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Williams Racing suffered a nightmare end to the first-ever Qatar Grand Prix, after both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi suffered late punctures resulting in Russell finishing seventeenth and Latifi retiring.

It was a disappointing way for Williams’ race to end, the team had opted for an aggressive one-stop strategy with both drivers, at a circuit where they knew the tyres would be pushed to their limit. Unfortunately for the Williams’ duo their tyres went over this limit, dropping Russell to the back of the field and leaving Latifi out of the race.

It brings a sad end to the final-triple header of the season for the team, who now look ahead to the final two races of what has been a memorable season for them. Head of Vehicle Performance Dave Robson highlighted the disappointment in both drivers suffering punctures, and that they deserve better from the final races.

“Having lost positions on the opening lap, we were keen on executing a one-stop race, which nearly half the field completed successfully. The first stint tyres were in good condition when we made our stop and so, with management, the one-stop race was viable and was our best opportunity to make progress.

“The car was working well and both drivers were comfortable and so to suffer the punctures so late in the race was a shame. Nicholas’s was especially annoying as it happened shortly after the pit entry and meant that he couldn’t negotiate his way back to the pit lane.

“Despite being at the final event of a tough triple-header, the team has worked tirelessly and performed well throughout, delivering a good race car to both drivers. We were unfortunate today and deserved better. However, we did a lot of things well and can be pleased with our work this week. We will be back in two-weeks’ time for the final events of the season, starting with the challenge of the awesome new circuit in Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.”

It was an unfortunate end to the Qatar Grand Prix for both George Russell and Nicholas Latifi, after both Williams Racing drivers suffered sudden front-left punctures. Russell eventually finished in seventeenth whereas Latifi retired from the race.

Russell started the race in fifteenth and opted for an aggressive one-stop strategy at the Losail International Circuit. The track was expected to be hard on tyres due to it’s fast flowing corners but no one could’ve predicted the quantity of punctures which would occur.

Russell suffered his puncture on lap forty-eight, which immediately ended his hopes of a good finish. Russell knew the tyres were going to be pushed and was disappointed for his race to have been affected by it.

“We had an aggressive strategy today and we were trying to push our final stint as long as possible. With the really high-speed right-hand corners at this circuit, the tyres were always going to be pushed to their limit but we had to be that aggressive to be in the fight with the Alfa Romeos.

“Unfortunately, the left front tyre punctured a few laps from the end so it’s one of those things. It was a shame for our race to end that way but ultimately, it’s nothing gained nothing lost, as our nearest rivals didn’t score any points.”

The Uralkali Haas F1 Team enjoyed a promising Qatar Grand Prix, with their car looking the most competitive it has been all season. Mick Schumacher finished sixteenth with Nikita Mazepin in eighteenth at the Losail International Circuit.

Haas enjoyed a solid race at Qatar, with both drivers completing a risky one-stop strategy, whilst others around them who went for the same strategy suffered sudden punctures. Schumacher was close to the Williams Racing and Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN duos for parts of the race, the German managed to finish above both Williams drivers who suffered punctures.

Mazepin did well to gather data during the race after a horrid weekend, the Russian’s weekend was ruined by technical issues restricting him to only around fifteen laps across Friday and Saturday.

Team Principal Guenther Steiner enjoyed the race and was happy to see the team in the mix.

“The race today was one of our better ones this year, if not the best. Both drivers did a good job – Mick was fighting with the Williams and Alfa Romeo’s which is unexpected. We didn’t get by them but at least we were in the mix, which was good for the whole team to see.

Mick Schumacher enjoyed a good race at the inaugural Qatar Grand Prix, finishing in a respectable sixteenth place ahead of both Williams Racing cars. Team-mate Nikita Mazepin finished eighteenth after an unfortunate weekend.

Schumacher had a great weekend at the Losail International Circuit, with the Uralkali Haas F1 Team car looking the most competitive it has been all season. The German made a great start on his soft tyres after starting nineteenth, and managed to pull-off a risky one-stop strategy. Others who tried the strategy suffered from front-left punctures, including both Williams drivers.

