2015 Austrian Grand Prix Preview


Following a brief sojourn to Montreal two weekends ago for the Canadian Grand Prix, Formula 1 now returns to Europe for the first of five races on the continent.

The Austrian Grand Prix rejoined the F1 calendar in 2014 after 11 years away, returning to the revamped A1 Ring in Spielberg, now under the ownership of Red Bull and bearing the name of the energy drink giant.

Nico Rosberg won last year’s event ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton to clinch a Mercedes one-two, but after Felipe Massa claimed his first pole position in six years on Saturday, the weekend immediately became one of the most notable of the 2014 season.

This time around, we look poised to enjoy another all-Mercedes fight at the front of the field, but with both Ferrari and Williams lurking just behind and rain on the horizon for Friday and Saturday, anything could happen amid the Styrian mountains.

2015 Austrian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Hamilton looks to turn the screwsource: Getty Images

After suffering back-to-back defeats to Nico Rosberg in Spain and Monaco, Lewis Hamilton hit back in style at the Canadian Grand Prix two weeks ago with a comfortable victory. Now, the Briton will be hoping to turn the screw in the title race and deliver another blow to Rosberg’s championship hopes with a victory in Austria. After losing to the German driver at last year’s event, Hamilton will want to cross another grand prix off his hit-list this weekend.

Can Ferrari’s upgrades come to the fore?

Ferrari entered the Canadian Grand Prix with much fanfare and expectation following an upgrade to its power unit, only to fade to fourth and fifth place in the race far behind Mercedes at the front. The Red Bull Ring should suit the Ferrari SF15-T car, and it will be interesting to see just how much of a challenge either Sebastian Vettel or Kimi Raikkonen can pose to Hamilton and Rosberg this weekend.

Lightning strikes twice

Williams’ upset in Austria last year was one of the biggest shocks of the season. Felipe Massa’s pole position proved to be the only non-Mercedes pole of the 2014 season, and Williams could well have won the race had it opted for a more aggressive strategy instead of settling for P3 and P4. The team should run well once again this year, meaning that the battle to complete the podium – or perhaps even fight for the race win – will be an intense one.

But will lightning strike?

Looking at the weather forecast for the next few days, proceedings in Spielberg could be interrupted by more than a spot of rain. Thunderstorms are forecast for both Friday and Saturday in Austria, meaning that both practice and qualifying could be something of a lottery – albeit one with a little more running than we saw in the wet FP2 session in Monaco, one would hope. Sunday’s forecast is brighter, but the first real wet grand prix of the year could make for a very interesting turn of events.

Red Bull’s homecoming

Red Bull’s first home grand prix was something of a disaster in 2014 – Sebastian Vettel and both Toro Rossos retired; Daniel Ricciardo scored just four points – and 2015 is shaping up to be little better. After ailing to just two points in Canada, Red Bull is in need of a serious reboot in the coming races. Another humbling at its big weekend on home soil will only further the doubt already seeping into Dietrich Mateschitz’s mind, one would imagine.

2015 Austrian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Red Bull Ring
Laps: 71
Corners: 9
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:08.337 (Ferrari, 2003)
Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime)
2014 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2014 Pole Position: Felipe Massa (Williams) 1:08.759
2014 Fastest Lap: Sergio Perez (Force India) 1:12.142
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T9 to T1); Turn 2 to Turn 3

2015 Austrian Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 4am ET 6/19
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 6/19
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 5am ET 6/20
Qualifying: NBCSN 8am ET 6/20
Race: NBCSN 7:30am ET 6/21

For further broadcast details, click here.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.