Verstappen wins season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as Alonso shines

Red Bull Racing’s Dutch driver Max Verstappen reacts as he exits his car after winning the Bahrain Formula One Grand Prix at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir on March 5, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 05 March 2023

Verstappen wins season-opening Bahrain Grand Prix as Alonso shines

  • The defending double world champion led from start to finish, bar the pit stops, to establish himself as a strong favorite for a third consecutive drivers’ crown this year

SAKHIR: World champion Max Verstappen claimed his maiden season-opening victory and first at the Sakhir circuit on Sunday when he led Sergio Perez home in a dominant Red Bull one-two at the Bahrain Grand Prix.
The defending double world champion led from start to finish, bar the pit stops, to establish himself as a strong favorite for a third consecutive drivers’ crown this year.
It was his first win in the Gulf state at the 10th attempt.
Behind the two Red Bulls, two-time champion Fernando Alonso continued to make light of his 41 years by storming his way to a rousing third place for Aston Martin in his first appearance with the team since succeeding the retired four-time champion Sebastian Vettel.
It was his record-increasing 356th race in Formula One in a career that started 22 years earlier, to the weekend, in Melbourne at the 2001 Australian Grand Prix.
Fellow Spaniard Carlos Sainz, who he passed in a late scrap for a podium finish, finished fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes and Lance Stroll, racing in the second Aston Martin just weeks after cracking both wrists and breaking a toe in a pre-season cycling accident.
George Russell took seventh for Mercedes ahead of Valtteri Bottas of Alfa Romeo, Pierre Gasly of Alpine, who had started last, and Alex Albon who claimed a point for Williams finishing 10th.
Charles Leclerc, who won the race in 2022, failed to finish after engine failure on his Ferrari on the 41st lap.
“Thank you, guys,” said 25-year-old Verstappen. “It’s exactly the start we needed. I had a good start and first stint and then had a gap and just looked after the tires.”
Verstappen made a clean, quick start to pull clear as Leclerc passed Perez for second while, behind them, Stroll hit his Aston Martin team-mate Alonso, under braking at Turn Four.
Both Mercedes had good starts and passed Alonso, Hamilton climbing to fifth ahead of Russell in pursuit of Sainz as Verstappen opened up a commanding lead.
By lap five, he was four seconds clear as Leclerc kept Perez at bay.
Gasly began the pit stops on lap 10, switching his Alpine from softs to hards, followed quickly by Lando Norris and Yuki Tsunoda with tire degradation taking early effect.
Hamilton pitted from fifth on lap 13, prompting a classic scrap as Alonso battled past Russell to regain his original grid slot and climb to third when both Ferraris pitted. Russell followed.
Verstappen came in a lap later, switching to more softs and handing the lead to Perez, while luckless Australian rookie Oscar Piastri’s McLaren debut ended early with electrical problems.
The champion re-joined in second place and regained his lead on lap 18 when Perez pitted, elevating Leclerc to second until the Mexican passed him into Turn One on lap 26.
Hamilton pitted again on lap 31, for more hards, followed by Sainz and Russell, as the leaders prepared for their final stint while, at the back, a beleaguered Esteban Ocon of Alpine, hit with three time penalties for minor infringements, stopped again.
Perez and Verstappen then completed their second stops, the Dutchman re-joining with a 12-second lead.
Leclerc’s Ferrari lost power on the straight. He parked it safely, prompting a brief virtual safety car intervention, with 15 laps remaining, handing Red Bull the prospect of a cosy one-two, 23 seconds clear of third-placed Sainz in the second Ferrari.
“No, no, no,” wailed Leclerc. “Come on! What happened, guys? No power.”
All this left the two Spaniards scrapping for third, the old master squeezing through on lap 45 after the pair appeared to touch in a frantic and dramatic tussle ahead of the watching fifth man Hamilton.

Mohammed Ben Sulayem chairs 2024 FIA conference, celebrates 120 years of the federation

Updated 14 June 2024

Mohammed Ben Sulayem chairs 2024 FIA conference, celebrates 120 years of the federation

  • The four-day event took place at the Silk Road Complex in the heart of Samarkand, Uzbekistan
  • Key announcements included all new Cross Cars, a helmet program, and the launch of a Women in Motorsport mentorship program

SAMARKAND: The FIA, motorsport’s world governing body, celebrated its 120th anniversary at its 2024 conference, chaired by President Mohammed Ben Sulayem.

More than 300 delegates from 167 member clubs representing 121 countries attended the event, hosted in the stunning Silk Road Complex in the heart of Samarkand, Uzbekistan.

