By: Matthew Ganibi
“Ladies and Gentlemen. LET’S GET READY TO RUMMMMBLLLLLLEEEEE!” – Michael Buffer
Sunday was an action-packed day as we were treated to a racing tripleheader. Formula 1 went green first with the season-opening Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix. IndyCar’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg also went green in Florida. NASCAR took a quick trip up I-15 from Fontana up to Las Vegas for the Pennzoil 400. We are also one week away from the start of MotoGP pre-season testing, which means that we have a 2023 season preview to wrap up. Before we get going, I would like to recognize the women who have contributed and continue to contribute to the various series of motorsports. As we march into the new month (pun completely intended), I am introducing a segment called “Ladies First – Shakas to the Wahine of Motorsports.” In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ll spend part of the next 5 articles highlighting a pair of very important women in the world of motorsports each week: 1) Susie Wolff & Claire Williams 2) Katherine Legge & Jamie Chadwick 3) Danica Patrick & Hailie Deegan 4) F1 Academy/ W Series drivers and Sophia Flörsch 5) Sabine Schmitz & Maria Grazia ‘Lella’ Lombardi.
Ladies First – Shakas to the Wahine of Motorsports
Not all heroes wear capes, some wear various caps. Women in racing goes far beyond just the mothers & wives of racecar drivers – some call the shots for racing teams while others let their driving do the talking. In honor of Women’s History Month, I wanted to send some shakas to a pair of women who have made their mark in the world of motorsports by calling their shots: Scotland’s Susie Wolff and Great Britain’s Claire Williams.
To some, Susie Wolff is known as the wife Mercedes-AMG Petronas F1 Team Principal & CEO: Toto Wolff. However, her title as just “Toto’s wife” goes far beyond that. In addition to making sparse appearances on the Netflix Formula 1: Drive to Survive docuseries, Wolff is the managing director of Formula 1 Academy – an all new open-wheel racing series promoting up and coming female drivers from around the world. Prior to that, she served as the team principal of the ROKIT Venturi Formula E Racing Team up until the team’s 2022 sale to Italian manufacturer Maserati. Susie is also the most recent female to drive a Formula 1 car after taking part in a free practice session behind the wheel of a Williams FW36 in 2014.
Like her counterpart Wolff, Claire Williams – the daughter of the late Williams co-founder Sir Frank Williams, made appearances on the Drive to Survive Netflix series. Claire served as the team’s final team principal under the Williams’ family ownership, which included her sale to American venture capital firm Dorilton Capital in 2020. Prior to the Dorilton acquisition, Claire stepped up to the top seat of the family business in 2013. This made her just the second female team principal in F1 – Sauber F1 (currently known as Alfa Romeo) appointed team principal Monisha Kaltenborn three years earlier in 2010. While at the helm of Williams, Claire championed for diversity & inclusion within the team and the male dominated F-1 sport. She led the Williams’ charge to add female talent to the team when they signed Susie Wolff as test/reserve driver in 2014 and signed Great Britain’s Jamie Chadwick to the team’s Driver Academy (2019). Claire Williams now works as a consultant and keynote speaker.
Shakas to these trailblazing female leaders: Susie Wolff and Claire Williams. Now, let’s take a lap around this week’s action in the world of motorsports!
Formula 1 – Max Verstappen reigns in Bahrain!
“If it ain’t Dutch, it ain’t much.” We start with a duel in the desert as the world’s fastest open-wheel cars took to the 15-turn challenge of the Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix! Turn it up to the Max Verstappen hustled his Oracle Red Bull Racing RB19 around the Bahrain International Circuit in just 1 minute, 29.708 seconds good for pole position. Meanwhile, Mexican Minister of Motorsports: Power Sergio “Checo” Perez surged through with a 1 minute, 29.846 second qualifying lap to keep his Red Bull teammate company on the front row. This secured the first front-row lockup of the 2023 season for the defending Constructor’s Champion: Oracle Red Bull Racing Team.
Saturday’s speed transferred to Sunday for the charging Red Bulls as Max Verstappen cruised to victory 11 seconds in front of “Checo” Perez. From the moment that the lights went out, Verstappen launched his RB19 ahead of the field going in to the first turn and never really looked back. When the checkered flag waved on Lap 57, Verstappen and Perez emerged with a Red Bull 1-2 finish leaving their competition in the dust. The battle for best of the rest and the final podium spot came down to a Spanish scrap between Smooth Operator Carlos Sainz Jr. and don’t call my name, don’t call my name…. Fernando Alonso. Lap 45 saw the 41-year-old Alonso dance his way past the Smooth Operator for that final podium spot and eventually came home 26 seconds behind Perez. 9 seconds down the road from him was the scarlet red Ferrari of Sainz (4th) while Mercedes-AMG Petronas’ Sir Lewis “Hammer Time” Hamilton rounded out the Bahrain top five.
This race saw a trio of drivers make early exits: McLaren’s Australian rookie Oscar “Don’t Call Me Pastry” Piastri (Lap 13), Ferrari’s Monégasque Charles “Don’t Call Me Chuck” Leclerc (Lap 39) and Alpine’s Frenchman Esteban “Spiderman” Ocon (Lap 41). Meanwhile, 2023 rookies: American Logan “Salute the Troops” Sargeant and Dutch driver Quick Nyck DeVries came home in 12th and 14th, respectively.
