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Formula One Open Wheel

THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Singapore Grand Prix

Formula 1 treated fans to one of its most exciting races of the year as Singapore celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Marina Bay Street Circuit with the series’ first wet night competition.

On a circuit which is traditionally Mercedes’ bogey track, Lewis Hamilton led every lap to take his seventh win of 2017 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton is the first driver to take three in a row this year after Belgium and Italy.

He inherited the victory after a dramatic opening lap crash involving poleman Sebastian Vettel, teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Just 12 of the 20 drivers completed the two-hour distance as the contest had the highest number of retirements in 2017.

The drivers’ championship fight has decreased, with Hamilton extending his three-point advantage to 28, with a maximum of 25 for a win.

Has Vettel Thrown Away The Title?

One of the questions answered after the event was what role Vettel played in the incident.

From multiple viewings of the accident, it appears that the German gradually slides left to try and stop Verstappen from attacking him, with Raikkonen going on Verstappen’s left-hand side to attempt to and snatch first place.

The Finn’s right-rear tire collided with the front left of the Dutchman’s car, sending him speeding without stopping into Turn 1, hitting the side of the Red Bull before Fernando Alonso becomes involved. Vettel continued momentarily before spinning into the Turn 3 wall, destroying his front wing.

The last time before this the German had a DNF was in Malaysia last season. It was then that Hamilton suffered power unit failure and the championship fell away from his grasp and towards Nico Rosberg. Has karma gone back into his direction, with nothing to choose between the two drivers who both have shown strong previous form at the upcoming tracks?

Meanwhile, Alonso was almost up to third early on, but took his ninth DNF of the year, tying his worst career record set back in 2001 at Minardi. Water is wet for the Spaniard.

Hamilton Again Shows Wet Weather Class

The three-time champion is probably one of the few drivers on the grid you would want to drive in damp conditions, and he set multiple fastest laps on his way to victory. His time of 1m45.008s is a new record with the faster 2017 machinery.

He made his way from fifth on the grid thanks to the chaos ahead and an important move around the right-hand side of a slow-starting Ricciardo before carrying on at the very right of the track to avoid becoming a passenger in the debris above.

“I came in and I saw that it was raining and I knew that this balances everything out,” he said. “I love racing in the rain, then everything unfolded in the beginning. Starting on the Intermediates I thought it was going to be much closer pace-wise. These conditions give you the opportunity to really make a difference with your driving.”

Ricciardo’s job to finish 4.5 seconds off the winner seemed impressive when his team principal Christian Horner said after the race that he had to control an issue.

“After the [initial] restart (Lap 5 of 58), Daniel started to lose an awful lot of gearbox oil, which created a lot of problems with oil pressure, and we were feeling that it was looking unlikely that Daniel would get to the end of the race,” he said. “However, he managed to nurse the gearbox of the car incredibly well for three-quarters of the Grand Prix, and though able to hold off any threat from behind from Valtteri, unfortunately he could not attack Lewis ahead.”

It was a familiar story for Valtteri Bottas. Many have wondered whether he can match up in damp or wet conditions after his spin in China earlier in the year, and he finished 8.8s behind in third. Not only that, but his drinks bottle was not fully working in one of the most physically-demanding tracks the series visits.

“In the dry, the car was performing better than expected and the pace was very good for Lewis and me,” he said. “In the wet, I struggled a bit more than him. It’s nice to bring a trophy home after what has been a tricky weekend for me.”

Notable Drivers Suffer Ups And Downs

Days after news of Carlos Sainz swapping Toro Rosso for Renault and Renault powering McLaren next season, all three parties had a solid Singapore night.

Sainz took a career-best fourth-place, while the replaced Jolyon Palmer finished just ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in sixth. Rumors still say Palmer could have had his last contest with the team, but a positive performance won’t hurt as he looks for a new home on the grid or in another series for 2018.

Two drivers suffered difficult results due to car problems. Nico Hulkenberg was fourth until an oil leak took him to pit lane. He also spent some laps in the top-three, but collects the record for most starts without a podium in F1 history, beating Adrian Sutil’s total of 128. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was fighting for points until an electrical failure.

What’s Next?

