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Island X Prix moved to July, becomes doubleheader and Ocean X Prix replacement 

Extreme E will have to wait two more months before resuming. On Friday, the series announced “unforeseen circumstances” have forced the Island X Prix in Sardinia, Italy to be moved from its original 7/8 May date to early July to form a doubleheader week: one round will be held on 6/7 July, while the second on 9/10 July replaces the Ocean X Prix.

The Island X Prix is held on a military installation in Capo Teulada, located in southwest Sardinia. The site obviously means the Italian military’s activities take priority over racing, and the postponement comes as the base’s personnel prepare for training exercises. Such sessions are of higher necessity nowadays, especially in Europe, as the world watches the Russo-Ukrainian war and faces its international impact.

“Of course it’s a shame to postpone our event, but we are a global series which operates in full cooperation with our hosts and these circumstances are outside of any of our control,” stated Extreme E CEO Alejandro Agag. “We are working closely with our Sardinian hosts, along with our teams and our partners, on alternative plans and appreciate everyone’s flexibility as of course we are facing serious matters which must take priority and which put our situation into humble perspective.”

The Ocean X Prix, which took place in Senegal in 2021, was already uncertain prior to Friday’s announcement. When the 2022 schedule was released, the event was listed as being held in either Senegal or Scotland, the latter of which was a candidate to hold a replacement date after COVID-19 forced races in Brazil and Argentina to be cancelled. By having two potential sites, one could serve as a fallback in the event that the other was unable to host. However, rumours gradually surfaced of Senegal’s unavailability, and although the British government invested £1 million into organising a round on Scotland’s Outer Hebrides, such plans will not come to fruition this season.

With the schedule change, the first Island X Prix will mark the inaugural Extreme E event held on a weekday as 6/7 July are on Wednesday and Thursday. After taking the day off on Friday, Saturday and Sunday will see the second X Prix.

“Overtaking will be difficult on Sunday” – Alpine’s Alan Permane

The BWT Alpine F1 Team had an incredible opening day to the returning Australian Grand Prix, with both Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon ending the day well inside the top ten.

The A522 appears to be performing strongly at the newly surfaced and transformed Albert Park Circuit, as Alonso ended Friday in a brilliant fourth with Ocon close-behind in sixth.

The Spaniard ended the opening day just under six-tenths behind pacesetter Charles Leclerc, whilst Ocon was almost nine tenths off the Monegasque driver. Only three tenths separated the two Alpine drivers, Alonso’s best lap was a 1:19.537, whilst Ocon’s was a 1:19.842.

The new surface has clearly done its job, in eliminating the usual bumpy surface that normally greets the drivers and replacing it with a beautifully smooth one. Alpine’s Sporting Director, Alan Permane, discussed this point as well as the team’s opening day performance.

“It’s great to be back in Melbourne as it’s certainly one of the highlights of the Formula 1 calendar. The recent resurfacing and track modifications have transformed Albert Park from one of the bumpiest to a smooth and flowing circuit. In terms of our performance today, we can be reasonably pleased with the cars in both practice sessions, there’s still work to do, especially in extracting the most from the Soft tyre on the first timed lap for qualifying.

“There are some balance issues that we need to solve” – Fernando Alonso

2006 Australian Grand Prix winner, Fernando Alonso, had an excellent opening day at the Albert Park Circuit after finishing Free Practice 2 in a superb fourth place.

It was a great performance by the Spaniard, who was delayed slightly in Free Practice 1 after a few small issues. Alonso was ninth after the morning session but rose towards the front of the field in the afternoon, eventually ending up in fourth place. The Double World Champion ended the day just under six tenths behind pacesetter Charles Leclerc, who looked blisteringly quick Down Under.

Despite ending the day fourth, Alonso believes there is still more time to find, after reporting some balance issues at the end of the day.

