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Formula One Open Wheel

Hamilton, Vettel Set Up Title Battle

The Spanish Grand Prix may be the pivotal moment in the 2017 season that saw the competitors of for the title battle emerge.

Lewis Hamilton won his 55th career race after a race-long battle with Sebastian Vettel. He made a crucial overtake at the first turn on Lap 44 to take the lead stolen by Vettel at the start.

For many events, it has been hoped that the two with a combined seven championships might be the two fighters because of their history in Formula 1. That hope may now just be a reality.

After DNFs in Spain, Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas now have a massive deficit to their teammates. Vettel and Hamilton have 104 and 98 points, with Bottas 35 and Raikkonen 55 away from both main rivals. A massive 450 points remain, but it will be hard to gain them back.

Bottas was also put down after his highest point of the year, winning in Russia, giving no space to develop momentum. Raikkonen realistically just delivers consistent top-fives, but nothing too spectacular.

Also, Red Bull suffered their worst classified result of the year, with Daniel Ricciardo 75 seconds adrift and Verstappen failing to finish. The team isn’t likely to take many points away apart from occasional flukes, potentially next time out in Monaco.

Hamilton and Vettel rarely have off weekends, putting any immediate bad luck potentially out of the way.

They are not making errors, with Vettel managing to provoke a system restart after a minor problem in qualifying. He could have stopped on track instead and started at the back.

Both expertly fought with danger by banging wheels as Hamilton attacked Vettel at Turn 1 and went off the track near Turn 2 on Lap 38.

Vettel is currently on a six-race podium streak, his best form since 11 in a row (winning nine) in 2013. Hamilton has 18 from his last 21 events. This evidence may produce a nail-biting final few races.

Just One Thing Left…

At some point, pressure has to start to emerge, with Hamilton particularly giving dramatic messages over his radio in this contest.

It may have been the position of his radio earpiece, but he appeared to be heavily breathing while driving the car and trying to fight Vettel. He also looked exhausted after the race.

Vettel has appeared confident all year and both seem mature enough to keep up the public image. Add to that, neither has been in a strong title battle against a car from another team for years (Hamilton 2008, Vettel ’12) so they may just enjoy it.

For now, the two are still laughing and joking to the public, but for how long?

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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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

Qualifying – Ferrari lock out the front row in Russia

The 2017 Formula 1 VTB Russian Grand Prix will see an all-Ferrari front row for the first time since France 2008, after Sebastian Vettel edged team mate Kimi Raikkonen for pole position in an epic qualifying battle with Mercedes in Sochi on Saturday.

Less than a tenth of a second covered the two scarlet cars and the third-place silver one of Valtteri Bottas, who – as in practice – had the edge on team mate Lewis Hamilton in fourth. No other teams could come close, with Daniel Ricciardo a distant fifth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa put Williams sixth, ahead of the Red Bull of Max Verstappen and the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg. Force India’s Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon completed the top ten.

Q1 belonged to Mercedes, with Bottas turning a 1m 34.041s and Hamilton, after a false start due to a twitch in Turns 8 and 9 on his first go eventually improving to 1m 34.409s. The Ferraris were close behind with 1m 34.493s for Vettel and 1m 34.953s for Raikkonen. Impressively, Ocon was sixth behind Verstappen and ahead of late improvers Hulkenberg and Ricciardo.

But… the Ferraris were on Pirelli’s supersoft tyress, whereas everyone else plumped for ultrasofts…

Jolyon Palmer’s chances of getting through were ruined when he got over the kerb in Turn 4, and then found his Renault spat into the outside wall. He was thus stranded in 16th on 1m 36.462s, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne on 1m 37.070s in the second McLaren, the two Saubers of Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson on 1m 37.332s and 1m 37.597s, and a very unhappy Romain Grosjean at the back on 1m 37.620s for Haas. Wehrlein also went off right at the end, trying to go quicker.

