What we’re thankful for in the motorsports world, 2013

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First off, a Happy Thanksgiving from us to you here at MotorSportsTalk. We’re thankful, most of all, for your watching of Formula One and IndyCar on NBC, CNBC and NBCSN on TV, and your readership and support of MST throughout our first season.

As to the rest of what we’re thankful for? See below.

Formula One

  • We’re thankful Sebastian Vettel decided to add donuts to his post-winning repertoire starting at India, which at least gave us a bit of intrigue to see if he could nail the donuts as well as the race before it.
  • We’re thankful Mark Webber was able to leave F1 on his own terms, still at the top of his game, before heading to the FIA World Endurance Championship with Porsche.
  • We’re thankful that Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen will be teammates at Ferrari in 2014. We’re also thankful that Kimi continues to not really give a you-know-what, with his attitude a refreshing tonic compared to the corporate speak you hear from the rest of the grid.
  • We’re thankful Romain Grosjean took a massive leap from the “first lap nutcase” in 2012 to a race winner-in-waiting with an excellent second half of the 2013 season. We’re also thankful others like Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas, Daniel Ricciardo and Jules Bianchi had their moments where they outperformed the machinery at their disposal.
  • Most of all, we’re thankful for new regulations coming in 2014. That will hopefully throw a monkey wrench at the form book where the last four years, it’s been Vettel and Red Bull’s world, and the rest of us are just living in it.

IndyCar

  • We’re thankful Scott Dixon continues to show what an amazing talent he is with a comeback for the ages to win his third series championship.
  • We’re thankful for 10 different race winners and 20 different podium finishers in the 19-race season, creating an unpredictable situation almost every race weekend. We’re also thankful the doubleheader weekends were a huge success, and we thank past IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard for introducing them to the 2013 schedule.
  • We’re thankful Juan Pablo Montoya is bringing some needed star power back to IndyCar in 2014 with his surprise return to Team Penske. That’s the early story to watch in 2014.
  • We’re thankful the Dallara DW12’s structural integrity held up well enough to prevent further, more serious injuries to Dario Franchitti and Justin Wilson in the last two races. Wilson is on the mend and can resume training.
  • Lastly, we’re thankful we got to witness Dario Franchitti’s incredible career. Sadly it all feels like an incomplete ending, but the achievements accomplished left an indelible impact on us all. Thanks, Dario, and get well soon.

NASCAR

  • We’re thankful for a great Chase battle between Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth, Johnson ultimately prevailing for his “six-pack” of titles.
  • We’re thankful for Kevin Harvick continuing to fight even when he knew this was his last season with Richard Childress Racing, and we’re thankful he, wife DeLana and their family emerged unscathed after a house fire earlier this week.
  • We’re thankful for Tony Stewart’s candor after his injuries sustained in a sprint car accident.
  • We’re thankful Jeff Gordon made the Chase, albeit under controversial circumstances, and that Clint Bowyer, whose Richmond spin in September triggered the firestorm of controversy, didn’t factor into title contention to save NASCAR an even further PR nightmare.
  • Lastly, we’re thankful the level of attention fixated on Danica Patrick went down in the second half of the season as her results weren’t worthy of the hyper coverage that always seems to follow her. We don’t talk about the rest of the 25th-to-30th place drivers on any regular basis, and Patrick should be no exception to that rule.

ELSEWHERE

  • We’re thankful for sports car content still occurring on IndyCar race weekends, in the form of the Pirelli World Challenge championship. More bang for the buck for fans.
  • We’re thankful that even though it’s going to be a rocky first year, the ALMS and GRAND-AM are coming together in the merged TUDOR United SportsCar Championship for 2014. Ideally, this makes fans a little less confused. Maybe…
  • We’re thankful that John Force continues to take no prisoners and leave it all on the line in NHRA, as he won his record 16th Funny Car title this year.
  • Lastly, we’re thankful for this simply awesome four-wide finish at the Firestone Indy Lights Series‘ Freedom 100 at Indianapolis, won by Peter Dempsey over Gabby Chaves, Sage Karam and Carlos Munoz. The finish of the year, without question.

Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Formula One embrace the United States

Verstappen Perez United States
Jared C. Tilton / Getty Images
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Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.

“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Sergio Perez finished fourth in the Unites States Grand Prix, but he was first with the fans.  – Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images

In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.

With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.

In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.

By the time Formula arrived in Austin for Round 20 of 23, Verstappen had already wrapped up his second consecutive championship.

“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.

“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”

Verstappen Perez United States
Max Verstappen United States Grand Prix win was one of 15 for the drivers and 17 for Red Bull.
(Gongora / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.

“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said.  “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”

Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.

“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.

“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”

Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.