“We had some minor things that delayed us a little in Free Practice 1, but we still managed a pretty normal day for us. We completed a good amount of running and got a lot of information from both sessions. There are some balance issues that we need to solve, especially on the higher fuel runs.

“I obviously saw the track yesterday, but I think the changes are positive and the lap is obviously much quicker now. I’m not sure if there will be more overtaking on Sunday, but let’s see. It’s definitely great to be back here in Melbourne.”  

Charles Leclerc: “I don’t think that anyone really put their lap together”

Scuderia Ferrari had another positive day on Friday as they topped both free practice sessions at the revised Albert Park circuit, but Charles Leclerc says there is a lot more time to find before Qualifying.

Having finished second fastest behind team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. during the morning session, Leclerc took over at the top in the afternoon, with his time of 1:18.978 seeing end the day with the new lap record, two-tenths of a second clear of Max Verstappen.

However, despite setting the pace, the Monegasque racer feels no one showed their true pace on Friday, and he expects times to tumble during Saturday’s running in Australia.

“For me, today was a bit of a harder Friday,” admitted Leclerc.  “FP1 was a bit tricky, I improved in terms of driving in FP2, but there is still quite a bit of work to do.

“I don’t think that anyone really put their lap together. Qualifying is tomorrow, when hopefully we’ll have a good run. Let’s push!”

“You can actually attack the corners” on new surface – Max Verstappen

It was a solid start to the Australian Grand Prix for World Champion Max Verstappen, who ended the first day at the Albert Park Circuit in second place, behind Scuderia Ferrari’s, Charles Leclerc.

Verstappen looked strong on the opening day in Australia, the Dutchman played around with the set-up of his RB16 most of the day after complaining about it’s balance throughout Free Practice 1 and the start of Free Practice 2. However after some adjustments were made, Verstappen felt much happier and was able to post a 1:19.223, just two tenths off of Leclerc.

Verstappen believes himself and the team are heading in the right direction, the World Champion also commented on the improved track surface.

“Today has been quite positive, the grip on track was good and the bumps have definitely improved, it’s a bit smoother and it makes the track nicer as well because you can actually attack the corners a bit more, I enjoyed my laps today. I think in FP1 and at the beginning of FP2 we were lacking a bit of balance, then for the final run we changed the car around a little bit and I felt a lot happier. We are still a tiny bit off Ferrari, but I think this weekend we can maybe make it a little bit closer. 

“In the long run I think everything worked well, so I am happy about that, and we’ve made some good improvements today. We are heading in a good direction and we’ll try to build from there tomorrow.”

“Hopefully I’ll be a bit better tomorrow” – Kevin Magnussen

Round three of the 2022 FIA Formula 1 World Championship commenced with practice on Friday at the Albert Park Circuit, as teams prepared for Sunday’s fifty-eight lap Australian Grand Prix. The event marks Formula 1’s return to Australia, following two years of cancellation due to the pandemic.

Kevin Magnussen came into Free Practice One feeling a bit under the weather, as he had been battling a bout of nausea overnight. Magnussen recorded eighteen laps sampling both the Medium and Soft tyres. His best time of a 1:23.186 which was set on the softs, put him in eighteenth position at the end of the opening session.

Magnussen did improve in Free Practice Two. The Dane completed twenty-three laps with his best time of a 1:21.191 on the soft compound once again, leaving him in sixteenth position.

Magnussen looked back on a difficult day for himself and the Haas F1 Team, with his full attention now on qualifying tomorrow.

“I didn’t feel great when I woke up this morning but we still managed to get some laps in and get a feel for the car. Hopefully I’ll be a bit better tomorrow, build from there and have a good qualifying again. It looks like we have a bit of work to do on the low-fuel balance whereas high-fuel balance seems more in the window, so that’s the focus.”

Returning Sebastian Vettel Left Disappointed After Friday Struggles

Sebastian Vettel finally made his return to action, after missing the opening two rounds due to testing positive for COVID-19. Unfortunately, his return was marked in disappointment, as he ended Free Practice One with his AMR22 parked at the side of the track. The German suffered a power unit issue which saw him miss all of Free Practice Two and needing a new power unit.

