DAKAR RALLY

SÉBASTIEN LOEB BACK TO DAKAR 2019 AS A PRIVATEER

Nine-time World Rally Champion and recent Rally Catalunya winner Sébastien Loeb will sensationally return to the Dakar Rally next year as a privateer, backed by Red Bull.

The 44-year-old Frenchman, who won his 79th WRC rally in Spain last weekend, will drive a Peugeot 3008DKR navigated by Daniel Elena. This is similar to the car with which he finished runner-up to team-mate Stéphane Peterhansel in 2017, missing out on the win by just five minutes. Loeb also convincingly led the Dakar earlier this year, before being forced to retire due to an injury sustained by his co-driver after a heavy impact in the Peruvian dunes

Sebastien Loeb (FRA) from Team Peugeot Total is towed by Cyril Despres (FRA) during stage 11 of Rally Dakar 2016 from La Rioja to San Juan, Argentina on January 14, 2016.

PSA Group ambassador Loeb – whose Peugeot will be run by independent French team PH Sport – is now bidding to become the first privateer to win the epic Dakar Rally since Jean-Louis Schlesser back in 2000. Next year’s 41st Dakar Rally takes place in Peru from January 6-17, covering approximately 5,000 kilometres over 10 stages. As usual, just getting to the finish will be an achievement.

“Throughout my career I’ve always been considered to be a favourite,” said Loeb. “While I’m obviously motivated by winning, having fun is important too. So taking part in the 2019 Dakar with Daniel, as private outsiders, is a fantastic challenge. I’m ready to give it a go: a little bit like my three WRC appearances this year, where success was far from being guaranteed. Except this time, I’m in a private team, which obviously makes it more difficult.”

FORMULA 1

MAX WINS LCH TAKES FIVE

MAX VERSTAPPEN,  “Yesterday I was very frustrated and disappointed but today I am really happy, and Sunday is the best day to be happy. I didn’t sleep much last night and found today’s race build up a long one, but after the lights went out my feelings soon changed. Once ahead I could just settle in and concentrate on my own race, especially as Lewis looked to be struggling with grip. I made sure I matched his lap times to maintain the lead. We got the strategy spot on again, having another set of Supersofts meant I was able to manage the wear knowing I had a fresh set to go onto towards the end of the race.
So when Seb pitted we did the same and were able to keep the gap. When I saw Daniel pull over I asked the Team if they should turn my engine down as I already had such an advantage, I wanted to be sure we made it to the chequered flag. It was such a shame as we were definitely on for at least a double podium, if not a one, two. The podium, like last year is amazing. To have the DJ and the crowd coming down from the stands is really cool, two years in a row makes it even better. Mexico always has so many passionate fans which makes me love coming back here every year. Also congratulations to Lewis on his fifth title, he has been the most consistently strong driver all year and deserves the championship, I’m sure it feels very special. Hopefully I can challenge him for it soon.”

WRC

SÉBASTIEN LOEB SECURES WIN FOR CITROËN!

A bold and inspired tyre choice, followed by a majestic performance on the final four stages of Rally Catalunya saw Sébastien Loeb and Daniel Elena sweep to the seventy-ninth victory of their incredible WRC career. They also claimed Citroën Total Abu Dhabi WRT’s first win of the year in the process and its 99thin the WRC. Their victory equally means the team remains unbeaten in Catalonia for the second year running! Meanwhile, Craig Breen and Scott Martin finished ninth overall after finding some confidence behind the wheel again whilst Khalid Al Qassimi and Chris Patterson enjoyed their final of racing to the full, ending the rally in twenty-first place.

Sébastien Loeb…

“It was an almighty scrap, right to the bitter end. When I saw that I had won on the display at the end of the final stage, it was a truly incredible feeling! It’s really nice to have managed to be on the pace again after all these years, because the guys haven’t stood still whilst I’ve been away and they really pushed hard every inch of the way. I couldn’t afford to drag my heels in getting my bearings back on the gravel on Friday, or on the wet tarmac yesterday either. We were quick this morning after making the right call on tyres and then we held on, despite a minor error on the penultimate stage. Right now, given how the rally panned out, I’d be tempted to say it’s perhaps my greatest win and I’m delighted to secure what is a richly-deserved result for the team.”

FORMULA 1

RICCIARDO TAKES POLE IN MEXICO

DANIEL RICCIARDO, …
“As you can probably tell, I’m pretty happy right now. I know it’s only qualifying but actually it’s pretty special and this is only the third time in my career that I’ve been on pole. Every other time was Monaco, it starts with an M but this time it’s Mexico. Putting the lap together right at the very end, when Max had dominated in practice and then Mercedes came on so strong made it even more exciting.
I don’t think anyone expected me to do it but I knew there was some extra speed in me and I’m happy to have found it. I knew I could clean up my first lap in Q3 and the first sector on my second lap was still average, but in the second sector I was building and I was pretty pumped up by the third. It feels awesome to be back at the front and it feels right. It’s been a challenging year and I’ve been wanting to finish on a high with Red Bull, so hopefully my run of poor fortune has come to an end and we can deliver what we all want tomorrow.
This is the first front row lockout for the Team since 2013 so it’s a really big day for us all. I don’t think it will be a straightforward race and it will certainly be interesting, but hopefully it will be interesting for all the right reasons. It’s going to be a good fight with Max, Lewis and Seb but if we can convert a double front row into a double podium then the entire Team will leave Mexico very happy.”

