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British F3 Testing: Ushijima and Lubin top Thursday morning sessions

The BRDC British Formula 3 Championship returns to the Silverstone GP circuit this weekend, and the drivers were out on track testing on Thursday morning.

Reece Ushijima (Hitech GP) went fastest in the first session, two tenths clear of Alex Connor, with the Arden Motorsport man a further two tenths ahead of Ushijima’s team-mate Bart Horsten.

The front two rows were made up by Hitech and Arden, with Frederick Lubin setting a 1:56.592 around the GP circuit for fourth place.

Championship leader Zak O’Sullivan was fifth for Carlin, just behind Lubin and less than half a tenth clear of Javier Sagrera (Elite Motorsport).

The other two Carlins of Bryce Aron and Christian Mansell ran line astern in seventh and eighth, while Sebastian Alvarez (Hitech) and Tom Lebbon (Elite) rounded out the top ten.

Jeff Gordon steps away from Fox booth, becoming Hendrick Vice Chairman

After six seasons, Jeff Gordon is stepping down from his colour commentator role at Fox Sports as he takes an elevated role at Hendrick Motorsports. On Wednesday, HMS announced the four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and team co-owner will assume the position of Vice Chairman, effectively making him the second-in-command to owner Rick Hendrick. His new duties begin on 1 January 2022.

“I cannot put into words what Hendrick Motorsports means to me,” said Gordon. “In many ways, it’s my home and the people here are my family. I’ve never lost my passion for the organization, for our sport, and for the sheer challenge of racing and winning at the highest level. Being part of the competition is where I’m happiest and feel I can make the biggest contribution to the continued, long-term success of the team. Rick and I have a shared vision, which is based on the values he’s instilled, the culture he’s built and our desire to be the very best in all categories, on and off the track.”

Gordon spent his legendary Cup career racing exclusively for Hendrick from 1992 to 2015 (including a backup driver stint in 2016), during which he won ninety-three races and four titles. In 1999, he became an equity owner in the team and it is widely expected that Gordon takes over full operational responsibilities in the future.

“Jeff and I have talked about this for many years, and I feel it’s a natural evolution for him and our company,” commented Hendrick. “I’ve always been impressed with his business instincts. On some level, he’s been involved in every major decision we’ve made over the last two decades, and his influence has continued to grow since he stopped driving. He understands our culture, our values, and the importance we place on our people and our partnerships.

“I love racing and competing, and Jeff is the only person I know who hates to lose as much as I do. I feel great physically and have no plans to go anywhere anytime soon, which is exactly why it’s the right time. In the years to come, I couldn’t be more energised about working arm-in-arm with him and cementing the future of Hendrick Motorsports together.”

Kyle Larson, Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland on Pocono poles

Four races among three divisions await the NASCAR Cup, Xfinity, and Camping World Truck Series at Pocono Raceway. On Saturday, Todd Gilliland will lead the Truck field to green in the CRC Brakleen 150 while Kyle Larson does so for the Cup Series’ Pocono Organics CBD 325. Sunday’s Pocono Green 225 will see Harrison Burton on the Xfinity pole. The Xfinity event will be by the Cup Series’ second race, the Explore the Pocono Mountains 350, which will have its starting lineup set by invert of the top twenty from the Saturday round.

Cup: Larson seeking fourth straight from pole

Larson has been on a tear in his first season with Hendrick Motorsports. After the first fourteen races of the season featured eleven different winners including Larson, he has won every Cup event he has taken part in since late May. Riding a three-race win streak (four if including the All-Star Race), Larson will start on the pole at Pocono for the first time since his rookie year in 2014. In twelve starts, his best finish is second in 2018; he won the Xfinity race there in 2016.

Hendrick team-mate William Byron starts second at one of his stronger tracks. The 2019 Race #1 pole sitter has top tens in all but four starts at Pocono.

A trio of driver changes from Nashville took place. Cody Ware returns to his #51 Rick Ware Racing car after skipping Nashville to make his NTT IndyCar Series début (J.J. Yeley drove the #15), while James Davison is back in the #15 RWR machine last driven by Joey Gase. Timmy Hill will run his first Cup race since Talladega in April in MBM Motorsports‘ #66, who fielded the #66 for David Starr and the #13 for Chad Finchum at Nashville. Finchum, whose Nashville start marked his first Cup run of the season, is not entered at Pocono.

