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GP3

GP3 SEASON OPENS WITH ESTORIL TEST

Portugal circuit hosts first action of 2017

The 2017 GP3 Series season opens this week with the first pre-season test, to be held at the Circuito de Estoril on 22-23 March. The teams and drivers will use the 2 day test to start preparations for the opening race of the season, at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on 12-14 May.

Reigning champions ART Grand Prix carry car numbers 1-4, with Jack Aitken given the honour of carrying #1: the Anglo-Korean driver moves to ART this year after a strong debut season last year, and will hope to build on the race-winning experience he picked up with DAMS. Nirei Fukuzumi returns with the French squad to prove that the promise he showed can bear fruit, while Mercedes junior George Russell and FFSA member Anthoine Hubert step up to make their series’ debuts with the squad.

Arden International will be looking to build on their successful 2016 with a mixture of experience and speed: Red Bull junior Niko Kari has signed with the British outfit for his debut season, as has young Italian charger Leonardo Pulcini, while Steijn Schothurst carries the hopes of the Netherlands as he moves across to Arden following a learning season last year with Campos.

Over at Trident the Italian team will host the experienced line up of Kevin Joerg (who moves to Trident after racing last year with DAMS) and Giuliano Alesi (who returns with his Italian hosts once again). Joining the pair for this test will be American Ryan Tveter and Frenchman Dorian Boccolacci, who will be hoping to impress their hosts as they look to organise their seasons.

DAMS are also combining experience with fresh blood, as Haas F1 tester Santino Ferrucci returns to lead their driver line-up, with newly announced Sauber test driver Tatiana Calderón moving across for her tilt at the title. Joining the pair will be rookie Bruno Baptista, who will be leaning on the experience picked up last year by his new teammates and the squad.
Jenzer will play host to signings Alessio Lorandi, who is new to the series this year, and returnee Arjun Maini, who will be looking to build on the relationship he built with the Swiss squad last season. Unfortunately Korainen GP will not be in the garage next to them, as they are not taking part in the test.

Finally Campos will host Julien Falchero as he has his first taste of GP3, and the Frenchman will be hoping to get plenty of miles under his belt across the two day test. Joining him for the test will be South African Raoul Hyman and Italian F4 champion Marcos Siebert from Argentina, who will be looking to show their worth to their hosts.

The teams will be using the Drag Reduction System (DRS) for the first time in preparation for the coming season, and will be restricted to use only within the 2 nominated DRS zones, as is usual in FIA Formula 2 and F1. With respect to tyres, all drivers will be allowed 7 sets of Pirelli’s medium compound for the test, and 3 sets of wets.

The sessions will start each day at 09:00 local time and run until 12:00: on Wednesday the afternoon session will run from 14:00 to 17:00, while on Thursday this will be pushed forward an hour to 13:00 before closing at 16:00.

GP3 Series – Estoril Test Session: Drivers’ Entry List

ART Grand Prix
1. Jack Aitken
2. Nirei Fukuzumi
3. George Russell
4. Anthoine Hubert

Arden International
5. Niko Kari
6. Leonardo Pulcini
7. Steijn Schothurst

Trident
8. Kevin Joerg
9. Giuliano Alesi
10. Ryan Tveter
11. Dorian Boccolacci

DAMS
14. Santino Ferrucci
15. Tatiana Calderón
16. Bruno Baptista

Jenzer Motorsport
22. Alessio Lorandi
24. Arjun Maini

Campos Racing
26. Julien Falchero
27. Raoul Hyman
28. Marcos Seibert

DTM

GERHARD BERGER TAKES OVER FROM HANS WERNER AUFRECHT AS ITR CHAIRMAN

The world’s most popular touring-car series will be comprehensively enhanced

ITR is being restructured for the future: Today, former Grand Prix winner, BMW Motorsport Director and Formula One team co-owner Gerhard Berger was confirmed as Chairman of ‘Internationalen Tourenwagen Rennen e.V’ (ITR). He takes over from DTM founder Hans Werner Aufrecht who has been at the helm of the series for more than 30 years. In order to successfully enhance the series, Berger will work – in cooperation with the board and the advisory board of DTM – on setting the strategic course for a successful future of the world’s most popular touring-car series.

