F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

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Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc of Monaco, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands, and McLaren driver Oscar Piastri of Australia pose after qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi on Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
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Red Bull driver Max Verstappen of the Netherlands steers his car during qualifying session ahead of the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at the Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi on Nov. 25, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 25 November 2023
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F1 champion Verstappen takes pole position for season-ending Abu Dhabi GP

  • Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins
  • The three-time F1 champion’s 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall

ABU DHABI: Max Verstappen took pole position for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Saturday and will look to finish a crushingly dominant year with a 19th win.
Victory on Sunday would take the Red Bull driver onto 54 career wins, past former Red Bull star Sebastian Vettel and into third place all time.
“It’s been a very special season and we’ve been enjoying it a lot,” Verstappen said. “Very proud of what we have achieved.”
The three-time F1 champion’s 12th pole of the season took him to 32 overall. He starts the race ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc in second place and McLaren’s Oscar Piastri in third.
“Never bet against me,” Verstappen said afterward, jokingly referring to a comment made by his Red Bull team principal Christian Horner.
Horner informed Verstappen that he had won a bet for 500 euros ($547) made with Red Bull boss Helmut Marko as to where Verstappen would qualify.
“You’ve just won me 500 euros,” Horner told Verstappen over radio when he crossed the line.
With a few minutes left, Verstappen led from McLaren’s Lando Norris and Piastri under floodlights at the Yas Marina circuit.
Norris slid late while pushing too hard on his last timed lap and Piastri moved ahead of him, while Leclerc jumped up the leaderboard with an excellent lap to place .14 seconds behind Verstappen.
“Everything felt good, I’m very happy with that lap because I didn’t expect to be on the front row,” Leclerc said. “It’s a good surprise.”
Mercedes driver George Russell qualified in fourth ahead of Norris with AlphaTauri’s Yuki Tsunoda in sixth and Aston Martin’s Fernando Alonso seventh. Nico Hulkenberg (Haas), Sergio Perez (Red Bull) and Pierre Gasly (Alpine) completed the top 10.
It was a bad session for Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton (11th) and Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz Jr. (16th).
Sainz failed to make it into the second part of qualifying — known as Q2 — and complained of too much traffic near the end of Q1 with several drivers coming out of their garages late.
Still, for a leading driver — Sainz is the only driver other than Verstappen or Perez to win a race this season — it was a poor performance after he crashed early in Friday’s second practice session. Potentially costly, too, with second place in the constructors’ championship at stake.
Heading into Sunday’s race, Mercedes was in second and held a four-point lead over Ferrari. Teams get more money at the end of the season the higher they finish.
“I hope tomorrow goes well,” Leclerc said. “It is the target to beat Mercedes in the constructors’ championship. That is all that matters this weekend.”
But Mercedes is struggling for form, and Hamilton was knocked out of Q2. The seven-time F1 champion said there was “something not right with this car” and faces the strong likelihood of a second straight season without a win.
Williams driver Logan Sargeant goes from last on the grid with his F1 future still uncertain. The American has only one point this season with a best result of 10th place at the United States GP last month.
Earlier Saturday, Russell topped the third and final practice session ahead of Norris and Piastri with Verstappen in sixth.
“What a turnaround because in practice it was not looking good,” Verstappen said. “Around here on the tires you have little slides, it can cost you a lot of lap time and that is what was happening in practice. But then in qualifying it was a bit more connected.”
When his form picked up, Horner was happy to win a bet in a season where Red Bull has lost only one race out of 21.
Piastri, meanwhile, was pleased to bounce back from a difficult qualifying session last weekend at the Las Vegas GP. He started from 18th and finished the race in 10th.
“The car is very quick this weekend,” the 22-year-old Australian said. “Happy to be back in the top three.”


Formula E reveals driver lineup for first rookie session of season 10

Updated 13 April 2024
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Formula E reveals driver lineup for first rookie session of season 10

  • Session is scheduled for rounds 6, 7 of championship taking place at Misano World Circuit in Italy

RIYADH: Formula E and the FIA have revealed the full roster of 11 rookie drivers set to debut at the first rookie session of season 10, scheduled for rounds six and seven of the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship at the Misano World Circuit in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy.

