catherine bond muir, david coulthard, f1, Formula One, jamie chadwick, w series

W Series and F1 agree to women’s races at U.S. and Mexican Grands Prix

LONDON — W Series organizers say they have moved a step closer to getting a woman driver into Formula One after announcing on Thursday a deal to be on the support program for this year’s U.S. and Mexican Grands Prix.

Conceived as a platform to help women gain experience to compete with men further up the motorsport ladder, the all-female series started last year with six races in Europe alongside the DTM German Touring Car championship.

“In just one year, W Series has contributed significantly to increasing interest in the topic of diversity and inclusion in motorsport,” Ross Brawn, Formula One’s managing director for motorsport, said in a statement.

“We are convinced that our sport must offer equal opportunities for men and women to compete together,” added the Briton.

“It is no coincidence that improving the diversity of the F1 grid by supporting and promoting driver talent from under-represented backgrounds is one of our strategic objectives.”

Formula One has not had a female racer line up on the starting grid since 1976, but W Series chief executive Catherine Bond Muir told reporters the new deal was of crucial importance.

“Progressing within motorsport requires people to have access to a lot of money,” she said. “You need the support and the sponsorship as well as the talent.

“I think what this will give our drivers is a much bigger and better platform in which to promote themselves… so they will be able to attract more sponsorship.

“I think we are already starting to achieve our ambitions. We are closer to getting women into Formula One.”

Bond Muir said there could be further expansion into Asia next year, with Formula One’s season-opener in Australia still a possibility.

“We’ve always said we have very bold and ambitious plans to expand across the world. In our first year we purposely stayed in Europe because we didn’t want to expand too quickly,” she explained.

“I think these two races represent a sensible expansion in 2020 and hopefully we will expand across the other side of the world towards Asia in 2021.”

Bond Muir said she wanted, however, to avoid big gaps between races on the calendar.

This year’s series champion will earn $500,000 but also acquire 15 points towards the 40 needed for a Formula One superlicence over a three-year period.

The new races at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, and Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez will be on successive Saturdays when Formula One qualifying is the main draw.

The Formula One title has been decided at one or other of the circuits in four of the last five years and both have space on support programs without the usual junior series.

The 2019 W Series title was won by Britain’s Jamie Chadwick who is also a development driver for the Williams F1 team.

Former F1 racer David Coulthard, who competed in 246 grands prix between 1994 and 2008, is chairman of the W Series advisory board.

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F1 waves checkered flag for tradition over technology

Formula One’s governing body has ruled for tradition over technology when it comes to deciding the official end of a grand prix. The FIA said in a statement after a World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris that the waved checkered flag would be reinstated next season as the “definitive end-of-race signal”.

Under new rules introduced this year, a digital checkered flag mounted on the starting lights gantry took precedence over the physical flag, which was still waved as before when cars crossed the finish line. The digital display was blamed last October for the Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka being ended officially a lap early.

Drivers continued at racing speeds for another lap but, despite the actual checkered flag being waved at the end of the 53rd, the positions after the 52nd lap stood as the final result. That meant Mexican Sergio Perez officially finished ninth and in the points despite crashing out.

The sport has seen several checkered flag mix-ups in the hands of celebrities. A miscommunication led to fashion model Winnie Harlow accidentally waving the flag early at last year’s Canadian Grand Prix, an error that led to the digital flag being given precedence. In Brazil in 2006, soccer great Pele waved too late and missed home race winner Felipe Massa’s Ferrari as it crossed the line.

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abu dhabi grand prix, f1, lewis hamilton, max verstappen

Lewis Hamilton cruises to 11th win of F1 championship season

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — World champion Lewis Hamilton’s 11th victory of another dominant season proved so easy that the driver who finished way back in second place at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix joked that he should have eased up a bit.

Hamilton’s 84th career win saw him finishing around 17 seconds clear of Max Verstappen. The Red Bull driver had started from second place behind Hamilton.

