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F1 Preview: 2017 British Grand Prix

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Formula 1 reaches the halfway point of the 2017 season at Silverstone this weekend with the British Grand Prix, and the race for the championship is becoming more open than ever.

Valtteri Bottas’ controlled victory for Mercedes in Austria last weekend drew him to within 35 points of points leader Sebastian Vettel, appearing to disrupt the belief that just two drivers were capable of winning the drivers’ title this year.

Bottas has proven to be a strong teammate to partner three-time champion Lewis Hamilton, whose recent lull – two podiums in the last seven races – has caused him to fall 20 points shy of Ferrari’s Vettel at the head of the standings.

Hamilton arrives at his home grand prix chasing a fourth straight success at Silverstone – but with the competition tougher than ever, he will require every extra boost from the home faithful to make it happen.

2017 British Grand Prix – Talking Points

Bottas bids to continue march, gatecrash title race

Maybe it was premature to assume Bottas was out of contention for the F1 title. Maybe it was even a little disrespectful. The truth of the matter is that F1’s newest flying Finn is definitely in contention – and had it not been for a 15-point loss with his DNF in Spain, he’d even be level with Hamilton for points.

Bottas has gone well at Silverstone in the past, charging from 17th to second in 2014 for Williams, and on his current run of form, a third grand prix victory is certainly within his reach this weekend.

For Sebastian Vettel, the focus will be on steadying the loss of points since his last win in Monaco six weeks ago. It’s been a rocky patch that included the controversy in Baku, so to bounce back with a win at Silverstone would be important for his title bid heading towards the summer break.

For Hamilton? The stakes are even higher…

Hamilton looks for more home folklore

Lewis Hamilton’s record at Silverstone is the envy of the field. Four wins in total and three in the last three years make him one of the most successful home drivers in British motorsport history, trailing only Jim Clark on five victories.

Hamilton will seek the match Clark this weekend and give his title bid the shot in the arm it needs. Just two podiums in the last six races have caused him to drop back from Vettel, and with Bottas now coming into the picture, Hamilton is in need of points – and fast.

But a win this weekend would mean even more than that for Hamilton. After controversially being the only driver to miss the F1 Live London event in his home capital on Wednesday, it hasn’t been the best of PR weeks for the three-time champion.

Sure, the crowds will still be cheering loudest for Hamilton at the weekend, but he will want to delight those decked in Union Jack colors as a way to make up for his absence earlier in the week.

Red Bull eager to continue progress

The Ferrari-Mercedes title fight has been the biggest talking point so far this season, yet in recent weeks, Red Bull has been making some rapid progress as it tries to come into contention at the front of the pack.

From finishing 45 seconds off the race winner in Australia to just six seconds in Austria last weekend, Red Bull’s RB13 car has come on leaps and bounds, with Daniel Ricciardo leading its charge.

Ricciardo’s victory in Baku was opportunist, but his charge to the podium in Austria and late defence of a charging Hamilton was arguably even more impressive, truly proving just how competitive Red Bull has become.

Things haven’t been so smooth for Max Verstappen, though, with five DNFs in the last seven races leaving the Dutchman in a real rut that he needs to get out of as soon as possible. F1’s teen sensation has set the sport on fire since debuting in 2015, but now he has his first mighty challenge to try and overcome.

2017 cars set to light up Silverstone

The hubbub and excitement around the new-style 2017 cars has dimmed somewhat as the season has worn on, with new track records and thrilling displays becoming something of the norm.

But Silverstone should remind us all just how exciting the high-downforce cars are as the field tames some of the most iconic corners in the sport.

Most are expecting the entire Turn 1 and 2 sequence at Abbey and Farm to be flat, while seeing the 2017 cars dance through Maggots, Becketts and through to Chapel will be incredible, particularly on the first lap when they run nose-to-tail.

Silverstone has always been one of the fastest tracks on the calendar, making it the perfect playground for F1’s newest toys to get a real test.

F1’s future in Great Britain

It’s been a weird week for F1 in Great Britain. While most of the sport’s stars (most – looking at you, Lewis) were in London on Wednesday for an incredible live demo around Trafalgar Square, just 24 hours earlier, Silverstone had announced that it would be ending its F1 contract after 2019 unless a new agreement could be struck.

Silverstone’s move is completely understandable. Its current deal is only set to get more and more expensive, deepening the financial hole that is already growing for the track. It may be the historic home of the British Grand Prix, but history doesn’t make good business sense.

A new deal for Silverstone is not out of the question. The issue is that if Liberty makes concessions to the track on historic grounds, other circuits may look to follow suit. It would set a difficult precedent for the sport’s bosses.

The London demonstration gave F1 a taste of what could be imaginable if a race were to grace the streets of the capital. It has been a long-term pipe dream for the sport, but with Liberty now behind the wheel, could it make it reality?

2017 British Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Silverstone
Corners: 18
Lap Record: Mark Webber 1:33.401 (2013)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft/Soft/Medium
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:29.287
2016 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:35.548
DRS Zone: T5 to T6, T14 to T15

2017 British Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar unveils new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that was unveiled this morning ahead of Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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