24 Hours at Le Mans ‘one of the biggest and greatest motor sport events ever’

FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem with French Minister of Sports Amelie Oudea-Castera. (FIA)
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Updated 11 June 2023
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24 Hours at Le Mans ‘one of the biggest and greatest motor sport events ever’

  • FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem hails race in its centenary year
  • ‘I’m very excited to finally attend,’ he says

JEDDAH: FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem called the 24 Hours of Le Mans ‘one of the biggest and greatest motor sport events ever’ as he attended the legendary race in France for the first time on its centenary running.

Before the race, Ben Sulayem spoke to French Minister of Sports Amelie Oudea-Castera, CEO of Stellantis Group Carlos Tavares and Akio Toyoda, who was set to drive Toyota’s car in the hydrogen event at the Maison Blanche track.

“I’m very excited to finally attend what I believe is one of the biggest and greatest motor sport events ever,” Ben Sulayem said.

“Without the 24 Hours of Le Mans, motor sport wouldn’t be the same and some of the most iconic cars wouldn’t have even been built. Innovation has always been part of Le Mans’ DNA, which also combines heritage with the future of endurance racing.

He continued: “Both Le Mans and the whole FIA World Endurance Championship are enjoying a great period of growth.

“Of course, I can’t speak about Le Mans and WEC without mentioning the Hypercar class, which really came of age this year with the strongest entry to date, right on time for the race’s 100-year celebration.

“To have 16 cars from seven brands is impressive, it means that the Hypercar technical platform is relevant to manufacturers. This also stands as solid proof to the redevelopment of WEC’s regulatory foundations, a joint effort between the FIA and the ACO over the last couple of years.”


Porsche’s Wehrlein takes Formula E title in London

Updated 22 July 2024
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Porsche’s Wehrlein takes Formula E title in London

LONDON: Porsche’s Pascal Wehrlein clinched the electric Formula E championship at the final round of the season in London on Sunday as the hopes of Jaguar duo Mitch Evans and Nick Cassidy were dashed.

The German former Formula One driver had started the day three points clear of Evans and seven ahead of Cassidy but the New Zealanders failed to make up the ground in the season 10 finale.

Wehrlein finished second to Nissan’s race winner Oliver Rowland at London’s ExCel with Evans taking third and Cassidy retiring with a puncture.

Jaguar won the teams’ title, their first, while Porsche took the inaugural manufacturers’ championship.


Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix

Updated 21 July 2024
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Oscar Piastri claims maiden win at quarrel-hit Hungarian Grand Prix

  • Finished ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris
  • Piastri, 23, won by 2.141 seconds with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes

BUDAPEST: Oscar Piastri claimed his maiden Formula One victory on Sunday when he finished ahead of his McLaren team-mate Lando Norris, after a vexed radio argument produced an extraordinary finish to an incident-filled Hungarian Grand Prix.
In a race of fluctuating fortunes and many quarrels on and off the track, the McLaren duo secured a comprehensive one-two after starting from the team’s first front row lockout since 2012, Norris finally obeying team orders to hand his team-mate his first career win.
Piastri, 23, won by 2.141 seconds with seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton finishing third for Mercedes to claim his record 200th podium finish.
He survived a late collision with Red Bull’s three-time champion and series leader Max Verstappen, who flew off, but recovered to finish fifth.
Charles Leclerc came home fourth and Ferrari team-mate Carlos Sainz sixth, sandwiching a grumpy Verstappen who was called to see the stewards to explain his collision with Hamilton.
Sergio Perez finished seventh for Red Bull, having started 16th on the grid, ahead of George Russell in the second Mercedes, who started 17th, and RB’s Yuki Tsunoda. Lance Stroll was 10th for Aston Martin.
“It’s very special,” said Australian driver Piastri.
“I dreamt of this as a kid and if it was a bit complicated at the end, I did put myself in the right position at the start of the race.
“It’s a hell of a lot of fun racing with McLaren. This is an incredible feeling.”
Norris was first to congratulate his team-mate, after he had appeared to reject team orders and allow the Australian to pass in the closing stages.
“Well done, a good 1-2 and lots of good points for the team. Well deserved,” he said.
Norris had made an uncertain start and he, Piastri and Verstappen were three abreast into Turn One where Piastri exited in the lead as the Dutchman ran wide and cut back into second place, gaining a clear advantage and pushing Norris down to third.
This prompted an exchange of messages before race engineer Gianpiero Lambiase told Verstappen to allow Norris to pass, a command that clearly irked him.
“So, you can just run people off the track?” barked the Dutchman.