Free Practice One gave Vettel an opportunity to get used to his car properly for the first-time this season, at the new look Albert Park Circuit. He started the session well recording eighteen laps, with his best time of a 1:21.661 putting him in thirteenth position.

However, Vettel’s first practice was cut short as he stopped his car by the side of the track due to a power unit issue. Comically, Vettel was then seen scooting back round to the paddock on a Moped, waving to the Australian fans in the process. Vettel was unable to take part in the rest of the day’s running with a new power unit having to be installed ahead of Saturday.

Vettel reflected on his difficult opening day but remains positive on the cars performance as he now looks ahead to qualifying.

“It was a shame to have to finish FP1 earlier than we would have liked and then not be able to take part in FP2 because today was an important day for me in terms of getting back up to speed with the car and learning a new layout.

Ash Hand set for BTCC debut with Power Maxed Racing

Power Maxed Racing has today (FRI8APR) announced that Ash Hand will make his debut in the British Touring Car Championship (BTCC) during the 2022 season partnering Michael Crees in the Vauxhall Astra.

Hand comes into the BTCC with pedigree having battled with Ash Sutton, current three-time BTCC Drivers’ Champion in the Renault Clio Cup and tested as a result with Motorbase Performance but went on instead to begin a career in British GT where he sealed the GT4 category in his debut year.

So expectations will be high for Hand in his debut season with a multi-year deal penned to begin his Touring Car foray with the Adam Weaver ran squad.

“This is a dream come true for me,” said Hand. “The dream after this one is a race win in the BTCC and after that is to be crowned BTCC Champion. The deal we have put together, I believe, gives me the best possible chance of achieving this. A multi-year deal securing my future in BTCC is the holy grail of deals as a race driver.

“Adam [Weaver] and I have been working on this for years and to be honest this is something all racers generally only dream of. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Adam for the faith that he has already put in me and the work he has put in over the last few years to help get this over the line and put me out in one of his cars. I promise I am going to reward that with the results that he and all the team deserve.”

Leclerc on Top in Second Australia Practice as Ferrari/Red Bull Battle Continues

Charles Leclerc further lowered the lap record around the revised Albert Park track on Friday afternoon as Scuderia Ferrari and Oracle Red Bull Racing continued their rivalry at the front of the field.

But it was another tough session for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team as neither Lewis Hamilton nor George Russell were able to break into the top ten.

After finishing second fastest to team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr. in the morning session, Leclerc posted a time of 1:18.978 to beat Red Bull’s Max Verstappen to top spot by 0.245 seconds in the cooler afternoon session despite the Dutchman doing an extra qualifying simulation compared to the Monegasque racer.

Sainz kept himself in contention by setting the third fastest time, just under four-tenths of a second behind his team-mate, while fourth went the way of BWT Alpine F1 Team’s Fernando Alonso as the Enstone-based team showed good speed throughout the day in Australia.

Alonso’s best time put him ahead of the second Red Bull of Sergio Pérez, with the Mexican 0.680 seconds off the outright pace of Leclerc and 0.435 seconds behind team-mate Verstappen.

William Byron dominates final stage for Spire’s first Truck win

NASCAR Cup Series regular William Byron has only two Camping World Truck Series starts since 2016, but he is batting .500. He dominated the final stage of Thursday’s Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 at Martinsville Speedway to score the maiden Truck Series victory for Spire Motorsports.

A rained-out qualifying meant Byron started thirty-second in his one-off for the part-time Spire operation, while Zane Smith was on the pole. Smith, who won the latest race at COTA, led every lap in Stage #1 in a segment that saw three cautions for accidents. Ben Rhodes won the second stage and he and much of the field pitted between segments, while Byron made his final stop twenty laps prior.

