Author: Luke Smith

SUZUKA, JAPAN - SEPTEMBER 27:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland and Williams drives ahead of Kimi Raikkonen of Finland and Ferrari during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on September 27, 2015 in Suzuka, Japan.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Bottas determined to beat Raikkonen to P4

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Valtteri Bottas is determined to end the 2015 Formula 1 season on a high by hanging on to fourth place in the drivers’ championship at next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Bottas enters the final race of the year just one point clear of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in the standings.

Despite not having any major honors to fight for in Abu Dhabi, Bottas insists that he is still determined to finish the year as high as possible in the championship and keep Raikkonen behind him.

“I know many people would say it’s not important to finish fourth, fifth, or sixth in the championship but I don’t look at it that way,” Bottas wrote in his Williams blog.

“For me every position is important. I want to finish as high up in the championship as possible and, for me, that’s the way to go.

“It’s certainly going to be close in Abu Dhabi because whoever finishes in front of the other will get that fourth place.

“It’s going to be an exciting race, for sure. We were very competitive there last year, so let’s hope it will be the same in two weeks.”

The Bottas/Raikkonen battle has been one of the recurring battles of the second half of the year that has seen them come together on track twice.

In Russia, Raikkonen punted Bottas into the wall on the last lap as he tried to pass for third place, but the Ferrari driver retired in Mexico after another incident with his compatriot.

Bottas enters the final race of the year with only himself to look after after Williams clinched third in the constructors’ championship in Brazil.

“At the end of what was not a very exciting race for me, our results secured third place in the constructors’ Championship for Williams and that was something to celebrate,” Bottas said.

“Even for the drivers, the result in the constructors’ championships means a lot because it’s nice to secure the best possible position. It’s the same final position as last year, so I’m proud that even with a smaller team we can fight with the biggest teams.

“That’s good but we all want more. We need to say thank you to all the people in the race team and at the factory for all the hard work, but also to Mercedes for their engines. Without them we couldn’t do this, but we are a team that wants to win, so we want more.”

Philpot proves he has the ROC Factor with impressive London showing

Bradley Philpot (GBR) in the Radical SR3 RSX
© Race of Champions
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LONDON – Bradley Philpot may be unfamiliar to most followers of motor racing, but after an impressive showing at the Race of Champions in London, the Briton will be a name on the lips of many.

Philpot secured a place at the Race of Champions by winning the ‘ROC Factor’ competition that started off as something very small. Drivers were asked to submit a two-minute video showcasing their racing talents, with ten being selected for a public vote.

Fans from all over the world were invited to support their favorite drivers, with Philpot winning the most votes to secure a place in a shoot-out with second-place finisher Des Foley. The winner was originally set to get a place on the Race of Champions undercard.

Just days before the Race of Champions kicked off, the stakes were upped once again. Philpot and Foley were not just battling for a chance to be part of the event, but in fact to enter the Race of Champions event itself after Jorge Lorenzo was forced to withdraw through injury.

“Unbelievable. It’s completely out of the blue,” Philpot told MotorSportsTalk on Thursday. “Just something starting out very small as a Twitter competition which you’ve got hardly any chance to win.

“And suddenly we’re here, and this is actually happening. Crazy but I’m happy.”

Philpot went head-to-head with Foley on Thursday, winning both of their ties before being picked by the judges to step up and take part in the Race of Champions.

Even for a racer who has finished on the podium at the Nurburgring 24 Hours, the opportunity to share the track with the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Tom Kristensen, Mick Doohan and Jenson Button was an exciting one – but it did not overawe Philpot.

“The next focus switches to beating them,” Philpot said. “If I win [the vote], if I find out I’ve won, then it will be a relief. Then overnight I have to refocus on actually doing the job on the circuit.

“It would mean a lot [to beat them] and that would be the aim, so that’s what we’ll try and do.”

It is this racer’s mentality that Philpot tries to ingrain into other drivers when working as an instructor at the Bedford Autodrome in England, and one that he helped to form in NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton ahead of his single-seater adventure in the Florida Winter Series last winter when he raced up against the likes of Max Verstappen and Raffaele Marciello.

Philpot’s Saturday did not start in the best fashion, though.

Having your car towed is enough to ruin anyone’s day, but Philpot kept focused and relaxed ahead of his first Race of Champions heat against five-time MotoGP champion Mick Doohan.

Despite lacking the kind of CV that Doohan has – few can match the Australian in that regard – Philpot was sublime during both runs around the circuit inside the former Olympic Stadium, easing through 2-0. It was a considerable scalp to claim so early on.

The last 16 gave him a tie against Blancpain GT driver Alex Buncombe, but this was where Philpot’s fairytale weekend ended. Buncombe won both heats to go through 2-0, but would only be beaten in the semi-finals by nine-time Le Mans winner Tom Kristensen in a remarkable Race of Champions debut.

Philpot’s success did not stop there though. As well as taking part in the racing event, all of the drivers plus a selection of celebrities were invited to take part in a skills challenge on a course featuring a number of different tasks. Penalties were applied for hitting bollards or going the wrong way, with challenges including parallel parking, a slalom and donuts.

The challenge was won by World RX and ex-World Rally Championship racer Petter Solberg, while Buncombe finished second. It was Philpot who completed the top three, though.

To go from entering a competition on a whim to beating all of the Formula 1, single-seater and touring car drivers that entered the Race of Champions at a skills challenge is an astonishing achievement.

