2014 Hungarian Grand Prix Preview

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Formula 1 heads to Hungary for the final race before the summer break this weekend, and with championship protagonists Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg separated by just 14 points at the top of the standings, there is everything to play for at the Hungaroring.

The race graced the F1 calendar back in 1986, and was the first to take place behind the iron curtain of communism. Bernie Ecclestone had wanted to take a round to the Soviet Union, but eventually settled for Hungary, which has remained a mainstay on the calendar ever since.

In more recent times, the race has been a stronghold for Lewis Hamilton. The Briton is the joint most successful driver at the track, having won it four times in seven attempts. Only Michael Schumacher has won as often at the Hungaroring.

As a result, he goes into this race weekend as the favorite despite losing out to Nico Rosberg at Hockenheim. The German driver will be well aware of his teammate’s penchant for this track, and may have to settle for only a seven point lead before the summer shutdown.

2014 Hungarian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Lewis chases a high-five

The hallmark of a legendary driver in Formula 1 is the ability to create a an association with a circuit by winning there, making it their own. For Lewis Hamilton, it is the Hungaroring. Four wins in seven years, and even when the McLaren was a pig of a car back in 2009, he dragged it to victory. Last year, he claimed his first win for Mercedes at the track, calling it a “miracle”; will he move clear of Schumacher and claim a fifth win in Hungary on Sunday?

A charge for the returning Red Bulls?

Red Bull’s recent form has been good, but not great. This weekend, the defending champion team could strike back at a circuit that should suit the RB10 better than most. Although a victory or even a second place finish is out of the question if Mercedes keeps things pointing in the right direction, a strong double-score could see the team move back ahead in the pecking order after three races on the back foot.

Don’t stop Bottas now, he’s having a good time

Valtteri Bottas is quickly becoming the break-out star of the 2014 Formula 1 season, securing three straight podium finishes since the Austrian Grand Prix. He was the only driver to enter battle with Lewis Hamilton at Hockenheim and win. The flying Finn now wants podium number four, and although the Hungaroring may not be as suited to the FW36, the team should still be fighting at the sharp end of the top ten in Hungary. Felipe Massa will also want to get back into the top ten after two first-lap incidents in the last two races.

Fernando’s choice?

Paddock chatter suggests that Ferrari’s drop to fourth in the constructors’ championship may not seem as innocuous as it actually is. Apparently, Fernando Alonso has a clause in his contract allowing him to leave if the team drops out of the top three in the standings, thus opening the door for him to walk away if he wants. With McLaren sniffing around the Spaniard, you can expect silly season to really get going this weekend.

Hungary for rain

We’re still yet to have a truly wet weather grand prix since Brazil 2012, where Sebastian Vettel edged out Fernando Alonso for the title at Interlagos. This weekend, the forecast suggests that heavy rain and thunderstorms could grace the Hungaroring, and it might just be what F1 needs ahead of the summer break: a crazy race to turn everything on its head and leave us a lot to mull over ahead of the final stretch. With eight races in fourteen weekends from Spa, the stage will be set for a straight fight between Lewis and Nico for the title.

Hungary – Facts and Figures

Track: Hungaroring
Laps: 
70
Corners: 14
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:19.071 (2004)
Tyre Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2013 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2013 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:19.388
2013 Fastest Lap: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:24.069
DRS Zone: Main Straight (T14 to T1); T1 to T3

F1/IndyCar clashes frequent for 2018 as schedules shape up

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The latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council may not have yielded much in the way of groundbreaking news, but the confirmation of Formula E and the World Endurance Championship’s 2018 schedules did help us get a grip on next year’s racing calendar.

Perhaps the most notable thing with next year’s schedules is the heavy reduction in clashes between the FIA’s three premier track championships – F1, Formula E and WEC – next year, making good on its plans for calendar harmonization moving forward.

WEC confirmed its ‘super season’ schedule earlier this month, stretching 13 months from May 2018 to June 2019, and added Silverstone last week, with the calendar gaining FIA approval in Paris.

Of the 2018 WEC rounds, there is just one clash with another FIA track championship: between the 6 Hours of Fuji and the F1 United States Grand Prix on the October 21 weekend.

While the more pressing worry for drivers is between WEC and Formula E after the July 16 debacle this year, no WEC and F1 clashes is good news for Fernando Alonso, who could well appear at Le Mans next year as part of his Triple Crown bid.

Formula E does have a number of F1 clashes, albeit not until the sixth event of its season, with the Rome race being held on the April 15 weekend where the Bahrain Grand Prix also sits (for now – China is due to swap dates).

Other Formula E and F1 clashes come on April 29 (Paris/Azerbaijan), June 10 (Zurich/Canada) and July 29 (Montreal/Hungary), although by shifting the New York City ePrix back one week to July 14-15, a gap has been found in the schedule.

For those operating across all three series (including yours truly), there is now a busy run between the start of the F1 season in Australia and the start of the summer break in Hungary with just three empty weekends.

As for IndyCar clashes? The condensed nature of the series’ schedule and the expansion of F1’s calendar to 21 races means they are inevitable. That said, as IndyCar is outside of the FIA’s realm of control, it was never really in the mix for its harmonization plans.

Yet again there is a clash between the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix, sadly something we have become accustomed to in recent years, but over half the IndyCar calendar faces an F1 clash next year.

Here’s a full run-down of the F1/IndyCar double dip weekends:

April 7-8: Chinese GP, Phoenix Grand Prix
April 14-15: Bahrain GP, Grand Prix of Long Beach
May 12-13: Spanish GP, Indianapolis GP
May 26-27: Monaco GP, Indianapolis 500
June 9-10: Canadian GP, Texas 600
June 23-24: French GP, Road America GP
July 7-8: British GP, Iowa Corn 300
August 25-26: Belgian GP, Gateway 500
September 15-16: Singapore GP, Sonoma GP

Bahrain, China ‘on-track’ to swap F1 race dates for 2018

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Next year’s Formula 1 races in China and Bahrain are “on-track” to swap dates in order to maximize their local exposure, according to the sport’s commercial chief, Sean Bratches.

The provisional F1 schedule for 2018 lists the Chinese Grand Prix as the second round of the season, taking place on April 8, with the Bahrain Grand Prix taking place one week later on April 15.

However, plans are afoot to swap the races around due to the Qingming national holiday that is set to take place in China on the April 8 weekend, potentially having a negative impact on crowd numbers at the Shanghai International Circuit.

“We’re trying to take into account global events, local events, religious holidays and things to ensure we’re maximizing the opportunity for fans to attend the grands prix,” Bratches told Reuters.

“We’re talking to both of them to that end and if we can reach a mutually agreed upon solution, which appears to be on-track to happen, you’ll probably see that,” he said.

No updates were made to the F1 schedule for 2018 at the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris this week, meaning no switch between Bahrain and China will be ratified until the start of December at the earliest.

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”

Public clashes over future of Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT (AP) State officials are deciding whether to continue hosting the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a state park and island that opponents say is negatively impacted by the annual event.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the race to continue after its current five-year contract expires after the 2018 race.

The department held a public meeting Wednesday at the Belle Isle Nature Center to gather feedback. Dozens of residents attended.

Opponents voiced concerns about the race’s environmental impact. Several conservation groups have requested a third-party environmental impact study on how the race affects island habitat.

But supporters say the race shines a spotlight on Detroit and stimulates the economy.

The Grand Prix has occurred on Belle Isle periodically since 1992 and annually since 2012.