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Bottas Leads Hamilton and Verstappen in Opening Sochi Autodrom Free Practice Session

Valtteri Bottas topped the opening free practice session of the Russian Grand Prix weekend on Friday, with the Finn edging out Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team team-mate Lewis Hamilton by two-tenths of a second.

Under blue skies, the twenty drivers took to the track for the opening running of the weekend at the Sochi Autodrom, which included Kimi Räikkönen after the Finn’s two-race absence following a positive COVID-19 test during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend.

Bottas, who will be leaving Mercedes at the end of the season, hit top spot early on when running on the hard compound Pirelli tyre and then improved significantly on the soft, with his best time of 1:34.427 edging out Hamilton by 0.211 seconds and Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen by 0.227 seconds.

Charles Leclerc, who will take a grid penalty on Sunday following an engine change, was the only other driver to get within one-second of Bottas’ time, with the Scuderia Ferrari driver fourth, 0.690 seconds back.

Sebastian Vettel will be encouraged by the performance of his Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team machine as he placed fifth, just ahead of Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda’s Pierre Gasly, while Carlos Sainz Jr. was seventh in the second Ferrari.

Entries for 2021 World RX of Belgium Revealed

The entries for the sixth round of eight in the 2021 FIA World Rallycross Championship have now been revealed by the FIA as the rallycross drivers are back at the legendary Spa-Francorchamps track on 9/10 October.

Like for most part of this season, the entries have been relatively low to what we are used to see in the World RX class and this time again there are 11 drivers confirmed to take part.

Joining the event held at Ardennes forests of Belgium will be the defending world champion Johan Kristoffersson in an Audi S1 driving for the Swedish powerhouse KYB EKS JC and will be joined alongside by the local hero Enzo Ide, who made his rallycross debut in Spa at the last visit in 2019.

Credit: Jaanus Ree / Red Bull Content Pool

The Hansen brothers of Kevin Hansen and Timmy Hansen, who have been unstoppable so far this season with back-to-back one and two on the podium in Barcelona, Höljes and Lohéac are also in and looking to close in on the championship title.

GRX-SET World RX Team have been struggling with their pace in the early-season but after the podium finish for Niclas Grönholm in Lohéac and two final appearances for Krisztian Szabo, and with a track that suits the Hyundai i20’s which was proven by their win with Timur Timerzyanov on the last time in Spa, this could be the chance to take one more.




Block Teams Up With Audi for Electric Cars Development

Ken Block has announced partnership with the German car manufacturer Audi to help the brand with the electric car developments; the news comes just under a year after he and his company Hooningan announced the split of their longtime partners Ford.

American rally driver Block has become known over the years not only for his athletic accomplishments, but also for his Gymkhana videos he has made as an ambassador for Ford.

The partnership of Block and Ford have included 19 wins and 17 other podium finishes in both rally and rallycross, two X Games medals and the first points taken by an American driver representing Ford in the FIA World Rally Championship.

Block and Ford’s Gymkhana videos, as well as various breath taking projects from the Ford Mustang “Hoonicorn” to the Ford F-150 “Hoonitruck”, have garnered well over a billion views on social media.

Credit: Hoonigan

In January 2021, Block announced that the partnership with Ford would end after 10 years. The matter was not insignificant for Ford either, as the end of the partnership was announced in a video in which CEO of Ford, Jim Farley himself warmly thanked Block for his years together.



SEASON PREVIEW: 2021 Nitro Rallycross

American rallycross is set to resume after a year-long hiatus with Nitro Rallycross’ first full season. The series will finally branch into a full-fledged championship for the 2021 season featuring five tracks and seven teams to compete for gold. New faces and old return as the series kicks off this Friday at the Utah Motorsport Campus in Salt Lake City. 

Some familiar faces return from past iterations of American rallycross such as Tanner Foust, Travis Pastrana, and Steve Arpin but without some new competition. A total of 14 drivers are competing in the top level of Nitro Rallycross, while five will participate in the lower tier support class NRX NEXT. Those top-tier drivers include some of the fastest Swedes in Timmy Hansen and Robin Larsson, but also the likes of British natives Liam Doran and Oliver Bennett.

With a large accumulation of drivers, Nitro Rallycross sees a total of seven teams enter competition with some familiar names. The privateer teams of Loenbro Motorsports and Xite Energy Racing plan to make their mark on the series featuring a new Hyundai i20 for Arpin and the Mini for Bennett. 

