Racing Legends: Marc Marquez

There are talented racers in Moto GP and then there are those who seem to be born to race. Ones that stand out from the crowd. Marc Marquez is one of those riders. With his natural ability, his intelligence, understanding of racing and his wonderful family support behind him, culminate to an unstoppable force.

Courtesy of: MichelinMotorsport.com

Born February 1993, in Cerevera, Spain. Marquez has always gravitated towards a career in Motorcycle racing. Thriving from his family’s love and encouragement, Marc has gone on to be a phenomenon in his own right. He has shown audiences worldwide that he has the passion, courage and correct character that all great champions need.

Starting off racing competitively in the Catalan and Spanish National Championships Marquez went on to race in the 125’s. Only six races into his first season he scored his first podium. Learning how to use the bike to his full advantage, he carried on this momentum into his second season in 2009. Finishing in the top 10.

2010 became the first actual taste of Marquez’s true talent. Winning the 125 championship, just 17 years and 263 days old. The second youngest 125 champion after Loris Capirossi, who was just 17 years and 165 days old.

Progressing into the Moto 2 class in 2011, Marquez only took one season to learn, conquering in 2012, becoming the new world champion.

Not wishing to carry on in Moto 2, Marquez then progressed again, this time to the Premier Class. Showing his determination to be a Moto GP champion, he won his first race on the Honda, in only the second race of the season in Texas, a new track for Moto GP. It was here that he also became the youngest ever pole setter, the youngest ever race winner of the top class at just 20 years and 62 days and he completed the full set with the fastest lap, a superb achievement.

He was soon breaking all the youngest ever records and setting new ones. In only his first year he managed the impossible – winning the entire championship, by only 4 points, over Jorge Lorenzo. The first time a rookie had won since 1978 (Kenny Roberts Snr). Becoming the youngest ever World Champion at 20 years and 266 days and the youngest rider to win back-to-back Grand Prix races in the Premier Class at Laguna Seca and Sachsenring.

Putting any doubters to rest, saying that he would only be a one-time champion, he won back-to-back seasons in 2014, securing victory with three races to spare. Setting new records for the most wins in a season as well as most pole positions in a year and beating Mick Doohan’s record of twelve race wins in one season. The same year saw his younger brother Alex also win a title, in Moto 3.

Winning five races and retiring in six, Marquez found himself finishing third overall in 2015, having not been able to match the consistency of Yamaha team-mates Rossi and Lorenzo. Having three collisions on-track with Rossi, controversy about his “aggressive riding style” drew criticism, yet again, from his fellow riders, namely Rossi with whom he had battled numerous times for the championship. Some racing fans turned against Marquez, even booing him on the podium, but things soon settled down again when Rossi and Marquez embraced in parc ferme after the race which followed the tragic death of Moto 2 rider Luis Salom.

Despite not winning the 2015 title, Marquez was still putting himself firmly in the history books. Becoming the first rider to win six consecutive races at one track – Sachsenring – his most successful track.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. A seemingly impossible save

However, having this set back in 2015 spurred him on to win in 2016 and once again be crowned Moto GP World Champion, in Japan. The culmination of new Michelin tyres and new bike restriction rules saw audiences witness nine race winners during this season.

Struggling at the start of the 2017 championship, Honda decided they needed to find a suitable set-up for Marc’s personal riding style. They soon found it and he went on to win the races at Germany, Czech Republic, Misano and Australia. Dovizioso, who was his closest rival that year, kept the championship alive up to the final round, but ultimately Marquez held onto his title.

Courtesy of: Asphalt & rubber.com. Soaking up the championship win.

With history repeating itself the following year, Dovizioso seemed to be Marquez’s main on-track rival in 2018, but several crashes ruled out his contention to be Moto GP Champion and Marquez once again won the title. This same year Dani Pedrosa, Marc’s team mate decided to retire, he was replaced by fellow countryman Jorge Lorenzo.

Marquez won eleven races in 2019, sealing victory with an impressive four rounds left until the end of the season. This was now his sixth Premier Class Championship title, having only been in the top-class for the past seven years. He has become the youngest rider in the history of Moto GP to win seven World Championships and the youngest rider to have won five premier-class titles. At the end of 2019 Lorenzo also retired, leading the way for Marquez’s younger brother Alex to partner up with him at Honda.

Courtesy of: Motorsport.com. Celebrating the 2019 win with brother Alex.

This team looked to be the perfect match, with the brothers being so close, they would share everything and hopefully bring both sides of the Honda garage together.

However, this was not to be. Having done so many impossible saves, Marc was unable to save his bike and had a very heavy crash in just the first race of the new season, in Qatar on lap 20 and broke a bone in his arm. This resulted in him having to miss the entire year. Having gone under numerous surgeries since the accident, he is determined to come back strong and fighting again in 2021.

Hopefully we will witness the same Marc Marquez we have grown to admire. With his unique racing style and positive attitude, there surely will be more records set and broken.

‘It’s the same, but different’: Red Bull Launch the RB16B ahead of the 2021 F1 season

After much speculation, the day finally came for Red Bull to unveil the RB16B, ahead of the 2021 season. The announcement was delivered with as much fanfare a virtual launch can muster, hammering home what we all expected; it’s the same, but different. 

Red Bull have made themselves the talk of the off-season, after signing Sergio Perez to replace Alex Albon, who is now a reserve and test driver in the team, and the more recent announcement to take over their contract with Honda, and begin developing their own power units from 2022 onwards. 