Byron’s strategy paid off as it placed him at the top for much of Stage #3, which saw a battle between former and current Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers as Byron traded the lead with Chandler Smith four times. He cleared Smith on lap 117 and led the remaining eighty-four laps to secure his eighth career Truck win.

“It was a lot of fun,” commented Byron. “[…] I’ve never won a race at Martinsville and struggled here when I was in late models.”

Spire Motorsports, a full-time Cup team, enjoys its second ever trip to Victory Lane and first in the Trucks in just three tries. The first win came at the Cup level in 2019, incidentally with a part-time driver in Justin Haley at Daytona.

Sainz Leads Leclerc in Opening Australian Grand Prix Practice at Revised Albert Park

Carlos Sainz Jr. started the Australian Grand Prix weekend on the front foot as he topped the first free practice session around the revised Albert Park circuit on Friday morning.

All twenty drivers were experiencing the updated track for the first time after modifications since Formula 1 last raced there in 2019, and it proved tricky for many, particularly on the exit of the widened turn three.

Scuderia Ferrari had the edge on the rest of the field, with Sainz leading team-mate Charles Leclerc at the top of a twice red-flagged session, the first for debris from the Oracle Red Bull Racing RB18 of Sergio Pérez and the second for an engine issue for Aston Martin Aramco Cognizant F1 Team’s Sebastian Vettel.

Sainz was the only driver to dip below an eighty second lap time during the session, with the Spaniard setting a time of 1:19.806, while a trip across the gravel trap for Leclerc meant he ended up more than half a second down.

Despite causing the red flag, Pérez ended the session third fastest, just 0.022 seconds back on Leclerc, with the Mexican’s team-mate and reigning World Champion Max Verstappen a further two-tenths of a second back in fourth as the battle at the front again looks to be one between Red Bull and Ferrari, as it has been in the opening two rounds.

Matt Jaskol departs G2G as Kaleb Honeycutt makes debut

Matt Jaskol‘s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie season has come to a grinding halt. On Thursday, hours before the series’ race at Martinsville Speedway, Jaskol announced he has left G2G Racing due to a contractual dispute involving him, the team, and his sponsor Auto Parts 4 Less. In his place, Kaden Honeycutt will make his Truck début in the #46 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.

“As the news is breaking that I will not be in the #46 Nascar truck tonight at Martinsville, VA for G2G Racing, I want to clarify that this was not the decision made by myself nor my sponsor, but rather G2G Racing,” wrote Jaskol on Instagram. “Even with the short comings and set backs of the first few races, we had a contract and agreement for a full season effort and we were committed to the team to see that effort through. Unfortunately, on Sunday of this week (4/3) G2G Racing requested to modify the contract between my title sponsor AP4Less but we where unable to accommodate their request. It was then decided by they team they needed to go in a different direction and opted to suspend our contract.

“This decision by the team has left me disappointed, as I felt I had worked very hard and faithfully delivered my best efforts under the terms of the contract along with putting forth much effort to help grow their new team. At this time I am exploring several other opportunities and hope to make an announcement soon. I am unsure what the future holds for my self with the team but I wish G2G well with their future racing endeavors. This is most definitely not the end, merely a small detour to more opportunities.”

Jaskol joined G2G for the full 2022 season after running a limited Xfinity Series schedule the previous year, bringing sponsorship from the 4 Less Group with him. After failing to qualify for the first two races, with the second at Las Vegas coming in the team’s #47, he replaced Brennan Poole as the #46’s Vegas driver and ran the next three events. He scored a nineteenth at Atlanta. At the time of the announcement, he was twenty-eighth in points.

G2G, owned by Tim Viens, is a new operation. However, Jaskol’s departure adds another chapter to the team’s increasingly rocky existence. The team was supposed to field the #47 full-time along with the #46, with the #47 expected to be split between 2016 champion Johnny Sauter, Viens, and Roger Reuse; however, the #47 did not enter Martinsville as G2G wanted to focus on the #46. Samuel LeComte attempted to run COTA in the second truck but missed the show.

