F1Weekly podcast #719

CLARK AND NASIR ARE OVER THE MOON WITH THE SPECIAL INTERVIEW OF FERNANDO ALONSO’S FORMER TEAM MATE… GIANCARLO FISICHELLA FROM THE DAYTONA 24 HOURS RACE LAST WEEKEND.

Minardi (1996)

In 1996, he made the move to Formula One, making his debut for the Minardi team, after being the official test driver the previous season. However he did not complete the full season since Minardi required a driver who could bring funding to the team, and replaced Fisichella with Giovanni Lavaggi.

Jordan (1997)

For 1997 he made the move to Eddie Jordan’s eponymous team, where he drove alongside former F1 champion Michael Schumacher’s brother Ralf, himself a former Formula Nippon champion. Fisichella gained his first podium finish at the 1997 Canadian Grand Prix, and went on to finish higher in the points standings than his team-mate. At Hockenheim a victory looked to be within reach for Fisichella, but a puncture and the performance of an on-form Gerhard Berger denied him the win. Fisichella was able to show his talent again at the rain-soaked Belgian Grand Prix in which he finished a commendable second behind Michael Schumacher. Following this race, the Benetton team signed him for 1998.

Benetton (1998–2001)

Fisichella driving for Benetton at the 1999 Canadian Grand Prix.

The timing of his move to Benetton move was unfortunate. Following Renault’s withdrawal from Formula One, Benetton would contest the 1998 season without “works” (factory-supplied) engines, instead using rebranded development versions of 1997 Renault engines. Despite not having the latest engines, Fisichella still managed second places at Montreal and Monaco, even being in contention for a victory in Canada until gearbox problems slowed him down. In Austria, Fisichella scored his first pole position, although an on-track clash with Jean Alesi during the race cost him any chance of a good result. He was then able to add only two more points to his total in the second half of the year as Benetton lost ground on their competition.

1999 proved to be a similarly inconsistent season for Giancarlo Fisichella. He did score some points finishes, including second at Montreal, and again came close to a victory in the European Grand Prix, until he spun off whilst in the lead. This would prove to be his best chance of a victory for the next few seasons.

Fisichella’s season was to follow a similar pattern in 2000. He again gained some surprise podium finishes early in the year, but Benetton’s now unfortunately traditional poor second half of the season meant that he failed to score any more points. Since joining Benetton, Fisichella had comprehensively outperformed his Austrian team-mate Alexander Wurz, who would then leave the team to make way for British rookie Jenson Button in 2001. Renault had purchased the Benetton team by the start of the 2001 season, but their investment was too late to enable much progress with Benetton’s uncompetitive 2001 car, and as a result, Fisichella was battling for much of the season with teams such as Minardi and Prost. However, the efforts of technical director Mike Gascoyne and his staff did result in improvements over the year, culminating in a 4-5 finish at the German Grand Prix and a third-place finish for Fisichella at the Belgian race. Despite Fisichella gaining the team’s best results that season and consistently outperforming Button, he was not retained by the team, so he rejoined Jordan for 2002.

Jordan (2002–2003)

Fisichella driving for Jordan at the 2002 US GP.

Fisichella managed to score just seven points in 2002, comfortably outpacing new teammate Takuma Sato, although the Jordan-Honda car of that year was never truly competitive. After Honda withdrew their engine supply, Jordan switched to Ford engines for the 2003 season, but the team were still unable to compete with the top teams on the grid. Despite this lack of performance, Fisichella won his first race at the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Battling with McLaren’s Kimi Räikkönen amidst heavy rain and numerous crashes, Fisichella took the race lead on lap 54, soon before the race was red-flagged. However, he was demoted to second place on the podium, because (per regulations) Räikkönen was the race leader two laps prior to the red flag. Several days later, though, the FIA determined that Fisichella had already begun his 56th lap before the red flag, meaning that he, and not Räikkönen, had been leading the race two laps before its premature end, awarding the Italian his first F1 victory. Fisichella was the only F1 driver to have won a race without having stood atop the podium. He collected the winner’s trophy at the next race at Imola.[2] Fisichella’s only other points finish of 2003 was to be a seventh place at Indianapolis.

