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  • Fast Friday: NASCAR bans Confederate flags in big week of change

    Need your motorsport news fix? Welcome to Fast Friday!

    This is where Racing Edge discusses all the main news and talking points from the past week in motorsport.

    Keep up to date with all the main motorsport news below:

    NASCAR bans Confederate flags at races

    NASCAR’s decision to ban all Confederate flags at its events and properties is a welcome change for motorsport.

    The league released a statement on Wednesday ahead of its race at Martinsville Speedway in Ridgeway, Virginia. The decision comes amid the growing social unrest around the world following protests in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, while in police custody in Minneapolis.

    Two days’ prior, Bubba Wallace – the only black driver in NASCAR’s three series – called for the league to ban Confederate flags from all racetracks. The flag has been a common sight in the sport over the years.  

    Wallace, who drives the No.43 car for Richard Petty Motorsports, spoke out after Sunday’s NASCAR race in Atlanta. Before both races, he wore a shirt saying “I Can’t Breathe/Black Lives Matter” on the grid.

    Wallace’s Chevy also displayed a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme for Wednesday’s Cup Series race, in which he finished 11th. On NASCAR’s decision to ban the flag, Wallace told Fox Sports 1: “Props to NASCAR and everybody involved.”

    He added: "[NASCAR president Steve] Phelps and I have been in contact a lot, just trying to figure out what steps are next, and that was a huge, pivotal moment. A lot of backlash for the sport, but it creates doors and allows the community to come together as one. And that's what the real mission is here.”

    Following the announcement, Truck Series driver Ray Ciccarelli said he will quit NASCAR at the end of the 2020 season. Ciccarelli spoke on Facebook, saying he did not agree with “taken people right to fly what ever flag they love.” [sic]

    Meanwhile, NASCAR will allow up to 1,000 Florida service members to attend upcoming races in Miami and Talladega.

    Hamilton calls for worldwide removal of slave-trade statues

    Lewis Hamilton news

    Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton this week called on governments across the world to remove statues and monuments of slave traders.

    Mercedes driver Hamilton was reacting to scenes in Bristol, United Kingdom, where protestors toppled a statue of slave-trader Edward Colston. 

    The statue of Colston, who amassed a large amount of his wealth by selling tens of thousands of slaves in the 1600s and 1700s, had stood since 1895. Several buildings in the British city also carry his name.

    However, demonstrators removed the statue and hurled it into the city’s river, the Avon. Hamilton wants governments to follow suit and remove statues associated with slave-traders.

    Writing on his Instagram story, Hamilton said: "All statues of racist men who made money from selling a human being should be torn down! Which one is next? I challenge government officials worldwide to make these changes and implement the peaceful removal of these racist symbols.”

    He added: "If those people hadn't taken down that statue, honouring a racist slave trade, it would never have been removed. There are talks of it going into a museum. That man's statue should stay in the river just like the 20 thousand African souls who died on the journey here and thrown into the sea, with no burial or memorial. He stole them from their families, country and he must not be celebrated! It should be replaced with a memorial for all those he sold, all those that lost their lives!"

    Several statues of slave-traders, as well as Confederate monuments, have been removed this week.

    F1 loses three more races to cancellation

    F1 news

    Three more Formula 1 races have been officially cancelled for the 2020 season. F1 confirmed races in Singapore, Azerbaijan (Baku) and Japan (Suzuka) would not take place this year.

    Both Singapore and Azerbaijan were in doubt due to the complexities and time needed to build street circuits. Suzuka’s cancellation comes amid major travel restrictions as a result of the global pandemic.

    F1 is still hopeful a 15-18 race season can be held this year. Recently, organisers announced an eight-race European schedule that includes two events at both Austria and Silverstone.

    A statement read: "As a result of the ongoing challenges presented by COVID-19, we and our promoters in Azerbaijan, Singapore and Japan have taken the decision to cancel their races for the 2020 season. These decisions have been taken due to the different challenges our promoters face in those countries.”

    It continued: "In Singapore and Azerbaijan the long lead times required to construct street circuits made hosting the events during a period of uncertainty impossible and in Japan, ongoing travel restrictions also led to the decision not to proceed with the race."

    Organisers are considering several options to bulk out the remaining calendar. Other European venues, such as Hockenheim and Imola, are possibilities. Russia, China, Vietnam, Brazil, U.S. and Canada are being explored despite their initial postponements. F1 hopes to end the season in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi. Bahrain could also potentially host a second race with a different track layout.

    Ferrari teams up with FIA to find next female stars

    Ferrari news

    Ferrari announced this week a new partnership with motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, to find the next female racing star.

    In a four-year deal, the Ferrari Driver Academy (FDA) will join forces with the FIA’s Girls On Track – Rising Stars programme, set up by FIA Women In Motor Sport Commission. It will receive financial support from the FIA Innovation Fund.