Some fans were a little disappointed to see the standard livery that has remained largely unchanged for a number of years, and Red Bull have made no secret of the fact that there has been a lot of carryover from the 2020 car, due to the deferral of the change in regulations. 

Image courtesy of Red Bull

In spite of that, the team are keen to emphasise that the real changes have taken place beneath the surface. ‘For it’s final season in F1, Honda is introducing a new power unit’ amongst other changes. 

Though it’s difficult to determine the extent of these changes from a carefully positioned press photo, it looks like there may be some change to the side-pods on the car, which in turn would mean greater downforce on the car.    

Image courtesy of Red Bull

The RB16B ‘aims to carry the momentum of 2020 into the new season in a bid to fight for this years title’. The team feel confident this will help them take the fight to the as-yet unchallenged Mercedes, who have remained the dominant team in F1 for the past 7 seasons. 

It will be all eyes on Silverstone tomorrow, when Max and Checo take to the track in the RB16B for the first time for a day of filming.

Will we see a shakedown livery? Do we have a new contender for the championship title, or will it just turn out to be the same, but different for another year running? 

We don’t have too long to wait!

Nicky “The Kentucky Kid” Hayden – the Legend

Nicky Hayden “The Kentucky Kid” was known for his natural ability to ride motorbikes, his respectful polite attitude and for his abundance of charisma.

Nicky Hayden is all smiles (Image: Circuitricardotormo.com)

Born July 30th 1981 Nicky Hayden sadly passed away May 22nd 2017, from injuries sustained from riding a bicycle in Italy, aged just 36 years old. During these years he led an incredible life and a career many would be jealous of. His brother Tommy said “He dreamed as a kid of being a pro-rider and he not only achieved that but also managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport.”*

So how did Nicky Hayden manage to achieve all this?

At age 3 Nicky started to ride dirt bikes with his family and by age 5 was racing them. Aged just 16 he had turned professional and followed his brother (Tommy) into AMA Superbike racing. Aged 21 he won the Daytona 200 and became the youngest AMA Superbike champion, which propelled him into his Moto GP career.

Racing with the number 69 he carried on where he left off in AMA and rode for (Repsol) Honda in 2003 and became Valentino Rossi’s team-mate. An interesting choice as Hayden hadn’t come through the normal rankings to participate in Moto GP. He finished a respectful 5th place in the season. The same time he won Rookie of the year. He was definitely showing that he was one to watch.

2004 saw Nicky Hayden with a new team-mate – Alex Barros (the year that Rossi left Honda to move to Yamaha). Hayden sustained injuries from a broken collarbone which hampered his championship hopes and ended the season in 8th place, alongside Carlos Checca and Loris Capirossi.

Having his best season so far in 2005, Nicky Hayden secured his first win on home soil at Laguna Seca (America), making it an ever sweeter victory as Moto GP hadn’t returned here since 1994 (11 years). He also finished 3rd overall in the championship with 206 points, his best result yet. Honda also paired him up with yet another new team-mate – Max Biaggi.

Emotional Nicky Hayden winning 2006 championship (Image: Motorsport.com)

Now with 3 year’s of experience, The Kentucky Kid was definitely making a name for himself. Through constant strong performances and sheer determination Hayden became the 2006 Moto GP World Champion. He had now “managed to reach the pinnacle of his chosen sport”. This season Nicky was riding the prototype Honda, that no-one else had used and was helping to develop it all the while with his eyes on the prize. Honda also decided that he would have another new team-mate to get used to, this time saw Dani Pedrosa who progressed from 250’s, from this point on Pedrosa remained his team mate at Honda.

Hayden won the 2006 championship only 5 points above Rossi (252 points). Finishing 3rd in the final round at Valencia. He also finished 3rd at Istanbul Park celebrating his 50th Moto GP race and at Assen he gave Honda their 200th race win in the top-class. He also became the only other champion in the 990cc class, other than Rossi. Showing that consistency really does pay off.

The new engine format ruling brought into Moto GP for 2007, saw 990cc engines go to 800cc, this seemed a challenge for Nicky’s riding style which culminated in him finishing 8th overall in the championship.

Continuing with Honda, Hayden sustained injuries again, this time to his foot which hampered his championship throughout 2008 and he finished 6th for the season.

2009 was the year for a switch-up. Hayden left Honda for the first time in his professional career and teamed up with Casey Stoner at Marlboro Ducati. Adjustments were needed for the new change, Nicky tried his best but finished outside the top ten for the first time in a season, finishing 13th.

Riding for Ducati (Image: Motorcycle News)

Sticking with Ducati for 2010, he ended the year in 7th, a large improvement following on from the previous year.

Valentino then joined Ducati in 2011. Pairing up with his old team-mate and friend, Hayden and Rossi should have been the perfect team to lead Ducati to the championship. But, things were not perfect, even after all effort was made to make the bikes more competitive they just never amounted to much and Hayden finished 8th in the championship.

Nicky Hayden continued to ride for Ducati in 2012 and 2013. Finishing in 9th place, both seasons.

Hoping to find some new form and possibly another championship win, Hayden returned to Honda (2014) where he stayed for the next two years. Finishing 16th and 20th. The worst results in his career. Nicky decided enough was enough and left Moto GP for a new challenge in World Superbikes.