Schumacher was happy with his performance after the race and is amazed by all the hard work being done by his team.

“It was good, and we can be happy with what we achieved today. We made the strategy that we chose and committed to work. The start was pretty decent, we got Latifi at the beginning. The performance of the car was there, and we were right in the window. We were very close to the Alfas which is what we were expecting but on the other hand, not from the beginning of the year.

“It’s down to our teamwork committing to understanding the car as well as we do and having to work with what we have. We’re still now finding new things, finding new ways of improving.”

Elite Motorsport announced the second of a three-car GB3 Championship line-up on Thursday, with Ginetta GT5 Challenge runner-up John Bennett moving into single-seaters with the Norfolk outfit for 2022.

Bennett joins 2020 Ginetta Junior champion Tom Lebbon at Elite, finishing seventh in the GT5 Challenge standings as Lebbon took his title.

That first campaign in car racing started in Junior Rotax karting, and yielded three GT5 podiums and seven overall top-six finishes.

The 2021 season went even better, bringing a second-placed finish in the standings, with ten podiums and five wins at Thruxton, Brands Hatch, Silverstone, Snetterton and Donington Park.

His GB3 testing regime with Elite began in October, the 18-year-old trying out the outgoing Tatuus BF3-020 at Pembrey Circuit, Silverstone and Donington before teams receive the full upgrade package to make up the Tatuus MSV-022 over the winter.

Weeks after Kyle Busch finished fourth in his Nitro Rallycross début, another NASCAR Cup Series champion has thrown his hat into the ring. On Tuesday, NRX announced Chase Elliott will make his maiden rallycross start in the season finale at Florida International Rally and Motorsports Park on 4/5 December. He will drive the ZipRecruiter #GoNitro car that Busch piloted.

Elliott is a household name in NASCAR, having won the 2020 Cup championship and the Most Popular Driver Award in every year of NASCAR national series full-time competition. In 2021, he scored two wins and reached the Championship Round before finishing fourth in points.

While Elliott almost exclusively competed in stock cars, his schedule began to diversify in 2021 as he began competing in other disciplines. In January, he ran the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona for the first time, finishing sixth in the DPi class and eighth overall, followed by winning his lone Superstar Racing Experience start at the Nashville Fairgrounds in July. Elliott has also started dabbling in sprint cars and the USAC National Midget Championship.

It goes without saying that rallycross will be quite a different experience for Elliott. While he is the top Cup driver on road courses with seven of his thirteen career wins coming on such tracks, it will obviously take a bit more than prowess in turning left and right to succeed. Nevertheless, he expressed much interest in taking part, including posting on Instagram that he needed “to get in on this!!!”. When NRX founder Travis Pastrana visited the Cup race at Martinsville, he recruited Elliott to take part.

Busch scored a fourth-place finish in his first NRX start at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in mid-November. The following week at Glen Helen Raceway, the ZipRecruiter car was filled by FIA World Rallycross Championship ace Andreas Bakkerud who finished third. Both races were won by Pastrana, a former NASCAR full-timer.

For 2022, Spire Motorsports will be both a NASCAR Cup and Camping World Truck Series team. On Tuesday, the organisation announced it will expand operations to the Truck Series in 2022 with the leadership of general manager Mike Greci and crew chief Kevin Manion. A driver and number were not immediately revealed.

Founded in 2019, Spire was a multi-driver team throughout its first two seasons. In its maiden year, the team stunned many by winning the rain-shortened Daytona July race with Justin Haley. Corey LaJoie became Spire’s first full-time driver in 2021 as the team added a second car, the #77, to go with the #77.

Greci joins the team after spending the last six seasons at Hattori Racing Enterprises; under Grecei, HRE and Brett Moffitt won the 2018 Truck championship. Manion has worked for multiple teams with his most recent stint coming at GMS Racing with Zane Smith, who finished second in the standings both years. Nicknamed “Bono”, Manion has seven career Truck victories and seventeen in the Xfinity Series, the latter of which included winning two titles with Martin Truex Jr. in 2004 and 2005. Incidentally, Manion was Moffitt’s crew chief for the 2021 Road America Xfinity race.