The F1 circus will take a week off before racing resumes with the STC Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the Jeddah Corniche Circuit (March 17th through 19th). Saudi Arabian Grand Prix weekend will feature: 2 practice sessions (17th), final practice and qualifying (18th) and the race going green on Sunday the 19th at 7:00 AM HI Time with ESPN bringing you all of the live action from Jeddah.
You can follow the entire Formula One schedule via the website linked below:
NASCAR – Viva Las Vegas! William Byron wins in Sin City!
To the 9th Island we go as NASCAR went pedal to the metal for the Pennzoil 400 presented by Jiffy Lube at Las Vegas Motor Speedway! Vegas natives Kyle “Rowdy” Busch and former “Mullet Man” Noah Gragson came home to roll the dice and risk it for the biscuit. Saturday saw reigning Cup Series Champion Joey Logano Would Go capture the Busch Light Pole on the 9th Island dealing a rapid 29.024 second qualifying lap on the 1.5-mile speedway. However, William “Don’t Call me Bill” Byron swiped the race lead from the front starting Logano after Lap 9 on Sunday. As Logano tumbled down the field looking like an Average Joey, the rest of the race became the William Byron Show as North Carolina’s own cruised to victories in the 1st & 2nd stages. As the green-white checkered flag waved, the driver of the #24 Raptor Chevrolet hit the jackpot cashing out with a Vegas victory.
Byron’s victory was capped off by a Hendrick Motorsports 1-2-3 finish as his teammates Kyle Larson (#5 Hendrick Cars Chevrolet) & Alex Bowman (#48 Ally Bank Chevrolet) took the checkered flag in 2nd and 3rd, respectively. Toyota rounded out the top 5 of the finishing order thanks to Bubba Gump Wallace (#23 Columbia 23XI Toyota Camry) and Christopher Liberty Bell (#20 Sirius XM Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota Camry) coming home in 4th and 5th. Kevin “Happy” Harvick and Señor Sombrero Daniel Suárez both took home Vegas souvenirs with 9th and 10th place finishes while Las Vegas’ own Kyle “Rowdy” Busch wrapped up another in 14th place. The number 11 FedEx Toyota of Denny “The Pancake Man” Hamlin came home in 11th place while Daytona 500 winner Tricky Ricky Stenhouse Jr. crossed the line in 24th with his ex-girlfriend Danica Patrick on the mic as a color commentator for the Fox television broadcast. Meanwhile, Joey Logano saw his day end with a last place finish following a Lap 182 incident between his #22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang and the #6 Fastenal RFK Ford Mustang of the Big Brad Wolf – Brad Keselowski.
2020 Cup Series Champion Chase not the bank Elliot was sidelined due to a snowboarding injury. Rookie Josh Berry replaced him and brought the #9 Napa Auto Parts Chevrolet home in 29th place. As for the rookies, Coach Joe Gibbs’ grandson Ty Gibbs brought his #54 Monster Energy Toyota Camry home in 22nd place for his grandfather’s racing team while Vegas native Noah Gragson finished his home race two laps down in 30th place with his #42 Sunseeker Resort Chevrolet.
Next up for the world’s fastest stock cars will be a 312-lap duel in the desert for the United Rentals Work United 500 at Phoenix Raceway. This race will serve as a home race for Tucson, AZ native Alex Bowman – driver of the #48 Ally Bank Chevrolet. Fox will have that broadcast for you starting at 9:30 AM HI Time.
You can follow the entire NASCAR Cup Series schedule via the website linked below:
IndyCar – Marcus Ericsson conquers the streets of St. Pete’s:
Motorsport Minutes marches on to the Sunshine State as we surge to St. Petersburg for the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg! Fire-Resistant Frenchman Romain “The Phoenix” Grosjean rose from the flames and said “lettuce begin 2023” with pole position for the season-opening race. The Fast Frenchman delivered a 59.5532 second lap around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile street circuit with his #28 DHL Honda. However, capturing the top starting position on Saturday doesn’t always convert to a win on Sunday. Unfortunately, a Lap 72 battle for the lead between Aussie Shoey specialist Scott McLaughlin and “The Phoenix” resulted in an unfortunate rendezvous ending the pole sitter’s race. With Grosjean’s #28 DHL Honda trying to pass on the outside, McLaughlin’s #3 DEX Chevrolet – fresh from his final pit stop of the race, hugged the inside racing line and overestimated his braking point into Turn 4. That sent both cars into the tire barrier; however, McLaughlin was able to carry on and salvage a 13th place finish.
