Ricciardo claims maiden grand prix victory as Mercedes hits trouble

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Daniel Ricciardo has claimed his first ever win in Formula 1 at a thrilling Canadian Grand Prix that saw him pass an ailing Nico Rosberg in the dying stages of the race.

Rosberg and Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton forged into a huge lead at the start of the race, and looked set to duel for the race win once again in Montreal, only for a brake problem to hit both drivers. Hamilton was forced to retire from the race, but Rosberg managed the issue.

However, he just could not hold off a charging Ricciardo in the final stages of the grand prix, and eventually succumbed at the final corner thanks to DRS on the Australian’s Red Bull. His world champion teammate, Sebastian Vettel, completed the podium ahead of Jenson Button and Nico Hulkenberg who benefitted from a late crash between Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa.

From the line, second placed Hamilton made a fantastic start to get up alongside Rosberg heading into the first corner. However, he was forced wide after the German driver locked up, dropping him down to third place behind Sebastian Vettel. Fernando Alonso fell back one place from the line behind Jean-Eric Vergne, but the race was quickly interrupted following an incident between the two Marussia drivers. Max Chilton lost the back-end of his car heading through the first chicane and hit teammate Jules Bianchi, sending the Frenchman into the wall. Both drivers had to retire from the race, and the safety car was deployed to allow for the wreckage to be cleared by the marshals.

On lap eight, the safety car peeled in and the race resumed, with Rosberg making a good restart to lead from Vettel and Hamilton. The Briton soon made light work of the Red Bull driver thanks to the superior straight line speed of his Mercedes, and he duly set his sights on catching Rosberg in front.

Ricciardo had held position in sixth off the line, but was working well to keep Felipe Massa ahead in sight. Red Bull opted to bring him in early, and Williams followed suit with its drivers. However, a slow stop for Massa meant that he dropped down the order and behind Jean-Eric Vergne. Vergne himself lost a place to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who went one lap longer before making his first stop. Vettel also dived into the pits from third place to get the option tire out of the way and move onto the prime.

Rosberg was the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit on lap 18, handing the lead to Hamilton. The German driver emerged from the pits in second place, but was lucky not to crash when he had a moment at turn four. However, the gap was big enough to allow Rosberg to retain the lead after both Mercedes drivers had stopped.

After he had pitted, though, Hamilton soon got the hammer down. The Briton carved into Rosberg’s lead, and was soon within DRS range. Heading into the final chicane, Rosberg locked up and had to cut the chicane, but managed to hold onto the lead and sneakily set the fastest lap in the process. This prompted the stewards to investigate the move for exceeding track limits, only for them to warn the German driver and tell him not to do it again.

In the race to complete the podium, Vettel found himself behind the Force India drivers of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg as they were yet to stop. On the prime tire, they were able to keep the defending world champion at bay, thus allowing Valtteri Bottas to close up in the Williams. When Perez pitted, Hulkenberg moved up into third place behind the Mercedes, albeit some 26 seconds down on Hamilton.

Bottas was the first of the front runners to make his second stop, and dropped down to 12th place as a result. He looked to get the undercut on Vettel, who was still being harmed by Hulkenberg ahead. The German shadowed his podium rival by pitting one lap later, and gave himself a chance to push on out of traffic.

At the front, concern began to set in at Mercedes when both Rosberg and Hamilton began to slow through all three sectors. The Briton closed up to his German teammate once again, but both were losing some 20km/h through the speed trap. The team informed its drivers that they both had the same issue, and it could not be resolved.

Rosberg dived into the pits a few laps later for a set of prime tires, but a slow stop allowed Hamilton to move ahead of his teammate once he stopped. However, he made a mistake at the hairpin to allow Rosberg back past, only to then try another move at the final corner and cut the chicane just as Nico did earlier in the race. This later turned out to be a brake problem, forcing Hamilton to park his car up and retire from the race with 22 laps to go.

