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Formula One Open Wheel

Grosjean And Haas Give Something For Home Fans To Cheer

A home event for any sportsman or sportswoman in any sport is an emotional thing.

It can be an amazing thing to cherish during a season or something to suffer through and want to forget.

Red Bull claimed a podium with Max Verstappen in Austria at their home track, while Nico Rosberg finished only fourth in Germany and Lewis Hamilton retired from the race in Malaysia in two of their home races for Mercedes.

This weekend, for the first time, Haas had the opportunity to show off what Romain Grosjean said in Australia was the ‘American Dream’ at the Circuit of the Americas.

Their weekend started off poorly. The VF-16 car was shedding pieces of carbon fiber onto the track during practice sessions, and partly because of a disrupted schedule, Romain Grosjean did not make it past the first part of qualifying.

However, the other time Grosjean failed to get past Q1 in qualifying, in Australia, he finished in the points, which is what he did at COTA.

He moved up from 17th on the grid to finish 10th and claim the final point on offer, his and the team’s first point scored since the Austrian Grand Prix at the start of July. Notably, this was the longest period they have gone without points in their F1 career so far.

Despite knowing he was able to be fortunate after the retirements of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean was delighted with his point.

“It didn’t go too badly today,” Grosjean said. “We were lucky that a few cars retired in front of us but, in the end, we needed to finish the race.

“It’s great to score a point in front of our home crowd. I’m very pleased with that and for the guys, as well. It’s been a long time since we scored. It’s obviously a great thing to be able to score points at the end of the season.”

Team Principal Guenther Steiner praised Grosjean and the team for a good plan well executed.

“Romain in the points is fantastic, especially from where we started and how we were struggling at the beginning of the weekend,” Steiner said. “Romain couldn’t race any better with the car we had, so congrats to him. The strategy, which the guys worked on overnight, was just right and it certainly paid off. The team worked hard and really pulled together.

The only negative thing around their race is Esteban Gutierrez had to retire for the fourth time in 2016, this time because of brake issues. Steiner is vowing to get to the bottom of what is becoming a common problem for the team.

“Very unfortunate race for Esteban. He was doing a good job when he experienced a brake disc failure again. We’ll be investigating what happened and see how we can move forward and sort these problems out, as they are not acceptable.”

Despite some disappointments in recent times, the team can be comfortable knowing it will likely finish ahead of three teams in the Constructors’ Championship.

Haas now have 29 points, 21 more than ninth-placed Renault and 28 more than tenth-placed Manor. They have been outscored by Toro Rosso in this race by seven points and now place 26 points behind the team with just three races to go.

Beating Renault is quite an achievement despite the French team’s struggles as they are a manufacturer with much more of a budget and resources than Haas, have an extensive history in the sport, and are expected for much bigger things in coming years.

Sauber, in 11th with no points all season, are also in struggles in 2016, but they do have good staff and experience involved. By finishing ahead of them, Haas is set to beat a team that has been the sport for since 1993.

However, the next race will also be a major one for one side of the Haas garage as Gutierrez races in his home country for the first time in Formula One having not been involved in the first Mexican Grand Prix since 1991 last year.

There would not be a better time for him to score his first points for his current team with just three races left in the 2016 season.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Kvyat, Sainz Remain as Toro Rosso Pairing for 2017

The partnership of Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz is continuing for another year at Toro Rosso in 2017.

Sainz had already been secured by the team to carry on, but Kvyat’s position has been under question after stepping down from Red Bull to Toro Rosso in a swap with Max Verstappen before the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Next season is due to be the third season for the drivers at the team, and their first full season of being teammates.

It means Kvyat is set to be the most experienced Russian driver in Formula One history at the 2017 Australian Grand Prix, overtaking former Lotus and Caterham driver Vitaly Petrov. Kvyat currently has 53 race starts, four behind Petrov with four races left in the 2016 season.

Sainz is expected to be the 134th F1 driver (out of an all-time total of 836) to reach 50 race starts at the 10th round of the 2017 season, provisionally confirmed as being the British Grand Prix.

Kvyat is ecstatic to finally put speculation behind him and confirm his seat at the team.

“I’m very happy to stay with a team that feels like home to me. I’m really looking forward to continuing the hard work together in 2017 and I’m really aiming high,” Kvyat said.

“I will always be fully dedicated, giving my 200%, and I will be pushing as hard as I usually do, that’s for sure, I’m delighted!”

Team Principal Franz Tost is also pleased to have the same two drivers because it allows the team to focus on changes to their car for the new season.

Aerodynamic regulation changes come in at the start of 2017 alongside new wider Pirelli tires, and the team is also changing power unit supplier, moving back to Renault from Ferrari.