“After spending the last three seasons establishing our footing in the NASCAR Cup Series, Spire Motorsports is eager to lean on Mike Greci’s leadership and build a competitive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team,” said Spire Motorsports co-owner T.J. Puchyr. “Mike’s résumé speaks for itself. He’s a proven winner and excels at developing young talent. We’re fortunate to add someone as accomplished as Mike to our roster. Being able to complement him with an experienced, championship-winning crew chief in Bono Manion creates a foundation that we expect to be successful right out of the gate.”

Spire joins Front Row Motorsports as Cup teams with Truck programmes.

It was another challenging weekend for the Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN team at the Qatar Grand Prix, after they finished the final triple-header of the season with Kimi Räikkönen finishing fourteenth with Antonio Giovinazzi in fifteenth at the Losail International Circuit.

After a disappointing qualifying for the team with both cars being eliminated in Qualifying One, Räikkönen and Giovinazzi both made excellent starts to the race making up four places each. The Finnish driver was twelfth after the opening lap with the Italian in fourteenth. From then on both drivers enjoyed battles in the lower midfield, whilst being sure to preserve their tyres. Four drivers saw their race hampered by a front-left puncture,thankfully neither Alfa Romeo driver suffered from one.

In the end fourteenth and fifteenth was the best the team could salvage, ahead of both Williams Racing cars and the Uralkali Haas F1 Team duo, as well as Valtteri Bottas who retired from the race.

Team Principal Frédéric Vasseur agreed that fourteenth and fifteenth was the maximum the team could salvage from the Qatar Grand Prix.

“We had a better Sunday after a difficult weekend, on a track that has been quite tough for our cars. Our pace through practice, qualifying and the race was affected by some damage we picked up during the sessions, so to pull together a good recovery drive like tonight’s, leaving behind the Haas and the Williams, was a positive.

It was a solid weekend under the floodlights for Kimi Räikkönen at the Qatar Grand Prix, after finishing close behind the Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda team. The veteran finished fourteenth with team-mate Antonio Giovinazzi just behind in fifteenth.

It was a good race by Räikkönen at the Losail International Circuit, the veteran made an excellent start to the race and found himself in twelfth by the end of the first lap, four places higher than where he started. From then on Räikkönen who like his team-mate was on a two-stop strategy, spent the majority of the race preserving his tyres to avoid a potential puncture. Four drivers experienced front-left punctures during the race, something Räikkönen managed to avoid.

The Finnish driver produced an excellent overtake on Nicholas Latifi in the closing stages, going around the outside at Turn 1. By the end of the race Räikkönen was catching the AlphaTauri’s in front but with not enough laps to do anything about them.

The 2007 World Champion enjoyed the battles he was involved in and was surprised to be able to overtake at the circuit.

“I was surprised by the overtakes we could do, in the end it was an entertaining race. I didn’t expect much at the beginning, perhaps to be able to race with some people as the car was pretty much the same as yesterday, but we had a good start and then things kept improving as the race went on. I had some good battles and by the end we were catching the McLaren and AlphaTauri ahead. I think we got everything we could out of this race.”

Rockingham Speedway has not hosted a NASCAR race since 2013, but turning laps there has left Mike Harmon with a significant disadvantage entering the 2022 Xfinity Series season months before the new year has even started. On Monday, NASCAR announced Harmon has received an L2 level penalty for violating the sanctioning body’s rules on testing, which he intends to appeal. Also announced during the day was Caesar Bacarella‘s indefinite suspension for violating the substsance abuse policy.

