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2018 F1 calendar approved; Brazil GP security issue raised

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PARIS (AP) Formula One races in Bahrain and China will swap places early in the season as initially planned following approval of the 2018 F1 calendar on Wednesday.

Motor sport’s governing body FIA confirmed the proposed switch, with Bahrain taking place at the Sakhir circuit on April 8 and the Chinese GP in Shanghai a week later.

As usual, the F1 season begins with the Australian GP in Melbourne on March 25.

All the other races in the 21-race calendar were confirmed from the original plan set out in June, with the exception of the United States GP in Austin on Oct. 21 being subject to confirmation. Brazil (Nov. 11 at Interlagos) and Abu Dhabi (Nov. 25 at Yas Marina) are the last two races.

Questions were raised about the Brazilian GP being held next year in Sao Paulo after serious security scares last month.

Members of Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes team were robbed at gun point in their minivan while leaving the track. Valuables were stolen but there were no injuries reported.

Street crime is endemic in Brazil, which has been battered in the last several years by its worst recession in memory. Thieves at the F1 race often target cars stuck in traffic jams at the exit of the circuit located about 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Sao Paulo city center.

At this year’s race, FIA spokesman Matteo Bonciani said the car in which he was leaving the track was assaulted by gun-wielding assailants who attempted to smash in the bullet-proof windows with the vehicle stuck in traffic.

In response to these latest incidents, new security measures were proposed Wednesday.

The FIA directly urged that the race promoter uses an “independent security expert to evaluate and advise on security plans,” while implementing a police reporting hub at the circuit and improving “overall communication between the promoter security, police and F1 stakeholders.”

The French GP, meanwhile, returns after a 10-year absence and will be hosted at the iconic Paul Ricard circuit, also known as Le Castellet, in southern France on June 24.

Paul Ricard last hosted the French GP in 1990. The race was then organized at Magny-Cours from 1991-2008 but was dropped from the calendar in 2008 because of financial issues.

The German GP, which has struggled with attendances and track fees, was scrapped this year but will return at Hockenheim on July 22.

The Azerbaijan GP has been moved forward to April 29, making it the fourth race of the season. The Russian GP in Sochi, held this year at the end of April, shifts to Sept. 30. That late September slot was normally reserved for the Malaysian GP, which has been dropped.

There were doubts over the Singapore GP, subject to commercial rights holder confirmation, but it will go ahead on Sept. 16.

2018 schedule:

March 25: Melbourne, Australia

April 8: Sakhir, Bahrain

April 15: Shanghai, China

April 29: Baku, Azerbaijan

May 13: Barcelona, Spain

May 27: Monaco

June 10: Montreal, Canada

June 24: Le Castellet, France

July 1: Spielberg, Austria

July 8: Silverstone, England

July 22: Hockenheim, Germany

July 29: Budapest, Hungary

Aug. 26: Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium

Sept. 2: Monza, Italy

Sept. 16: Singapore

Sept. 30: Sochi, Russia

Oct. 7: Suzuka, Japan

Oct. 21: Austin, United States (asterisk) (subject to confirmation)

Oct. 28: Mexico City, Mexico

Nov. 11: Sao Paulo, Brazil

Nov. 25: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

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