“It makes a change to announce our driver line-up relatively early,” Tost said.

“There are so many new elements coming to Formula One in general and to our team specially, in terms of the change of power unit supplier, that having the same two drivers gives us stability and a benchmark to worth from.”

The move will now put question marks on Pierre Gasly’s future with the Red Bull family. He sits in second place in the GP2 Championship with one round remaining, seven points behind Prema Racing teammate Antonio Giovinazzi, with the possibility to become a champion.

Champions cannot return to the series for the following season, which would force him to have a year out of European open-wheel racing, unless Red Bull arrange a deal with another team to put him in Formula One.

Gasly may have to spend a year as their or Red Bull’s reserve driver or look for a possible seat in another series such as sportscar racing to keep himself fresh.

Current expected 2017 Formula One grid:

Teams and drivers listed in current championship order. TBA = to be announced.

Mercedes – Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton

Red Bull – Daniel Ricciardo, Max Verstappen

Ferrari – Kimi Raikkonen, Sebastian Vettel

Force India – Sergio Perez, TBA

Williams – TBA, TBA

McLaren – Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne

Toro Rosso – Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat

Haas – Romain Grosjean, TBA

Renault – Nico Hulkenberg, TBA

Manor – TBA, TBA

Sauber – TBA, TBA

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Hulkenberg’s Move: Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t

Nico Hulkenberg has made the bravest move in Formula One for 2017 so far, confirming a switch to Renault from Force India.

Hulkenberg’s move should carve open the driver market for next season. Mercedes-backed driver Pascal Wehrlein could well end up at Force India to further his career, or another driver could go there to move forward, leaving smaller teams such as Manor the possibility to bring up GP2 drivers or drivers who can bring money with them from elsewhere.

It is only once in a season you see these moves being made. Lewis Hamilton’s move to Mercedes from McLaren for 2013 seemed insane at the time, and nobody would have believed that Sergio Perez would have more podiums that McLaren during the last three seasons since leaving the team. Romain Grosjean has claimed more than three times the points total of his former team Lotus (now Renault) since deciding to move to Haas for 2016.

Hulkenberg’s move is in that bracket of switches which could go well, but it is a risk. If he were in a casino, he’s just put his Formula One career on yellow. There are many distinct factors behind making this decision.

This year has been very much a reset for Renault, just getting used to life back in Formula One, and for the staff of the team who continued at Enstone, just having stability after the financial crises that happened at Lotus in 2015.

At Hulkenberg’s current team, they have been enjoying their best year in the Constructors’ Championship, sitting in fourth place. Many would think that he is mad for going for a team at this time who have a worse car.

However, the Renault move is the only real positive that Hulkenberg could find and gives him a plan going forward.

Force India can’t go any further with their position in the sport, and if they were to be somehow in the top three next season, it would either be a miracle or because of other teams having unbelievably, bad starts to the season.

That team cannot afford to race at the levels of the top three teams, Mercedes, Red Bull or Ferrari and in 2016, have maxxed out their position. They may even come under threat from Williams, McLaren or Renault as teams who have the talent within them to progress their cars in future months and slip down the order.

Renault, however, could always return to that position of cars and could potentially have the facilities to use more budget than Force India.

They are not only a manufacturer, but they are surely allowing him the chance to be the focal point of a team’s attention as lead driver. This is a situation he has not had since being paired with rookie Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber in 2013. His experience should allow him to push the team forward through the season.

Compared to being consistently rated against Perez, he could have the opportunity to beat a younger teammate and again put his name on the lips of fans who are looking for something fresh to emerge as a future driver on the podium or winning a race.

He has been out-qualified 9-8 and outraced 11-6 so far in 2016 by teammate Perez, and his career has rather stalled and left him as a decent top ten driver, but on the long list of drivers who never have fulfilled their real ambition yet.

Perez, Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen and Williams’ Valtteri Bottas are all ahead of him as consistent podium finishers and first thoughts over the future of Formula One, being younger than current championship challengers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, both 31 years old.

If he stayed at Force India, he might have forever been the ‘nearly-man’. He may still end up to be unlucky in the sport, but he has given himself a chance to breakthrough, potentially for one last chance as he edges towards being 30 next year and time goes against him.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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IndyCar Open Wheel

Magnussen Rejects Andretti IndyCar Rumors, Wants Renault F1 Stay

Formula One racer Kevin Magnussen is rejecting rumors that he will leave the sport to join the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017, saying that he wants a stay with his current team Renault.

Magnussen clarified his position, sending his thoughts to fans on Twitter after Racer.com claimed he could be an option for Andretti Autosport for their next driver signing with the #26 car still vacant for 2017 alongside Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Alexander Rossi.

