Championship leader Max Verstappen will start from third for sprint qualifying at the Italian Grand Prix, after qualifying behind both Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team cars in Friday qualifying. Red Bull Racing team-mate Sergio Pérez starts ninth.
It was a typically messy qualifying session at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza, with the entirety of the grid waiting for an all important tow around the low downforce track. The Dutchman was fortunate however, with the team sacrificing Pérez to give Verstappen a tow on his fastest lap in final qualifying.
This decision proved pivotal, with both Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo almost out-qualifying Verstappen, in what could have been a huge moment in the championship. Nevertheless third is the best Verstappen could salvage, with pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas and championship rival Lewis Hamilton simply being too quick.
Overall it was a challenging opening day for Verstappen, who is hoping to find some more performance in Free Practice Two before sprint qualifying.
“It wasn’t the best qualifying session but I think for us this track is always going to be difficult. We struggled a little bit more than we wanted to in FP1, but I think we recovered quite well throughout qualifying. I’m happy with third and it would have been unrealistic to hope for more. I think for the sprint race maybe we can be closer but you never know around here, so of course we will try and keep the pressure on.
Valtteri Bottas felt his Qualifying lap that took him to pole position for the Sprint Qualifying race at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza was ‘beautiful’, with the Finn aiming to take maximum points on Saturday afternoon.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team driver set a best time of 1:19.555 to deny team-mate Lewis Hamilton top spot by 0.096 seconds, and he was delighted to see the team ending a significant distance ahead of main rivals Red Bull Racing.
“Pole position feels great and I really had fun and enjoyed it out there,” said Bottas. “It was a beautiful lap, which I managed to save for the end.
“I felt relaxed in the car and I am happy with our work as a team. The car has felt good all day, with our performance little stronger than we perhaps expected, especially when you look at the gap to Red Bull. Hopefully it will be similar on the race pace for us.”
Bottas knows he will be starting at the back of the grid for Sunday’s main race at Monza due to grid penalties for an engine change, so he will be looking to take what he can from Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying.
A month after making his NASCAR début, Sage Karam is back for more. On Friday, Jordan Anderson Racing announced Karam will return to the Xfinity Series for the Bristol Motor Speedway (17 September) and Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (9 October) races, where he will once again drive the #31 Chevrolet Camaro. He will also compete in the Camping World Truck Series for the first time when he pilots JAR’s #3 Chevrolet Silverado at Martinsville Speedway on 29 October.
“Welcome back Sage Karam,” began a social media post from team owner Jordan Anderson. “Looking forward to having Sage behind the wheel of the 31 Chevrolet Camaro at Bristol Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway later this year along with making his NASCAR Truck Series debut at Martinsville Speedway in the 3.”
Karam is a veteran of the NTT IndyCar Series with twenty-four career starts since 2014. In May, he scored a seventh-place finish in the Indianapolis 500 with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing for his best IndyCar run since he finished on the podium at Iowa in 2015.
He made the jump to NASCAR in August when he ran the Indianapolis Road Course race—held in support of a doubleheader between NASCAR and IndyCar—for JAR. He retired from the event with just four laps remaining due to electrical issues and was classified in twenty-sixth. He is one of seven active NASCAR national series drivers who have also made a start in IndyCar at some point in their career: Karam, Conor Daly, Santino Ferrucci, and Cody Ware are the only names to race in both in 2021.
It has been a busy week of announcements for Karam. On Wednesday, he was added to the DRR’s Nitro Rallycross NXR NEXT roster, marking his return to the rallycross world after making five starts in the now-defunct Americas Rallycross Championship (ARX2 class) in 2019. He never finished worse than second in his ARX races and won at Mid-Ohio.
Colby Howard might be celebrating his new NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride with McAnally-Hilgemann Racing for 2022, but until the new year arrives, he won’t have a ride to finish 2021. A day after announcing he had joined MHR, JD Motorsports released a statement saying Bayley Currey will drive Howard’s #15 in Saturday’s Xfinity Series event.
“JD Motorsports welcomes Bayley Currey to the roster this weekend at Richmond Raceway. He will pilot the #15 Chevrolet for the Go Bowling 250 race,” read a statement from the team. “(Team owner) Johnny Davis would like to thank Bayley for coming aboard on such short notice while we continue to figure out the roster for the #15 seat for the remainder of the 2021 NASCAR Xfinity Series season.”
After making his Xfinity début with JDM in 2020, Howard was to run the full 2021 schedule. Across twenty-one starts in 2021, his best finish is sixteenth at Phoenix, but he also failed to qualify at Nashville and Road America.