Mercedes came out fighting again in Q2, with Bottas flying on 1m 33.264s, the fastest time of the weekend thus far, and Hamilton, still struggling, 0.496s adrift, on 1m 33.760s. Vettel slotted into third on ultrasofts on 1m 34.038s, with Raikkonen fourth on 1m 34.053s on similar rubber.

Behind them, it was Verstappen and Hulkenberg again, from Massa and a brake troubled Ricciardo.

As the Mercedes stayed in their garage, Raikkonen improved to second with 1m 33.663s, but Vettel lost a promising lap by spoiling his final sector and failed to go quicker. Massa, however, moved ahead of Verstappen as Perez finally got going to join team mate Ocon in the top 10.

That left the Toro Rossos out in the cold as neither Carlos Sainz nor local hero Daniil Kvyat improved on their earlier 1m 35.948s and 1m 35.968s bests, and they were split eventually by Lance Stroll’s Williams on 1m 35.964s. Sainz will, of course, drop three grid places as penalty for his collision with Stroll in Bahrain. Kevin Magnussen was 14th on 1m 36.017s for Haas, as Fernando Alonso brought up the rear on 1m 36.660s for McLaren.

Thus it came down, as ever, to Q3. Could Mercedes turn up the wick to stay ahead? Or could Ferrari push them off the front row?

Things began to go wrong for Hamilton straight away. He led Hulkenberg out of the pits, then had his warm-up lap process compromised when the German batted him before overtaking the Mercedes.

As Raikkonen went fastest with 1m 33.253s, the fastest lap thus far of the weekend, Bottas went second on 1m 33.289s with Vettel third on 1m 33.426s. Hamilton was a very disgruntled fourth on 1m 34.464s.

Round 1 to Ferrari.

Round 2 went their way, too. Though Raikkonen did not improve, thus losing his chance of a first pole since France 2008, Vettel did, banging in 1m 33.194s to settle the issue.

Behind them, Bottas looked good but did not improve, while a fastest first sector time for Hamilton translated in an improvement to 1m 33.767s, but no upward movement from fourth on the grid.

Ricciardo held on to fifth despite not improving on 1m 34. 985s, and as Verstappen likewise did not go faster than his earlier 1m 35.1611s, Massa snuck his Williams ahead with 1m 34.110s.

Hulkenberg improved to 1m 35.285s for eighth, as Perez and Ocon kept Force India on target for a 14th consecutive points finish with ninth and 10th in 1m 35.337s and 1m 35.430s respectively.

So, with penalties applied (in addition to Sainz, Vandoorne is set to lose 15 places for engine component changes), the provisional grid will line up: Vettel, Raikkonen; Bottas, Hamilton; Ricciardo, Massa; Verstappen, Hulkenberg; Perez, Ocon; Stroll, Kvyat; Magnussen, Sainz; Alonso, Palmer; Wehrlein, Ericsson; Grosjean, Vandoorne.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Race – Vettel beats Hamilton to hard-fought Bahrain win

Sebastian Vettel has a clear lead in the drivers’ championship after winning a tense 2017 Formula 1 Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix from Lewis Hamilton on Sunday. A late charge from Hamilton wasn’t quite enough to prevent a splendid Ferrari victory, as his Mercedes team mate Valtteri Bottas took third.

Kimi Raikkonen was fourth for Ferrari, with Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull’s only finisher in fifth, team mate Max Verstappen having retired early with brake failure. Felipe Massa secured sixth for Williams, from Force India’s Sergio Perez and Haas’s Romain Grosjean. Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Force India’s Esteban Ocon completed the top ten.

From third on the grid, Vettel jumped Hamilton’s Silver Arrow going into Turn 1 at the start, then chased polesitter and early leader Bottas as the three of them were joined by the Red Bulls of fast-starting Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo in a high-speed train.

Vettel and Ferrari gambled on going for the undercut with an early pit stop on lap 10, and it worked well for them. They were followed by Verstappen and Red Bull doing likewise next time around. But as Vettel recovered in 12th place, Verstappen crashed in Turn 4 on the 12th lap, due to suspected brake failure.

