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Oscar Piastri, Alfa Romeo, 2022 F1 drivers/grid

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Australian young gun Oscar Piastri remains a slim chance of driving in Formula One despite the odds being stacked against him.

The 20-year-old Melbourne has taken all before him in his career so far and he currently leads the Formula 2 championship — the competition one step below F1.

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He is on track for his third championship win in as many years, after he won the Formula Renault Eurocup title with R-ace GP in 2019 and the Formula 3 title in 2020 after he was snapped up by the Renault (now Alpine) academy.

Usually the Formula 2 winner would be all but guaranteed a spot on the following year’s F1 grid, but that is not the case for Piastri.

Valtteri Bottas will move to replace the retiring Kimi Raikkonen at Alfa Romeo and George Russell will take Bottas’ seat at Mercedes, allowing former Red Bull driver Alex Albon to fill Russell’s vacant spot at Williams.

The struggling Haas outfit has also confirmed this week rookies Mick Schumacher and Nikita Mazepin will remain with the team in 2022.

Aussie Oscar Piastri has been on fire in Formula 2 this year.Source: Supplied

That means the Alfa Romeo’s Antonio Giovinazzi is the only driver who is not yet guaranteed a seat on the grid for next year.

Due to his rise through the ranks and dominance in Formula 2, Piastri’s name has been mentioned as one of the main contenders to possibly take over the Italian’s seat if he is not resigned.

However, at this stage the leading candidate to replace Giovinazzi appears to be Guanyu Zhou, who is second behind Piastri in the Formula 2 standings.

Zhou reportedly has $48 million (AUD) in backing to help him secure a seat in the big leagues in 2022, which would see him become China’s first F1 driver.

But Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur rubbished those rumours and insisted he is considering several drivers for to partner Bottas in the second seat next year.

“The numbers you give, it is pure speculation and bulls***,” Vasseur told GPFans Global.

“I was asked about some names and they are guys at the top in F2. Piastri is doing a fantastic job, Zhou was second, a frontrunner in the championship, and we have to consider F2.

“If you have a look over the last few seasons, all the young kids coming from F2 have done a great job. For me, it means it is an option but it is not the only one.”

That will be music to the ears of Piastri, who in recent days seemed resigned to missing out on an F1 seat for next season.

“I’m not really in the frame at Alfa Romeo, to be blunt,” he told Wide World of Sports.

Piastri’s sensational form has attracted the attention of F1 bosses. (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“I don’t think it’s going to be me. I don’t really know much about it, which is a fair indication that I’m not really in contention.

“Being with Alpine, there’s no engine link with Alfa Romeo at all, so it’s not a conventional route to that seat.

“I’d be very happily surprised if I got the drive, but I’m not confident.”

Piastri believes the most likely scenario is being elevated to Alpine’s F1 reserve driver with a view to replacing. Fernando Alonso or Esteban Ocon in 2023.

“Regardless of where I finish this year it doesn’t look like I’ll be on the F1 grid next year, but if I have three championships in three years on my resume, well that looks pretty good,” he said.

“It would be very satisfying and it should prove that I can bring plenty to the table for an F1 team in the future.

“It’s a bit of an unfortunate situation, but I’m not the first one it’s happened to and I won’t be the last.

“The logical step would be to get the reserve driver role at Alpine, and then obviously target an F1 seat in 2023.”

There is also the possibility Alfa Romeo chooses to stick with Giovinazzi, who has been solid but far from outstanding in the past few races.

So you’re telling me I’m a chance for F1 next year?Source: Supplied

“We have Antonio at the moment. He knows perfectly the team, he is doing a good job,” Vasseur said.

“He had two very impressive qualis in Zandvoort and Monza. Personally, I think he is stepping up. It means that it is good for him if I take time and then we will see.”

The Alfa Romeo boss said while a driver’s financial backing is an important factor, the quality of his drivers on the track is his ultimate priority.

“The most important thing for me is the performance of the team. My job is to be focused on this,” Vasseur said.

“For sure, at one stage you need to consider the budget and it is true for every single team, it is true for everybody on the grid that it is complete bulls*** if you said you won’t consider this aspect or the nationality or some other aspect.

“But at the end, the final target is pure performance. It means that we are focused on the different aspects.”

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schedule, how to watch, preview, news, Craig Lowndes debut, Fox Motorsport, time

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It was the stunning Bathurst debut that almost never happened.

Back in 1994, a then 20-year-old Craig Lowndes took the motorsports world by storm.

Lowndes may now be a household name but at that point he was a relatively unknown prospect, tasked with challenging already established drivers John Bowe and Dick Johnson.

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If Holden Racing Team owner Tom Walkinshaw had the final call, Lowndes’ debut would have never happened.

For Walkinshaw, German Armin Hahne was preferred as the last-minute substitute alongside lead drive Brad Jones.

Yet when Rickard Rydell was a late withdrawal, former manager Jeff Grech got his way and had Lowndes earn his first opportunity at Bathurst.