By lap 10, Piastri led Norris by 2.7 seconds with Verstappen third adrift by two seconds ahead of Hamilton and the two Ferraris, led by Leclerc.
Hamilton eventually reeled off a series of fastest laps to rise to third, but Verstappen on younger tires reeled him in, waiting to pounce as the Briton endured a lurid slide out of Turn 12 before pitting again on lap 41 after fending off the Dutchman.
At the front, Piastri was in cruise mode ahead of Norris with Verstappen third, 11.5 seconds adrift. Hamilton rejoined fifth behind Sainz, but with Leclerc, on new mediums, on his tail.
Norris pitted again for mediums on lap 46, rejoining fourth ahead of Hamilton, followed by Piastri on 47, handing the lead to Verstappen with Norris up to second, but told to “re-establish the order at your convenience.”
Verstappen made his second stop, for mediums, on lap 50, rejoining fifth behind Leclerc, but adrift of the Ferrari by 4.5.
In the lead, Norris was reminded of his team instructions and responsibilities as Piastri closed in.
“We know you’ll do the right thing,” said McLaren, but Norris, knowing he could reduce Verstappen’s championship lead, stayed silent when told not to stress his tires.
“Tell him to catch up, please,” he said.
As McLaren’s tensions boiled over, Verstappen lunged down the inside of Hamilton at Turn One on lap 63, but locked up and clipped the Mercedes. The collision sent him airborne briefly before he bounced clear and wide before rejoining in fifth.
McLaren then issued an ultimatum to Norris.
“There are five laps to go. The way to win a championship is not by yourself. It is with the team. You are going to need Oscar and you are going to need the team.”
With three laps remaining, Norris slowed dramatically to gift Piastri the lead.


Lando Norris on pole as McLaren lock out ‘sweet’ Hungarian Grand Prix front row

Updated 20 July 2024
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Lando Norris on pole as McLaren lock out ‘sweet’ Hungarian Grand Prix front row

