F1 2015 season preview: Meet the rookies

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As part of our extensive Formula 1 season preview on MotorSportsTalk, we’ve decided to take a closer look at the rookies that will make their debuts at next Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

At the time of writing, Manor Marussia F1 Team is yet to firm up its line-up, with one seat remaining alongside Will Stevens who raced in last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for Caterham (and is therefore not a rookie, despite lacking F1 experience).

So in a couple of days, there may be one more name to add to the list of F1 rookies. For now though, here’s a closer look at the three drivers who will be making their F1 bows in 2015.

Felipe Nasr – Sauber

Age: 22
Car Number: 12
Biggest Achievement: 2011 British F3 champion
2014 Result: 3rd in GP2 Series

Felipe Nasr has been in the running for a Formula 1 seat for a few years now, but will finally make his debut with Sauber in Australia. The Brazilian finished third in last year’s GP2 Series, proving to be Jolyon Palmer’s biggest title rival before his form petered out towards the end of the year. His most notable success to date came in the 2011 British F3 championship, in which he soundly defeated McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, and he spent last year working as Williams’ test and reserve driver.

2015 is where things get serious for Nasr, though. His failure to put up a greater challenge to Palmer last year in GP2 led many to question his ability, and with Sauber, he doesn’t exactly have the best car to showcase his talents. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old will be hoping to make the most of this opportunity and enjoy a solid rookie season with the Swiss team.

Carlos Sainz Jr.

Age: 20
Car Number: 55
Biggest Achievement: 2014 Formula Renault 3.5 champion
2014 Result: 1st in Formula Renault 3.5

Another man who has been on the fringes of F1 for some time is Carlos Sainz Jr. Son of rally legend Carlos Sainz, “Carlitos” has been a candidate for a seat at Toro Rosso for two or three years. He was not the team’s first pick for the seat at Toro Rosso, but the chain of events sparked by Sebastian Vettel’s departure from Red Bull gave him a reprieve and a place on the grid for 2015.

His title win in FR3.5 last year was impressive, but lacked a bit of fire at times. He should have clinched the crown far earlier than the final race of the year, and it is interesting to note that he never finished on the podium without being on the top step. He certainly has potential, but the notoriously cut-throat nature of the Red Bull junior system means that this is very much a last chance for the Spaniard.

Max Verstappen

Age: 17
Car Number: 33
Biggest Achievement: 2013 World KZ Karting Champion
2014 Result: 3rd in FIA F3 European Championship

The most talked about rookie in F1 this year will undoubtedly be Max Verstappen (pictured). His rise through the ranks into an F1 seat has been controversial, sparking a raft of new criteria to be allowed to race in F1 such as being at least 18 years of age and holding a valid road driver’s licence (Max fits neither). Red Bull has taken a punt on him, but there is no doubt that Verstappen has the makings of a great.

Son of ex-F1 driver Jos, Max was highly impressive in FIA F3 last year, but some inconsistency meant that he finished third in the final standings. His practice run-outs for Toro Rosso showed that he looks ready, and the praise he has received is only likely to continue over the coming weeks and months. However, the big test will be when he goes wheel-to-wheel with the experienced racers out on track. Be aware though: this ‘kid’ could change everything.

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

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.