F1 Grand Prix of Monaco

Hamilton and Rosberg lay down their weapons, but will it last?

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The last week or so in Formula 1 has been a funny one. On the grandest of stages – the Monaco Grand Prix – Mercedes looked to be on the brink of civil war as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg locked horns both on and off track.

However, the two spoke yesterday and cleared the air, with Hamilton tweeting: “We’ve been friends for a long time, and as friends we have our ups and downs. Today we spoke and we’re cool, still friends.” It was a sweet way to defuse the situation and remove the tension.

Of course, the cynical question is “will it last?” Is this ceasefire just for show?

Well, that remains to be seen. The crucial part of this is that a ceasefire has taken place, and that there is no longer this public tension and ‘threat of war’. For all we know, it could still linger internally at Mercedes, but from the outside looking in, the waters have calmed.

And that was the important part of this for the team. Over the years, there have been many explosive intra-team rivalries. Those that have taken place in the public domain – Senna/Prost, Webber/Vettel – have been particularly difficult for the teams dealing with them.

However, we must go back to another case involving Lewis Hamilton to compare it to the ‘Battle of Mercedes’ in 2014: his 2007 tiff with Fernando Alonso.

Alonso arrived at McLaren after winning two straight titles with Renault, whilst Hamilton was promoted from GP2 to make his F1 debut. Alonso clearly thought he was the ‘number one’ driver, and very few expected Lewis to perform as well as he did, least of all Alonso.

The first murmurings of unrest came at the Monaco Grand Prix. Alonso had claimed pole position and led away at the start, but Hamilton was on a one stop strategy. Despite having a heavier fuel load (this was back in the days of refueling, of course), he was somehow keeping the Spaniard in sight. Could he really claim his first win at F1’s glamor event?

No, he couldn’t. McLaren switched him to a two stop strategy to his surprise, but little more was said of it. In Canada and at Indianapolis, Hamilton claimed back-to-back wins despite Alonso calling for him to move aside and let him through. Tensions were at breaking point, but it was still implicit. There were none of the direct comments as we saw in Monaco this year, merely some hand gestures from Alonso along the pit straight at the Brickyard.

It first really became public when Alonso deliberately blocked Hamilton during qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix. After coming in for a fresh set of tires, Alonso sat in his pit box despite being given the call to go out. By waiting, he held up Hamilton, who was stacked behind him, and meant that the Briton could not post another time in the fight for pole.

The stewards demoted Alonso five places on the grid, and Hamilton had the last laugh by claiming his third win of the year. However, the damage was done. The Spaniard left McLaren at the end of the season by mutual consent.

The year was a tough one for McLaren, with the unrelated spygate scandal resulting in a $100m fine and exclusion from the constructors’ championship. Both Hamilton and Alonso missed out on the title by one point, finishing on 109 to Kimi Raikkonen’s 110. Arguably, the tension that was boiling under the surface cost both of them the title.

And that’s what is different at Mercedes. It is quite clear that the German marque will win both titles this season – it’s simply a question of who will come out on top in the drivers’ championship.

We’ve had the release of pressure in Monaco. Ultimately, these two are friends. Lewis and Fernando weren’t.

Perhaps it’s even a ‘brotherly’ relationship at Mercedes. They have spats, they have moments where they shout “I hate you!” and storm up to their room. A few hours later though, they’ll skulk downstairs and mumble that they’re sorry. Before you know it, Lewis and Nico will be out in the yard playing soccer – or, as we saw in the tweet, riding unicycles!

This current peace at Mercedes will not last. We might see many more spats between the two before the end of the year and when the title is decided. However, they’ll go away, think about it, and then come back. This tension will be temporary.

Mercedes is in a good place right now. Things could change in 2015 if a team does pose a serious challenge to the Silver Arrows, and any kind of intra-team tussle could jeopardize the title bid, as we saw at McLaren in 2007.

For now though, it’s game on between Lewis and Nico. May the best man win.

Russian Grand Prix extended through 2025

during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Russia at Sochi Autodrom on April 29, 2016 in Sochi, Russia.
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The Russian Grand Prix at Sochi will continue to feature on future Formula 1 calendars, with event organizers confirming a long-term extension.

With the race already secure through 2020 following a past deal between then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and then-F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone, that end date has now been extended by five years through to 2025, according to Russia’s deputy prime minister Dimitry Kozak.

“We held negotiations and the contract for holding FIA Formula One racing Grand Prix in Russia has been extended till 2025,” Kozak told Russian news outlet TASS.

Sochi first appeared on the F1 calendar in 2014 and will hold its fourth race this year from April 28 to 30.

