Hungary F1 GP Auto Racing

Ricciardo rockets to sensational Hungarian GP victory

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Daniel Ricciardo has won a breathtaking Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, battling through with a perfect strategy following rain and two safety car periods.

The Australian claimed the second Formula 1 win of his career in sensational style, battling past both Hamilton and Alonso in the final five laps of the race on fresher tires as a dud strategy forced Rosberg to settle for fourth place.

Having started from the pit lane, Hamilton produced a superb drive to battle through to P3, but has some explaining to do after repeatedly ignoring Mercedes’ calls to allow Rosberg past during the race.

A sharp rain shower hit the Hungaroring one hour before the race, forcing the drivers to start  on intermediate tires for the first time since the 2013 Malaysian Grand Prix. Pole-sitter Rosberg managed to make a good start and hang onto his lead as Bottas swung around the outside of Vettel at turn one to move into second place.

Lewis Hamilton’s race took a turn for the worse following his pit lane start when he hit the wall at turn two, although he did manage to keep the Mercedes going despite suffering damage to his front wing. He was soon picking up positions as though nothing had happened, but at the front, Rosberg continued to open up his lead over the field.

This was wiped out when Marcus Ericsson crashed hard at turn four on lap eight, bringing out the safety car, allowing a number of drivers to pit for fresh tires, with some – including Hamilton – risking slicks. The front four cars all pitted one lap later, and lost time as a result, handing the lead of the race to Daniel Ricciardo with Jenson Button – one of the few to fit more intermediates – in second place ahead of Felipe Massa.

The race got back underway on lap fourteen, having also accommodated for Romain Grosjean’s spin into the wall. On the intermediate tires, Button managed to get past Ricciardo and take the lead of the race as Kevin Magnussen passed Rosberg. With more rain looking less likely, McLaren told its drivers to push while they still could, but as the track dried out they had to pit just two laps after the restart for slicks.

Hamilton made a great restart, and found himself right behind Rosberg on lap fifteen having trailed by over thirty seconds before the safety car. The Briton struggled to pass Vettel for sixth place, but with fourth-placed Jean-Eric Vergne holding up Rosberg ahead, the Silver Arrows were separated by less than two seconds at one-third race distance. Ricciardo set about increasing his lead at the front over Felipe Massa, posting a series of fastest laps as the Brazilian came under pressure from Fernando Alonso.

However, Ricciardo lost his lead when the safety car came out for a second time following a huge shunt for Sergio Perez on the pit straight. The Force India ran wide and spun into the wall, bringing an end to his race. Ricciardo and Massa took to the pits, handing the lead to Alonso in the Ferrari ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne.

On the restart, Hamilton continued to hound Vettel for position as Rosberg closed on Vergne, but the championship leader opted to pit and avoid losing too much more time. Just as he did, Vettel nearly binned his Red Bull in the wall, spinning 360º and handing the position to both Hamilton and Ricciardo. The Briton stayed out, passing Vergne around the outside of turn four before the Toro Rosso driver pitted for fresh tires.

Hamilton moved into the lead of the race when Alonso stopped as Rosberg picked his way through the traffic. The Briton split the two drivers when he came out of the pits. and duly set about opening up a gap to his teammate. Rosberg managed to reel Lewis in on the option tire, but on primes, Hamilton was set to go to the end of the race without stopping again.

The Briton was told not to put any fight up to Rosberg, but did not let him past, causing Rosberg to ask why he was not being allowed through. Hamilton was told for a second time, only to go faster than Rosberg still. The German asked his team again, and was told that Lewis had been given the message.

At the front, Ricciardo started to complain of rear tire wear, so was brought into the pits on lap 54 thus handing the lead to Alonso. Ricciardo’s task was now to use the fresh option tires to catch the squabbling Mercedes drivers who were four seconds up the road.

The team bailed on Rosberg two laps later, bringing the German driver into the pits for a fresh set of option tires. He emerged in seventh place behind Kimi Raikkonen, and appeared to have waved goodbye to all hopes of winning the race.

Hamilton, on the other hand, kept pushing to reel in Alonso, but had to keep an eye on his mirrors as Ricciardo continued to charge on fresh option tires. The Red Bull driver was soon within DRS range, as was Lewis to Alonso – less than one second separated all three drivers with six laps to go.

