F1 podcast: Have Ferrari’s updates delivered a step forward?

Many of the Formula 1 teams entered Friday for the Styrian Grand Prix hoping second time would be a charm around the Red Bull Ring, learning from last week’s lessons.

Max Verstappen managed to lead Red Bull to the head of the timesheets ahead of Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas, but it proved to be a difficult day for reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who could only finish sixth overall.

Ferrari also struggled to P9 and P16 in a busy second practice in Austria despite bringing the first of its updates to the SF1000 car.

Recapping today’s action in Austria and looking at the technical updates through the field, our F1 reporter Luke Smith chats to technical editor Jake Boxall-Legge in the latest edition of the Autosport podcast. Click the PLAY icon to tune in…

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IndyCar’s Road America double-header preview – facts and schedule

All you need to know ahead of the third and fourth rounds of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series – the REV Group Grand Prix at the magnificent Road America course in Elkhart Lake, WI.

Note: Difference between the two races’ entries is the livery/title sponsor of Graham Rahal’s #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda.


Photo by: IndyCar


Photo by: IndyCar

Event date: Saturday, July 11 – Sunday, July 12

Track: Road America, 4.014-mile 14-turn road course

Race distances: 2 x 55 laps / 2 x 220.770 miles

Firestone tire allotment: Nine sets of primary tires are available for each entry across the weekend, with rookies getting one extra set. These are the same construction as used in the 2019 race at Road America but have a slightly grippier compound yet are said to be as durable.
Each car has four sets of alternates – the red-sidewalled softer tire – and are the same construction as the alternates run here at Road America in 2019. However, like the primaries, they are slightly tougher than last year but offering grip “similar” to the compound they replace.
Each car has seven sets of rain tires available.

Push-to-pass parameters (per race): 200 seconds of total time with a maximum time of 20 seconds per activation.

At-track schedule (local/Central Time) and broadcast details

Saturday, July 11
11.00am – 12.15pm
 Practice NBC Sports Gold (live)
2.15pm – 2.45pm Qualifying (two groups) NBCSN (live)
REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR – Race 1 NBCSN (live)

Sunday, July 12
10.00 – 10.30am Qualifying (two groups) NBC Sports Gold (live)
12.00 noon NBC on air
REV Group Grand Prix presented by AMR – Race 2 NBC (live)

Leigh Diffey is the NBC/NBCSN announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy.

Pennzoil IndyCar Radio Network broadcasts: Mark Jaynes is chief announcer alongside analyst Davey Hamilton with Jake Query. Michael Young and Nick Yeoman are the turn announcers. Both REV Group Grand Prix races air live on network affiliates, Sirius 211, XM 205,, and the IndyCar Mobile app powered by NTT DATA. All NTT IndyCar Series practices and qualifying are available on, and the IndyCar Mobile app, with qualifying also airing on Sirius 211 and XM 205.

Race Notes

2019 race winner: Alexander Rossi (Andretti Autosport-Honda) 

2019 NTT pole winner: Colton Herta (Harding Steinbrenner Racing-Honda), 1min42.9920 seconds, 140.306mph

Qualifying record: Dario Franchitti (Team Green Reynard-Honda), 1min39.866 seconds, 145.924mph (2000)

This event will mark the 30th and 31st time that Road America has hosted an IndyCar race, with Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti and Emerson Fittipaldi scoring the most wins here – three each.

Only four of this weekend’s drivers have won at Road America – Will Power in 2016, Scott Dixon in ’17, Josef Newgarden in ’18 and Rossi last year.

Team Penske has won five times at Road America (1989, ’92, ’93, 2016 and ’18), Chip Ganassi Racing has won three times (1997, 2001 and ’17), while Andretti Autosport won its first race in 2019. Newman/Haas Racing won a record 10 times at Road America.