A lap later Carlos Sainz, leaving the pits after a stop in his Toro Rosso, collided with the side of rookie Lance Stroll’s Williams as the Canadian turned into Turn 1 – a misdemeanour which subsequently earned Sainz a three-place grid drop for the next round in Canada.

The safety car was deployed, leaving Mercedes no alternative but to pit both their drivers at the same time. That meant stacking Hamilton behind Bottas, and while trying to give the Finn’s crew time to service him, Hamilton came in so slowly that he was deemed by the stewards to have hindered the following Ricciardo, and was handed a five-second penalty that would prove very costly.

The safety car promoted a surprised Vettel to the lead, but on soft rubber as his main rivals (bar Ricciardo) had opted for more supersofts, Hamilton soon repassed the Australian’s Red Bull when the track went green on the 17th lap, and closed in on Bottas who was struggling with oversteer. He dutifully moved over to let his faster team mate go by in Turn 1 on the 29th lap, setting up another Vettel versus Hamilton encounter.

The Ferrari driver pitted again, for softs, on the 33rd lap, putting Hamilton into the lead. He held it until the 41st lap, as Vettel closed in, then pitted for another set of softs – and to take his time penalty. Once again he caught and passed team mate Bottas, and a blistering series of fastest laps cut the deficit to the Ferrari from 19 to 5.8s by the 54th lap. But thereafter Hamilton eased back, finishing 6.6s adrift after a day of valuable damage limitation.

The unhappy Bottas hung on to complete the podium, two seconds ahead of Raikkonen’s Ferrari, with Ricciardo slumping after the safety car to finish fifth, well behind the second Finn but equally a long way ahead of Massa’s Williams.

Perez drove brilliantly to take seventh for Force India, heading a happy Grosjean in his Haas and Hulkenberg, whose own feisty performance earned himself and Renault their first points of the year.

Ocon took up his usual reservation of 10th place in the second Force India, but Pascal Wehrlein might have felt as deserving of the final point after a great comeback for Sauber confirmed that he is now fully fit again. He took 11th after outfoxing Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat on the last lap. The Russian had been involved in one of the race’s best battles, with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer and McLaren’s Fernando Alonso. Palmer dropped back after damaging his front wing on the Toro Rosso, while the Spaniard’s Honda-powered car again let him down in sight of the chequered flag. It was a bad day for the Woking team with yet another suspected MGU-H failure preventing team mate Stoffel Vandoorne from starting.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson joined the retirements late in the race, and besides Sainz, Stroll and Verstappen, Kevin Magnussen stopped early due to electronics issues in his Haas.

So after his 44th career victory, Vettel leads the championship table with 68 points to Hamilton’s 61, with Bottas now third on 38 from Raikkonen on 32, Verstappen on 25 and Ricciardo on 22.

Mercedes still lead the constructors’ stakes, with 109 points to Ferrari’s 100, with Red Bull on 47 ahead of Force India on 17, Williams on 16, the luckless Toro Rosso on 12, Haas on 8 and Renault on 2.

RACE RESULTS

POS. DRIVER TEAM TIME POINTS
1 SEBASTIAN VETTEL FERRARI 1:33:53.374 25
2 LEWIS HAMILTON MERCEDES +6.660s 18
3 VALTTERI BOTTAS MERCEDES +20.397s 15
4 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FERRARI +22.475s 12
5 DANIEL RICCIARDO RED BULL RACING +39.346s 10
6 FELIPE MASSA WILLIAMS +54.326s 8
7 SERGIO PEREZ FORCE INDIA +62.606s 6
8 ROMAIN GROSJEAN HAAS +74.865s 4
9 NICO HULKENBERG RENAULT +80.188s 2
10 ESTEBAN OCON FORCE INDIA +95.711s 1
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Commentary Open Wheel

THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Chinese Grand Prix

Lewis Hamilton returned to usual form, dominating the Chinese Grand Prix for his 106th career podium, tying him second all-time with Alain Prost.

