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“Malaysian GP: Vettel re-established in Sepang”

Vettel was victorious in Malaysia. ©FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO

Vettel was victorious in Malaysia. ©FOTO STUDIO COLOMBO

It only took two races for four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to claim his first Ferrari victory, but while an early safety car period played into his hands, this was by no means a lucky score.

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“Grande gara, bella macchina,” came the call. It was a call delivered with renewed energy and passion and one that reached out to a fanbase groomed in red. The Tifosi had not been long in waiting. “Sorry for starting to speak in Italian, but today is such a special day for me. I don’t really know what to say, I am speechless.” Sebastian Vettel had arrived and had done so with confidence and a certain style.

After a year on the fringes, Ferrari appears to have bounced back, following substantial improvements to their power unit in parallel with the restructuring of the technical department and the race team. Yet despite the positive noises made about the SF15-T machine, it is doubtful many expected Vettel could take such an early Grand Prix victory in red.

“It is a great boost for the entire team,” noted the victor. “Ferrari had a horrible year last season, and they got criticised a lot from all sides. A lot of things have changed already, including one driver. And I do hope for the better, and I am very happy to join Ferrari. For sure this is a great day for the team and for myself, and it makes me very proud.”
That Vettel has made his mark already places him in the same category as Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen and Michael Schumacher; all of whom claimed races for the Scuderia very early in their respective times at Maranello.
Indeed once he had assumed the lead at the end of lap four, the German looked in supreme control and even seemed to have the measure of the Mercedes duo Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg in the final stages of the race.

The former Red Bull man needed to get aggressive from the start. As poleman Hamilton romped away in the opening metres, Vettel was forced to defend against the other turquoise-and-silver entry, piloted by Rosberg.
It was close too. On the previous day, Vettel had managed to split the Mercedes pair, but while that was a noteworthy effort by the Ferrari man, it did place Rosberg just shy and to the right of Vettel, albeit on the second row, but as Mercedes Team Principal Toto Wolff correctly pointed out after qualifying, “you get no points on Saturday…”

Post-qualifying, Rosberg already planning ahead. “Two other guys just did a better job, […] but I think I have a good chance tomorrow at the start as I will be on the clean side of the grid. I will try to attack [Vettel] off the line and then there are some good opportunities also to catch Lewis.” Rosberg did attack, but Vettel would defend hard as he squeezed his countryman close to the pitwall and then later the inside kerb through the lingering turn one. With little choice but back out, Rosberg obediently dropped into 3rd place.

And that should realistically have been it – except Marcus Ericsson was slow to get the message on a weekend when Sauber had lost their Melbourne sheen. Having qualified well, the Swede was running 8th when an overly ambitious attempt to pass Nico Hulkenberg into the first turn on lap four went awry, as he explained: “When I tried to pass him down to Turn 1, I went for the move to the outside. I know it is possible to overtake there, but unfortunately I lost the rear, went off and got stuck in the gravel trap…”

With a large lumbering tractor required to pull the stricken Sauber from harm, the safety car was called to neutralise the race and in a moment, the face of the event was altered.
Whereas Vettel stayed on track, the two Mercedes cars – as well as both Williams’, Red Bull’s, McLaren’s and Max Verstappen (Toro Rosso) – stopped for a change of tyre and strategy, promoting Vettel to lead and demoting Hamilton and Rosberg to 6th and 9th respectively.
Vettel: “They pulled in obviously, which I think we were a bit surprised by, but we saw on Friday that they weren’t too happy on the medium compound and Lewis was struggling in the first stint and I was able to keep up with him, which I enjoyed a lot.”

Upon the lap seven restart, Vettel – now trailed by the Force India of Hulkenberg – pulled away and held a 9.9s gap to Hamilton when he eventually climbed back to 2nd on lap ten and the gap stayed more or less like that for much of the running.
Vettel, however, was being kept on his toes throughout. “I knew I had to deliver, trying to make those tyres last and trying to go as fast as I can,” said the victor. “Second stint [Hamilton] was chasing me down, which was tough, so he had a strong second stint. In the end I think I was able to rebalance the car a little more and I was able to have a solid gap the last couple of laps.”