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will reserve two Audi S1 for Americans Tanner Foust and Cabot Bigham. However, the Audi S1’s are not limited strictly to DRR as Monster Energy RX Cartel will also drive them in supporting Liam Doran and Robin Larsson. 

Meanwhile, Red Bull Hansen make their highly anticipated return after winning the last race in 2019 with Kevin Hansen and Former World Rallycross Champion, Timmy Hansen piloting a pair of Peugeot 208’s.

Aston Martin announce Martin Whitmarsh as Group Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin Performance Technologies

Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team have announced the impressive signing of Martin Whitmarsh, a very familiar name to the Formula 1 paddock who from the start of October, will be the Group Chief Executive Officer of Aston Martin Performance Technologies.

Whitmarsh is best known in Formula 1 for his time at the Mclaren F1 Team from 1989-2014, where he took on a variety of roles including Group Chief Executive Officer but most famously as Team Principal from 2008-2014. Whilst under Whitmarsh, Mclaren launched Mclaren Automotive and Mclaren Applied Technologies, he was also Chairman of the Formula One Teams’ Association from 2009-2013.

Executive Chairman of the team Lawrence Stroll, is extremely pleased to have someone of Whitmarsh’s calibre, onboard with the Aston Martin project.

“I am very pleased to announce that Martin [Whitmarsh] will be joining us as Group Chief Executive Officer of the new Aston Martin Performance Technologies, from October 1st 2021. 

“Martin will enjoy senior leadership responsibility and will assist and support me in setting the new strategic direction for Aston Martin Performance Technologies and its subsidiaries, including the crucial objective of leading the transformation of Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One™ Team into a Formula One World Championship-winning organisation within the next four to five years, and evolving it into a £1 billion business over a similar time period. 

“Martin has enjoyed a long, successful and high-profile career, spanning the motorsport, automotive, aerospace, marine and renewable-energy sectors. Moreover, he is a proven winner in Formula One. He is therefore the ideal person for the job of working with me and our senior management team to lead and inspire our workforce to future success both on and off track.”

“I don’t think being back will feel any different” – Kimi Räikkönen

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN go into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix with a familiar face back in the garage, as Kimi Räikkönen returns this weekend at the Sochi Autodrom.

The 2007 world champion had to sit out the last two races at Monza and Zandvoort, after testing positive for the Coronavirus during the Dutch Grand Prix. Räikkönen was of course replaced by Robert Kubica for both rounds, with the Polish driver doing a solid job.

The Finnish driver who is retiring at the end of the season, is glad to be getting back into the car this weekend. Räikkönen isn’t expecting the weekend to feel any different despite not racing for a few weeks, the veteran is hoping to build on the improvements made by the team over the races he missed.

“I’m pleased to be back in the car after missing two rounds. Obviously nobody wants to test positive, but it happened and we had to follow the rules: but that is all in the past and now my focus is on Sochi. The team has shown some potential in the last few races, now we need to convert that into a good result. I don’t think being back will feel any different, I just want to get on with my job and hopefully have a good race.”

“We will give everything we have” – Antonio Giovinazzi

Since his Formula 1 career has been under-threat, Antonio Giovinazzi has been driving out of his skin. The Italian has been exceptional over the last couple rounds, although did make a silly mistake on the opening lap at Monza.

“I want to build on my Monza performance” – Daniel Ricciardo

The Mclaren F1 Team go into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix on the back of an Italian Grand Prix they will never forget, after finally stepping foot back on the top step of the podium.

Monza race winner Daniel Ricciardo still gets excited thinking about the last round. The Australian finally showed the pace he demonstrated on countless occasions during his period at Red Bull Racing. The team will be hoping his pace and confidence is back for good and that it wasn’t just a blip. Ricciardo on the whole has found his first season with Mclaren difficult, despite this he has put in the graft and in the end got the result himself and especially the team deserved.

The championship continues however and this weekend’s trip to the Sochi Autodrom, presents Ricciardo with a fresh opportunity to build on the performance shown in Monza, and target another big points haul.

“A week on from Monza, it still feels good thinking about being back on that top step of the podium. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect way to end a triple-header. I loved competing at the front of the grid and having the chance to fight for the win. The one-two finish is a product of hard work throughout the team and from myself. Since the start of my journey with McLaren I’ve been working through the challenges that come with adapting to a new car, but the team has been really supportive throughout.

“It’s great to have a result that completes that picture, and to have the team back in the winner’s circle has been a ride and I’ve only been a part of it for six months. It’s been the boost we all needed.