Before his last race at Valencia in 2015 however, the FIM recognised Nicky’s achievements and named him Moto GP’s 22nd Legend. He was now alongside such names as Agostini, Simoncelli, Rainey and Sheene – to name a few. Normally this status is awarded posthumously, but in his case, an exception was made.

Nicky Hayden leading the pack in WSB (Image: Motorsport.com)

2016 was definitely the injection Hayden needed. New challenges, new bike (still with Honda), new team, new tracks, new experiences saw Hayden finish 5th in the championship, mirroring his first year in Moto GP and not only that but winning at Malaysia and finishing on the podium a further three times.

If his first season in WSB was anything to go by, he was on his way to becoming champion there too. Tragedy struck though in 2017 and saw a shining star taken suddenly from us all.

Ride on Kentucky Kid – always remembered.

*(https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/motorsport/39972058)

Grosjean joins Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season

Romain Grosjean is to join Dale Coyne Racing for the 2021 IndyCar season. The French driver will make his debut with the Rick Ware entry and will race in all 13 road and street races.

This heralds a remarkable comeback narrative after being dropped from the Haas F1 team alongside teammate Kevin Magnussen. There were question marks looming as to whether Grosjean may altogether retire from racing after a near-fatal high-speed accident at the Bahrain Grand Prix left him with multiple degree burns, broken ribs and a dented confidence.

“It was never an option,” Grosjean said, concerning any doubts following the Bahrain accident. “I felt like I wanted to go back racing.”

The soon-to-be rookie has no qualms about returning to top tier racing, excited about the prospect of a return to competitiveness.

“What I want is to be happy and enjoy my time in racing,” Grosjean said during his Twitch stream, suggesting there is a pathway to longevity in the American single seater series: “And if I do, I would stay longer for sure. And if things don’t go to plan, I would come back to Europe but I think its going to be great.”

During Dale Coyne Racing’s official press conference Romain stated he had been in early contact with the American outfit: “I got in touch with Dale last year before Imola and I really felt that they were enthusiastic about getting me on board. I’ve been watching the races, the series looks super competitive, the cars look fun to drive.”

Romain Grosjean, Haas (Joao Filipe, DPPI / Haas F1 Media)

Santino Ferrucci, who drove the #18 Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, left the series for the NASCAR Xfinity Series to compete for Sam Hunt Racing, and Alex Palou, who drove the #55 Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh Honda, left the team to replace Felix Rosenqvist at Chip Ganassi Racing. Grosjean will be teammates with Ed Jones who will replace Ferrucci in the #18 Vasser-Sullivan Honda.

Grosjean will join Alexander Rossi, Marcus Ericsson, Takuma Sato and Sebastien Bourdais as the ex-Formula 1 drivers on the 2021 grid.

Achieving a respectable 10 podiums, 391 career points and a fastest lap in his time in F1, he will be looking to add to his list of achievements, aiming to get up to speed as soon as possible.

On the subject of his injuries Grosjean was in optimistic spirits: “It’s going okay. My left hand is still quite marked but it’s uglier than it is bad I will say. It’s all working well, the left-hand ligament was pulled away so I’ve had surgery.”

He will get his first test in his new machinery on the 22nd February at Barber Motorsport Park. There are reservations whether he will be fully fit by that point but he iterated it is not long away.

“The first test is the 22nd of February. I may not be 100% but [I will be] good enough to do well. By race one I am going to be ready and I’m not going to worry about it. I have been in the gym. It was a difficult call for the doctor but we knew there were more risks of delaying the healing. With the season postponed a little bit it all played into my hand, if I can use the play on words.”

French racing drivers have had a good open wheel record in the United States. Sebastien Bourdais holds the most consecutive IndyCar championships 2004-2007 (4) while Simon Pagenaud is the last European to win the championship in 2016.

With a sporting comeback story such as this, this will hopefully give fans who were still reluctant to follow the IndyCar series more reason than not.

Racing Legends: Valentino Rossi

 

Credit: Getty Images

Whether it’s his infectious exuberance, his elaborate celebrations, his illustrious career, or his undeniable talent, it’s safe to say everyone has a reason to like Valentino Rossi aka. The G.O.A.T.

The Junior Years

It is amazing to think however, that his debut year in the 125cc class wasn’t magical. His talent though was clear. He pushed himself to new limits and in typical Rossi fashion, only took the one year to learn and the next year to win.

1997 was that year on the Aprilia, interrupting his Japanese rivals who were dominating the event, winning by 80 points over fellow racer Noboru Ueda.

It is also at this early start of his career that audiences first saw the iconic sun and moon design that has become Rossi’s signature motifs, albeit slight design changes throughout the years and where we first saw his showman side too, celebrating his victories. These celebrations would carry through as he progressed up the ranks, getting more elaborate and memorable.

The number 46 was now racing with the likes of Loris Capirossi and Tetsuya Harada. In 1998, Rossi moved up to the 250cc class and won five of fourteen races. Still with Aprilia and finishing an incredible second in the championship, only 23 points behind Capirossi.

True to form, he managed to turn second into first in 1999, winning both the race and the title at the Nelson Piquet Circuit at 20 years old, 48 points above Ukawa.

His celebrations that year included ones like the chicken, the angel riding pillion and of course the classic porta loo at the side of the track.

During this season he also managed to clinch Aprilia’s 100th GP win.

Credit: Getty Images

500’s

Moving to Honda in 2000 with renowned crew chief Jeremy Burgess, as a one-man team, Rossi again took one year to learn and one year to win. Rossi was now competing against names like: Kenny Roberts Jnr, Max Biaggi and Carlos Checa.