This continues Mercedes’ superb form at the Shanghai circuit as they always have at least one top-five each visit – even during development between 2010 and 2013 (Nico Rosberg third (’10), fifth (’11), first (’12, ‘16); Hamilton third (’13), first (’14, ’15, ‘17)).

Hamilton’s fifth career Chinese win means he is the first driver since Michael Schumacher (1992-2006) to win a race in 11 straight seasons.

He completes a ‘grand slam’ – claiming pole position, race win and fastest lap after leading every lap – for just the third time in his career. It is his 11th hat-trick of pole, win and fastest time, putting him second all-time with Jim Clark and 11 behind Michael Schumacher’s record.

The race win was potentially key for Hamilton ahead of his expected championship battle with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel as he has never become champion after failing to win one of the opening two rounds of a season.

DRS Use Changes

This round was seen by many as a true test of drivers still being able to overtake with the new car design.

In the past, you tend to press the DRS button and go straight past drivers and take positions. This time, you opened the flap while behind somebody, and plan where you could attack. DRS has been transformed as a preparation tool to gear drivers up for an overtake.

The only time that DRS gifted drivers the opportunity to pass was when faster cars came up against slower opposition, such as Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas having to go by McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in his recovery from an early spin down the long straightaway between turns 13 and 14.

Not many overtakes happened compared to 2016’s event, but they were worth waiting for.

Verstappen’s Eventful Race

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen once again produced a talented performance in mixed conditions to finish third after starting 16th.

In Brazil last year he produced superb driving to stand on the podium, and he again performed well in damp conditions.

His wet weather start was critical, overtaking nine drivers to be inside the top-10 under virtual safety car and safety car periods.

He then fought with teammate Daniel Ricciardo as they moved into the top three, and managed to keep Ricciardo behind late on again. His defense was similar to the victory in Spain last year, again showcasing the youngster’s skill.

The only thing that took away from his performance slightly was frustration over team radio in the heat of the moment near race’s end. Haas’ Romain Grosjean was a couple of seconds in front of him, with the Dutchman convinced Grosjean should have been shown blue flags to move out of the way.

Ferrari Strategy Error?

Not for the first time in recent history, fans were left debating Ferrari’s tire strategy.

Second-placed Vettel was unlucky to fall behind Ricciardo and Verstappen and teammate Kimi Raikkonen after pitting under a virtual safety car period before the full safety car came out when Antonio Giovinazzi crashed.

However, Raikkonen’s second stop for another set of super-softs came at an awful time on lap 40 of 56, meaning that he was not near Red Bulls’ pair as they fought at the end. They missed an opportunity to claim another podium as he finished 2.884 seconds behind Verstappen and 2.041s behind Ricciardo (48.076s off the lead). His day could have also got worse as he was just 0.732s behind Bottas.

One of the most emotional radio calls came from the Finn, saying “I have no front end and there’s only 20 laps to go.”

Raikkonen admitted that the race could have finished differently had he taken another strategy.

“It was not a very strong race, the car felt good with fresh tires, but we seemed to lose the front very quickly and I was struggling; in a place like this that’s very tricky and gives a lot of lap time away,” he said. “I feel that, even with that, we should have had a better result: maybe ­we could have changed the tires a bit earlier, but it’s always easy to speak after the race.”

The Championship Battle

After one win each, Vettel and Hamilton are equal on 43 points in the Drivers’ Championship and Mercedes lead Ferrari by just one marker (66 to 65) in the Constructors’ – the smallest lead a team has ever held in this era. It is also the first time that two drivers have been tied in points after two rounds for 20 years (Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard in 1997).

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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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

Vettel Stuns Mercedes with Melbourne Win

Ferrari proved that their pre-season testing form was no fluke on Sunday, as Sebastian Vettel soundly beat Lewis Hamilton to win the 2017 Formula 1 Rolex Australian Grand Prix. Hamilton’s new Mercedes team mate, Valtteri Bottas, completed the Albert Park podium.

