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INDYCAR SERIES

TWO-TIME F1 CHAMPION ALONSO TO COMPETE IN 101ST INDIANAPOLIS 500!

INDIANAPOLIS (Wednesday, April 12, 2017) – The Indianapolis 500 has attracted another world champion to its driver field.

McLaren announced today that Fernando Alonso El mas macho de Espana, Formula One’s two-time champion and three-time runner-up, will compete in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28.

Alonso will drive for Andretti Autosport, which has won four Indianapolis 500s, including last year’s race with Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Alexander Rossi at the wheel of the Honda-powered Dallara. Honda also powers Alonso’s car on McLaren’s grand prix team.

Alonso becomes the ninth driver to enter the 500 with a world championship on his resume. In recent years, Nigel Mansell’s participation in 1993 as the reigning F1 champion was the most celebrated, with media interest at a fevered pitch. Mansell finished third.

Alonso’s decision to join this year’s 500 field adds to the momentum of the race and the Verizon IndyCar Series. Last year’s 500 was sold out for the first time in history and broke attendance marks. The Verizon IndyCar Series has seen television ratings increases each of the past three years, a combined 55 percent, and Alonso’s participation should provide an even greater spotlight on month of May activities.

“The entire INDYCAR community – competitors, fans, media, everyone – is delighted and excited at the prospect of a driver as brilliant as Fernando making his debut in our series,” said Mark Miles, CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series. “Even better, he’ll be making that debut in the greatest race of our year, the world-famous Indy 500.”

Alonso has 32 grand prix victories and 97 podium finishes in 275 F1 starts. Competing in his 15th F1 season, Alonso became the youngest champion in series history in 2005 at age 24 and backed it up with another title the following year.

Alonso strives to win the 500 as F1 champion Graham Hill did as a rookie in 1966. Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Emerson Fittipaldi, Mario Andretti and Nelson Piquet also drove in the 500 as one-time world champions, while Alberto Ascari, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt and Jacques Villeneuve won F1 titles after competing in the 500.

“I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500 with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” Alonso said. “The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix.”

McLaren has a storied history in the Indianapolis 500. Company founder Bruce McLaren fielded a car in the 1970 race, although he failed to qualify in it. The next year, after McLaren died, Mark Donohue qualified a Penske-entered McLaren in the second position but completed only 66 laps and finished 25th. In 1972, Donohue won the 500, the first of a record 16 for Team Penske and the first of three McLaren victories at IMS. Johnny Rutherford won the other two, in 1974 and ’76.

This appearance in the 500 comes 38 years after McLaren’s most recent attempt at IMS and Alonso’s car will carry the same papaya orange McLaren livery. Both of Rutherford’s McLaren victories came in cars of this color. Alonso’s car also will carry many of McLaren’s grand prix partners.

Andretti Autosport owner Michael Andretti has a link to McLaren, too. He raced for the F1 team in 1993 alongside Ayrton Senna.

Alonso has never raced an Indy car before or driven on a superspeedway, but Andretti thinks the talented 35-year-old driver can overcome that inexperience with the amount of track time afforded competitors in May. Andretti demonstrated his point through Rossi’s victory a year ago.

“I’m confident that I’ll get to grips with it fast,” Alonso said of the transition to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the 500. “I’ve watched a lot of Indy car action on TV and online, and it’s clear that great precision is required to race in close proximity with other cars on the far side of 220 mph. I realize I’ll be on a steep learning curve, but I’ll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix (May 14), practicing our McLaren/Andretti car at Indy from May 15 onwards, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day.

“I know how good the Andretti Autosport guys are. I’ll be proud to race with them and I intend to mine their knowledge and expertise for as much info as I possibly can.”

Andretti Autosport has won the 500 with four drivers: Tony Kanaan (2004), Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007), Ryan Hunter-Reay (2014) and Rossi (2016).

“Could history repeat itself? Stranger things have happened,” Miles said of another possible rookie winner. “But whether or not Fernando wins this year, I’m thrilled that the name of McLaren will be returning to Indianapolis. Three times in the 1970s the Indy 500 was won by a driver at the wheel of a McLaren – one win for Mark Donohue and two wins for Johnny Rutherford – and I’m sure Johnny will be at the Brickyard again this year to cheer on his old team.

“Last but not least, we should all remember Bruce McLaren, the team’s founder, a brilliant driver-engineer-entrepreneur who was tragically killed while testing a McLaren M8D Can-Am car at Goodwood 47 long years ago and who will finally and rightfully be inducted to the Auto Racing Hall of Fame this year.”

McLaren will be inducted in May along with Franchitti, the three-time 500 winner and four-time Verizon IndyCar Series champion.

Miles credited Alonso, Andretti and Zak Brown, the executive director of McLaren Technology Group, for assembling the deal. Brown called Alonso “the best racing driver in the world.”

“Could Fernando win this year’s Indy 500? Well, I wouldn’t be so silly as to make any such rash prediction, but I expect him to be in the mix,” Brown said. “Put it this way: the team he’ll be racing for won the race last year, using the same Honda engine, and he’s the best racing driver in the world. That’s quite a compelling combination.”

