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Alonso was close to the frontrunners’ pace over the first 160 kilometres of the test, but his Toyota Hilux was then halted after an impact with a rock that left it with wheel and suspension damage.

Alonso and co-driver Marc Coma attempted repairs on the spot and ultimately resumed the stage after giving up just over two hours.

The Al Wajh – Neom stage, featuring 367 kilometres of timed competition, is the first of six in this year’s Dakar for which the roadbook is made available to crews minutes before the start, as opposed to the afternoon of the prior day

Much of the day’s proceedings were dominated by local hero Yazeed Al Rajhi, who led at each of the first five waypoints and was up by over six minutes after 250 kilometres, making up for the time losses incurred in an early detour on Sunday.

Al-Rajhi’s bid for stage victory and the overall lead fell apart in the very end, however, as he ceded over 20 minutes to fellow Toyota driver Giniel de Villiers, who ended the day as the pace-setter.

However, de Villiers’ opening stage travails mean he is only sixth in the general classification after two days, and trails Terranova by 12 minutes.

The Argentine, in a four-wheel-drive Mini John Cooper Works Rally, was second fastest on the day, while Khalid Al Qassimi in a privateer Peugeot and Mathieu Serradori in a Century buggy made it four different cars in the top four in the stage rankings.

The marathon’s two most recent champions, Mini buggy driver Carlos Sainz and Toyota’s Nasser Al-Attiyah, both surrendered over 10 minutes on Monday but are in the top three in the overall classification, with Serradori a surprise fourth.



Toyota’s defending champion Nasser Al-Attiyah led the way for most of the 319km timed special on the coastal stage from Jeddah to Al Wajh that kicked off the first ever Saudi Arabia-based Dakar.

But the Qatari suffered three punctures late on, paving the way for an upset.

With the X-raid Mini buggies of past rally winners Stephane Peterhansel and Carlos Sainz Sr having both lost several minutes early on, the privateer Peugeot of Khalid Al Qassimi and Zala’s Mini assumed the leading positions heading into the final stretch of the test.

And though former World Rally Championship regular Al Qassimi suffered a late setback and lost over a quarter of an hour, Zala held firm to clinch the stage win by two minutes over Peterhansel.

The Lithuanian, who is part of the Agrorodeo outfit and has switched to a Mini ALL4 Racing after finishing 12th overall in a Toyota last year, thus became the first driver to win a Dakar stage in a four-wheel-drive Mini since Mikko Hirvonen in 2016.

Sainz made it a Mini 1-2-3 behind Zala and Peterhansel, while Al-Attiyah mitigated the damage from his late-stage travails in fourth place, 5m33s off the pace.

Bernhard ten Brinke was Al-Attiyah’s next best Toyota squadmate, finishing a minute behind in fifth and followed by the other big surprise in the top 10 – Mathieu Serradori in a South African-developed Century CR6 buggy.

azeed Al Rajhi began his first home Dakar with eighth place in his Overdrive Toyota, but more or less matched the leaders’ pace after losing time in the early kilometres.

Alonso in 11th was 15 minutes and 27 seconds off the pace set by the leader in his first-ever Dakar stage.

It proved a tougher day for past Dakar winners Giniel de Villiers and Nani Roma, with both the Toyota Gazoo Racing driver – who finished with a slow puncture – and the new Borgward recruit losing more than 20 minutes.

Two-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Romain Dumas, who had previous outings in a privateer Peugeot, took the start in a DXX buggy developed by his RD Limited team.

But the factory Porsche GT racer dropped out just over 65km into the event as his car caught fire and he was forced to climb out.

The other DXX, campaigned under the Rebellion banner by the LMP1 team’s owner Alexandre Pesci, remains in the race.



Bag of experience. Eric Boullier packs a lot of winning experience in team and driver management. He is now involved in the promotion of the French Grand Prix.

Q. French GP history goes back to 1906. Is Paul Ricard the long-term future of this event?

A. “Yes, 1906 was the first French Grand Prix near Le Mans if I remember. Paul Ricard is now the track hosting French Grand Prix; we still have a contract running for another three years. Anything is possible after that.”

Sacré bleu. French Riviera, Paul Ricard and the long Mistral straight. “Once in a lifetime.”

Q. Are you happy with the attendance and corporate support at this time?

A. “Yes. We always want more. The Grand Prix was an amazing success for the return. The second year is always more difficult for a Grand Prix.”

Q. Your educational background is aerospace engineering, how did you get the racing bug?

A. “You were talking about 1906 Le Mans, well I was born near Le Mans in a city called Laval. When I was 9 years old, I was racing with some remote-control cars, and this is how I started.”

