Leclerc grabs pole position in Texas as Verstappen slips to sixth

Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc, of Monaco, steers through a turn during a qualifying session for the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at Circuit of the Americas Friday in Austin, Texas. (AP)
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Updated 21 October 2023

Leclerc grabs pole position in Texas as Verstappen slips to sixth

  • Leclerc: I am very happy with my qualifying and to take pole position
  • The Ferrari driver showed commanding pace as he clocked a fastest lap in one minute and 34.723 seconds to outpace McLaren’s Lando Norris by a tenth

AUSTIN, TEXAS: Charles Leclerc claimed his third pole position of the season on Friday as Max Verstappen had his best lap deleted and slipped to sixth on the grid in a dramatic qualifying at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix.

The Ferrari driver showed commanding pace as he clocked a fastest lap in one minute and 34.723 seconds to outpace McLaren’s Lando Norris by a tenth, with resurgent seven-time world champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes taking third.

Carlos Sainz was fourth in the second Ferrari ahead of George Russell in the second Williams and Verstappen, whose late best lap was quick enough for pole before it was rubbed out after he exceeded track limits at Turn 19.

It was the 21st pole position of Leclerc’s career and gives him a chance of frustrating newly-crowned three-time champion Verstappen’s bid for a 50th career victory in Sunday’s race.

“I am very happy with my qualifying and to take pole position,” said Leclerc.

“It was a really good lap and the team did a great job. We had a very clean FP1, which is so important on these sprint weekends.”

Norris described his front-row start as a “bonus for the team.”

He said: “I think I was quick enough to get pole position. I know Charles said he made a few mistakes, but so did I! And anyway, I am happy with second nevertheless.”

Hamilton, who relished the performance of his car’s upgrades at one of his favorite circuits, said: “I love being here at this circuit and I love the country. This is such an incredibly challenging circuit and one of my favorites, up there with Silverstone.

“We’ve taken a step closer to these guys this weekend, thanks to everyone in the factory who have been pushing so hard. I will give it my best shot tomorrow.”

Behind a grumbling Verstappen, who complained on team radio, the Alpines of Pierre Gasly and Esteban Ocon were seventh and eighth ahead of Sergio Perez in the second Red Bull and Oscar Piastri in the second McLaren.

The session began in glorious sunshine with a track temperature of 42 degrees Celsius and the air at 35, conditions to challenge tires and cars at the Circuit of the Americas.

Leclerc set an early fastest lap before Verstappen and then Nico Hulkenberg took command, the German making the most of a major upgrade package for his Haas on home soil.

Both Ferraris then swept to the top with Sainz leading Leclerc by two-tenths ahead of Gasly’s Alpine, with everyone running on softs, before they began their second Q1 runs.

Sainz chose to save tires and miss a second run as Verstappen went top by almost half a second only to be outpaced by Hamilton, on new tires, who beat him by two-tenths. Norris was second.

At the bottom end, it was bad news for Aston Martin, despite an upgrade package, as both two-time champion Fernando Alonso and Lance Stroll failed to make the cut.

Alonso was 17th and eliminated from Q1 for the first time this year along with Hulkenberg, in his Haas, Stroll, 19th, and the Williams pair Alex Albon and Logan Sargeant.

Stroll had missed most of practice due to brake problems, which also afflicted Alonso. For the Canadian son of team owner Lawrence Stroll, it was a fifth consecutive Q1 flop.

In Q2, Mercedes set the pace until Verstappen seized the initiative in a close scrap that saw nine cars separated by less than four-tenths before their second runs saw Ferrari shine again.

Leclerc topped Verstappen ahead of Hamilton and Sainz while Alpha Tauri’s Yuki Tsunoda, Zhou Guanyu and his Alfa Romeo team-mate Valtteri Bottas, Kevin Magnussen of Haas and Daniel Ricciardo, in the second Alpha Tauri, were knocked out.

All this left 10 cars from five teams in Q3’s shootout.

Leclerc topped the first runs ahead of Hamilton by 0.056 seconds with Verstappen third and Sainz fourth. Russell’s lap was deleted for exceeding track limits, leaving him 10th before the final showdown.

Women’s mentorship program launched at 2024 FIA conference

Updated 20 June 2024

Women’s mentorship program launched at 2024 FIA conference

  • Concussion awareness campaign also launched at Uzbekistan forum

PARIS: FIA President Mohammed Ben Sulayem has launched two projects at the FIA 2024 conference in Samarkand, Uzbekistan: the women in motorsport mentorship programme and the concussion awareness campaign.