Ricciardo tried a move on Hamilton at turn two on lap 65, but ran wide, giving the Briton some breathing space. He was soon back on the Mercedes’ tail thanks to his fresher tires. He forced Hamilton into a lock-up and found a way past with three laps to go with an incredible overtake heading into turn four.

Hamilton tried to follow him through, but was soon more occupied with Rosberg who had caught the leaders on fresh options. However, he could not find a way past and had to settle for fourth place come the line. Felipe Massa came home in fifth for Williams ahead of Kimi Raikkonen – his best result of the season – and Sebastian Vettel. Valtteri Bottas was eighth, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Jenson Button rounding out the points.

However, all of the plaudits must go to Ricciardo. Through rain, safety cars and in light of the Mercedes’ pace, he produced an epic drive to claim his second career victory and continue to show the F1 world that he has the makings of a future champion.

Nobuharu Matsushita to remain in GP2 with ART Grand Prix

2015 GP2 Series Round 11.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 27 November 2015.
Nobuharu Matsushita (JPN, ART Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _MG_4660
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Nobuharu Matsushita will remain in the GP2 Series for the 2016 season after agreeing a new deal with defending champions ART Grand Prix.

Matsushita made his GP2 debut in 2015 with ART, racing alongside Stoffel Vandoorne who ultimately won the drivers’ title in record-breaking fashion.

Matsushita finished ninth in the final drivers’ standings with one race win to his name, and is now gunning to battle for the championship in his second year with ART.

“I would like to thank Honda and ART Grand Prix for giving me this opportunity to continue racing in GP2 Series,” Matsushita said.

“ART Grand Prix won the championships last year, and I am so honored to be part of such an amazing team again. As a member of HFDP, Honda Formula Dream Project, aiming to be the top-world-class driver, I will give my best to win the drivers and the team championship in my second GP2 season.”

Matsushita will race alongside Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin at ART in 2016, with the Russian driver moving from Rapax for his sophomore year in the series.

“I am truly delighted to start our third year of partnership together with Honda with this reinforcement of our collaboration,” ART team boss Sebastien Philippe said.

“Nobuharu will partner Sergey Sirotkin in the GP2 Series. He had an incredible year in 2015 when he did not know Europe or the championship, the team and the car, but nevertheless he secured one win, several podiums and made massive improvements all year long.

“As a driver and on a personal level, we have no doubt at all that he has all the assets needed to fight for the title in 2016.”

NHRA: Lots of change heading into this weekend’s season-opening Winternationals

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Last season, the National Hot Rod Association adopted a “#BaptismByNitro” theme to attract new fans and attention to the sport.

But as it kicks off the new season with this weekend’s Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California,  if the NHRA were to come up with a new theme song for 2016, it’d likely be the old Scorpions ballad “Winds Of Change.”

Change – and positive change at that – seems to be all around in the wind for the NHRA, including:

* Peter Clifford begins his first full season as NHRA president (he replaced the retired Tom Compton last June). Clifford has made a number of dynamic hires in an effort to improve the sanctioning body’s reach and attractiveness to fans.

* The NHRA has embarked upon one of its most ambitious marketing and communications initiatives ever to increase fan attention and attendance at events, including the hiring of veteran motorsports reporter Terry Blount late last season as new vice president of communications.

* Another significant hire is Emmy award-winning Ken Adelson as vice president of broadcasting and digital content to supercharge the NHRA’s TV and digital sides.

* Fox Sports and Fox Sports 1 has become the official TV partner of the sport, with plans to televise live the majority of the 24 races this season, including expected three-hour presentations of final eliminations on Sundays. In addition, former Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon embarks upon a new career as a NHRA TV analyst.

* New rules in Pro Stock, including the long-awaited implementation of electronic fuel injection and the removal of long-standing monster hood scoops, should inject life into a class that had grown somewhat stagnant to fans in recent years.

* After becoming the first back-to-back female champion in any NHRA pro categories, Pro Stock queen Erica Enders goes for three straight titles this season.

* Fan favorite and five-time Pro Stock champ Jeg Coughlan returns to the sport on a full-time basis after racing part-time last season.

