The inaugural “F1 Live London” is likely to be considered a smashing success, after an all-day event that took over Trafalgar Square and later featured a car parade in Whitehall.
The brainchild of new Formula 1 owners Liberty Media, the quickly organized and announced takeover was meant to bring the field together before this weekend’s British Grand Prix up the road at Silverstone (times across CNBC, NBC Sports app here).
And certainly while the event would wow hardcore Formula 1 fans, the mix of events – a STEM-focused presentation for youngsters started the afternoon before the car demonstrations and live music took over in the evening – the draw was always meant to engage new fans, which is part of Liberty Media’s goal. The event was live streamed on Formula 1’s official website and on its YouTube channel, something that would have been hard to foresee in the previous era of leadership.
“This is the start of the new regime – taking it back to the people that love Formula 1,” Ross Brawn, Managing Director, Motor Sports, said on stage during one of the interviews before the cars ran.
“This is so encouraging to us. When we see the support that these events create. These guys are the heroes, but we need to bring them out and show them a lot more than in the past. It’s so motivating to see them out there. It’s amazing to see here in London!”
Besides the field of almost all 20 drivers – Lewis Hamilton was a notable no-show on holiday (more on that in a separate post) – the number of F1 luminaries also included the last two World Champions who’ve moved on from full-time driving in Nico Rosberg and Jenson Button, past Renault veteran Rene Arnoux, and a host of British drivers turned TV pundits in Martin Brundle, David Coulthard, Damon Hill, Johnny Herbert and John Watson.
“It’s absolutely amazing – look at this!” Button exclaimed in his interview. “We need to say a big thank you to you guys. Having you guys here makes it for us. The ‘F1 LIVE LONDON’ is fantastic. Most of you are Formula 1 fans and excited about the Grand Prix, but I’m guessing we’ve got some here who weren’t going to Silverstone. Kids doing pit stop practice which is amazing.
“So thanks to this guy (Brawn)… not for the World Championship, but for making this happen. It’s the first time every single team present at an event that isn’t a Grand Prix. It’s so special for London and for Formula 1.”
Arnoux’s presence meant there were, in fact, 20 full drivers on the stage when the presenters introduced the field as he joined Renault’s full-season drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Jolyon Palmer. Palmer, somewhat keen to appreciate the moment, joined Arnoux in a throwback firesuit as the only British driver present ahead of the British Grand Prix.
The demonstration laps that ran featured some key highlights. Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo, in particular, wowed the crowd with a smoke show through his run in the previously all conquering Red Bull RB7 chassis, the car that Sebastian Vettel drove to a dominant World Championship victory in the 2011 season.
Vettel also impressed the crowd in his run, and certainly gained some new fans on a day when his championship adversary loomed large by his absence.
Some of the photos – there was no way to capture all of them – are below on what was a great afternoon and evening for the sport.
A pair of first-time polesitters have the top spot for this weekend’s GT-only IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Northeast Grand Prix from Lime Rock Park. Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole for Porsche while Madison Snow has his first pole of the season.
GT LE MANS
Just 0.535 of a second covered the four manufacturers and eight cars in GT Le Mans in qualifying, but up front, Gianmaria Bruni has his first pole as a Porsche factory driver.
The Italian, in only his third weekend as a factory GT driver and second ever at Lime Rock and sharing the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR with Laurens Vanthoor, posted the ultimate pole time of 50.404 seconds around the 1.53-mile circuit.
“I’m very happy to do my first pole with Porsche, first qualifying. This team has taught me good things and gets the most out of it,” Bruni told IMSA Radio’s Shea Adam after the checkered flag. He’s the 23rd different GTLM polesitter in IMSA since the 2014 merger, this surprisingly his first pole in the series.
Richard Westbrook took the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT into second at 50.540 in the car he shares with Ryan Briscoe.
The No. 911 Porsche and No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM are third and fourth, with the pair of Corvettes next.