There are four rookies in the field – Oliver Askew (Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet), Alex Palou (Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh-Honda), Rinus VeeKay (Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet) and Dalton Kellett (AJ Foyt Racing). VeeKay has won two USF2000 race and one Indy Lights race at Road America.

Note: Difference between the two races’ entries is the livery/title sponsor of Graham Rahal’s #15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan-Honda.



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Auto News

2021 Lincoln Corsair and Aviator Add Monochromatic Package

Lincoln brings the stylish Monochromatic package to its smaller Corsair, Nautilus, and Aviator crossover and SUV models for 2021—2020, in the Nautilus’s case—after originally introducing the kit on its flagship Navigator. As its name implies, the Mono package gives these American luxury vehicles a noir-appropriate look courtesy of black-painted wheels and body-color-painted exterior trim pieces, including the side mirror housings. 

See all 37 photos

The color these exterior items can take on, however, is limited. Lincoln offers the Monochromatic package with only a handful of paint options. For example, the 2021 Corsair and Aviator models are available in black, white, and gray, while Lincoln restricts the Monochromatic package-equipped 2020 Nautilus to black. (The previously introduced Navigator’s Monochromatic package, meanwhile, offers either black or white paint. ) 

Sadly, the Monochromatic package adds nothing to these models’ lists of standard and available comfort and convenience features. Nor does the package offer any dynamic upgrades. Lincoln remains mum on pricing for now, too. That said, we struggle to see the justification in spending anything more than a couple of hundred dollars on this style enhancing (or detracting, depending on your opinion) package. 

Nevertheless, if you’ve always wanted to cosplay as a modern-day detective in a noir film, then you’ll likely want to check off the option box for the Monochromatic package on a Lincoln Corsair, Nautilus, Aviator, or Navigator.


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Styrian GP 2020: Time, TV channel, live stream

Just like London buses, after such a long wait for the first Grand Prix of 2020, the second race is already here.

Formula 1 came back with a bang last time out at the Red Bull Ring. While Valtteri Bottas took pole, led every lap and won the race, things were far more interesting behind him.

It looked set to be an easy 1-2 for Mercedes when Max Verstappen retired early on. However, a number of Safety Cars brought Lewis Hamilton into the clutches of the other Red Bull, Alex Albon.

The two subsequently clashed, dropping the British-Thai driver down to the back of the grid and causing Hamilton to get a penalty. Charles Leclerc and Lando Norris both took advantage to take P2 and P3 respectively.

Things weren’t so good for the other Ferrari, as Sebastian Vettel never recovered after spinning and only picked up one point. He, and the nine drivers who retired, will be desperate to make amends this weekend.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of the second half of the double  header…

When is the 2020 Styrian Grand Prix?

The start times for the Styrian Grand Prix are as follows:

Practice 1: Friday July 1oth, 1100 local time (1000 BST)

Practice 2: Friday July 1oth, 1500 local time (1400 BST)

Practice 3: Saturday July 11th, 1200 local time (1100 BST)

Qualifying: Saturday July 11th, 1500 local time (1400 BST)

Race: Sunday July 12th, 1510 local time (1410 BST)

Where does the Styrian Grand Prix take place?

The name Red Bull Ring may be relatively new to the Formula 1 calendar but the A1-Ring is not, arguably one of the most iconic tracks in the sport’s history.

Today’s circuit is not what it used to be, though. Set upon by track designer Hermann Tilke in the 1990s, some would argue that the Austrian venue was neutered, losing many of the characteristics that gave it that iconic status.

The end result was a track comprising just nine corners, seven to the right and two to the left, and dominated by its three straights making it a power-hungry venue. Simply put it is a low-downforce, engine-dependent track.

Red Bull took ownership in the early 2000s and made numerous changes to the scenery, most notably the pit buildings and grandstands. With the venue revived and modernised, Formula 1 returned in 2014.

Sunday’s race will be run over 71 laps of the 4.326km circuit.

Where can I watch the Styrian Grand Prix on TV?

