It’s that time of the season again where Formula One has shut down for the summer, and seemingly so has nearly every other form of motorsport. With just NASCAR scheduled to race this weekend, it’s the perfect time to go through the Weekend Racing Wrap Mid-season report.
Season Highlight: Montoya beats Power to Indianapolis 500 win
Remarkably, the 14 races so far have seen nine different winners with no driver taking more than two victories. There are just two races left to run in IndyCar’s condensed schedule and over 150 points up for grabs.
The series has enjoyed some fantastic races on road and oval courses, several rain-hot races and a first-time winner. However the controversial new aerodynamic kits may have contributed to some serious crashes at Indianapolis and the unwelcome return of ‘pack racing’.
The Indy 500 scrap between year-long points leader Juan Pablo Montoya and his Penske team mate Will Power saw the championship leader come out on top to repeat his 2000 triumph. But if he’s to avoid having the title snatched from the grasp he needs to answer the impressive recent performances of his rivals, notably Graham Rahal, who’s had two wins and four top fours from the last four races.
|1||Juan Pablo Montoya||465|
Stand-out driver: Graham Rahal
Seven years had passed since Rahal’s maiden win when the series began, but this year he finally returned to victory lane. More impressively, he’s been a consistent contender taking two wins and four other podium finishes – the most of any driver – to make him the leading Honda-powered driver in the points standings, and the biggest threat to Montoya.
World Endurance Championship
Season Highlight: Porsche’s Le Mans triumph
The World Endurance Championship is nearing the end of the two-month break which follows its blue riband race, the Le Mans 24 Hours. Porsche won a tooth-and-nail fight with Audi at the Circuit de la Sarthe, with the their third car featuring Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg taking victory along with Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.
Prior to that Audi held sway, winning at Silverstone and Spa with Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer. The introduction of their low-drag package at the latter raised their confidence for Le Mans, but it was unrewarded.
Le Mans was a disappointing experience for reigning WEC champions Toyota, and a crushing defeat for Nissan, whose radical GT-R LM NISMO was miles off the pace. The car will not appear when the championship resumes at the Nurburgring at the end of the month.
|1||Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fässler, Benoit Treluyer||80|
|3||Earl Bamber, Nico Hulkenberg||58|
|4||Marc Lieb, Romain Dumas, Neel Jani||57|
|5||Timo Bernhard, Mark Webber, Brendon Hartley||53|
Stand-out drivers: Andre Lotterer, Marcel Fassler and Benoit Treluyer
The number seven Audi has been on the podium in all of the three races so far and only missed out on the top spot at the famous Le Mans 24 Hours to the much quicker Porsches. The trio have been driving together since 2010, and it’s clear they have a good bond and great teamwork. Since the WEC started in it’s current format in 2012, they haven’t finished outside the top two in the championship, and their performances so far this season make it look as though they’ll extend that run.
Season Highlight: Austria – Sprint Race
McLaren-backed driver Stoffel Vandoorne was undoubtedly the favourite heading into the 2015 GP2 season, but even his biggest supporters could not have predicted the kind of year he’d have. An 85-point advantage at this stage means Vandoorne could wrap the title up comfortably before the final round, providing he doesn’t suffer a Stefano Coletti in 2013-style collapse.
As always in GP2, the racing has been fast and frantic, with Austria serving as a high point thanks to the action and overtaking, a large portion of which came from Feature Race winner Vandoorne, who fought from eighth to second in the Sprint race.
Stand-out driver: Stoffel Vandoorne
Vandoorne won the opening four feature races, took pole for three of them, and followed three of them up with second places in the sprint races, only missing out in Monaco. His form has dipped recently – with his first non-score of the season in the British sprint race – yet he has still managed to make the podium in every round, and lead the championship by a whopping 85 points. If he wins the title, he won’t be eligible to return to the category next season, potentially adding to Mclaren’s queue of talented drivers with nothing to race.
Formula Renault 3.5
Season Highlight: Vaxiviere takes last-lap win in Spain
Oliver Rowland and Matthieu Vaxiviere are giving us a Formula Renault 3.5 season to remember. The pair are the class of a field which contains real quality, and last time out at the Red Bull Ring Vaxiviere held off Rowland to cut the Fortec driver’s championship lead.
Vaxiviere’s last lap attack on Nyck de Vries at Motorland Aragon has been the pick of the action so far. But there have been equally impressive performances from rookies Dean Stoneman and de Vries, plus Jazeman Jaafar’s Monaco triumph. Keep an eye on F1 driver Roberto Merhi in the final races as he looks to end a long win-less streak for Pons as he continues to dovetail this series with his Manor F1 duties.
