F1’s trio of rookies set for maiden USGP appearance

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Every Grand Prix for one of Formula 1’s three rookies is their first one, but now the American fans will have their first chance to see F1’s three first-year drivers at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix from Circuit of The Americas.

Jolyon Palmer returns to Austin a year after being confirmed at Renault Sport F1 Team this race weekend last year, and also ran in first free practice.

The Englishman, who scored his maiden Grand Prix point at Malaysia, now enters the final four-race stretch of his freshman campaign needing to finish with a flourish if he is to be retained for 2017 alongside new Renault signing Nico Hulkenberg.

“It looks like a great track and it looks like one of the best modern layouts so I’m looking forward to getting out there,” Palmer said in the team’s pre-race advance.

“In the sim it seems quite tricky with a nice bit of undulation, some blind corners and some good meaty fast corners so it should be a good challenge to drive. I’ve never driven it before so it’s going to be another occasion when I learn it on the Friday.

“Austin itself is a fantastic city, the countryside in Texas is superb and the people are so welcoming. There is a lot more Formula One knowledge than I expected as you always think NASCAR or IndyCar when you think of motorsport in the U.S.”

Meanwhile down at Manor, rookies Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon also saddle up in Austin for the first time. Ocon finished ahead of Wehrlein in the Japanese Grand Prix last race, marking the first time the highly rated Frenchman did so when both cars finished.

“I’m really excited about heading to the U.S., Mexico and Brazil. The cities are really cool – places I really want to visit and explore – and the circuits are a mix of new and traditional. So it’s going to be fun,” Wehrlein said.

“I like the look of the section from Turns 12-15 – very much like the stadium section at Hockenheim, so that gets a thumbs-up before I’ve even started running there. I think the sensation of heading through the start-finish straight and up the steep hill to Turn 1 is going to be really cool as well and then there are some other sections that are reminiscent of other circuits, like Silverstone, so it seems that it has a bit of everything.”

Ocon added, “I’m really getting into a good rhythm now. At first it was not easy, stepping into a new car mid-season, but every race things are improving and when we have a nice run-up to race day, I can really show what I can do. So, yes, another strong weekend in Austin would be good.

“It looks pretty amazing. It’s the Live Music Capital of the World, so I’m hoping to experience that a little bit before the hard work starts for the weekend. And the Texas BBQ looks good too. I’ll give that a try, for sure!”

Manor will also have Jordan King in for an FP1 run on Friday, so at least one of the two will be down a session in seat time.

Ganassi announces multiyear sponsorship extension with American Legion for No. 10

Chip Ganassi American Legion
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Chip Ganassi Racing announced a new primary sponsorship deal with The American Legion this week, shoring up the funding on its No. 10 Dallara-Honda of Alex Palou.

The 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion primarily had driven with NTT Data sponsorship the past two seasons. But NTT Data will move next season to McLaren Racing as a primary sponsor for Felix Rosenqvist in 10 races and on the Indy 500 car of Tony Kanaan (who drove an American Legion car for Ganassi at the Brickyard last year).

It was the latest twist in a McLaren-Ganassi saga that included a contract dispute for the services of Palou (who is expected to move to McLaren in 2024 after reaching an agreement to race with Ganassi next year).

Ganassi stayed within its own walls to help plug the sponsorship gap left by NTT Data, re-signing The American Legion to a multiyear extension. The Indianapolis-based non-profit organization, which has been sponsoring Ganassi cars for the past few seasons, also will be associated with other drivers, including Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and development driver Kyffin Simpson in Indy NXT.

The Ganassi organization will continue promoting The American Legion’s “Be The One” campaign aimed at reducing veteran suicides. The team launched an online auction for the initiative this week.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is of immense importance to our organization and we are humbled to continue supporting The American Legion’s mission in ending veteran suicide,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a release. “We will do absolutely everything we can to help veterans get the support they need while raising public awareness of the ‘Be The One’ platform.”

“We have received an overwhelming amount of support from fans, active-duty military members and veterans as a result of this partnership and we’re pleased to see it grow,” said Dean Kessel, chief marketing officer at The American Legion. “Thanks to the continuous collaboration with the team’s other partners, and the promotion of the ‘Be The One’ initiative, we are discovering more ways to engage with the military community than ever before. We want all veterans to know that it’s okay to ask for help.”