The 10th running doesn’t end Singapore’s story for now, as it signed a new four-year deal before the weekend to continue hosting the sport until 2021, confirming its place on 2018’s 21-race calendar.

Drivers now head to Malaysia for the final event in that country in two weeks’ time as the fight to become champion comes down to the next two months.

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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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News Open Wheel

HAAS: Grosjean, Magnussen Staying For 2018

Summer is usually the perfect time for the silly season to kick into full power, but one team won’t be taking part in discussing any rumors.

Haas F1 team owner Gene Haas told F1.com that Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen would stay as teammates in 2018.

It marks another proud moment for the team’s scrapbook being the first time that its lineup remains unchanged for two seasons.

Grosjean will be in his third year and is set to reach his 50th race for Haas at Austria next July.

Magnussen is staying at a team for two years for the second time in his career after McLaren (2014-15), but the 2018 Australian Grand Prix will mark 21 events with the Americans, the most races he has competed in for someone.

“We will run with the same drivers that we have this year again next year,” he said. “That is a given. And given the other continuity aspects, we should be better racers next season.”

This season has been much more impressive despite occasional reliability issues and the team still having braking troubles. It only didn’t score in three races, and the last in Britain was the first they missed the top-10 with both cars completing all laps.

Haas is also optimistic for the final 10 contests this campaign, thinking that his team can double its score to 58 with more top-10 finishes. It managed just one between July and November 2016, when Grosjean flew the national flag at the United States Grand Prix.

“It cannot get worse than in the second half of 2016,” he added. “Even if we only score one more point we would be on the plus side! My guess is that we will score another 29 points. When I remember Baku there could have been an opportunity to get on the podium, as Kevin was third for a while and we were screaming in the garage – ‘Keep going, keep going’ – that would have been a milestone for our history.”

The decision means more stability on the Formula 1 grid and presents two fewer opportunities for young racers such as Antonio Giovinazzi (who drove in practice for Haas at Silverstone) or current F2 championship leader Charles Leclerc (former Haas practice and test racer) to graduate.

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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

Haas Equals Best Points Total After Nine Races

Sometimes in sport, the sophomore year is expected to be much harder than the previous, as a person or team settles into its roles.

Haas keeps defying this in Formula 1 in 2017, becoming the third American team to reach 30 races in Formula 1 in Austria and equalling its greatest-ever season total of 29 points with Romain Grosjean finishing sixth.

It was his second-best result for the team and the finest of 2017 so far – the second straight event that its improved following Kevin Magnussen’s seventh in Azerbaijan.

The Frenchman got as high as fourth in the opening laps as he fought for position with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

“It was a really strong race, I had a really good first lap and was enjoying the racing for a little bit,” Grosjean said. “Lewis and Kimi got past, but I focused on keeping Sergio [Perez] behind. I was happy with the car all weekend long. There are a few things we need to improve, but today we were the best of the rest. We showed that when we getting everything to work on the car we’re strong. It’s the experience of getting everything working in the window all the time that we’re missing a little bit. This was only our 30th race ever, so we can’t have everything.”

Teammate Magnussen retired after being 11th from 15th on the grid with a hydraulics issue but thought that this weekend was potentially Haas’ greatest-yet.

It was the Dane’s second problem in two days after suspension failure likely cost the team’s its first double qualifying three appearances since Japan last October.

“It was our strongest weekend with the most potential for a good result for both cars,” he added. “I could easily have been up there with Romain and we could’ve had a perfect result for the team. It’s just been really poor luck this weekend.”

Another 14 points from Sunday’s British Grand Prix will mean that Haas scores more points than all American teams combined in the sport’s 68-year history, beating 71.5 from Eagle, Parnelli, Penske, and Shadow.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Magnussen Makes ‘Haas-tory’ With Points Finish

One problem Haas had in Formula 1 in 2016 was only one driver – Romain Grosjean – took points finishes after Esteban Gutierrez finished 11th many times.

However, just two races into 2017, another driver has already stepped up to help the team’s points total in the Constructors’ Championship. Kevin Magnussen finished eighth in the Chinese Grand Prix to claim his first points finish since Singapore last September.

It is just the second time during his career that he finished top-10 in at least one of the first two rounds. It is also Haas’ first time scoring points in China after placing 14th (Gutierrez) and 19th (Grosjean) in 2016, continuing the streak of top-10 results in one of the first two races of a season.

