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Motorsport Minutes w/ Matty G – Lap 3

By: Matthew Ganibi

“Life in the fast lane, surely make you lose your mind.” – The Eagles

Howzit, Hawaiʻi?!

I hope that you enjoyed a wonderful Super Bowl LVII weekend – Ho’omaika’i ana to UH’s own Marcus Kemp and the Kansas City Chiefs on capturing the Vince Lombardi trophy! With football occupying most people’s minds this weekend, the world of Motorsports decided to take it easy like The Eagles hit song. Talk about a high-flying pun to kick things off! Sorry, Eagles fans! Despite a lot going on in other sports (Super Bowl build up, NBA trade deadline, and UH athletics), let’s take a lap around this week’s happenings in the world of motorsports!

Down to the last volt – Jean-Éric Vergne conquers the streets of Hyderabad!

After a week off from an electric Diriyah doubleheader, Formula E bolted through the streets of Hyderabad, India. The race served as the first ever home race for Indian electric car manufacturer Mahindra. Fun fact, they do a good amount of business in the United States as a tractor manufacturer. Mahindra NASCAR branding can be found on the car of Chase Briscoe’s number 14 Stewart-Haas Ford Mustang. Following his Diriyah dominance, Mauritian Magician Pascal Wehrlein of Porsche entered the weekend atop the Formula E points standings with a 6-point lead over Jake “the Snake” Dennis. After the dust literally settled from the Greenko Hyderabad E-Prix, the Porsche-powered Pascal Wehrlein extended that lead to 18 points.

Despite Wehrlein expanding his 2023 haul to 80 points through 4 races, the real man of the hour was France’s Jean-Éric Vergne crossing the finish line first with 0.4% of charge left in his DS Penske’s battery. The race was off to a squeaky-clean start on an otherwise dirty track that caused plumes of dust to kick up from each car’s Hankook racing tires. All drivers managed the first lap free of any incidents. However, that quickly changed as Maserati’s Swiss driver Edoardo Mortara retired on the second lap after rear ending the Jaguar of Sam Bird. Despite being able to fly off and carry on, the Bird Man found himself in trouble once again as a divebomb down the inside on Lap 13 cause the Brit to rear end his teammate Mitch Evans (New Zealand). At the time of the incident, Bird dove down the inside of Nissan’s French driver Sacha Fenestraz (pronounced Sah-sha) for fourth place and ultimately lost his front wing causing him to bow out of the race with a “Did Not Finish” result – referred to by race fans as a DNF. Kiwi Mitch Evans had an early check in at the Heartbreak Hotel as he started the race in pole position (1st) and was running in third place until the lap 13 tangle sent his Jaguar spinning with damage ultimately closing the book on what was supposed to be a promising race. Truly a day to forget for the Jaguar team.

Jean-Éric Vergne, who is fondly referred to as “JEV” by competitors and members of the media, started the race in second and went back and forth for the race lead with Envision Racing’s Sebastian Buemi. JEV finally secured the lead on Lap 15 tailing right behind Buemi’s race-leading Envision on the main straightaway setting up a mano-e-mano powertrain showdown heading into the tight Turn 1 hairpin: French-powered DS for Vergne vs. British Jaguar power for Buemi. Prior to the hairpin’s braking zone, the black and gold DS peeled over to the Envision’s right-hand side and successfully cleared Buemi’s blue and green Jaguar-powered Envision. Following a safety car deployment on Lap 26 for debris on the track, Vergne bravely held off a valiant late race charge by Envision’s Nick Cassidy (New Zealand) during the final 5 laps of the 32-lap E-Prix. JEV did so while masterfully squeezing every bit of his final 2 percent of battery life on the final lap despite the trailing Envision of Cassidy having 5% of battery life remaining. With Vergne victorious, the top 3 podium finishers included: Nick Cassidy in second (Envision – powered by Jaguar) and Portuguese driver António Félix da Costa finishing third (Porsche). The top 5 is rounded off by da Costa’s Porsche teammate and current Formula E driver’s championship leader Pascal Wehrlein (4th) and NIO’s Brazilian driver Sérgio Sette Câmara (5th).

DS – a French luxury electric vehicle manufacturer, crashed Mahindra’s homecoming with both of their drivers finishing in the top 10 with Vergne finishing on the top step of the podium while his teammate defending Formula E series champion Belgium’s Stoffel Vandoorne came home in a cozy 8th place. As for the home team, Mahindra drivers Oliver Rowland (Great Britain) and Lucas di Grassi (Brazil) finished in 6th and 14th, respectively. Meanwhile, British driver Jake “The Snake” Dennis failed to bring home any points as a lap 26 incident with German driver and fellow Diriyah podium-placer René Rast (Neom McLaren), which caused his right-rear tire to bow out. Dennis limped home to a 16th place finish and was the last running competitor to cross the finish line. Cars in 17th through 22nd place were all classified as DNFs.

