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F1 Preview: 2017 Italian Grand Prix

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Formula 1’s stint in Europe for 2017 comes to a close this weekend with the Italian Grand Prix at the historic Autodromo Nazionale Monza, on the outskirts of Milan.

Lewis Hamilton heads into the race weekend riding high after a controlled victory in Belgium last weekend, drawing him back to within seven points of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the drivers’ championship.

The high-speed nature of Monza should play towards Mercedes’ strengths, but the same was said of Spa, yet Vettel was able to push Hamilton all the way in the fight for victory.

There will be an extra dose of pressure facing Ferrari this weekend. Monza being its home race, the grandstands are set to turn a sea of red as its loyal Tifosi fan base turns out for the Scuderia’s 70th anniversary weekend.

Can Vettel deliver a popular home win for Ferrari, its first since 2010? Or will Hamilton continue to turn the screw on his rival in the title race?

Here’s what to watch for in this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.

2017 Italian Grand Prix – What to watch for

Hamilton, Mercedes aim to tie things up

Lewis Hamilton’s victory at Spa last weekend gave Mercedes the perfect start to the second half of the season, responding to Ferrari’s one-two in Hungary before the summer break with a convincing victory.

While most were surprised by just how competitive Ferrari proved to be, Hamilton nevertheless capitalized on an opportunity for victory at a ‘Mercedes track’, reeling Vettel in at the head of the drivers’ table.

Another win for Hamilton on Sunday at Monza would see him take the championship lead, albeit on race wins should Vettel come second once again, the pair theoretically tied up on 238 points.

With Singapore coming up in two-and-a-half weeks, a race Ferrari should dominate, Monza is an important race for Mercedes to rack up some points and get in another blow in the title fight.

Hamilton could also become F1’s all-time pole position record holder on Saturday, having scored the 68th of his career at Spa to tie with Michael Schumacher. Taking a 69th on Ferrari home soil would be particularly significant.

Ferrari celebrates 70 years of racing

Seventy years since Enzo Ferrari first drove a car to bear his name, the Italian manufacturer is set for a weekend of celebrations and events at Monza as it bids to write the next chapter of its F1 success story.

Vettel’s showing at Spa gave the team confidence that it won’t be walked over by Mercedes at high-speed tracks, the German saying there is now no circuit for Ferrari to fear through the closing rounds of the season.

Monza is a crucial weekend for Ferrari all the same. With announcements regarding both Vettel and Raikkonen now out of the way, the team will know that this year’s race represents its best chance of a home victory for some time.

Will the Tifosi get the result they so want? Or will this anniversary weekend be one overshadowed by Mercedes’ success?

Will Red Bull get dragged into the midfield fight?

With engine power being a key area for this weekend’s race at Monza, Red Bull may find itself struggling to keep up with Mercedes and Ferrari even more than usual. The issues with its Renault power units are well-document, and while the situation may not be as bleak as things are for McLaren and Honda, the frustration is there.

Reliability has been one of Renault’s biggest weaknesses so far this season, with Max Verstappen suffering yet another failure at Spa last weekend. The Dutchman is reportedly set to take some new power unit elements for Monza, meaning he will start further back thanks to grid penalties, leaving Daniel Ricciardo to fight alone.

With the oncoming midfielders such as Force India and Williams armed with Mercedes power, they could yet suck Red Bull into the pack.

Fernando begins to think about his future

The saga surrounding Fernando Alonso’s future should hopefully begin to show signs of progress this weekend at Monza. The two-time world champion has long-stated he would begin to plot his 2018 plans come September, even joking at Spa that he had “one week of freedom” given it was the end of August.

Alas, Friday marks the beginning of September, and Alonso’s options are looking more and more limited. If he is desperate to stay in F1, then staying with McLaren or, in a strange twist to silly season that arose at Spa, a move to Williams may be the solution.