The entire race weekend, including qualifying and the race proper – will be shown live in the UK by pay-TV broadcaster Sky Sports on its dedicated Sky Sports F1 channel. You can also access a live stream of the coverage via Now TV. Highlights will be aired by free-to-air broadcaster Channel 4.

Subscribers to F1’s own app can hear radio commentary on the race proper from the BBC and access live data around each session.

PlanetF1 will carry live timing and expert commentary on every session of the race weekend along with all the latest news from the track.

The Styrian Grand Prix will be shown live on TV by the following outlets in other key markets:

United States: ESPN (English), Univision (Spanish)

Canada: RDS (French), TSN (English)

Australia: Fox Sports and Foxtel 4k (no ad breaks)

France: Canal + (pay TV) and TF1 (free-to-air)

Italy: Sky Sport F1

Germany: RTL and Sky Deutschland

Spain: Movistar F1

What is the weather forecast for the Styrian Grand Prix?

Friday July 10: 26C, sunny.
Saturday July 11: 18C, chance of storms.
Sunday July 12: 19C, chance of rain.

Which drivers have won the Styrian Grand Prix?

Well, there’s never been a Styrian Grand Prix before, so technically, none. However, various races dubbed the Austrian Grand Prix have of course taken place at the same track. We say that counts.

French master Alain Prost is the only driver to have won at the ring on three occasions – triumphing in 1983, 1985 and 1986. A host of drivers have been successful on two occasions – including recent world champion Nico Rosberg.

After taking victory from Charles Leclerc in the final stages of last year’s race, Max Verstappen is also on two wins. He may not have the support of his Orange Army this time, but with the chance to statistically become the joint-most successful driver ever at the track, he’ll be as motivated as ever.

He won’t be the only driver in with a shot of doing so, however. Valtteri Bottas’ triumph in the season opener moved him onto two wins himself, and he surely has an even better chance than Verstappen of joining Prost on the magic three.

Since the track returned to the F1 calendar in 2014, the winners are as follows:

2020: Valtteri Bottas (Finland, Mercedes)

2019: Max Verstappen (The Netherlands, Red Bull)
2018: Max Verstappen (The Netherlands, Red Bull)
2017: Valtteri Bottas (Finland, Mercedes)
2016: Lewis Hamilton (Great Britain, Mercedes)
2015: Nico Rosberg (Germany, Mercedes)
2014: Nico Rosberg (Germany, Mercedes)

What are the odds for the Styrian Grand Prix?

Given their dominance in the season opener, the Mercedes boys are unsurprisingly the heavy favourites to take victory once again.

However, despite his relatively comfortable victory, Bottas isn’t the bookies’ favourite. That accolade goes to Lewis Hamilton.

Verstappen couldn’t show what he was capable off in the opening round due to a mechanical failure early on. He is currently third favourite to come back with a vengeance and take win number three in Spielberg.

5/6 Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)

5/2 Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes)

10/3 Max Verstappen (Red Bull)

25/1 Alex Albon (Red Bull)

40/1 Charles Leclerc (Ferrari)

(Prices correct at 1600 BST on Monday July 6th)

Tyre compounds for the Styrian Grand Prix

Previously, teams would choose how many of each allocated tyre they would take to a race, but that is no longer the case. Each driver will get two sets of hard, three of mediums, and eight softs at every race weekend.

For the second race, just like the season opener, the compounds provided by Pirelli will be the C2, C3 and C4.

We're back and soon to be on track. 🏎️🏁
Here are the first eight #Fit4F1 compound choices.
More #F1 info:

— Pirelli Motorsport (@pirellisport) June 11, 2020

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Auto News

How Roadkill Happened, and Why It’s Must-See TV

“I’m Freiburger. That’s Finnegan. This is the show where we play with cars and you point and laugh.” And with that, David Freiburger launched Roadkill. Eight years and more than 100 episodes later, Roadkill is still going strong. In fact, it’s one of the most successful and widely watched automotive TV and video series ever, arguably second only to the BBC’s lavishly funded and expensively produced Top Gear. And we did it all ourselves.