The German eventually made his first stop on lap 17, with Hamilton venturing to the pit for the second time on lap 24; however from this point Mercedes were left with a conundrum – do they leave their leading man on track for the remainder of the 32 laps and risk a large fall-off late on, or do they opt for a third stop.
Come the two-third mark, the decision would be taken away from them – earlier than expected degradation and a raft of traffic forced Mercedes’ hand and Hamilton was called in for a third time on lap 38, just one lap after Vettel completed his second and final stop.

With seventeen laps remaining, Vettel’s lead over Hamilton was just over fourteen seconds, but as the duo slipped through traffic, the German held his nerve and allowed the gap to fall to a manageable 8.56s come the chequered flag.
“It’s not only one childhood dream that becomes true, it seems to be many dreams together,” said Vettel, adding, “It was amazing to look down from the podium and see the mechanics, the engineers, the whole team and listen to the German and Italian anthems. The atmosphere in the team has always been great, but it’s just getting better and better.”

There was no doubt whatsoever that fortune played its part in Vettel’s first Ferrari win, but one must not discount what was a devastatingly excellent drive by a champion out to prove himself again after a difficult 2014.
Almost breathless and dripping with sweat, the relief was clear and present. “I shouldn’t say it but […] I was shitting myself the last couple of laps because here and there the thought was coming to my head, I was looking at the top of the chassis and thinking, ‘this is a red, you’re about to win’ and then I thought, ‘OK, stop thinking that, otherwise you’ll miss the next apex or something.’”

For Sebastian Vettel, the first hurdle has successfully been cleared. Whether Ferrari has the strength to produce this type of performance regularly in an unknown, but the Scuderia are on the March again and Mercedes will be looking over their shoulder from here on in.

“Domenicali: Formula 2 is the next logical step”

New Single Seater Commission President, Stefano Domenicali, has reaffirmed the FIA’s position that Formula 2 should be the next logical step between Formula 3 and Formula 1.

Domenicali took over the position from Gerhard Berger at the end of last year and had made initial moves to the reformation of the F2 category when the new Superlicence points table was unveiled in January.

The controversial table placed the “Future F2” category above the existing stepping-stones, Formula Renault 3.5 and the GP2 Series. Formula 2 previously ran from 2009-2012 and was promoted by Jonathan Palmer’s Motorsport Vision company.

Although mentioned in passing during Berger’s tenure as the Commission President, there was little push to address the gap between F3 and F1, until after the structure around entry-level classes had been addressed.
With the European F3 Championship progressing strongly and Formula 4 emerging in numerous markets, the 49-year-old Domenicali now feels the time is right to begin pursuing the Formula 2 concept. “I am enthusiastic about the task and also about the people working with me in the commission,” he says, adding, “They are very passionate guys, young professionals with a lot of motivation.”

The creation – or recreation – of the F2 category could prove to be a more difficult task for Domenicali the reinvigoration of F3. It is a level of motorsport steeped in politics and big money, whether it GP2’s direct involvement with Formula One Management or FR3.5’s position in the World Series by Renault package.
On the surface, however, there appears to be little desire to press against existing championships – for now at least – but Domenicali is keen continue the restructuring of the ladder to F1. “There is no agenda for us beyond building what we believe to be the best, most competitive, affordable series possible to allow drivers to make the final step and to create a clearly understandable path.”

Yet with a reasonably lengthy stint in one of Formula One’s harshest environments behind him, the Italian will be well used to the fraught adventures that lie ahead, but for now, his goals are assured and simple. “My job is to make sure that my experience and vision of motor sport can influence the work of the commission in order to present to the World Motor Sport Council – and to the world of motor sport – ideas to make sure single-seater racing has a well-structured platform that can enable not only drivers but also young engineers and teams to develop a career and their business.”

The creation of the European F3 Championship and Formula 4 ruffled numerous feathers and brought the doors down on several categories and with GP2 and FR3.5 potentially standing in the way of F2; one can imagine more further positioning and politicking lies ahead.
Domenicali continues, “I believe that from a federation point of view what we want to do is make sure we create the right steps so that from an experience point of view, drivers arrive in F1 well prepared.”

“We know that the context is not easy but this is what we stand for,” says Domenicali, before closing with, “When Jean Todt asked me I said ‘OK, thank you very much, let’s go.’ Now I’m starting to work towards presenting something that can be good for the benefit of motor sport.”
It is a keen time to be a spy on the junior motorsport scene and one can only imagine that fireworks are soon to be at the ready.

“Australian GP: McLaren take stock amidst struggles”

“Button got to race end in Melbourne.” © McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team.