Linked live to the FIA Women in Motorsport networking event, the women in motorsport mentorship programme pairs experienced women already in the sport — mentors — with those wanting to start their career — mentees — facilitating knowledge-sharing as well as personal and professional growth while fostering a culture of learning and collaboration.

The program offers opportunities for mentors to share their experiences and perspectives to accelerate the mentee’s development, while providing invaluable guidance, support and insights that will help them to navigate their professional journey.

Participants will connect through a digital platform, ensuring flexible interaction regardless of location, and ease of scheduling and resource sharing online. The application process for club participation and individual registrations is designed to be straightforward and efficient, with each club receiving a dedicated email containing a link to apply. Clubs are permitted to nominate up to two participants and applications will be processed on a “first come, first serve” basis.

Ben Sulayem said: “It is important that motor sport diversifies and FIA is committed to making our sport more accessible to all. The women in motorsport mentorship programme will help to create a network of support and learning for women, ensuring accessibility and opening up new opportunities in line with our commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion. I am proud to work with so many accomplished women in our sport and I champion their voices.”

Meanwhile, the concussion awareness campaign, supported by funding from the FIA foundation, was launched through the collaboration of the FIA medical and safety teams with the aim of educating and raising awareness of concussion, including signs, symptoms and red flags in an effort to further protect motor sport competitors.

The educational content, created to be used across social platforms and as printable assets, is available to all member clubs, in any club’s language of choice, reflecting the FIA’s commitment to improving accessibility and inclusivity.

Ben Sulayem said: “I have experienced concussion first-hand, away from the race track. I have felt the symptoms and dealt with the aftermath. I understand the critical importance of this issue. Thanks to the FIA medical and safety team, we will provide an educational and accessible approach to identifying and combating concussion in our sport, ensuring the safety of all current and future competitors.”

By educating drivers on how to spot concussion, the steps to take if concussed, and how to return to racing, this knowledge-sharing will help keep motor sport as safe as possible. It also encourages racers to seek out assistance from the medical team if symptoms are felt. They will not return to racing unless cleared by the relevant international and national authorities.

Abu Dhabi to host 2024 FIM World Supercross Championship season finale

Updated 20 June 2024

Abu Dhabi to host 2024 FIM World Supercross Championship season finale

  • Two motorsport world championships will be decided within a week with the World Supercross Championship and Formula 1 heading to Yas Island in December

DUBAI: SX Global, the official promoters of the FIM World Supercross Championship, have announced that the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi will host the final race of the series’ upcoming 2024 season.

After a highly successful pilot season in 2022, WSX built on its foundations by expanding into new markets in 2023 — a campaign which saw German motorcycle superstar Ken Roczen claim a second WSX World Championship title, while Britain’s Max Anstie etched his name on the SX2 World Championship crown.

“After the success of last year’s event, we’re delighted to be heading back to Abu Dhabi and the Etihad Arena in 2024,” Andy Edwards, SX global executive chairman, said. “This time around, the incredible venue will host the deciding round of the championship, and that spectacle is sure to have fans out of their seats with the action at full throttle until the very last lap.”

Abu Dhabi first hosted WSX last season in a competition which saw Roczen, Joey Savatgy, Dean Wilson, and Vince Friese go head-to-head. With this year’s event taking place just four days before the Formula One Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 2024 finale is set to attract an international audience once more.

As well as confirming Abu Dhabi as the location for this season’s climax, FIM WSX also revealed its full provisional schedule for the year ahead. The campaign will start on Oct. 26 at the BC Place stadium in Vancouver, Canada, before heading to Perth, Australia, on Nov. 23-24 for a double-header at HBF Park.

After the WSX Australian Grand Prix, the series will then head to Abu Dhabi where the world champion will be crowned on Dec. 4.

Ali Al-Beshr, motorsport development executive director at organizers Ethara, said: “We are thrilled to announce the return of the World Supercross Championship Abu Dhabi Grand Prix to Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for the second consecutive year. With the event taking place during the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race week, motorsport fans can enjoy back-to-back thrilling action, with the chance to experience two world championship finals in one week.”

Liberty Global to acquire Formula E from Warner Bros. Discovery

Updated 19 June 2024

Liberty Global to acquire Formula E from Warner Bros. Discovery

  • The deal will give the company a controlling interest in the world’s leading electric motorsport series
  • Announcement follows unveiling of the Season 11 race calendar which features races in Miami, Jakarta and double-headers in Monaco and Shanghai

LONDON: Formula E has announced that Liberty Global is to acquire shares currently held by Warner Bros. Discovery in the all-electric racing series.

The acquisition will bring Liberty Global’s total share ownership in the series to 65 percent, giving the company a controlling interest in the world’s fastest-growing motorsport.