New Ford F-150 for 2022 NASCAR Trucks revealed

For the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, the Ford F-150 will sport a new look. On Thursday, Ford Performance revealed touchups for the F-150’s body to make it better resemble its street counterpart.

The most noticeable change on the new F-150 comes at the front, as the steel sheet metal hood is replaced with composite material (though the fender will stay steel). Development of the design came at the Ford Performance Technical Center in Concord, North Carolina, and the Ford design center in Dearborn, Michigan.

“We’re proud to be the first to show off our 2022 NASCAR truck today,” Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook stated. “The Ford F-150 is the pride of the Ford truck lineup so we’re glad to be able to update the race version to show off the dynamic front end styling that is truly F-150. We can’t wait for our teams to get on track with it next February in Daytona.”

Unlike rivals Chevrolet and Toyota, Ford maintains a fairly muted presence in the Truck Series with just two full-time teams in David Gilliland Racing and Front Row Motorsports, who field a combined three trucks for Hailie Deegan and Tanner Gray (DGR) and Todd Gilliland (FRM). Gilliland and DGR part-timer Ryan Preece have scored race wins for Ford in 2021 at COTA and Nashville, respectively; both races were special events as the former was the inaugural NASCAR’s inaugural foray at the Austin road course while the latter speedway was revived after a decade-long dormancy. Other teams to use the F-150 in 2021 include DCC Racing, NEMCO Motorsports, and Roper Racing.

Deegan, a Ford factory and development driver currently in her rookie year, débuted the new F-150 in a promotional video.

“We need to keep scoring double points finishes” – Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso goes into his first Russian Grand Prix this weekend since 2018, hoping that the Alpine F1 Team can produce another double points finish like they did last time out in Italy.

Alonso is looking forward to returning to the Sochi Autodrom, a circuit where in the past he has struggled in qualifying but made up plenty of places during the race. The Spaniard is aware that double points finishes are going to be essential to beat their constructor rivals in what has already been a very long season for all the teams.

“I’ve raced in Sochi five times before and it’ll be good to return there this weekend. In the past I’ve not had a great Saturday there, but then in the race I’ve made up quite a few positions. So, let’s see if we can put it all together this year. We need to keep scoring double points finishes like we did in Italy and capitalise on any opportunities that arise.

“It’s been a long season already, but I am really enjoying being back racing. The cars are great to drive and the team atmosphere we are building is very positive. We have hopes for next season, but we need to enjoy the rest of this year and I will keep pushing to get the best out of myself and the car.”

“The atmosphere in Russia is always good” – Esteban Ocon

Esteban Ocon who celebrated turning twenty-five last week, is looking forward to the Russian Grand Prix this weekend. The Frenchman is a fan of the circuit which looks set to be a challenge this weekend with heavy rain forecast across the weekend.

Charles Leclerc: “I believe every improvement is going in the right direction”

Charles Leclerc will start at the back of the grid for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix after Scuderia Ferrari opted to change to a new engine, one outside of his allocation for the season.

Regardless of where he qualifies on Saturday at the Sochi Autodrom, the Monegasque racer knows he will have a tough task on his hands to score points on Sunday, although the hint of rain gives him some hope that he will be able to make up some ground and bring home a top ten finish for the team.

Leclerc says the update is more aimed at gathering data for the 2022 season and doing the change this early into the season enables Ferrari to get as much information about it between now and the end of the season in preparation for next year.

“It’s not impossible to overtake at this track, so I’m ready to go on the attack,” said Leclerc.  “Also, the forecast is for rain maybe on Sunday, which could also produce an unpredictable and fun race. Obviously, our main rivals will be able to make the most of the fact I have a penalty.

“But apart from third place in the championship, I think our progress is clear to see. By Monza, the fourteenth race of the season, we already scored more points than we did last year after we had done three more races and we can be pleased about that. Also, as a team, we have come close to winning on at least two occasions, even if we didn’t quite make it.

PREVIEW: 2021 NTT IndyCar Series – Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach

It all comes down to this. After five long months, fifteen exciting races, the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season comes to an end, with a champion to be crowned this weekend on the iconic streets of Long Beach.

In only his second season in the sport, Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Alex Palou took the series by storm and sits atop the standings heading into the final race. Behind him is another young gun, Patricio O’Ward of Arrow McLaren SP, 35 points behind. Finally, Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden sits third as the massive underdog, but with his 48-point gap to Palou he’s mathematically still in the title fight.