The addition of the Alonso entry brings to six the number of cars Andretti Autosport has entered in this year’s 500. Full-season drivers Marco Andretti, Hunter-Reay, Rossi and Takuma Sato will compete, along with rookie Jack Harvey, who was named to drive the No. 50 Honda on Sunday.

Practice for the 101st running of the 500 begins May 15. Qualifying is May 20-21. Ticket information for the race is available at IMS.com.

FORMULA 1

LCH BEATS VETTEL TO POLE POSITION IN CHINA

LCH claimed his second successive pole position of the new season in China. He was, however, pushed to the limit again by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished second, just one-thousandth of a second in front of Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton saved the best to last, setting a flawless pole lap on his final run in Q3 that Vettel was unable to match. But Ferrari have proved once again they have the pace this season to match Mercedes and with rain forecast for Sunday in Shanghai, the race could be a feisty spectacle.

“We knew it was going to be close,” said Hamilton. “It was going to mean we would have to pull out all the stops and really have a very, very perfect lap. I managed to just chip away at it from session to session. No major issues. But the last lap was my best lap, which is always the plan.

Lewis Hamilton’s battle with Sebastian Vettel could match F1’s great rivalries
“It is more exciting than ever for me because we are really fighting with these guys. It is amazing and that is what racing is all about, and it really pushes you to raise the bar every time you go out, which I love.”

The second Ferrari, driven by Kimi Raikkonen, will start from fourth but the best Red Bull could manage was fifth, with Daniel Ricciardo over a second back from the pole-sitter’s pace. Max Verstappen, suffering from a power problem in his Red Bull, was knocked out of Q1, and will be 17th on the grid.

Vettel, however, who started from second at Melbourne and went on to win, was optimistic for Sunday. “I think we can still improve. Let’s see what the race looks like tomorrow. The conditions will be quite different,” he said. “I think it should be an exciting race. The car is good, so I’m confident, no matter the conditions that the car is working, and we will try to do the fastest race.”

Hamilton has not driven on the full wet tyre this season, having not done so in testing due to an electrical fault on his car. Should the rain come on Sunday – and the forecast is that it is very likely – it will bring a fresh challenge.

“Tomorrow will be a new lesson for me to learn if it is wet and it will be interesting to see,” he said. “Ferrari have a very, very strong car, particularly a step up more so in the race pace and how they treat their tyres, particularly when it’s warm, so it will be interesting to see what the weather brings us tomorrow. Whatever the case it’s going to be close between us and that bodes well for one of the most exciting days to come for a long time.”

This was the 63rd pole position of Hamilton’s career, putting him only two behind Ayrton Senna and five behind Michael Schumacher in the single lap discipline. Hamilton’s time of 1.31.678 was two tenths in front of Vettel – with the new regulations having seen the previous lap record, 1.32.238, set by Schumacher in 2004, comprehensively demolished. The top four were separated by less than four tenths and clearly the pace Ferrari showed in Australia was not a one-off peculiar to Albert Park.

“It is more exciting than ever for me because we are really fighting with these guys,” said Hamilton. “It is amazing and that is what racing is all about, and it really pushes you to raise the bar every time you go out, which I love.

BRITISH F4

ERICSSON TO RACE IN BRITISH F4 WITH FORTEC MOTORSPORTS

Fortec Motorsports and Hampus Ericsson, younger brother of Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson, have agreed terms on a deal which will see the talented Swedish karter race in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered Ford EcoBoost. Ericsson will compete in the series’ Ford F4 Challenge Cup where entrants contest a maximum of seven out of 10 meetings during the season.

“I’m really excited and happy to race in British F4 with Fortec Motorsports,” said Ericsson. “I cannot wait to start my first race at Donington Park.

“I wanted to make the step up from karting to cars and British F4 is the best place to do that. The championship is so competitive and the tracks look very interesting to drive.

“I raced with Alex Quinn in karting and he’s really strong. I also know Logan Sargeant well. To compete against talented drivers like them is what every driver wants to do to prove themselves.”

Ericsson finished runner-up in the Swedish Karting Championship’s KJ Junior class last year and in the top three in the Junior 60 class two years prior.

The 15-year-old joins fellow rookie Oliver York at Fortec Motorsports, who impressed in his maiden outing at the opening round of the UK’s leading single-seater series.

“I’m looking forward to racing alongside Oliver,” added Ericsson. “I think we can work really well together and achieve excellent results.”

Older brother Marcus was no stranger to success with the Fortec Motorsports team, winning the Formula BMW UK Championship in his rookie year and then recording a number of podiums with the team in Formula 3 before climbing his way up to Formula 1.

While Hampus will hope to emulate his brother, he’s keeping his feet firmly on the ground: “I did a couple of testing days in November with the team, but I definitely need to build up my experience of the car and that will happen as I do more and more laps.

“This year is very much a learning year. It will be my first year racing in cars. At the moment I’m not looking too far ahead in my career beyond British F4. I need to take things one step at a time, but it would be nice to be overtaking my brother Marcus in a Formula 1 race one day.”