I know. I was there.

When Google threw us some money in 2011 to help make YouTube more than just a platform for shaky lo-fi user-generated videos about laughing babies and dancing cats, I decided the MotorTrend Channel would be like a proper automotive TV channel, something I’d dreamed about doing for decades.

Related: Sign up to the MotorTrend App today for $2 to stream 100+ episodes of Roadkill, Roadkill Garage, Roadkill’s Junkyard Gold, Engine Masters and Faster With Finnegan. Plus, enjoy  8,000+ episodes of more hit car shows!

It would have TV-length, TV-style shows covering everything from new vehicles to hot rods to four-wheel drives to motorcycles. Some shows would be weekly, some monthly, but to keep the channel relevant and interesting, a fresh show would be uploaded every day, five days a week.

I came up with a complete slate of programs, outlining the show formats, who the on-screen personalities should be (no pretty-boy TV talking heads reading scripts, but staffers who’d actually know what they were talking about), and what the shows would be called. Ignition. Head 2 Head. Hot Rod Garage. Dirt Every Day. On Two Wheels. The Downshift. Wide Open Throttle. Epic Drives. And, of course… Roadkill.

See all 15 photos

How Roadkill Got its Name

Google David Freiburger today and you get the descriptor “TV personality”. But back in 2011 he was editor-in-chief of Hot Rod magazine, the title founded by Robert E. Petersen in 1948 and the success of which would lead to Petersen launching MotorTrend magazine the following year.

When it came to Hot Rod-branded or themed shows for the new channel, I naturally asked David, a man who’s forgotten more about hot rods, drag racing, and classic American iron than the rest of us will ever know, for ideas. A build show of some type—a video version of the ‘how-to’ features that had been part and parcel of Hot Rod the magazine for decades—seemed a no-brainer. But I wanted a show that took the automotive counterculture out of the shop and put it out on the road.

See all 15 photos

I’d been intrigued with the videos David had done for a short-lived media venture of his own a couple of years earlier. It featured grungy, dirt-bag vehicles and was powered by a genuine sense of fun.

“Maybe you do a show something like that,” I said to David as I leaned in the doorway of his office one evening. He was intrigued, interested. I could see the creative wheels starting to turn. I glanced around his office and saw a copy of the brand-new special edition Hot Rod magazine on rat rods, fresh from the printer. The title? Roadkill. “And that’s what we should call it,” I said, pointing at the cover.

David said the show wouldn’t be about rat rods. “Doesn’t matter,” I said. “Roadkill is a brilliant name. We can make it mean whatever we want it to mean. And the logo is perfect just as it is.”

If You Haven’t Watched Roadkill Yet, Here’s Why You Should

It’s fun. It’s real. It’s men behaving badly with cars. And in among the mayhem you’ll almost always learn something. Take episode 108, where Freiburger gives you chapter and verse on the Dodge D100 pickup, and how not all D100s are the same. It got me thinking the right D100 could make a cooler classic truck than a Ford or Chevy from the same era.

See all 15 photos

Sure, some of the scenarios are far-fetched. But who wouldn’t want to see a Prius squashed by a tank (episode 17), cars catapulted off a 300-foot cliff in Alaska (episode 83) or a 2013 Dodge Dart dropped 1,320-feet from a helicopter onto a map drawn on a dry lake bed to celebrate the 100th episode? The latter was a wonderfully over-the-top homage to the opening scene of the first ever Roadkill episode in which a blindfolded Finnegan threw a dart at a map of the U.S. to see where they would have to buy a car and drive it back to L.A. without spending more than $1,500.

The Dart did the vertical quarter mile in 10.4 seconds, by the way.