F1Weekly podcast # 773

NASIR RETURNS FROM TEXAS WITH A FULL REPORT ON THE GOINGS ON BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX. CLARK CONTINUES ON HIS CONSPIRACY PATH AND…

HERE MAX’S TAKE AHEAD OF THE MEXICAN GP.

 “I’m looking forward to getting back to Mexico as the circuit tends to suit our car better than others. Last year I came away with a win which felt amazing. I put in a good move at the start and therefore managed to keep out front for the remainder of the race. The atmosphere inside the stadium section is always good when you are out on track, but last year being on the podium it was next level.

AUSTIN, TX – OCTOBER 21: Max Verstappen of Netherlands and Red Bull Racing prepares to drive on the grid before the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 21, 2018 in Austin, United States. (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Max Verstappen

It turns into a party atmosphere pretty much as soon as the race is finished, I’m hoping to be back up there this year. As it is such a busy weekend on the calendar I haven’t had the chance to see much of Mexico city in the past, this year I can hopefully get out, see some sights and taste some local dishes.”

FORMULA 1

WHO NEEDED TO WIN…HE DID!

KIMI overcame LCH the start and withstood late pressure from Max Verstappen and the Mercedes driver to finally win in his second spell with Ferrari.

It’s the Finn’s first victory since the 2013 Australian Grand Prix.

Vettel’s fourth place, the German having passed Valtteri Bottas late on in his recovery drive, means Hamilton leads by 70 points with 75 on offer in the final three grands prix.

Hamilton went into the Austin race needing to outscore Vettel by eight points to clinch a fifth championship. He erred at the start as Raikkonen muscled past on the inside into Turn 1, but half a lap later the pendulum swung in Hamilton’s favour when Vettel spun to 15th.

Vettel breezed past Daniel Ricciardo down the back straight but made a small mistake under braking for the next corner and Ricciardo cut back on the exit of the tight left-hander.

That gave Vettel the inside line for the next right-hander, but the German had a small wobble, bumped into the Red Bull and ended up facing the wrong way.

Raikkonen kept Hamilton at bay until an early virtual safety car led to Ferrari and Mercedes adopting different strategies.

With the race neutralised as marshals tended to Ricciardo’s stricken Red Bull, which had stopped on the exit of the Turn 11 hairpin, Mercedes told Hamilton to do the opposite to Raikkonen under the VSC and so he dived into the pits, committing to a two-stop strategy.

Hamilton resumed in third place, just nine seconds behind the Finn, and within three laps had taken second from teammate Bottas, who slowed down on the start-finish straight to let him by.

By lap 18 of 56, Hamilton was already on the back of Raikkonen again but the Finn somehow resisted three laps of relentless Hamilton pressure before pitting.

Vettel stayed out until lap 26, ceding places to Raikkonen and Verstappen – who had charged from 18th in a stunning first stint on softs – as he struggled with fading tyres.

Raikkonen’s task was to stay within one pitstop – roughly 20s – of Hamilton, while Vettel began to catch Bottas for fourth.

Hamilton’s 18-second lead was gradually eroded by Raikkonen and as the Mercedes’ ageing softs worsened, third-place man Verstappen and Bottas comfortably got inside Hamilton’s pitstop window.  He stopped on lap 37, which handed Raikkonen a 2.5-second lead over Verstappen, with Bottas 6.5s further back and Hamilton fourth, 12s behind the lead Ferrari and 4.1s clear of Vettel.

Armed with fresh softs, Hamilton raced onto the back of his teammate and was let through within two laps.

That put Hamilton third, 8.8s off the lead, but with Vettel stuck in fifth Hamilton only needed to pass Verstappen – 6.7s ahead with 15 laps to go – to secure the title.

He closed onto the back of Verstappen with seven laps to go, but was not able to make a pass as their battle culminated in an epic run of four corners side-by-side.

Hamilton ran wide as he finally attempted to pass Verstappen on the outside of the fast double-right near the end of the lap.

Moments later, Vettel passed Bottas at the hairpin to lose only two points to Hamilton as the title fight continues.

Behind the leaders, Renault received a late boost in its quest for fourth in the constructors’ championship as Nico Hulkenberg led home teammate Carlos Sainz for a best-of-the-rest one-two.

Esteban Ocon (Racing Point Force India), Kevin Magnussen (Haas) and Ocon’s teammate Sergio Perez completed the points finishers.