After shadowing polesitter Hamilton throughout the race’s opening stages, Vettel leapfrogged the silver car at the first round of stops. From there the German never looked back, taking the chequered flag seven seconds clear to clinch Ferrari’s first win since Singapore 2015, with team mate Kimi Raikkonen fourth.

Red Bull never looked like troubling the podium and Max Verstappen was a fighting fifth. Team mate Daniel Ricciardo’s miserable home weekend continued, however.

After a gearbox penalty had dropped him to 15th in the starting order, his RB12 then stopped en route to the grid, stuck in sixth gear. It was recovered to the garage and the Australian joined proceedings two laps down, only to retire for good at half distance with an engine failure.

Williams veteran Felipe Massa was a distant sixth, ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and the Toro Rosso duo of Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat. Esteban Ocon completed the points on his Force India debut.

Nico Hulkenberg’s first Renault drive garnered 11th place, while Sauber stand-in Antonio Giovinazzi was 12th on his F1 debut. McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne completed the cars to reach the finish.

Romain Grosjean had the dubious honour of becoming 2017’s first retirement, when he pitted his smoking Haas at the end of Lap 14, and Jolyon Palmer followed shortly after, conceding defeat to ongoing brake issues on his Renault.

Marcus Ericsson parked his Sauber on the grass on Lap 24, and Kevin Magnussen – with whom the Swede had clashed on the opening lap – did the same with his Haas at the very same spot 26 laps later.

A strong drive from Williams rookie Lance Stroll ended in retirement on Lap 44, while Fernando Alonso completed the DNF list, the Spaniard pulling his McLaren into the garage less than five laps from home.

RACE RESULTS

POS. DRIVER TEAM TIME POINTS
1 SEBASTIAN VETTEL FERRARI 1:24:11.672 25
2 LEWIS HAMILTON MERCEDES +9.975s 18
3 VALTTERI BOTTAS MERCEDES +11.250s 15
4 KIMI RÄIKKÖNEN FERRARI +22.393s 12
5 MAX VERSTAPPEN RED BULL RACING +28.827s 10
6 FELIPE MASSA WILLIAMS +83.386s 8
7 SERGIO PEREZ FORCE INDIA +1 lap 6
8 CARLOS SAINZ TORO ROSSO +1 lap 4
9 DANIIL KVYAT TORO ROSSO +1 lap 2
10 ESTEBAN OCON FORCE INDIA +1 lap 1
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Formula One Open Wheel

Ferrari Optimistic Over SF70-H’s Potential

Many teams finished Formula 1’s period of eight days of pre-season testing with confidence, but one team is pleased with their potential to be at the front end of the grid.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel believe that their new SF70-H car is an improvement on their 2016 model which took the Scuderia to third place in the Constructors’ Championship.

Both drivers spent time on top of the timesheets during the Barcelona tests, with Raikkonen fastest on three days and Vettel fastest in one. Raikkonen also set the fastest time of testing on the final day, a time of 1:18.634, over 3.3 seconds quicker than the 2016 pole position time set by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

The Finn said that he doesn’t know where the team is compared to their rivals, but he is comfortable with his new car ahead of the first race in Australia on March 24-26.

“There’s a good feeling with this car and that’s the most important thing,” he said. “We have been reliable for almost all of these days of testing and that is another good sign of the great work the team has done over the winter.

“We are starting from a stronger base than last year: but it’s really too early to say how fast the car is compared to the others. Perhaps even Melbourne won’t give a 100 per cent precise picture of the situation, because the first race is always a bit unusual.

“We might have to wait until China. Either way, I’d like to thank everyone in the team because they have always managed to step in and sort out all the small problems that testing is supposed to resolve.”

Vettel believes that the team is in a better position compared to 2016. Ferrari was the only team last season to claim points from every race, claiming 11 podiums in total.

“The important thing is that we have completed a lot of laps and, compared to a year ago, we feel better prepared because of that,” he said. “At this point lap times don’t mean anything: we followed our program and made progress but there’s still room for improvement.”

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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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

Ferrari Releases SF70-H Machine

The car displays keep on coming as Ferrari became the fifth team to release details of their 2017 car.

