F1 Grand Prix of China

Hamilton makes it three with lights to flag victory in China

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Lewis Hamilton has won the Chinese Grand Prix with a fantastic display on Sunday in Shanghai that saw the Briton go lights-to-flag and claim his third straight win.

The Mercedes driver was rarely challenged as teammate Nico Rosberg made a poor start before recovering to finish in SECOND place, whilst Fernando Alonso saw off the challenge of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel to come home third and claim Ferrari’s first podium finish of the season.

For Red Bull, it was a tenuous day as Vettel ignored the team’s call to allow Ricciardo past after the first round of stops. However, the Australian driver still managed to find a way past and eventually beat his illustrious teammate on track. Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas followed Vettel home on track in sixth and seventh place respectively.

Off the line, Felipe Massa made a fantastic start to force his way up into the top four, but heavy contact with Fernando Alonso dropped him to fifth behind the Ferrari; both cars were fortunate not to suffer any damage. Hamilton held onto his lead ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had jumped teammate Daniel Ricciardo, but Nico Rosberg was less fortunate as he dropped down to seventh. Kevin Magnussen’s luckless run continued as he was hit on the first lap, and his McLaren teammate Jenson Button also failed to get off the line well as he dropped down to 15th.

As Hamilton forged a lead at the head of the field, Alonso began to close on Vettel for second place as Red Bull and Ferrari scrapped to be ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes. However, as his tires began to wear, the Spaniard could not find a way past, allowing Ricciardo and Rosberg to close in the battle for P2. Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean both pitted early for a fresh set of tires, but most looked to extend their first stint in order to make a two-stop strategy work. Massa followed suit, but a problem fitting the left rear tire on his car meant that the William driver dropped down to last place.

Alonso was the first of the leaders to switch to the medium tire, and it immediately paid dividends as he got the undercut on Vettel to pass the four-time champion. The German driver refused to give in, tailing the Ferrari closely, but Red Bull told him to back off due to a straight line speed disadvantage. When Ricciardo pitted, he came out behind Rosberg, who now sat in fourth place whilst his teammate enjoyed a 30 second lead before pitting. With a fresh set of tires, Hamilton held onto his lead with a 3.5 second advantage over Alonso, who had by now gapped Vettel in third.

On the fightback from his poor start, Rosberg made a great pass on Vettel for P3 thanks to the supreme straight line speed of the Mercedes car, and the defending world champion simply could not respond. This allowed Ricciardo to close up on his teammate, and his advantage was such that the team – for the second race running – told Vettel to let him past. However, the German driver ignored this call, telling his engineer “tough luck” before defending his position. It wasn’t enough though, as Ricciardo managed to pass him into the first corner.

Romain Grosjean had given Lotus something to smile about in qualifying on Saturday after finishing in the top 10, and he continued to fight in the points during the race until a gearbox problem cruelly ended his race and forced yet another retirement for the Enstone team. However, progress clearly is being made by all at Lotus.

Vettel’s plight only worsened when he was unlapped by Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi, prompting an angry radio message from the German driver. He soon pitted, but was out behind Ricciardo and Rosberg who pitted for the final time on lap 37. The Mercedes driver came out behind Alonso once again, but with fresher tires and lots of fuel in reserve, the German driver was easily able to make it past the Ferrari with 14 laps remaining.

Despite dropping down to third place, Alonso continued to push in order to cover the threat of Ricciardo in fourth place. The Australian driver was given the hurry-up by his team as the gap to Vettel was so great that he had little to lose by pushing. With worn tires, the Spaniard remained wary of Ricciardo in his mirrors. However, he managed to hold on as Ricciardo finished fourth and over 20 seconds ahead of Vettel in fifth.

At the front, Hamilton went unchallenged as he eased his Mercedes home by over 18 seconds, and claimed his 25th career victory. It was a peerless display that underlines not only his dominance within the Mercedes team, but also in Formula 1 at the moment. However, in second place, Rosberg did enough to hang onto the championship lead by four points.

The momentum does lie with Hamilton, though. In his junior career, every time he has won three straight races, he has won the championship that year. Could this be the season that the Briton finally clinches his second Formula 1 world championship?