Formula E is the only FIA-sanctioned all-electric world motor racing championship, the world’s No.1 environmental, social and governance sport, and the first net-zero carbon sport from inception.

“First of all I’d like to offer my thanks to Warner Bros. Discovery for the support and guidance they’ve provided Formula E over the past nine years,” Jeff Dodds, Formula E CEO said.

“Liberty Global have a proven track record of building and growing businesses and their investment in us comes at the perfect time as we plan for a period of exponential growth. Having personally known and worked alongside the Liberty leadership team for over a decade, I’m thrilled to be able to further benefit from their expertise and their resources. This is a powerful vindication of the huge potential of our sport.”

In its 10th season of all-electric city racing, Formula E boasts one of the best and most diverse sporting calendars in the world, with 16 races in iconic city locations across four continents.

Now, with almost 400 million fans around the world, 11 teams and 22 world-class drivers on the grid, Formula E has become a destination for the best motorsport talent on the planet, including racing teams Jaguar TCS Racing, TAG Heuer Porsche Formula E Team and NEOM McLaren Formula E Team.

At the recent Monaco E-Prix, Formula E revealed its new car for Season 11, the GEN3 EVO, capable of accelerating to 60mph in an incredible 1.82 seconds — around 30 percent faster than a current Formula 1 car.

Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, said: “We’re excited to take a controlling interest in Formula E, a business we first invested in nearly 10 years ago. Formula E has massive potential for further growth while integrating the most advanced sustainability standards in sports. The investment continues our approach of disciplined capital rotation across our Ventures portfolio and our strategy of making long-term investments in highly attractive businesses.”

The transaction is subject to regulatory approval, with closing expected before year end.

Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory

Updated 17 June 2024

Ferrari overcome late drama to hang on for second consecutive 24 Hours of Le Mans victory

  • Ferrari make it two in a row as they outlast Toyota to win a weather-affected 24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France: Ferrari made it two in a row as they outlasted Toyota to win a weather-affected 24 Hours of Le Mans on Sunday with the trio of Nicklas Nielsen, Antonio Fuoco and Miguel Molina crossing the line in the No. 50 car 14 seconds ahead of the No. 7 of Nyck de Vries, Kamui Kobayashi and Jose Maria Lopez.

The No. 51 Ferrari helmed by Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Antonio Giovinazzi rounded out the top three in the latest running of the most iconic sports car race in the world.

Rain and fog brought out the safety car in the early hours of the morning with Ferrari jostling with Toyota and Porsche for top spot. But with dawn breaking, the racing resumed under a green flag with several teams in contention.

With less than six hours remaining the No. 50 Ferrari made their move just before more rain fell with Fuoco moving up the grid. Nielsen then survived more late drama when a flapping door forced the car into an unscheduled pit stop but managed to hang on for victory.

“Nicklas. Antonio. Miguel. You’ll be forever part of the legend now,” the FIA World Endurance Championship said on social media.

Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours

Updated 15 June 2024

Football great Zidane kicks off Le Mans 24 Hours

  • Zidane was wearing winter gear as he waved the ceremonial starter’s flag
  • The temperature was a chilly 15 degrees celsius with plenty of rain forecast until Sunday

LE MANS, France: French football great Zinedine Zidane acted as starter to get the mythic Le Mans 24 Hour race on its way at 1400GMT on Saturday.
Ahead of the 62 cars split into three categories on the grid lies the ultimate test of motorsport endurance — for the 186 drivers, their cars, mechanics and last but not least the crowd estimated at 250,000.
One major unknown for the 92nd edition was — despite being mid-June — the weather.
Zidane was wearing winter gear as he waved the ceremonial starter’s flag — a French tricolor with ‘24’ embossed in gold on it — handed to him by French soldiers who had abseiled down with it from a hovering helicopter.
The temperature was a chilly 15 degrees celsius with plenty of rain forecast until Sunday at 1400GMT when the winner will take the cherished chequered flag after around 350 laps of the iconic 13.6kilometer Sarthe circuit in the west of France near the medieval town of Le Mans.
There was nothing ancient about the gleaming machinery setting off led by the elite category Porsche Hypercar, in pole after qualifying on Thursday.
Ferrari are the defending title holders after claiming the centenary edition 12 months ago.
The Hypercar class is the most open in almost three decades with no fewer than nine different constructors presenting 23 cars.
In the early stages, Ferrari’s number 50 car led from the team’s 51 car, which won last year. A Porsche was in third.
Ferrari’s Formula One team principal Fred Vasseur predicted a close race.
“The fight is very, very tight, lot of good drivers.
“Twenty-four hours with this weather, very, very tight, we are just focused on ourselves.”