A look at the stories making headlines during Formula One’s offseason period.

The ongoing bushfires in Australia have rallied international support and triggered a huge fundraising effort. A state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales and a state of disaster is in place in Victoria.

Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo is among a number of prominent Australian athletes to donate to a variety of charities. Ricciardo will also auction off the race suit he will wear at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 14 to raise money for the cause.

Elsewhere in racing, two-time world champion Fernando Alonso is continuing on with his debut at the Dakar Rally. The Spaniard started the 7,200km race on Jan. 5th.

Alonso had an incident-free opening day but hit trouble during the second stage after an impact with a rock forced his Toyota Hilux to stop on Monday. The car has suffered wheel and suspension damage in the incident and the resulting wait for repairs is likely to ruin Alonso’s hopes of scoring a standout finish on his debut with co-driver Marc Coma.

The rally continues until Jan.17 after 12 stages of competition.

Max Verstappen says Red Bull has built the foundations required to launch a championship challenge.

In an article on Motorsport.com, Verstappen is quoted as saying: “I think so. I think we are in the right direction. There’s no question about that.

“Now, it’s just about how much development we can push through for next year. I more or less know, I just hope it’s going to be enough.

“Next year, there are no real changes in the regulations anyway, so you can just build on what you have now. And with a second year working with Honda, I think that should help.

“We massively improved the performance of the engine. I think we know where we have to improve on, we’ve already improved on the car.”

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