Quite what the future holds for Philpot remains unclear, but he’s hopeful that this can be a springboard for more racing with French manufacturer Peugeot in the future.

“I have a little connection with Peugeot. Peugeot UK aren’t doing anything racing in particular this year, but hopefully this kind of thing will help me convince them to do a little bit more going forward,” he said.

The Race of Champions is all about fun and camaraderie, making it the perfect environment for a racer such as Philpot to prove himself. He will have left the Olympic Stadium with his head held high, and rightly so – his past weekend has been a feel-good story unlike any other in motorsport.

GP3: Ghiotto, Ocon set for title showdown in Abu Dhabi

2015 GP3 Series Round 8.
Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain
Saturday 21 November 2015.
Luca Ghiotto (ITA, Trident) leads Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C1050
© GP3 Series
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Luca Ghiotto and Esteban Ocon will fight for the GP3 Series title at the final round in Abu Dhabi next weekend after leaving Bahrain separated by just two points at the top of the championship standings.

Ghiotto, 20, and Ocon, 19, have been the two dominant drivers in GP3 this year, enjoying an advantage of more than 50 points over the rest of the field.

Ghiotto turned his focus to GP3 for 2015 after doing just four races last year as he also took part in the Formula Renault 3.5 series.

The Italian driver has claimed five pole positions and five wins so far this year, with the latest victory coming on Saturday in Bahrain ahead of Ocon.

Ocon has won just one race – the opening round in Spain – but has finished off the podium on just three occasions in 2015.

The Frenchman enjoyed a streak of nine consecutive second-place finishes between Silverstone and Russia before ending the run on Friday in Bahrain when he finished third. Predictably, he ended Saturday’s race in P2.

Ghiotto and Ocon have been so well-matched in 2015 that they head into the final round of the year separated by just two points, having both left Bahrain with a haul of 31 to add to their tallies.

“I just need to think about the two races and not the championship,” Ghiotto said ahead of the finale in Abu Dhabi. “I spent all weekend thinking about the championship and I said to myself today that maybe I have been a bit scared as I don’t want to crash.

“That’s maybe I was not so quick yesterday. So today I just went back to my previous mind-set from the other races. I just need to be calm and drive as I can do.”

“It’s going to be a close end until the last race,” Ocon said. “We have to keep pushing and see what will happen in the last race.”

GP2: Evans takes second win of 2015 in Bahrain

2015 GP2 Series Round 10.
Bahrain International Circuit, Bahrain
Saturday 21 November 2015.
Mitch Evans (NZL, RUSSIAN TIME), takes the flag
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _SBL5123
© GP2 Series
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Russian Time driver Mitch Evans stormed to his second sprint race victory of the 2015 GP2 Series season in Bahrain on Sunday, battling past the incumbent GP3 and GP2 champions in the process.

Evans started the race from sixth place on the grid, but a melee at the first corner including Rio Haryanto and Nobuharu Matsushita sent a number of drivers wide and allowed the New Zealander to slip into third place.

The biggest winner from the start-line drama was Saturday victor and 2015 champion Stoffel Vandoorne, who shot from eighth to second, while pole-sitter Alex Lynn managed to retain his lead.

The race was soon neutralized following a second incident on the first lap, this time involving Oliver Rowland and Rene Binder that resulted in the safety car being deployed.

Upon the restart, Lynn managed to open up a gap to Vandoorne who was struggling to keep Evans in third back, and ultimately lost the position on lap seven.

Lynn was next on Evans’ hit-list, and after failing to make a pass stick the lap before, the Russian Time racer finally took the lead of the race on lap 14.

From there, it was simply a case of controlling the race and keeping clean at the front for Evans as his secured his second win of the year ahead of Vandoorne after the Belgian passed Lynn with six laps to go.

Sergey Sirotkin finished fourth to keep his hopes of ending the year as vice-champion alive, while Raffaele Marciello and Jordan King followed in fifth and sixth. Pierre Gasly and Artem Markelov rounded out the points.

Alexander Rossi failed to secure second place in the drivers’ championship in Bahrain, coming away from the weekend empty handed after finishing ninth on Sunday. The American managed to battle his way up the order from 18th on the grid, but could not quite squeeze into the points.

The GP2 season comes to a close in Abu Dhabi next weekend with the feature race on Saturday followed by the sprint race on Sunday.

Preparations continue at Haas’ UK base (VIDEO)


Preparation for the Haas team’s Formula 1 debut continues apace, with the latest step being the completion of the race bays at its factory in the UK.

Haas moved into the old Marussia HQ in Banbury, Oxfordshire earlier this year that will work in tandem with bases in Italy and Kannapolis, North Carolina.

Earlier this week, Haas released a short video showing the completion of its race bays where Romain Grosjean (no. 8) and Esteban Gutierrez’s (no. 21) cars will be built and worked on throughout the course of the team’s debut F1 season.

The video perhaps offers a hint regarding the color scheme that the cars will be running with in 2016, given that everything is decked out in black, red and white.

Grosjean will take part in his final race for Lotus next weekend in Abu Dhabi ahead of his move to Haas.

In Lotus’ pre-race preview, the Frenchman was jokingly asked what he knew about operating CNC machines, given that Haas is the largest CNC machine tool builder in the western world.

“I’ve learnt quite a bit about CNC machines during my time in the factory at Enstone, but certainly I’m going to learn a whole lot more in the future!” Grosjean joked.