On Thursday, MHR announced Howard will join the team in a second truck for 2022. The news came on the heels of him overcoming an early spin to finish thirteenth at Darlington in his first Truck race since 2019.
“Wont be the #15 anymore. Didn’t have much of a choice,” Howard tweeted after Friday’s development. The wording of his post suggests a less-than-amicable split from JDM, presumably stemming from his signing MHR though his absence from the #15 was noticeable on the starting lineup even before the announcement. Although MHR and JDM compete in different series, the former is a Toyota team while the latter fields Chevrolets.
Cody Ware will skip the next two NASCAR Cup Series races at Richmond Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway after suffering carbon monoxide poisoning during Sunday’s Darlington Raceway event. Garrett Smithley will replace him in the #51 Rick Ware Racing Chevrolet for Richmond, while a Bristol driver was not immediately announced.
“After being treated in the infield care centre at Darlington Raceway this past weekend, Cody Ware will be sidelined as a precautionary measure for both Richmond Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway,” read a statement by RWR on Friday. “On Monday after being treated, Cody still was feeling adverse effects of Carbon Monoxide. Cody felt that it was in the best interest for the team to have a replacement driver for the next two races.
“Garrett Smithley will pilot the #51 20th Anniversary 9/11 Tribute Tunnel to Towers car at Richmond Raceway this weekend. The driver for Bristol Motor Speedway will be announced at a later date.”
Ware retired from Sunday’s Cook Out Southern 500 after completing 209 of 367 laps when he started feeling ill due to carbon monoxide in the car. He had been involved in a crash with team-mate James Davison earlier in the race that damaged the crush panels, causing toxic fumes to enter the cockpit. Carbon monoxide poisoning, which forced inaugural Brickyard 400 pole sitter Rick Mast into retirement, also caused Ware to exit the 2019 Sonoma event when it occurred due to a broken air conditioning unit.
Currently in his first full Cup season, Ware’s best finish is twenty-first in the season-opening Daytona 500.
Callum Ilott‘s first foray into the NTT IndyCar Series has received a bump from one to three races. On Friday, Juncos Hollinger Racing announced Ilott will run the final two races of the 2021 season at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach in addition to his already-announced début at the Grand Prix of Portland on Sunday.
“The entire Juncos Hollinger Racing organisation is thrilled to keep Callum Ilott onboard for all three races to finish off the NTT IndyCar Series season,” stated team co-owner RIcardo Juncos. “We are looking forward to a great debut as a team tomorrow on track and to build on each session throughout the next few weeks.
“Callum brings a great deal of talent, and we have all been working hard together over the past few weeks to build our program, so it feels great to carry this relationship as a team for the rest of the season.”
The 2020 FIA Formula 2 Championship runner-up and current Scuderia Ferrari test driver tested an IndyCar at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Thursday. Besides marking Ilott’s first race in the series and the United States, Sunday’s Portland GP will be the first for Juncos Hollinger Racing under the alliance between Juncos and Brad Hollinger. It was not announced if Ilott will commit to the series in 2022, though receiving the opportunity to run the final three races would be a step in that direction if both parties wish.
“On top of starting my début weekend in the NTT IndyCar Series with Juncos Hollinger Racing, we will also be finishing off the championship together,” added Ilott. “Let’s see what we can achieve in the next couple of weeks at some awesome circuits.”
Valtteri Bottas will start Formula 1’s second ever Sprint Qualifying race from pole position after the Finn topped Qualifying on Friday evening.
The Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team locked out the front row at the Autodromo Nazionale Monza as Bottas led Lewis Hamilton by 0.096 seconds, with championship leader Max Verstappen third, more than four-tenths of a second back.
Q1 – Usual suspects fall amid the Monza traffic
Monza has traditionally in recent years been troubled by traffic during Qualifying, and it was evident again in the opening segment on Friday. Both Verstappen and Pierre Gasly were forced to abort laps after coming upon traffic heading into the Della Roggia and Ascari chicanes respectively, while queues backing up heading into the final turn were a regular occurrence.
George Russell, fresh off the news that he will be racing for Mercedes in 2022, initially believed he had been eliminated in Q1, but the Williams Racing driver was given a reprieve after Yuki Tsunoda had a lap time deleted for track limits. This meant that the Scuderia AlphaTauri Honda driver was knocked out of the session.