Zhou Guanyu: “I am confident we will have another performance at the level we expect”

Zhou Guanyu will race at Albert Park for the first time this weekend, although the Chinese driver is unconcerned about learning the track as the changes made to it will make first practice a learning one for all drivers.

The Alfa Romeo F1 Team ORLEN driver has driven strongly in the opening two races, scoring a point on debut in Bahrain and only missing out on a top ten in Saudi Arabia due to a drive-through penalty for a pit lane infringement caused by one of his mechanics.

Zhou is confident that the Australian Grand Prix will be another strong one for Alfa Romeo, but he knows everything will need to run like clockwork if they are to return to the points this weekend.

“Melbourne is one of those special races – I remember watching the opening Grand Prix of the season over the years and the special feeling that gave me,” said Zhou.  “I am really excited about being here and I can’t wait to get to know the track, as this is somewhere completely new to me.

“The first practice session will be very important to get full confidence around the new layout but I am not too concerned about it – my main focus is to extract the most out of the car, as in every other weekend.

Mercedes’ Toto Wolff: “The first two weekends have shown we still have plenty to learn”

Toto Wolff says there will not be a ‘magic fix’ to solve the problems the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team have had in the opening two races of 2022, but they are working extremely hard to solve those problems and bring themselves into the battle at the front of the field.

Lewis Hamilton took a podium finish in the opening round of the season in Bahrain but struggled to tenth place in the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix, although George Russell has begun his full-time Mercedes career well with a further an a fifth to lead his more experienced team-mate in the Drivers’ Championship.

Wolff, the Team Principal at Mercedes, says they will need to maximise their results while they continue to learn about the W13, but the whole team are ready for the challenge.

“We are in a learning race and the first two weekends have shown we still have plenty to learn,” admitted Wolff.  “At the moment, our track performance is not meeting our own expectations, but everyone at Brackley and Brixworth is focused on understanding the problems and finding the right solutions.

“There won’t be a magic fix for the next race weekend, but we’re pushing to steadily bring gains over the up-coming races, to hopefully move us closer to the front of the pack. Until then, we need to maximise each opportunity and make the most of the package we have.

NASCAR upholds RFK Racing penalty

The RFK Racing #6 car’s 100-point penalty will not be dropped by NASCAR, the sanctioning body announced Thursday. The team appealed the verdict to the three-person National Motorsports Appeals Panel, who ruled against its favour.

The #6, driven by co-owner Brad Keselowski, received an L2-level penalty after the Atlanta race in March for breaking Sections 14.1 and 14.5 of the rulebook regarding vehicle assembly and body. The rules focus on certain parts for the Next Gen car that were supplied from a single source, and were therefore prohibited from being modified by teams upon getting them. Extreme cases like teams counterfeiting such parts could result in disqualification from playoff eligibility.

In the #6’s case, it was found to have violated clauses C and D of Section 14.and clauses A and D of 14.5. 14.5.d states that “external surfaces of body panels may be wrapped or wrapped with paint applied to the wrap. Any external wrap or coating must be removable. Textured paint or vinyl will not be permitted.”

As a result of the points penalty, one of the largest in NASCAR’s modern history, Keselowski took a massive drop in the points from sixteenth to thirty-fifth. A fourteenth and thirteenth at COTA and Richmond in the two races since the penalty have allowed to climb up the order somewhat to thirty-first, though he still has a ways to go if he wishes to make the playoffs. Even if he makes the postseason by winning a race and cracking the top thirty in the regular season standings, he would still be at a disadvantage as the penalty included docking ten playoff points.

“Although we are disappointed in the outcome of the appeal hearing, we are advocates of the process NASCAR has set forth and appreciate the opportunity to make our voice heard in the matter,” read a statement from the team. “With that in mind, we do not intend to pursue this further and our focus remains on our upcoming races, with Martinsville up first this weekend.”