2014 Canadian Grand Prix Preview

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F1’s global adventure continues this weekend with the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. This race marks the sport’s first foray into North America since the United States Grand Prix in Austin last November, and should be well attended by the American fans.

Those who do make the journey north will get a chance to cheer on a home-grown driver as Alexander Rossi takes part in the first free practice session for Caterham. Rossi is balancing his reserve driver commitments with a full GP2 campaign, and although the first part of the year hasn’t gone entirely to plan in the feeder series, he will still be keen on putting in an impressive display behind the wheel of the CT-05.

At the front of the grid, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg are set to resume battle after a tenuous weekend in Monaco. With a truce being called last week, the waters may have calmed at Mercedes, but that won’t stop either driver from pushing this weekend in the battle for the championship lead.

2014 Canadian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Hamilton plans on re-claiming Montreal crown

Lewis Hamilton’s record around the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is extraordinary. After winning there at just his sixth ever grand prix in 2007, the Briton also emerged victorious in 2010 and 2012. In 2008, he retired after starting from pole, and he also dropped out of the legendary 2011 race after a run-in with McLaren teammate Jenson Button. Last year was in fact the first time that he had finished the Canadian Grand Prix and not won it, coming home in third. Can he re-claim his crown this weekend?

Mercedes to power ahead?

So far this season, the Mercedes-engined cars have been the ones to beat, and this weekend could see them enjoy their biggest advantage yet. The long straights and high-power nature of the Circuit Gills Villeneuve means that Force India, Williams and McLaren will be more at home, but quite whether this translates into a podium finish remains to be seen.

Renault finally up to speed, apparently

After a difficult start to the 2014 season, Renault has apparently quelled its engine woes and should be in better shape for this weekend’s race in Montreal. Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham have all been struggling with their power units so far this year, but according to Renault Sport F1 head Remi Taffin, this race marks “the first full opportunity to see where we are versus the competition”.

Play it again, Jules

Jules Bianchi’s ninth place finish for Marussia at the Monaco Grand Prix was a truly brilliant story, with both the driver and the team scoring their first ever points. Just like any good trick, there is now a baying crowd crying “do it again!” It might be a bit of a stretch in Montreal, but should another race of attrition set in, who knows?

And what of Ferrari?

Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen have been struggling for much of this season, but in Monaco there were signs of a revival. Raikkonen looked poised to finish third, but a run-in with an errant Marussia ended his hopes. Alonso finished a lonely fourth, and he’d be lucky to finish there this weekend. The Italian chargers need to find their feet sooner rather than later, and this weekend could be an important one.

Canada – Facts and Figures

Track: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve
Laps: 
70
Corners: 13
Lap Record: Ralf Schumacher 1:12.275 (2004)
Tyre Compounds: Super-Soft (Option); Soft (Prime)
2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
2013 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:25.425
2013 Fastest Lap: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:16.182
DRS Zone: Main straight (T13 to T1); back straight (T11 to T12)

Click here for full details on NBC Sports’ broadcasting of the Canadian Grand Prix this weekend. Please note that the race is live on NBC on Sunday.

IMSA: Sebring Day 2 of two-day test notebook

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Testing across several IMSA sanctioned series continued at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday as preparations continue for next month’s events during the weekend of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring.

Below are highlights from Day 2 of testing around the 3.74-mile road course.

Eurosport Racing Continues Work with Mazda Prototype Challenge Chassis

Teams in the Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda championship completed their second day of testing on Tuesday. Among them, Eurosport Racing continued their work with the only Mazda Prototype Challenge (MPC) entries in the field, in the hands of drivers Dr. Tim George (in the No. 24 entry) and Jon Brownson (in the No. 34).

“Right now, I’m driving by myself so we’re trying to make the car comfortable enough to last an hour and 45 minutes with just me in the car,” George said of their preparation efforts. “We’re trying to set up the car where it’s quick, yet it and can last, both the car and for me to make sure we don’t tire out, get fatigued and make mistakes.”

