F1: Mercedes prepares for Suzuka, homestretch of World Championship fight

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After a Singapore Grand Prix that saw Lewis Hamilton reclaim the World Championship lead and Nico Rosberg done in by a contamination involving his car’s steering column, it’s now a straight-up fight between the Mercedes duo as Formula One heads to Japan this weekend.

Hamilton holds a three-point lead over Rosberg but Suzuka has not been an especially solid track for the Brit. He’s won the Japanese Grand Prix before, but at the Fuji Speedway.

At Suzuka, he only has one podium in five starts.

Nonetheless, Hamilton has a deep respect for this particular race and track, both of which hold an important place in the sport’s history.

“Suzuka is one of the races on the calendar that drivers love the most – and arguably one of the greatest tracks in the world,” Hamilton said in a team release. “There’s so much history and there have been so many defining moments there – like those unforgettable battles between Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

“I’ve never won at this circuit and have only made the podium once, on my first visit way back in 2009. I’ve had a couple of chances and last season was probably the best of those.

“This year, though, we have an exceptional car and I’m really hoping I’ll finally have my shot at the top step. All the greats of Formula One have won at Suzuka since the sport first came there in the 1980s and I’m determined to add my name to that list this weekend.”

Teammate and rival Rosberg was equally effusive about Japan, hailing the local fans as “absolutely crazy for Formula One.” He also touched upon his reliability woes in Singapore before metaphorically turning the page on the subject.

“I said at the time that Sunday in Singapore was probably the toughest moment of my year so far, and looking back on it, I still think that is true,” the German said.

“To have the chance from a top result basically taken away before you even reach the grid is hard to swallow and, of course, it was a lot of points lost in the championship battle.

“I can’t fault the effort of the team, though. I go to the factory and I see how hard everyone is working, so it’s clear that they want the results just as much as us drivers to. I have faith in my colleagues to improve our reliability and I know they will get it right.”

Their team boss, Toto Wolff, especially emphasized that need to bring reliability up to par after Singapore.

However, he insists that everyone at Brackley are working hard to make sure their season ends in glory.

“Inside the team, motivation is stronger now than at any point so far this year,” Wolff said. “Every single one of us wants to finish 2014 in style.”

Bill Elliott joins Tony Stewart/Ray Evernham SRX series for 2021

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NASCAR Hall of Famer Bill Elliott became the eighth driver to join the Superstar Racing Experience, the short-track series being started by Ray Evernham and Tony Stewart.

The two-time Daytona 500 winner and 1988 NASCAR Cup Series champion was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame in 2015 and was voted NASCAR’s most popular driver 16 times (his son, Chase, has received the honor the past two years). Elliott also closed his full-time Cup career driving for Evernham’s Dodge team from 2001-03, winning the 2002 Brickyard 400.

“I am excited to reunite with Ray Evernham and some of the great legends of our sport,” Elliott, who joins Stewart and Bobby Labonte as NASCAR Hall of Famers in the SRX, said in a release. “I look forward to racing at some of the most historic American racing destinations and putting on an awesome show for the fans. We have a special driver field and it will be fun competing with some of the greatest drivers of all time.”

The series, which is expecting to have a dozen drivers, also has Tony Stewart, Helio Castroneves, Bobby Labonte, Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Willy T. Ribbs and Mark Webber in its lineup.

SRX was co-founded by NASCAR Hall of Famers Stewart and Evernham and was unveiled July 13.

Several drivers have expressed interest in the new circuit, which is modeled on the International Race of Champions (IROC) series that matched drivers from various auto racing disciplines in equally prepared cars for an annual four-race series for 30 years.

With the addition of Bill Elliott, Superstar Racing Experience has yet to reveal a schedule or tracks, but it’s expected that Stewart’s Eldora Speedway will be on the slate.