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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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

 

Cooper Webb leaps from obscurity to Supercross lead

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Cooper Webb could not even locate the radar tower before the 2019 season began – let alone expect to see his number dead center in the radar screen.

His ascent to 450 competition came with little fanfare. Finishing 13th in Supercross in 2017 and then eighth in Motocross, Webb did not turn many heads as a rookie. Last year was more of the same.

Through Round 7 at Arlington, Webb failed to record a single top five. That elusive result would come the following week at Tampa with a fourth-place finish. Two weeks later, he stood on the podium at Daytona for the only the second time in his Supercross 450s career. But at season’s end, Webb was only ninth in the standings in both Supercross and Motocross.

No one expected much from him when Anaheim rolled around this year.

Webb started the season much the same as he ended 2018. A fifth-place finish in Anaheim I in muddy and equalizing conditions was followed by a modest 10th at Glendale, but the rider from North Carolina believed in himself.

In professional racing, nothing is more difficult than winning the first race. Webb’s first taste of victory came in Heat 1 of the Triple Crown at Anaheim II. Everyone remained skeptical – it was only one heat race after all. The skepticism turned to interest when he won Heat 2. Then Webb finished third in Heat 3 to take the overall victory. It was his first win in the 450 class.

That was all it took to unleash his potential. Webb won the following week in Oakland and then again two weeks later in Minneapolis.

The Supercross riders left Minnesota and headed straight down Interstate 35 to Arlington with four of them separated by two points. All eyes were focused on Ken Roczen, Eli Tomac, Marvin Musquin – and, oh yeah Webb who sat in second.

Someone was likely to stumble in Arlington and the odds on favorite to do so was Webb. That seemed to be confirmed once the feature started. While the three more experienced riders led by Tomac scooted away from the field, Webb was mired outside the top five for the first six lap.

It was Tomac who tripped and fell, however. Webb passed the stricken rider and surged to fifth on Lap 7. He was in fourth by Lap 10 and third on Lap 16.  As Webb and teammate Musquin battled for the second, they slowly reeled in the leader Roczen. Once Webb broke free on the conflict with the runner-up position firmly his, he could see the red plate on Roczen’s Honda like a cape being waved in front of a bull.

Webb charged through the final six laps getting closer and closer until he edged Roczen for the closest finish in Supercross history. It was Webb’s fourth victory of the season, coming only four weeks after he scored his first career win.

Relive the final laps in the video posted above.

As incredible as Webb’s rise to the points lead is, it has been done before.

Last year Jason Anderson seemingly came out of nowhere to lead the standings after Round 2. Anderson held the advantage for the remainder of the year, while Webb has been part of a game of hot potato in which no one seems to want to don the red plate for more than a week.

The pressure continues to mount. Webb now has a two-point advantage over Roczen, who is the only rider to sweep the top five this season.

Webb’s advantage over third is a mere four points, while Musquin has a current five-race streak of podium finishes to his credit.

Tomac’s trouble in Texas serves as a cautionary tale that a single loss of focus can be devastating and Webb still lacks the seat time of his three principal rivals, but last week’s incredible come-from-behind victory is showing that Webb is riding above experience level.

Follow the complete Supercross and Motocross seasons on NBC Sports, Gold.