This allowed Rosberg to move back into the lead once Felipe Massa pitted from the front, but he too had a brake problem. The chasing pack of Sergio Perez, Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel all had the smell of blood, and could sense that a race win could be on the cards.

Mercedes’ pit wall continued to cross its fingers that Rosberg could hold on and claim the team’s seventh win of the season. The German driver continued to find time in the first two sectors, but he was being caught up by severeal tenths of a second in the final sector thanks to the long straight.

Felipe Massa continued to push for position, managing to find his way past both his teammate Valtteri Bottas and Nico Hulkenberg after they tussled for position at the hairpin. The Brazilian sat in fifth place, and was beginning to put the hammer down in an attempt to catch the leaders ahead.

Rosberg continued to pull away in the first sector, which meant he had enough of an advantage to stay in the lead through the final sector. With just five laps to go, Ricciardo finally managed to find a way past Perez, and set his sights on Rosberg at the front.

The Red Bull driver closed on Rosberg in the final couple of laps, and with three laps to go he found his way past with DRS to take the lead of the race. On the final lap, Sergio Perez had a massive crash with Massa at the first corner, bringing out the safety car. This meant that the cars crossed the line in the order they were running, giving Ricciardo a well deserved maiden win in Formula 1.

On the podium, the Australian driver was jubilant as he heard his national anthem ring out over the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. After a long race, he managed to get into the lead when it counted and claim a well deserved first grand prix victory.

Report: GP Association of Long Beach ‘most qualified’ firm to run race

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Not for the first time, the future of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach was in the news earlier this year, and the question of whether Formula 1 could re-enter running the race it did from 1976 to 1983, or whether North American open-wheel racing, in INDYCAR, would keep it up.

The city of Long Beach decided to conduct a study using accounting firm KPMG, and paid the firm $150,000 to evaluate whether existing race operators the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, led by Jim Michaelian, or Chris Pook’s World Automobile Championship, would be best to run the race. Pook founded the event in the 1970s but has in recent years, harbored the return of F1 and suggested it would be a more viable economic prospect.

Per the Long Beach Press-Telegram, the study has now concluded following proposals and interviews from both camps. In a memo obtained by the Press-Telegram, the report indicated the existing GPALB “as the most qualified firm to promote and operate the Long Beach Grand Prix race.”

Michaelian told the Press-Telegram this was an “first but important step” in the process for the race to build a new contract with a city; the existing contract runs through 2018.

Hulman & Co. CEO Mark Miles, in a statement released to the Sports Business Journal, appreciated the recommendation: that statement is below.

This appears to be a key step towards INDYCAR, the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach and the city of Long Beach all working towards an agreement that will keep INDYCAR racing at its most successful, longest running, and marquee street course event on the calendar.

The 2017 Team USA Scholarship candidates revealed

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The Verizon IndyCar Series’ trip to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is usually the time of year when we first hear of the candidates for the next year’s Team USA Scholarship, as Jeremy Shaw’s program identifies the next round of talented American drivers who could go on to greater success in racing.

Shaw, known as perhaps the most ardent and best scout of North American driving talent since the program’s inception in 1990, and the program have revealed the 10 candidates who will participate in interviews and further evaluation this weekend before the finalists are named at a later date.

The full release is linked here, while the 10 drivers selected are below.

This year’s Team USA Scholarship candidates are (with age, DOB, hometown and current racing affiliation):

• Sabré Cook, 23, Grand Junction, Colo., GPfour Championship Road Racing
• Konrad Czaczyk, 20, Jupiter, Fla., F1600 Formula Tour Championship (Canada)
• Elliot Finlayson, 21, Yorkville, Ill., GPfour Championship Road Racing
• Aaron Jeansonne, 18, Sulphur, La., Lucas Oil School of Racing
• Kyle Kirkwood, 18, Jupiter, Fla., F4 U.S. Championship powered by Honda
• Jonathan Kotyk, 23, Atlantic Beach, Fla., F1600 Championship Series
• Jacob Loomis, 17, Corinth, Texas, F4 US Championship/Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda
• David Osborne, 21, Cincinnati, Ohio, F1600 Championship Series
• Simon Sikes, 16, Martinez, Ga., Skip Barber Racing Series
• Carter Williams, 18, Clovis, Calif., Formula Car Challenge Presented by Goodyear

Rahal, RLL on a roll heading home to Mid-Ohio

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Graham Rahal’s potential last best chance to close a boatload of points in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series championship chase comes this weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and it couldn’t come at a better time on the calendar.