When the boys are trying to make some old junker run with little more than gaffer tape and zip-ties, they’re really doing it. When stuff goes wrong, it goes wrong. Check out the time they tried to drive a Ranchero to Alaska (episode 2) or off-road a Chevy Monte Carlo lowrider (episode 39).

Frankenstein creations like the Vette Kart (episode 35), the rat-rod Jeep (episode 15) and Nascarlo (episode 46) are all their own work. I remember that time they tried to supercharge a Chevy Monza Spider (episode 16) with five—count ’em —leaf blowers.

See all 15 photos

You hear a lot about unscripted drama and reality TV these days. But when MotorTrend entered into a joint venture with Discovery Communications, the experienced TV execs who came and kicked the tires on our home-grown shows were stunned to learn Roadkill is basically all automotive improv. Even UK’s Top Gear, for all the fun and the banter, has relied on heavily scripted set pieces since the Clarkson, May, and Hammond days. Roadkill is car guys talking car stuff, live, as it happens.

And that, for me is what makes Roadkill must-see TV.


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Car Reviews

Vehicle theft in the UK surges by 56% in four years

More than 150,000 vehicles were stolen in Great Britain in 2018-19, up from 97,609 in 2014-15

The number vehicles stolen in Great Britain has risen by 56 per cent over the space of four years, new data from police forces has revealed. 

In the 2018/19 financial year, 152,541 motor vehicles were stolen in Great Britain, up from 97,609 in 2014/15, according to figures released from all but three of Great Britain’s police forces.

  • How to avoid keyless car theft

The data, obtained by RAC Insurance under the Freedom of Information Act, concerns all types of motorised vehicle, with increasing incidents of moped and motorcycle theft partly behind the rise. The RAC warned drivers, however, that keyless theft remains a concern, and keys should be kept well away from doors, and in Faraday pouches. 

Kent Police saw the largest increase in the number of stolen vehicles over the four-year period, with 12,550 thefts in 2014/15, and 40,726 in 2018/19. Second was London’s Metropolitan Police, which saw thefts leap from 9,635 to 30,773. West Midlands Police’s numbers, meanwhile, jumped from 5,677 to 10,372.

Suffolk Police recorded the largest percentage increase over the four-year period, up 172 per cent, from 347 to 945. Surrey Police also saw a large rise, with vehicle thefts rising 133 per cent, from 661, to 1,543.

The only three police forces that reported a reduction in the number of vehicle thefts between 2014-15 and 2018-19 were Lincolnshire, City of London and Police Scotland – down by 29, 29 and 473 thefts respectively.

Of the police forces who responded to the FoI request, 32 also saw vehicle theft go up between 2017-18 and 2018-19. Once again, Kent Police saw the largest rise in terms of numbers –  up by 2,575 – followed by Essex and then West Midlands.

Suffolk Police also saw the highest percentage jump over this one-year period, up 44 per cent from 655 to 945. Bedfordshire was second, up 37 per cent, followed by North Wales with 32 per cent.

RAC Insurance spokesperson Simon Williams commented: “While vehicle crime is at far lower levels today than it was in the early 1990s – thanks to improvements in vehicle security – and the number of vehicles licensed to be driven on the UK’s roads is higher than at any point in the past, it’s still concerning that so many more vehicles are being stolen than just a few years ago.”

He added: “Some of the increases in recent years can be put down to a rise in thefts of vehicles that are easier to steal, such as motorbikes and mopeds that are less likely to have immobilisers. Government data also shows that thieves generally use keys to access vehicles in around half of crimes, which suggests perhaps some drivers could do more to keep their keys safe. And in an estimated fifth of cases (18 per cent in 2018), thieves were able to access cars because one or more cars weren’t locked in the first place.”

Does your area suffer from high rates of car theft? Let us know in the comments below…

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'Bruised' Daniel Ricciardo at a loss over FP2 crash

Daniel Ricciardo can’t explain what caused his high-speed crash early in FP2 ahead of the Styrian Grand Prix.