It was on that day that a star was born and the Lowndes legend found its roots.

“I wasn’t meant to finish the race,” Lowndes said on Fox Motorsports’ ‘Lowndes at The Mountain’ with Jess Yates.

“It was always earmarked for Brad [Jones], he was the lead driver.

“I remember going to Bathurst, I’d only been there once in a production car so I’d never really driven a supercar around there at the time. I struggled.

“I think even Brad was even shaking his head thinking: ‘Why have they put this young kid in there with me’. This was actually for me when it all turned around.

“Peter Brock sat me down and talked me through a lap of Bathurst. From that moment on it all went from strength to strength for me. This was me jumping in and having the fight of my life in ultimately what kickstarted my career.”

Johnson and Bowe would end up winning the race, with the Lowndes finishing in second but it was not without a fight from the then-rookie challenger.

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“[The battle was] incredible,” Lowndes said.

“It was one of those moments where it goes down in history. To go toe-to-toe with John. I’d looked up to these guys, even Peter Brock, Dick Johnson, John Bowe, it was everyone and anyone there. The battle was immense.

“I was so nervous to make a mistake. Going across the top of the mountain it was just trying to pinpoint where Peter had told me to place the car, to flow the car, doing everything right. I started to focus on his [Bowe’s] lines and what he was doing.”

Lowndes struggled to recall much about his time on the podium or what exactly he said.

“I cannot remember a word,” he laughed.

He can remember one detail though.

“I was talking 100 miles an hour,” he said.

“I was so excited and at that point it really set my career up. But again, 12 months prior I was sitting at home waiting for an opportunity.”

There is just the one rookie who will get that opportunity this weekend – Tickford Racing’s Zak Best.

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F1 news 2021, Daniel Ricciardo, McLaren, results, drivers championship, race wins, next season, 2022, new rules

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Sitting eighth in the drivers championship, 48 points behind his teammate and without a top-10 finish in four of his last five races is hardly how Daniel Ricciardo wanted his record to read with two races to go in his first season as a McLaren driver.

But that’s where he is, behind Carlos Sainz and Charles Leclerc – the two men who pipped him for the seat at Ferrari each time he has been looking to move teams – and behind Lando Norris, who is 10 years his junior and expected to play second fiddle to the Aussie this season.

With just the Saudi Arabian and Abu Dhabi Grands Prix remaining, Norris holds an unassailable 14-6 head-to-head lead in races across the season, at one point holding a commanding 9-1 lead.

In qualifying, Norris has been nearly as dominant, this time holding a 12-8 head-to-head lead over Ricciardo, including a pole position. Norris also has four podiums to his name to Ricciardo’s one.

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(Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Portlock/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

In short, Ricciardo has been completely outdriven and outmanoeuvred by his junior teammate and is on his worst run of consecutive finishes since 2019 thanks to a series of car issues, culminating with a disappointing P12 in Qatar last weekend.

“We had a few things going on,” he said on Monday morning (AEDT). “So already from Lap 1, I had some fuel warnings on the dash which you don’t get on Lap 1, so I ignored it, because I thought okay, it’s just an error in the dash.

“But then quite early, I was told that you need to seriously start saving fuel. I saved quite a lot, like already what I thought was too much, and I was told it’s not enough, it’s not enough, to the point where we were… probably going two seconds a lap slower. And with that, tyres get cold, brakes get cold, so you lose even more ultimately.

“So I was kind of thinking, what’s the point of staying out, because obviously there’s an error and maybe we just messed up but we’re just cruising.

“It was painful and it’s just obviously something that’s gone wrong in the data or the calculations today and we were getting the wrong information.”

But if you can look past the numbers and the current frustration, this would have been Ricciardo’s favourite season since he left Red Bull, because it’s the first time he’s stood on the top step of the podium since his famous win in Monaco.

He ended McLaren’s long wait for a win and etched his name on the wall of history of one of F1’s most recognisable teams.

He was brilliant that weekend, finishing on the podium in the sprint race and being a contender throughout every practice and qualifying session. There was just an inevitability about him at Monza that weekend that something special was going to happen.

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Ricciardo can still be that good and if there is one thing we have learned from his time with Renault, it’s that a poor and frustrating season is the perfect match to light the fire for the following year.

After a very average debut year where he only scored one top-five finish for the team now known as Alpine, he drove out of his skin in his second season, earning two podiums and seven top-five finishes.

“The winter can’t come soon enough for him to regroup and just work out for him how he’s going to, with McLaren, just unlock a bit more performance for himself,” nine-time race winner and fellow Aussie Mark Webber told AAP.

“You don’t forget how to drive quickly overnight but for whatever reason he hasn’t clicked at the moment.

“Daniel, when he does, we saw it, it’s in there and when he does he’s very, very special. McLaren would struggle to have someone better for the brand. He’s so good for the sport.

“He had a problem (in Qatar) with the car which would sort of amplify his issues.

