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

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.