F1 Grand Prix of Austria - Previews

Austrian GP Paddock Notebook – Thursday

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Formula 1 returns to Austria this weekend after eleven years away. The old A1-Ring last hosted a race in 2003 before the money dried up and it eventually shut, but the circuit has since been revamped by Red Bull and renamed the ‘Red Bull Ring’.

Shameless plugging aside, it’s a fabulous facility that has immediately been a hit with everyone in the paddock. However, the shiny newness does not overawe the old-style circuit, which is unquestionably one of the most picturesque on the calendar.

Here’s the first paddock notebook from Austria on media day.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

  • First up, we have our complete preview of the Austrian Grand Prix, which is the first since 2003. In with the old is fine in our book, that’s for sure.
  • Felipe Massa did not mince his words when talking about the Sergio Perez incident. He even suggested that Checo should receive a one race ban to teach him a lesson.
  • Plans to condense the race weekend from four days into three have been rejected, but testing will be revamped to keep it Euro-centric.
  • Lewis Hamilton was in high spirits, saying that he “couldn’t be better” for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.
  • The MotorSportsTalk team has made its predictions for the race; four writers picking three winners – could be an open thing.
  • Just four of the current racers in F1 have done so before at the Austrian Grand Prix, but could the advantage actually lie with the youngsters who raced here a little more recently?

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Of course, Thursday gives us very little to go on besides what we hear from the drivers in the media sessions. It is interesting to not only listen to what they say, but also note how they say it. Felipe Massa is clearly still very upset about the incident with Sergio Perez in Canada, whilst the Mexican driver remains adamant that he did little wrong.

Heading to a new circuit for the first time is always exciting for the paddock, and Red Bull has rolled out the red carpet. The old, run down A1-Ring is nothing but a distant memory, and has since been replaced by a shiny new facility. The media centre itself is a work of art, giving a stunning view of the circuit. Few other tracks can boast such a beautiful setting.

Lewis Hamilton was in a good mood during his media session, taking the opportunity to snaffle a sweet before proceedings began. The Briton is hoping to bounce back from his Canada DNF to score his fifth win of the season this weekend, and cut the gap to teammate Nico Rosberg at the top of the drivers’ championship.

For Red Bull, this marks its first ever home race since debuting back in 2005. Morale is high following Daniel Ricciardo’s shock win in Montreal, but the team will be under no illusions that Mercedes is still the team to beat at the moment.

As for the picture? That’s the actual ‘Red Bull Ring’ at the Red Bull Ring. Get it? A Red Bull in a ring? They’re very clever, those energy drink makers.

All in all, it promises to be another fascinating grand prix weekend, so be sure to keep up to date with the latest breaking news and views from the paddock on MotorSportsTalk.

Conor Daly’s IndyCar gets painted

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Conor Daly
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Conor Daly will compete full-time in the Verizon IndyCar Series this year in a ride for Dale Coyne Racing.

Daly will make laps in the No. 18 Honda sponsored by Jonathan Byrd’s. The 24-year-old driver tweeted out a picture today of his race car getting painted for the season, which starts on March 13.

Daly has six IndyCar races under his belt so far.

USF2000 reintroduces National Class for 2016

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The National Class is officially back in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda series for 2016.

Yes, when Eric Filgueiras and Spencer Racing announced they’d be in the National Class, that kind of gave it away that the class would be back without it being formally introduced.

Luckily though, the series has released the news today. A formal release is below:

Drivers seeking to make their way onto the Mazda Road to Indy now have an alternate, lower-cost route onto the first rung, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, with today’s confirmation that the National Class will be returning in 2016.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering a scholarship-funded path all the way from karting via USF2000, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Eligible to drivers at least 20 years of age before or during the 2016 season, the National Class will be open to all Sports Car Club of America-legal FC (Formula Continental) cars, from any chassis manufacturer, dating back to 2000. Any aerodynamic devices approved by the SCCA are permitted, although in the interests of safety all cars must be fitted with a nosebox crash structure, wheel tethers, Staubli devices, approved head surrounds and seats and yellow light system as required by all other current USF2000 cars.

Cars will be permitted to run either the same 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine per the USF2000 Championship Class regulations or sealed 2.0-liter Ford Zetec motors as prepared by Elite Engines or Quicksilver RacEngines with National Class mapping. Any SCCA-legal 6″ and 8″ wheels may be used, although all cars must run on Cooper tires.

Entry fees will be discounted 50 percent below the Championship Class rate, and each race winner will earn a free entry for an upcoming event in the same season. The second-place finisher will claim a 50 percent reduction in the entry fee for an upcoming race. In addition, race winners equipped with the MZR engine will take home a $1,000 award from Mazda.

As an added benefit and based on a minimum average car count of five entries per race weekend, the 2016 National Class champion will receive an “entry ticket” to the Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout in the fall of this year where champions of select junior level-open wheel and karting series from around the world will compete for a Mazda scholarship to enter the USF2000 Championship Class in 2017.

The point system will be the same used by the Masters Class (formerly Expert Class) in the Pro Mazda championship.

“We are excited to bring back the National Class and allow drivers to sample the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “RC Enerson began his path on the ladder system in the National Class. It’s a great first step onto the platform for many drivers, and we are excited to offer this year’s champion an entry into the Shootout as well as a full-season entry package to USF2000 in 2017 in either the Championship or National Class.”

The Mazda Road to Indy will head to Barber Motorsport Park for Spring Training on March 5 (Indy Lights) and 6/7 (USF2000/Pro Mazda). The 2016 season will kick off on the Streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 11-13 in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Report: Scott Tucker arrested by FBI in payday lending scheme

DAYTONA BEACH, FL - JANUARY 30:  The #95 Level 5 Motorsports BMW Riley driven by Scott Tucker, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Richard Westbrook and Raphael Matos during The Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 30, 2011 in Daytona Beach, Florida.  (Photo by John Harrelson/Getty Images)
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For four years from 2010 to 2013, Scott Tucker and Level 5 Motorsports were American Le Mans Series regulars, first in the Prototype Challenge class and then the LMP2 class. They won, a lot, and were a regular championship-contending effort, plus those who worked for the team had nothing but positive things to say about the operation that was run.

That said, the funding of the team was always perpetually questioned, as Tucker was always allegedly involved within the payday lending business, and had reportedly abusive practices towards customers.

This has been something of a bubbling story for five years but per Reuters, on Wednesday, Tucker and one of his lawyers were arrested by the FBI for their alleged exploitation.

Per Reuters, an indictment filed in Manhattan federal court outlined millions that went to Tucker, who then used it for various luxury items. Allegedly, more than $67 million went to the Level 5 Motorsports race team.

Level 5’s last IMSA series start came under the unified TUDOR United SportsCar Championship umbrella in January 2014, when the team won the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the GT Daytona class. The team withdrew from the championship following that race.

Social Roundup: IndyCar tests at Sonoma, Fontana

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Simon Pagenaud
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There has been an awakening. Have you felt it?

The engines of the Verizon IndyCar Series have roared back to life this week, a month before the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

After a test at Phoenix International Raceway two days ago, two more tests are occurring today in California, at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana and at Sonoma Raceway.

At Auto Cub Speedway is Ryan Hunter-Reay, Carlos Munoz and James Hinchcliffe.

In Sonoma is the entirety of the Chip Ganassi Racing team and Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud from Team Penske.

Here’s a look at how the day is progressing at each test through social media. We’ll update throughout the day. If you’re attending either test, tweet us pictures at @MotorSportsTalk or @danielmcfadin of how you’re taking in the beginning of the 2016 season.

Sonoma Raceway

Auto Club Speedway