Gerhard Berger is looking forward to his new leading role at DTM: “I started my motor-racing career in touring-car racing and always followed DTM with a lot of interest. DTM is a top-class product with independent, powerful regulations, with strong manufacturers, top sponsors, important international partnerships and many fans. This is a good starting point with great potential for the future. The first task I will focus on in the coming weeks is gaining a deeper insight into the details with the support of my colleagues. We will then use this strong basis for creating a joint strategy for the future. While doing so, I consider the further development of our international partnerships – also with regards to new manufacturers –, spectacular racing cars that also command the drivers’ respect as well as a format combining both sport and entertainment as particularly important.”

As a highly successful long-term Formula One driver, Gerhard Berger completed 210 GPs among others for Benetton BMW, the Scuderia Ferrari and Honda McLaren from 1984 to 1997. After having retired from Formula One, he returned to the world of motor sport as BMW Williams Motorsport Director (1998 to 2003) and co-owner of Toro Rosso (2006 to 2008). Afterwards, he became President of the FIA single-seater commission (2012 to 2014). At the same time, Berger also pursued his career away from the racetrack: He is the owner of a company group based in Tyrol which focuses on vehicle construction and logistics. But he always remained closely connected to motor racing.

As ITR Vice-Chairman and CEO of ITR GmbH, Florian Zitzlsperger assumes the operational management of DTM. “We are glad to have a man as experienced as Gerhard Berger at the helm”, he said. “Due to both his outstanding experience in motor racing and as entrepreneur, he is the ideal successor of Hans Werner Aufrecht, who laid the strong basis for the planned enhancement of DTM. Without Hans Werner Aufrecht, DTM wouldn’t exist. For his passionate and successful work he deserves our maximum appreciation, our respect and our gratitude.”

As ‘the Father of DTM’, Hans Werner Aufrecht is inseparably connected with DTM: he left a unique mark on the popular touring-car series and was the driving force for it to achieve a leading position in international motor sport. Hans Werner Aufrecht explained: “I’m proud of what my colleagues and I experienced and achieved in the past three decades. But now it’s time to hand over this unique race series.”

Apart from Hans Werner Aufrecht, Hans-Jürgen Abt and Walter Mertes also resign from the ITR e.V. board. Nonetheless, both will remain closely connected to DTM: Hans-Jürgen Abt – just as before – as Team Principal of Audi Sport Team Abt Sportsline and Walter Mertes as partner for the series’ sponsorship relations. In addition, as current and future Managing Director of the ITR subsidiary ‘F3 GmbH’, Mertes is responsible for the marketing of the FIA F3 European Championship, which is considered the most successful feeder series for Formula One and DTM.

The change at the helm of DTM forms part of a comprehensive strategy aiming to further develop the touring-car series. The strategy is intended to be implemented gradually from this year onwards. The most important modifications of the technical regulations were announced recently and focus on more power, less downforce and softer dry-weather tyres. The modifications of the sporting regulations will be announced soon.

FORMULA 1

SAHARA FORCE INDIA DRIVERS AUSTRALIAN GP PREVIEW

Sergio Perez revs up for the new season and one of his favourite races in the calendar.

Sergio: “The first race of the year is always good fun. We’ve had a long winter to recharge the batteries, but now I just want to go racing again. Australia is the best place to start the season: it’s a great country and I really enjoy going there. There is so much to do in Melbourne and it’s a fun weekend, even if it’s busier than some of the other races.

“It’s important not to get distracted: we want to start well and get back into the race weekend rhythm, and get on with our work. The track itself is quite enjoyable and it’s a challenge to drive because it’s almost a street circuit. It starts the weekend very green and as you go on, you get more grip and more confidence in your new car.

“I am confident we can do well and score points from the first race: Australia is a place where anything can happen and we have seen some very unpredictable races there in the past. You never know what opportunities turn up in a race so you have to be ready at all times to take them.”

Esteban Ocon prepares for his Sahara Force India debut and his first full season in Formula One.

Esteban: “I am feeling great after a long winter and I’m very excited to go to Melbourne. It will be the first time racing at Albert Park for me, so I do not really know the track, but last year I went there and I liked what I could see. It’s a proper old-school track and those are the sorts of circuit I really enjoy. Of course it’s not easy when you don’t know the track in advance, so it’s especially important to learn quickly in the Friday sessions and listen to the feedback from the engineers – whether it’s where I can be faster or where we can make the car quicker. I think I have all the tools and all the people around me to do that.