“In a technical sport, it’s easy to get brought undone and people don’t understand the full scenario of what’s going on but by Daniel’s incredibly high standards – this is a race winner, this is a guy that he’s been on the middle step quite a few times and plenty of podiums – so he knows how to have success at that level.

“By his own admission, of course, it’s been a challenging year for him in this car. Hopefully, he can finish the year with some strong results.”

(Photo by Peter Fox/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

And while Ricciardo is off mentally regrouping, his McLaren team will be providing him with all of the tools to put his hunger to good use.

Both Ricciardo and Norris have had car troubles over the last three races, with the team being overtaken by Ferrari in the constructors championship after the two drivers could only muster four points between them in that period.

But that is arguably a good sign for the season to come, with McLaren clearly not delegating too many resources into resolving the current car’s issues.

While Mercedes and Red Bull are putting all of their efforts into the current title race where they are still battling for both the constructors and drivers championships, McLaren can afford to turn their attention to next season, when a whole new generation of F1 cars will debut.

It’s a clean slate for all of the teams, with F1 introducing stricter spending caps in order to level the playing field, and McLaren are able to steal a march on their rivals by beginning work on the 2022 car.

Through his own admission, it took Ricciardo a while to get to grips with the McLaren and once the training wheels were taken off, he won a race and finished fourth in the next before car problems kicked in and sparked his current downward spiral.

But he will be ready for next season and McLaren will have used the extra time to be as well prepared as any team on the grid.

McLaren and Ricciardo are unlikely to have to wait so long for another race win from here.

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F1 news, Williams Racing team tributes, George Russell

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Frank Williams, whose team dominated Formula One in the 1980s and 1990s, has died at the age of 79, the team announced on Monday morning (AEDT).

The Williams team won the F1 drivers’ title seven times and the constructors’ championship on nine occasions under Williams’ stewardship, although the most recent triumphs came in 1997.

The Englishman stepped down from the board of Williams Formula One in 2012 and his family ended 43 years of involvement in the team last year, following its sale to Dorilton Capital.

Williams had used a wheelchair since being injured in a car crash in France in 1986.

“The Williams Racing team is truly saddened by the passing of our founder Sir Frank Williams,” the team said in a statement.

Williams racing driver Alain Prost and Williams Formula One racing team owner Frank Williams.Source: News Corp Australia

“Sir Frank was a legend and icon of our sport. His passing marks the end of an era for our team and for the sport of Formula 1. He was one of a kind and a true pioneer.

“Despite considerable adversity in his life, he led our team to 16 world championships, making us one of the most successful teams in the history of the sport.”

Damon Hill, who won the 1996 world title with Williams, said Frank Williams would have an important place in F1 history.

“The only person I could compare him to is Enzo Ferrari. He loved Formula One and he loved racing. Anyone who runs a team would like to aspire to his achievements and to his record,” Hill told Sky Sports News.

Jean Todt, who was principal of the Ferrari team that grappled with Williams in the 1990s, tweeted that Frank Williams “leaves a lasting impression on the history of @F1”.

“He was a pioneer, an exceptional personality and an exemplary man,” said Todt, the former FIA president.

Formula 1 also issued a brief statement shared on their social media channels.

“We are filled with the most immense and deep sadness at the passing of Sir Frank Williams,” the statement read.

“His was a life driven by passion for motorsport; his legacy is immeasurable, and will be forever part of F1.

Frank Williams, the man who changed Formula 1. Photo by Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP.Source: AFP

“To know him was an inspiration and privilege. He will be deeply, deeply missed.”

Current Williams driver George Russell paid his own tribute. “Today, we say goodbye to the man who defined our team,” he said on Twitter. “Sir Frank was such a genuinely wonderful human being and I’ll always remember the laughs we shared.

“He was more than a boss, he was a mentor and a friend to everybody who joined the Williams Racing family and so many others.” Formula One president Stefano Domenicali said Formula One had lost a “much-loved and respected member of the F1 family”.

“He was a true giant of our sport that overcame the most difficult of challenges in life and battled every day to win on and off the track,” he said.

In 1977, Frank Williams joined forces with innovative motor racing engineer Patrick Head to launch the Williams Formula One team.

Clay Regazzoni registered the team’s first grand prix win at Silverstone in 1979 and a year later Australian Alan Jones won the team’s first drivers’ title.

Keke Rosberg took the 1982 title, with five more captured in a golden period between 1987 and 1997, all after Williams’ ill-fated 1986 dash to catch a flight in France and the car crash that left him paralysed.

Williams steered Nelson Piquet to the following season’s title, with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost following up in 1992 and 1993.

Ayrton Senna, who had won three world championships with McLaren, joined for the 1994 season, only to lose his life in a high-speed crash at Imola.

The last Williams driver to win a world championship was Canada’s Jacques Villeneuve in 1997.

The team’s nine constructors’ crowns place Williams second only to Ferrari in the all-time Formula One list. But the outfit has under-performed in recent years, consistently running at the back of the pack.

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