Ferrari released the SF70-H car which will take to the track during the 2017 Formula 1 season. It is a change in its recent naming scheme which has incorporated the year of the season with the car, such as the SF15-T or SF16-H machines.

It is not publicly known why the year has been skipped, although 17 is the retired racing number of the late Jules Bianchi, who had worked with the team during his career. A rumor from a now-deleted tweet from sponsors Santander previously hinted that their car name could feature a tribute to Bianchi, potentially being called the SF17-JB.

Their design features a predominantly red car with a white lower rear wing and white shark fin placed on their engine cover, a now-common feature of F1 cars. The most striking and unique part of the design is their smaller sidepod air intakes which appear higher up the sides of the car than their rivals.

Other parts of their car seem to be tried and tested in the sport, including sticking with their ‘puzzle’ or ‘thumb’-shaped nose design that every team is currently using on their 2017 models apart from Mercedes.

The look of their drivers has also changed, with a significantly less amount of white displayed on the suits of race drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

This is the first car created under the leadership of chief technical officer Mattia Binotto after now-Mercedes engineer James Allison left the team in July last year.

Pressure will be on the Italian team this year as the 2016 season was just the second time in 23 years in which the team failed to win a race throughout the year. They have not failed to win a race in two straight years since tough seasons in 1991 and ’92.

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

Vettel to Fellows – “Why Don’t We Race Here?” at CTMP

Back when Formula 1 began racing in Canada, it was Mosport Raceway which held the event. Ron Fellows, one of the current owners of the track, got to attend one of those races in 1969.

“Certainly for me, going to the Canadian Grand Prix was great for an 11-year-old,” he told a group of reporters at the Canadian International Auto Show. “I got there in the morning, sat at the top of the corner. Seeing the cars come out for the first time was incredible. I can remember it like last yesterday. It obviously had an effect as then; I wanted to get on the other side of the fence and been very fortunate to have a nice career.”

While the event was a success in those days, the race hasn’t remained there. With the track and scenery fading away, F1 pulled the plug, and a new location was chosen – Montreal, Quebec.

Now under the Canadian Tire Motorsports Park banner, Ron Fellows along with his partner Carl Fidai have revitalized the track, building new buildings, trackside suites, improving the corners, as well as putting together a new karting track. Their efforts have been rewarded as IMSA Sportscars, and NASCAR each visit the facility during the year, with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 being a must-attend event for fans every year.

“Certainly with my partner Carl Fidani, we are simply caretakers of the next generation of the facility,” Fellows said. “We’re here to take it to another level. One of the good things about this sport is it has so much passion, more than any other sport. We’re pretty passionate about hockey, but there’s like auto racing. It’s just a privilege to be racing at, and now being a track co-owner. It’s been a great adventure. I’ve learned a ton from my partners.”

Despite the changes, F1 has yet to return to the road course in Bowmanville, Ontario – and understandably so, with everyone enjoying the picturesque views and challenge that Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve poses every year.

It doesn’t mean that there haven’t been discussions surrounding a possible return, though. While Sebastien Vettel was at the track for a sponsorship event, a conversation between Fellows and Vettel led to the question being asked.

“We went to the board room, and he wouldn’t stop talking,” Fellows said. “We talked about track rental, track times and he goes, ‘Why don’t we race here?’ I go, ‘Can I quote you?’. He thought a lap time would be in the 55-second rage – and the track record is 1:04.”

Though while the F1 cars of today don’t look like they will return, the F1 cars from the previous decades will be returning this June, when the Masters Historic Racing Series takes to the track.

For fans that are interested in Formula 1 history, there’s a special exhibit currently on display right now at the Canadian International Auto Show.

