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Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

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While the FIA Formula 1 World Championship remains dormant, a pair of its drivers will be quite busy at this weekend’s Rolex 24.

Further, a couple news stories surfaced that wrapped a conflict going back two years and offered a hint about one team changing its name.

Below is a recap of the Formula 1 news week:

Alonso, Stroll Ready for Rolex 24

The 2018 edition of the Rolex 24 sees a pair of full-time Formula 1 drivers grace the grid in McLaren’s Fernando Alonso, in United Autosports’ No. 23 entry, and Williams Martini Racing’s Lance Stroll, a part of the driver rotation in the No. 37 Jackie Chan DCR JOTA entry.

Alonso is, unsurprisingly, the more high-profile of the two, with the Rolex 24 continuing his preparation for a possible entry at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Rolex is Alonso’s first sports car race, let alone a sports car endurance race. Further still, it’s his first time running on a track that features high-banking in the corners, a facet that created a different sensation for him behind the wheel.

“You feel the compression in the body, you feel the visibility change because when in a normal car on the circuit, your view in the car is longer ahead,” he detailed following the Roar Before the 24 test. “When you are in the corner with banking you see only the next 200 meters of the track. “But it was good fun, a good feeling after missing track time. So far, so good.’’

For Lance Stroll, this year’s Rolex is a return trip for him, the 19-year-old having previously contested the event back in 2016, when he finished fifth with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

Alonso was selected to do the qualifying in his No. 23 Ligier JS P217 Gibson, qualifying 13th, the best of the Ligier entries. Stroll ultimately ceded to Robin Frijns, who qualified the No. 37 Oreca 07 Gibson in sixth.

Force India, Sauber Drop 2015 Complaint of Anti-Competitive Practices

Back in 2015, Sahara Force India and Sauber F1 Team filed a complaint to the European Commission over anti-competitive practices in Formula One, primarily contesting the distribution of revenue and the process by which rules were established.

However, earlier this week, both teams announced via press releases that they agreed to withdraw the aforementioned complaints, citing progress in discussions involving such topics as prize money, cost reduction, and engine regulations.

Force India to Change its Name?

A long-standing rumor has Sahara Force India changing its name. This rumor grew more legs earlier in the week when a report on Crash.net detailed that the team could reveal its new name at the launch of their 2018 car on February 25.

One of the possible names is Force F1 Team, with an entity reportedly already registered.

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Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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