“Button got to race end in Melbourne.” © McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team.

Fans who were so eagerly anticipating the renewed McLaren/Honda love affair should have been aware as to how tricky things might be at the start, but few in their wildest nightmares would have predicted yesterday’s horror show.

The veteran Jenson Button ended the day 11th and last and two laps adrift of the victorious Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes), while substitute teammate Kevin Magnussen never even made the start.

In dreams, it was never supposed to be like this.

Magnussen’s premature end was signalled by a smouldering rear on the dummy run to the grid. With Fernando Alonso returning to that seat for the next race in Malaysia, the Dane’s opportunity to impress came to naught.

Qualifying exposed the shocking lack of pace in the new Honda power unit and MP4-30 chassis, as the silver machines were well over three seconds off the paced in Q1 – and that was before Mercedes really turned up the pace.

Yet despite all the negatives – and there are plenty – the Woking-based team are trying to at least focus on the positives. For a start, Button actually finished! Testing had been such torrid time for the McLaren-Honda combination, with the team only once breaking the century-lap marker over the course of a day, while many of their other attempts to pull consistent runs together were hampered by failures of some sort.

As the dejected Magnussen told the media post-race, “We can take positives from Jenson finishing the race, too – we came here to learn, and that’s what we did. Finishing is a small victory for the team – I don’t think we expected to be able to do that.” While the young Dane acknowledged that good result, it cannot be ignored that Honda needed to turn their engine down just to get this far.

See also:
“Thoughts on McLaren, Honda and Success”

Having reached the end, Button was a little more upbeat, as he found good markers. “Today […] really helps in terms of development: if we’d done three laps, we’d have learned nothing, so we’ve learned a massive amount by completing a race distance,” said the 2009 world champion.
The 34-year-old added, “It was also a good opportunity for me to get used to the car and to play around with it, making adjustments in the cockpit. There’s a lot of work still needed – on power, driveability, downforce and set-up – but we can make big strides. And, by improving one area, it tends to snowball; more and more areas start to improve, too.”

McLaren’s Racing Director, Eric Boullier agreed. “We’re pleased that Jenson’s car was able to finish the race. He drove extremely well, keeping Checo [Sergio Perez, Force India] behind him very adroitly for many laps, and garnering us a great deal of useful data in completing 56 laps.”
Boullier, however, was also keen to press home that much is still to be done on the performance side as well. “[Button] was lapped not once but twice by the race winner […] and we know we have a mountain to climb as far as performance is concerned. Nonetheless, our corner speeds were pretty decent, and there’s definitely untapped potential in MP4-30 that both Honda and ourselves can unlock.”

“The fact that Jenson was able to finish the race was a significant step forward for the whole team,” added Yasuhisa Arai – the senior managing director of Honda R&D – a man under no illusions of McLaren-Honda’s place in the pecking order. “[Yesterday’s] performance clearly displays the task that lies ahead of us to reach our objectives of achieving full competitiveness.”

Button’s battle with former teammate Perez provided some entertainment, with the Mexican attempting at one point to bash his rival out of the way at the 90º turn three early on, although it could be argued that Perez was not quite performing at his best. Despite this, Button continued, “We’re as quick as the Force India’s in the corners,” he said, before noting, “We look similar in speed through the corners to the Red Bull’s and Sauber’s, too.”

The heat of Melbourne has now been cast aside, but the next race in Sepang could prove even more difficult for what is already a difficult situation. Surmising, Button commented, “It’s been a tough winter – our longest run in testing was just 12 laps, so today’s 58-lap run was a good step forward – but we know we’ve got a lot of work to do. But, with all of today’s learning, there are many areas we can improve for the next race.”

It was a point driven home too by Arai. “We now turn our attention to Malaysia – racing in such a hot and humid environment will not be easy, and our main objectives will be to tackle heat-mapping and taking a step forward with a more competitive data setting.”

Even still, McLaren-Honda may be waiting a long time before they can catch the top half of the field, let alone challenge the front.

“...whereas Magnussen didn't even start!” © McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team.

“…whereas Magnussen didn’t even start!” © McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team.

"Boullier (left) knows a tough year is ahead." © McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team.

“Boullier (left) knows a tough year is ahead.” © McLaren-Honda Formula 1 Team.