On-track, expect this weekend’s race to be another difficult one for Alonso. His sensational start at Spa was quickly overshadowed by his lack of straight-line speed, with cars streaming past on the Kemmel Straight. The decision to retire was questionable, with Alonso’s cited engine issue never being found by Honda…

2017 Italian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Autodromo Nazionale Monza
Corners: 11
Lap Record: Rubens Barrichello 1:21.046 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft/Soft/Medium
2016 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:21.135
2016 Fastest Lap: Fernando Alonso (McLaren) 1:25.340
DRS Zone: T11 to T1, T7 to T8

2017 Italian Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

NASCAR America: Scott Speed’s quest for Red Bull GRC three-peat

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Red Bull Global Rallycross points leader Scott Speed is going for his third consecutive championship next month (Saturday, October 14, 4:30 p.m. ET, NBC from Los Angeles) for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.

Prior to that, he joined Thursday’s edition of NBCSN’s NASCAR America, checking in with his former Red Bull Racing teammate Brian Vickers, show host Carolyn Manno and analyst Steve Letarte.

Speed talked teammate dynamics – he and Tanner Foust have been the class of the Red Bull GRC field for several years – and what it takes to succeed in the diverse championship that features racing on both pavement and dirt.

“Tanner comes from more of a more rally background and I come from more of an open-wheel, road course background,” Speed explained. “You have to meet in the middle and often times that creates success. Our personalties are polar opposites and that’s a good thing.”

One other thing Speed addressed was Austin Cindric’s couple notable incidents in the last month or so. Going for his maiden NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, Cindric hit Kaz Grala at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park to move for the lead and ultimately the win.

Cindric then made his GRC Supercars debut at the most recent weekend in Seattle and the two collided after a miscommunication in a preliminary race, prior to the Joker section of the course.

“He’s a young kid with not a lot of experience. He’s made a couple big mistakes. He came in like a wrecking ball,” Speed laughed.

“I was more mad because the car couldn’t restart at first. But it did, and we got going.”

Public clashes over future of Detroit Grand Prix

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DETROIT (AP) State officials are deciding whether to continue hosting the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle, a state park and island that opponents say is negatively impacted by the annual event.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is considering whether to allow the race to continue after its current five-year contract expires after the 2018 race.

The department held a public meeting Wednesday at the Belle Isle Nature Center to gather feedback. Dozens of residents attended.

Opponents voiced concerns about the race’s environmental impact. Several conservation groups have requested a third-party environmental impact study on how the race affects island habitat.

But supporters say the race shines a spotlight on Detroit and stimulates the economy.

The Grand Prix has occurred on Belle Isle periodically since 1992 and annually since 2012.

FIA confirms Halo crash test details, International F3 plans and more

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Following the latest meeting of the FIA World Motor Sport Council in Paris, France, a number of updates concerning the championships under the governing body’s umbrella for 2018 had been confirmed.

The stand-out news was the confirmation of a Formula E race in Zurich for June 2018, marking motorsport’s return to Switzerland after being outlawed back in 1955.

A number of tweaks have also been made to the FIA Super Licence points allocation from next year, placing a greater onus on drivers to race in Formula 2 before stepping up to Formula 1.

Here’s a run-down of all the other news from the WMSC’s meeting in Paris.

FORMULA 1

Following the F1 Strategy Group’s approval of ‘Halo’ cockpit protection being introduced to F1 from 2018, the WMSC gave its approval to the required updates in the technical regulations to allow its implementation.

The various technical details can be found in the regulations by clicking here (under Article 17), but the key point is that teams will now be able to finalize their chassis designs for 2018 now they know the crash test details.

The WMSC also confirmed that Sentronics will be the exclusive supplier of fuel flow meters in F1 for 2018 and 2019.

There is also a clampdown on oil burn in F1 for 2018 following the controversy with Mercedes and Ferrari in 2017, as well as continued plans to ban the ‘shark fin’ from next year’s regulations.

