F1: Recapping the past week’s news

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Lawrence Stroll Heads Group of Investors Who Take Force India Out of Administration

After long-standing financial trouble saw Force India enter administration last week, a group of investors headed by Lawrence Stroll, father of Williams driver Lance Stroll, came forward earlier this week to secure the future of Force India and take the team out of administration.

Per a report from BBC Sport, the team appears set to continue for the rest of the season, now that it’s future has been secured.

Otmar Szafnauer, Force India’s COO, said in the BBC piece, “This outcome secures the future of the Force India team in Formula 1 and will allow our team of racers to compete to our full potential.”

“I am delighted that we have the support of a consortium of investors who believe in us as a team and who see the considerable business potential that Force India has within F1 now and in the future.”

Force India currently ranks sixth in the constructor’s championship, while drivers Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rank tenth and 12th in the driver’s standings.

Search for Ricciardo’s Replacement at Red Bull Under Way

HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – JULY 22: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive on the grid before the Formula One Grand Prix of Germany at Hockenheimring on July 22, 2018 in Hockenheim, Germany. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

With Daniel Ricciardo departing Red Bull Racing for Renault next season, the team sees multiple options on the table for replacements.

The most obvious choices come in the form of a pair of Red Bull drivers: Pierre Gasly, currently competing with Toro Rosso, and Carlos Sainz Jr., currently competing with Renault.

Gasly only has three finishes inside the points in the 2018 season, but all three were impressive – he finished fourth in the Bahrain Grand Prix (and earned Driver of the Day as a result), seventh in the Monaco Grand Prix, and sixth in the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Those impressive drives have Gasly near the top of the list of young drivers to watch, and many believe he could be a future star.

However, while Gasly is flattered by the conversation, he is not dwelling on a hypothetical move to Red Bull and is instead focusing on his current situation with Toro Rosso.

“Yes, I would like (to move to Red Bull) but I’m not thinking about it too much. I am happy with my season so far at Toro Rosso, I’m happy to be here. At the moment, nothing is decided, I think,” he told the Spanish newspaper Marca, referenced in a story on F1i.com.

However, not to be forgotten is Carlos Sainz Jr. Still under a Red Bull contract that has him on loan to Renault, Sainz will yield his Renault seat to the incoming Ricciardo, leaving him without a seat right now for 2019.

The more experienced of the two, Sainz has eight points finishes in 2018 and has been solid, albeit perhaps unspectacular.

However, as detailed in a piece in the U.K.’s The Week, Sainz has been named as a candidate for a seat at McLaren, either replacing Stoffel Vandoorne or Fernando Alonso.

“Of course Carlos is potentially on the market,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown. “We don’t know his exact situation [at Red Bull], but he’s certainly someone that as you go down the shortlist of drivers you’d consider putting in a race car. If he was free, and if we had a seat, he would certainly be high up on the consideration set.”

One driver who does not appear to be in the mix is Fernando Alonso – the current McLaren driver’s future is not yet known and some circles speculated that Red Bull might be a landing spot in the wake of Ricciardo’s departure.

However, Red Bull team principal Christian Horner, in a podcast on Formula 1’s website that was referenced in a piece on Crash.net, he described that signing Alonso might not be best for the team at the moment.

“I’ve got huge respect for Fernando, he’s a great, fantastic driver, but it would be very difficult to see,” Horner asserted. “He’s tended to cause a bit of chaos wherever he’s gone. I’m not sure it would be the healthiest thing for the team for Fernando to join. Our preference would be to continue to invest in youth (rather) than take a driver who is obviously close to the end of his career.”

Ricciardo’s departure from Red Bull could set off a silly season firestorm of sorts, and the 2019 grid could look very different from 2018.

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Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1. The WTR car was forced to retire and finished ninth overall (sixth in DPi).

“I’m simply devastated with the ending,” Albuquerque said in a release. “I really think we were doing a perfect race and unfortunately the last pit stop wasn’t great for our side. Obviously, when you start on pole and up front, you always have a little bit of an advantage. Traffic always benefits the guy leading, and it got me big time there. Passing a GT car and I don’t think he saw me and the level of risk was high. We touched and my car was damaged and it was over for us. It was a bit inglorious to finish like that.”

Said teammate Ricky Taylor, who started third but had to pit on the second lap after a spin in qualifying damaged his tires: “I couldn’t be more proud to be teammates with Filipe. He gives everything and we wouldn’t be in this position in the championship without him. We take risks and I don’t even think what took us out was even a risk. He was fighting for the win and I had no doubt that he was going to pass the 60 car if he had the chance.”

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“Congratulations to Mike Shank for winning the drivers’ and teams’ championships,” team owner Wayne Taylor said in a release. “What can I say. We thought we had it, but didn’t. Everybody gave it their all.”

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”