* After enduring what he called his “worst season in 25 years” in 2015, 16-time Funny Car champion John Force is bound and determined to earn title No. 17 in 2016. The ageless Force (66 years old) told MotorSportsTalk that he feels as invigorated as he’s ever been and looks forward to significantly improve from last season’s disappointing seventh-place finish.

* In addition, Force will have long-time crew chief Austin Coil “helping out” in an unofficial capacity for Force’s Funny Car, as well as those of son-in-law and John Force Racing team president Robert Hight and Force’s youngest daughter, Courtney.

* John Force Racing also scored another coup in the offseason by hiring 11-time Top Fuel champion team owner/crew chief Alan Johnson as a consultant to oversee the Top Fuel efforts of driver Brittany Force. Judging by some of the runs Force had during last weekend’s preseason testing for nitro cars at Phoenix, not only does she seem likely to earn her first career win, she also is an early possible contender for the championship.

* Defending pro class champions are Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Del Worsham (Funny Car), Enders (Pro Stock) and Andrew Hines (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

And those changes are just for starters. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic that the NHRA is poised for increased growth and notoriety in 2016.

While the sanctioning body still has not capitulated to what many fans want – the return of full quarter-mile drag strip racing for Top Fuel and Funny Car competition (the standard remains 1,000 feet for 2016) – the changes that have already occurred for this season definitely hold a lot of promise.

Yes, the winds of change are swirling within the NHRA.

And if Clifford and the rest of the sanctioning body officials have their way and many of the changes prove successful, by season’s end the NHRA may be signing another Scorpions song that deals with wind: “Rock Me Like a Hurricane.”

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Helmut Marko: Modern-day F1 drivers are overpaid

xxxx during practice for the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria at Red Bull Ring on June 19, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.
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Red Bull Racing team advisor Helmut Marko believes that modern-day Formula 1 drivers are overpaid due to the reduced risk and easier driving conditions they experience.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel are two of the highest-paid drivers on the grid in 2016, earning upwards of $30 million per year from their teams.

However, Marko believes that drivers in F1 are overpaid as there is now a reduced risk of suffering a fatal accident, and that with the cars being easier to drive, their worth has decreased.

“Basically, the drivers of today are definitely overpaid for two reasons,” Marko told Sport Bild in Germany.

“Firstly, there is only a small risk that serious accidents can result in injury or even be fatal.

“Secondly, young top talent like [Max] Verstappen or [Pascal] Wehrlein can take the modern car and straight away easily do 100 laps without tiring.

“Previously you had even a Vettel have to take breaks because he was not used to the high centrifugal forces. This means that the cars are easier to drive. The drivers must do less.”

Wolff: Wehrlein, Ocon deserve Formula 1 roles

SPIELBERG, AUSTRIA - JUNE 23:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Mercedes GP drives during Formula One testing at the Red Bull Ring on June 23, 2015 in Spielberg, Austria.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images)
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Mercedes AMG Petronas team boss Toto Wolff believes that junior talents Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon have both earned their roles in Formula 1 for the 2016 season “on merit”.

Wehrlein will make his grand prix debut in 2016 with Manor Racing after winning the DTM title for Mercedes last year, becoming the youngest champion in the history of the series.

Ocon has been loaned to Renault Sport F1 Racing for its comeback season, and will work as the team’s reserve driver following his GP3 title success last year.

Wolff feels that both drivers deserve their chance in F1 this year, and also said that Mercedes will look to expand its junior program across the course of the season.

“We’re delighted that Pascal and Esteban will tackle a fresh set of challenges in 2016,” Wolff said. “Our aim is to build their experience in the best possible environment and, following positive discussions with our counterparts at Manor and Renault, it became clear that their respective Formula 1 programmes presented ideal opportunities to achieve that.

“It is very pleasing to see young drivers earning their spot in Formula 1 on merit and to see that talent is being rewarded by the system. Pascal and Esteban have proven themselves to be amongst the top young drivers out there – and both come into 2016 as champions of their respective series.

“But they still have plenty to learn and they will be staying humble, with their feet on the ground. This is an important year for them and we will be following their progress with great interest, while also looking to expand our junior program.

“Mercedes-Benz has a strong tradition of developing young racing talent and our eyes are very much open to other promising prospects for the future.”