2014 Russian Grand Prix Preview

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Following the tragic events of last Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, Formula 1 ventures to Russia this weekend under a cloud. Any thought that doesn’t lie with Jules Bianchi and his condition is secondary – this race, and for many, this championship, are no longer a priority.

This weekend’s race in Russia has been one that has been hotly debated for some time. When it was first announced, there was excitement: Russian drivers have been on the rise, Russia is a huge market that can be tapped into – why not hold a GP there? Following the political tensions that emerged in Spring and the MH17 disaster, though, there was a lot of pressure for the race not to go ahead in Sochi.

Ultimately, the paddock has arrived with very little fuss. This weekend’s race will go ahead as has been planned. For Bernie Ecclestone, this is a race some 30 years in the making. His push for a race behind the iron curtain in the ‘80s took him to Hungary, but he will now finally get his race in Russia.

Sochi will once again be buzzing with activity following the Winter Olympic Games back in February. The circuit itself is by no means the most inspiring layout, drawing early comparisons with the street circuit in Valencia used for the last incarnation of the European Grand Prix. However, the early signs are promising from Sochi, although we will wait until after the race weekend to make a definitive judgement.

The five talking points below are not worthy of their moniker this weekend. They are not “talking points” because there is only one person we are all thinking and talking about: Jules. None of these themes are overriding, nor do they, in the grand scheme of things, really matter.

Forza, Jules.

2014 Russian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Lewis and Nico have just four to go

Following three consecutive wins, Lewis Hamilton has put the ball firmly back in his court with regards to this year’s world championship. He leads Nico Rosberg by 10 points after his win at Suzuka, and will know that a fourth straight victory could be huge. With just four races to go, the end of the championship is well and truly in sight.

Decisions, decisions

Sebastian Vettel’s shock announcement in Japan has really shaken the driver market for 2015 up. He seems bound for Ferrari, supposedly following the formal arrival of new president Sergio Marchionne, but for the time being his future is still not 100% concrete. The man with more at risk is Fernando Alonso, who has been caught out by Vettel’s announcement. A move to McLaren is what he is angling for, but it is becoming a very complex web indeed – such is the F1 driver market.

Button and K-Mag fight for their futures

Assuming Alonso does move to McLaren, both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen are facing an uphill struggle to hold on to their seats. JB is the man more at risk because of his age, but his run to fifth in Japan showed that he is still one of the best around. Magnussen has been consistent if unspectacular this season, and will be hoping to get a second year with McLaren alongside Alonso if the Spaniard does indeed arrive.

100 years in the making

“Welcome to the first Russian Grand Prix” is not something you should hear this weekend. This is in fact the third Russian Grand Prix, with the first two being held in 1913 and 1914 in the last years of peace before the outbreak of World War One and the eventual seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in 1917. Of course, things have changed quite a bit since then, but, as I will touch on in an article coming later today, it is nice to remember motorsport’s roots. One century on, grand prix racing is back in Russia.

Austin on the horizon

How is it already nearly time for the United States GP again!? Time flies when you’re having fun. We’re all off to Austin, Texas in three weeks’ time for the third grand prix to be held at the Circuit of The Americas, and excitement is building. The break between this weekend’s race and the event at COTA will give the drivers a much needed reprieve ahead of the final three rounds. The end of the 2014 F1 season is well and truly in sight.

Russian GP – Facts and Figures

Track: Sochi Autodrom
Laps: 53
Corners: 18
Lap Record: N/A
First Race: 2014
Tire Compounds: Medium (Option); Hard (Prime)
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T18 to T1); T11 to T12

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”