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F1 2016 Driver Review: Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Team: McLaren Honda
Car No.: 14
Races: 20
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: 5th (Monaco, USA)
Fastest Laps: 1
Points: 54
Laps Led: 0
Championship Position: 10th

Luke Smith (@LukeSmithF1)

Fernando Alonso pulled his usual trick of far outstripping the capabilities of his car in 2016. The McLaren-Honda MP4-31 was not the pig that the 2015 runner was, but Alonso still should not have finished in the top 10 in the drivers’ championship with it. It wasn’t that good.

But, naturally, Alonso did it anyway. He dragged the car kicking and screaming up the grid, scoring points on a regular basis and taking the fight to the Mercedes-powered Force India and Williams teams. Given he started the year with a terrifying crash that forced him to miss a race through injury, his feats are all the more impressive.

Alonso’s finest hour came in Monaco when, in drying conditions, he was able to keep his McLaren ahead of Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg for the entire race en route to fifth place. It was a result that would have been unthinkable 12 months prior.

Alonso was a thorn in the side of the Williams and Force India drivers in their battle, picking up a set of P7 results in the second half of the year, and even finishing fifth in Austin after a late-race bump with Felipe Massa. The Spaniard’s aggressive style continues to delight us all.

Quite what 2017 holds for McLaren remains unclear, but you would imagine that if the car is even half-decent, Alonso will be able to work wonders with it.

Tony DiZinno (@tonydizinno)

The leap from 11 points and 17th place in the championship to 54 and 10th in one year spoke volumes about how much of a regulation badass Fernando Alonso is and continues to be. The Spaniard had no business finishing this high in points considering the McLaren Honda, while much better than the nightmare that was 2015, was still only sixth or seventh best chassis in the field.

Yet in nearly every instance, the two-time World Champion seized his chances when they were there and ultimately left no more than maybe five or six extra points on the table. Two fifth-place finishes, a sixth and four sevenths made for a good haul.

The hope is that with the new regulations next year, McLaren Honda can be even better. Alonso’s efforts and patience the last two years deserve a return to a podium and race-winning contender of a car. Maybe then, the #PlacesAlonsoWouldRatherBe meme will finally have run its course and Alonso’s place as one of this generation’s greatest drivers will finally come back into full view.

Robert Hight extends Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons

Photo: Gary Nastase and Auto Imagery
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MORRISON, Colo. (AP) Robert Hight beat Tommy Johnson Jr. on Sunday in the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway to extend his Funny Car victory streak to 13 seasons.

Hight topped Johnson with a 3.995-second pass at 317.57 mph in a Chevrolet Camaro SS for his 38th career victory.

“We definitely struggled through the first few rounds and we were lucky to get those round wins, but I have a great team who figured things out and helped get me to the winner’s circle,” Hight said. “It’s definitely a long-time coming and we hadn’t had much luck, but today we had some luck and we hope this continues throughout the Western Swing.”

Antron Brown won in Top Fuel, Drew Skillman in Pro Stock, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle.

Brown edged teammate and No. 1 qualifier Leah Pritchett with a 3.792 at 319.82. He has three victories this season to push his career total to 64.

Skillman raced to his second straight victory and the fifth of his career, beating points leader Bo Butner with a 6.916 run at 198.15 in a Camaro.

Krawiec topped Matt Smith with a 7.145 at 188.28. The Harley-Davidson rider has two victories this season and 38 overall.

Sauber confirms Matsushita for Hungary test as well

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Honda junior driver Nobuhiro Matsushita will have a run with Sauber F1 Team on the second day of the Hungarian Grand Prix post-race week test, in the team’s C36 chassis.

Sauber’s engine selection for 2018 is up in the air. While the team announced a switch from year old Ferraris to Hondas, this was done under prior team principal Monisha Kaltenborn and rumors have persisted the deal may be off, or wasn’t fully done in the first place.

That Matsushita is running at this test for his first day in an F1 car – Gustav Malja will run on day one – could indicate the Honda switch isn’t yet a dead topic.

“When I was four years old, I was fascinated by Michael Schumacher, watching him racing in Formula 1. Since then my dream was to become a Formula 1 driver,” he said. “I am very excited about my first Formula 1 test and I am really looking forward to driving the Sauber C36-Ferrari at the Hungaroring – it is a great opportunity for me. I hope it will be a productive day for the team as well as for myself, so that I can learn as much as possible. I would like to thank the Sauber F1 Team for making this happen.”

New team boss Frederic Vasseur, formerly of Renault, gave his take on the test.

“I am pleased that Nobuharu has this great opportunity. He deserves the experience of his first test in a Formula 1 car. Ever since his debut in Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix, I have been following his progress closely, and have watched him advance his performance from year to year. With this Formula 1 test, he comes one step closer to his dream of becoming an F1 driver one day.”

Renault confirms Robert Kubica will test in Hungary

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Renault Sport F1 Team has confirmed Robert Kubica will make his return to a current Formula 1 car in the post-Hungarian Grand Prix test, which will only continue to fuel the hype train for a possible race return.

The Pole has undertaken two tests in recent weeks with older cars but this day in the Renault R.S.17 will provide the team a chance to evaluate him in current machinery to gauge his race level fitness.

It’s a story that has got the F1 world buzzing in recent weeks as Kubica, injured in a rally accident before the 2011 season, has made a comeback to restart his racing career.

Poor Nicholas Latifi, also confirmed for the test that runs the Tuesday and Wednesday after the Hungarian Grand Prix, will be undoubtedly overlooked as a result.

Jolyon Palmer will race in Hungary this weekend at least but whether the Brit continues beyond the summer break that follows afterwards remains a question mark.

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.