He sits tied with Will Power for fifth in the points, 64 behind championship leader Scott Dixon (423-359) with five races remaining. Closing that gap to within 40 or less this weekend will provide him a realistic shot at securing his first title.

A nightmare start to the year saw Rahal finish no better than 10th in the first four races, and left him 17th in points with 59 total, 100 back of then-leader Simon Pagenaud.

In the last eight however, he’s finished between first and ninth in all but one of them. His lone finish outside the top 10 came at the double points Indianapolis 500, with a late-race flat tire resigning him to 12th place there.

That score of 300 points over the last eight races is second in the series, only two behind Helio Castroneves with 302, and with both drivers ruing an ill-timed caution flag last race at Toronto that cost both likely chances at another victory this season.

On the whole though, the single-car No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has been a regular consistent threat at the front of the field, same as it has in 2015 and 2016 even despite being up against a trio of four-car entries from Team Penske, Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport.

Rahal’s qualifying lap on used Firestone red alternate tires at Toronto netted second on the grid and he hailed it as one of the best laps he’s ever completed in his career.

Graham’s performance and the recent run of form has Bobby Rahal pleased as the team heads into its spiritual home race in Lexington, Ohio this weekend, where driver and team scored a popular victory in 2015.

“If you look at the start of the year at Long Beach we qualified sixth, but we were running in the train – fourth or fifth right to the end of the race and had the flat tire,” Bobby Rahal told NBC Sports. “We just couldn’t seem to get a good break.

“Clearly when we got to the Indy Grand Prix we had problems in qualifying, but the race pace was there. Then a flat tire hit in the 500. We led the race from where we gridded (14th) and we could have threatened at the end. It’s been a little bit snake bit prior to this.

“But clearly the pace was there. Texas finishing fourth there was a good finish. Fifth at Iowa was good. Unfortunately in Toronto, and we had the great qualifying performance I thought, I don’t think anyone was happy post-race! I think even Roger Penske told Graham we got screwed, and even though he won, his own car (Castroneves) lost!

“Still the fact we did it on used reds versus new reds, I thought was pretty impressive. In Toronto we were pretty good – maybe not as good as we were in Detroit – but still pretty good and kept getting better and better.

“I think he’s driving very well. I’m pleased about that. What’s so hard about that qualifying there, is you only have one lap to do on tires on Toronto for example. It’s easy to overdrive a car in that situation, but he hasn’t. I think he’s done a good job in that respect.”

Graham Rahal

For Graham Rahal, who loves coming home to Mid-Ohio, this is an important weekend but one that he always takes the opportunity to savor.

“It’s always great to go back to Mid-Ohio,” he said. “I have a lot of fond memories, and have had a lot of great days there. Obviously winning there in 2015 really highlighted my career thus far. I’m excited to get back and hopefully see a great crowd once again. I know we will have a lot of support and I’m very appreciative of that.  Hopefully we can have a great run in the Steak ‘n Shake Honda because we definitely need it at this point in the championship.”

Rahal’s road course performance hasn’t been stellar this year in qualifying with 21st and last at Barber, 20th on the grid at the INDYCAR Grand Prix in Indianapolis, but then a big jump to sixth at Road America, making the Firestone Fast Six. Finishes of 13th, sixth and eighth have represented good comeback drives in the race.

“My hopes and expectations are high,” said Rahal. “We have struggled with our road course setup this year but at the same time I think we are capable of overcoming that. Our guys have put a lot of effort, a lot of time and mental energy into figuring out what we need going forward.”