Major announcements included the launch of a three-year Helmet Wearing program, designed to improve driver safety, a Women in Motorsport Mentorship Programme, launched in conjunction with 24 Hours of Le Mans, and all-new Cross Car designs.

The federation also set out plans to incorporate social impact into its sustainability roadmap.

Other key agenda items included a 120th anniversary session, led by the mobility department and featuring all four of the FIA’s regional presidents.

The sessions were complemented by a strong social program which included a Welcome Cocktail event at the Eternal City in the Silk Road complex, a gala dinner at the Mo’jiza restaurant, and an extraordinary light show at Registan Square.

The week concluded with an Extraordinary General Assemblies meeting in the Congress Center Ballroom, when members passed key amendments and updates including the FIA’s 2024 annual activity and financial report.

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem said: “I want to extend my heartfelt thanks once again to the National Autosport and Karting Federation of Uzbekistan and the City of Samarkand for being such generous hosts and we are indebted to the support of the Administration of the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Department of Social Development, the Ministry Of Sport, and the national Olympic and Paralympic Committees.

“We have celebrated an incredible milestone for the FIA as we reach 120 years, and whilst we have remembered the Federation’s illustrious past, we have also looked at what the future will bring.

“We have introduced robust governance, transparency, and clarity. It is my duty to ensure that our members and the global community are served with excellence. Our members are at the heart of everything we do, from the small group of enthusiasts who founded the Federation in 1904 to the 242 clubs who are now connected through the FIA.”

The next General Assemblies meeting and FIA Prize Giving, will be hosted in Kigali, Rwanda, in December.

Cappellini plots Team Abu Dhabi fightback in Italy

Updated 12 June 2024

Cappellini plots Team Abu Dhabi fightback in Italy

  • Racing legend says Al-Qemzi, Comparato are in the mood to start recovery in Sardinia

SARDINIA: Team Abu Dhabi manager Guido Cappellini says multiple world powerboat racing titlists Thani Al-Qemzi and Alberto Comparato are ready to launch a fightback at this weekend’s Regione Sardegna Grand Prix of Italy.

Cappellini believes three days of testing in San Nazzaro, in similar conditions to those that lie ahead in Olbia, have put veteran Al-Qemzi and young Italian teammate Comparato in the mood to recover from a difficult start to the 2024 UIM F1H2O World Championship.

“We’ve been working hard to make sure that we get better results in round three,” said the Italian racing legend, who has guided Team Abu Dhabi to 17 world championship titles since taking charge in 2015.

“Thani won in Sardinia two years ago on a circuit which is demanding in a particular way, and we have tried to test in the same kind of conditions in San Nazzaro to increase his confidence. He is working well with Alberto, they are supporting each other, so we hope this will pay off.”

The F1H2O series returns after an 11-week break since round two in Vietnam.

The Victory Team’s Erik Stark holds an eight-point lead in the drivers’ title race from Team Vietnam’s defending world champions and rankings leaders Jonas Andersson and Estonia’s Stefan Arand.

Al-Qemzi has vast experience, having recorded 10 Grand Prix victories and 45 podium finishes since his debut in 2000.

The Emirati driver will be eager to give himself a fighting chance in Saturday’s qualifying sessions, after taking his career points haul in the championship past the 1,000 mark with a battling sixth-place finish in Vietnam.

Comparato is equally determined to reignite his first season with Team Abu Dhabi and will draw inspiration from 10-time world champion Cappellini who had great success in Sardinia and knows race conditions.

Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit

Updated 11 June 2024

Formula E Season 11 calendar reveals return to Saudi Arabia at new circuit

  • The electric car event’s longest championship season to date will include 17 races at 11 locations
  • The Kingdom will host races in Diriyah for a seventh time on Feb. 14-15 on a new track, details of which are yet to be announced