Motor racing politics may have led Renault to inform teams they are pulling out of the series, but the final year of Formula Renault 3.5 can still go out on a high as it visits the Nurburgring, Silverstone, Le Mans Bugatti and Jerez.
|5||Nyck de Vries||71|
Stand-out driver: Oliver Rowland
Rowland has emerged as a real talent this season having seemingly gone under the radar before now, despite finishing in the top four in every championship he’s participated in since 2011. Seven podiums from nine races – including four wins – speak for themselves, and there has rarely appeared a chink in Rowland’s armour, even picking up strong points finishes when he hasn’t been at his absolute best. He also impressed on his GP2 debut at Silverstone, and will return for Manor MP at Spa this weekend.
European Formula Three
Season Highlight: Hockenheim race three
After a stellar 2014, the leading Formula Three championship has bordered on farce this year. Two races at Monza were cut short due to repeated crashes, and after a further accident at Spa Ferrari-backed driver Lance Stroll was handed a race ban.
However several drivers have distanced themselves from their crash-prone rivals in the vast F3 field. Antonio Giovinazzi leads the points ahead of Felix Rosenqvist – the latter, a six-year veteran of F3, has won the most races but lost 25 points due to the shortening of the Monza rounds where he won. Jake Dennis has also enjoyed a successful year, matching Giovinazzi’s five wins.
Stand-out driver: Charles Leclerc
While Giovinazzi and Rozenqvist have more wins and podiums – and overall better results – rookie Charles Leclerc is hanging on to their coattails. The 17-year-old former karting rival of Max Verstappen is driving for the Toro Rosso racer’s former team Van Amersfoort. He opened his account with victory in the first weekend at Silverstone and followed it up with a superb drive to win in the wet at Hockenheim (above).
However he’s been off the podium in the last two triple-header meetings, and needs a strong end to the season at the Algarve, Nurburgring and Hockenheiming to keep the title leaders in reach.
Season Highlight: Suzuka
In round one at Suzuka the podium was locked out by former F1 drivers Andre Lotterer, Kazuki Nakajima and Narain Karthikeyan, and Kamui Kobayashi brought his car home in second in race two at Okayama.
It’s too early to call a title favourite this season as the top four are covered by just six points (equal to a third place finish).
|2||Joao Paulo de Oliveira||19|
Stand-out driver: Kazuki Nakajima
Nakajima missed one race after fracturing a vertebrae in a World Endurance Championship crash at Spa, but he finished second in the other two. The former Williams racer looks entirely capable of repeating his 2012 title success.
Season Highlight: Austria – race two
Austria brought a welcome break from GP3’s processional races and was arguably the best action to take place on the Red Bull Ring throughout the grand prix weekend.
In somewhat of a surprise Luca Ghiotto leads the series by a 23-point margin from big names and title favourites Marvin Kirchhofer and reigning European F3 champion Esteban Ocon. It would be easy to say one of these will snatch the title – given their greater experience and results – but so far Ghiotto has performed solidly, and if he keeps up his qualifying speed, he may just be the most surprising GP3 champion yet.
Stand-out driver: Luca Ghiotto
Ghiotto joined the series in Belgium last season, and immediately shocked with pole position in a qualifying session of mixed conditions. He couldn’t keep the position in the race, but he has retained his one lap pace this season, taking three of the four pole positions thus far in a series that runs in one make cars.
Season Highlight: Jerez – Race One
Five of eight rounds have been completed so far yet the opening race of the season at Jerez remains up there as one of the best as an exciting race in mixed conditions saw battles throughout.
Konstantin Tereshchenko – best known for his aerial launch and subsequent roll at the Bus Stop kerbs in GP3 at Spa last season – currently leads the championship from Vitor Baptista. While it looked to be a battle between just the pair of them, strong recent results for Yu Kanamaru mean he is closing on the top, and could mount a challenge should they crumble under the pressure.
Stand-out driver: Vitor Baptista
Choosing between Tereschchenko and Baptista is incredibly difficult, as both have been clearly the class of the field this season. Baptista however is three years younger, and in his first international series after winning the Formula Three Brazil Lights category in 2014, while Tereschchenko is in his second season. Baptista has also had more consistent results, and with three poles from the last four races, looks to be on the up.