Q. Ron Dennis once described F1 as a piranha pool. In terms of politics and cut throat nature of this business, do you really need to be a mean shark to survive and succeed in F1?

A. “I think any business is a piranha pool. I think Formula 1 obviously has a lot of egos and lots of attention. You put ten of the most competitive racing competitors in the same area so they obviously are very close to each other and they do tend to develop ego or whatever it is called, may be some of them with a piranha behavior.”

Q. Eddie Jordan once said ‘egos in Formula 1 are so big you can float the Titanic on it’, is that true?

A. “I do tend to agree with Eddie for once.”

Q.Your time at McLaren, in your observation what were the main issues there apart from Honda getting all the blame?

A. “I don’t think it’s true to say that. You know it’s a long story in the past and I’m not sure if I want to develop that story. It was great years for me, it’s a great bunch of people. And I have many friends there. So, I think past is the past and let’s move forward.”

Q. Did anybody from Honda say anything to McLaren management when Alonso was very vocal about their product, especially after the GP2 engine comment at Suzuka?

A. “I can’t comment about the past. I don’t want to say anything about this. It’s a past story. We have to move on.”

Future of France. Boullier pulled then 12-year-old Esteban Ocon into Gravity Management. Now he will race with Renault F1 team under Mercedes Management.

Q.You were involved with Gravity Management, of all the drivers managed by Gravity who were the best?

A. “I will say one who has been winning since then. I remember Marco Wittmann. He has been double DTM Champion. He’s a good driver. And obviously today I am proud to see Romain still in Formula 1, and Esteban Ocon in Formula 1 having a great career. I was the one picking up Esteban when he was 12-years old and I still remember that interview with him. To see him today in the F1 paddock being a mature and professional F1 driver is happiness and pride.”

Q. Esteban Ocon is a great talent and product of French Racing system, how do you rate him and how will he do against Ricciardo?

A. “I do rate him very high obviously. He’s the future for France definitely. I do rate him very high. He will match performance with Daniel. He’s now very much matured and comfortable with his F1 life. He grew up now in the best team environment. He has been in best days with Force India, Racing Point now. He spent few years with Mercedes GP which is the best team organization today. And he’s joining a car manufacturer Renault which is the best place to be when you are an F1 driver, so he will do very well.”

Q. Kimi Raikkonen was racing for you when he made that famous comment ‘leave me alone. I know what I am doing’. Is he the most unique driver you have ever dealt with?

A. “They are all unique. Kimi is a special character, may be a bit different, everyone is fond of him, but they are all unique and I have been lucky enough to work with guys like Robert Kubica, Fernando Alonso, Jenson Button. Also, Romain Grosjean, Bruno Senna and some others.”

Q. What would be the main reasons for an F1 fan to attend the French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard?

A. “There are many reasons. First, it’s a summer race we call it. Everybody in the world knows the French Riviera. And I am pretty sure everybody wants, at least once in their life, spend holidays there. That’s a good opportunity already to do it. To be fair, being at the end of June, just before summer, it’s a great place to enjoy the French hospitality. We have a lot of activities.

“We are one of the new grand prix models for Liberty. Our paddock is full of activities, exhibition shows, but also on track, off track and you can really enjoy a great weekend.”

— Nasir Hameed

Special thanks to Pierre Guyonnet-Duperat for arranging this interview.

F1Weekly Podcast # 813


Sonoma, Calif.  – The Sonoma Speed Festival has announced its second annual event, set for May 28-31, 2020 at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California. The event will feature the rarest authentic racing cars spanning the history of motorsports from the Brass Era to the modern age competing on track, along with world-class food and wine options, motorsport exhibitions, car shows and more.

The premier historic motorsports festival returns to Sonoma Raceway to showcase the world’s greatest race cars competing on track, along with world-class California wine tasting, gourmet food, curated car show displays, family activities, comedic relief from the Ragtime Racers and full access to motorsports icons from the last century on May 28-31, 2020.

The 2020 Sonoma Speed Festival follows a successful inaugural event in 2019, which featured over 200 cars that could be viewed up close and at speed, including two rare Ferrari 250 GTOs competing on track; demonstration runs by the only winning McLaren F1 GTR Longtail; two ex-John Wyer Gulf Racing Porsche 917Ks and two Gulf Racing Ford GT40s in competition. Drawing cars from Le Mans, Sebring, Formula One and more, the original works drivers include Jack Brabham, Niki Lauda, Mario Andretti, Jacky Ickx, Emerson Fittipaldi, Derek Daly, Jody Scheckter and many others.

