Photo: FIA

FIA celebrates F1’s champions, opening new FIA Hall of Fame

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On Monday night, the FIA launched its new Hall of Fame in Paris, which pays tribute to all 33 Formula 1 World Champions. Nine of them were in attendance.

Those present included Sir Jackie Stewart, Mario Andretti, Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg, along with representatives and family of F1’s other title winners in becoming the first drivers honored by the new initiative.

Drivers were inducted in order based on how many times they’d won the championship, with single title winners going first, then two-timers, and so on and so forth until reaching F1’s most statistically successful World Champion, seven-time champ Michael Schumacher.

His long-time manager Sabine Kehm on hand to accept his award. Updates have of course been scarce on Schumacher’s health since his skiing accident in late December 2013, with privacy for the family the course of action and something Kehm addressed.

“We all know Michael should be here and I am totally sure he would love to be here,” she said. “He always had the highest respect for everyone in this room and he would be very honored. What made Michael so special, what made him so successful was, as with everybody in this room, a love and passion for this sport.”

Vettel and Alonso were the two active World Champions present, with Lewis Hamilton not on site. Vettel’s four titles came with Red Bull Racing from 2010 through 2013 while Alonso’s two were with Renault in 2005 and 2006. Neither has emulated Schumacher in returning the championship to the Scuderia.

“It’s been incredible to see all these names, all these faces. Obviously a lot of them I only know from what I have read, what I have seen, but I think it’s a great idea. There’s so much history in the sports, it’s still so alive, and thanks to events like tonight’s, we’ll keep it like that. I love racing but as you get older you change your way of thinking and I think your appreciation for things and definitely for things like tonight grows,” said Vettel.

Alonso added, “It has been a fantastic night. I’m very honored to be here with these great champions. All of them inspired me to become a Formula One driver, they inspired all the kids of my generation, so I feel very proud.”

Rosberg, the 2016 champion, did what he’s been doing a bit more of in his year since retiring: making video blogs. His is linked below.

America’s last World Champion, 1978 champion Mario Andretti, took a selfie with 1996 World Champion Damon Hill and David Brabham, who raced in his own day in F1 in the 1990s and was representing the Brabham family for Sir Jack Brabham.

The new FIA Hall of Fame website has also been launched, and the FIA’s full release of the evening is linked here.

Follow @TonyDiZinno

BREAKING: John Force taken to hospital after Phoenix eliminations crash

Photo courtesy NHRA
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16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force has been taken to a local hospital for evaluation and examination following a wicked crash with fellow Funny Car driver Johnnie Lindberg.

The crash occurred during the quarterfinals of Sunday’s final eliminations in the NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in suburban Phoenix.

Force was headed for a win when the engine on his Peak Chevrolet Camaro blew up just as it crossed the finish line, destroying the body. Lindberg, meanwhile, lost traction about one-third of the way down-track, but then got back into the gas to try and catch Force.

Force appeared to lose control of the body-less car and went across from the left lane he was in to the right-hand lane, where he hit the retaining wall in front of Lindberg.

Lindberg tried to avoid Force, but couldn’t. To make matters worse, the body on Lindberg’s car then came off and Force’s and Lindberg’s cars got tangled up in Lindberg’s parachute, sending both chassis’ into the left retaining wall.

Lindberg emerged from his Funny Car under his own power and was checked at the medical center before heading back to his pit.

Force, meanwhile, was helped out of his mangled wreck by the NHRA Safety Safari and was transported by ambulance to the hospital due to the severity of the impact.

Even though Force will be credited with the round win, he obviously will not be able to continue for the remainder of the eliminations.

To add insult to injury, NHRA officials charged Force with oiling down the racetrack, his third of the season in just the first two races. That will cost him 15 points in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series standings and a fine of $4,000.

Here are several posts from social media, including video of the incident from NHRA:

This is the second time Force has had an engine explode and the body blew off in the last two weeks. He also wrecked during the qualifying Feb. 9 for the season-opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. Here’s the video of that wreck:

MORE: John Force taken to hospital as a precaution after Funny Car motor explodes.

We’ll update Force’s condition when it becomes available.

Follow @JerryBonkowski