2014 Spanish Grand Prix Preview

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After a three week break, Formula 1 returns to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix following four flyaway rounds, and there is an air of optimism lingering around the paddock at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

As the first grand prix on European shores in 2014, it marks the first opportunity for the teams to introduce a significant upgrade package for their cars, having got to grips with the new regulations in the previous four races. Therefore, we could yet see another shake-up of the pack, and perhaps even a more serious threat to Mercedes’ dominance in 2014. Or, alternatively, the gap could widen yet further between the Silver Arrows and the chasing pack.

This race is one of the true challenges for teams on the F1 calendar. Although overtaking is limited, the track requires a setup that is balanced between the fast, sweeping corners and the more technical sections of the circuit. It is also one of the toughest circuits on tires, with last year’s race being won by Fernando Alonso on a four stop strategy.

2014 Spanish Grand Prix – Talking Points

Surely Mercedes can’t go even faster?

Well, yes, the team can. And it most probably will. The upgrade package that each team introduces always marks a big step forwards, and given that we’re just four races into a new set of regulations, this ‘step’ could be bigger than normal. Mercedes’ lightening start to the 2014 season doesn’t look like stopping any time soon, and if the development rate is as good now as it was in the lead-up to this year, the gap at the front could get bigger.

Red Bull and Ferrari seek resistance

It’s odd to think that the neutral might be actually cheering on Red Bull and Ferrari – the two dominant forces in F1 since 2000 – this weekend in Spain. If the championship is to realistically stay alive until the end of the season, then both of these teams need to show their true colors this weekend. Red Bull’s phenomenal rate of development could put it in good stead, whilst Ferrari has the backing of the crowd as Fernando Alonso goes in search of a third Spanish GP victory on home soil.

That sinking feeling for McLaren?

After a disastrous 2013 campaign, 2014 had the makings of something a little more promising for McLaren when Kevin Magnussen and Jenson Button reached the podium in Australia. Since then, though, neither has been particularly impressive, and Spain will be an important race to mark a revival. After being the bottom Mercedes-powered team in China, bouncing back in Barcelona is crucial for McLaren.

Some points for Sauber and Lotus, perhaps?

It’s crazy to think that two teams which have regularly finished on the podium over the last two years are now on a par – mathematically – with Caterham and Marussia. Lotus came close in China, only for a gearbox problem to rob Romain Grosjean of some points, but Sauber has never looked capable of finishing in the top ten. Both teams need a change this weekend.

The rain in Spain stays mainly on the plain – or not

That old rhyme doesn’t have much relevance this weekend. We look set to have just our second all-dry race weekend of the season, which should allow the teams to show their true pace. Wet qualifying in Australia, Malaysia and China masked much of their potential, whilst the colder conditions at night in Bahrain also posed a headache. If we are to trust the forecast, we may finally get an idea of the pecking order in Spain.

Track: Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya (4.655km)
Laps: 66
Corners: 16
Lap Record: Kimi Raikkonen 1:21.670 (2008)
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
2013 Winner: Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
2013 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:20.718
2013 Fastest Lap: Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) 1:26.217
DRS Zones: Main straight (T16 to T1); T9 to T10

Click here for the complete TV schedule and details on how to follow the Spanish Grand Prix live with NBC Sports.

Honda teams to test at Sonoma Raceway on April 4

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Honda’s Verizon IndyCar Series teams are set visit Sonoma Raceway on April 4 for an all-day test session for the manufacturer.

Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, and Takuma Sato), Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, and Max Chilton), Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastian Bourdais and Ed Jones Jr.), Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin), and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal) are all scheduled to run. Of that group, Kanaan, Andretti, and Dixon are former winners at Sonoma Raceway.

The Sonoma test follows Honda’s March 24 test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. However, Team Penske also scheduled a team test at the 2.5-mile oval on the same day, forcing Honda to share the track with their rival manufacturer.

However, no such conflict appears to be in play for Sonoma. The test will be open to the public as well with free admission into the facility. Testing will run from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. local time.

Justin Timberlake to play this year’s U.S. Grand Prix at COTA

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Taylor Swift playing last year’s U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin was always going to be a hard act to match, or perhaps top.