Fortec Motorsports team owner Richard Dutton echoed the sentiments of his newest recruit: “2017 is very much a learning year for Hampus. He has missed pre-season testing so it’s not going to be easy for him, but we’re looking forward to the rounds at the end of the season to see how much he has developed. The first part of the year will definitely be about learning and building experience.

“Hampus has been very competitive throughout his karting career and I think he has the ingredients to succeed in cars. He set the lap record at the World Junior Karting Finals in Bahrain and performed very well so there’s no doubting his raw speed and talent.

“He tested with us in Valencia last November. It was his first time in the car, but he impressed. In an ideal world he would have done plenty of pre-season testing, but we’ll do the best we can.

“We have put together a very exciting programme for Hampus and I think he will become part of the Fortec Motorsports young driver programme too.”

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.

DTM

THE TECHNOLOGY OF THE 2017 DTM CARS: MORE POWER AND LESS DOWNFORCE REPRESENT A BIGGER CHALLENGE FOR THE DRIVING SKILLS THAN EVER

To let the skills of the drivers gain even more importance, the technical regulations for the 2017 season were revised in crucial areas. So, the horsepower output of the new cars was increased while the aerodynamics were restricted at the same time. This means that driving this year’s cars is a bigger challenge and the drivers have to work even harder.

The technology of the 2017 DTM cars differs from the one of its predecessors in several significant areas:

The engine
In 2017, the four-litre V8 engines of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG will produce – for the first time – more than 500bhp. The increased horsepower output mainly was achieved by bigger intake-system air restrictors. The engines are equipped with one air restrictor per cylinder bench and their diameter has been increased from 28 to 29 millimetres. Furthermore, the new regulations allow for enhancement in special intake-system areas special areas to optimise the engine’s performance even more. Nonetheless, maximum longevity still represents a top priority of the DTM engines’ design. Blown engines are extremely rare in DTM and usually, the engines survive the entire season. During the course of the season, cost-intensive engine revisions aren’t allowed in DTM as the sealed engines only may be subjected to services in this period of time, according to the regulations.

Aerodynamics
The guidelines of the new regulations comprise a reduction of the aerodynamics. To achieve this goal, the geometry of the front splitter, underbody and rear diffuser was changed and the ride height was increased.

Meanwhile, the rear wing and the DRS (Drag Reduction System) make for a major and visible difference. The DRS allows the driver to reduce his vehicle’s drag for a short time, thus increasing its top speed. In the past this made for many battles and overtaking manoeuvres. Other than last year’s rear wing that could be hinged down completely, only the so-called Guerney Flap, the upper of two fins of the rear wing, is flapped down what even increases the DRS efficiency.

The tyres
Combined with the new Hankook tyres that provide more grip for a short period of time but force the drivers to cope with a higher performance decrease over the distance, these changes make for a handling of the new DTM cars that is clearly more demanding for the drivers than it was in the past.

New control components
The body design of this year’s DTM touring cars of Audi, BMW and Mercedes-AMG complies with the latest generation of their production brethren. To restrict the cost-intensive high-tech developments, the new regulations feature clearly more areas for jointly developed control components. The development of these components is controlled by the umbrella organisation ITR in close cooperation with the manufacturers’ engineers. For 2017, the range of control parts was extended – inter alia – by components for the suspension area. Furthermore, the DTM control wheel also will make its debut. From this year, all the 18 cars will race on ATS wheels while every manufacturer could opt for the wheel it preferred, in the past.

Drivers feel pleasant anticipation
After the first tests for the 2017 season, the drivers proved to be really happy with their new cars. “The changes made on the car are clearly noticeable – particularly the combination of less aero, more power and the new tyres,” said Mattias Ekström, the senior driver on the DTM grid, representative of all the DTM drivers. “As I see it we are heading in the right direction and I think we are going to have a lot of fun, this year.”

The testing was continued this week at Vallelunga, Italy from 14th to 16th March, and many of the components were subjected to acid tests for the coming season.

In addition to the alterations on the technical regulations, those responsible also intensely work on the sporting regulations. Next week ITR is going to inform on the planned changes for the coming season that will be kicked off at Hockenheim from 05th to 07th May.

F1Weekly podcast # 721

JOHN SURTEES PASSED AWAY MARCH 10, 2017

NASIR HAMEED ACCEPTED AN INVITATION TO HAVE A CONVERSATION AND A CUP OF TEA WITH JOHN SURTEES IN THE SPRING OF 2016. ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON PODCAST # 706 PART 1 AND PODCAST # 707 PART 2. F1W IS BRINGING BACK THE INTERVIEW IN IT’S ENTIRETY WITH PODCAST # 721

John Surtees, CBE (born 11 February 1934) is a British former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer and Formula One driver. He is a four-time 500cc motorcycle World Champion – winning that title in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960 – the Formula One World Champion in 1964, and remains the only person to have won World Championships on both two and four wheels. He founded the Surtees Racing Organisation team that competed as a constructor in Formula One, Formula 2 and Formula 5000 from 1970 to 1978. He is also the ambassador of the Racing Steps Foundation.

[audio:http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/mp3.f1weekly.com/podcasts/03-11-17f1weekly721.mp3]