Sauber (2004)

Fisichella driving for Sauber at the 2004 US GP.

Unhappy at the Jordan team’s performance, Fisichella moved to Sauber in 2004 in the hope of greater results, and of using the team as a way of gaining access to, and a drive for, 2003 World Champions Ferrari, who supplied re-badged engines to the Sauber team. Fisichella drove well all year, comfortably outpacing team mate Felipe Massa for much of the season (scoring 22 championship points vs Massa’s 12).

Renault (2005–2007)

Fisichella at the 2005 United States Grand Prix.

His strong performances prompted former Benetton-Renault team boss Flavio Briatore to re-sign him for the 2005 season as partner to the young Spanish driver Fernando Alonso. A win at the season opening race at Melbourne signalled the Formula One breakthrough that commentators had been predicting, but it proved to be something of a false dawn. A run of poor luck saw Fisichella fall behind his team mate in the championship standings, and at times the pair were achieving noticeably different lap times with the same equipment. It appeared that Fisichella simply did not have the pace to match Alonso.

The difference in pace between Fisichella and Alonso was noticeable, and while Alonso’s metronomic consistency helped him win the 2005 championship, Fisichella’s general bad luck was to cost him points finishes. He was overtaken and lost the lead on the final lap of the Japanese Grand Prix by McLaren driver Kimi Räikkönen, despite his race engineer urging him to avoid letting Räikkönen past. Nevertheless, his performances alongside Alonso throughout the season enabled Renault to win the World Constructors’ Championship ahead of McLaren and Ferrari, the team that had won that title the previous six seasons.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

DAYTONA 24 HOURS

Daytona International Speedway, Sunday 29 January 2017 – No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac Dpi-V.R won the 55th edition of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA this afternoon, completing 659 laps of the famous Daytona International Speedway. Ricky Taylor took the chequered flag first after a testing 24 hours ensuring that he and his team mates, Jordan Taylor, Max Angelelli and NASCAR legend, Jeff Gordon, were awarded the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA trophy and a specially engraved Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona. Captivating, spectacular and extremely demanding, the ‘Rolex 24’ is one of few motor sport events in the world to test the ultimate limits of man and machine, all against the clock.

Hurley Haywood, five-time winner of the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA, waved the green flag at 14:30 local time on Saturday, officially marking the start of America’s famous race. The Cadillac Prototype trio of the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing, #10 and #5 Mustang Sampling Racing set the pace from the beginning before early favourite, #31, suffered steering issues in the eighth hour. As darkness fell the rain began to fall and a bitter cold set in, making the track treacherous and demanding the utmost concentration from the teams.

In the early hours of Sunday morning with the extreme conditions refusing to let up, the field experienced two extended hour-long safety car periods, underlining the true attritional nature of this test of endurance. The cars competing this year are the most technologically advanced of this era; every lap is a learning experience for teams who are pushed to the limits. With three hours remaining, and finally a dry track, the Prototype (P) and GT Le Mans (GTLM) winners were far from decided with multiple cars on the lead lap. Counting down the final minutes on the Rolex clock, the race went down to the wire with a thrilling battle between the leading Cadillacs; ultimately the #10 took the lead from the #5 with a legal and robust move into turn 1 with only moments to go. Throughout the 24 hours the #10 successfully answered everything its rivals, nature and time could test it with and deservingly took the chequered flag by only 0.671 seconds from its sister car.

#66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing took victory in a very competitive GT Le Mans class having battled until the closing minutes of the race with the second place #911 Porsche GT Team holding off #62 Risi Competizione. #38 Performance Tech Motorsports won the Prototype Challenge (PC) title and #28 Alegra Motorsports the GT Daytona (GTD) class.

Forty-one of the 55 race starters made it to the finish, further exemplifying the punishing nature of this two-lap test of the clock. The 3.56-mile circuit demands a unique combination of resilience, skill and awareness, as well as reliability and performance, proving there are two types of winners at the Rolex 24 At DAYTONA: those who win and those who cross the finish line after 24 hours.