The Sunday race will have its starting lineup set by an inversion of the top twenty from Saturday, meaning Saturday’s twentieth place starts on the pole for Sunday. Such a plan was initially set for the 2020 weekend—Pocono’s first year with a doubleheader—before being switched out for cars on the lead lap as multiple tracks held doubleheaders to make up for lost dates due to COVID-19.

“I can see determination in every member of the team” – Mercedes’ Toto Wolff

The French Grand Prix left both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas frustrated, the team threw a possible one-two away after poor strategic judgement.

Mercedes now find themselves slipping behind Red Bull Racing both in the drivers and constructors standings, with their title rivals proving they are seriously up for the fight this season.

The Silver Arrows don’t have to wait long to start the fightback, with this weekends Styrian Grand Prix hosting the second round of the triple header, a venue that Mercedes have had their ups and downs.

The weather is due to take a turn for the worse all weekend with heavy rain forecast, something which may not bother Hamilton who took an unbelievable wet pole at the circuit last season.

It is of course Red Bull’s home race this weekend and next, Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff would love nothing more than seeing the championship lead swing back into Mercedes hands at Red Bull’s home, Wolff’s team are locked and loaded into getting the top spot back.

“We need to be ready to maximise any opportunities” – McLaren’s Andreas Seidl

The McLaren F1 Team go into the Austrian double-header, on the back of their best overall finish of the season in France. Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth and sixth respectively, adding crucial points to the teams tally.

If the predicted forecast is anything to go by, this weekends Styrian Grand Prix could be an eventful one with rain forecast for the entire weekend. This throws a huge element of surprise into the paddock with very little wet running being done so far this season.

It could make for an unexpected result come Sunday at the circuit where Norris took his first podium in Formula 1 last season. The weather could mean that some huge opportunities could be thrown at some of the midfield teams, McLaren Team Principal Andreas Seidl knows how important it is to make the most from every chance.

“After a well-executed race in France, we come away from the first race of the triple-header with crucial points for the Constructors’ Championship. We now switch our focus to Austria as we prepare to go racing in the Styrian hills for the next two weekends. 

“Two races back-to-back at the same track present an interesting challenge as we could have two very different races due to certain conditions such as the weather. So, it’s important we treat every race as a single event with the same preparation despite it being the same track. As a team we must continue to work hard to maintain good reliability and remain on top of parts management during this intense period. 

“It’s a special place” – Norris Returns to Scene of Maiden Formula 1 Podium

Mclaren F1 Team’s Lando Norris is full of excitement to be heading back to the Red Bull Ring this weekend, the British driver took his first ever podium in Formula 1 there last season, something he will hope is on the cards this weekend.

Last time out in France it was another strong result for Norris who after finishing fifth, continues his run of being the only driver to finish every race in the points this season. Norris will at least be hoping to keep the run going this weekend at a grand prix close to his heart.

“I’m really looking forward to going racing in Austria for the next two weeks. It’s a special place as it’s where I got my first podium in Formula 1. We had two strong back-to-back results in Austria last season, so I’m hoping we can have a similar two weekends this time out.

We can’t get ahead of ourselves as a lot of things are different from last year, like the car and tyres. We’ll go into these two races with our heads down and take it one step at a time to try and have two results like we managed in France, but also working hard on improving our qualifying performance.”

“We’ll be pushing hard” – Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel Ricciardo also had a successful French Grand Prix, the Australian crossed the line in sixth place to cement one of his best finishes for Mclaren so far.

“The goal is to continue our points-scoring form” – Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel continued his points scoring run last weekend at the French Grand Prix after finishing ninth, just ahead of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team team-mate Lance Stroll who crossed the line in tenth.

The team go into this weekends Styrian Grand Prix on a strong run of form, Vettel is hoping that his personal points run can continue this weekend after making some great progress over recent races.

The German stands in good stead to keep his run going, the Red Bull Ring tends to be one of the more exciting rounds of the championship, usually with a safety car or two!

“The goal is to continue our points-scoring form in Austria and maintain our consistency. It’s a great circuit to race at because it’s such a quick lap but with plenty of high-speed and difficult corners. It feels great when you can hook the car up for a lap.