RIYADH: The provisional calendar for Season 11 of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship, unveiled on Tuesday, confirms a return to Diriyah early next year and reveals the event’s longest season, with the largest number of races and locations to date.
It once again includes a race double-header in Saudi Arabia on Feb. 14-15. This will be the seventh time the Kingdom has been part of the Formula E championship and the races will take place on a new track in Diriyah, the precise details of which will be announced later.
The 11th season of the pioneering all-electric racing event will for the first time consist of 17 races at 11 locations. In addition to the new track in Diriyah, the provisional calendar, subject to validation by the FIA World Motorsport Council, reveals a new race location in Miami; a double-header of races in Monaco, marking a first for the principality in any motorsport championship; a double-header in Tokyo; and the return of Jakarta to the calendar.
“For Season 11 we’re taking electric racing to the next level and doing things that have never been done before in motorsport,” said Jeff Dodds, the CEO of Formula E.
“Our world-leading GEN3 EVO will debut in front of hundreds of millions of fans around the globe, while adding two brand new locations and combinations of double-headers to grow our sport further.
“The new and improved calendar offers a perfect blend of circuits for drivers to push their upgraded cars to the limit, while staying true to our street-racing DNA and the on-track action it produces.”
The Season 11 campaign will begin in Sao Paulo on Dec. 7, following preseason testing from Nov. 4-7 in Valencia, as the all-new GEN3 EVO race car — capable of going from 0-60 mph in just 1.82 seconds, 36 percent faster than the current GEN3 vehicles — is put through its paces and tested in public for the first time.
The new circuit in Diriyah will host the first double-header of the season, and on April 12 the championship returns to Miami for the first time since the first season, at the Homestead-Miami Speedway venue, which has hosted NASCAR and IndyCar races for decades.
Monaco will will host back-to-back races on the full Circuit de Monaco for the first time, and following the inaugural Tokyo E-Prix in March this year, for which public roads in the world’s most populous city were closed for an automotive event for the first time, it will host a double header of races on May 17 and 18.
Jakarta returns to the calendar after a one-year hiatus, and the season will conclude with a double-header finale at ExCeL London. One location is yet to be confirmed, as final discussions with a new venue continue ahead of final confirmation of the calendar following the FIA’s World Motor Sport Council Meeting.
“We’re thrilled to offer a calendar with some fresh new highlights while building on our legacy locations,” said Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer of Formula E.
“Returning to Miami gives us a home in one of the US’s most iconic and sports-mad cities, while securing a double-header in Monaco is a dream come true. We can’t wait to build on the success of Tokyo and deliver a double-header, while returning to Jakarta and entertaining our huge Indonesian fanbase, too.
“With 17 races across the season and our most advanced race car debuting on-track, we’re offering our fans cutting-edge sport we could only have hoped for when founding the championship just over 10 years ago.”
Marek Nawarecki, director of the FIA Circuit Sport Department, said: “The 2024-25 ABB FIA Formula E World Championship calendar features a range of circuits that will truly showcase the qualities of the brand new GEN3 EVO car, set to be introduced next season.
“I’m glad that Formula E capitalizes on the success of the Tokyo and Shanghai races while also returning to some of its iconic venues and retaining a good amount of street circuits, which is in its core DNA. I’m also hopeful that this new season will again play host to some fascinating action on track.”

Max Verstappen wins ‘crazy’ rain-hit Canadian Grand Prix

Updated 09 June 2024

Max Verstappen wins ‘crazy’ rain-hit Canadian Grand Prix

  • The series leader and three-time champion rode his luck through changing wet and dry conditions