Although finding the transition hard from 250cc to 500cc racing bikes, it didn’t take the 21 year old long to win his first race at Donnington, in the top-class.

It was this year that the infamous feud between Rossi and Biaggi started to become apparent.

In only his first season, Rossi lost the title by only 49 points, behind Roberts.

Still riding the Honda, Valentino entered into his second year in the 500cc class in 2001, it was then that the iconic name The Doctor was founded. Overhearing at an airport the name ‘Doctor Rossi’ being announced, he thought the name sounded good, so adopted his own version. Previous names included: RossiFumi and Valentinik, but these understandably weren’t as catchy.

The Doctor secured his first pole in Welkom, became the first rider to win in all three classes at Brno and in the same year he won Honda’s 500th GP win. Rossi started to quickly rack up new records and had became a brand in his own right.

Credit: HRC Images

During this season the feud between The Doctor and The Roman Emperor (Biaggi) overflowed, making it highly entertaining for audiences around the world. While a scuffle happened off camera (at Catalunya – 2001), making all the wrong headlines and an official hand-shake took place to say sorry, their rivalry gained more momentum on the track.

At Suzuka 2001, Biaggi pushed out his elbow and nudged Rossi off track, this lead to Rossi passing him a lap later and putting his middle finger up to him. The rest of 2001 became a Honda / Yamaha dog-fight. This concluded with Rossi winning the last ever 500cc World Championship over Biaggi by a huge 106 points.

Then came a massive change to the premier class, as the two-stroke 500cc bikes were replaced with 990cc four-stroke machines.

MotoGP

After winning eleven races in 2002, including the first race of the season, Rossi had certainly become a household name and was furthering his conquest to earn the name G.O.A.T.

That year he raced among the usual faces: Barros, Biaggi, Gibernau and the late Daijiro Kato. Rossi won the title with four races left at Rio, leading once again, Max Biaggi. This time by a whopping 140 points.

Honda’s joy with Valentino was tempered in 2003 by the shock and sudden loss of fellow racer Kato, during the Suzuka race.

This year was also very strained for both the Honda team and Rossi, as Honda claimed it was mainly the bike that won the races and the rider was just the pilot. Even during those hard-times, Vale still managed to celebrate in the only way that he knew how. Memorably poking fun at Honda with the chain-gang gag.

Once again Rossi won this season over Gibernau by 80 points.

Credit: Getty Images

Then in 2004 came the biggest move. Rossi left his winning Repsol Honda team, risking everything, for the Yamaha M1, taking his crew chief with him.

Doubters said that Rossi couldn’t go ahead and win even one race on the Yamaha. They were proved severely wrong. Not only did he win races, he won the entire Championship again.

Welkom was welcome once more for The Doctor, after he won the opening race of the season against the likes of Hayden, Edwards and his main rival for the title Gibernau. The celebration that followed was clearly emotional for Rossi. He pulled over to the side of the track and after regaining his emotions embraced his M1.

There was plenty of on-the-track fights between the Italian and the Spaniard (Gibernau), which made for fantastic viewing.

To everyone’s surprise Rossi won the year 47 points clear of Gibernau. Collecting his fourth world title and sixth across all classes.

Jerez started off the 2005 championship, with a great battle between 15 and 46 after they collided on the last lap. However, during the race at Qatar, Rossi made a rare mistake and crashed. He blamed the Spaniard and ‘cursed’ him saying “he will never win another race”, this statement became oddly true.

Again with four races spare The Doctor secured his fifth title 147 points above Marco Melandri. Celebrating with ‘snow white and the seven dwarfs’.

Bad luck troubled Rossi throughout 2006, after a tyre failure, engine blow-ups and being knocked from his bike by Elias. Rossi heroically fought back during this season and going into the last race at Valencia he was eight points in front of the late American, Nicky Hayden. However, more bad luck plagued him and he fell, re-mounted and finished thirteenth. Hayden won his only title by five points.

2007 saw Rossi finish third in the championship, behind winner Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, in second.

Many people were saying, is that the end of Rossi?

Motegi – 2008 saw Rossi silence the critics and he won his eighth career title, across all classes, finishing on the GP rostrum for the 150th time overtaking Agostini’s record total of wins in the top class.

Bitter complications with Yamaha made 2009 a hard year for Rossi and his team. Even though it was tough in the garage he still took victory, finishing third in Malaysia, for his ninth World Championship, 45 points above his team-mate Lorenzo.

2010 was much of the same, Rossi’s love story with his M1 Yamaha came to an end, finishing the championship in third he made another massive decision.

Credit: Ducati Corse

Hoping to emulate his success in 2004, Valentino joined Ducati. The dream of an all-Italian team in 2011 ended awfully however. It seemed the only person who could tame the Ducati was Casey Stoner. The Australian memorably said to Rossi “did you run out of talent?”, which led many people to think, perhaps he was right.

Finishing sixth in the championship in 2012 two years in a row, the Ducati dream was not to be for Valentino and he returned to Yamaha.

2013 – Present

Rossi sacked his Crew Chief Jeremy Burgess in order to find fresh motivation. Burgess admitted they “had been chasing rainbows”. Still winning plenty of races and narrowly missing out on a tenth championship in 2015 by 5 points, Valentino is still be able to break records and be at the sharp-end of the pack. Having not won a title in eleven years, Rossi fully admits that he races for the love of the sport and the passion to have fun.