The rookie free practice sessions are designed exclusively for drivers with no previous experience racing a Formula E car on-track and who hold a minimum International Grade B license. The session is designed to promote new and emerging talent in the premier electric racing series, offering drivers a platform to showcase their skills in the seat of the GEN3 race car — the fastest, lightest, most powerful and efficient electric race car ever built.

The last on-track rookie session conducted by the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship was the official rookie free practice in Rome for rounds 13 and 14 of season nine. Notably, Jehan Daruvala, a rookie from that session, has since advanced to a full-time seat for season 10 with Maserati MSG Racing.

The rookies representing all 11 teams in the championship got the opportunity to shine in a free practice session this weekend.

For the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship’s first visit to the Italian track, the drivers will face the 14 turns of the 3.382 km track complete clockwise, infield at turns one, two, three and four, before returning to the GP layout down toward what will be turn five and the turn seven hairpin. A high-speed straight follows into a sharp left-right at turns eight and nine before another fast sprint around the complex at the back of the circuit before hooking back through turn 14 on to the home straight.

“As we embark on this exciting new venture in Misano, we welcome a new wave of talent to the Formula E stage,” Alberto Longo, co-founder and chief championship officer at Formula E, said. “These rookie sessions not only showcase the potential of emerging drivers, but also our underlying commitment to nurturing fresh talent in the world of electric motorsport.

“Formula E stands at the forefront of motorsport when it comes to technological advancement and innovation,” he added. “We’re thrilled to harness that energy and provide the upcoming generation of racing prodigies with the ultimate platform to showcase their skills: Behind the wheel of the GEN3 race car.”

Drivers to watch

Zane Maloney, Andretti Formula E: Andretti is set to once again highlight the talents of Zane Maloney, who will commandeer the team’s Porsche 99X Electric in both the rookie free practice session in Misano and the upcoming Berlin rookie test. Returning to represent the American outfit, Maloney is poised to further solidify his role as the team’s official reserve and development driver, clocking valuable laps in the Misano session. This will mark his fourth appearance with the team, building on his experience from the 2023 rookie test, as well as his participation in the rookie free practice session in Rome and the season 10 preseason test in Valencia.

Paul Aron, Envision Racing: At just 20 years old, Aron is hailed as one of the most thrilling young talents in single-seater racing, holding the second position in the Formula Two standings for the season. With an impressive three podium finishes under his belt already in his inaugural full FIA Formula Two campaign this year, the Estonian driver is swiftly establishing himself as a standout prospect for the future.

Jordan King, Mahindra Racing: With Nyck de Vries of Mahindra Racing unavailable for the double-header around Tempelhof Airport due to a prior commitment in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the team will turn to King to fill the void. A seasoned racer with a rich background in international single-seaters, including stints in the IndyCar Series, FIA Formula Two and FIA Formula Three, King brings a wealth of experience to the table. Having served as test driver for the Manor Racing Formula One team in the past, he currently holds a crucial simulator and development role with the Alpine F1 Team.

Sheldon van der Linde, Jaguar TCS Racing: The 2022 DTM champion will make his return to the Formula E paddock, gearing up for today’s free practice zero test. The South African — brother of Kelvin van der Linde — stepped in at ABT CUPRA in season nine, swiftly acclimatising himself when he took part in the championship’s official Berlin rookie test for Jaguar TCS Racing last April.


Mitch Evans targets another Italian triumph as Formula E makes Rimini bow

Updated 11 April 2024
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Mitch Evans targets another Italian triumph as Formula E makes Rimini bow

  • The Misano World Circuit in Italy hosts rounds 6 and 7 of the 2024 world championship

MISANO: All eyes will be on Mitch Evans, arguably the most successful Formula E driver in Italy, when the ABB FIA Formula E World Championship returns this weekend.

New Zealander Evans, with four previous wins in Rome, and teammate Nick Cassidy, will be feeling the pressure of maintaining their “ones to beat” record after securing a 1-2 finish for the Jaguar powertrain last year at the Rome E-Prix.

