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“It will be a very tight battle again” – Max Verstappen

Red Bull Racing have started their first of two home races at the Red Bull Ring in supreme fashion, with championship leader Max Verstappen leading both Free Practice One and Free Practice Two.

The opening day of the Styrian Grand Prix has been as close to perfect as it could possibly get for the championship leader, the closest competitor to Verstappen is impressively Mclaren F1 Team’s Daniel Ricciardo, but even he is just over +0.3s off!

Verstappen has certainly carried the momentum from last weekends French Grand Prix into this weekend, the Dutchman is of course eager to please the Red Bull bosses who will almost certainly be keeping a very close eye on proceedings.

The only difficulty for Verstappen across the opening day was getting stuck behind Williams Racing driver Nicholas Latifi in both of Friday’ sessions, the Canadian failed to observe the blue flag. Verstappen has possibly got more time to find therefore come Saturday, where the chances of rain are increasing by the second.

“Overall it’s been quite a good day for us and although there are a few things to look into, which is very normal for a Friday, I am quite happy with where the car is at the moment.

McLaren’s Andrea Stella: “Overall, the car seemed reasonably competitive”

Andrea Stella says Friday at the Red Bull Ring was productive for the McLaren F1 Team, with Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris ending inside the top ten in the afternoon session.

Neither Ricciardo nor Norris finished inside the top ten in the morning, with the Australian ending twelfth and the Briton sixteenth, although both were within one-second of the fastest time of the session set by Max Verstappen.

Changes to both cars in-between sessions saw a dramatic improvement, with Ricciardo setting the second-best time of the day with a 1:05.748, with Verstappen the only driver ahead of him.  Norris also improved to eight, just over two-tenths of a second behind his team-mate.

Stella, the Executive Director of Racing at McLaren, says the work the team was able to get a lot of work done despite the threat of rain in the area, and it appears the MCL35M appears to be competitive this weekend at the Red Bull Ring.

He hopes the team can find even more speed overnight ahead of final practice, with Qualifying on Saturday afternoon likely to be extremely close from front to back.

Daniel Ricciardo: “We made a step in feeling and confidence in the car”

Daniel Ricciardo admitted it was a ‘strange’ day at the Red Bull Ring on Friday as the expected rain did not arrive in either practice session.

Despite this, the McLaren F1 Team driver had a superb afternoon to finish an encouraging second fastest behind only Max Verstappen, with Ricciardo pleased with the changes the team made in between sessions after ending only twelfth in the morning.

Ricciardo still feels there is time to find overnight, but the Australian was happy with his day as he looks to kickstart his season.

“So, a good day. I’d say strange,” said Ricciardo.  “Strange because we were expecting a lot of rain, especially this afternoon and it didn’t quite arrive. We weren’t expecting two dry sessions. Whether that’s going to stay for the weekend, we’ll see.

“I think it was a productive Friday for sure. In the morning we were a little off the pace. We made a few adjustments for the afternoon and I think that was better. Obviously, the time sheets certainly show it was better.

Turkish Grand Prix Re-joins Formula 1 Calendar in Place of Cancelled Singapore Race

The Turkish Grand Prix will join the Formula 1 calendar in 2021 after all after it was announced that the Intercity Istanbul Park track will replace the already-cancelled Singapore Grand Prix.

Turkey was initially set to replace the Canadian Grand Prix but a rise in coronavirus cases in the country saw the race cancelled.  However, the Singapore Grand Prix was also cancelled, with the FIA continue to look at replacements in order to keep twenty-three races on the schedule.

However, Turkey has now come back in and will host a race on the weekend of 1-3 October, a week after the Russian Grand Prix and a week before the Japanese Grand Prix in a busy spell for Formula 1.

“We are delighted to be coming back to Turkey to Intercity Istanbul Park circuit,” said Stefano Domenicali, the President and CEO of Formula 1.  “We hope to see another fantastic race again in one of the best tracks in the world.

“We want to thank the Intercity Istanbul Park management and Mr. Vural Ak for his personal efforts to make this event to happen. We have shown that we can continue to adapt and there is huge interest in our sport and the hope from many locations to have a Grand Prix.

Bottas Handed Three-Place Grid Penalty for Free Practice Pit Lane Spin

Valtteri Bottas will drop three places on the grid for this weekend’s Styrian Grand Prix after stewards deemed his spin in the pit lane during practice on Friday afternoon was dangerous driving.

The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver lost control of his W12 as he pulled away from his pit box, with the Finn spinning and coming to a halt just outside the pit box of the McLaren F1 Team.

