Alonso changes helmet, Williams alters livery, other minor changes for Abu Dhabi GP

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ABU DHABI – For this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, there have been a few subtle changes made to the liveries that we will see on the grid and the helmets that the drivers will sport under the lights at Yas Marina.

In order to come into line with alcohol laws in the United Arab Emirates, Williams has made a number of alterations to its livery that remove all references to its title sponsor, Martini.

The team faced a similar predicament in Bahrain earlier this year, but simply changed the word “Martini” to “racing” on all of its logos and kept the livery the same.

However, Williams has now opted to remove all of the red stripes from its livery for Abu Dhabi, leaving just the blue lines on the car. A similar move was taken for the team’s inclusion in the official Formula 1 video game, produced by Codemasters.

Similarly, Force India has had to remove all references to vodka company Smirnoff from its livery. Following a successful drive for fresh investment, Caterham is featuring a number of new sponsors on its car this weekend including Crowdcube and its administrators, Smith and Williamson. Toro Rosso will also be running with a promotional banner for the 2015 Austrian Grand Prix on its car for the race weekend.

Following the announcement of his departure from Ferrari at the end of the season, Fernando Alonso will be running with a special helmet to mark the occasion in Abu Dhabi.

“I’ll wear a helmet with a picture of a pit stop this year on one side, the Italian flag in the middle and the signatures of everybody in the team on the other side,” the Spaniard explained. “I just told them this morning that it’s the last time that I will jump in a Ferrari.

“I want to bring all of them with me because they were a part of this fantastic experience and I want to do my last race with them on the track.”

Predictably, Sebastian Vettel will be sporting another unique helmet for tomorrow’s race, and we’ll be sure to tweet out a picture of it on the @F1onNBCSports account once we have one.

Indy 500 analyst role part of looking forward for Danica Patrick

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It’s been 10 months since Danica Patrick last competed in an auto racing event and she is completely fine with that.

Patrick was last seen in a cockpit in last May’s Indianapolis 500, part of her mini-retirement tour from racing that also included a run in the Daytona 500.

Now she’ll be back at the track, serving as an analyst for NBC’s broadcast of the 103rd Indy 500 on May 26.

It will be an interlude to her post-racing career.

“I really don’t miss racing,” Patrick said during a teleconference Wednesday.  “I’m really happy. I selfishly set out (with) the intention I wanted to travel a lot. I’ve definitely done that. Also working on my other businesses.”

Without racing, Patrick is able to look over her “Warrior” clothing line and her Somnium wine. She’s also been a host of ESPN’s Espy Awards show.

“I’m not a look-back kind of person, I’m a look-forward (person),” Patrick said. “This is something that’s part of looking forward. This is something totally new and different for me. It’s coming at a place where I have a lot of history, but it hasn’t been my job, which is why I’m going to work really hard to make sure I’m ready, like anything else I do that’s different.

Since retiring, Patrick said she watches racing “when I can.”

“I’m not going to lie, I’m happy doing what I’m doing,” Patrick said. “It’s allowed me new opportunities like this.”

This won’t be the first time Patrick has served in an analyst role for a race. She did the same for some Xfinity Series race broadcasts in the last few years of her NASCAR career.

“It’s very good to have had that experience,” Patrick said. “Obviously I was giving my driving experience sort of perspective and that insight, which is something I’m going to be doing again. But it was a guest spot.

“This is firm and established, part of a small team of two with Mike (Tirico) and I. I think there’s going to be a lot more preparation involved, I’m going to need to know a lot more information.”

Patrick said there will be one difference in her Indy 500 experience this year compared to the eight times she competed in the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

“I didn’t purposely look at the buildup of the day,” Patrick said. “I didn’t want to see the fans rolling in, all the pomp and circumstance. I really liked to keep it quiet. I wanted to just walk out there and have it be the event, not let myself get built up too much in my head with nerves, just the platform, the iconic event that it was, the millions of people. I just wanted to stay focused and go do it.

“This time, I’m sure I will see the buildup. I’m sure I’ll see the place fill in and turn from a quiet, peaceful, magical place, (and) at the shot of a cannon it’s going to start unraveling. That will be a cool perspective for me that I purposely haven’t really watched closely.”

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