Could Williams be the team to beat in the race for P2?

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As far as the Formula 1 constructors’ championship is concerned this season, there isn’t really much of a fight for the top honors. Mercedes has been dominant in 2014 and sent shockwaves through the sport, setting up an exciting battle for the drivers’ title between Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton.

Behind the Silver Arrows, though, there is a far closer contest between the teams shaping up; so close that the team in fourth may in fact be best placed to indeed finish as the ‘best of the rest’.

Williams has seen its fortunes turn through 180º in 2014. After scoring just a solitary point before last year’s summer break before going on to claim just four more by the end of the season, the British team has bitten back hard this time around. With a number of fresh faces – Felipe Massa, Rob Smedley, Pat Symonds, Jakob Andreasen – and a rebrand courtesy of Martini, the team has looked, for want of a better word, happy again in 2014. Everything at Grove is good.

The team currently ranks fourth in the constructors’ championship, some seven points behind Ferrari, but the target of second in the standings may seem an unrealistic one with Red Bull 84 points ahead. Can the British outfit really do it?

Yes. It may be a big ask, but Williams should be in the mix for P2 come the end of the year as the circuits in the final stretch suit the FW36 perfectly. Its key strength has been straight line speed this year, allowing the team to excel in Austria and Germany; Valtteri Bottas reached the podium on both occasions.

Felipe Massa spoke about the upcoming tracks before the summer break, and made clear that Williams should be fighting at the sharp end if all things go to plan.

“I think Monza, Spa, maybe USA, maybe Brazil,” he said when asked which tracks will suit Williams. “Also on the last race [Abu Dhabi] you have some good straights as well.

“I think the car can be competitive at many tracks, not just Monza and Spa. Definitely it’s also true that Monza and Spa we can be more than the others, but I think we need to concentrate and think that we can have a good car at most of the tracks.”

So with Spa and Monza coming up, this is where the swing to Williams could take place. Red Bull’s Christian Horner is wary about his team’s chances at both circuits, believing that it may just be a case of doing everything possible to score some points and limit the damage.

“Singapore has to be the next golden opportunity for us in reality,” Horner admitted. “I think it will be damage limitation in the next two races because Force India will suddenly reappear, Williams will be quick, McLaren will be quick and obviously Mercedes will be quick.

“So we’re got to take what we can out of the next two races and then for the flyaways really try and turn things up.”

However, as Massa said, the tracks after Singapore (Sochi, COTA, Interlagos, Yas Marina) should all play into Williams’ hands. Although the RB10 car itself is pretty sound, the Renault engine has really harmed the team at the high speed tracks; Austria was proof of this, with Ricciardo the top scorer in P8.

Eight races, 84 points, eleven points per race to pick up on Red Bull. Is it going to be tough? Yes. But is it possible? Certainly. If Mercedes hits trouble once again between now and the end of the season, it may just well be either Bottas or Massa who picks up the pieces to claim a famous win for Williams.

What’s next for Danica Patrick after the Indy 500? Dreams, downtime and waffles

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INDIANAPOLIS – When Danica Patrick was a 14-year-old growing up in Roscoe, Illinois, she had a firm idea of what she’d be doing 20 years later.

A reporter from her hometown newspaper recently reminded her of that in a recent interview when he brought a prescient artifact from those teenage years – an essay that she crafted as an up and coming go-kart driver about her racing accomplishments.

“I’m breezing through it, and then at the end, it said, ‘I wanted to race Indy cars,” Patrick, 36, said Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I was 14. I told him, ‘See? If this isn’t an example of “Write that shit down,” nothing is.’

“This is manifesting. You have write it down and you have to imagine what you want. So I do that as much as I can.”

Heading into the final start of her career in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 (she will start seventh in her No. 13 Dallara-Chevrolet for Ed Carpenter Racing), Patrick already seems to have a solid idea of the next 20 years — in part, because of having some glimpses into her post-racing life.

There has been plenty of downtime since her final NASCAR start in the Daytona 500 three months ago. She has taken vacations (including an India trip to meet the Dalai Lama with boyfriend Aaron Rodgers) and created several new routines on her suddenly free from racing weekends.

“I make waffles on Sundays now,” she said. “That’s pretty fun.  In the summer, there’s like farmers market.  I can’t wait for that.  I mean, there’s going to be probably some new stuff that I don’t know yet.

“The one thing that I am definitely looking forward to less of is less stress.  Last weekend was awesome at the end of it all because it went well with qualifying, but I was nervous for 95% of that weekend. That’s uncomfortable.”

But testing her comfort zone is appealing to Patrick, who has spent most of her adult life testing the boundaries of gender norms in her profession. Though the pressure of race weekends might disappear, her incessant quest for challenges probably will remain.

Now that racing is over, Patrick still has a winery, a clothing line, a cookbook and a fitness manual to promote – and more is on the way.

“I just have a habit for pushing myself to uncomfortable spaces, making them comfortable for me,” she said. “At least just making them comfortable enough to be able to manage.

“As an example, I went bungee jumping a long while back, like 10 years.  I’m super scared of heights.  I’m still scared of heights.  But I just like to know that if I want to do something, I am brave enough and confident enough to do it.  That doesn’t mean I’m not still scared.  That doesn’t mean it’s not still something that’s easy to me afterward. I just like to know I can get past the fear if I have to.

“I’m OK with transitioning into other things, finding a little bit of happiness and joy each day, less colorization of emotions. I’m ready for that.”

So what specifically is on tap? Talk shows? Another book?

Patrick demurs when pressed.

“I think I have definitely big dreams and aspirations for myself, for all my companies, for the kind of emotion I want to have on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a good, easy, happy, calm, joyful, exciting, adventurous life.  If I say I want it, there’s a very good chance that’s what I’ll get.”

In the short-term, there’s hosting an ESPN awards show that will keep her busy through July.

And after that, her schedule will free up just as Green Bay Packers training camp begins for Rodgers, the two-time MVP quarterback.

“I’m thinking I’m going to have plenty of time to write a cookbook in Green Bay,” she said.