“It is always challenging to race at the same circuit back-to-back because the margins become increasingly small the more laps we do, but that makes it exciting.”

“The Red Bull Ring is a superb test of the Formula 1 car” – Williams’ Dave Robson

Williams Racing go into the Austrian double header back in ninth place in the constructors standings, after George Russell’s excellent twelfth place at the French Grand Prix saw the team move back ahead of the Uralkali Haas F1 Team outfit.

Williams’ Head of Vehicle Performance, Dave Robson, is hoping the cars performance this weekend will benefit from improvements made in France, at a venue notorious for unpredictable weather!

“The Red Bull Ring is a superb test of the Formula 1 car, demanding power, aerodynamic efficiency and good braking. The location of the circuit in the Styrian Mountains makes for a dramatic visual setting but also places some heavy demands on the car.

“The big elevation changes and high altitude have a big impact on the cars’ performance. The track surface and the heavily handed nature of the circuit place additional demands on the tyres.

“For the Grand Prix of Styria, which is the first of two back-to-back races here in Zeltweg, Pirelli bring the traditional compound allocation for this circuit of C2, C3 & C4. This is the middle of the Pirelli range and is the same as we used last weekend in France, and they should offer a good solid set of compounds for this event.

“For the subsequent Grand Prix of Austria, we switch to the softer combination of C3, C4 & C5, which are the compounds that we had in Monaco and Baku.

“We made some improvements to the FW43B in France and this weekend we will be looking to consolidate those gains and to confirm the performance uplift in slightly different conditions.

“The weather conditions can be quite mixed here in Austria, even in late June and so we will be prepared for blisteringly hot sunshine and heavy rain! Both drivers are familiar with the circuit and enjoy being here. As a team we are looking forward to two weeks of racing at this fantastic circuit.”

“Austria always offers some great racing” – George Russell

After a season best twelfth place finish last time out in France, Williams Racing‘s George Russell is happy about the quick turnaround, hoping that he can further understand the car.

After his brilliant performance at the French Grand Prix, the Williams team moved back ahead of the Uralkali Haas F1 Team outfit and into ninth place in the constructors standings. The Red Bull Ring has thrown up many surprises in the past and with the forecast looking extremely wet, could this weekend see Williams finally get some points?

Russell is looking forward to some exciting racing across the two races in Spielberg.

“I’m glad that we’re straight into another race week off the back of a good result in France. Austria always offers some great racing with the three good straights and some very nice high-speed corners at the end of the lap, so even though it’s a very short circuit, it’s a fun one to drive.

“Two races at the same circuit gives opportunities to try different set-ups between the two, and potentially understand the car further. Overall, I’m excited to have this quick turn around and get cracking!”

PREVIEW: 2021 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship – Silverstone GP

The 2021 BRDC British Formula 3 Championship arrives at Silverstone for the second round of the season on 26/27 June.

The series supports the Intelligent Money British GT Championship, which will contest the three-hour Silverstone 500 at the weekend, as it did at the end of last season.

The British F3 drivers will visit the Northamptonshire circuit again on 14/15 August, this time topping the bill without British GT.

What happened last time at Silverstone?

British F3 visited Silverstone for the final round of 2020, and hosted what began as a four-way title fight going into the last three races of the season.

Ulysse de Pauw‘s hopes were dashed after a crash exiting The Loop in Race 1, while Louis Foster enjoyed a more consistent weekend, taking two fifth places in the first two outings.

Schumacher: “I’ve always been very happy around the Red Bull Ring”

Mick Schumacher describes the Red Bull Ring circuit as a ‘very special track’ ahead of the double-header there, which starts with the Styrian Grand Prix this weekend.

The 2019 FIA Formula 2 champion has driven around the circuit before in his junior career, winning multiple times in Formula 3, but wasn’t the greatest in terms of results from his time in Formula 2 – with a pair of fourth-place finishes in six race starts.

However, Schumacher believes the Red Bull Ring has been a great track for himself and says he enjoys driving around the track.

“I’ve always been very happy around the Red Bull Ring; it’s been a great track for me and I’ve been fast. In terms of luck, maybe it wasn’t always my race, but I think in general we’ve had the pace.