Luckily, no one from McLaren were in a position to get hurt, and they even assisted Bottas to get back facing the right way, although the team did radio in a message to the stewards about the incident claiming it was ‘ridiculous’.

Stewards immediately put the incident under investigation, and after the session, it was announced that Bottas would serve a three-place grid penalty and take two penalty points on his Superlicence.

It was revealed that Mercedes were attempting something different in Austria to try and make time up exiting the pit box, and as a result it was classed as ‘potentially dangerous driving’.

British F3 Testing: Lubin and Sagrera fastest on Friday at Silverstone

The BRDC British Formula 3 Championship is at Silverstone for the second round of the season, with testing taking place on Thursday and Friday at all rounds except Spa-Francorchamps.

Reece Ushijima (Hitech GP) and Frederick Lubin (Arden Motorsport) were fastest in the Thursday morning sessions, while Roberto Faria (Fortec Motorsport) topped the times in the afternoon.

Track action continued on Friday afternoon, with Lubin fastest ahead of team-mate Alex Connor in the fifth session of the test.

A dry track greeted the drivers for the first of two 35-minute sessions, with times quickly around those seen in the final session on Thursday, in which Faria set a 1:55.440 around the GP circuit.

Javier Sagrera set a 1:55.885 in the early stages, ahead of Bart Horsten and Zak O’Sullivan.

Verstappen Paces Second Practice as Hamilton Suffers with Track Limits

Max Verstappen kept Red Bull Racing at the top of the time sheets in the second practice for the Styrian Grand Prix on Friday, but the chasing pack this time was led by McLaren F1 Team’s Daniel Ricciardo!

After topping first practice earlier in the day, Verstappen was again the man to beat at the Red Bull Ring, with the current championship leader set a benchmark time of 1:05.412.

Lewis Hamilton had appeared to have beaten the time, but his 1:05.335 was struck from the record books as the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver was adjudged to have exceeded track limits.  His best legal time of 1:05.796 was good enough only for fourth.

Ricciardo’s best time of 1:05.748 therefore was good enough for him to end the day an encouraging second fastest to his former team-mate Verstappen, while Esteban Ocon was an impressive third for the Alpine F1 Team, with his team-mate Fernando Alonso fifth.

Sebastian Vettel continued his good recent form with the sixth best time for the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team, just ahead of the second McLaren of Lando Norris and the second Aston Martin of Lance Stroll.  The top ten was rounded out by Red Bull’s Sergio Pérez and Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s Antonio Giovinazzi.

Verstappen Leads Gasly in Opening Styrian Grand Prix Practice

Max Verstappen led Pierre Gasly in the opening free practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix at the Red Bull Ring on Friday as the top sixteen were separated by under one second.

Verstappen, the winner of last weekend’s French Grand Prix, was the only driver to dip below the sixty-six second barrier on Friday morning, with the Red Bull Racing ace setting a time of 1:05.910.

Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda, the sister team of Red Bull, had a great session with Gasly placing second, 0.256 seconds behind Verstappen, and team-mate Yuki Tsunoda up in fifth.

Reigning World Champion Lewis Hamilton ended up third for the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team, 0.422 seconds off the pace, with team-mate Valtteri Bottas ended fourth.  However, the Finn will likely be kicking himself as he was on course for a session-topping time only to run wide at the final corner.

The rest of the field were tightly packed, with even small mistakes severely punishable by the short nature of the Red Bull Ring.  Fernando Alonso was sixth for the Alpine F1 Team, just ahead of team-mate Esteban Ocon, while Lance Stroll was an encouraging eighth for the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team.

Ryan Norman joins Dale Coyne for IndyCar debut at Mid-Ohio

Ryan Norman‘s ascent through the Road to Indy ladder seemed to hit a snag after 2019, but he will finally get his shot in the NTT IndyCar Series. On Thursday, Dale Coyne Racing announced Norman will make his IndyCar début in the #52 Honda at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on 4 July.

The 2016 Atlantic Championship winner, Norman spent three years in Indy Lights with Andretti Autosport. After finishing eleventh in the standings as a rookie, he improved to a pair of fourth-place points finishes with wins at Gateway (2018) and Road America (2019). 2019 also saw him nearly win the series’ famed Freedom 100 at Indianapolis, where he was edged out by Oliver Askew by .0067 seconds.

Norman switched to sports cars in 2020 when he joined the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge. Driving a Hyundai Veloster N TCR for Bryan Herta Autosport, he and 2014 Indy Lights champion Gabby Chaves won three races and the TCR class title. In addition to driving for BHA in the MPC for 2021 alongside Parker Chase, he débuted in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, where he and his Forty7 Motorsports team finished second in the LMP3 class.