The championship’s 22 drivers face a new location for the Misano E-Prix, comprising rounds 6 and 7, on April 13-14.

The double-header at the Misano World Circuit is a return to Italy for the next chapter in the battle for the championship in front of an established motorsport fanbase. The adapted circuit is expected to deliver exciting racing to fans in the grandstands and around the world.

For Mahindra Racing’s Edoardo Mortara, the race holds special significance, with the Italian-Swiss-French driver eager to perform well in front of a home crowd after his promising performance in Tokyo.

Max Gunther will arrive at Misano fresh off a win in Japan, aiming to capitalize on his momentum and thrill fans with another stellar performance for Maserati MSG Racing on home soil. Oliver Rowland, meanwhile, will hope to extend his impressive streak of podium places, seeking a fourth consecutive top-three finish. With his consistent form, Rowland will be a force to be reckoned with at the weekend.

With the title race wide open, Pascal Wehrlein will also be pushing the limits to sustain his momentum and secure a more comfortable lead in the standings.

For its debut on the Formula E calendar, the track layout will be 3.381 km in length with 14 turns. 

Nestled in the picturesque Rimini province of Italy, the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli, also known as Misano Circuit Sic 58, has been a staple on the motorsport scene since 1972. Renowned for its rapid, flowing track and wealth of overtaking opportunities, Misano has been a favorite with MotoGP and WorldSBK enthusiasts for decades. 

With its rich history and reputation as a hot spot for motorsport events — the venue also hosts endurance racing, the Ferrari Challenge, DTM (a sports car racing series), and FIA Formula 3 — the venue will be more familiar to some drivers than others.


FIA chief Ben Sulayem backed by American bodies over grand prix controversies

Updated 05 April 2024
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FIA chief Ben Sulayem backed by American bodies over grand prix controversies

  • Report absolves president after accusations of race interference in Saudi Arabia, Las Vegas

The President of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile Mohammed Ben Sulayem has received an official letter signed by 34 heads of the FIA Member Clubs and Sport Federations of America, expressing their full support following accusations he interfered with proceedings related to the Saudi Arabian Grand Prix and the Las Vegas Grand Prix last year.

After a thorough internal investigation led by external and independent members and a series of interviews with over 10 witnesses, the FIA Ethics Committee published a report absolving Ben Sulayem of any wrongdoing.

“Allegations against the FIA President were unsubstantiated and strong evidence beyond any reasonable doubt was presented to support the determination of the FIA Ethics Committee,” the report stated.

Committee members also commended Ben Sulayem’s transparency and compliance during the investigation, leading to his exoneration after no evidence was found to substantiate the allegations. 

In a previous statement to member clubs, Ben Sulayem highlighted that the unfounded allegations were meant as an attack against the FIA’s leadership.

Theodora 34 heads of the FIA Member Clubs and Sport Federations of America declared unwavering support for Ben Sulayem, who “acted honorably” according to their letter, published on the FIA website.

The letter’s signatories also accused biased media of spreading incorrect information to taint the president’s reputation. They also asked relevant authorities to take necessary legal action against the parties who made the allegations, accusing them of slander.

“We endorse and ratify our vote of confidence in support of Mr. Mohammed Ben Sulayem, for his stewardship of the FIA and his progress to fulfilling his commitment to transform the FIA in an ethical and transparent manner in order to better serve its members,” the statement said.