Will that illusive tenth championship be granted in his new adventure with Petronas Yamaha in 2021? And will he secure his 200th podium finish?

Whatever the outcome, the yellow army still flock to watch and support their hero at every race.

The Eifel Grand Prix Preview

Following Valtteri Bottas’ much needed win at the Russian Grand Prix, Formula 1 heads to the Nurburgring, set to stage the ever anticipated 2020 Eifel Grand Prix.

LOOKING BACK

The German Grand Prix has played host to F1 under a variety of names which include the Luxembourg and European Grand Prix. This year the race was named after the towering Eifel mountain range that straddles the famous circuit and stretches between Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia and three nations in Belgium, Luxembourg, and Germany.

The Eifel played host to the German GP up until 1976 on the longer Nordschleife configuration. The demanding 23-kilometre-long track was abandoned after the horrific crash involving Niki Lauda on the 1st August 1976 when his Ferrari 312 T2 clipped the earthy bank at Bergwerk corner, collided with the wall and burst into flames.  Lauda narrowly escaped the inferno with his life after quick and decisive actions by fellow drivers: Guy Edwards, Harald Ertl, Brett Lunger and Arturo Merzario who pulled him from the wreckage.

The most recent iteration of the race came in 2013, won by Sebastien Vettel in the Red Bull, a race where Romain Grosjean nearly claimed his first win in Formula One until an unfortunate safety car meant he had to settle for 3rd. No hard feelings Romain?

A safety car and a late Kimi Raikkonen pit stop denied Lotus the win in 2013, with Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel winning his home race – courtesy of Red Bull content pool

THE TRACK

The Nurburgring is a fast and flowing circuit.  The 15 corners and 5.5 kilometres of tarmac is expected to test the drivers and cars to their very limits. Expect plenty of overtaking into the heavy braking zones of Turn 1 and Turn 13, both preceded by long DRS Zones. The first sector of the lap provides a significant challenge due to its twisty nature while many liken the final right-hand corner as ‘Hungaroring-esque’.

Interestingly, this will be the first time seeing this current generation of V6 turbo hybrid, high downforce cars at this circuit. The big stops and sensitive traction zones will be great fun for the current crop that now have significantly swifter power delivery than their predecessors.

Expect wind, cold track temperatures and low levels of grip to play a factor. We have seen certain manufacturers such as McLaren make no secret that they have a sensitivity to wind, while getting heat into the harder compound tyres may prove tricky.

While not as technically demanding as the Hungaroring, cars with quick cornering speeds will be rewarded in sector two and three.

 

WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR

Given that F1 has not visited the circuit in years, determining a winner would be difficult in any other circumstance. However, the W11 has looked strong at most circuits this year and would be expected to continue their dominance here this weekend.  Lewis Hamilton can make history by matching Michael Schumacher’s all time win record of 91 victories in Formula One to cement his legacy as one of the sport’s most successful drivers.

Lewis Hamilton is aiming to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins this weekend – Courtesy of Mercedes Media

Further down the order, the fight for third in the constructors will be as tight and enthralling as we have seen all season. McLaren and Racing Point head into the weekend separated by two points while Renault are hot on their heels a further five points behind.

T​he Eifel Grand Prix will also be a historic one for a couple of young drivers currently in Formula 2. Championship leader Mick Schumacher will be rewarded an FP1 outing in the Alfa Romeo for his successes this season, including two victories and a plethora of podiums. It marks the first time a Schumacher will set foot in a Formula 1 car since his father Michael’s retirement in 2012. The Ferrari junior academy driver is touted for a full-time seat in 2021 allegedly alongside Kimi Raikkonen and will be looking to impress.

Mick Schumacher currently leads the F2 Championship – Courtesy of F1 Media

Additionally, championship hopeful Callum Illot will also be given an FP1 outing with Haas after rarely featuring outside the top two in the championship for most of the season. With Romain Grosjean and Kevin Magnussen’s future in doubt, there is a big possibility that he could also be handed a full-time drive next year and will be one to watch closely.

Of course, following the news of Honda’s withdrawal from Formula One in 2022, expect media coverage to follow this news with fervent interest. Speculation is already happening as to what Red Bull’s options are in terms of their future engine supplier. Do they return to Renault? Will they build their own? Will this hamper their 2022 car development? And will this prompt the beginning of the end of the Red Bull – Verstappen love story?

This weekend’s race comes after the news that Honda will pull out of F at the end of next year – Courtesy of Red Bull content pool

Lastly, if weather forecasts are anything to go by in Formula One this year, disregard them entirely. However, rain could play a big part in this weekend with the Eifel Mountains particularly prone to cold and changeable conditions during this time of year. The weather forecast indicates there is strong possibility of rain across the entirety of the weekend which could shake qualifying up magnificently.

With all this in mind the Eifel Grand Prix should be a brilliant event. Make sure not to miss the race which is scheduled for 2:10pm local time, an hour earlier than usual. Set your reminders!

And as ever, ThePitCrewOnline will be here to keep you informed, entertained and up-to-date on all things Formula One throughout the weekend.

Honda to leave F1 at the end of 2021

Honda has announced that it will be withdrawing from Formula 1 as a power unit supplier at the end of the 2021 season.

The Japanese manufacturer stated its desire to realise “carbon neutrality by 2050” as its reason for withdrawing.