Yet COTA has pulled it off with confirmation Wednesday that Justin Timberlake will be playing on the Saturday before this year’s race, on October 21.

Timberlake will play at the conclusion of track activity on Saturday for a full show. Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m. CT, with more info via COTA’s website. Here’s the pertinent details:

  • The concert will take place at COTA’s Super Stage Festival Lawn, not Austin360 Amphitheater
  • Seating is general admission, first come first served
  • All holders of a Saturday ticket for USGP weekend, including the 3-day GA wristband, will have access to the show

Circuit of The Americas announced a crowd of more than 80,000 last year for T-Swift, for her first and only planned concert of the year.

Timberlake is on par from a stratospheric level as Swift is. And half the draw of the COTA weekend, it seems, is ensuring you can get concertgoers to the track as well.

This should make for a fun end-of-day on Saturday.

IMS Museum to reveal A.J. Foyt exhibit in April

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It’s been 40 years since A.J. Foyt won his fourth and final Indianapolis 500 as a driver in 1977. Perfect timing, then, for a special Foyt exhibit to grace the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which will premiere next month.

The release from the museum is below:

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of his record-setting fourth Indianapolis 500 win, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is proud to present a once-in-a-lifetime exhibit honoring auto racing icon A.J. Foyt, opening April 14.

A.J. Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition, presented by ABC Supply is a limited-run celebration that traces the superstar’s rise from the dirt tracks of Texas to the pinnacle of auto racing history.

Nearly three dozen cars that Foyt drove in competition will be on display, including all four of his Indianapolis 500 winning machines, the 1961 Bowes Seal Fast Special, 1964 & 1967 Sheraton-Thompson Specials, and the 1977 Gilmore Coyote.

Photo: IMS Archives

“Everyone knows that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite track and that people wouldn’t know me if it weren’t for the Indy 500, but to have the Museum put on this exhibit there, well I feel truly honored,” said the legendary Foyt. “This exhibit will give people a chance to see my winning Indy cars but also some of the other race cars I drove and won in over the years.”

In addition to several of Foyt’s IndyCars, many incredible machines representing Foyt’s career in NASCAR, USAC and road racing will be on display, many for the first time, and visitors will also have the chance to see rare memorabilia from Foyt’s personal collection.

“Based on the stuff we shipped to Indy, I think the Museum has a lot of personal memorabilia and photos that their visitors will like seeing” Foyt said. “I haven’t seen some of the cars in many, many years so to be truthful, I’m looking forward to the exhibit too!”

“A.J. Foyt is perhaps the most iconic driver in the 108-year history of the Brickyard” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum Director & Curator Ellen Bireley. “We are proud to honor this incredible champion with an exhibit of memories and memorabilia that pays tribute to one of the most diverse and successful careers in auto racing history.”

A.J. Foyt: A Legendary Exhibition is presented by ABC Supply, with additional support from Chevrolet and Al-Fe Heat Treating. The exhibit runs until October 31.

Social roundup: Media day at Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach

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The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is still more than a week away, but Media Day was in full swing on Tuesday with a number of attractions for fans and media in attendance.

That being said, it’s easier to get all the pre-advance work done before cars from six different series hit the track starting on Friday, April 7. The Long Beach IndyCar race airs on April 9 at 4 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

The day began with Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden fielding interviews with the local L.A. affiliates for NBC, Fox, and ABC before being a attending a midday luncheon. He also did various interviews with other outlets.

There were also a number of opportunities for rides around the 1.968-mile street circuit. IndyCar drivers Zach Veach and Gabby Chaves were in charge of the Verizon IndyCar Series two-seater while Scott Pruett manned driving duties in a two-seat version of his Lexus RC F GT3. Rocky Moran Sr. and Jr. also held demo rides of their own around the circuit in a Camry; James Sofronas took folks for rides in a GMG Racing Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Formula Drift was on hand as well, though their days were spent preparing for the event. Several cars made practice runs along Seaside Way and through turns 9, 10, and 11 of the circuit.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach is slated for April 7-9, with first practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series rolling off at 1:00 p.m. local time on Friday April 7.