A week ago, Harmon brought his #74 Mike Harmon Racing cars to Rockingham for a charity event. Despite the function’s benign nature, NASCAR ruled Harmon’s participation as violating Seciton 5.1.a.c.d of the rulebook that prohibits using current vehicles in non-NASCAR-sanctioned tests. As a result, Harmon has lost 75 driver and owner championship points for the 2022 season, leaving him in the negative with three months before the opener. Crew chief Ryan Bell has also been fined $75,000 and suspended for the first six races of the year.

Harmon’s penalty drew comparisons to fellow Xfinity driver Alex Labbé‘s punishment in 2020 for driving his DGM Racing car at a Sports Car Club of America test on the Daytona Road Course. However, Harmon drove on a track that NASCAR does not currently race at while Labbé’s SCCA event came weeks before NASCAR’s first foray on the configuration. Regardless, Labbé’s appeal was successful.

“Today, we were notified by NASCAR that they handed out sanctions against MHR, Crew Chief Ryan Bell and the use of the 74 car at an exhibition charity event at Rockingham,” read a statement from Harmon. “This was not an intentional attempt to circumvent the rules that NASCAR has in place to ensure the integrity of the sport. In the over four decades of being in motorsports, I’m shocked at the penalties that were imposed on our team. We will be appealing NASCAR’s ruling as we are dedicated to the Xfinity Series, our great partners, fans and our supporters.”

Credit: Nate Vos

While Harmon has raced in the Xfinity Series since 1996, he significantly decreased his starts in recent years as MHR has hired permanent drivers. He finished thirty-ninth at Martinsville in his lone start of 2021.

Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda took a huge blow in their fight with the Alpine F1 Team for fifth in the Constructors’ championship, after neither Pierre Gasly or Yuki Tsunoda finished in the points at the Qatar Grand Prix.

It was a race to forget for AlphaTauri at the Losail International Circuit, after what was a strong qualifying for the team. Gasly started the race from the front-row for the first time in his Formula One career, with Tsunoda starting eighth. Both drivers endured painful races with the Frenchman and the Japanese driver massively struggling for pace. In the end the team scored zero points after Gasly finished eleventh with Tsunoda not far behind in thirteenth.

It was a disappointing end to what had been a good weekend for the team, the team’s result was made to feel even more sour after Fernando Alonso finished third and Esteban Ocon finished fifth for Alpine. It means Alpine now lead AlphaTauri by twenty-five points with two races to go.

AlphaTauri Technical Director Jody Egginton found the result hard to take with the result being a massive setback in their ques for fifth place.

“Tonight’s race has been a difficult one as both cars struggled with pace and tyre degradation. Yuki’s first stint was compromised when a visor tear off became stuck on the rear wing. This caused a loss of load and balance, necessitating the first stop being brought forward so it could be removed, which dropped him further back than ideal. With Pierre we were struggling with balance, as he had high front left tyre wear, meaning he could not follow the cars ahead.

Pierre Gasly must be wondering what could’ve been, after finishing eleventh at the Qatar Grand Prix despite starting the race from second on the grid at the Losail International Circuit. Team-mate Yuki Tsunoda struggled just as much in the race and finished thirteenth.

It could’ve been a special day for Gasly but instead it turned into a nightmare, the Frenchman who started from second after Max Verstappen and Valtteri Bottas were awarded grid penalties, had a shocking race. Gasly struggled with pace from the get-go, and quickly tumbled down the order. Gasly’s pace was a huge surprise, after looking quick throughout practice and qualifying.

Gasly left the circuit frustrated after what could’ve been an excellent day for himself and the team.

“It’s a really frustrating day. Both Yuki and myself started in the top 10, but went massively backwards during the race. I was giving everything I had inside the car today, but we were just too slow. Even at the start I wasn’t able to stick with Alonso, so we tried to go for an aggressive two stop strategy, but the pace just wasn’t there.

“It didn’t work today, which is really disappointing. After the incident yesterday we changed some parts on the car, I don’t know if these could have impacted our race pace today, but we’ll have to go away and review everything, as I just can’t explain it right now.”

