Monday motorsport wrap: Frenchman Jules Bianchi has become the first driver to die from a Formula One accident since Ayrton Senna in 1994
JULES Bianchi died on Saturday, nine months after crashing his Marussia F1 car into a recovery vehicle during the Japanese Grand Prix.
The 25-year-old French driver never regained consciousness after suffering massive head injuries in the October 5 race.
Bianchi was a member of the Ferrari development squad and was widely thought to be on the verge of joining the main team.
His death sent the motorsport world into mourning for the popular young star, who is the first driver to die in an F1 car since Ayrton Senna crashed at Imola in Italy 21 years ago.
Bianchi’s accident prompted a review of recovery procedures in motorsport events and saw the introduction of a ‘virtual safety car’ in F1 races to slow competing cars when officials and their equipment are on the track.
Under yellow flags designed to warn drivers of an incident for force them to slow, Bianchi lost control of his car in wet conditions during the Japanese race and slammed into a tractor removing a car that had crashed a lap earlier.
He was a popular member of the F1 community and close friend to a number of his colleagues, including Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo posted a photo of the him with Bianchi from their early racing days as a tribute to his friend.
F1: Ricciardo returns to Hungary with fondest of memories
NEXT weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix, round 10 of the world championship, brings back good memories for Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo; 12 months ago he celebrated his second F1 victory after pulling off two late overtaking moves – on Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso, no less – in a dramatic contest at the Hungaroring.
The Aussie loves the place, although he probably won’t bother drafting a victory speech for next Sunday.
“The Hungarian Grand Prix has a lot going for it,” he says. “Personally, I love these races in the European summer when you have the high temperatures and – usually – the great weather, plus it’s the final race before the summer break and that tends to put everyone in a good mood. There’s usually a really good party on Sunday night and, because of the break, everyone tends to stay and have fun. Budapest is a cool city, really good restaurants and bars, really nice, really loyal fans and basically a great place to have a grand prix.”
His opinion of the track is a little mixed...: “It’s a great, great track for a qualifying lap, one of the best of the year. It’s tight, twisty and bumpy, and you have to use a lot of kerb – so getting in a low-fuel, new-tyre lap right on the limit it’s lots and lots of fun.
“Last year was a great race for me! Of the three wins last year, it was the one where I was definitely most excited during the race. It’s tough for me to judge but probably it was the best performance of the three, purely because of the people I passed to finish in the lead. I had tyres in better condition – excellent strategy from our guys – but Fernando and Lewis don’t let you have the places for free; I had to really work for it!”
F1: Record 21 races pencilled in for 2016
THE 2016 F1 World Championship season is set to run across a record 21 races, the provisional calendar showing the return of Germany (hooray!) and an inaugural Azerbaijan race mid-year (boo, hiss!).
Germany, dumped this year due to money issues, returns to Hockenheim on July 31.
The season fires up as usual in Australia, on the later date of April 3, and is set to conclude in Abu Dhabi on November 27.
Yes, that’s the same Abu Dhabi that recently arrested, jailed and then deported an Australian woman for posting an image and writing “bad words” on Facebook about a vehicle blocking two disabled car spots at her apartment block.
The F1 hierarchy has shown no qualms about jumping into bed with dodgy regimes. Bahrain has a history of savage crackdowns on civil unrest.
Bernie Ecclestone’s bright idea to give Azerbaijan a round also raises eyebrows. Political activism there is a dangerous business.
But such trivialities don’t appear to matter to F1. It’s inevitably a case of “show me the money”.
Meanwhile, there is still no sign of a return of grand prix racing to France, where it all began…
Other changes for next year include the Malaysian GP moving from March to September – bookended by nearby Singapore and Japan – and Russia, another bastion of democracy, switching from October to May.
The full provisional 2016 F1 calendar is:
03 April Australia (Melbourne)
10 April China (Shanghai)
24 April Bahrain (Sakhir)
01 May Russia (Sochi)
15 May Spain (Barcelona)
29 May Monaco (Monte Carlo)
12 June Canada (Montreal)
26 June Britain (Silverstone)
03 July Austria (Spielberg)
17 July Azerbaijan (Baku)
31 July Germany (Hockenheim)
07 August Hungary (Budapest)
28 August Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)
04 September Italy (Monza)
18 September Singapore
25 September Malaysia (Sepang)
09 October Japan (Suzuka)
23 October USA (Austin)
30 October Mexico (Mexico City)
13 November Brazil (Sao Paulo)
27 November Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)
INDYCARS: Americans charge to the top in Iowa
FOREIGERS have largely dominated the US IndyCar race series in recent years, but it swung back to the locals in the corn belt of the mid-west when, for the first time since the 2006 Indianapolis 500, Americans claimed the first three places in an IndyCar Series race.
Iowa’s 1.4km oval generated the highest cornering forces in the series, and some seriously tight racing.