The 1 hour 45 minute window that George referenced represents the race times for the 2018 season, up considerably from last year’s sprint format that featured a pair of 45-minute races across a race weekend.

Though that change represents a drastic shift in driving philosophy, it is one that George welcomes.

“The new rules for the endurance races are great, I enjoy it a lot,” said George. “It gives you a chance to think through things differently with strategy. It also gives you a chance if you blow it…in a sprint race if you make a mistake you don’t get a chance to come back.”

Florida Drivers in Continental Tire Challenge Eager for Hometown Race at Sebring

A strong contingent of drivers from Florida are represented in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, and next month’s 12 Hours of Sebring weekend will see them compete on home soil.

“I grew up in Tallahassee and I live in Orlando now, so Sebring has been my home track since day one,” said Paul Holton, driver of the No. 76 Compass Racing McLaren GT4, which finished 14th at the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. “I’ve spent a lot of time down here and really enjoy the place. It’s a nice, quaint little town not far from Orlando so it’s a quick, easy drive down for me.”

Fellow Floridian Ramin Abdolvahabi, a native of Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and driver of the No. 09 Automatic Racing Aston Martin Vantage, revealed that, even though Sebring is only two hours from his hometown, this week’s test was his first time at the track in two years.

“I haven’t been here for two years, so coming back is like coming home,” he said. “It’s a fantastic track and it’s one of the iconic tracks in the world so being at Sebring – a small town, my hometown, welcoming – it’s fantastic. I went on the track a couple of times yesterday and it’s just like wearing an old shoe, it just fits and it’s fantastic. Hopefully, the race will go well and the weather will hold, so anyone who’s out there, come and see us!”

Frank Raso Trades in Airplanes for Porsches at Sebring

Several IMSA drivers boast “day jobs” outside of their racing gigs. Among them, Frank Raso’s work falls outside of ordinary jobs like doctor or lawyer. Rather, Raso flies airplanes for a living.

“I’m an airline pilot for a major airline,” said Raso, who tested the No. 10 Topp Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car at Sebring. “I’ve been flying for almost 30 years, and it’s allowed me, with all my time off and things like that to do this and fall back into racing again. I messed with it a little bit when I was younger, but it was, of course, expensive, so I got away from it for a while. I decided I wanted to get back into it in kind of my last couple of years before I get too old.”

Raso explained that the skills he practices while flying planes are more than transferable to his driving duties in a Porsche GT3 Cup car.

“Flying an airliner or flying any airplane, we have checklists, but everything is kind of done in order. It’s almost in a robot fashion type of a thing where you do this, you do this, you do this and you have to make sure you hit all your marks and fly the airplane with precision.

“So, when you get in these Cup cars, with no anti-lock brakes, no traction control, and no driver assist items, you have to make sure you hit your marks, when you’re accelerating, when you’re turning in. You have to be alert. It keeps your wits about you. The car can step out at any time. They’re a very difficult car to drive, but they’re a lot of fun.”
The 54-year-old Raso posted a best finish of fourth, on four separate occasions, in a part-time schedule during the 2017 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season as a competitor in the Gold Cup class.
Newcomers Get Taste of Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge
A number of new drivers got to sample Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge cars during the two days of testing at Sebring. Among them was amateur racer Scott Welham, who got his first taste of professional racing during the two-day outing at Sebring.
And he had a strong support system backing him up in the Kelly-Moss Road and Race team, the defending Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge champions with driver Jake Eidson.
“Here, you’ve got somebody that actually does coaching, data acquisition, track management – these are all separate people – plant manager, owner, a car-setup guy, you’ve got someone that bills you – which isn’t always a good thing, but you know, you just have that huge, huge support group that enables you to focus on driving,” Welham said of the team’s influence on his development over the two days.
IMSA’s next visit to Sebring will be for the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring on March 17.