Formula E will take the week off and return to action in the Southern Hemisphere with the Cape Town E-Prix. You can catch all the electrifying action from South Africa (February 24th and 25th) all on CBS Sports HQ at 8:00 AM Hawaiʻi time.

Blue, beautiful and hopefully fast – Williams reveals 2023 FW45!

Photo courtesy of Williams Racing & F1 (https://www.formula1.com/content/dam/fom-website/manual/2023/Launches2023/WilliamsLaunch2023/FW45%20Livery%20-%20Side%20-%20AA23.jpg.transform/9col-retina/image.jpg

The second week of Formula One livery unveilings began with a stop in Oxfordshire, England. Williams Racing is looking to battle through the blues from last season by going with an enhanced blue livery, which serve as an homage to the team’s dominance during the 1990’s. The car, which seems to feature a seemingly lighter shade of blue overall compared to last year’s FW44 livery along with a crowd favorite from the 2022 Miami Grand Prix. The clever detail is Duracell’s signature battery in its eye-popping, familiar bronze and black colors wrapped around the car’s airduct. At first glance, it looks like a battery is on top of the car, which in turn makes it look like the world’s fastest battery. Very clever marketing, Duracell! 

Williams, which won the F1 Constructor’s Championship nine times along with 7 Driver’s Championships, find itself far removed from their glory days mainly stemming from the 1980’s and 1990’s. Jacques Villeneuve (Canada – 1997), Damon Hill (Great Britain – 1996), Alain Prost (France – 1993), Nigel Mansell (Great Britain – 1992), Nelson Piquet (Brazil – 1987), Keke Rosberg (Finland – 1982) and Alan Jones (Australia – 1980) all make up the list of past champions to race with the once family-owned racing team. New York-based venture capital firm Dorilton Capital purchased the team from the Williams ʻohana back in 2020. 2023’s line up for the Boys in Blue will see British-Thai driver Alex Albon (returning for his second season with the Oxfordshire-based team) paired with up-and-coming American racer Fort Lauderdale’s own: Logan Sargeant.

If you are wondering who the newest American F1 competitor is, stay tuned to next week’s edition of Motorsport Minutes for a full profile of Fort Lauderdale, FL native Logan “Captain America” Sargeant. Logan’s rookie season marks the return of the American flag to the F1 grid since current IndyCar driver Alexander Rossi last raced in 2015 (Manor Racing, an underachieving team).

Photo courtesy of Sauber Group / Alfa Romeo F1 (https://www.sauber-group.com/wp-content/uploads/2023/02/large-C43_Front-Dynamic-Left-V2_LM_ZHO_16-9.jpg

Roses are red, Alfa Romeos are too – Say hello to the Alfa Romeo 2023 challenger!

Day 2 of Week 2 for F1 livery reveals takes us to Switzerland – home of Sauber Engineering, where the F1 world laid their eyes on the striking red & black Sauber C43. Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo, who is the main title sponsor for the Swiss-based F1 team, is in their 5th season partnering up with Sauber Engineering as a means of promoting their eye-catching sports cars. For the past three seasons, Polish petroleum company Orlen served as a secondary title sponsor. However, in the ever-changing world of Formula One sponsors, online casino and sportsbook platform Stake overtook Orlen as the new secondary sponsor for Sauber’s Alfa Romeo team. Like prior seasons, Alfa Romeo will continue to be powered by Ferrari powertrains. However, that will change in 2026 as German auto manufacturer Audi recently bought a stake in the Sauber F1 Team and will serve as the team’s engine supplier, which will result in a four-ring Audi rebranding.

2023 will mark the second season of Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas and China’s Zhou Guanyu racing together. Zhou, who is first the Chinese driver in F1 & last season’s Rookie of the Year, will look to improve upon a decent rookie campaign highlighted by a 10th place finish during his first Formula One race at the Bahrain Grand Prix. Bottas, who is in his second season with Alfa Romeo (11th overall), looks to return to the podium after failing to score a top-three finish throughout the entire 2022 season. The last time Bottas failed to step on the podium was his rookie season back in 2013. Personally, I really enjoy the red and black combination as it is an improvement from the first Alfa Romeo livery back in 2018, which was primarily white with a splash of red in the back of the underperforming Sauber C37. The primary use of red is very on brand with the spicy Italian sports car brand reminiscent of the eye-catching red leather seats typically found in Italian sportscars. Let’s hope that this red and black C43 challenger performs as good as it looks. Buckle up, baby!

Photo courtesy of Red Bull, via Colin Kerrigan / Red Bull Content Pool (https://img.redbull.com/images/c_crop,x_0,y_1192,h_7031,w_12500/c_fill,w_1800,h_1050/q_auto,f_auto/redbullcom/2023/2/12/sm75aq6xomz1xeqvjvry/alphatauri

Fashionable Big Apple Entrance – Alpha Tauri reveals AT04 in New York City!