  • Red Bull’s three-time champion Max Verstappen had to settle for third

BUDAPEST: Lando Norris grabbed pole position ahead of his team-mate Oscar Piastri for the Hungarian Grand Prx on Saturday as McLaren locked out the front row of the grid for the first time since 2012.
Red Bull’s three-time champion Max Verstappen had to settle for third and the second row in the tense wet-dry qualifying
The 24-year-old Briton, who is 84 points behind Verstappen in this year’s title race, clocked a best lap in one minute and 15.227 seconds to outpace the Australian by 0.022 seconds.
Verstappen was three-hundredths of a second adrift in third ahead of Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz, who leaves the team at the end of the year, and seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes, who will replace him.
Charles Leclerc, in the second Ferrari was sixth ahead of two-time champion Fernando Alonso and his Aston Martin team-mate Lance Stroll and the RBs of Daniel Ricciardo and Yuki Tsunoda, who had survived a high-speed crash earlier in Q3.
It was Norris’s second pole in four races and the third of his burgeoning career as he gains front-running experience in his bid to challenge Verstappen who, on Sunday bids to complete a hat-trick of Hungarian wins.
“I’m very happy with that and it wasn’t easy at all in difficult conditions so ending up on top is the best for us all and a great result for the team,” said Norris.
“We have come into this weekend confident we can do a good job so to be on pole is sweet.”
“It’s the first 1-2 for McLaren for a long time and an amazing result for us,” said Piastri. “I had a tricky day yesterday so for me it is nice to bounce back.”
Verstappen said: “I tried. We have been behind the whole weekend and I tried to make it as close as possible, but it wasn’t enough. I would have liked a bit more grip...”
After Friday’s sweltering conditions for practice, qualifying began in much cooler weather with temperatures and light rain falling.
The McLaren pair were first out on soft slick tires along with Kevin Magnussen in his Haas.
George Russell was also struggling before the session was red-flagged when Sergio Perez smacked the wall at Turn Eight, having lost control and made a sideways slide into the barriers in the second Red Bull.
For the under-pressure Mexican driver, it was another Q1 setback in a sequence of bad qualifying outings and came just seconds after Russell had saved his car sliding off at the same place as the rain intensified.
After a 12-minute break, the action resumed with Perez hanging on in ninth from his earlier efforts, before he suffered his fourth Q1 exit in six outings as he embarked on two racing weekends that many observers believe offer him a last chance to save his seat at Red Bull.
In a frantic finale to Q1, on a damp circuit, Russell managed to jump from 14th to 10th but it was not enough as others improved to leave him 17th and out, taking an early exit for the second year running at the Hungaroring along with Perez, 16th, Zhou Guanyu of Sauber and the two Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly who stayed in the pits.
Unexpectedly, Daniel Ricciardo was fastest for RB in the changing conditions while Norris was only 13th.
“I’m sorry about this session guys,” said Russell, who had asked for more fuel to prolong his running to three laps. “That one is on me.”
The Q2 segment started with Sainz on top, until Hamilton and then Verstappen took over, the Dutchman in 1:15.770, nine-tenths faster than Hamilton’s pole in 2023. Piastri went second only 0.015 off the pace.
On his second run, Norris took command in 1:15.540 while Hamilton struggled to survive in 10th and Haas’s Nico Hulkenberg, Valtteri Bottas of Sauber, Williams’ Alex Albon, Sargeant and Magnussen missed the cut to the top-ten shootout.
All this left Norris and Verstappen to scrap for pole, as rain was forecast, and the Dutchman led them out to clock 1:15.555 before Norris cut that time by 0.328 with his lap in 1:15.227. It was provisional pole, as rain began to fall.
The world champion pushed to improve but stayed third as Yuki Tsunoda crashed at Turn Five in his RB to prompt a red-flag stoppage. It was a big accident, but the Japanese driver was unhurt.
Two minutes and 13 seconds remained, enough time for one more flying run as the marshals cleared the debris. In the event, as it drizzled, only Ricciardo improved his time to take ninth from his team-mate.


Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success

Updated 11 July 2024
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Da Costa reveals team talk after Diriyah Formula E races is behind recent success

  • TAG Heuer Porsche driver sits fourth in the standings ahead of season-closing double-header in London

RIYADH: Formula E’s Antonio Felix da Costa has revealed he spoke with his team after the Diriyah races in Saudi Arabia, which has helped him to build momentum going into the season-finale races in London.

The TAG Heuer Porsche driver delivered a spectacular double victory in Portland, marking his third consecutive win amid a sea of enthusiastic fans at the Hankook Portland E-Prix last month, and will be searching for more victories in the last two races on July 20-21.

Having picked up no points in the first three rounds, the Portuguese driver has turned around his season to sit fourth in the standings after winning both races in Portland and the second Shanghai race. He revealed that discussions after the Diriyah race had been key to his impressive recent form.

“For every athlete, you need to build momentum,” said da Costa. “You don’t start winning and get to first place overnight. After the Riyadh race in the third round where we had zero points at that moment, it was then where I said that we need to starting building momentum slowly and I think we have done just that. In Sao Paulo, we finished sixth and been doing well since. We managed to win in Berlin and Shanghai and that set us up nicely mentally, but also worked on what worked for me and have been strong in races.”

With London set to host the final two races next weekend, da Costa is heading to the UK capital with an outside chance of winning the world championship. He is 34 points adrift of championship leader Nick Cassidy, however he will assess his options once the first qualifying session is over.

He said: “At the moment, we have been putting all our eggs in the basket to help our team win the championship and we still have a chance. We need to keep going with that mentality, but having said that, I would say let’s do the first qualifying in London and see where we stand and then take decision afterwards. We will prepare for London like as we do for every weekend.”


Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third

Updated 06 July 2024
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Three cheers for Brits: Russell beats Hamilton to take Silverstone F1 pole with Norris third

  • Russell is perfectly poised to aim for a second straight F1 win following his victory at the Austrian GP last weekend

SILVERSTONE, England: The home crowd had three reasons to cheer when George Russell narrowly beat Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position for the British Grand Prix, and Lando Norris was third quickest for McLaren on Saturday.
It was all about the Brits at Silverstone, with Formula 1 leader Max Verstappen taking a rare back seat and qualifying in fourth for Red Bull.
“The crowd gives us so much energy. I don’t think Silverstone could have dreamt of (this),” a jubilant Russell said. “Three Brits in the top three, we love the support and we can’t wait for the race tomorrow.”
Russell is perfectly poised to aim for a second straight F1 win following his victory at the Austrian GP last weekend. Mercedes is showing signs of closing the gap in terms of speed, and team principal Toto Wolff clenched his fist after his drivers secured a 1-2.
“What a feeling. This is just mega,” Russell said. “The car at the moment is feeling so, so good. We are riding this wave and absolutely buzzing.”
Russell arrived at the track wearing an England soccer shirt ahead of the national team’s European Championship quarterfinal against Switzerland later Saturday, and said his own nerves were on edge.
“Probably the most pressure I’ve ever felt in a qualifying session,” he said, praising the crowd for uplifting him. “I wasn’t feeling that confident with myself.”
Hamilton just missed out on a record-extending 105th F1 pole by .171 seconds while Norris was .211 seconds behind Russell, who secured his second pole of the season and third of his career.
“Three Brits in the top three is incredible,” said Hamilton, who has won at Silverstone a record eight times. “This is huge for us (Mercedes). The car felt great.”
Sergio Perez’s poor run of form for Red Bull continued. He went off track at Copse corner and into the gravel during Q1 — the first part of qualifying — prompting team principal Christian Horner to shake his head. Perez’s car was removed by a crane as the Mexican driver looked on.
Since being given a two-year contract extension last month, Perez has not finished higher than seventh in three races and faces a difficult task to score points from 19th spot.
When qualifying resumed dark clouds were forming over the six-kilometer (3.7-mile) circuit.
Verstappen uttered an expletive over the team radio after momentarily sliding off track and riding over some gravel. He was way off the pace in Q1, which was led by Hamilton, and again in Q2, which Norris led.
Verstappen missed out on a ninth pole of the season. But he praised his team for fixing damage to the car floor from going over the gravel.
“I gave it everything. Guys, thank you very much,” the Dutchman said on radio. “We’ll go at it tomorrow.”
It was a frustrating day for Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, who failed to make it into Q3, the top 10 shootout, and starts 11th.
“I had huge problems with balance,” said Leclerc, who won the Monaco GP from pole in May.
McLaren’s Oscar Piastri goes from fifth followed by Haas driver Nico Hulkenberg, with Carlos Sainz Jr. (Ferrari), Lance Stroll (Aston Martin), Alex Albon (Williams) and two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso (Aston Martin) rounding out the top 10.
French driver Esteban Ocon qualified in 18th and called qualifying “embarrassing” for the Alpine team. He is leaving at the end of the year and reportedly could join Haas.
Earlier Saturday, a rainy third session saw an early red flag when Alpine driver Pierre Gasly went into the gravel.
Russell led P3 narrowly ahead of Hamilton in a sign of things to come.
“To compete with the McLarens and Red Bulls is a great feeling, a massive boost,” said Hamilton, who won the last of his record 103 F1 races in the penultimate race of 2021.
Norris led the two practices on Friday with Verstappen finishing out of the top three both times.
In Sunday’s race, the start could prove crucial.
Norris has to get past two Mercedes and hold off Verstappen alongside him, one week after Verstappen and Norris crashed into each other late on in Austria.
“I can bring the fight to George and Lewis so I’m excited to put on a good show,” Norris said. “I’m confident we can execute a good race.”