Team Principal Guenther Steiner was delighted to see the other entry finally taste success after waiting 23 races for a top-10.

“It’s great to see Kevin’s team scoring their first points since the start of Haas F1 Team,” he said. “For Kevin to score points on his second race is fantastic. I think we showed what we can do and that we are what we think we are. We just have to do it consistently. We can then look to a good season in front of us. The flight home will feel a lot shorter with points in the bag.”

Magnussen believes it was a team effort to find the right strategy and finish above Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon.

“The car’s been good today,” he said. “I was able to look after the front tires, which I think was key, along with working with the team to get the car in the right window. The race was really well managed from the team. It was a good strategy to get me out on the super-softs after the intermediates. It’s much more fun when you’re fighting in the points.”

Haas is currently fighting with Williams, Toro Rosso and Force India as the teams who may consistently finish in the top-10 this year.

The team is now seventh in the Constructors’ with four points, half the total of sixth-place Williams. Magnussen is 10th in the Drivers’ with the same amount.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Grosjean: Haas Can Get More Points Finishes in 2017

Most drivers show disappointment when their car lets them down in a race, but Haas’ Romain Grosjean believes incredible results are available for him and the team in the 2017 Formula 1 season.

Grosjean has optimistically looked ahead for point-scoring consistency for America’s F1 team after both of its drivers retired from a race for the third time in its short history.

The Frenchman suffered an apparent water leak after slipping down to seventh place on the track and being passed by Williams’ Felipe Massa, becoming the first retirement of the season on Lap 13 of 57. Teammate Kevin Magnussen was involved in a first-lap accident with Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson at Turn 3 and survived another 45 laps before his suspension failed. The first lap saw Magnussen’s left-front tire hit the right-side of the Swede’s sidepod before both went into the gravel.

Grosjean admitted the failures were an annoying hitch to the team’s progress but the car already showed what it could do in the limited laps they ran.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result, but again, right now I’m hot, and we’re all disappointed to lose a seventh-place position, but the car was there in qualifying in P6,” he said.

His qualifying result of sixth is now the team’s best on a Saturday, and Grosjean believes the team has a fast car which can compete with the rest of the midfield teams for the best places behind Ferrari, Mercedes, and Red Bull.

“The start wasn’t ideal, so we need to improve that,” he said. “I felt I was faster than the Williams so there’s huge potential in the car. I guess the key for us is to keep the momentum and get the consistency we didn’t have last year, where I’d be fifth in Bahrain then 19th in China.

“I really want to improve on that and get more consistency in terms of results. If we do that, then I’m sure there are going to be plenty of races where we can score good points. I’m feeling it right now, but tomorrow I’m going to wake up thinking, you know, we’ve got a great car, so no matter what, we’re going to be there this year.”

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Formula One Open Wheel

Alonso, Riccardo Among Seven DNFs in Austrailia

With new cars and a wider tire from Pirelli, it’s expected drivers are going to run into problems as they work out the bugs. While 20 started the Australian Grand Prix, seven found themselves sitting on the sidelines before the checkered flag flew, with a total of eight experiencing problems.

Stoffel Vandoorne was the only driver of those with problems to cross the finish line, finishing 13th. The team had been experiencing power issues earlier in the weekend, and at Lap 10, Vandoorne suffered a longer pit stop than normal due to “recycling” the power unit so he could restart his McLaren Honda.

Fernando Alonso was the last driver in the race to pull off the track, retiring to the garage with three laps left in the event behind the wheel of his McLaren Honda.

“It was a suspension failure,” Alonso said of what put him out of the event. “I think that’s what happened to stop us from finishing the race. It was really good. I was driving one of my best races so far and yeah, we were in the points all race long. We had to do huge fuel saving that was helping us a lot to keep the position. We were surprised to be far up, but we definitely need to be more competitive very soon.”

While he didn’t get the finish he wanted, he noted they are decent performance-wise, with the ability right now to finish ninth “in normal conditions on a typical circuit.

Kevin Magnussen had hoped to start off his time with Haas F1 on a positive note but found himself out of the race on Lap 50 following contact on Lap 1. Magnussen hopped the curb, hitting Marcus Errison and going into the gravel pit.