One of the areas that will help him is his pit position this week. Having qualified second at Toronto last race, Rahal has nearly the perfect pit spot this weekend, as pit lane and track position at Mid-Ohio are crucial.

“Our pit position in Mid-Ohio, based on qualifying second in Toronto, is going to be great. It’s flat so that is going to help us a lot.  Obviously you want to be pitted with the good guys.  You want to be right down there where the fast guys and championship contenders are and we’re right there with them,” he said.

Rahal is in championship contention despite that rocky start to the year and will be looking for some home cooking to fire up the final five races of the season.

New 2018 IndyCar aero kit makes its formal test debut at IMS

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After months of buildup and following Monday’s reveal, Tuesday marked the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit’s official debut on track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

INDYCAR’s release, with a handful of social media posts embedded, is below:

If the first day of on-track testing is any indication, the new Verizon IndyCar Series car is well on its way to making Indy car racing in 2018 even better.

Juan Pablo Montoya and Oriol Servia turned more than 100 laps each on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval in their respective Chevrolet- and Honda-powered Dallara IR-12s equipped with the universal aerodynamic bodywork kit making its public debut ahead of being used by all competitors next season.

Afterward, approval of the new car’s bolder, sleeker look and performance was unanimous from everyone involved. Buy-in from the two test drivers – among the most veteran and respected around – was essential and secured from the outset.

“From Lap 1, it just felt at home,” said the 43-year-old Servia, who has driven Indy cars since 2000. “The car felt great. I was flat on it out of the pits, which just says how good the car felt right away.

“I think it’s going to be a fast, good racer.”

INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the Verizon IndyCar Series, announced in April 2016 its intent to move away from aero kit competition to a universally supplied kit in 2018. Dallara, a series chassis supplier since 1997, was named to produce and supply the universal kit.

“It’s exciting because, for the first time in the car, it drives really, really well,” said Montoya, 41 and a two-time Indianapolis 500 winner. “I think they addressed a lot of the things and the car looks great. I think having one aero kit for everybody is great for the sport. The car looks good and it drives really good.”

Montoya’s car was prepared by Team Penske and Servia’s by Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, though INDYCAR is retaining control of the cars until testing is complete in late September. INDYCAR officials watched with nervous excitement as the two cars took to the track for the first time shortly after 9 a.m. ET and methodically worked through the test checklist. By 5 p.m., the checklist had been completed and a potential second day of testing Wednesday was deemed unnecessary.

“We were pleased,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR’s vice president of competition/race engineering who headed up the technical development of the universal kit. “It matched up with our numbers that we predicted in the wind tunnel and CFD (computational fluid dynamics), so we were very happy for that.”

Pappas said the test list included short runs by each car to “ensure that there weren’t any surprises,” followed by longer runs on the 2.5-mile oval to check for durability issues. Everyone at INDYCAR and Dallara felt confident the test would be a success, but there are never givens in racing.

“This is my first experience being part of a car being designed,” Pappas said. “Obviously, Dallara did a great job helping us, but you hold your breath until the first competitive laps are run.”

Love this place. @indianapolismotorspeedway is sooo much fun in an @indycar @teamchevy @team_penske @fitzgeraldgliderkits

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Old Boys. @indycar #2018 #shapingthefuture #future #racing #indy500

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Mission accomplished, at least for the first phase of testing. Additional tests for the two cars are scheduled for Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Aug. 1), Iowa Speedway (Aug. 10) and Sebring International Raceway (Sept. 26). But the fact that this opening test was completed in half the allotted time is reason to celebrate, if only for a short time.

“Everything we had planned to do in two days, we already accomplished in the first day,” Servia said. “We did lots of laps, long runs, and the car feels good. The car feels very benign.

“It just feels right and we’re not having any issues or moments out there. Very consistent. My second long run, I think, was one of my most consistent runs I’ve done at this track in all of my years.”

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season resumes this weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Live race coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET Sunday on CNBC and the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, with an encore telecast at 7 p.m. on NBCSN.