    The initiative hopes to find the best female racers between the ages of 12 and 15 from around the world. It aims help them compete at the highest level of motorsport.

    The selection process will be supported by the FIA’s national sports associations and engineers of the FDA. A shortlist of four candidates will be put forward, with the FDA then selecting one to join its programme and enter a national Formula 4 championship in 2021. The same process will then go ahead in 2022.  

    Mattia Binotto, Managing Director and Team Principal for Scuderia Ferrari, said: “We are firm believers in the value of helping youngsters develop in motor sport. The FDA has been operating for over a decade now, not just purely and simply selecting the best drivers, but also working on their cultural, technical and ethical education. With this in mind, we felt we had to make a further effort to expand our area of operation to include female youngsters who want to get on in motor sport. Although there is no actual barrier to their participation, we are aware that it is harder for women to progress in this field.”

    Mercedes completes tests at Silverstone amid new season

    Formula 1 news

    Valterri Bottas and Hamilton enjoyed their first laps of a Formula 1 car since the Coronavirus pandemic this week.

    Both drivers took part in a test session at Silverstone – their first laps in an F1 car since pre-season testing – in old-spec cars. The 2020 season is currently delayed due to the pandemic but is set to return for a shortened European leg beginning in Austria on July 5.

    Mercedes was testing F1’s new safety precautions put in place in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. No 2020 parts would have been allowed to be tested on the cars. Mercedes shared photos of staff in masks.

    The private tests usually take place over two days, with a maximum run of 100km in an old-spec car. They are normally used as filming days for sponsors.

    Renault, meanwhile, will host a two-day test session in Austria. The team will run its 2018 car.

    Two races will be held at the British circuit this season, on August 2 and August 9. F1 hopes to announce further races in Asia and the Americas in the coming weeks.

    Vandoorne wins Formula E Race at Home Series

    Formula E news

    Mercedes Benz EQ driver Stoffel Vandoorne was crowned Formula E Race at Home Challenge Series champion this week.

    Vandoorne finished second in the Grand Final, as Oliver Rowland sealed victory in Berlin. Pre-race standings leader Pascal Wehrlein suffered contact from Vandoorne and finished 12th overall. However, Vandoorne’s finish was enough to make up the 14-point deficit and clinch the title.

    Vandoorne said afterwards: “I’m really happy to win this. The start was really chaotic. I got alongside Pascal [Wehrlein] after a really good start but into turn two I got a bump from behind which sent him into a spin. It would have been nice to have a proper fight on track but I’ve been unlucky in a couple of races and it’s a well-deserved series win for us.”

    Wehrlein, meanwhile, has left Mahindra Racing with immediate effect. The German is reportedly set to join Porsche ahead of next season.

    Who will replace Daniel Abt at Audi?

    Formula E news

    Two-time and reigning DTM champion Rene Rast is the prime candidate to replace the ousted Daniel Abt at Audi’s Formula E team. Rast will test an Audi Formula E car in July.

    Audi split with Abt last month. The driver was caught using a professional sim racer in his place during Formula E’s Race At Home Challenge series.

    Rast, who raced at Formula E’s Berlin EPrix in 2016, revealed Audi had arranged a test for him at the Lausitzring. He currently races for Audi in DTM but will be without a drive once the manufacturer leaves the series in 2021.

    Speaking to motorsport.com, Rast said: “As long as there is no official Formula E calendar we cannot really plan if I’m going to race or not in Formula E. If the DTM and Formula E calendars are clashing, I cannot do Formula E because DTM is my priority right now.”

    He added: “But I would definitely be interested in racing Formula E. It’s one of the best championships we have out there. With Audi leaving the DTM it’s the only option I can do with Audi, basically, as a factory programme.”

    Rast, meanwhile, topped the charts on the final day of DTM testing at the Nürburgring on Thursday.  

    2021 Dakar Rally to race new route in Saudi Arabia

    Dakar Rally
    Photo courtesy of Dakar Rally

    The 2021 Dakar Rally will be held entirely in Saudi Arabia but on a brand new route, organizers ASO announced this week.

    Plans were initally afoot to add additional countries to the route this year. However, major travel restrictions are expected in wake of the global pandemic. Saudi Arabia also hosted the race last year following its relocation from South America.

    The famous race will start in Jeddah on January 3rd, 2020. It will finish in the same city on January 15th and take place across 11 stages. There will be a rest day on January 9th in Ha’il.

    The new route will see competitors venture through the desert and along the Red Sea.

    New safety measures will also be introduced in next year’s edition. This comes after the deaths of two motorcyclists – Paulo Goncalves and Edwin Straver – in this year’s race. Riders will now have to wear airbag vests, while auditory warnings will be used ahead of potential dangers.

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