FIA Formula 2

Rowland: ‘Difficult’ fighting Kubica for 2018 Renault F1 seat

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Formula 2 racer Oliver Rowland feels it is “difficult” to fight against Robert Kubica for a Renault Formula 1 seat in 2018 given the momentum behind the Pole to make a racing return.

Kubica’s remarkable comeback from severe injuries to his right arm sustained while rallying in 2011 took another step forward on Wednesday when he completed a test in a 2017 F1 car with Renault in Hungary, putting in a competitive display.

Kubica appears to be in contention for a full-time seat with Renault for 2018 – if not earlier – giving Rowland, its current development driver, some serious competition in the race to replace the struggling Jolyon Palmer.

Besides Rowland, Renault also has Canadian youngster Nicholas Latifi and Russia’s Sergey Sirotkin on its books, but the Briton feels he is better placed than them to step up to F1 with Renault.

“Robert was an incredible driver back in his day. He’s been injured, he’s come back, he’s got some restrictions with his arm – we just have to see how that affects him and what performance he brings with that,” Rowland told Channel 4 F1.

“Robert comes with a lot of support and everybody would like to see him back in Formula 1, which is why it’s a little bit difficult for me pushing that seat as well when he’s in the frame.

“As for the other two, Nicholas is my teammate in F2 so there is a direct comparison there. If he was to beat me then he should get a seat in F1 and if it’s the other way round you’d like to think that I would.

“Sirotkin did GP2 last year and finished third but I’d like to think that I’m doing a slightly better job. We were also teammates in 2014 in World Series by Renault and I beat him then.

“I see myself as not coming with the most backing in the world but second favorite behind Robert from that side of things.

“I respect him from what he did before, and it would be nice to see him there if I wasn’t fighting for the seat!”

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

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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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.