The single most successful chassis in the history of Formula 1 – the 2016 Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport F1 W07/04 – made several demonstration runs with team simulation and test driver Esteban Gutierrez. Thrilling the crowd, Esteban pushed his car to the limit and recorded a spectacular lap of 1:15.430 on the “full-course” configuration, breaking the lap record by over five seconds.

Outside of racing action on the track, guests will enjoy a variety of activities and displays along with a craft beer garden and the Sip & Savor Pavilion featuring wine tastings from an array of world-class California wineries with gourmet food pairings. Open air picnicking on a sprawling turf family area, curated historic vehicle displays, comedy routines by the Ragtime Racers and more make the event a must for hardcore race fans and families alike.

“Our inaugural event was a smash hit with both fans and participants,” said Ryan R. Turri, General Manager of the Sonoma Speed Festival. “We look forward to making this event even better for 2020.”

Ticketing and registration information will be available soon online at, along with additional information on special attractions. Learn more on the event website and follow the action on Facebook and Instagram.

Play Podcast: 12-26-19f1weekly813.mp3


F1Weekly’s exclusive interview with Jean Alesi. Famous Ferrari pilot who won his first Formula 1 race on his Birthday. He led many races but this would remain his only GP success.

Q. Good to see the Alesi name winning again in racing, please tell us about your son Giuliano’s progress?

A. “It was for the Formula 2 season for Giuliano very difficult season, but so far he managed to make some progress race after race. But for him it was very difficult every race to have a different teammate.”

Q. You had the best present for your 31st birthday, please tell us what you remember most from that wonderful day and evening in Montreal?

A. “I checked last time I did almost 2,000 laps leading a Grand Prix and I won only one. So for me it was like a freedom to pass the finish line as a leading driver. I’ve been extremely, extremely happy and the night after the race I didn’t celebrate really but when I went in the restaurant the whole restaurant stand up and applaused. That was a great memory for me.”

Q. Your family is from Sicily, do names like Nino Vaccarella and Targa Florio mean anything to you?

A. “Yes. I am a big, big fan of old time. Vaccarella for us in Sicily it was really the Tazio Nuvolari. We respect him and know him. I like this story.”

Q. You and Gerhard Berger were two great characters and teammates at Ferrari, what is the story of overturning Jean Todt’s car after lunch at Fiorano?

A. “We had this moment with Gerhard when we were young and a bit crazy. We had this small inconvenience with Jean Todt’s car. He was very upset. We didn’t really did it on purpose, playing like that in the end we had this accident.”

Jean Alesi. The Street Fighter. The French Ace of Avignon puts the heat on Ayrton Senna to make one of the most memorable passes in the 1990 USGP in Phoenix. Photo.

Q Phoenix, Arizona, 1990, the heat was very hot and so was your performance in a Tyrrell against the McLaren Honda of Ayrton Senna. That race must have great memories for you?

A. “Yes, because it was the first time I drove the Pirelli tires. We knew we had this extra grip in qualifying but for the race we were not sure because the spirit of Pirelli at that time was to do the whole Grand Prix without pitting, without changing the tires. But I didn’t have the experience with this tire, so when I went in there I was not sure at all if it was good or not. And then it was a fantastic surprise because I qualified 5th. I had a super start and took second place.”

Q. Ken Tyrrell was a championship winning team owner. How was your personal and professional relationship with you?

A. “For me it was the best team to start because he was like a father, he gave me a lot of confidence. Always close to me and that was absolutely important for my progress.”

Q. Your relationship with Eddie Jordan?

A. “He was the key of my success because he took me after my Formula 3000 Championship in ‘88 where I was really nowhere, and gave me a winning car and introduced me to the Formula 1 teams. He made the deal to race one Grand Prix with Tyrrell, and then we signed for the rest of the season. So for me Eddie Jordan means everything.”

Q.You had a contract with Williams when the phone call came from Maranello, driving for Ferrari, was that purely an emotional decision or was there more to it?

A. “No, no, no. I had a contract and it was clear I was going to drive for Williams. But because Williams didn’t take the decision of the date we had on this contract it becomes option, and Ferrari decided to give me straight contract, fixed contract so we pull out of the Williams contract.”

Q Finally, your thoughts on Formula 1, your time and today?

A. “You know the time is changing. My time was for sure extremely exciting for me. But I am sure if we now ask Charles how he feels he will say ‘oh, it is a great time for me, very exciting, I love the cars.

“So, Formula 1 is Formula 1. And because we are using machines we cannot compare the previous time.”

— Nasir Hameed