“Honda needs to funnel its corporate resources in research and development into the areas of future power unit and energy technologies,” a statement read, “including fuel cell vehicle (FCV) and battery EV (BEV) technologies, which will be the core of carbon-free technologies.”

Honda only returned to F1 back in 2015 as a supplier for McLaren. This relationship – which lasted until 2017 – was fraught with unreliability and performance issues.

They have, however, since made improvements. They joined forces with Alpha Tauri (then named Toro Rosso) in 2018 and Red Bull in 2019 and have powered them to a combined five race victories, making them the only power unit supplier to win races with more than one team since the start of the hybrid era in 2014.

Their withdrawal, though, now leaves both Red Bull and Alpha Tauri in something of a limbo and with not much time to find a new supplier.

If they are unable to find an alternative, then Renault are bound by the regulations to supply them. This is because Renault currently supply the least number of teams, with Mercedes and Ferrari already at the maximum permissible number of three.

However, Red Bull’s split from Renault in 2018 was acrimonious to say the least and it would no doubt be with great reluctance that both parties rekindle that relationship.

Honda’s withdrawal might also have implications for Japanese F2 racer Yuki Tsunoda. Tsunoda is a Honda-backed driver and there were rumours that he was set to be promoted to Alpha Tauri in the near future. However, with Honda now out of the picture that promotion is uncertain.

Red Bull have said that they “acknowledge” Honda’s decision, and have thanked the manufacturer for “its exceptional efforts as power unit supplier”.

IndyCar Mid-Ohio Preview

The NTT IndyCar Series returns this weekend for its fourth doubleheader with the Honda Indy 200 at Lexington’s Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The undulating twists and turns of the thirteen-corner, 2.2-mile road course has seen the circuit become one of the favourite locations on the calendar for drivers and fans alike.

What’s more, with just five races remaining, it’s up to the few remaining title challengers to step up this weekend if they wish to keep the championship alive.

Scott Dixon heads into this weekend on 416 points, a 96-point advantage over Josef Newgarden, with Patricio O’Ward and Takuma Sato realistically the remaining two contenders, albeit around 150 points behind.

Scott Dixon (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

Looking Back to 2019 Mid-Ohio and beyond.

The 2019 running was won by current championship leader Dixon in spectacular fashion. The New Zealander had rookie Felix Rosenqvist charging in the closing laps. In the final pass through turn two they had wheel contact. Both cars bobbled, but the drivers kept them straight, which led to a thrilling run to the chequered flag as Dixon drove with tires that had lost their effectiveness.

The margin of victory was 0.0934 seconds, the closest IndyCar finish at Mid-Ohio and third closest on a road course in IndyCar history.

Dixon and Chip Ganassi have proved a dominant force at Mid-Ohio in recent years. ‘Mr Mid-Ohio’ has a staggering six wins at the Sports Car Course, likewise Ganassi have won there 11 times, giving them a vast amount of confidence heading into the weekend.

Other drivers who have enjoyed success at the circuit have been Newgarden, Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud with a win apiece. Alongside them, look out for likes of O’Ward, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew and Rinus VeeKay who have all had relative success at the track in the junior categories.

Pato O’Ward (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

What should I look out for this weekend?

Dixon is the bookies favourite to win the IndyCar championship due to his commanding lead. However, the focus on this race will continue to be on his realistic championship rivals to see whether they can make a dent in that points deficit. Out of those only Newgarden has won here before, and he may be the most obvious challenge to the Kiwi.

O’Ward will be coming into the weekend following some magnificent but bittersweet performances having narrowly missed out on a handful of wins this season. The Mexican has been a consistent qualifier and regularly puts himself in the frame to challenge for the win. It’s often been strategic calls that have stripped those opportunities away. He’ll be looking to rectify that here to claim his maiden IndyCar win.

Sato, perhaps coming down from his second Indy 500 win, was in the fight arguably in both races last time out at Gateway. He’s somehow found a run of form that’s put him in his highest championship spot in his career. Although challenging Dixon in the standings is a tough order, to compete well against the likes of two-time champion Newgarden and up-and-coming superstar O’Ward will be all the incentive Sato needs to prove that experience sometimes trumps youth.

Another driver with something to prove this weekend will be Andretti’s Rossi. His crushing performance in the 2018 running race saw him and the team take a dominant victory from pole with an incredible tyre strategy. Rossi has demonstrated that he has the speed and his team have the strategies to come out on top in Mid-Ohio and he’ll be determined to do so again to try and draw himself closer to the top five in the championship, after a season plagued by bad luck.

Rinus VeeKay (Joe Skibinski / IndyCar Media)

In terms of the battle for the coveted ‘Rookie of the Year’ title, VeeKay currently leads that fight, 13th in the standings on 181 points. His closest rivals are Alex Palou on 160 and Askew on 155. All three drivers have enjoyed a mixed bag of success and rotten luck, showing promising qualifying and race pace. VeeKay certainly has the momentum coming into the weekend and will be looking to replicate the win he had at the circuit during his time in the Pro Mazda Championship.

Just a mention about Colton Herta. What a season he’s been having. I wrote about his incredible qualifying performances during my preview for Gateway and touted him as someone to watch out for. He then went on to finish in fourth and sixth across both races of the doubleheader putting him in fifth place in the championship on 250 points. In only his sophomore year in IndyCar he’s certainly proved that he’s a superstar in the making, and now has the consistency to mount a title challenge in the future. I wouldn’t put it past Herta to do something similarly impressive this weekend to try and break into the top four.