“My goal throughout my whole racing career has been to become an NTT IndyCar Series driver,” Norman stated. “So many years of hard work and sacrifices have finally paid off and I want to thank Dale Coyne for giving me a shot to show what I can do in the series.

“It’s an honour to be able to drive for DCR. They have shown over the years that they have created a great competitive programme and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together. I’m more prepared than ever before to show that I belong in IndyCar and can fight for podiums and wins.”

Frédéric Vasseur: “We head to Austria with the confidence we have what it takes to get back on track”

Frédéric Vasseur is confident that the team can ‘bounce back’ on a special weekend for Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN despite a disappointing result at the French Grand Prix that saw neither driver finish in the top ten.

Alfa Romeo are celebrating their 111th birthday this weekend, and on Thursday, it was unveiled that the team will be sporting a tribute on the livery of the C41 cars of Antonino Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.

Vasseur, team principal of Alfa Romeo, hopes the team can return to scoring points, especially on such a special weekend, and believes that the pack will be close together due to how short the circuit is.

“We head to Austria with the confidence we have what it takes to get back on track after France: we had been on an upwards path and we’re aiming to bounce back immediately and get back to scoring ways, and to do so on a special weekend for Alfa Romeo would be even more important.

“On such a short track, the field will be even closer: every detail will matter and we will need to ensure we deliver our best in every aspect as this is what it will take to come away with a good result.”

Kimi Räikkönen: “Our focus is fully on Austria and not on what happened in France”

Kimi Räikkönen says his attention has quickly turned to the Red Bull Ring ahead of the double-header after a disappointing weekend at French Grand Prix that saw the vastly experienced driver finish outside the points.

Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN’s driver started seventeenth on the grid at Paul Ricard circuit, and it didn’t look any brighter once 4pm arrived on Sunday, as Räikkönen failed to make any ground and finished how he started.

However, the 41-year-old has a double-header in Austria to quickly banish that race from memory, saying that all his attention is on Styrian Grand Prix, hoping to deliver points on a momentous weekend for Alfa Romeo as they celebrate its 111th birthday.

“Our focus is fully on Austria and not on what happened in France,” Räikkönen said. “We have learnt our lessons and we are now determined to do better. Austria is one of those tracks that look easy but are not: it’s short and there are only a few corners where time can be gained or lost, which means each of them is crucial for the laptime.

“Managing the traffic, both in qualifying and in the race, will also be a key factor but, in the end, that will be the same for everyone.

“There should be a great energy and plenty of atmosphere” – Pierre Gasly

After more points at the French Grand Prix, Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda now go into a double-header at their home grand prix, of course at the Red Bull Ring in Austria.

AlphaTauri number one Pierre Gasly goes from racing in front of his home crowd to now racing this weekend in front of the Red Bull bosses, the Frenchman will be looking to put on a good show for the teams home crowd in a bid to get his Red Bull Racing seat back.

It has been a strong season so far for Gasly who has now finished in the points for six races in a row, a run extended at his home grand prix with a solid seventh place finish.

Gasly will be looking to extend his run this weekend.

“In Austria, I finished seventh and fifteenth at the Red Bull Ring in the two races there last year. The track is very short with quite a few straights and not many corners, so you need to optimise your car for those handful of corners. After my home race in France, now one week later it’s a home circuit for all of us as a Red Bull team. A lot will be expected of us there from Red Bull, from AlphaTauri and all the team’s partners.

British F3 Testing: Faria fastest on Thursday afternoon

Roberto Faria set the fastest time in both testing sessions on Thursday afternoon as the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship heads to Silverstone.

Dexter Patterson (Douglas Motorsport) followed the Fortec Motorsport driver in both sessions, with Zak O’Sullivan (Carlin) taking third and fourth in Sessions 3 and 4 respectively.

Arden Motorsport‘s pairing of Alex Connor and Frederick Lubin were next, ahead of Ayrton Simmons (Chris Dittmann Racing) and Tom Lebbon (Elite Motorsport).

Reece Ushijima and Bart Horsten took eighth and ninth for Hitech GP, with Bryce Aron (Carlin) tenth.

The Mexican pair of Sebastian Alvarez (Hitech) and José Garfias (Elite) led Christian Mansell (Carlin), Max Marzorati (CDR), Reema Juffali (Douglas), Javier Sagrera (Elite) and Mikkel Grundtvig (Fortec).

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.”