Also eliminated was the second Williams of Nicholas Latifi, with the Canadian set to start sixteenth for Saturday’s Sprint Qualifying, just ahead of Tsunoda, while Mick Schumacher will start eighteenth in the leading of the two Uralkali Haas F1 Team cars.
The FIA Formula One World Championship rolls into the final part of the third triple-header of the season this weekend, at Pirelli’s home race the Italian Grand Prix.
For the third consecutive season the middle range of Pirelli’s tyres will be in operation, the C2, C3 and C4 compounds at the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. This weekend does have a twist however, as the second trial of sprint qualifying will take place this weekend. The teams will only have the red soft tyre available for Friday’s qualifying and will have twelve sets of tyres instead of the traditional thirteen at their disposal across the weekend.
The Italian Grand Prix is usually one of the most exciting of the season due to the circuit’s design of high speed and heavy braking. The race was famously won by Pierre Gasly in 2020, after a red flag stoppage led to a twenty-six lap sprint to the flag which went all the way down to the final lap.
Mario Isola, Pirelli’s Head of F1 and Car Racing, is expecting many strategies to be attempted this weekend, especially with the added element of sprint qualifying.
“We have seen from the past that a number of different strategies are possible at Monza, and with sprint qualifying adding another big variable into the mix, the teams are forced to re-think their entire tyre strategy for the weekend.
The Uralkali Haas F1 Team go into the Italian Grand Prix this weekend hoping for a more successful race compared to a week ago at the Dutch Grand Prix.
The Dutch Grand Prix was a struggle for the bottom-placed team, with Nikita Mazepin being forced into retirement and Mick Schumacher languishing at the back. The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza however represents an opportunity for the team to end the third triple-header of the season on a positive note, especially with the second sprint qualifying trial taking place this weekend.
Team Principal Guenther Steiner is looking forward to what he counts as his home grand prix at Monza, where he hopes the second sprint qualifying trial will be just as successful as the first.
“Monza for me is the closest race to my hometown, so being Italian, it is big emotion. Monza is a great race on the calendar – it’s very historic. My first race there was when we finished third on the podium with Eddie Irvine and Jaguar. I would like to go back to those good old days.
“The sprint qualifying in Silverstone was successful. I think there are always things to learn and how to do things better but there was not one big mistake we made, so we just try to get the whole process smoother and better and try to get the best out of it.”
Max Verstappen says he could not have asked from any more from his Dutch Grand Prix weekend, but the Red Bull Racing driver is already focused on this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix.
Verstappen took pole position and dominated the race last weekend to secure his seventh victory of 2021 and retake the lead in the Drivers’ Championship from Lewis Hamilton, but with the battle at the top extremely tight, there was little time to celebrate before heading to the Autodromo Nazionale Monza for the next challenge.
“I couldn’t have asked for more in Zandvoort but now it’s all eyes on Monza,” said Verstappen. “The Italian Grand Prix is only around the corner and it’s very tight in the championship so the celebrations can wait and some rest between the race weekends will be important.”
Verstappen is expecting Monza to suit the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team better than Red Bull, although he is expecting it to be a much closer battle than it has in previous years thanks to the development of the RB16B and the Honda power unit.
“I expect Monza to suit Mercedes as it hasn’t been our best track for the last few years but this year we are more competitive so you never know,” said the Dutchman. “If we continue what we have been doing, working well together as a Team, and nail every little detail then we can be competitive but Mercedes might have a top speed advantage on us.
The third triple-header of the season comes to a close this weekend at the Italian Grand Prix, where Mick Schumacher is ready to see all the Tifosi in what will be a challenging weekend for all.
The Autodromo Nazionale di Monza is playing host to the second trial of sprint qualifying this weekend, something which Schumacher is looking forward to, especially with the overtaking opportunities Monza offers.
“I think we can look forward to it. It will be interesting to see what we learned from the first event at Silverstone and be able to cope with it in a different way. For Monza it will definitely be interesting, as racing is always interesting there with a lot of overtaking and the passionate fans in the grandstands.“
For Schumacher it will of course be his first time racing at Monza in Formula 1, and as a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy the German can’t wait to put on a show.
“It means a lot of Ferrari fans – which is great! I know the Tifosi are a great bunch of people who really support the sport and they live the sport, which is nice because I’m a big fan of the sport also. To share that passion is great and I’m really looking forward to it, on top of being a part of the Ferrari Driver Academy, it’s great for me to go there and drive in front of the Tifosi.”