Dale Coyne Racing‘s Santino Ferrucci is also on an impressive run of form. A fellow sophomore and a young American ‘hot-shot’, he is easily, like-for-like Colton Herta’s closest rival. After an amazing fourth at the Indy 500, followed by a top ten finish last time out at Gateway, Ferrucci is making somewhat of a name for himself. It wasn’t too long ago that he enjoyed a run of three top ten finishes between IMS and Iowa. He’ll be hoping to draw on his prior experience of racing single-seaters in Europe to try and get a similarly strong result on the Mid-Ohio road course this weekend so that he can impress further.

Finally, keep an eye on Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey, aiming to continue what has so far been relatively strong season so far for the British driver. He’s shown glimpses of brilliances with three consecutive top ten finishes (IOWA 1, IOWA 2, INDY) and a strong showing at Gateway before an unfortunate timing with the caution ruined a race where he’d been running in the top 5. He’s currently 14th in the standings, which is by far the highest he has ever been during his time in IndyCar. This weekend he has an opportunity to push for 11th in the standings as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marcus Ericsson, VeeKay and Harvey are all separated by just 3 points.

IndyCar at Mid-Ohio will be shown live on Sky Sports F1 with qualifying set for 7:30pm (GMT) on Saturday followed by the race at around 8:30pm (GMT) on Sunday.

Takuma Sato seizes second Indy 500 win

image Courtesy Of IndyCar

Takuma Sato seizes a second Indianapolis 500 victory from Scott Dixon during the closing stages of the race.

Dixon, who had led over one hundred and ten laps at The Brickyard was overtaken by the Japanese driver after the final round of pit stops and looked unstoppable as he continued to build over a second gap to the five-time IndyCar world champion.

Lapped traffic caused late drama as Sato lost a good amount of aerodynamic performance in dirty air. However, both Sato and Dixon cleared the troublesome backmarkers and It was looking to be a shootout finish.

That was until Specer Pigot brought out the final caution with less than five laps to go with a terrifying side on collision with the pit entry wall. Spencer was relatively unhurt by the incident and will go for medical check-ups immediately as a precaution.image Courtesy Of IndCar

Race officials refused to bring out the red flag, which had it been used would have given us a last-dash race to finish under an enthralling restart. Instead, Takuma Sato cruised to the finish line behind the safety car to be only the twentieth driver to take multiple Indy 500 victories, his first since 2017.

Dixon, was quick on his radio to suggest a red flag should be thrown, knowing his only chance of victory could have been snatched from him in that moment:

“Are they going red?” Dixon asked. “They’ve got to go red. There’s no way they can clean that up.”

Graham Rahal, Sato’s teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, was closing in on the top two during the closing stages of the race only to cross the line in third.

Unfortunately for pole sitter, Marco Andretti, it was a day to forget as he rarely posed a threat to the front runners, tumbling down to thirteenth place. The search for another Andretti winner at 500 goes on.

For Arrow McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward he will take the coveted fastest rookie award crossing the line in seventh with a magnificent performance that saw him briefly leading the race. However, his performance will be bittersweet given circumstances of fellow teammates Oliver Askew and Fernando Alonso.

Following a caution caused by Dalton Kellet, a restart saw Conor Daly drop a wheel onto the concrete apron through turn four and fired his Ed Carpenter Chevrolet into the wall. Oliver Askew drove into the ensuing smokescreen and took avoiding action but lost control making heavy contact with both the wall and Daly.

image Courtesy Of IndCar

For two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso, it was also a troublesome day where he struggled constantly with balance and clutch issues. He rarely appeared inside the top twenty eventually finishing in twenty first, crushing his dreams of taking the triple-crown on what may be his final attempt as he goes to race with the Renault F1 team for the next two years. However, he can take some solace that after two attempts, he has finally crossed the line to finish, what he may come to call ‘The Hardest Spectacle in the World’.

In this incident-filled race, there was eight non-finishers with James Davison, Marcus Ericsson, Oliver Askew, Conor Daly, Dalton Kellet, Alex Palou, Alex Rossi and Spencer Pigot all failing to cross the finish line.

Andretti Autosport driver Alexander Rossi was running with frontrunners Dixon and Sato for the majority of the race. Indeed, it was Dixon and Rossi who were working together to pull away from the rest of the field during the second quarter of the race.

However, it was not to be for the 2017 Indy 500 winner, after an issue in the pits with a slow right rear caused Rossi to be released dangerously into the path of Takuma Sato. A subsequent investigation handed a penalty to Rossi sending him painfully to the back of the grid.

Clearly angered by the punishment, Rossi went straight on the attack making up five positions on the first lap of racing but his chances of victory quickly went from slim to zero as he became the latest retiree.

Losing the rear at turn two, Rossi slid the majority of the way down the wall on the back straight. In four previous Indy 500 entries, Rossi had a record of one victory and no finish lower than seventh. Now, he can add a DNF to that list.

Pit stops are always an opportunity for errors, but for Rinus VeeKay it was a constant early source of problems. The rookie Dutchman first stalled in a stop, but at the next stop earned a stop-go penalty for hitting team personnel – locking his brakes and sliding into the mechanics while entering for a stop.

