Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday


ABU DHABI – The 2014 Formula 1 season came to a dramatic end in Abu Dhabi today as Lewis Hamilton clinched his second world championship, capitalizing on the demise of teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg.

After making a perfect start to seize the lead at the first corner, Hamilton moved into a stable but slim lead ahead of Rosberg, whose title hopes went up in smoke when the ERS system in his engine failed, breaking his Mercedes. He would eventually finish the race in 14th place.

Hamilton didn’t have it all his own way at the front, though, as Williams’ Felipe Massa ran him close in the dying stages of the race. Ultimately though, the Briton would clinch his second world title in perfect fashion – by winning the race.

It may not have been the epic tussle out on track that we wanted, but it was an exciting finish in Abu Dhabi all the same. Arguably, the right man won the title (even Nico said so), but one thing is for sure: there is going to be one incredible party in the city tonight.

Not only did the 2014 season come to an end today, but a number of important eras in Formula 1 did. This is a race that will be remembered for years to come, much like the opening round of the year in Melbourne.

And what’s more: double points did not matter one little bit in the title fight. Conspiracy theorists, you can relax.

So for one last time in 2014, here is the Paddock Notebook from Abu Dhabi.




What. A. Finale. No, it wasn’t the all-out fight between Lewis and Nico we so desperately wanted, but it was still a suitably dramatic and exciting end to a thrilling season. Abu Dhabi delivered a fine finish to the 2014 Formula 1 season today.

Firstly, huge congratulations to our new world champion, Lewis Hamilton. For the second time, the Briton is on top of the world, and few can say that he didn’t deserve to win it. Both he and Nico would have been worthy champions, but with 11 wins to his name, it is a convincing win. The margin of victory in the end is 67 points – an almighty win, really, given that Rosberg only finished 79 ahead of Ricciardo.

The stand-out statistic from Abu Dhabi is that Lewis Hamilton scored 193 of the possible 200 points in the final seven races of the year. It’s an unbelievable record that proves he got everything right just when it mattered.

We must send our commiserations to Nico Rosberg, though, who was a valiant championship contender in 2014. It’s gutting to see a title race ended by a technical failure, but that is the nature of motorsport. It was wonderful to see the two Mercedes drivers embrace following the race’s conclusion, with Nico congratulating Lewis on a great win and saying that the Briton deserved the title. Very gracious and humble, it has to be said, from Rosberg.

However, this does go down as a big opportunity missed for Rosberg. The last thing he will want to do is be remembered like Felipe Massa and Eddie Irvine as nearlymen for the title. He deserves another shot at being the best in the world, and 2015 should see him and Lewis fighting it out once again. If this year is anything to go by, it promises to be a thriller.

Williams enjoyed a very successful race in Abu Dhabi today, finishing second and third. Massa’s strategy was the right way to go, and although he didn’t win the race, he did come very close indeed. If the British team can make the same kind of progress over the winter as it did last year, 2015 could see the team achieve even bigger and better things.

Finishing third in the constructors’ championship is a remarkable result for Williams, especially as it was so far ahead of Ferrari in the final standings – over 100 points clear. The Prancing Horse’s season ended in disappointing fashion with Fernando Alonso finishing ninth in his final race for Ferrari ahead of Raikkonen in tenth. With just two podiums and no wins in 2014, this year will go down as one of the marque’s worst ever in F1. 2015 should provide bigger and better things with Sebastian Vettel leading the team’s charge, though.

Vettel himself was quiet today, finishing eighth after starting in the pits, and was upstaged once again by teammate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian driver finished in fourth place on Sunday, capping off a quite incredible first year with the team.

The end to Sauber’s season was just the same as its beginning and middle: pointless (take whichever meaning you want). The Swiss team finishes the year P10 in the constructors with zero points behind Marussia, who didn’t even turn up to the final three races and actually doesn’t exist any more.

Finally, well done to Will Stevens for finishing the race in Abu Dhabi, even if he was a lap down in 17th place. The British driver’s F1 debut was a difficult one under the circumstances that Caterham were racing, so getting to the line was a good achievement.


Where did 2014 go? That’s all for now though. We’ll be bringing you more features and reaction from Abu Dhabi over the next few days on MotorSportsTalk, and be sure to keep an eye out for our season reviews over the coming weeks.

Finally, on behalf of Tony, Chris, Jerry and myself, thank you for all of your support across the course of the 2014 season. It has been a pleasure to report on such a thrilling year of grand prix racing.

111 days to go until the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).