F1Weekly podcast # 718

CLARK AND NASIR ARE STILL REMINISCING ON THE 2016 RACING SEASON SAYING GOODBYE TO BERNIE AND SHARING THEIR HOPE ON A POSSIBLY GREAT 2017 F1 SEASON. WE HAVE TECH TALK WITH TIM!! AND…CLARK IS ALSO EXCITED ABOUT RENAULT ENTERING FOUR R8 GORDINI’S IN THE 2017 RALLYE MONTE CARLO HISTORIQUE!!

Barcelona, January 25, 2017 – Renault today announced it will take part in the Rallye Monte-Carlo Historique 2017 involving four teams at the wheel of Renault 8 Gordinis:

  • Team n°5: Manu Guigou / Jean-Pierre Prevot
  • Team n°8: Jean Ragnotti / Sebastien Delanney
  • Team n°12: Michel Leclere / Michel Duvernay
  • Team n°14: Guillaume Chancel / François-Paul Forgeoux
The Renault 8 Gordini, a legend!

Few cars can have made such an impact during their time as the Renault 8 Gordini, prompting Renault to enter Renault 8 Gordinis in this competition. This was one the most popular sports models ever made by Renault, offering a top speed of 175 km/h at a very affordable price.

The Renault 8 Gordini appeared in 1964 to open up the thrill of sports driving to a whole generation. Though the “Gorde”, as it was affectionately known, was based on the Renault 8 Major, racetrack modifications at the hand of wizard Amédée Gordini left it largely unrecognisable.

Nothing was done halfway: the original model’s sensible engine was transfigured to squeeze out almost twice the power, with changes like a new cylinder head and two splendid Weber carburetors. Then the suspension, steering, brakes and equipment were upgraded to achieve a the top speed of 175 km/h. Visual signs of this remarkable sporting aptitude included round instrument dials and a smart blue finish with white stripes. The 1108 cc engine of the initial release gave way to a 1255 cc unit with the 1966 facelift, which also brought in the tell-tale dual headlamps. The Gordini Cup, introduced the same year, went a long way to developing the Renault 8 Gordini myth, consolidating its reputation with an impressive list of racing honours. Many racing drivers learned their craft at the wheel of a Renault 8 Gordini, and hold very fond memories of it. In 1970, the great little Renault 8 Gordini finally gave way to a Renault 12 model bearing the same name.

The four Renault 8 Gordinis entered by Renault are equipped with Michelin X M + S 89 tyres of dimensions 135X15 which have already proved their efficiency in previous editions.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

FORMULA 1

BERNIE’S OUT BRAWN IS IN

Liberty Media set to become the majority shareholder in F1 when it closes a deal to acquire 100% of Delta Topco – F1’s holding company – this month, Ecclestone’s position had been thrown into doubt. Originally, the 86-year-old claimed he had been asked to continue in his role for another three years by Liberty, but it is now understood the new owners want to put their own management structure in place, ousting Ecclestone.

Following approval from the FIA for Liberty to complete its takeover, Ecclestone admitted he did not know if he would remain in place to look after the commercial side of the sport, but on Monday he told Auto Motor und Sport that he was out, effective immediately.

“I was dismissed today,” he told AMUS. “I am simply gone. It’s official. I am no longer the leader of the company. My position has been taken by Chase Carey.

“My new position is one of those American terms. It’s something like an honorary president. I have this title now, even though I don’t know what it means.”

Ecclestone said he still expects to appear at grands prix in an unofficial capacity.

“I still have many friends in Formula 1. And I still have enough money to afford to attend a race,” he said, although he told AMUS he does not expect to retain his seat on the World Motor Sport Council.

“I doubt it,” he said. “First of all, I have to talk to [FIA president] Jean Todt about this.”

Carey is Liberty’s newly appointed F1 chairman.