At the penultimate corner of the Red Bull Ring Ricciardo carried too much speed into the fast right curve and completely lost the rear of his Renault before sliding through the gravel and into the tyre barrier.

He was talking to his team over the radio, but took a while to emerge from the wrecked R.S.20.

When he did leave the cockpit, he was seen limping quite heavily towards the medical car.

Due to the heavy impact of the crash, Ricciardo was sent to the medical centre where he was subsequently given the all-clear. However, he was still spotted walking gingerly back to the garage afterwards.

And the Aussie can’t explain what caused him to lose control.

“That first push lap was going quite well up until Turn 9,” he told Autosport.

“It was a mistake. It all happened very quickly so I’m not sure what went wrong.

“I turned in and just lost the car straight away. I know these things happen with cars and in Formula 1, so it’s not out of the ordinary. I’m OK, however, I feel bad for the guys. We’ll just move on.

“The car felt fine this morning, especially towards the end. The second session would have been interesting, so we’ll just have to find out our pace tomorrow or Sunday.”

Big accident for Daniel Ricciardo! 💥

He slides off at Turn 9 and we have a red flag. 🚩

The Aussie is out of the car, but limping.#SkyF1 | #F1 | #AustrianGP 🇦🇹

— Sky Sports F1 (@SkySportsF1) July 10, 2020

Fortunately, Ricciardo said he suffered nothing more than some “bruising” from that heavy impact.

“I hit my knee on the steering column when I came in. So just a bit bruised,” he revealed.

“But they checked it, literally just some bruising. All is good. I am fine but the car was pretty beat up. I feel bad of course for not only my knee but for the boys and the team, but I was trying to understand what went wrong.

“It is one of those that goes so quickly, but yeah, just one of those ones.

“I turned in and just as I turned, there has been a bit of a tailwind we saw that maybe helped me a little bit, with losing the rear but nothing with the car broke so it was obviously just on me.

“Fortunately I don’t do those things too often but today I did, so sorry guys.”

Luckily for Ricciardo, Ciaron Pilbeam, Renault’s chief race engineer, confirmed that “the car will be ready to run again by tomorrow.”

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Williams clarify Toto Wolff investment reports

Williams deputy principal Claire Williams has revealed that Toto Wolff actually retained his shares in the team due to a failed transaction.

Reports stated that the Austrian businessman had purchased a 5% stake in the company at a time where they were actively searching for new investment.

Wolff left Williams to join Mercedes in 2013, at which point he owned a 15% stake, and he was required to sell those shares on.

American businessman Brad Hollinger purchased the last of his shares in 2016 according to reports, but Claire Williams has revealed that actually the transaction for the final 5% of the shares didn’t go through.

“The reports weren’t correct,” she said in the FIA press conference in quotes initially carried by Autosport.

“Toto, as everybody knows, bought a shareholding a long time back now, back in 2009, from Frank [Williams] and Patrick [Head].

“He then obviously subsequently joined Mercedes, and as part of that move, he obviously had to divest his shareholding.

“Brad Hollinger, who is one of our minority shareholders at Williams and a non-exec director, bought the majority of those shares from Toto, but has not completed on that remaining 5%, so they have returned to Toto’s hands.

“Toto has not bought new shares in the business in the recent past or new past. It was just an issue with a transaction.”

Get your hands on the official Williams 2020 collection via the Formula 1 store

Williams prematurely terminated their sponsorship deal with ROKiT at the end of May, which in theory should only increase the financial pressures on the team as they continue to look for new investment or even an outright buyer.

But Claire Williams said the end of that deal has been worked out in the budget and the team are financially secure for the rest of the year.

“We terminated it, yet we fulfilled all of our contractual obligations with ROKiT,” she said.

“Unfortunately it was a fantastic partnership for us at the beginning, and we’re incredibly disappointed that we’re in this situation.

“But it is what it is, and we have to move on, and we have some very clever people at Williams that manage our money.

