The Formula One arms race will begin in earnest as the series returns to Europe this weekend in Azerbaijan.
All teams are bringing significant upgrades to their cars and engines after the three fly-away races in Australia, Bahrain and China - and it creates potential for a shake-up throughout the field.
Ferrari will bring a range of new aerodynamic parts to the Baku street circuit in the hope of closing the gap to arch-rivals Mercedes-AMG; who have won all three races so far.竞彩总进球算法
Lead driver Sebastian Vettel is confident that the Italian team can turn it around and take the fight to Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas.
“We are still in the hunt,” Vettel said. “In the first three races, things did not go as we had expected and so maybe the competition got a bit more than they deserved, while we got a bit less. But we are working to turn things around. I still believe we have a very competitive package and if we manage to make it work properly we can be very quick and make life difficult for our rivals.”
Red Bull Racing will be hoping for a better weekend than last year’s Baku race, where drivers Max Verstappen and Australia’s Daniel Ricciardo took each other out in a spectacular crash. Honda is bringing an updated engine for Red Bull and sister team Toro Rosso in the hope of more speed and better reliability.
Ricciardo won in Azerbaijan in 2017 but a win looks unlikely this year as his new Renault team is fighting to establish itself as the leader of the mid-pack behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. But the Australian says the nature of the Baku layout makes predictions difficult.
“Baku is a unique circuit, different to other street circuits we race on, because there are a lot of places to overtake,” he said. “Baku has been interesting for me; I’ve had high points, like the crazy win in 2017, and also some low points like last season. 2017 was a wild race, it was like we were karting and all of us were kids again.”
WRC: Rally guns head to Argentina
The harsh gravel and sandy roads of Argentina await the World Rally Championship field this weekend. Picking a pre-event favourite isn’t easy after a highly-competitive start to the season with Citroen’s Sebastien Ogier, Toyota’s Ott Tanak and Hyundai’s Thierry Neuville all winning rallies in the first four events.
Neuville hasn’t been the quickest driver so far but has been the most consistent and his win last time out in Corsica has propelled him to the championship lead. The bad news for the Belgien is that it means he’ll be first on the road in Argentina, which will mean sweeping the loose gravel off the road for his rivals.
But he admits making the finish is the first major challenge for all the drivers.
“As one of the roughest rallies of the season, it requires a careful approach,” Neuville said. “On the one hand, we need to look after the car but on the other there are some sections where you can really attack. It’s a balancing act.”
Defending world champion Ogier has never won in Argentina and is determined to rectify that anomaly this weekend.
“I would even go as far as to say I feel slightly more motivated by the prospect of winning this rally for the first time,” said the Frenchman. “The type of roads used varies a lot, but what really stands out is how rough the gravel can be in places.”
Bathurst opens bidding for new race
Mt Panorama is the most sought after racetrack in the country, hosting only four major events each year - the 1000km touring car classic, 12-hour GT race, 6-hour production car event and the Challenge Bathurst event.
But the Bathurst Regional Council has announced plans to potentially add a fifth event, receiving interest from six promoters including Supercars Australia that promotes the 1000km and 12-hour races.
The Australian Touring Car championship has previously hosted sprint rounds at the famous circuit so that’s one possibility. Supercars CEO Seam Seamer told Speedcafe.com that the company was looking at doing “something different” to its existing events but didn’t elaborate.
Another bidder for the event was Australian Racing Group, organisers of the new TCR and S5000 series, in partnership with the Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS). Although the new TCR series is yet to run a race, it is believed the organisers have already set there eyes on a showpiece event at Mt Panorama, possibly a global showdown between the various national TCR championships.
Other bidders include Creventic International a European-based promoter that runs a number of 24-hour races for GT and touring cars as well as Mountain Motorsports, organisers of the Australian Tarmac Rally Championship, Ontic Sports (who run the Australian Production Car Championship) and the team behind the 24 Hours of Lemons Australia - a club-level event for older cars.
Volkswagen I.D. R Nurburgring reveal
Volkswagen has unveiled the updated I.D. R prototype it will use to attempt to set a new record for an electric vehicle to lap Germany’s famous Nurburgring circuit.
The German giant has redesigned the aerodynamics and redesigned the 500kW electric powertrain after the car’s Pikes Peak success in order to maximise its chances of beating the 6:45.9sec lap time set by the Chinese Nio EP9 supercar in 2017.
“The ID. R’s mission to be the spearhead of the fully electric ID. product family continues in full force,” explained Sven Smeets, Volkswagen motorsport director. “Once again, in 2019, the ID. R will demonstrate the great potential of electric drive, combining emissions-free technology with true emotion.
Driver Romain Dumas will undertake a number of test days on the track before attempting his record run later in the European summer.
Indy 500 preparations underway
Testing and practice for this year’s Indianapolis 500 have begun, with Australia’s Will Power and former F1 champ Fernando Alonso amongst those hitting the famous speedway this week.
Teams and drivers will get several days of preparation before qualifying so Alonso played himself back in carefully to the high speed oval driving he hasn’t done since his 2017 entry.
Alonso said: "It's great to be back. Every time you enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway it's a great feeling. Even though we were unlucky with the weather and also had some issues with the car, we still got in some laps and the adrenaline driving around here is unique, so I feel happy.”
Moffat joins TCR
James Moffat is the latest driver to sign up for the inaugural TCR Australia series. The former Supercars regular will join Garry Rogers Motorsport to drive of its Renault Megane RS touring cars alongside Chris Pither.
His signing means there are now seven confirmed drivers ahead of the series’ first round in Sydney on May 17-19.
Also announced this week was Garth Walden Racing’s decision to purchase a second Hyundai i30 N TCR which means there could be up to 16 cars on the grid if drivers can be found.
WTCR heads to Hungary
The World Touring Car Cup for TCR cars will be in Hungary this weekend for the second round of the season. Chinese brand Lynk & Co. will be hoping to back up its strong start to its inaugural racing campaign with a follow up victory from its Moroccan success.
"We had a great season start, well above our expectations,” said Swedish driver Thed Bjork, who leads the standings. “But we are in no way relaxing, I am leading now but this season will no doubt be a very hard fight to the last lap of the last race.”
Special guest for WRX in Barcelona
Six-time Olympic gold medalist Chris Hoy will make is World Rallycross debut this weekend in Spain. The Briton will drive a Ford Fiesta supercar for the Xite Racing team against the field of regular rallycross aces.
He’ll face a tough challenge as the opening round the series in Abu Dhabi showcased the young talent that has emerged in the series for the 2019 season - Peugeot’s Timmy and Kevin Hansen, Hyundai’s Niclas Gronholm and Audi’s Andreas Bakkerud and Liam Doran.