COME for a ride on a fast lap of Australia’s newest racetrack, The Bend Motorsport Park.
Your pilot is rising star Daniel Falzon; the lap in the video player below, a 1m54.994s effort the Yamaha rider turned in during official Australian Superbike Championship testing on Wednesday morning.
Onboard lap of The Bend
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“The circuit is simply amazing, it feels a little surreal knowing a world-class venue is at our doorstep!” the South Australian local said.
“It’s a long and technical lap but it’s a bucket load of fun.”
Sam Shahin, the South Australian business mogul behind the facility, turned the first laps of the circuit on Monday before Australian Superbike competitors took over for a two-day test session ahead of their championship round on April 17-19.
Honda’s Troy Herfoss set the pace on the opening day with a 1m55.920s — just 0.031 of a second quicker than Ducati legend Troy Bayliss — before Wayne Maxwell cut that down to a 1m54.020s on the final afternoon.
Both the Supercars drivers and the ASBK riders will tackle the venue’s 4.95km International Circuit layout.
The Bend will hold its first race event next weekend with the first round of the Shannons Nationals series on April 13-15 on the 7.77km GT Circuit — the second-longest permanent racetrack in the world behind the infamous Nurburgring Nordschleife.
When drivers of the quality of Daniel Ricciardo, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso have already announced moves to new teams, you’d think the Formula One drivers market would be close to the chequered flag.
But with only a few months left in the year there are still eight seats officially open on the 2021 grid.
There’s less chance of Hamilton leaving Mercedes than there is of him losing the 2020 drivers championship, but until the sport’s leading man signs on the dotted line this remains a box to be ticked.
What they’ve said: “Why we have never found time for the discussions between Lewis and myself is because we simply had three triple headers one after the after. Now it’s just about sitting down and carving it out.” — Toto Wolff, Mercedes team principal.
Confirmed: Max Verstappen Likely: Alex Albon
Albon went some way to shoring up a place next to Verstappen with his maiden podium in Mugello but before that his performance had been underwhelming enough for rumours to swirl about a swap back for the in-form Pierre Gasly.
What they’ve said: “The final decision will be made later in the year but there’s no push from our side to reverse the situation.” — Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal.
Confirmed: Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris
Ricciardo’s move to McLaren was locked in months ago and both team (McLaren is ranked third in the constructors championship) and driver (Ricciardo has been outperforming his Renault in recent races) can be pleased with the others form since.
What they’ve said: “I think the combination of Daniel and Lando, I can’t think of a more exciting combination of drivers. I like where they’re at in their careers and their age, so I think it’s going to be very exciting.” — Zak Brown, McLaren chief executive.
RACING POINT (ASTON MARTIN IN 2021)
Confirmed: Sebastian Vettel and Lance Stroll
The return of the Aston Martin name to the grid needed a big-name driver — hence Vettel’s arrival to replace Sergio Perez.
What they’ve said: “(Vettel) works really hard and we believe with our team, what we want to take it to, and the level that we want to get to – Seb’s a perfect fit for that.” — Otmar Szafnauer, Racing Point team principal.
RENAULT (ALPINE IN 2021)
Confirmed: Fernando Alonso and Esteban Ocon
After a sour split with Ricciardo, Renault will be hoping to relive the glory days of the mid-2000s with Alonso as the Spanish star returns from a couple of years away from F1.
What they’ve said: “One team, one mission and two fantastic drivers.” — Cyril Abiteboul, Renault managing director.
Confirmed: Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz
Languishing at sixth in the constructors standings, Ferrari will be hoping youth is the answer in 2021.
What they’ve said: “Ferrari haven’t had such a young driver pairing in 50 years. It’s a gamble for us and we’re happy to be taking on this challenge. We want to begin a new cycle.” — Mattia Binotto, Ferrari team principal.
Confirmed: None Likely: Pierre Gasly In the frame: Daniil Kvyat, Yuki Tsunoda
Gasly is all but certain to remain unless Red Bull comes calling but his current teammate Kvyat is sweating — especially with Yuki Tsunoda winning races in F2.
What they’ve said: “ (Tsunoda is) in a good position. It depends now how he’s doing in the next races because he needs the superlicence. Then it’s a decision from (the) Red Bull side and normally this decision is being taken September-October.” — Franz Tost, AlphaTauri team principal.