“We’ve managed to secure the funding in order to keep us racing this year, so that doesn’t change.

“It has no impact on what we are able to do this season, whether that be with regards to the upgrades that we had planned.”

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Sebastian Vettel readjusting to 'different' SF1000

Sebastian Vettel says the SF1000 now feels like a “different car” and is trying to get to grips with it in Austria.

Although Vettel’s team-mate Charles Leclerc was able to finish the season-opener in Austria in P2, it was generally accepted that Ferrari didn’t have the overall pace of teams like Mercedes, Red Bull or even Racing Point ahead.

Upgrades weren’t set to arrive until Round 3 in Hungary, but the team pushed through some new parts for the second round of the season, the Styrian Grand Prix.

And Vettel was looking beyond his lowly P16 finishing position in FP2, saying the SF1000 now feels like a “different car”, forcing him to figure out where its ideal operating “window” is.

“All day it was straight away a different car and then I was just able to get at it,” he said.

“It is not really possible to compare the two because there was such a big difference and now obviously I hope it stays like this.

“If you look at the timing sheet obviously I got the lap deleted and it was not a great day for lap times but I think some people anticipated maybe rain tomorrow and prepared in case it rains for qualifying.

“I think on our side the main thing was to look after the upgrade we brought so step by step we were putting stuff on and it seems to be positive.

“I think we still need to have a look and now find the window where the car is happiest.

“We tried some stuff so we have the usual homework and I tried a lot of stuff on the brakes, still need to get into a better rhythm, especially after the last weekend, but I felt a lot better already.”

Finishing Friday in P9 and P16 respectively #essereFerrari 🔴 #AustrianGP #FP2 #Charles16 #Seb5

— Scuderia Ferrari (@ScuderiaFerrari) July 10, 2020

Leclerc said he had seen positive gains on the “high-fuel” runs, so hoped to see that carry over to the low-fuel runs of qualifying.

“I think we found a few things on high fuel towards the end of the day, the last run especially, so this is positive,” he said.

“Let’s see whether tomorrow, or after tomorrow depending on the weather, if we are able to gain the lap time we gained on high fuel also on low fuel.”

Follow us on Twitter @Planet_F1 and like our Facebook page.

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Car Reviews

The 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum earns a participation trophy

The modern three-row crossover SUV needs to haul a bevy of people in comfort, style, and with the latest technology. The redesigned 2020 Toyota Highlander does all these things, but excels at none of them.

Squaring off against the Hyundai Palisade, Honda Pilot, Volkswagen Atlas, Dodge Durango, and the Kia Telluride, which was The Car Connection’s Best Car To Buy 2020, the Highlander can fall flat on its droopy face.

With a TCC Rating of 7.2 out of 10 the 2020 Toyota Highlander pleases with the best infotainment system offered in a Toyota, solid safety gear, and comfortable seats, but its design is busy, the seats are narrow, and the third row is small.

I spent a week with the 2020 Toyota Highlander in top Platinum trim running errands, making a Costco run, hauling kids, and road tripping to find where it hits and misses. Here’s what I learned.

Hti: Comfy front half

The first two rows of seats were supportive, comfy, and featured an upright seating position. The road-trip worthy seats were firmer, and slightly less fatiguing, than the soft thrones found in a Honda Pilot.

Miss: … but you must be this wide to ride

But at 5’10” with an average build, I felt the seats were as wide as I’d be comfortable. Had I been the 240 pounds I was after those great four years of college the seats might have felt a bit narrow.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum

Hit: Best infotainment yet

It’s as if Toyota’s been listening or something. The Highlander’s 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment interface is the best setup the automaker offers today, though that isn’t a high bar. The screen is crisp, clear, and has a high resolution. The interface is easy-to-use and shames the dated looking tile-based setup found in the Honda Pilot. It mostly lives in a split-screen space with two functions running at once, such as Apple CarPlay and the climate control settings.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum

Miss: … but it’s still compromised

Toyota doesn’t distinguish audio controls for navigation and music. The choice ends up being directions screamed at you by Waze or barely hearing your music. So let’s say you’re driving around rocking out to Neil Diamond and you’re approaching a turn, then Waze interjects as loudly as Diamond, screaming at you to hang a right. A silly workaround that people shouldn’t be required to use is to go into Waze’s settings before plugging in a phone and changing the app’s volume output. Most vehicles on sale today make the audio control specific to the feature being used, so that the navigation on Waze would remain as it was in your phone, and the “Sweet Caroline” would keep rocking out based on the car’s volume setting. In the Highlander, it’s one volume setting, regardless of the source.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum

Hit: It’s what’s on the inside that counts

The 2020 Highlander features an attractive asymmetrical dashboard featuring slim trim and an air vent on the passenger side and controls slightly canted towards the driver with a mix of materials and finishes. Its dashboard makes the Honda Pilot and Volkswagen Atlas look downright boring. The large 12.3-inch touchscreen is reasonably well integrated rather than looking like a tablet that’s been slapped upon the dashboard. Those in cold climate states where gloves are necessary for half the year will appreciate the knobs, buttons, and control switches.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum

Miss: … but cars aren’t people

Mom was right: It’s what’s on the inside that counts. That mostly applies to people. As much as I want cars to be people, the 2020 Toyota Highlander comes off as a dowdy frump. In the front it droops, as if it’s melting in some spots. That might have been good for Dali, but not Toyota. From straight on, the drooping sides look as if it’s frowning; the rear looks as if the tailgate and fenders are melting away from the taillights, and the flare in the rear door gives it a heavy look from a side profile. Its best angle is the front three-quarter view.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum

Hit: I can see

In an era of thick pillars, small windows, and safety sensor arrays mounted near the rearview mirror it’s become hard to see out of cars. The forward vision out of the Highlander is terrific. The A-pillars are thin, the B-pillar don’t obstruct the driver’s view while turning your head, and the hood line is low. Bonus points for the scallop in the center of the hood that mimics what you’ll find on the mighty Land Cruiser.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum

Miss: … where you are going, not where you’ve been

Rear vision is mediocre due to a small rear window and the angle of the D-pillars. The Volkswagen Atlas and Kia Telluride both have larger rear windows and provide better sight lines.

Hit: Room for things

With family vehicles it’s not just about storage, because anyone can create a large cargo hold. It’s the clever storage areas for knick knacks, snacks, and doodads that reflect an automaker’s ability to address its customers’ needs. The Highlander had a terrific shelf under the climate controls to stow a smartphone. The front center armrest didn’t lift up, it slid back to reveal the available wireless smartphone charger. Below it, a massive storage compartment swallowed an electronics case, snack cup, two snack bags of Goldfish, a fruit pouch, four face masks, a small bottle of hand sanitizer, a set of kid’s headphones, and there was room to spare.

2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum

Miss: Mediocre third row

The third row wasn’t really suited for adults, and was somewhat of a punishment for kids. The seat bottom was low and flat, and due to the wheelbase of the Highlander the second-row passenger horse traded for legroom and everyone lost in the end. The Atlas, Telluride, Pilot, and Palisade all feature more comfortable, usable third-row seats.

At $51,112 the 2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum is expensive and the competition is nicer, cheaper, and better at hauling the family. Like a C student it ticks every box expected and needed of a family-oriented three-row crossover SUV with ample storage, decent comfort, and easy-to-use technology. But it fails to stand out, innovate, or lead in a competitive segment of family haulers.
2020 Toyota Highlander Platinum V-6
Base price: $35,720
Price as tested: $51,112
EPA fuel economy: 20/27/23 mpg
The hits: Best Toyota infotainment system yet, comfortable seats (first two rows), handsome interior, great storage cubbies
The misses: Mediocre third row, homely exterior, narrowish seats.

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