“In 2019, it was the first race where I had the pace to stay with the top runners, even though it was a lap down, and I was just as close as what Nyck de Vries was doing at the time, and he won the championship that year.

“The teams have plenty of data on this track” – Pirelli’s Mario Isola

The FIA Formula One World Championship moves onto the next part of the triple header this weekend with the Styrian Grand Prix. Just like last season the Red Bull Ring in Austria will hold back to back races, but this year with a key difference.

Pirelli have opted for different tyre compounds for each Austrian Grand Prix, this is so different strategies can be played out over the two races at the venue, adding an extra element to each grand prix.

For this weekend it will be the C2, C3 and C4 tyre compounds in use, the second softest combination. For the final race of the triple header again at Austria in just over a weeks time it will be the C3,C4 and C5 compounds in use, the softest range of Pirelli’s tyres.

The same strategy was used last year by Pirelli at Silverstone over the double header there. Those who can remember the British Grand Prix from last season will recall the volume of tyre failures and that dramatic last lap!

The softest combination is viable for the Red Bull Ring, the circuit isn’t too demanding on the tyres, despite its short and rollercoaster like style. This weekend looks set to be the traditional one-stop race usually seen at Austria, however the following grand prix may require two-stops with the softer tyres in use.

Carlos Sainz Jr.: “We really struggled with degradation”

Carlos Sainz Jr. said Scuderia Ferrari struggled with tyre-wear throughout the weekend in France, and that carried into the race on Sunday as neither driver finished in the top ten.

The Spaniard driver suffered from degradation regardless of the compound, especially on the second stint with hard tyres that saw, and that saw Sainz begin to fall down the pecking order and out of the points.

Ultimately, Sainz finished seven seconds behind tenth-place Lance Stroll, with George Russell also closing in on the Ferrari driver. But Sainz is confident the team can address this issue ahead of the double header in Austria.

“It is clear that today we didn’t perform well and that we lacked pace,” Sainz said. “ Since the very beginning we really struggled with degradation and we carried that issue through the entire race, regardless of the compound.”

“Despite my best efforts, it was impossible to hold our initial position. We must analyse what happened, understand the issue and try to address it. If there is a team capable of doing that, it’s this one. A double header in Austria awaits and I’m sure we will bounce back.”

Sebastian Vettel: “Maybe we could have finished a bit higher up if things had been perfect”

Sebastian Vettel said the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team needed to try something different during the French Grand Prix on Sunday, and they were rewarded with both cars finishing inside the top ten.

The German made a mistake in his first stint that saw him lose a little time to his rivals, and without that, he believes he could have caught those ahead of him quicker and given him a chance of bettering his ninth-place finish.

Ultimately, Vettel finished just four seconds behind sixth-placed Daniel Ricciardo, with Pierre Gasly and Fernando Alonso also involved in the battle.  But the German was pleased with the strong performance put in by Aston Martin after struggling in Qualifying on Saturday.

“I think we had to do something different with the strategy today [by pitting late] and it worked out for us quite nicely with both cars inside the points,” said Vettel.  “Unfortunately, I went off the track in the first stint and lost a lot of time because I was just pushing a bit too hard.

“Without that, I would have been closer to the group of cars ahead and with fresher tyres at the end. So maybe we could have finished a bit higher up if things had been perfect.

Fernando Alonso: “We can be a bit more relaxed that this is our real position”

Fernando Alonso admitted the French Grand Prix was a return to the kind of form the Alpine F1 Team had been showing prior to the Monaco and Azerbaijan Grand Prix, and he was happy with his eighth-place finish at the Circuit Paul Ricard.

The Spaniard admitted the tyre degradation seen in France was more than expected, but he was able to manage his race well to secure four points for Alpine in their home Grand Prix.

Alonso finished on the back of the battle for sixth behind both Daniel Ricciardo and Pierre Gasly, but he was unable to make any kind of move on those ahead before the chequered flag fell.

“We started ninth and finished eighth and all in all we executed the race how we wanted, so I am happy with the result today,” said Alonso.  “We weren’t expecting the tyres to degrade like they did and our Medium tyres didn’t last very long at the beginning of the race.

“I was a little bit worried but when we switched to the Hards we showed strong pace and we carried this through to the end and it looked like we might be able to overtake Gasly and Ricciardo ahead in the last few laps.