Barcelona F1 Test Paddock Notebook – Sunday


The trouble with pre-season testing is that the lap times are impossible to take on face value. With varying tire choices, fuel loads and development programmes in play, the timesheets are rarely representative of what we will see in Australia next month.

However, it is possible to come to some conclusions from the past four days of running in Barcelona, especially as the teams begin to explore the limits of their new cars more.

Today, it was Romain Grosjean who soared to the top of the timesheets for Lotus, completing a hat-trick for the team after Pastor Maldonado finished fastest on Thursday and Saturday in Barcelona. A quick run on the super-soft tire proved to be enough for Grosjean as Nico Rosberg finished two-tenths of a second down on the Lotus.

The big story of the day was Fernando Alonso’s crash and subsequent transfer to hospital at lunchtime in Barcelona. The Spaniard crashed at turn three, and although little is known about the incident, he did require medical attention. Thankfully, a CT scan showed that he was not injured, although he will remain in hospital overnight for observation.

Here’s a full recap of all of the news and action from the final day of testing in Barcelona this week.



So that’s it for test two, and we’re still none the wiser as to how the grid will be shaping up in 2015. After Ferrari and Sauber shared the spoils in Jerez, Lotus and Red Bull were the teams to top the standings this week. No-one had a perfect test by any means, but some will certainly be happier than others. Here are some of the big talking points following the end of the test on Sunday.

Mercedes still top dog despite finishing second

Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton may have failed to finish quickest on any of the eight days of running in pre-season, but Mercedes is undoubtedly still the team to beat. Today in Barcelona, Rosberg had to settle for second place in the final standings behind Romain Grosjean. However, bear in mind that Grosjean’s P1 time was set on the super-soft tire; Rosberg’s was on the medium. The pace difference between these is huge, maybe around 1.5 seconds, showing that the Silver Arrows still hold the advantage. The W06 may not be as dominant as its predecessor was, but Mercedes is still the team to beat in 2015.

Lotus has certainly made progress

Three out of four ain’t bad for Lotus. The one lap pace of the E23 Hybrid certainly looks good, with both Grosjean and Maldonado finishing fastest on their allocated days behind the wheel, and the Mercedes engine is giving the team a far easier ride than last year’s Renault did – definite progress is being made. That said, the long run pace of the team still isn’t up there with the other teams. Grosjean managed to complete most of a race simulation today, and his times were behind those of Red Bull and Williams when they conducted theirs. Lotus may not yet be back up with the front-runners in F1, but you can certainly expect the team to fare better in 2015 than it did last year.

Quiet confidence from Williams?

Once again on day four in Barcelona, Williams didn’t make a great deal of noise and fight up at the sharp end of the timesheets. In fact, despite being the second fastest team for much of 2014, the team has not finished inside the top two at all during pre-season. However, the FW37 is yet to have truly been unleashed. Over the past couple of days, the team has focused on making sure that all systems are running smoothly, and the times Bottas completed in his race simulation today were impressive. Test three should see the team’s true form come to light, but don’t go thinking that it won’t be fighting for podiums and wins once again in 2015.

Back to reality for Ferrari

After finishing inside the top two for all of the first six days of winter testing, Ferrari came back down to earth this weekend as the SF15-T flared up with some teething problems. Sebastian Vettel’s running was limited on Sunday, restricting him to just 75 laps in total and seventh place in the final standings. The new car is certainly an improvement over the old one – then again, that’s not hard – and the team seems to be in a far better place this year. Conditions were very tricky on track today with cold weather and gusts of wind, but Ferrari will be hoping to make another step forward next week to keep Mercedes on its toes.

Alonso walks away unharmed

Following an accident during the morning session, Fernando Alonso had to be airlifted to hospital for a precautionary check-up and assessment, sparking concern throughout the F1 community. The incident itself remains a mystery, with few pictures showing what impact the McLaren driver made with the wall at turn three, but the main thing is that his is okay. The Spaniard will remain in hospital overnight for observation, and will hope to return to the track in Barcelona next week as the team tries to make up for lost time with the MP4-30.


So that’s it for test two. We’ll be back in Barcelona on Thursday for the third and final pre-season F1 test. Melbourne draws ever closer, but there is still an enormous amount of work still waiting to be done by all of the teams racing this year.

Heart of Racing program aims to elevate new generation of women to star in sports cars

women sports cars
Mike Levitt/LAT Images/Heart of Racing

(Editor’s note: This story on the Heart of Racing sports cars shootout for women is one in an occasional Motorsports Talk series focusing on women in racing during March, which is Women’s History Month.)

Heart of Racing driver and team manager Ian James says his daughter, Gabby, isn’t so interested in auto racing. But she is interested (as a New York-based journalist) in writing about the sport’s efforts and growth in gender equality

It’s a topic that also was brought up by James’ wife, Kim.

“They’re always saying, ‘Hey, you manage all these guys, and you help them, so why not a woman?’ ” Ian James told NBC Sports. “And I feel like there are a lot of women that haven’t had a fair crack at it in sports car racing.

Our whole DNA at Heart of Racing is we give people opportunities in all types of situations where there’s been crew personnel or drivers. And I felt like we hadn’t really addressed the female driver situation. I felt like there was a void to give somebody a chance to really prove themselves.”

During the offseason, the team took a major step toward remedying that.

Hannah Grisham at the Heart of Racing shootout (Mike Levitt/LAT)

Heart of Racing held its first female driver shootout last November at the APEX Motor Club in Phoenix, Arizona, to select two women who will co-drive an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the SRO SprintX Championship.