The No. 4 Corvette C7.R is back in action this week following its accident at the end of the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Per Corvette Racing, repairs to the car included: the entire front-right corner (components, bodywork), steering rack, diffuser, wing and changed a chassis tube due to a crease. There were no other cracks or damage to the frame. That car qualified fifth in the hands of Tommy Milner, who shares the car with Oliver Gavin. The pair won Corvette Racing’s 100th race as a team this race last year.
After a run of seven manufacturers scoring pole positions in the first seven races in GTD, the streak was broken Friday at Lime Rock Park.
Not too far from its New Jersey base, the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 was the first car to score a second pole this year, this time in the hands of Madison Snow. Snow joins Bryan Sellers (Long Beach) as polesitters for this car this season, and this at least keeps the streak of different drivers alive.
The Nos. 54 CORE autosport and No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R in the hands of Colin Braun and Patrick Long were next. Snow’s 52.508 best lap edged Braun’s 52.699 and Long’s 52.836, with Jack Hawksworth best of the 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 brigade in fourth and Jens Klingmann taking the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 into fifth.
The top 15 of the 17 cars in GTD were separated by only 0.992 of a second around the 1.53-mile bullring.
The two-hour, 40-minute race runs late Saturday afternoon, from 3:05 to 5:45 p.m. ET.
Mid-Ohio, Honda Racing go galactic for 2017 at-track camping theme
Honda Racing will channel a galactic theme for this year’s camping festivities at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a popular camping venue on the Verizon IndyCar Series calendar.
This marks the third year of a contest for best campground site, with various Honda Indy 200 gifts on offer. The theme name this year is “May the G-Forces Be With You,” and the hashtag is #CampingWithHonda. Last year’s was a “Christmas in July” theme, complete with Santa Claus. The full release from the track is linked here.
As this year’s event alludes to a very popular galactic film series in all but name, it will see a number of participants in the weekend festivities by to judge the campsites at the track – potentially in character!
Graham Rahal, driver of the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in IndyCar, will visit the sites Saturday after qualifying to choose the winners. He did so last year as well.
Others, such as last year’s Mid-Ohio race winner Simon Pagenaud and RealTime Racing Acura NSX GT3 factory driver in Pirelli World Challenge, Ryan Eversley (right), are expected to attend as well – though whether as themselves or potentially in a special character remains to be seen.
“It’s always a thrill and a special part of the Mid-Ohio weekend to take part in Honda Racing fun festivities like ‘May the G-Forces Be With You,'” Eversley told NBC Sports; the Atlanta native finished second in the second PWC GT race here last year in the previous generation TLX-GT, in one of his best drives of the season. “These guys always know how to cook up some fun activities and so if there’s an opportunity to dress up, have fun and play along with it, I’m down!”
Pagenaud, who was a longtime member of the Honda and Acura family before his move to Team Penske’s Chevrolet-powered, IndyCar program (right), added, “For me, as a fan, this filmseries is just the best. I love the battle between the light and dark side of the force, because I feel like we can all identify with that. I try to channel the force when I’m in my race car, so this will be a really fun weekend in Mid-Ohio.
“I plan to bring something to show my pride at the track, but I won’t ruin the surprise for you guys in advance!”
Expect similar characters to be present on site on Saturday evening. There’s also going to be a bonfire, live band (Columbus group MidLife Crisis) and s’mores, plus branded lighted batons which should display well at the bonfire on Saturday.
And for James Hinchcliffe, another Honda driver who is no stranger to having fun, he’s also part of the buildup to this event, as evidenced by the event teaser below.
Pascal Wehrlein is not paying any attention to speculation that Sauber’s planned Formula 1 engine deal with Honda for 2018 could be on the rocks, saying his future remains open as he focuses on his current duties with the team.
Mercedes junior Wehrlein was placed at Sauber for 2017, and led the team to its first points finish of the year at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.
Sauber had been given a boost two weeks earlier when it announced a deal to become Honda’s second customer team for 2018, including technical and financial support.