Through it all, Ryan Hunter-Reay prevailed from Josef Newgarden and wild child rookie Sage Karam in the Iowa Corn 300.
Another local hero, Graham Rahal, came from two laps down at one stage to charge back to take fourth.
Hunter-Reay became the ninth different winner in 13 IndyCar races this season.
After the race, Karam was angrily confronted by veteran Ed Carpenter, who took issue with the rookie’s extreme driving.
“I said that he has no respect for anyone out there,” Carpenter explained in a later TV interview. “If it wasn't for guys with experience driving with their heads on, he would be hurting himself and other people. I think it's ridiculous.”
Karam was unrepentant: "He's just angry at my driving; he says I squeezed him a few times," Karam said. "But [it's the] same way he drove me. It's hard racing. I'm going for wins. And that's how we're driving. It's close racing. It's IndyCar racing.”
An early casualty was points leader Juan Pablo Montoya, whose Penske Chev slammed the wall after suspension failure.
But nearest rival Scott Dixon also had dramas, dropping a swag of points when his Ganassi car had a rear-end breakage.
Rahal is now second in the standings, 42 points behind Montoya, while Dixon, who finished 18th, is 48 points back. Helio Castroneves is 54 points off the lead and one point ahead of defending series champion Will Power (10th in Iowa), who is running out of races to claw back the gap.
The other Australian in the field, Ryan Briscoe, was a solid eighth.
DRIFTING: Is it real motorsport?
V8 SUPERCARS opened a hornet’s nest when it announced drifting has been added to the card at Sydney Motorsport Park on August 21-23.
The announcement included the claim that “Drifting Australia’s roaring engines, screeching tyres and plumes of burning rubber will add a new, exciting, adrenalin-charged dimension to the V8 Supercars event experience”.
While CAMS-sanctioned drifting has its army of loyal adherents and there is no argument that the leading exponents are wonderfully skilled, many ask if this is proper motorsport.
Drifting competitions are judged according to the speed, angle, showmanship and line taken through a set of corners. Some describe it as motorised synchronised swimming.
But Shane Van Gisbergen gives drifting the thumbs up. “Drifting is awesome fun from a drivers’ perspective, and fantastic to watch for fans,” said the Kiwi, who has done drifting competitions in New Zealand.
The drifting events will be conducted on the Friday and Saturday evenings of the August round.
Apart from the three races for V8 Supercars, the SMSP SuperSprint schedule will also feature the highly entertaining Australian GT Series, Porsche Carrera Cup, Aussie Racing Cars and the Jayco Australia Formula 4 Championship.
RALLYING: Reeves wins again in the US
VICTORIAN Brendan Reeves and fellow Aussie Anthony McLoughlin have scored a dominant class win the New England Forest Rally in the US.
Reeves now has six class wins from six starts in the American national championship after a successful five-event campaign in 2013.
His triumph has been well received by M-Sport, the UK-based team that prepares Ford’s World Rally Championship cars.
M-Sport chose Reeves to debut its new Ford Fiesta RS in North America in the hope of generating sales in that part of the world.
Reeves' 2WD class win in Maine, by over 10 minutes to his nearest rival, was exactly what M-Sport was hoping for.
The Fiesta RS is powered by a 134kW 1.0-litre turbo-triple EcoBoost motor; it conjures up 300Nm, compared to just 190Nm from the previous 1.6-litre car.
The rally followed two days of solid testing in the new Fiesta.
“I did lots of kilometres and took many guest rides,” reported Reeves.
One passenger was Henry Ford III, of Ford Performance. He was beaming when safely delivered back to the staging point.
ENDURANCE: Molly scores podium in Europe
RALLY ace Molly Taylor forsook the Aussie dirt for one of the strangest venues in motor sport, a Lithuanian ‘race track’ that uses freeways and on and off ramps for the running of the 1000km of Palanga enduro.
The crazy course is possibly more notable than the race itself, with chicanes built into the straights and a hooking tight turn ringed by barriers.
Taylor was part of a four-driver Lithuanian team that made the podium with a BMW E46 M3.
“I had the opportunity to bring the car over the finish line, had a stint in the pouring rain and I set our fastest lap of the race,” exclaimed Taylor after what was just her second road race.
“Have to say I quite enjoyed this circuit racing stuff!”
Asia GT: Venter in big battle for title
AUSTRALIAN teenager Jonathan Venter, with driving partner Darryl O’Young, has taken an excellent second in round six of the Asia GT Series held at Mt Fuji Raceway, the podium result moving the pair to equal second in the championship.
Venter, 19, earlier claimed pole position in Craft Bamboo Racing's Aston Martin.
Fellow Aussies Nathan Antunes and Rod Salmon had a mixed weekend in their McLaren 650S, coming from 16th to finish eighth in Saturday’s race, and then 24th to ninth on Sunday.
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