Red Bull Ring removes Lauda from corner names

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Red Bull has removed Niki Lauda’s name from one of the corners at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg ahead of the revived Austria Grand Prix, set to take place next month.

The race was last held back in 2003 at the then-named A1 Ring, but it fell into a state of disrepair and lost the rights to host Formula 1. However, it was bought by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz, and reopened in 2011. It has since held rounds of the FIA Formula 2 and German DTM championship, and earned a place on the 2014 calendar last year.

However, ahead of the race on June 22, the circuit has removed the name of Niki Lauda from one of its corners (Niki Lauda Kurve), and the Austrian three-time world champion is less than impressed.

“I am very disappointed,” he explained to Austrian publication Kleine Zeitung. “The only reason I can think of is that I am now at Mercedes and we are beating Red Bull.”

Lauda took up a non-executive director role with Mercedes in 2012, and has played a part in the team’s recent success.

That said, Gerhard Berger has also lost his corner name, and he has enjoyed good relations with Red Bull over the years. Berger was one of the driving forces behind Toro Rosso’s acquisition of Minardi in 2005, and owned 50% of the team until 2008 when he sold the shares to Mateschitz. His corner has been renamed the Wurth Kurve.

Although this could be understood to be a subtle snub to Lauda, it is perhaps more likely that sponsorship has led to the renaming of the corner. The only driver name to remain on the circuit is that of Jochen Rindt, who was Austria’s first world champion back in 1970.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.