For the sixteenth consecutive year, the championship will be decided in the final race of the year, so the question remains, “who will be crowned the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion?”

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach.

WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?

Like the other west coast races last season, COVID-19 restrictions meant that there was no Grand Prix of Long Beach in 2020. In 2019, Alexander Rossi put on an absolute clinic at Long Beach claiming the pole position and race win.


Sebastian Vettel: “We’ll be looking to maximise every lap on track and then fight for points”

Sebastian Vettel feels the Sochi Autodrom is almost the complete opposite to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, with completely different characteristics meaning a completely difficult set-up.

The Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team driver missed out on points two weeks ago in the Italian Grand Prix, finding himself shuffled down the order early and then finishing twelfth. However, he is eager to return to the top ten in Russia and bring himself back into contention for a top ten placing in the Drivers’ Championship in 2021. 

And Vettel knows that will only be possible if he is able to get into a rhythm early, which means maximising the track time available in order to perfect the set-up of the AMR21.

“Sochi is almost the opposite of Monza – plenty of corners and a constant challenge,” said Vettel. “There are some high-speed sections, and a huge main straight, but the slow, technical corners mean you need a good set-up if you’re going to feel comfortable across the weekend.

“We’ll be looking to maximise every lap on track and then fight for points on Sunday.” 

“You get some nice fights and overtaking moves” – Pierre Gasly

Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda will be hoping that their woes at the Italian Grand Prix last time out, won’t be repeated this weekend at the Russian Grand Prix as the team looks set to get back into the points at the Sochi Autodrom.

Despite qualifying superbly, Pierre Gasly suffered a torrid sprint qualifying after crashing out on the opening lap, before suffering an equally disappointing race after being forced into retirement in the opening laps due to a mechanical issue.

The Frenchman goes into the Russian Grand Prix hoping to bounce back strongly after performing so well this season. Sochi has been a successful venue for the Frenchman in the past, Gasly qualified in the top ten at the circuit last season and then finished the race in ninth.

Gasly is trying to remain positive despite the disappointment of what happened in Italy and is looking forward to Russia this weekend.

“What happened in Monza was regrettable, as I believe we could have done something good there, especially when you look at how the race went. The weekend ended very badly for the team, for me and for Yuki after our performance had been very good leading up to the race and I had a super Qualifying. A real shame, but there has been a positive trend after the summer break as our performance level was very good at all three races since then. 

George Russell: “I feel rested and recovered after the recent triple-header”

George Russell says he feels rested and recovered after a week off away from the racetrack after the resumption of the Formula 1 season following the summer break saw a run of three consecutive races in three weekends.

Heading into the Russian Grand Prix this weekend, Russell is on a run of three top ten finishes in four races, and he is eager to break into the top ten once more at the Sochi Autodrom.

The Williams Racing driver is eyeing up another strong result around what he feels is a demanding circuit for both man and machine, with the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team-bound racer looking to score points again on Sunday.

“I feel rested and recovered after the recent triple-header and ready to go back racing once again in Russia,” said Russell.  “It’s a demanding track with some tricky sections along with some fast corners which make it a challenge for both the driver and the car.

“The Olympic Park in Sochi is also a unique location to go racing and rushing past some of the venues for the Winter Olympics makes for a spectacular backdrop.

“It will be quite a demanding weekend for Nikita” – Haas’s Guenther Steiner

The Uralkali Haas F1 Team go into this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix hoping for better fortunes than the Italian Grand Prix last time out. Rookie driver Nikita Mazepin is also preparing for his first ever home grand prix in Formula 1.

Monza was a disaster for Haas with their drivers colliding yet again, something which Team Principal Guenther Steiner will not be wanting to deal. Especially this weekend at the Sochi Autodrom where a lot of eyes will be on Mazepin as the sole Russian driver on the grid. Not only this but the team’s title sponsor Uralkali, are also Russian and will be hoping for a successful weekend.

Steiner is aware that it will be a demanding weekend for Mazepin but is excited to see what the Russian fans bring to the atmosphere.

“I haven’t spoken with Nikita yet about it but obviously when I get there I will speak to him, if he’s got time for me! I’ve seen his schedule and what he’s got to do, only for media, and the attention he gets in Russia it will be quite a demanding weekend for him but hopefully a lot of people support him.

“Obviously, he’s not racing for the championship like Max is at the moment so the crowd may not be as big for him but I’m sure he has got a lot of fans there and let’s see what they come up with. I am interested myself in how far we can bring Formula 1 in Russia.”


RaceScene.com