter and has enjoyed backing from Ferrari as a member of its driver academy.

However, the Canadian has now moved to Williams to take up a development role similar to that enjoyed by Valtteri Bottas in 2011.

“The programme includes extensive simulator time, work placements in several departments throughout the factory, as well as specific training in the fields of race engineering and marketing,” the team said via a press release on Thursday.

Williams also confirmed that Stroll will continue to race in the FIA Formula 3 European Championship in 2016, ending suggestions of a possible move into GP3 or GP2.

“I’m really honored to be part of such a great team and one with so much history and success,” Stroll said. “I cannot wait to start working with Williams and very much hope we can achieve great things together in the coming years.

“It’s a very exciting and crucial time in my short motor racing career. Reaching F1 was always the ultimate goal, I suppose ever since driving a go-kart my father had bought me for my fifth birthday.

“Williams has a long history of nurturing young drivers at the start of their F1 careers. David Coulthard, Jenson Button, Nico Rosberg, Nico Hülkenberg and most recently Valtteri [Bottas]. This element was something that was important to me in making the decision to join Williams.

“I won the Italian Formula 4 Championship last season in my first year of car racing after karts, won the Toyota Racing Series at the beginning of 2015 and finished fifth in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship in my first year which, having also won a race, hit my pre-season target. My future is now with Williams, which I’m very excited about.”

Deputy team principal Claire Williams was pleased to welcome Stroll to the team: “At Williams, we are committed to using our resource and expertise to help talented young drivers to reach their potential.

“We have a track record of success in this area, having supported Valtteri Bottas in his growth from a development driver role to a race driver and one of the most respected talents in Formula One.

“We have identified Lance as a promising talent for the future and we are happy to provide our support to his development as a driver. We look forward to working with Lance in 2016 and to the success he can achieve in the future.”

Manor, Williams, Sauber announce new partners; Red Bull extends multiple deals

xxxx during qualifying for the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 14, 2015 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
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This weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix may be the final hurrah for the 2015 Formula 1 season, but that has not stopped a number of teams from announcing new partnership deals in the days leading up to the race.

Manor, Williams and Sauber all revealed on Thursday the arrival of new partners for the final race of the year, while Red Bull confirmed the extension of three sponsorship deals.

Williams’ new partnership is with investment management company Winton, and will see its logos appear on the wing mirrors of the FW37 car and in the team’s garage over the Abu Dhabi weekend.

“There is a natural synergy between both organizations with a shared emphasis on using scientific data collection and analysis to improve performance,” a team release said, with deputy team boss Claire Williams adding: “Williams is pleased to welcome Winton as a partner. We will be working closely together at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to help Winton understand the power of Formula One to help it raise global awareness.”

Manor confirmed just five minutes after Williams’ announcement that it had signed a partnership with Shazam, a music identification app. Shazam will become the British team’s official music partner for the 2016 season.

“This partnership will form a key strand within the team’s enhanced fan engagement strategy, targeting Formula 1 fans and broader audiences,” a release said. “The companies will engage race fans and the general public, with the growing team, its drivers and its portfolio of challenger brands, all through the power of music.”

The team also said that it would mark “an exciting new collaboration at the intersection of sport and music”. Shazam will enjoy branding on the side of the Manor cars in Abu Dhabi.

Red Bull has confirmed the extension of three partnerships with Siemens, Oz Racing and Sabelt, acting as further signals that the team will be racing in F1 next year.

Sauber has also announced the striking of a deal with CNBC, which has become a premium partner of the team ahead of the 2016 season.

According to the team release, “CNBC and the Sauber F1 Team will use the global Formula One media platform to maximize their potentials, as well as to reach a broader audience around the globe.

“The CNBC branding will appear on the rear wing end plates of the Sauber C35, on the drivers’ overalls of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, as well as on the team’s clothing.

“To launch the partnership with CNBC, the logo will be visible on the rear wing end plates of the Sauber C34-Ferrari during the 2015 Formula One season finale at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.”

Merhi relishing F1 return in Abu Dhabi, but will it be his last?

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 26:  Roberto Merhi of Spain and Manor Marussia looks on at a press confernce during previews for the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 26, 2015 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Roberto Merhi is relishing his return to Formula 1 this weekend as he steps into the seat vacated by Alexander Rossi at Manor for the last race of the season.

Rossi joined Manor on a five-race deal in Singapore that would allow him to balance an F1 drive with commitments in GP2, where he looks set to finish the year as vice-champion.

Merhi was benched to allow Rossi to take the seat, but will return this weekend after missing the last three races due to the clash with GP2.

“I’m so excited to be back in the car this weekend for the season finale,” Merhi said. “As any reserve driver will tell you, I really missed the racing; it will be a long time yet before I’m ready to hang up my racing gloves for a full-time career in TV commentary!

“I’ve kept a close eye on everything the team has been doing over the past five races, so I don’t think it will be too difficult to get back up to speed on Friday and see how I stand versus Will [Stevens]. I’ve missed the competitive spirit between us.

“The most important thing is to do the best job possible for the team on Sunday, and ensure we have a result to celebrate.

“It has been a long, hard season, so I want to say thank you for this opportunity and I hope I can deliver another strong performance to reward the faith the team has shown in me.”

However, this looks set to be Merhi’s final F1 appearance for the time being at least. Just two seats remain on the grid for 2016 – both at Manor – but the Spaniard faces stiff competition from Rossi, Stevens and Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein for a role with the team.

Rossi and Stevens are both known to be better-funded than Merhi, while Wehrlein has been tipped for a seat thanks to Manor’s new technical partnership with Mercedes that comes into force for 2016.