Australian Grand Prix puts ‘shoey’ can cooler up for sale to fans

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA - OCTOBER 02:  Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing performs a shoey to celebrate his win on the podium during the Malaysia Formula One Grand Prix at Sepang Circuit on October 2, 2016 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Daniel Ricciardo brought “The Shoey” to Formula 1 last year on a few podiums, including his only win of the year at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The concept is an interesting one – you’re drinking out of a sweaty race boot after a full day’s work.

Ricciardo did his first one himself at the German Grand Prix, his 100th Grand Prix, while he also got his Australian countryman Mark Webber (Spa) and English actor Gerard Butler (Austin) to get in on the act.

Luckily, good on Ricciardo’s home country as the Australian Grand Prix has actually created a ‘Shoey’ can cooler – available mid-March for 15 Australian dollars. The Australian Grand Prix is on NBCSN on March 26, to kick off the 2017 season.

Thanks to the Australian Grand Prix and freelance journalist Josh Kruse for the spot.

This is a brilliant piece of merchandise that cashes in on Ricciardo’s success and his celebration style, but allows for all the fun of a “Shoey” without the consequences of drinking out of a race boot.

Looks like shots in the grandstands of fans drinking from this type of boot may be something we need to look out for.

Juncos Racing enters IndyCar with a glittering MRTI resume

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Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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For years, the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires has long been considered a training ground for drivers, and some crew members, to prepare and develop before moving into the Verizon IndyCar Series.

It hasn’t, yet, seen a full team that began in the Road to Indy step up into IndyCar. But when Juncos Racing announced its intentions to build a new 40,000-square foot shop in Speedway, Ind., called the Juncos Technical Center, it was always part of the longer-term plan that an IndyCar team would eventually be part of the program. It has now arrived with an entry into the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017.

Ricardo Juncos’ team last major step from Pro Mazda into Indy Lights in 2015 produced better results than even he had imagined, as Spencer Pigot won the championship in the team’s first year.

“We got a good opportunity when we won the Pro Mazda championship with Spencer,” Juncos told reporters on a teleconference Wednesday.” The original idea before ’14 was try to fight for that championship. If we were able to win it, that we have a good chance to put together an Indy Lights team, which we did.

“But to be honest, we just showed up in 2015 taking a very difficult championship with a top-class worldwide teams with ex-Formula 1 drivers in the series (Max Chilton, and later Nelson Piquet Jr. at Carlin). It was very difficult. Our first initial thinking was, Let’s do our best, we were joking if we could win a race, that would be great. We ended up winning six races and a championship. Of course, that give us a lot of confidence.

“The continuation of the team was exactly what we was kind of did before in the Pro Mazda. Obviously that, like you said, one is coming from go-kart before then, then Pro Mazda, and Indy Lights was a lot of questions. Winning the championship give us a lot of confidence going forward.

“So I’m seeing this Indy car more as a same thing, as a continuation of what we done. We just going to keep doing what we normally do.”

Juncos will continue in Indy Lights this year with at least two cars (Kyle Kaiser, Nico Dapero), but has no immediate plans to return to Pro Mazda having sold off his equipment there. The USF2000 championship, meanwhile, introduces a new Tatuus USF-17 chassis this year which can be adapted for Pro Mazda use (Tatuus PM-18) starting in 2018, with a few part changeovers.

“To be honest, we actually are not going to run the Pro Mazda this year. Unfortunately after being eight years with four cars, we cannot do it. We going to focus obviously on Indy Lights, Indy car now, and some other stuff,” he said.

“Going into ’18, we’ll see. The problem is that as much as I want to have, is not that easy to just keep building teams. I want to do things right and control the things, which sometimes is difficult.”

So who is Juncos Racing and what have they accomplished in the Mazda Road to Indy? It’d be easier to work backwards and note the alumni of drivers who’ve delivered success for the team:

2016: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires (Kyle Kaiser, Zachary Claman De Melo) and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires (Garett Grist, Will Owen, Nico Dapero, Jake Parsons). Kaiser won twice and finished third in the Indy Lights standings, while Dapero scored his maiden win in Pro Mazda at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca season finale.