Confirmed: None In the frame: Kimi Raikkonen, Antonio Giovinazzi, Mick Schumacher, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Shwartzman, Callum Ilott
There’s a host of possibilities for Alfa Romeo. Do they bring back the world champion pedigree of Kimi Raikkonen? Has Antonio Giovinazzi shown enough to return? Or do they turn to another young Ferrari-backed star?
What they’ve said: “We plan to discuss with our current drivers around mid-season or let’s say September now with the new schedule. We will take the common decision with them. You have some Ferrari junior drivers, but you have Kimi first for us, to know what he wants to do and what we want to do with him and then we will see with the other ones.” — Frederic Vasseur, team principal.
Confirmed: None In the frame: Romain Grosjean, Kevin Magnussen, Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg, Robert Shwartzman, Callum Ilott
Haas wants long-term commitment from whoever it signs — and is taking its time.
What they’ve said: “We want to make a conscious decision on where we want to be in three to five years, not only next year. Making a decision for next year would be a lot easier than a long-term decision.” — Guenther Steiner, Haas team principal.
Denny Hamlin, who has been a long-time friend to Jordan and an athlete for the Jordan brand, will also come on board as an owner.
Jordan’s name was first mentioned in NASCAR circles when Wallace was negotiating whether or not to stay at Richard Petty Motorsports into next season, with the former Chicago Bull linked with coming on board as an investor.
This, however, was categorically denied by Jordan’s spokesperson, Estee Portnoy.
“There is no truth to that rumour at all,” she told FOX Business. “Michael Jordan is not considering an investment in NASCAR’s Richard Petty Motorsports.”
But that seems to have changed now, with Jordan keen to get involved – maybe even with a No.23 car.
Renault boss Cyril Abiteboul has opened up on his frustration about Daniel Ricciardo leaving just when he expects his team to turn a corner.
The Aussie F1 star is bailing after two years with the French outfit, who he joined after quitting Red Bull at the end of 2018. He will link up with McLaren next season, after Carlos Sainz joined Ferrari because the Scuderia are cutting ties with four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel.
Ricciardo’s stint at Renault has been marred by a series of on-track blips and despite some fourth-placed finishes in a disrupted 2020, the 31-year-old is yet to stand on the podium wearing yellow and black.
And the Renault chief says it hurts even more knowing Ricciardo is heading out the door when he’s confident about what the team’s future looks like — even if he can’t prove it.
Ricciardo knew he wasn’t stepping into a world-beating car when he signed with Renault, but was impressed with its vision for the future. Unfortunately that vision hasn’t materialised in the two season he’s spent there, and Abiteboul knows it takes more than empty promises to keep a driver interested.
“I think everyone has been able to feel the frustration, and my own frustration, when it (Ricciardo’s exit) was announced,” Abiteboul told Motorsport.com.
“And let’s be honest. I had the feeling that this (progress) was coming, that the team had made a step up, and that the car would be better.
“Plus that there was much more to come actually in the pipeline, that he had not driven yet. I knew the figures, but the problem is that it’s only figures, and I know that he’s been promised lots of things in the past not only by us, but also by his previous team (Red Bull).
“Daniel is very emotional but he has clearly made a step up. He has gained massively in confidence with the team and with the car, and the relationship between him and his race engineer is very, very strong. We see all of that, it’s finally paying dividends.”
Renault is replacing Ricciardo with two-time world champion Fernando Alonso, who is returning to F1 after leaving the sport at the end of 2018.
The Spaniard is contracted until the end of 2022 and Abiteboul says the Ricciardo experiment has made it clear Renault needs to look at the long-term when bringing new people in.
“It’s really true that when you change driver, you make a step back before making a step forward,” Abiteboul said.
“Because year one is always a bit of an investment before the years ahead. So we need to have longer stints with our drivers if want to make steps forward.”
Ricciardo finished ninth in the drivers’ standings in his debut season with Renault, while the team slumped to fifth in the constructors’ championship, falling behind McLaren as the best of the midfield teams.
This season Ricciardo sits seventh in the individual standings while Renault is again fifth — ahead of Ferrari but behind McLaren and Racing Point.