After a solid run in his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start since 2019 on Sunday, Colby Howard has joined McAnally-Hilgemann Racing with plans of fully committing to the series for 2022. On Thursday, the team announced an “agreement has been reached” for Howard to drive a second truck in 2022. A number and sponsorship were not immediately revealed.
Howard is currently in his first full-time Xfinity Series season. Driving the #15 for JD Motorsports, he sits twenty-sixth in points with a best finish of sixteenth at Phoenix. He has competed in the series since 2020, and his highest career run is twelfth at Daytona that year.
On Sunday at Darlington Raceway, he joined CR7 Motorsports for his third career Truck race. Despite a spin in the first stage, he rebounded to finish thirteenth. Howard’s first two series starts came in the final two races of 2019 for Young’s Motorsports, finishing twenty-first and twenty-fourth.
“We’re pleased to have Colby join our team for 2022 as we look to expand our Camping World Truck Series programme,” MHR team co-owner Bill McAnally stated. “Colby comes from a racing family and brings with him an extensive racing résumé. Most recently, he had an impressive run in the Truck Series race at Darlington last week.”
Howard commented in the team release that he is “really excited to be joining a team of this caliber. I feel like it’s a big step in my career. I’m really looking forward to going there next year and working with Bill and all the guys—being competitive and going for wins and a championship.”
After another three week break, the NTT IndyCar Series returns for three consecutive weeks of racing on the scenic west coast of the United States that will culminate with the crowning of the series champion on the streets of Long Beach. The first stop on this road trip is the state of Oregon and the Portland International Raceway for the Grand Prix of Portland.
The championship battle was flipped upside down by the Bommarito Automotive Group 500, as Arrow McLaren SP‘s Patricio O’Ward took the championship lead from Alex Palou who was collected in a crash early in the race. The young Mexican now leads the series into the final stretch of the season with a slim ten-point gap to his rival. Scott Dixon, who was also collected in that wreck, slipped from third to fourth place in the standings behind Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden. Luckily for Chip Ganassi Racing, they still have three cars in the top five as Marcus Ericsson sits fifth.
This weekend, like many others this season, will see some driver changes, debuts and returns. Oliver Askew makes his return to the grid for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Helio Castroneves comes back to the grid with Meyer Shank Racing and Alfa Romeo Racing ORLEN reserve driver Callum Illott makes his series debut with the new Juncos Hollinger Racing team.
Will we see a first time champion in O’Ward or Palou? Will the young guns slip up and let the title fall into the hands of the veteran Newgarden? Can Dixon make history and become a seven time series champion? All these questions will be answered by the end of September and it all kicks off this weekend. Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the Grand Prix of Portland.
WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR?
Portland was taken off the schedule in 2020 due to COVID-19, so the last race at the track was in 2019. Will Power took his thirty-seventh career win in the series that weekend, holding off a late charge by then-rookie Felix Rosenqvist after a late caution to take the victory.
Sebastian Vettel says the Autodromo Nazionale Monza means a lot to him after his spell with Scuderia Ferrari, and the Aston Martin Cognizant Formula One Team driver is hopeful to have a strong weekend this weekend.
The Sprint Qualifying format returns for its second outing in Italy, and Vettel says he will be looking to make the most of any opportunity that presents itself to him and the team in order to return to the top ten after a disappointing weekend in The Netherlands.
Vettel says the slipstreaming effect at Monza will make Qualifying on Friday evening extremely close, so getting every bit of performance Aston Martin can find will be important.
“Monza means a lot to me,” said Vettel. “The performance gaps between the teams tend to be smaller in Monza because the slipstreaming effect is so powerful, and overtaking is quite straightforward.
“This time, we’re returning to the Sprint format – we learned a lot about it at Silverstone, so we’ll be aiming to make the most of all opportunities in Monza.”
Toto Wolff says the Mercedes-AMG Petronas Formula One Team did not perform as good as they should have during last weekend’s Dutch Grand Prix, but the team were happy to be able to extend their lead in the Constructors’ Championship.
Max Verstappen gave Red Bull Racing the victory at the Circuit Zandvoort, but Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas finishing second and third respectively insured Mercedes outscored their rivals in the Teams’ championship standings.
And Wolff, the Team Principal at Mercedes, says the battle between them and Red Bull is only going to intensify as the season goes on.
“We have nine races to go in this Championship fight and the battle is only going to get more intense, but our mission is clear,” said Wolff.
“Last time out at Zandvoort, we simply didn’t put all the pieces together – we took some risks and gave it our best shot, but it just wasn’t enough.