The season will begin this weekend at Sonoma Raceway with Hannah Grisham and Rianna O’Meara-Hunt behind the wheel. The team also picked a third driver, 17-year-old Annie Rhule, for a 2023 testing program.

The Phoenix audition included 10 finalists who were selected from 130 applicants to the program, which has been fully underwritten by Heart of Racing’s sponsors.

“We didn’t want it to be someone who just comes from a socio-economic background that could afford to do it on their own course,” James said. “We can pick on pure talent. We’re committed to three years to do this and see if we can find the right person. I’m very hopeful.”

So is Grisham, a Southern California native who has been racing since she was 6 in go-karts and since has won championships in Mazda and Miata ladder series. She has several victories in the World Racing League GP2 (an amateur sports car endurance series). The last two years, Grisham has worked as a test driver for the Pirelli tire company (she lives near Pirelli’s U.S. headquarters in Rome, Georgia, and tests about 30 times a year).

Starting with the Sonoma during SprintX event weekends (which feature races Saturday and Sunday), she will split the Heart of Racing car with O’Meara-Hunt (a New Zealand native she got to know at the shootout).

“It’s huge; the biggest opportunity I’ve had in this sport,” Grisham, 23, told NBC Sports. “Now it’s up to me to perform how I know I can. But I’m super lucky to be with such an amazing team and have a good teammate. The Heart of Racing has a family vibe and energy to it that’s really amazing. It’s super exciting. It’s hard to put into words.”

Grisham is hopeful that a strong performance eventually could lead to a full-time ride with Heart of Racing. The team has full-time entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and won the GTD category of the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 piloted by James, Darren Turner, Roman DeAngelis and Marco Sorensen.

James said “there’s no guarantee” of placement in an IMSA entry for Grisham and O’Meara-Hunt, but “if they prove themselves, we’ll continue to help them throughout their career and our team. The GT3 program is an obvious home for that. If they get the opportunity and don’t quite make it, we’ll be looking for the next two. The next three years, we’ll cycle through drivers until we find the right one.”

Grisham described the two-day shootout as a friendly but intense environment. After a day of getting acclimated to their cars, drivers qualified on new tires the second day and then did two 25-minute stints to simulate a race.

Hannah Grisham reviews data with Heart of Racing sports car driver Gray Newell during the team’s shootout last November (Mike Levitt/LAT).

“Everyone was super nice,” she said. “Once everyone gets in the car, it’s a different level. A different switch gets turned on. Everyone was super nice; everyone was quick. I feel we had an adequate amount of seat time, which is definitely helpful.

“It’s always cool to meet more women in the sport because there’s not too many of us, even though there’s more and more. It’s always cool to meet really talented women, especially there were so many from all over the world.”

IMSA has celebrated female champions and race winners, notably Katherine Legge (who is running GTD full time this season with Sheena Monk for Gradient Racing). The field at Sebring and Daytona also included the Iron Dames Lamborghini (a female-dominated team).

The Heart of Racing’s female driver shootout drew interested candidates from around the world (Mike Levitt/LAT).

James believes “a breakout female driver will be competing with the best of them” in the next five years as gender barriers slowly recede in motorsports.

“It’s been a male-dominated sport,” James said. “It’s still a very minute number of women drivers compared to the guys. I’m sure back in the day there were physical hurdles about it that were judged. But now the cars are not very physical to drive, and it’s more about technique and mental strength and stuff like that, and there’s no reason a girl shouldn’t do just as well as a guy. What we’re just trying to achieve is that there isn’t an obvious barrier to saying ‘Hey, I can’t hire a guy or a girl.’ We just want to put girls in front of people and our own program that are legitimate choices going forward for people.”

“There’s been some really good female drivers, but a lot of them just haven’t been able to sustain it, and a lot of that comes from sponsorship. I think (with the shootout), there’s no pressure of raising money and worrying about crash damage. We’ve taken care of all that so they can really focus on the job at hand.”

Funding always has been a hurdle for Grisham, who caught the racing bug from her father, Tom, an off-road driver who raced the Baja 1000 several times.

“I don’t come from a lot of money by any means,” she said. “So since a young age, I’ve always had to find sponsorships and get people to help me, whether it was buying tires, paying for entry fees, paying for the shipment of a car to an actual race. Literally knocking on the doors of people or businesses in my town.

“So yeah, it’s definitely something I’ve always struggled with and held me back because the sport revolves so much around money. So again to get this opportunity is insane.”

Rianna O’Meara-Hunt was one of two women selected by the Heart of Racing to drive in the SRO SprintX Championship this year (Mike Levitt/LAT).

Grisham credits racing pioneer Lyn St. James (an Indy 500 veteran and sports car champion) as a role model who has helped propel her career. She was hooked by the sights, smells and sounds of racing but also its competitive fire.

“There’s a zone you get in, that subconscious state of mind when you’re driving. It’s like addictive almost. I love it. Also I’m just a very competitive person as I think most race car drivers are.

“For sure I want to stay with the Heart of Racing. Obviously, I’m still getting to know everyone, but it’s a super family vibe. That’s how I grew up in the sport with just my dad and I wrenching on the cars. That’s what I love about this sport is all the amazing people you meet. And I think this is one of the most promising teams in this country. For sure, I want to learn as much as I can from them and hopefully continue. I feel so lucky and grateful to be one of those chosen.”