Drivers unfazed by longer F1 calendar in 2016

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The move to increase the number of races on the Formula 1 calendar from 19 to 21 for 2016 has been backed by some of the sport’s drivers.

Earlier this month, the World Motor Sport Council revealed the calendar for next season, approving the return of the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim and the addition of the European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The 21 planned races for 2016 would become a new record, breaking the current total of 20 from 2012. However, it would not be the longest F1 season in history thanks to the proposed condensed April-to-November calendar.

The prospect of a longer calendar is set to place more pressure on those within F1, but when asked about the issues adapting to more races, the drivers seemed open to it.

“We already have 19 now, so two more doesn’t really change a lot, I think,” Force India’s Sergio Perez said.

“I think it’s fine, it’s a job, you know,” Perez’s teammate, Nico Hukenberg, added. “We’ll do as many as they tell us.”

For Roberto Merhi, a 21 race season would be something of a reduction, given that he is currently combining his F1 commitments with the Formula Renault 3.5 series, an 18-race season.

“Yeah, obviously I’m doing 19 F1 races plus nine World Series races and so to do only 21 races next year will be less races than this year,” Merhi said.

However, the addition of more races would have a toll on the drivers’ home lives and time away from the track.

“Racing is more time away, for sure,” Sauber’s Felipe Nasr said. “All of us, all of us drivers but every one here, I’m sure they have other parts – apart from Formula 1 – everyone has a life behind that.

“But in a way I’m young, so I’m fully open to as many races as they can do and let’s go for it.”

For the drivers married with kids, such as Romain Grosjean, it is a little less appealing though.

“I think the limit would be the divorce!” he wryly responded when asked what the most number of races could be.

The 2016 F1 season is set to kick off on April 3 in Melbourne, Australia.

Meyer Shank Racing wins second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona to begin GTP era


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Grand Touring Prototype era began just as the previous one ended as Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura captured its second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona with star Tom Blomqvist emphatically starting and finishing the race.

The No. 60 ARX-06 won the 24-hour endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway by 4.190 seconds over Filipe Albuquerque of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport, giving Acura a sweep of the top two spots.

The Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh cars took the next two spots with Renger van der Zande (the No. 01) and Earl Bamber (No. 02) as four of the nine new GTP cars finished on the lead lap within 12 seconds of each other and four more finished the race – quashing the prerace hand-wringing of mass failures for the highly technical cars in the debut of the hybrid prototype premier category.

“Amazed is the right word,” Honda Performance Development president David Salters said when asked about reliability. “These are sophisticated cars. It’s not easy. It’s a testament to each group that they did a really good job. It was a fight all the way through the race. I didn’t expect that at all.”

There were major problems for the manufacturer newcomers Porsche Penske Motorsport and BMW M Team RLL, whose two pairs of cars all finished at least a dozen laps down or more because of major mechanical problems in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

But there were no such failures for Acura despite the manufacturer skipping any endurance testing with the new LMDh car. Salters said his

It’s the third Rolex 24 at Daytona victory for co-owner Mike Shank, who won his first in 2012.

Just as he capped the 2022 season by winning the Petit Le Mans season finale in the No. 60 Acura to clinch the final championship of the DPi division for MSR, Blomqvist was behind the wheel again for his third overall victory in IMSA.

“That was crazy,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I knew we had a fantastic car. I’ve been working hard. Unbelievable. Massive, well done, everyone being part of this project and worked together on this project. What a car we’ve built.

“I was just a bit nervous. The 10 was definitely second fastest car, but we held them off.”

It was the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for MSR’s trio of Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who were joined this year by Colin Braun (winning his first Rolex 24 overall).

Castroneves joined select company in winning the Rolex 24 in three consecutive years (his first win was with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021 — also in an Acura, which now has three consecutive Rolex 24s). Peter Gregg won the Rolex 24 in 1973, ’75 and ’76 (the 1974 race wasn’t held because of the oil crisis).

Castroneves and Pagenaud are entering their second consecutive year as teammates for Meyer Shank Racing’s Dallara-Hondas in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“Can you believe that?” Castroneves told Lee. “Big props to everyone. Everyone did an amazing job. Everybody worked so hard together. We got it! Another one. I can’t believe it. This is absolutely a dream come true.”

The four-time Indy 500 winner led the team in his signature fence-climbing celebration afterward — just as he had when he finished MSR’s victory in last year’s Rolex 24 and when he won the 2021 Indy 500 for the team.

“It’s always fun to climb the fence with Helio,” said Pagenaud, who drove the second-to-last stint before Blomqvist closed it out: “The competition as amazing. It was tough out there. So much fun. Hope you had as much fun as we had. I’m going to savor this one.”

Winners in other classes were the No. 55 ORECA 07 of Proton Competition (which triumphed on a last-lap pass by James Allen on Ben Hanley), WeatherTech Racing’s No. 79 Mercedes in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin in GTD and AWA’s No. 17 in LMP3.