When the checkered flag waved on Lap 100, the tune of Marcus “Carry on my wayward” Ericsson played… there’ll be wins when the race is done. Lay your number 8 Honda to rest, don’t you cry no more. The Speedy Swede claimed the season-opening victory on the Streets of St. Pete! Arrow McLaren’s Pato “Pushin’ P” O’Ward and Ericsson’s Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott “Don’t call me Scotty” Dixon rounded out the top-3 podium places. The top five was completed by Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi Dress for Less and Junco Hollinger Racing’s cool, calm, collected Brit with Grit Callum Illott coming home in 4th and 5th, respectively. Meanwhile, reigning IndyCar champion Will “I’ve Got the Power” Power powered his #12 Verizon Chevrolet through the field to a 7th-place finish.
As for the 2023 rookie class, the Great Dane Benjamin Pedersen was the last of the pack following a scary Turn 2 accident on the race’s opening lap as his #55 AJ Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet T-Boned Devlin DeFrancesco’s #29 EVTEC Honda. DeFrancesco took a while to get out of the car but was OK. All other drivers involved (including Pedersen) walked away from the wreck unharmed including: Meyer Shank Racing teammates Helio Castroneves (#06 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda) & Simon Pagenaud (#60 AutoNation/Sirius XM Honda), and Pedersen’s teammate Santino Ferrucci (#14 AJ Foyt Racing/Sexton Properties Chevrolet). Dale Coyne Racing rookie Corvette Sting Ray Robb limped home to a 16th place finish in his No. 51 Biohaven Honda despite being involved in the first lap carnage. Meanwhile, New Zealand’s Marcus “Livestrong” Armstrong and Argentina’s Agustin “Yes You Can” Canapino topped the rookie finishing order bringing their cars home in 11th and 12th, respectively.
You can follow the entire IndyCar schedule via the website linked below:
MotoGP – 2023 preview of the world’s fastest two-wheel racing (Part 2):
This week’s edition of Motorsport Minutes will take a look at the complete MotoGP schedule and provide predictions for the 2023 edition of MotoGP. The 2023 MotoGP season will offer 21 races including a trio of stops in Spain (Jerez, Catalunya & Valencia) and a pair of Italian races (Mugello & San Marino). 2023’s schedule also offers stops in North America, South America, Europe, Asia and Australia.
In addition to the season-opening race in Portimão and grand finale in Valencia, here are my races to watch: Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas (USA), Grand Prix of Kazakhstan, SHARK Grand Prix de France, Gran Premio di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini (Italy), Motul Grand Prix of Japan, Animoca Brands Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix and Grand Prix of Qatar. The French, Italian, Japanese and Australian Grand Prix all represent home races for the following riders: Johann Zarco & Fabio Quartararo (France), 6 riders (Italy), Takaaki Nakagami (Japan) and Jack Miller (Australia). The season opener in Portimão will serve as the home race for Portuguese rider Miguel Oliveira while the trio of Spanish stops will play host to home races for 10 Spanish riders. The American race will be the series’ lone stop in the States as they will race in the Lone Star State around the Circuit of the Americas – a track that also hosts NASCAR and Formula 1 races. The Grand Prix of Kazakhstan is the newest addition to the MotoGP calendar taking place at the Sokol Circuit in Almaty. As for the Qatari race, ongoing renovations to the Lusail International Circuit have pushed the traditional season-opening race to the penultimate race of the 2023 season.
Italy’s Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia will enter the 2023 season as the reigning series champion following an epic come from behind title charge with his #63 Lenovo Ducati. This season will see the reigning champ will dawn the number 1 as part of his Ducati-powered title defense. 2022 championship runner-up Fabio Quartararo (France) will look for title redemption this season in the #20 Monster Energy Yamaha as the Fast Frenchman let the 2022 title slip from his grip. Bagnaia’s fellow Italian and Ducati teammate Enea Bastianini is certainly a contender following a 3rd place effort in 2022, which included 4 victories (Qatar, USA, France and Aragon, Spain). However, my prediction for the 2023 championship battle will come down to Bagnaia & Quartararo with the Frenchman exacting his revenge on the Italian and capturing this year’s MotoGP crown. My top-five will be rounded out by: 2) “Pecco” Bagnaia, 3) Enea Bastianini, 4) Aleix Espargo and 5) Marc Marquez. I believe that a completely healthy Marquez will result in the 6-time MotoGP champion from Spain challenging for wins and podiums this season.
2022 Moto2 champion Augusto Fernandez (Spain) will be the only rookie on the MotoGP grid racing for the #38 GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 team. The Moto2 champion enjoyed a successful 2022 season with 9 total podiums highlighted by 4 victories. I don’t anticipate any race victories by the young Spaniard, but I certainly see him contending for points and maybe even a home race podium.
You can follow the entire 2023 MotoGP schedule here: https://www.motogp.com/en/calendar/2023/all-categories/grand-prix/upcoming-events
That is a wrap on Lap 6 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. Let’s keep the dialogue going on social media! Share this article with loved ones on Facebook/Instagram, tag @ESPN Honolulu, use the hashtag #MotorsportMinutes and message me on Instagram: @hamburgermatty. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these articles along with your NASCAR, Formula E, Formula 1, IndyCar and MotoGP predictions! Have a great week, Hawaiʻi! Mahalo to Chanel and the ESPN Honolulu ʻOhana for this amazing opportunity – each of you are what make this station great. Until next week, keep it full throttle! Chee Hoo!