A little over a week removed from Oracle Red Bull Racing unveiling their RB19 to the racing world, the Red Bull sister team decided to follow in the sister team’s footsteps by releasing their AT04 challenger in the Big Apple. Like last year’s AT03, the 2023 edition sports the initials of Red Bull’s fashion brand: AT (Alpha Tauri). Who would have thought that an Austria-based energy drink company would get into the fashion business? The unveiling comes after last Friday’s news of a Red Bull Ford powertrain partnership (effective 2026) – a change that will also affect Alpha Tauri as both teams are currently powered by Honda engines. In addition to the Ford announcement, the Italian-based racing team made quite the fashion statement on the Saturday of New York Fashion Week as their drivers Yuki Tsunoda and rookie Nyck DeVries were decked out in Alpha Tauri sweaters, slacks and shoes while standing in front of their 2023 AT04. The 04 marks the 4th different car since the Faenza-based team rebranded from their previous name: Toro Rosso (Italian for Red Bull).

With the addition of former Alfa Romeo sponsor Orlen, Alpha Tauri found a way to incorporate the Polish petrol giant’s colors into their 2023 livery. Prior to 2023, Orlen’s red and white company colors were paired with Alfa Romeo’s challengers from 2020 through 2022. Now, the red and white Orlen branding will be featured on the side panels, top half of the rear wing along with the cockpit halo (a sturdy, lifesaving safety addition to all open wheel racing cars meant to protect the upper half of drivers). The addition of red is a bit reminiscent of the team’s liveries during the Toro Rosso era as they were actively promoting the Red Bull beverage brand.

That’s a wrap on all of this week’s action, here’s a look at what else the world of racing has on deck: 

  • In Formula One, we have 5 livery unveilings left until the series goes green for pre-season testing at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir (weekend of February 23rd through 25th). Meanwhile, 2023’s season-opening race will go green the weekend of March 5th in Bahrain. Before we go racing, here are the remaining livery reveals scheduled:
    • February 13h: Aston Martin & McLaren
    • February 14th: Ferrari
    • February 15th: Mercedes
    • February 16th: Alpine

Stay tuned for next week’s edition as we will preview the upcoming Formula One season – featuring: my thoughts on all 10 paint schemes / liveries, the basics of Formula One, 2023 schedule preview, predictions, and a list of drivers that I think we should keep our eyes peeled for (including American rookie Logan Sargeant).

While we’re on the subject of Formula One, the award-winning Netflix docuseries Drive to Survive is set to release their 5th season on February 24, 2023. Season 5 will provide you with an exclusive behind the scenes look at the multiple storylines and drama that unfolded during the 2022 Formula One season.

  • Back to American soil, the NASCAR Cup Series will begin its build up to their premier race – the Daytona 500. Per the NASCAR website, the build up to race day – also known as “speed week,” will commence on Valentine’s Day with a number drawing to determine the order for qualifying on Feb. 15th. Wednesday’s qualifying session will determine the first two starters of the 65th Daytona 500. Thursday February 16th will play host to the 1st & 2nd Bluegreen Vacations Duels to determine the starting order for the rest of the racing field. Prior to Sunday’s big race, NASCAR Cup Series’ development series will wave the green flag on their 2023 season with the NextEra Energy 250 on February 17th (Craftsman Truck Series) and the Beef. It’s What’s For Dinner. 300 on February 18th (Xfinity Series). Sunday will mark the 65th running of the NASCAR Cup Series’ Daytona 500 (aka: America’s Great Race) with the green flag set to wave around 9:30 AM Hawaiʻi time live on Fox Sports. Additional race-related information can be found on NASCAR’s website (https://www.nascar.com/2023/daytona-500#daytona-500-frequently-asked-questions).  Stay tuned for Lap 4 of Motorsport Minutes, which will recap the action and provide a preview on what to expect for rest of the 2023 NASCAR Cup Series season.
  • IndyCar is set to start on the weekend of March 5th, I will have a 2-part preview to warm you up for what looks to be an action-packed 2023 season of IndyCar. Part 1 (set to release: February 19th) will breakdown the basics of IndyCar along with a rundown of this season’s driver lineups. The second part, which will be released on February 26th, will provide a look at the series’ schedule, predictions, and which drivers to key in on.
  • From four wheels to two, MotoGP will go green on March 10th with a pair of pre-season test sessions on both the 10th and 16th. Both tests will take place at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve in Portimão, Portugal, which will also play host to the season-opening Grande Prémio de Portugal on the weekend of March 26th. Italian Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia will look to defend his 2022 World Riders’ Champion crown this coming season. I will have a 2-part 2023 preview ready for your reading pleasure leading up to the March 10th test in Portimão. The Feb 26th portion of the preview will cover the basics of MotoGP & the 2023 racing lineup while the March 3rd edition will provide you with a look at the complete schedule, predictions, and which riders to keep an eye out for.

That’s a wrap on lap 3 of Motorsports Minutes! Mahalo a million for taking the time to read my articles and allowing me to share my passion for racing with you.

Have a great week, Hawaiʻi. Until next week, keep it full throttle! Mahalo ESPN Honolulu. Chee Hoo!