“I wasn’t expecting to have the pace advantage to that extent,” Hamilton said.

After Hamilton pulled clear from pole, he was five seconds ahead within 10 laps and Verstappen never got remotely close to catching his Mercedes in a season-finale resembling more of a coronation procession for the six-time Formula One champion.

“I do wish we had some battles,” Hamilton said to Verstappen, sitting alongside him in the post-race news conference.

“You could have slowed down,” Verstappen joked, after his ninth podium of the season saw him consolidate third place in the standings behind the Mercedes pair of Valtteri Bottas and Hamilton.

Although Verstappen had reliability issues approaching the midway point of the 55-lap race, the 22-year-old Dutchman conceded it had little impact on who won.

“We drove around the problem,” he said. “But it wouldn’t have made any difference today (in terms) of winning the race.”

Hamilton is now just seven wins behind seven-time F1 champion Michael Schumacher’s all-time record of 91, and could realistically overtake the F1 great next season.

After clinching a record-extending 88th career pole, Hamilton won on the Yas Marina circuit for the fifth time in his career— four with Mercedes and once when driving for McLaren in 2011.

This was the opposite of the season-ending thriller in 2016, when former Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg beat Hamilton to the title in dramatic fashion.

The fans watching as the sky darkened and the floodlights flickered on saw no overtaking, except for Verstappen’s clean move on Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari on Lap 33. It was typical Verstappen, already a young master at overtaking and arguably the best in F1.

Leclerc finished third for a 10th podium in a strong first season with Ferrari, which included an F1-leading seven poles — two more than Hamilton and Bottas — and two wins.

However, Ferrari was summoned for a post-race investigation because there was a difference between the amount of fuel in the car declared by the team and the amount inside the car.

Ferrari was found to have inaccurately declared the amount and fined 50,000 euros ($55,000), but no action was taken against Leclerc.

Leclerc only just held off Bottas, who climbed 16 places to fourth after starting last.

Sebastian Vettel started fourth and finished fifth in a disappointing end to a season where the four-time F1 champion won only once — in Singapore — out of 21 races.

Hamilton finished with 413 points with Bottas on 326, followed by Verstappen (278), Leclerc (264) and Vettel (240).

After Hamilton’s clean getaway, Verstappen was overtaken by Leclerc and just held off Vettel on the first lap, which saw Pierre Gasly’s Toro Rosso sandwiched between both Racing Point cars and forced to pit for a new front wing.

Ferrari pitted both drivers for new tires on the 13th lap, but while Leclerc’s tire switch was relatively good, Vettel’s took several seconds too long because the mechanics struggled to fit his front left tire on.

It was the latest basic mistake from Ferrari in yet another season marred by errors following similar blunders in the past two seasons.

Ferrari replaced Maurizio Arrivabene with Mattia Binotto as team principal, but Binotto has not managed to stem the flow of mistakes.

Leclerc finished fourth in the standings and Vettel was a lowly fifth.

“We didn’t have the year we were hoping for, full stop. The reasons are clear, the lessons are clear and it’s up to us to take them on board,” said Vettel. “As a team we must perform stronger, and as an individual I can do better.”

Although dull, Sunday’s race underlined the superiority shown by Hamilton for much of the year.

When he pitted about halfway through the race, such was his comfort zone that he still came out six seconds clear of Leclerc, while an anxious Verstappen complained about engine, braking and throttle issues.

Still, the audacious Dutchman found some extra speed to overtake Leclerc and assuredly held the Monegasque driver off as he tried to overtake him back down the right.

Ferrari pitted both drivers simultaneously again on Lap 39, and this time the tire changes were both fairly smooth.

Leclerc finished a massive 43 seconds behind Hamilton but had built up just enough of a lead to hold off Bottas by .9 seconds.

“Valtteri was very quick towards the end,” Leclerc said. “I was pretty worried at one point.”

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