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Aleshin, Sirotkin confirmed among others for Le Mans

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The 24 Hours of Le Mans grid, the marquee event of the FIA World Endurance Championship season, is nearly at completion following a couple other lineup announcements in the last two days.

Mikhail Aleshin, who was nominated as SMP Racing’s driver for No. 27 Dallara P217 Gibson chassis on the initial entry list, has been confirmed for what will be his third straight Le Mans with the team.

Aleshin is also involved in BR Engineering and Dallara’s testing work for a 2018 LMP1 chassis. The last two years at Le Mans, he ran in the team’s BR01 chassis, but the car was not one of the four eligible constructors confirmed for the new 2017 LMP2 regulations.

“We’re working to produce our own car for 2018… I’m one of the test or development drivers. I don’t know yet (Le Mans)… but maybe,” Aleshin told NBC Sports of his sports car program for this year at the Phoenix test in February.

“For me, the main thing this year is concentrate on two things. One is IndyCar. And then I have a very similar responsibility in taking care of our LMP1 project with SMP, as that will be very big.”

He’s the third full-season Verizon IndyCar Series driver confirmed for this year’s Le Mans, along with Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais, who are returning to two of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GTs. NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell, who like Bourdais also won class last year at Le Mans (Bourdais co-won in GTE-Pro and Bell co-won in GTE-Am), is also in the field to defend that title with Scuderia Corsa in what is now a Ferrari 488 GTE.

Aleshin’s co-drivers will be Sergey Sirotkin and Victor Shaitar. Sirotkin, Renault’s reserve driver, will make his Le Mans debut while Shaitar will also be back for his fourth straight Le Mans with SMP.

Shaitar, Kirill Ladygin and Vitaly Petrov were on the podium at Le Mans last year, finishing third in the No. 37 BR01 Nissan.

In the GTE-Am class, one of the remaining TBA slots has also been filled. The Beechdean AMR No. 99 Aston Martin Vantage V8 will see Andrew Howard share the car with Ross Gunn and Oliver Bryant.

Additionally in GTE-Am, JMW Motorsport is now listed to run a Ferrari 488 GTE at Le Mans instead of the venerable Ferrari F458 Italia. No drivers are listed yet for the No. 84 car although Robert Smith, Rory Butcher and Jody Fannin are listed for the car’s European Le Mans Series entry.

Further cars without their lineups for Le Mans confirmed at the moment include the No. 22 DragonSpeed-operated, G-Drive Racing entered Oreca 07 Gibson (Leo Roussel not yet confirmed alongside Memo Rojas and Ryo Hirakawa), the No. 40 Graff Oreca in LMP2 and Nos. 88 and 93 Proton Competition Porsche 911 RSRs in GTE-Am.

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.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…