“Joining this team has gone very smoothly from my perspective. The team welcomed me and made me feel at ease straight away. I feel very comfortable about the way we work and I feel this will help me give my best in Australia.

“I think we did a good job as a team during winter testing and I also feel confident because of all the simulator work we did over the winter. We continue to push on the simulator and I was at the factory a few days ago doing the final preparation for Melbourne. I was very open to the team – I told them I’d be available at HQ as much as they needed me over the winter and I feel satisfied with the work we’ve done together so far. I think we’re on track to extract everything we can from the car, which is our objective. We’ll go out and do the best we can and see where we are.”

INDYCAR SERIES

FLORIDA FRESH. FIRESTONE GRAND PRIX OF ST. PETERSBURG.

BOURDAIS AND COYNE RACING ARE HOT ON A COOL BREEZY DAY.

The 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series got off to a great start with the opening round won by Sébastien Bourdais over French countryman and 2016 IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. Scott Dixon was third, the Kiwi still not successful here after 13 attempts.

Penske-star Will Power started from his seventh St. Pete pole position, next to him was Dixon, the Ganassi team now powered by Honda. Josef Newgarden, the man from Tennessee, qualified on the second row in his first drive for Penske. Sato-san was fifth, having jumped from Foyt’s stable to Andretti Autosports.

Setback & Comeback

Sébastien Bourdais crashed his Coyne operated car in qualifying and was relegated to the back of the grid. Compadre Pagenaud also did not fare well, qualifying only 14th.

Power led the first few laps before the Mayor, James Hinchcliffe, laid down the law and took the lead. This was just the beginning of Power’s problems; a puncture, running over air hose and fuel-feed issues led to his retirement.

Bourdais avoided tangle with other competitors and on lap 37 passed Pagenaud for the lead. The Penske driver started his charge in the closing stages of the race but the ex-Toro Rosso F1 racer kept his cool and gave Coyne racing team a well deserved win, a very happy reunion not only for the two and but also for the driver and crew chief Craig Hampson – the last time they worked together was in their glory days at Newman-Haas.

Behind Dixon in third, Florida native Ryan Hunter-Reay and Takuma Sato completed the top five.

Victory for Le Mans-native & St. Pete-based Bourdais was 36th of his stellar career on this side of the pond and elevates him to 6th on the all time wins list.

Look back

Paul Tracy was the winner of the inaugural St. Petersburg event in 2003, then held under the CART umbrella. Helio Castro Neves is the only three-time winner of the event, 2006/7 & ‘12. And, surprisingly, Graham Rahal is the only American winner.

Penske has been the dominant team here with eight wins, but their winner from the past two years, Juan Pablo Montoya, was missing in action but will be activated by the Captain and self ‘percolated’ during the merry month of May.

American heavy weights in Indy Lights

The future of IndyCar racing is bright as two young Americans won their first race in the series in dominating fashion. The season opening race was led from start to finish from pole position by Wisconsin native Aaron Telitz. Last season he won the Pro Mazda (formerly Star Mazda) championship.

F1Weekly will feature an exclusive interview with this young talent in an upcoming podcast.

On Sunday, second generation and 16-year-old driver Colton Herta took victory after a race long duel with Santiago Urrutia, the Uruguayan driver is in his second year in the series. Colton made papa Bryan proud by becoming the youngest ever winner in Indy Lights history.

— Nasir Hameed

Photo: IndyCar.com

WRC

A MAIDEN WIN AND HIGH HOPES

Kris Meeke and Paul Nagle emerged victorious in Mexico to claim the Citroën C3 WRC’s first win. Secured on gravel – the surface on which the majority of the World Championship is contested – this result confirms the potential of the car developed by Yves Matton’s troops. The season is now really up and running for Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT, which will be entering three cars at the forthcoming Tour de Corse.

THE STORY OF THE RACE: BREATHTAKING RIGHT TO THE FINISH!

From the very outset, it seemed that this year’s Rally Mexico would be like no other. To begin with, the organisers managed to pull off something of a feat in holding a super special stage right in the middle of Mexico City, on the famous Zócalo square. Despite the rain, this new experience gave fans in the huge city an exclusive opportunity to witness the WRCs up close.