Taking place at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre from February 17 and 26, the event offers manufacturers the opportunity to showcase their new car line-ups for the year, as well as concept cars. There is also other significant automobile-related exhibits featured throughout the event – including 50 Years of Grand Prix Racing in Canada. The display features seven racecars, including the Williams F1 car driven by Villeneuve at the 1997 European Grand Prix in Spain to the championship. Details surrounding the show can be found at http://www.autoshow.ca.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

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Formula One Open Wheel

THREE TAKEAWAYS: Abu Dhabi GP

After American racing ended, Formula One and its sister series’ were the only thing left to look forward to until the end of the year.

Apart from announcements over next year with the calendar and three seats still to be sorted, the period of waiting and trying to kick off the withdrawal symptoms until the sounds of engines and cars gets the blood pumping in the first few months of next year.

ABU DHABI DECIDER

The final F1 race of 2016 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was a bit like an end of semester day, just waiting for the inevitable to happen with Nico Rosberg walking away with the title.

This could be conceived because of his consistent driving; however, the circuit in question is yet to give an exciting championship decider.

This year’s contest was the third to happen at the circuit after Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s 2010 and 2014 victories to win the title, and it was the first time the title has been won by someone not winning the race in the country.

Question marks will remain whether it should be moved on the calendar in future years to bring a bit more entertainment to the final race in circuits such as Interlagos in Brazil.

FERRARI OPTIMISM?

Vettel used an interesting strategy that was unique to those around him, going from ultrasoft tires to softs then using supersofts for his final stint.

The Ferrari driver led laps during the middle part of the race and caught up to pass Max Verstappen and was incredibly close to a shock win, albeit because of the pace of the Mercedes cars in front.

After the race, he believed that this could be used as inspiration to develop their next car for the 2017 season.

“I hope it gives some momentum to all of us,” he said. “It has been a tough year, with lots of ups and downs, so I am really happy with the result. About our global performance in 2016, I think we don’t need to find any story or invent something.”

He agreed with the thoughts of many that Ferrari could have had better results in the first few races of the season had they capitalized on strategy and Mercedes start errors.

“I think we expected more; but after the first half, where we could have scored more points, I think we showed real strength by coming back. In the last couple of Grands Prix we had very good race pace, always enough to match Red Bull, and probably even a bit quicker: but that was not the case on Saturdays, and that made Sundays more difficult.

“Overall we showed the stamina the team has. The spirit is unbroken, and I know that we will work hard, because Ferrari deserves to come back.”

Ferrari could well improve in 2017, but Mercedes and Red Bull are expected to be top-two teams at the start of next year. The Italian team could be left in a zone not fast enough to challenge and not slow enough to lose third place in the Constructors’ Championship.

His podium finish means that he finishes ahead of Verstappen in fourth place in the championship. The German finishes with 212 points, eight more than his Dutch rival.

REACHING THE PEAK?

Force India completed a dream 2016 season with another double points finish in Abu Dhabi.

Nico Hulkenberg finished seventh, one place ahead of teammate Sergio Perez, for a third straight double points haul and fifth in the last six races.

The result leaves Perez with 101 points in the Drivers’ Championship, the first time a Force India driver has finished with over 100 points, with Hulkenberg on 72. This secured their fourth-place finish in the Constructors’ Championship.

It is a great achievement, but it is surely the highest they will ever get in the Constructors’ Championship. They don’t have the budget of other teams who can throw money at problems and move up the pecking order. They still have the talent of Perez to help them secure points, however, if he improves any further he will surely be moving on to another team in future.

In other notable championship finishes, Fernando Alonso confirmed a tenth place finish by finishing tenth in the race. Williams’ Felipe Massa did finish ahead of him in ninth on track but needed to finish eighth or higher to steal the position from the Spaniard.

Other championship positions remained the same after a mostly unsurprising race.

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

THREE TAKEAWAYS: Brazilian GP Qualifying

A subdued amount of surprise came during qualifying for the Brazilian Grand Prix. With rain forecasted for the weekend, a large rainfall has not been seen yet, with just minor drops falling at a stage in the session.

As a result, another dry session came to a usual ending – Mercedes leading the way. Lewis Hamilton took a 60th pole position of his career, joining Ayrton Senna (65) and Michael Schumacher (68) as the third pilot to reach the milestone.

