Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Sunday


So that’s that. Pre-season testing for the 2015 Formula 1 season is officially over. The next time we’ll see the cars out on track, it will be under sunny skies in practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 13.

How the winter has flown…

Valtteri Bottas was the man to claim the final bragging rights in testing, posting a fastest lap time of 1:23.063 to finish four-tenths of a second ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the timesheets.

However, the smart money will remain on Mercedes in Melbourne. The German team opted to focus on its long run pace on Sunday as Nico Rosberg combatted the setup problems that had hindered him on Friday, meaning that he could only finish seventh at the flag.

For one last time in Barcelona, here’s the full round up in the Paddock Notebook.




Done and dusted

That’s it for winter testing in 2015. It seems crazy to think that as of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, we have 100-and-odd days to go until the first race of the 2015 season. Now, we are just 14 days away from the lights out in Australia. It’s all very exciting. As testing wrapped up on Sunday, most of the teams opted to focus on their long run pace in an attempt to iron out all of the final issues before they head down under, and the pecking order appears to be shaping up.

Who’s where?

I’m going to stick my neck on the line here and try to predict some kind of pecking order. Mercedes is by and large the quickest team once again, enjoying one second-plus advantages. If you don’t think that it can repeat its domination from 2014, then think again. The W06 Hybrid is just as powerful as its predecessor, and it poised to give Mercedes yet another double title success. Williams appears to be second fastest, with Ferrari and Red Bull then just behind. Lotus is then a solid fifth, and you could argue that McLaren (when it works), Toro Rosso and Force India are anywhere in the following order. Sauber has improved, but still props up the order – until Manor Marussia turns up, that is.

Let’s not blame Pastor

When Pastor Maldonado crashed into the barrier at turn four on just his second lap of the afternoon, Twitter burst into a series of jokes and accusations. “Classic Pastor” et al. However, this one wasn’t his fault at all. A brake problem on the E23 Hybrid meant that he could not make the corner, resulting in the crash. It was an unfortunate end to what has been a very good winter for Lotus. Keep an eye on the team to make a strong comeback in 2015.

Nico and Lewis prepare for round two

With Mercedes enjoying another sizeable advantage in 2015, it seems as though the drivers’ title will prove to be the second round of Nico Rosberg versus Lewis Hamilton. If it lives up to the treat that we were offered in 2014, then that is no bad thing at all. Nico said today that although posting the fastest time of testing means nothing in the grand scheme of things, it is still a nice edge to take into the new season. When asked about it on Saturday, Lewis couldn’t care less. Let the games begin…

Coming your way in the next two weeks…

So you’ve survived the winter and now have just two weeks to go until the first race of the season. Eek! How can you get your F1 fix between now and then? NBC Sports has you covered. Following on from their adventures in 2014, we’re sending Will Buxton and Jason Swales back off for a second season of Off The Grid in 2015, starting with a digital-only special in Mexico at Force India’s new livery and sponsor launch. It will be available to watch online ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, but if you can’t wait that long, check out a teaser here.


So that’s all for testing. Thank you as always for following our F1 coverage on MST, and be sure to join us in two weeks’ time for the first race of the year in Australia. It promises to be yet another thrilling season.

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).