Unfortunately, the journey back to the service park in León, 400km from the capital, ended in disarray. A road traffic accident unrelated to the rally led to the road being closed, leaving the convoy transporting the cars stranded for several hours overnight. Their late arrival back in León resulted in the first two stages on Friday morning being cancelled.

The race therefore only really began with the rally’s 55km-long marathon stage, El Chocolate. Making the most of his tyre choice and a good starting position, Kris Meeke grabbed the stage win to move into the overall lead. The Briton also won one of the evening’s super special stages to end the first full day as leader, having already established a healthy 20.9s lead over Sébastien Ogier.

Meanwhile, in the other Citroën C3 WRC, Stéphane Lefebvre also made a good start to the race. He ended the day sixth overall, following the plan drawn up for him by the team to the letter on his first appearance at Rally Mexico in a WRC. However, the young Frenchman was then forced to retire in somewhat unfortunate circumstances on day three. Following a minor error, the no.8 C3 ended up stuck on a slope just off the road on a corner on SS10. The car was undamaged in the incident, so he was able to rejoin the next day under Rally2 rules.

Meanwhile, Kris Meeke continued his dominant display, tying for first place on El Brinco (SS11) and setting the fastest aggregate time over the morning’s stages. On the second pass, he claimed a stage win on Lajas de Oro (SS13) and extended his lead over Sébastien Ogier to 30.9s.

On Sunday, there “only” remained two stages to complete in order to see out this maiden win for the Citroën C3 WRC. On El Calera, the Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT drivers scored an impressive team result, with Meeke taking the stage win and Lefebvre finishing third.
On the Derramadero Power Stage, Kris Meeke looked like he was on course to seal the victory… when he went off the road just a few corners from the finishing line! The Northern Irishman ran wide after a big compression, through the hedge and into the middle of spectator car park! He nonetheless stayed calm, managed to find a way back onto the road within a few seconds and made it across the finishing line to win the rally by 13.8s!

After such an incredibly dramatic, stressful finish to the race, there were scenes of joy and excitement in the Citroën Racing team and they celebrated with Meeke and Nagle at a very noisy, passionate podium ceremony in León.

F1Weekly podcast # 720

NASIR IS JUST AS DISAPPOINTED AS THE HOST ON THE FACT THAT ANOTHER FORMULA 1 SEASON WILL LEAVE FERNANDO WITHOUT A WIN OR EVEN A PODIUM. THE SHARK FINS HAVE TO GO! AND WILL BOTAS BEAT LCH.

HERE ARE SOME WORDS FROM DANIEL RICCIARDO ON BARCELONA TEST 2…

Formula One’s second and final test of pre-season got underway in Barcelona, with Daniel Ricciardo returning to the cockpit of the RB13. And it was a productive day for the team, with the Australian putting 89 laps on the board and recording the day’s second quickest time. Daniel’s lap of 1:19.900 was set just before the lunch break on ultrasoft tyres as the team spent the morning focusing on shorter runs before longer stints in the afternoon.

“I felt we performed well on the softs this morning and we did quite a few good runs on that. We were also able to start doing some performance runs today. We tried the softer compounds and while my best time was on the ultrasoft it was actually not much quicker than the soft. I think we learned something from that. Generally I’m happy with what we got out of this morning and in terms of where we were last week I feel like the car is starting to come alive more. This afternoon we focused more on longer runs. We only got a few in, but it was enough to know how the tyres work after a few laps. We definitely feel we can still get more out of the car – I think everyone can – but it’s looking alright. It’s now my third day in the car and from day one to day two and now day three, I’m more and more happy with it.”

Head of Race Engineering Guillaume Rocquelin said: “I’d call that a very productive day’s work. In fact, it was pretty much working through the kind of programme we’d normally run on a Friday of a race weekend – so, shorter runs in the morning to focus on working with tyre compounds and then longer runs in the afternoon. Without the benefit of a shakedown before putting the car on track last week we were slightly at the mercy of whatever niggles presented themselves, and a couple did, but over the weekend we put some permanent fixes in place and that enabled us to have a really solid day today. Daniel went wide a couple of times – I think he was enjoying himself – so we had a few bits and pieces that needed repairing before the afternoon runs but they were purely cosmetic, so not a major issue. In terms of the times, they’re still not of great importance, but I’d say we may have slightly underperformed on the softer compounds, so there’s more to come I think.”

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