Vettel hints at Formula One return after talks with Mercedes boss

Updated 03 April 2024
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Vettel hints at Formula One return after talks with Mercedes boss

  • Vettel won his four world championship titles with Red Bull from 2010-13
  • “I am speaking to Toto. I don’t know if that qualifies as Mercedes, but about other things,” Vettel told Sky Sports News on Wednesday

LONDON: Four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel has suggested he could return to Formula One following talks with Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff.
Mercedes are in search of a new driver after Lewis Hamilton announced in February he was leaving the team for Ferrari following 11 years with the Silver Arrows.
Vettel won his four world championship titles with Red Bull from 2010-13. He retired from Formula One at the end of the 2022 season after six years at Ferrari and two with Aston Martin.
But he has now hinted at a return to Grand Prix racing following talks with Wolff and several other team bosses.
“I am speaking to Toto. I don’t know if that qualifies as Mercedes, but about other things,” Vettel told Sky Sports News on Wednesday.
“I’m talking to a lot of people because I know them, but not very specific. I mean obviously it does cross my mind, I do think about it, but it’s not the main thought,” the 36-year-old German added.
“I have three kids at home, it’s busy every day, so there’s a lot of other thoughts I have. There’s ideas that I have.
“Events that I’m planning going forward, so I did speak to a lot of other team principals as well, and not only about racing. There’s thoughts, but nothing concrete at the minute.”
Vettel said he was taken aback by Hamilton’s decision to leave Mercedes for Ferrari after winning six world championships with the German giants.
“I was surprised, like I guess most of us were,” he said.
“But it is exciting. Obviously he’s looking for a new challenge and it will be different to see him in red, in a different color.”
Vettel, meanwhile, has been test-driving the Porsche car scheduled to compete in this year’s Le Mans 24 Hours.
“Maybe, I don’t know yet,” he replied when asked if he could make his first appearance in the celebrated endurance race this year.
“I’ve been testing. I was curious, so I wanted to see how it feels. It’s obviously a different discipline. It’s still racing, but it’s a different car, different discipline.
“I am (tempted) and I’m not. I am obviously also looking for lots of other things and there’s lots of other things that do interest me outside of racing.”


Formula E launches ‘Asphalt 9: Legends’ events ahead of Tokyo E-Prix

Updated 27 March 2024
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Formula E launches ‘Asphalt 9: Legends’ events ahead of Tokyo E-Prix

  • In an expansion of their partnership with Gameloft, Formula E is integrating the globally renowned racing game

RIYADH: Formula E and Gameloft have announced the continuation of their partnership through the integration of the race series into “Asphalt 9: Legends.”

This collaboration is set to launch ahead of the Tokyo E-Prix on Saturday, March 30, with time-limited events, or TLEs, for the game’s 9.5 million monthly active users.

Starting on March 28 and running to April 6 on “Asphalt 9: Legends” Osaka track, players will have the chance to race the Formula E GEN2 car on existing game tracks. The integration will also feature at the Tokyo E-Prix Gaming Arena in the Allianz Fan Village on March 29 and 30, where fans on-site will be among the first to engage with Formula E in this new way.

The Formula E TLEs are scheduled to run in conjunction with race weekends, with further in-game events scheduled for the Portland and London races. Players who successfully complete the GEN2 challenges across the three Formula E TLEs will unlock the GEN2 car permanently, adding a unique piece of electric racing to their in-game garage.

Gameloft’s “Asphalt 9: Legends,” launched in 2018 as the 15th game in the celebrated “Asphalt” series, continues to be a leader in the genre. Whilst available on all mainstream platforms, its fantasy arcade style, realistic cars, exaggerated tracks, and engaging gameplay has made it one of the largest mobile racing games on the planet.

Sanjay Shivaram, strategy and media program director for Formula E, said: “This is a thrilling continuation of our partnership with Gameloft’s ‘Asphalt’ series. By introducing Formula E into “Asphalt 9: Legends,” we’re not only launching into one of the largest mobile racing games globally, and reaching an engaged audience, but also offering fans new, authentic ways to experience the excitement of electric racing, building a vibrant community. We’re especially excited for the first event over the Tokyo E-Prix and look forward to further engaging with fans at events in Portland and London later this season.”

Ignacio Marin, “Asphalt 9: Legends” game manager at Gameloft, said: “This is such a natural collaboration as both ‘Asphalt’ and Formula E share the same mindset of pushing the limits and striving to always be at the forefront. We’re very excited to bring an experience to our fans that goes beyond the game, and to continue the real-life thrill at home for the race-goers. We’re looking forward to seeing how our players handle the car once the first event start.”