Hamilton fastest midway through day two of F1 testing

during day two of Formula One winter testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 28, 2017 in Montmelo, Spain.
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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton recorded the fastest time and the most laps through Tuesday’s morning session of preseason testing.

Hamilton’s lap of 1 minute, 20.983 seconds was 0.782 seconds faster than the leading time he set during the opening day of Formula One testing at the Circuit Barcelona-Catalunya on Monday.

As expected from the new regulations intended to boost speeds, Hamilton’s pace through two days is more than a second faster than the top time set on the same track through eight days of preseason testing in 2016.

The three-time world champion will hand over the wheel of the Mercedes to new teammate Valtteri Bottas for the afternoon session.

Just like Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel from Day 1, Kimi Raikkonen was the nearest challenger to Hamilton’s top speed, albeit almost two seconds slower.

Hamilton and Raikkonen also got in the most laps with 66 and 47, respectively, as Mercedes or Ferrari have yet to report any mechanical problems so far.

Red Bull driver Max Verstappen could only muster the fifth fastest time.

While world champion Mercedes and Ferrari continue to outperform rival Red Bull, a pair of the more modest teams struggled to get their cars rolling.

Antonio Giovinazzi, who has substituted for Pascal Wehrlein while he recovers from a back injury, spent most of the morning waiting for Sauber to replace his car’s engine. Jolyon Palmer’s Renault, meanwhile, only emerged from the garage in the final minutes of the four-hour morning session.

The opening test will run through Thursday.

The track near Barcelona will host a second round of testing from March 7-10 before the season starts at the Australian Grand Prix on March 26.

Sauber confirms Tatiana Calderon as development driver

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Colombian driver Tatiana Calderon, who’s worked to further her racing career since moving from to Europe prior to 2012, has been named a development driver for Sauber F1 Team.

Calderon turns 24 in March. Her best result thus far is second in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 and she’s also raced in GP3 and Formula 3 over the last five years. Her results haven’t necessarily matched her ability level, as she’s shown some promise enough to be scouted out by Sauber for this F1 role.

With Sauber, she’ll be heavily involved in simulator work and also attend some Grands Prix on site, but there’s been no timetable yet for her on-track debut.

“I am extremely happy to join the Sauber F1 Team as a development driver,” Calderon said. “I want to thank Monisha Kaltenborn and the whole team for giving me this opportunity, and also Escuderia Telmex for their support. I am grateful to be working with such an established Formula 1 team and to benefit from its long experience. I look forward to working with the team and learning as much as I can. It is a step closer to my dream – one day competing in Formula 1!”

Team principal Kaltenborn added, “We are very pleased to welcome Tatiana onboard to the Sauber family. We have the opportunities and facilities to provide Tatiana a professional platform on which she can further develop her knowledge and skills in racing. I am convinced that we can provide her lots of in-depth motorsport know-how for her future career in racing.”

Calderon’s been confirmed for her race program in GP3 this year with the DAMS team, alongside fellow F1 development driver, American Santino Ferrucci of Haas, and 19-year-old Bruno Baptista.

She’s not the first female driver Sauber has had – Simona de Silvestro was on board for a similar development plan three years ago – but it didn’t end well, so here’s hoping the F1 future is brighter for Calderon.

Longtime Knoxville Raceway promoter, Ralph Capitani, dies

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Photo via @KnoxvilleRaces Twitter
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Knoxville Raceway likely wouldn’t be what it is as one of the country’s most renowned short tracks without the work of Ralph Capitani.

Capitani has died following a battle of cancer (according to Speed Sport), news of which was announced Monday by the track. The longtime promoter at the track was born in 1932.

Capitani, better known as “Cappy,” oversaw a huge rise in the stature and popularity of the track’s premier event – the Knoxville Nationals – after taking the reins as the track’s new race director and promoter in 1978.

Some of the elements Capitani worked to implement were improved facilities, purses, safety standards, car counts and audience, the latter of which saw the Knoxville Nationals eventually make it to TV. He also established the Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame.

In his 40th year at Knoxville in 2007, Capitani said the prestige of the Knoxville Nationals remained incredible.

“I think the Knoxville Nationals is the best sprint car race of the year, bar none,” he said in 2007, via InLappedTraffic. “It is the only time you see ALL of the best sprint car drivers competing on the same playing field. It is a United States and Internationally wide event.”

He retired from the track at the end of 2011.

Knoxville Raceway released a statement confirming Capitani’s passing, and thanking him for all he did to put the track and race on the map.

A portion of the statement reads: “A visionary in the sport, Cappy aimed to make sprint car racing at Knoxville Raceway grander, the purses bigger and the grandstands fuller. He achieved them all with a smile on his face and a hearty handshake for every team owner, driver, crew member and fan that ever crossed his path.”