One point we already knew but is nevertheless of interest is the reduction in power unit elements permitted to each driver per season. As of 2018, each driver will be limited to just three internal combustion engines, three MGU-Hs, three turbochargers, two control electronics and two MGU-Ks per season, down from four for each element in 2017.

No updates were made to the F1 calendar for 2018, but Bahrain and China are tipped to switch places, the latter becoming the third round of the season.

INTERNATIONAL FORMULA 3

The WMSC confirmed plans to form an International Formula 3 series in 2019 in a bid to complete the pyramid from Formula 4 to F1.

Both the FIA European F3 and GP3 Series co-exist as the third rung on the single-seater ladder at the moment, with the international championship tipped to replace the latter.

The WMSC called for expressions of interest for chassis and engine suppliers for an international series, as well as a promoter.

Loose regulations have also been formed that are similar to GP3’s current rules, with a 24-car grid desired over a nine-to-10 round season featuring single-make chassis, engines and tires.

The FIA is also pushing to create more regional F3 series in the future to bridge the gap between F4 and International F3.

FIA WORLD ENDURANCE CHAMPIONSHIP

Following confirmation of Silverstone’s return to the 2018/19 ‘super season’ calendar last week, the WMSC ratified the schedule for the next WEC campaign that will last 13 months.

The technical regulation amendments for 2018 were also approved as part of the WEC’s bid to attract more manufacturers to the LMP1 class following Porsche’s shock exit.

“The FIA Endurance Commission was also encouraged to pursue a number of exciting and innovative proposals that it is currently working on, with the aim of enticing new manufacturers to the Championship,” part of the WMSC’s release reads.

FIA WORLD RALLY CHAMPIONSHIP

The FIA confirmed its calendar for the 2018 WRC season, with the addition of a rally in Turkey being announced in place of Poland.

1. Rally Monte Carlo – January 28
2. Rally Sweden – February 18
3. Rally Mexico – March 11
4. Tour de Corse – April 8
5. Rally Argentina – April 29
6. Rally de Portugal – May 20
7. Rally Italia – June 10
8. Rally Finland – July 29
9. Rally Germany – August 19
10. Rally Turkey – September 16
11. Rally Great Britain – October 7
12. Rally Spain – October 28
13. Rally Australia – November 18

To see the full release from the WMSC, click here.

FIA tweaks Super Licence points allocation for 2018

FIA Formula 2
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The FIA has tweaked its points allocation for the Super Licence required to race in Formula 1 for 2018, placing a greater onus on Formula 2 as being the final step on the single-seater ladder.

In a bid to tighten up on the route drivers took to reach F1, the FIA introduced a new points system for the Super Licence from 2016.

Drivers require a score of 40 points in a three-year period to be granted an FIA Super Licence, with different scores being awarded for success across a variety of categories.

Previously, drivers scored the full 40 points required for a top-two finish in GP2 (now F2) or winning the title in IndyCar, FIA Formula 3, Formula E or the FIA World Endurance Championship’s LMP1 class.

As of 2018, 40 points will only be awarded for a top-three finish in F2 or winning the IndyCar drivers’ title, with the other series facing points reductions.

One of the most devalued championships is Formula V8 3.5, formerly seen as being equivalent to GP2, with a title win previously worth 35 points now worth just 20.

Here are the points breakdowns for the most valuable championships, running from P1 in the final standings to P10.

FIA Super Licence Points Allocations

Formula 2: 40-40-40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3
IndyCar: 40-30-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
FIA F3: 30-25-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
Formula E: 30-25-20-10-8-6-4-3-2-1
WEC LMP1: 30-24-20-16-12-10-8-6-4-2
GP3: 25-20-15-10-7-5-3-2-1-0
Formula V8 3.5: 20-15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1-0
Super Formula: 20-15-10-8-6-4-3-2-1-0

You can see the full breakdown by clicking here.