He was followed in 16th by rookie Lance Stroll. Stroll’s F1 career has been rough thus far, with wrecks during testing and an incident earlier in the weekend during practice. As a result, he started the race from the rear of the field after changing the gearbox. Despite this, he was able to quickly make up ground, moving up six positions to 14th in the first stint. However, he’d find his race over at Lap 44 as a result of mechanical issues.

Daniel Riccardo also had a mechanical failure, but his problems began right from the start of the event. After crashing in qualifying and changing the gearbox, the hometown hero was unable to get going on the start due to the car getting stuck in sixth gear. After spending time in the garage, he got out on track two laps behind the leaders. Riccardo put together 27 solid laps, till his car stalled on Lap 29 with a fuel pressure issue.

“On the plus side I’m getting out of here,” Riccardo said. “I don’t know. It’s been a long week. Don’t get me wrong – it’s been fun. I feel bad for everyone – the fans, obviously. I believe there are more people supporting me here than the others. I know they would’ve loved me to get out there and race, but it just kind of boiled over from yesterday. The five-grid penalty sounded bad enough, but then we had other issues. Just a long day. Happy to move on. Obviously, I’m disappointed, but I’ll wake up tomorrow. It’ll be fine, and I’ll be ready to prepare and go for China.”

Riccardo added the laps he was able to make were good as they were able to get “valuable track time” for information on the new car to continue learning and developing.

“If I’m going to look on the bright side, (teammate) Max (Verstappen) has a really good pace, so maybe we can learn something from his race today and as the team moves forward,” he added.

Marcus Errison also found his day end after his car unexpected stopped in the corner up in the third section, resulting in an 18th place finish. His problems began earlier in the event right from the start as Magnussen made contact with him when he jumped a curb.

Errison wasn’t the only driver spending time in the gravel pit, as Jolyon Palmer was off track quite a bit through the race as he fought brake issues with his Renault entry. He eventually retired, resulting in a 19th place finish.

Romain Grosjean took the final spot on the grid at the finish as a result of his car catching fire in the pits on Lap 15. He had been running around the sixth or seventh spot following his best qualifying effort to date for Haas F1.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Formula One Open Wheel

Grosjean Looks to Repeat Haas-tounding Australia Performance

Last year, everyone shocked when Romain Grosjean and Haas F1 team came out of the gate with a sixth place run in the Formula 1 season opener in Australia.

While the team found themselves in the position after a red flag and didn’t make any stops under racing conditions, Grosjean still showcased the team’s potential, holding off Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg, Williams’ Valtteri Bottas and the Toro Rosso tandem of Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen.

Now the team will look to do the same once again to start off 2017.

The potential for a repeat performance currently doesn’t look promising, with Haas’ pair of drivers ranking 15th and 16th in pre-season testing at Barcelona. However, the season-opener has produced a lot of unpredictable results in the past, so it’s not totally off the table for them to pull it off.

Grosjean remained with the United States-based team for the second straight season after finishing 13th in points last year with five top-10 finishes in the 21 events, highlighted by a fifth in Bahrain.

“I enjoy Albert Park,” Grosjean spoke of Australia. “It changes a lot during the weekend. It’s not a permanent circuit, so the grip is changing a lot. The race start is quite late, but it’s one of my favorite Grand Prix. It’s not an easy track to get on with. It’s very hard on fuel consumption as well. For the first race of the season, it’s going to be interesting.”

Grosjean has been successful in the past, as noted by last year’s sixth place finish and a 10th in 2013 driving for Lotus F1 team.

Meanwhile, Esteban Gutierrez left the team after failing to score a single point last year. He has been replaced by Kevin Magnussen, who finished 16th in points last year driving for Renault Sport. Last year was a struggle as he only posted one top-10 all year long – seventh in Russia.

“My goal for the season, and it’s the same for the team, is to try and improve on the result from last year, which was very good,” Magnussen said. “Going on to then finish eighth in the constructor’s championship, with 29 points, was a great result for a first-year Formula One team. To improve on that, even just a little bit, would be a good target.”

Magnussen knows what it takes to do well in Australia as he posted a runner-up in 2014 while driving for Mercedes, followed by a 17th and a 12th the past two years.