RALLY MONTE CARLO

Ogier takes his Monte Carlo triple

Look at the people who’ve won the Rallye Monte-Carlo three or more times – as Sébastien Ogier now has – and you see some of the greatest names in the history of rallying: Walter Röhrl, Tommi Mäkinen, Carlos Sainz, Sébastien Loeb. Ogier’s victory was… well, classic Ogier, with barely a missed beat as he calmly negotiated his way from his hometown of Gap all the way back to Monte Carlo.

People might talk about home advantage – one of the stages even passed along the route Ogier used to take to work back when he was a ski monitor – but Ogier’s shown enough class over the last few years for his rivals to know better than that.

Kris Meeke nearly steals the win

While Citroën’s Kris Meeke was nowhere to be seen during Sunday’s glitzy Monte Carlo podium ceremony, the Northern Irishman – who’ll only be competing at selected rounds this season as Citroën develop their 2017 car – came close to spoiling Ogier’s party.

After Ogier took the first stage win of the season, Meeke – with a three-year Citroën contract in his pocket and no championship to aim for – fought back and claimed the second to lead the rally overnight. The pair went toe-to-toe on Friday and Saturday’s stages until a cut through a right-hander saw Meeke rip the sump guard off his DS3 and damage his gearbox. But it was a tantalising look at the type of fight between the pair that we could be treated to next season – in fact, Ogier enjoyed it so much that he called VW to see if they could offer any help to Meeke…

Thierry Neuville re-finds his flow

Hyundai debuted its new i20 WRC at the Rallye Monte-Carlo, with Dani Sordo and Thierry Neuville driving the car as Hayden Paddon stuck with the 2015-spec machine. Neuville would be the first to admit that he was in need of a good result in Monte Carlo after a tough previous season, and he showed just why Hyundai had put its faith in him with a strong drive to third, including a number of stage wins in tricky conditions despite still searching for the ideal set-up on his new car.

RALLY MONTE CARLO

A DISTINCTLY UNPREDICTABLE RALLY!

From Gap to Monaco, day three of the Rallye Monte-Carlo saw the Citroën Racing crews continue to make progress. However, on the road section between Gap and Monaco, Kris Meeke’s car was hit by another vehicle, meaning the Ulsterman had to retire! Stéphane Lefebvre and Craig Breen will therefore be the sole representatives of the team in tomorrow’s final leg.

– The penultimate leg featured five stages: two runs on Lardier et Valenca – Oze and La Bâtie Montsaléon – Faye, and then a single pass on Bayons – Bréziers. After the last service in Gap, the cars set off for Monaco.

– The conditions were extremely varied, with snow-covered, muddy, wet and dry roads! Citroën’s crews used all four types of Michelin tyres available at this rally during the leg.

– Competing under Rally2 rules, both Citroën C3 WRC crews were aiming to improve their knowledge of the car in these very specific conditions. However, the crews had a testing start to the day, with a puncture (SS9) and a power steering issue (SS10) for Stéphane Lefebvre/Gabin Moreau, and an ignition failure (SS10) for Kris Meeke/Paul Nagle.

– The following stages passed without incident and the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT was able to test various set-up options as the cars made steady progress. Kris Meeke, for example, set the third fastest time on SS13.

– The Northern Irishman will not, however, be able to contest the final leg. The no. 7 C3 WRC was hit by another vehicle on the road section to Monaco, leaving the car with a damaged rear right-hand wheel and the crew with no option but to retire.

– Stéphane Lefebvre gained a place at the end of the day to move up into eleventh position. The Frenchman is therefore just outside the points ahead of tomorrow’s final leg.

– Despite competing in conditions that were less favourables for their previous generation car, Craig Breen and Scott Martin impressed once again! After a thrilling ding-dong battle with Dani Sordo, the crew managed to grab fifth place. And after overall leader Thierry Neuville ran into problems, they claimed another place to move into fourth overall!

– Tomorrow, the final leg of the Rallye Monte-Carlo will be contested in the hills above Monaco. Four stages, over a total distance of 53km, will see the competitors tackle the legendary Col de Turini.

The Premiere Motorsport Podcast