Luke Smith

Formula E returns Monaco with the title fight alive again

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MONACO – Formula E makes its return to the streets of Monaco this weekend following a year’s break with the championship fight between Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi on a knife-edge.

Monaco first played host to Formula E back in 2014 during the all-electric series’ inaugural season as Sebastien Buemi became the first man to win more than one ePrix.

Fast forward two years, and the Swiss driver now has nine victories and a championship under his belt, with his hat-trick of wins to start the 2016/17 season thrusting him to the top of the title standings.

Buemi looked unstoppable at the head of the field until the fourth round of the year in Mexico City, when Formula E’s most dramatic race to date saw ABT Schaeffler Audi Sport’s di Grassi come back into contention.

Despite suffering damage and almost going one lap down, di Grassi rolled the dice on an ambitious strategy that worked out thanks to a couple of safety car periods and some impressive energy saving to get to the end and cross the line first.

With Buemi finishing outside of the points following an off-colour weekend that ended with a 12th-place finish, di Grassi slashed his rival’s advantage in the title race to just five points.

“I watched the race a couple of times and it was difficult to believe! From inside the cockpit, there was a different perspective,” di Grassi told NBC Sports.

“I only managed to win because the team managed to do a fantastic job with the strategy call, and with fixing the rear wing at the beginning. It was a mega race, my best Formula E victory so far. I’m pretty pleased with it.”

So as it has been for all three of Formula E’s seasons so far, the stage is set for another Buemi-di Grassi barnstormer this Saturday. But the Brazilian does not believe that the championship is something to yet have in mind.

“It’s very early to be talking about the championship. We’re round five, there’s another eight to go,” di Grassi said.

“Everything can happen. To be honest, JEV is quick, other guys are quick, Nico Prost is there. We just need that one bad weekend for everything to change again. At the moment we have to focus on winning races and collecting good points and that’s it.”

For Buemi, di Grassi’s revival has not been without its fair share of good fortune.

“I don’t want to sound rude but because they made mistakes it turned out to be some luck,” Buemi said. “I mean in qualifying in Hong Kong, he had a crash and because of that he had an accident in the first lap and because of the accident and because of this there was a safety car, they tend to have a very risky strategy in Mexico and in Hong Kong and it worked out very well.

“So congratulations to them but I am not sure it will be like that every weekend, so clearly I’m going to focus on not doing mistakes myself but they have made quite a few this season already.”

The circuit used in Monaco is similar to that in Formula 1, albeit much shorter. Instead of heading up the hill at Sainte Devote, drivers take a sharp right that leads them down a straight that ordinarily acts as the escape road for the Nouvelle Chicane.

The field will rejoin at the Chicane before completing the rest of the ‘regular’ Monaco lap, heading through Tabac, Swimming Pool and Las Rascasse before crossing the line to complete a lap.

The Monaco ePrix sees the third Formula E campaign edge towards its half-way mark, with the three double-header rounds to close out the season in Berlin (June 10-11), New York (July 15-16) and Montreal (July 29-30) now making up for half of the schedule in this campaign.

Following the Monaco race, the series will head to Paris just one week later on May 20, marking its first back-to-back race weekends.

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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…