World Touring Car Championship
Season Highlight: Nordschleife – Race One
Full credit must go to Jose Maria Lopez, however, who is comfortably seeing off multiple champion team mate Yvan Muller and World Rally Championship superstar Sebastien Loeb. Two-thirds of the season have passed and though Muller is never to be discounted, Lopez is beginning to look irresistible.
While usually a tad dull – especially with the Citroen domination not dissimilar to that of Mercedes in Formula One – the WTCC has been invigorated by the addition of two dramatic new venues. The mighty Nurburgring Nordschleife held its first world championship event in more than three decades, and Portugal’s historic Vila Real street track has also played host to WTCC machinery. And in perhaps the biggest surprise of the year, the dreary Moscow Raceway even served up one race to remember.
|1||Jose Maria Lopez||322|
|4||Ma Qing Hua||146|
Stand-out driver: Jose Maria Lopez
Much as last season, Lopez has been the stand out driver. Yes, he is in the best car, but he has arguably one of the best Touring Car drivers of all time as a team mate, and he’s simply out-classing him. To put the manners on Muller as Lopez is doing is no mean feat, and his efforts look like being rewarded with another title. We can only wonder how different his career could have been had US F1 ever made the Formula One grid back in 2010.
Deutsche Tourenwagen Masters
Season Highlight: Red Bull Ring – Race Two
A revised race package had seen the addition of an extra round each weekend, and the fluctuating form of the three manufacturers’ on the series’ rubber produced wildly varying results. Mercedes’ Jamie Green won three of the opening four races but hasn’t scored in the last five. BMW locked out the top five in both races at Zandvoort, but failed to get a single car in the same places in either race at the Red Bull Ring.
However it was the antics of rivals Audi in the same race which has made the championship a focus of attention. Driver Timo Scheider was instructed to take out his Mercedes rivals by the team manager – in a message broadcast live on air – and the Mercedes camp was enraged after he deposited Robert Wickens and then-pointed leader Pascal Wehrlein into a gravel trap.
Audi’s Mattias Ekstrom therefore leads the points race from team mate Edorado Mortara. However the DTM’s governing body is investigating the foul play in Austria, and Audi may race repercussions in the remaining eight races.
Stand-out driver: Pascal Wehrlein
Mercedes F1 reserve driver Wehrlein is giving the three-pointed star several reasons to consider him for a return to open-wheel racing. However strong performances in the DTM don’t necessarily equal results or even a drive: just ask Paul di Resta and Gary Paffett. Nonetheless Wehrlein has driven with incredible maturity for a 20-year old, and his consistent points scoring has kept him in the hunt for the title.
Australian V8 Supercars
Season Highlight: Adelaide – Race Three
Mark Winterbottom’s long wait for a V8 Supercar crown looks set to end this year. The Prodrive racer’s eight wins so far this year have contributed to a healthy lead in the championship over Craig Lowndes.
But while the championship is looking increasingly settled there’s plenty to savour in the second half of the season, including the annual visit to the stunning Mount Panorama circuit in Bathurst, which rarely fails to excite.
Stand-out driver: Mark Winterbottom
Admittedly the scoring system helps considerably, but to lead any series by over 250 points at the mid-season stage is an impressive accomplishment. Winterbottom has been incredibly consistent, finishing outside of the top seven just twice and making it on the podium in 60% of races, in all of which he’s seen the chequered flag.
British Touring Car Championship
Season Highlight: Donington Park – Race Three
There are growing questions over whether the BTCC’s gimmicked-up racing is delivering the same bang for its buck it once did, but the series continues to pack in crowds around Britain’s national circuits.
And at times the action has been from the top drawer – witness the thrilling race three at Donington Park. An all-action encounter of wheel-rubbing and paint-trading saw a few collisions and lots of overtaking, and an edge-of-your-seat moment as Aron Smith re-joined the track at high speed amongst a four-car pack at the Craner Curves, incredibly without contact.
After six of the ten rounds Jason Plato leads the way, though team mate Colin Turkington isn’t far behind. Nor, in BTCC terms, are Gordon Shedden, Sam Tordoff, Andrew Jordan or Matt Neal. While the next round should suit Tordoff’s BMW, expect the closing rounds to be a Volkswagen benefit, tipping the title battle in faVour of Plato and Turkington.
Stand-out driver: Sam Tordoff
Champions Plato, Turkington, Shedden, Jordan and Neal are the familiar names among the top six in the championship but the sixth, Sam Tordoff, stands out. For two seasons Tordoff was team mate to Plato at Triple Eight, picking up the odd win but doing nothing spectacular, but a move to West Surrey Racing has reinvigorated him.