2015: Indy Lights (Spencer Pigot, Kaiser) and Pro Mazda (Owen, Grist, Timothe Buret, Jose Gutierrez). Pigot won the championship in the team’s step back up to Indy Lights with six race wins, in three weekend sweeps. Grist (twice) and Buret (once) won in Pro Mazda and Grist finished third in points.

2014: Pro Mazda (Gutierrez, Kaiser, Pigot, Julia Ballario). Pigot won the title with six wins, having survived an insane weekend battling Scott Hargrove for the title at Sonoma. Kaiser and Gutierrez won the two races that weekend and finished sixth and seventh in points.

2013: Pro Mazda (Gutierrez, Ballario, Scott Anderson, Diego Ferreira). Ferreira won the season opener and finished second in points, with Anderson fifth. Andretti’s Matt Brabham dominated the season.

2012: Star Mazda (Ferreira, Connor De Phillippi, Bruno Palli, Martin Scuncio). De Phillippi won twice, Scuncio once as De Phillippi came fourth in points in a deep field. He’s now gone onto success in sports car racing with Porsche and more recently Audi. The team also made its Indy Lights debut with Chase Austin, JV Horto and Bruno Palli in selected races.

2011: Star Mazda (Horto, Scuncio, Tatiana Calderon, Gustavo Menezes, Richard Heistand). Horto led the way there with a win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and fourth in points. Calderon and Menezes have eventually gone onto success in Europe, Menezes in particular given his run in LMP2 with the Signatech Alpine team last year where he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the class championship.

2010: Star Mazda (Scuncio, Calderon, Conor Daly, Sean Bursytn, Rusty Mitchell, Hayden Duerson). Juncos’ most successful year prior to 2014 saw Daly win seven of 13 races, en route to the championship by 79 points over Anders Krohn, who’s since developed his own post-driving career in both broadcasting and driver and business development at CoForce.

2009: Star Mazda (Daly, Peter Dempsey). In Juncos’ first year in Star Mazda, Dempsey won five races and Daly one, but Dempsey endured a tough loss for the championship in the final race after being taken out by competitor Joel Miller. This opened the door for Adam Christodoulou to snatch that year’s Star Mazda title.

Haas F1 Team gives us the sound of 2017 Ferrari (VIDEO)

MONTMELO, SPAIN - MAY 17:  Romain Grosjean of France drives the  Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo as he exits the pit lane during day one of Formula One testing at Circuit de Catalunya on May 17, 2016 in Montmelo, Spain.  (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)
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You’ve heard from the other power units competing in 2017 – Renault and Honda both revealed their sounds earlier this month, and Mercedes did too prior to that.

But the 2017 Ferrari hasn’t been heard yet. Until today, in two guises.

Earlier this afternoon, Sauber ran its C36 chassis with a Ferrari power unit on track at the Circuit de Catalunya-Barcelona as part of a filming day.

Meanwhile Haas F1 Team, the other privateer team using a Ferrari power unit, released a teaser video as it fired up the engine to its VF17 chassis for the first time. Haas launches its 2017 car on Sunday.

Follow @TonyDiZinno

F1 Paddock Pass: Force India VJM10 Launch (VIDEO)

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In the second edition of this week’s F1 on NBC Sports original digital series Paddock Pass, the Sahara Force India team reveals the VJM10 at the Silverstone Circuit in England, not far from the team’s headquarters.

Force India’s steady climb up the ladder has seen them rise to fourth place in the Constructor’s Championship, achieved last year.

NBCSN F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton checks in with drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, the latter of whom shifts to Force India after an impressive half season with Manor last year.

“It just looks amazing. It’s the first time I’ve been so excited looking at the car,” Perez told Buxton. “We have to adapt to a new driving style and see how physically demanding it is. It will be a big challenge for us.”

Otmar Szafnauer, COO of Sahara Force India, also offered his thoughts and expectations:

“The only way to hope to keep (the momentum) was to develop the 2017 car early. We don’t have the resources for parallel development,” Szafnauer told Buxton.

Stay tuned to the end of the video for a potential nugget about the testing lineup.

A link to Renault’s Paddock Pass from yesterday is here.

Further preseason content will come this week and into next on NBCSports.com.