He also won the FIA Pole Trophy for the second year in a row, with the pole being the 11th of his season, the most of any driver.

Other stories have emerged during the weekend so far to make headlines.

FERRARI APPEAL FIA OUTCOME… AGAIN?

On the Friday of the Grand Prix weekend, the FIA rejected Ferrari’s appeal over Sebastian Vettel’s penalty at the Mexican Grand Prix after the team claimed that ‘new elements’ had emerged.

Vettel was given a ten-second time penalty, moving him from third to fifth in the final classification, after being found to have driven ‘potentially dangerously or erratically’ while defending against Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo during the Mexican race.

The team put in an appeal, but it was denied after the stewards from the race found that the team’s evidence had already been known in the previous race, and there was nothing new to discuss.

“Scuderia Ferrari argued in its written submission that the ‘new element,’ in accordance with Article 14.1, existed. In its verbal submissions, it also argued that there were two ‘new elements’,” a statement from the FIA read.

The team believed race director Charlie Whiting could have told Max Verstappen to give his third place to Vettel before the Ricciardo incident happened.

“In relation to the matter of the race director having the ‘power’ to instruct the driver of Car 33 to give back the alleged advantage, we note firstly that the relevant article gives the race director ‘absolute authority’ to allow the driver to give back a position,” the statement continued. “It does not imply an obligation to do so. The fact that the race director did not exercise his discretion is not relevant to the decision taken in Document 38.”

Ferrari also presented evidence from GPS they believed brought something new to the discussion.

“In relation to the GPS data, we note that this data is available to teams during the race,” the statement read. “It is also available to, and referred to by, the stewards in the Stewards Room during the race.”

The team could again appeal this decision if they want to, which they have apparently have now done. It is unclear what the team could gain from another analysis of the event, or if their evidence will again be heard.

GROSJEAN’S BEST QUALI PERFORMANCE

Excellent performance on the track is surely the perfect birthday present for Gene Haas, who turned 64 on the Saturday of the race weekend.

Indeed, Romain Grosjean stood out as one of the drivers of the session by setting a lap time good enough for seventh on the grid.

It is the highest position that a Haas car has ever outright qualified in in the sport; however, Grosjean did start seventh in Japan, moving up a place because of grid penalties applied to other racers.

The weekend has been an interesting one for the team.

Grosjean had a busy first practice session of tests, spending an installation lap with the halo device attached to his car before spending nine laps on Brembo brakes and a further 15 on Carbone Industrie material.

Using both types of brakes on the same track at a similar time and a similar temperature should be enough evidence of good data for the team to rely upon. The team will hope that this can be a breakthrough to end recent struggles with brakes during weekends.

After qualifying, he confirmed the use of new brakes and the team’s focus on such a troubling area of the VF-16 car.

“It’s good to be back in Q3, especially after the last two races where we were out in Q1 and really struggling,” Grosjean said. “Here we’ve been trying some new brakes, focusing on making them work as well as we could. The feeling was good right from the beginning and the cooler track conditions really helped us a lot.”

Grosjean was in an optimistic mood, saying he did not expect to reach the top-ten shootout for pole and that he has faith with the current pace of the car.

“There are still plenty of margins to improve for the future,” Grosjean said. “We’re always learning more about what we need to do, but we really weren’t expecting to be in Q3 today. Generally though, when we do get things working well together, we’re quite fast, which is encouraging.”

OCON PENALIZED

There is just one thing that the stewards had to give their thoughts on after the session after an incident during Q1.

Manor’s Esteban Ocon will start the race from the back after being given a three-place grid penalty after qualifying after an incident with Renault’s Jolyon Palmer. The Frenchman initially claimed 20th on the grid ahead of Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr.

It will be the seventh straight race that Ocon has started from one of the last three grid positions. It is the first time that Ocon has been given a grid penalty in his short Formula One career.

Formula One has spent a while without any penalties, with the last grid affected by racers moving because of demotions being in Japan at the start of last month.

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.