The Mclaren F1 Team’s hopes of finishing third in the Constructors’ standings are all but over, after a highly disappointing Qatar Grand Prix which saw Daniel Ricciardo finish twelfth and Lando Norris ninth after a late puncture at the Losail International Circuit.

The triple-header could not have gone any worse for Mclaren in their fight for third against Scuderia Ferrari, the Qatar Grand Prix sealed off what has been a disappointing few weeks for the team. Norris was looking set for a top five finish which would’ve kept the fight well and truly alive, had it not been for a late front-left puncture forcing him into the pits for an unplanned stop.

Ricciardo too had a difficult race after starting towards the bottom third of the grid, his hopes of points were hampered as well by fuel issues during the race. Mclaren now sit 39.5pts behind Ferrari with two races to go, the team will be hoping for a miracle from the remaining two races.

Team Principal Andreas Seidl is thankful for his team’s hard-work, and that they all need a week to reset the batteries before the final two events of the brutal 2021 season.

“This triple-header didn’t go our way. Lando drove a strong race today and looked set for P4 on merit, thanks to a competitive car, good strategy and an excellent pit-stop. A puncture took him out of contention, and he finished P9. When that happened, his Hard tyre had done fewer laps than the Soft tyre did in his first stint, so this was very unexpected.

It was late heartbreak for Lando Norris at the Qatar Grand Prix, after a late puncture ruined the British drivers hopes of a top five finish. Norris ended up in ninth with team-mate Daniel Ricciardo finishing twelfth at the Losail International Circuit.

It was a disappointing end to what has been a tough triple-header for Norris, the British driver was comfortably looking at a top five finish before a late puncture forced him into an unplanned pit-stop. Norris was one of four drivers to experience a front-left puncture during the race, most likely caused by the horrible kerbs at the Losail International Circuit.

The extra stop dropped Norris to the foot of the points, behind both Scuderia Ferrari’s. Ninth was the best Norris could salvage from a difficult race. The Mclaren F1 Team driver was upset by the result after feeling confident in the race.

“A disappointing race. We could’ve scored some good points today. The car was very strong, I felt confident and we had good pace compared to everyone behind. Only Fernando [Alonso] had slightly better pace. I’m not sure we could’ve challenged for the podium, but we had good pace to go for P4, or at least P5, which would’ve been a great result for us. We lost that position through no fault of our own. It’s a huge shame, as the team worked really hard all weekend, but there was nothing we could do.”

“A weekend off is necessary” – Daniel Ricciardo

It was an equalling disappointing end to the triple-header for Daniel Ricciardo, the Australian made his life difficult in qualifying after ending the session fourteenth, leaving him with plenty of work during the race. With overtaking predicted to be difficult during the race, Ricciardo struggled to make much ground into the points, his hopes weren’t helped either by a fuel issue.

Mattia Binotto says Scuderia Ferrari’s result in Sunday’s Qatar Grand Prix has moved them one step closer to their goal of finishing third in the Constructors’ Championship in 2021, even if both Carlos Sainz Jr. and Charles Leclerc were forced to drive cautiously throughout the race.

Sainz finished seventh and Leclerc eighth on Sunday, with both being told to be cautious to prevent any unnecessary tyre wear around the Losail International Circuit.  The last time they raced on such an abrasive circuit was in the French Grand Prix where Ferrari failed to score a point as they struggled to maintain life in the tyres.

Binotto, the Team Principal at Ferrari, says the mechanics can be proud to have changed Leclerc’s chassis in time for the race without needing any kind of grid penalty, and both drivers can take credit for the way they drove as they extended their points advantage over the McLaren F1 Team to thirty-nine and a half points with only two races remaining.

“A result to be viewed in light of the championship, which has seen us take another step forward towards the goal we have set ourselves for this final part of the season,” said Binotto.  “We knew we might struggle at this track in terms of tyre wear, as was the case in Paul Ricard for example.

“We therefore asked our drivers to adopt a cautious approach at all times, without taking risks while trying to make a one-stop strategy work. It was a conservative approach, but given what we saw in the closing stages, it paid off.


RaceScene.com