Marussia chief Graeme Lowdon thanks F1 community for support

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In a very heartfelt and emotional press conference on Friday in Russia, Marussia president and sporting director Graeme Lowdon has thanked the Formula 1 community for its support in the wake of Jules Bianchi’s accident at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix.

During the final few laps of the race at Suzuka, Bianchi crashed into a recovery vehicle being used to remove another car, leaving him with severe head injuries. He remains in a critical but stable condition in Mie General Hospital.

Marussia took the decision to only run with one car in Russia this weekend, leaving Bianchi’s #17 car ready to race on the other side of the garage in support of the Frenchman.

Speaking to the media for the first time since last weekend’s race, Lowdon was quick to thank the F1 paddock for its support and love over the past few days.

“It’s been an incredibly difficult week for Formula 1 but it’s been an incredibly difficult week for our team,” Lowdon said. “As you know, Jules Bianchi had a terrible accident in Suzuka. He’s in hospital there. He’s in a critical condition and the thoughts of everybody in the team, and I know much wider than that, are with Jules at this moment and also with his family.

“I’d like to personally thanks [Ferrari team principal] Marco Mattiacci for his support and kindness, not just in his role at Ferrari, but personally as well. He was at the hospital immediately afterwards and I know provided an awful lot of comfort to those that were there.

“Jules is an exceptional Formula 1 driver but he’s also an exceptional human being. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t like him.

“You wouldn’t wish that accident on anybody, but I think certainly Jules has so many friends that it’s really hit home very hard for a lot of people.

“Our priority from this point onwards is obviously to Jules and his family and we want to provide them with the maximum amount of support at what is really a very difficult time.”

Although this weekend’s race in Russia was expected to herald much fanfare as a new event, it has instead been a very subdued affair so far as thoughts up and down the paddock lie with Bianchi.

The on-track action resumes at Sochi tomorrow with FP3, live on Live Extra from 4am ET.

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.