 

Doubts have emerged of his position as Nico Hulkenberg has signed a multi-year deal for 2017 and Magnussen is potentially fighting amongst other drivers for the second seat at the team.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and Renault reserve Esteban Ocon have both been discussed in the media as potential other options, leading some to believe that Magnussen could be again be heading out of the sport.

Magnussen is highly-thought of by some as he famously claimed a maiden podium on his McLaren and F1 debut in the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. He finished third for his best result in the sport before inheriting second after Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified.

The 24-year-old completed the 2014 season with the British team before spending a year out as a reserve to Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso. He stood in for Alonso at the 2015 race in Australia as Alonso was recovering from a massive crash in pre-season testing.

The Danish driver returned to driving full-time in the sport in 2016 for the French manufacturer, scoring six points at the Russian Grand Prix at the start of May.

Magnussen claimed significantly better results than team-mate Jolyon Palmer at the beginning of the year.

However, since then, his battle with Palmer has become closer, despite him outracing the Briton by finishing ahead of him on 10 occasions. The Danish driver has also out-qualified him 11-7 in their head-to-head after 18 rounds.

Formula One drivers have made IndyCar moves an intriguing career option in recent years, with Andretti’s Rossi and Chip Ganassi’s Max Chilton joining other ex-drivers in the US.

However, he has not raced outside of European-based series in his career so far, which has consisted of racing in junior formulae before making his F1 debut.

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Formula One Open Wheel

Japanese Grand Prix May Have Defined F1 Champion

A week is a long time in Formula One and has had many twists and turns for the standings of the World Championship.

After a ninth win of the season in Japan, Nico Rosberg has extended his gap to 33 points ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Mercedes have won the Constructors’ Championship for the third consecutive year.

Daniel Ricciardo lies 101 points behind the top two in the table with four races and a maximum of 100 points remaining, meaning a Mercedes driver is guaranteed to become champion.

The apparent drama between Mercedes drivers couldn’t have been further separated during this weekend.

A lot can be read into what the public have seen on and off track.

HAMILTON’S WEEKEND

On Thursday, Lewis Hamilton started to come under fire for using Snapchat on his phone during the traditional Drivers’ Press Conference with the press.

The British driver was one of the six drivers nominated to be questioned, and he did answer questions in between being on his device despite expressing that he was bored of the current routine.

Some of his shots showed the media sitting in front of him, which did give the fans an image they don’t usually see and a background to the event.

However, his shots with Carlos Sainz and himself with rabbit filters stole the attention, with the caption, “this sh*t is killing me”. Other uses of Snapchat and some quotes from press conferences also hit the headlines.

Many would have to ask what these five words and pictures give to his fans. Humor is subjective; his fans may have loved it, but it is strange to comprehend for an outsider.

It is always great to see a driver connect with their fans, in particular with an increased use of social media. However, this doesn’t give anything new. Maybe it would have been interesting if he had commented on what the drivers say to each other behind the scenes and joke about certain things.

From the outside Hamilton has always had an unique, eccentric behavior, and it is not known for certain whether it helps or hinders him. It seems like something that is just in the background while he goes about the normal highs and lows of sport.

ROSBERG’S WEEKEND

As this went on, Nico Rosberg won the Japanese Grand Prix with another solid performance, which may be the thing the 2016 world championship is remembered by.

The 31-year-old didn’t just lead from pole and run away from other drivers; he led every session of the weekend. Some lap time gaps were small, some were huge, but he remained ahead of Hamilton.

He may have the same number of pole positions than his teammate (eight), and one less podium (12 compared to Hamilton’s 13) but he has controlled the championship in 2016.

A chink in his armor could have been the results in Monaco and Canada (seventh and fifth place finishes), however, in hindsight, these performances, although being steady in the rain around the Monaco track, brought points on the board. A total of 16 points is much better than none, and this now looks like an intelligent move.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE REMAINING RACES

There are just four races left on the calendar, but the hard thing for Hamilton is that his teammate has won at three of the four circuits left on the calendar. He has only failed to win at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, TX so far in his career.

Hamilton has won at COTA three times, although Rosberg is the most recent winner of the races in Mexico, Brazil, and Abu Dhabi, the three races which may have been the set-up for his current run.

Rosberg just needs to continue his consistency. Even if he finishes second behind Hamilton in the last four rounds, he will be the champion for the first time.

It has been over 7300 days and almost 20 years since the last son of a champion became a champion himself.

Is Rosberg now destined to follow in the footsteps of his father Keke (1982 champion) and emulate the achievement of Damon Hill on October 13, 1996 (son of two-time champ Graham)?

EMAIL CAMERON AT cpatersonf1@gmail.com

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.