However, the pivotal moment of the race may have come at lap 122, which saw Spanish rookie Alex Palou embrace the barrier at turn one, a similar incident to Marcus Ericsson 98 laps previously. The caution came at the wrong time to enable drivers to make it to the flag on one more fuel stop, but all drivers save for Felix Rosenqvist pitted for fresh tyres and none other than Sato and Dixon were at the head of this train, giving them an straight race to the finish.

Other noteworthy performances were of Santino Ferucci who finished in a magnificent fifth after a late charge saw him overtake defending IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden. In addition, credit should be given to young star Colton Herta in eight and Britain’s Jack Harvey in ninth.

In the war between the engine manufacturers it was Honda that dominated with eight out of the top finishers. James Hinchliffe in seventh and Colton Herta in eight were the only Chevrolet powered cars in the top ten.

Top Ten Official Classification:

  1. Takuma Sato – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  2. Scott Dixon – Chip Ganassi Racing
  3. Graham Rahal – Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing
  4. Santino Ferucci – Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan
  5. Josef Newgarden – Team Pesnke
  6. Patricio O Ward – Arrow McLaren SP
  7. James Hinchliffe – Andretti Autosport
  8. Colton Herta – Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport
  9. Jack Harvey – Meyer Shank Racing
  10. Ryan Hunter-Reay – Andretti Autosport

Opinion: Is Verstappen costing Red Bull the Constructors Title?

Taking over from Stewart Grand Prix in 2005, Red Bull Racing have been one of F1’s front running teams for over a decade. However, despite having a winning car since 2009, their last constructors’ (and drivers’) title was in 2013 – seven years ago.

Vettel-Webber 2009 Abu-Dhabi 02 // Paul-Henri Cahier/Red Bull Content Pool // SI201412034496 // Usage for editorial use only //

In part, that is due to the Turbo Hybrid Era and the rise of Mercedes’ subsequent rise. The change of engine regulations after 2013 saw Mercedes dominate the sport, with Red Bull’s Renault engine unable to consistently match the German outfit. Yet, in recent years, separate issues have arisen within Red Bull Racing that makes them look less and less likely to win another constructors’ championship.

2014 Canadian Grand Prix, Sunday – Wolfgang Wilhelm

As soon as Max Verstappen joined F1 in 2015, it was clear that he was Red Bull’s golden boy and, in the eyes of many, he had the talent to deserve it. It wasn’t long before he was promoted to the team in place of Daniil Kvyat, partnering Daniel Ricciardo. With Verstappen and Ricciardo at the wheel, they appeared to have one of the strongest line-ups on the grid and if they could just have a competitive engine, they’d be able to grab the title.

But their relationship with Renault was quickly diminishing and it was announced they would run the Honda engine from 2019 onwards. Paired with Red Bull’s increasing focus on Verstappen, Honda’s unsuccessful recent record in F1 did little to persuade Ricciardo to stay. He left for Renault.  Red Bull were now in a predicament, who should they sign as a replacement? The promising, but inexperienced Frenchman, Pierre Gasly, was who they went with.

However, this was where those big issues started to rise to the surface. With only one “star driver” in the team, Red Bull decided to mould the team around Verstappen. They designed the car to suit him, told his teammate to use his setups, and allegedly gave him the new upgrades first. If Fernando Alonso taught us anything, it’s that this model is rarely successful, and somewhat unsurprisingly, Gasly wasn’t on the pace. He was dropped after just 12 races in 2019.

MONTMELO, SPAIN – FEBRUARY 28: Pierre Gasly of France and Red Bull Racing talks with race engineer Mike Lugg in the garage during day three of F1 Winter Testing at Circuit de Catalunya on February 28, 2019 in Montmelo, Spain. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI201902280252 // Usage for editorial use only //

Alex Albon, Gasly’s replacement, started off his Red Bull career closer to Verstappen, but since the start of the 2020 season he has also been too far away from his teammate. He was even allegedly used as a test dummy for the Hard tyres in the recent Spanish Grand Prix. Gasly was GP2 (now F2) Champion in 2016, and Albon finished third in F2 in 2018, just marginally behind the highly rated Lando Norris and George Russell, so how can it be that these two drivers seemingly forgot how to drive overnight? Answer: They didn’t.

With Red Bull giving sole focus on superstar Verstappen, they will struggle to find someone who can be quick enough to support him. In order to be competitive, drivers need attention from their team. and currently Red Bull are stuck in a cycle whereby: the more they focus on Verstappen, the worse their other driver does, thus the more they focus on Verstappen etc. One of the biggest factors of Red Bull’s failure to win the constructors title is the toxic nature of how they treat their drivers. Max Verstappen is undoubtedly exceptional, but the team focusing just on him is costing them a chance at fighting for the championship. Unless they can find a driver who happens to suit a car that is built around Verstappen, Red Bull will not win the team’s title for the foreseeable future.

MONTE-CARLO, MONACO – MAY 27: Daniel Ricciardo of Australia driving the (3) Aston Martin Red Bull Racing RB14 TAG Heuer on track during the Monaco Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit de Monaco on May 27, 2018 in Monte-Carlo, Monaco. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) // Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool // SI201805290325 // Usage for editorial use only //

At the moment, Mercedes have a dominant car, and in order to win, Red Bull need to improve theirs, but it is next to impossible to succeed as a team with just one car. They are the only team looking anywhere near likely to challenge Mercedes, but whilst they only pay attention to Verstappen, I fear Mercedes’ dominance will continue for some time.

Feature Image Courtesy of Peter Fox/ Getty Images/ Red Bull Content Pool