Alesi appointed as new president of Paul Ricard circuit | RaceFans Round-up


In the round-up: 1995 Canadian Grand Prix winner Jean Alesi takes on new role for 2023, IndyCar stars talk F1 plans.

In brief

Alesi becomes circuit president

Paul Ricard, the most recent venue of the French Grand Prix, has announced Jean Alesi as its new circuit president.

Victory for Ferrari in the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix marked the peak of Alesi’s 13-season Formula 1 career in which he also drove for Tyrrell, Benetton, Sauber, Prost and Jordan. Following that he was a race-winner in the DTM through the 2000s, and also raced in the 2012 Indianapolis 500. Prior to F1, Alesi had marked himself out as the next big French talent by winning the country’s Formula 3 and the International Formula 3000 championships.

“I am very happy and honoured by this nomination because this circuit is my life in motorsport,” Alesi said of his new job.

Alesi made his F1 debut at Paul Ricard in 1989

“It is running at full speed and we are working on it in a structured way. When I was younger, I saw my first French GP there and also the winter F1 tests which I attended as a spectator, listening to what was being said in the pits. The means of communication were less developed at the time and I remember the exchanges of Alain [Prost] or Ayrton [Senna] with their teams, that marked me for life.

“Above all, Paul Ricard is the venue for my very first grand prix in F1 in 1989. I had signed for a single race and I did 200 more. I can’t wait to start my mission.”

Paul Ricard has hosted the French GP 18 times but the event was not included on the 2023 F1 calendar.

Herta and O’Ward’s F1 plans on hold during IndyCar season

IndyCar race-winners Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward will have to wait until the IndyCar season ends to resume their F1 tests for McLaren.

O’Ward has been one of McLaren’s IndyCar drivers since 2020 and last year made his F1 practice debut with the team at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. “All the F1 stuff is more of an off-season project,” he explained. “My focus and all my attention will be in IndyCar for the next good amount of months.

“But obviously it’s been more than enjoyable [being in the F1 world]. It’s been fantastic. A big part of my off-season before going home, it was really focusing on the F1 stuff. I’m also excited to go back to IndyCar now because it always feels a little odd when you go from one car to the other. Take a few laps to get back into the sync of things, really feel it out.

“It will be an off-season kind of thing. During the season, the IndyCar schedule is so packed up where you can hurt yourself more trying to fit in some F1 test days there rather than helping yourself.”

Pato O'Ward, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2022
O’Ward tested for McLaren last year

The IndyCar season runs from March to September, while F1’s calendar does not conclude until late November and includes eight grands prix that occur after IndyCar finishes its racing.

Herta races for the rival Andretti Autosport team in IndyCar, but also began testing with McLaren last year while being targeted by AlphaTauri for an F1 debut. A lack of an FIA superlicence undid those plans, and when asked at IndyCar’s pre-season ‘Content Day’ if discussions had begun with either of those teams about a testing role for 2023, he said “no, not at the moment”.

Andretti have their own ambitions to enter F1 and want to have the 22-year-old Herta as one of their drivers. McLaren has also signed Ganassi racer Alex Palou as one of its F1 reserve drivers in addition to Mick Schumacher.

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Mercedes junior extends points lead in rookie campaign

Antonelli emerged from the murk to win race one

Andrea Kimi Antonelli looks on course to win the Formula Regional Middle East title after winning two races out of three in this week’s round at Kuwait Motor Town.

The Mercedes junior took his Mumbai Falcons car to a first victory in race one on Tuesday (a scheduling quirk of racing in the Middle East), then he followed that up with a stunning tenth to first performance in race two on Wednesday.

Antonelli started that far back due to it being a reversed-grid race, and bided his time in eighth for half of the duration. He then moved up the order as others made mistakes, and inherited second when erstwhile leader Taylor Barnard’s car mysteriously slowed. After tracking down team mate Kirill Smal, Antonelli pulled away in the last two laps to win by 4.5 seconds.

Race three could have gone even better, as he made a three-wide move for the lead on lap one and sprinted away to lead by almost seven seconds. But his overtake was deemed to be illegal, earning him a five-second time penalty. He would have still been on course to win, but Barnard then hunted down and passed Antonelli for victory.

However Antonelli still holds a huge 44-point lead going into the final two rounds of his rookie campaign in FRegional cars.

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Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Invoke, Oliver Queisser, Sriram, Photozen, Cucamest, Michael Brown and Noah!

On this day in motorsport

  • On this day in 1998 Sauber’s new driver Jean Alesi crashed at the high-speed turn nine at the Circuit de Catalunya during his first run in the team’s new C17 chassis


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