MONTREAL: Max Verstappen returned to form and completed a hat-trick of Canadian Grand Prix wins on Sunday when he triumphed for Red Bull in a thrilling, tactical and incident-filled race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
“Pretty crazy race,” said the Dutchman at the finish. “A lot happening. We stayed calm.”
The series leader and three-time champion rode his luck through changing wet and dry conditions and two safety car interventions to win by 3.879 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Lando Norris and Mercedes’ George Russell.
Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton came home fourth, after being passed by Russell in the closing laps. Oscar Piastri was fourth in the second McLaren ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso of Aston Martin.
It was a 60th career victory for Verstappen and his 50th from the last 75 races.
Local hope Lance Stroll was seventh in the second Aston Martin ahead of RB’s Daniel Ricciardo and the two Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon.
“What a race guys,” Verstappen told his team on the radio. “Not easy, but we did it! A great job by everyone. We made all the right calls. I enjoyed that one.”
“A lot of fun,” said Norris, whose result together with Piastri, brought McLaren their first points in Canada since 2014 on the 56th anniversary of the team’s first win, with Bruce McLaren, at the 1968 Belgian Grand Prix.
“An ugly race on my behalf and I am sorry for that,” Russell said, conceding he was disappointed not to convert his pole position into victory.
Five cars, including both Ferraris and both Williams, failed to finish.
On a day of showers, only the two Haas cars chose full wet tires to start as Russell, on intermediates, pulled clear of Verstappen. The entire field slithered through the opening laps. Hamilton passed Ricciardo to sixth.
When the sun returned, a dry line emerged and lap times tumbled, Russell and Verstappen swapping fastest laps at the front, nearly eight seconds clear of Norris.
Russell resisted Verstappen before the champion ran wide at turn two and fell within Norris’s reach, the McLaren man passing on lap 20, using Drag Reduction System (DRS) to sweep by. He then passed Russell on lap 21.
Behind the top four, Alonso in fifth resisted Hamilton before Sargeant crashed his Williams, prompting a safety car intervention. Norris stayed out, but Verstappen, Russell and Piastri pitted for inters, as did Alonso and Hamilton.
As the marshals struggled to remove Sargeant’s car, Norris pitted from the lead and re-joined third behind Verstappen and Russell, a harsh setback for the McLaren man.
“The safety car helped me in Miami but now it held me. It happens that’s racing,” Norris who enjoyed good fortune on the way to his maiden win in May, said after the race.
The race resumed on lap 30 with Leclerc gambling on hard tires, but as rain arrived again he dropped to 19th. Alonso then ran off and Hamilton surged to fifth, just behind Piastri.
As the track dried, Leclerc pitted again, before retiring.
As the other leaders pitted, Norris staying out to pad his lead and build an ‘over-cut’ before pitting on lap 47.
He took mediums, but as he re-joined , Verstappen speared through.
“The ride is bad, like a locked suspension,” grumbled the Dutchman with 20 laps to go in dry conditions. “I can’t touch any kerbs, it almost knocks me out.”
Another crash on lap 54 brought out a second safety car, Albon and a spinning Carlos Sainz tangling after Perez had smashed into the barriers and broken his rear wing.
Mercedes promptly pitted both cars, Russell for mediums and Hamilton for hards. They were fourth and fifth behind Verstappen and the two McLarens when racing resumed and the late drama unfolded.

Russell takes Canadian Grand Prix pole, edging F1 points leader Verstappen on tiebreaker

Updated 09 June 2024

Russell takes Canadian Grand Prix pole, edging F1 points leader Verstappen on tiebreaker

  • Russell and Verstappen had identical laps of 1 minute 12.000 seconds, with the Mercedes driver getting the top spot Sunday by setting the time first
  • After a wild, stormy Friday in Montreal, a mix of sun and clouds made for more favorable conditions Saturday

MONTREAL: George Russell edged Formula 1 points leader Max Verstappen on a tiebreaker for the pole position Saturday in the Canadian Grand Prix.
Russell and Verstappen had identical laps of 1 minute 12.000 seconds at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, with the Mercedes driver getting the top spot Sunday by setting the time first. It’s the second time F1 qualifying has ended in a tie since the start of three-decimal timing.
Now Russell faces the challenge of keeping Red Bull star Verstappen behind him in the race.
“Why not? Of course. Let’s go for it,” Russell said. “The car has been feeling amazing. Since we brought some upgrades to Monaco, we’ve sort of really been in that fight now. We’re going for it tomorrow.”
The 26-year-old Russell claimed his second career pole.
“Such a buzz. It’s been a while since we’ve experienced this feeling,” Russell said. “So much hard work going on behind the scenes … we’ve almost felt like all of that hard work hasn’t been paying off. But I think these last two race weekends has really shown that.”
Verstappen won the pole last year and led every lap of the race amid a historically dominant season. This year, he’s facing more challengers.
“When you look at the whole grid, there are quite a few surprises,” Verstappen said. “Just shows that everyone is closing up, and it’s really details that make the difference. It’s good for Formula 1.”
McLaren’s Lando Norris was third at 1:12.02.
Both Ferraris failed to reach the third qualifying session for the first time since 2021.
Charles Leclerc, the Monaco winner two weeks ago, will start 11th, with teammate Carlos Sainz 12th.
“We are just not fast enough,” Leclerc said. “I don’t have any explanations for now. “Very surprising, I did not expect that,“
Seven-time Canadian GP winner Lewis Hamilton qualified seventh for Mercedes. Montreal driver Lance Stroll was ninth for Aston Martin.
“The Q3 was very difficult, I didn’t feel good in the car,” Stroll said. “In the end we couldn’t improve enough.”
After a wild, stormy Friday in Montreal, a mix of sun and clouds made for more favorable conditions Saturday. The rain rolled in briefly before qualifying but subsided.
“It was really challenging, to be honest,” Russell said. “All weekend, every single session and every lap has been changing, the sun comes out, the track temperature warms up, then the clouds come in, it’s spitting, and it’s just really, really difficult to find that sweet spot.”