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Formula One: Recapping the past week’s news

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Alonso to Le Mans With Toyota

A long-standing rumor was confirmed earlier this week, as Toyota Gazoo Racing announced that two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso would be joining the team for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans as well as several other rounds of the FIA World Endurance Championship during the 2018-2019 “super season.” This comes after months of speculation about Alonso contesting this year’s Le Mans, highlighted by a test with Toyota back in November.

“I’ve never been shy about my aim of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” Alonso said during the announcement. “We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out. This year, I have the chance – thanks to McLaren – to race for the win at Le Mans. It is a big challenge – much can go wrong – but I am ready, prepared and looking forward to the fight.”

Alonso’s place within the team does come at the expense of one of its incumbent drivers. Anthony Davidson, who has been with Toyota since they returned to sports car racing and Le Mans in 2012, has been relegated to a reserve role to make room with Alonso.

F1 Parts With Grid Girls

In a move that garnered great controversy and debate, Formula 1 and Liberty Media have revealed that Grid Girls will no longer be a part of Formula 1 events.

Officials cited brand values and societal norms as reasons behind the change.

“We feel this custom does not resonate with our brand values and clearly is at odds with modern day societal norms,” said Sean Bratches, managing director of commercial operations. “We don’t believe the practice is appropriate or relevant to Formula One and its fans, old and new, across the world.”

The move has been polarizing among fans and those within the F1 community, including those who previously worked events as Grid Girls.

The move also comes one year after the ABB FIA Formula E Championship stopped using Grid Girls, instead opting to focus on “Grid Kids,” young fans or aspiring young drivers chosen to take part in the event and stand on the grid next to the drivers and teams.

Small Tweaks to F1 Race Start Times

Formula 1 officials revealed that they are making small changes to the start times of all Formula 1 races, beginning in 2018. All races will now start at ten minutes passed the hour, and the European and Brazilian races have been pushed back an hour to 3:10 p.m. local time.

Officials revealed that television audience was the main reason for the changes, citing efforts to attract a more viewers.

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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.