While the BMW is far from the best car at most circuits, Tordoff has usually picked up the best result available, and made use of his car at tracks it’s suited to, such as Croft. By being consistent Tordoff has kept himself in the championship fight, and with the next round at Knockhill being a BMW favoured track, Tordoff could fire himself right into genuine championship contention.
World Rally Championship
Season Highlight: Mexico
Despite taking five wins from eight rounds, Sebastien Ogier has fewer points than he had at this stage last season, but his rivals are further behind. Two second places and a 17th are his other results, with his only non-point score coming after a rare breakdown for his Volkswagen on day one of Rally Argentina.
Unlike last season however, Latvala has been unable to keep pace with his world champion team mate, yet while Volkswagen still appear to be far ahead, the emergence of young talents such as Hayden Paddon and Ott Tanak has sparked hope that in years to come, Ogier may have genuine competition, though Tanak will be hoping to avoid plunging into any more reservoirs.
Stand-out driver: Hayden Paddon
It’s hard to look past the reigning double world champion, but when a driver of Ogier’s calibre is wielding a car which is the class of the field the only real way he can stand out is to win everything in sight, yet Latvala has beaten him on occasions.
Paddon – in his first full season – has starred meanwhile in a car that’s not as good, and has regularly muscled his way into the Volkswagen scrap, most notably for his first podium in Italy, while outshining more experienced team mates Neuville and Sordo. A shout-out must also go to Tanak, who has himself taken the fight to the Volkswagen’s on occasions, yet his game is blighted by more mistakes.
World Rallycross Championship
Season Highlight: Sweden
In its second season, the World Rallycross championship continues to attract competitors from other championships, such as the DTM’s Mattias Ekstrom and BTCC’s Andrew Jordan. The second half of its season will include a new event using the final sector of the Circuit de Catalunya.
Stand-out driver: Petter Solberg
Last season Solberg won the inaugural World Rallycross title with some ease, taking five victories en route to the title. This year has started out even better, as five top two results in the opening five rounds have given him a healthy lead. Despite dropping off slightly in recent events – including missing out on a final for the first time ever at the last event in Canada – Solberg retains a 46 points advantage.
Season Highlight: Daytona
NASCAR’s gargantuan 36-round series meant it was one of few championships racing last weekend – Matt Kenseth took his third win of the year.
Kevin Harvick has a 58-point lead in the standings, but he will lose most of that in three races’ time when the Chase for the Cup begins. This is to ensure a four-way title fight in the final round at Miami in November.
|3||Dale Earnhardt Jr||750|
Stand-out driver: Kyle Busch
Probably the first time ever that a driver languishing down in 30th in his respective championship has been chosen, but for Kyle Busch there’s a very good reason he isn’t further up. On the day before the opening race of the season he suffered a broken leg in a crash in the Xfinity series, and subsequently missed the first 11 races of the season. Since his return however, his form has been phenomenal, picking up four wins from eleven races.
Season Highlight: Beijing
Formula E is preparing for its second season after a promising debut year. The first race set the bar high, as race leaders Nicolas Prost and Nick Heidfeld collided at the final turn of the race.
Nelson Piquet Jnr came out on top after a season long scrap with fellow former F1 drivers Sebastien Buemi and Lucas di Grassi. However the former was left to rue a costly mistake by his DAMS team in Moscow where they got the mandatory pit stop time wrong and left him stationery for too long.
Is all-electric racing the future of motor sport? A good measure of its potential will be how many fans tune in for the second season which begins later this year, and whether the revised machinery currently being tested packs a more powerful punch.
|1||Nelson Piquet Jnr||144|
|3||Lucas di Grassi||133|
Stand-out driver: Jean-Eric Vergne
Vergne joins the championship later on after being dropped by Toro Rosso. He immediately took pole position and repeated the feat twice more in his Andretti car, yet failed to pick up a win, often due to some technical gremlin or other misfortune. Yet still, his achievements having joined mid-season were impressive, and enough for seventh in the championship. If he sticks at a full campaign next year with Virgin, he could be a serious contender.
Over to you
Aside from Formula One, which other series have you enjoyed watching this season, and what are your thoughts at the mid-point of the year?
Which drivers in which series’ have impressed you, and who has let you down, and what have been your season highlights? Let us know in the comments below.
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