“It’s always important to have a good start to the year just to kick-start everything,” he said. “It gives you a boost to have a good beginning. The end is important too, but it’s always nice to start off the year with a good race. We’ll do our best and see what we get.”

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Haas in New Territory With Second F1 Car

America’s Formula 1 team has developed a car for the first time after racing in a full season in the sport.

Haas released their new car, the VF-17, which brings massive changes from its first machine.

The car itself has a new look, with their light gray design being replaced with a darker color and black being used along the top of the front wing.

It also features a standard design on the F1 grid, a shark fin engine cover, while it has swapped its former long front wing nose for a short ‘puzzle’ nose design which all but two teams are set to use in the new season. The car also features the biggest changes from the new regulations – the lower rear wing and arrowed front wing designs.

Team principal Guenther Steiner described the in-depth changes the team went through to create the new machine.

“I think the pedal box is the same, but all the rest is very different from last year’s car,” he said. “You always try to make a faster car, which is normally a lighter car. Now we can put on more ballast and get better weight distribution. The aero is completely new as are the tires, so we needed to have some built-in adjustability.

“Aesthetically, the car has a more aggressive look. It’s lighter and more aerodynamically efficient. Everything we learned from our first car has been applied to our new car.”

Kevin Magnussen is the first driver to officially set laps in the VF-17 car in testing in Barcelona, lapping a Haas car for the first time after moving from Renault for the 2017 season.

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Magnussen Partners Grosjean at Haas in 2017

Renault’s Kevin Magnussen has been announced as a new kid on the block at Haas F1 Team for the 2017 Formula One season.

The former McLaren driver will partner current driver Romain Grosjean, who is staying for a second season at the American team, replacing Esteban Gutierrez.

Rumors of Magnussen becoming a possible Haas pilot came throughout a crazy 24 hours for the team which started with Esteban Gutierrez announcing his departure on Thursday evening.

One final hint at a probable announcement emerged as Kevin’s father Jan started following the Haas team’s Twitter account in the afternoon.

Magnussen has spent two seasons in the sport in 2014 and 2016, with a best finish of second place on his debut at the 2014 Australian Grand Prix. He has scored seven points for Renault in 2016, with a best result of seventh at the Russian Grand Prix.

With Grosjean also having ten podiums, Haas’ partnership is just one of four on the grid where both drivers have stood on the podium in their careers, with both Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari drivers also having two drivers of that caliber.

Gene Haas, the team’s owner and founder, said the 24-year-old is a lucrative competitor to target for a seat.

“From the time we began looking at drivers, Kevin Magnussen was always on our shortlist,” Haas said. “He’s accomplished a lot in a very short period of time, and we feel like he can accomplish a lot with us. Our second season will bring a new set of challenges, and we feel that pairing Kevin with Romain will help us develop our new car and continue our growth.”

Haas also praised Grosjean’s role with the team, saying the time he has spent in the sport will be key to the team in 2017. The team will face its first technical regulation changes since joining the series and Haas believes Grosjean is the man to help with such upheaval.

“He’s played a large role in bringing respect and legitimacy to Haas F1 Team,” he added. “We have a new set of challenges next year with a new car and a new set of regulations, and his veteran leadership will again prove valuable.”

Grosjean himself still believes the decision to move to the team was the best thing for his career during the last season. He has become an asset to the team this year, scoring 27 points after 19 races in 2016 and out-qualifying teammate Gutierrez by 11-8.

“A little more than a year ago I made the decision to join Haas F1 Team and it was absolutely the right decision,” the Frenchman said. “I’m very proud to be a part of the team’s development and am very happy we can continue to grow and achieve more success in the years ahead.”

Haas is set to finish in eighth in the Constructors’ Championship if Renault does not score large amounts of points in the final two races. The team has 29 points, 21 more than the French manufacturer.

Current confirmed 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 – Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen

Force India – Sergio Perez, Esteban Ocon

Williams – Valtteri Bottas, Lance Stroll

McLaren – Fernando Alonso, Stoffel Vandoorne

Toro Rosso – Carlos Sainz, Daniil Kvyat

Haas – Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen

Renault – Nico Hulkenberg, Jolyon Palmer

Manor – TBA, TBA

Sauber – TBA, TBA

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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.

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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.