“Australian GP: Rookies shine under Victorian heat”

"Nasr headed Ricciardo and Raikkonen during the Australian Grand Prix." © Sauber Motorsport AG

“Nasr headed Ricciardo and Raikkonen during the Australian Grand Prix.” © Sauber Motorsport AG

Yesterday was a positive day for Formula One rookies Felipe Nasr, Carlos Sainz and Max Verstappen as the Sauber and Toro Rosso debutants made their presence felt in Melbourne.

Considering their respective weekend’s, it would be unfair to infer that one performed better than the other two.

Whether the uncertainty at Sauber as to who their drivers were to be this weekend; the technical and pitstop ailments that reduced Sainz’s rewards; or the show stopping mechanical failure that halted Verstappen’s run, it is easy to tip one’s hat to the youngsters.

Of the three rookies to actually take the start, Nasr was the least prolific and certainly had much to prove. Following a GP2 Series campaign during which he occasionally appeared lacklustre and distant, Nasr’s announcement with the Sauber squad delivered much money and a multitude of shrugged shoulders. Yet when one considers just how abysmal the Swiss team fared last year, bringing in a reasonably quick driver who perfectly fits a no-frills.

There’s no point denying how difficult the beginning of the weekend was for Sauber. With Giedo van der Garde’s legal team bringing a case against the Ferrari-powered squad, suddenly everything was on hold and it looked for a time that either one of Ericsson or Nasr would not be taking part.
The situation had (temporarily) sorted itself out come Friday afternoon/Saturday morning, leaving both Sauber drivers to catch up, but 11th place in qualifying and a top-five in the race allowed the Brazilian to step from the shadows. “It is such a big relief for the team and myself that we are able to score points, and I am very pleased about this achievement.”

As usual in Australia, some first corner wheel-banging played a part, with Nasr getting hit on the left-rear by Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, which then forced the Sauber into the rear of Pastor Maldonado’s Lotus. “Right after the start it was quite messy in Turn 1, as another driver hit my wheel. I thought the car was damaged a bit, but after a few laps I noticed everything was fine.”
Thereafter, Nasr held his cool and spent much of the event keeping the likes Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) and Raikkonen behind, to eventually take the flag as the last man on the lead lap. “There was pressure from behind during the whole race, which was not easy. That was an emotional race for me and everyone in the team.”
Sauber’s Head of Track Engineering, Giampaolo Dall’Ara added: “With Felipe we stuck to the original strategy we had planned for him. I have to say that he did an excellent job making up places and keeping Daniel Ricciardo behind him. He drove a fantastic race all the way. Reaching P5 in his first Formula One race was an outstanding achievement.”

Over at Toro Rosso, Sainz came into the race with little fanfare – and it was probably for the best. With cameras swirling around the legal mess at Sauber and Sainz’s own youthful teammate Verstappen, the Spaniard was able to simply get on with the job and he did it excellent.
On paper, 9th place may not seem extraordinary; however technical issues during the race conspired against Sainz, depriving him of additional scores, as chief race engineer Phil Charles explains. “We know we could have done much better. What could have been quite a good day has been unfortunately let down by a few problems on the team side which have cost us quite dearly.”

It started to unravel after the restart following an early virtual safety car period, that dropped Sainz from 5th to 7th behind Nasr and Ricciardo. “With Carlos, a software setting issue after the safety car cost him two places,” noted Charles, but there were more ills to come. A stuck wheel during the pitstop cost Sainz approximately thirty seconds, while an additional software issue late on caused the 20-year-old to lose even more time.
“The slow pit-stop was a tough moment for the whole team, as we were in a very good position and lost quite a lot of time. From then onwards the race changed and it was just a matter of bringing it home without problems,” commented the reigning Formula Renault 3.5 champion.

Despite these issues, Sainz was satisfied with his efforts, but realises there is more to come. “I’m very pleased to have scored my first ever Formula One points in my debut race here in Melbourne! Obviously, we know there was much more potential than a P9 today but, all in all, if we take into account everything that happened, we need to stay positive, keep improving and believing in ourselves because we know we can do better.”

Alas the 17-year-old Verstappen – in the other Toro Rosso – did not make it to the chequered flag due to a power unit failure in his Renault-machine not long after the halfway mark. In light of a disappointing finish Verstappen was rather circumspect. “A disappointing way to end my first ever Formula 1 race, but there have also been many positives along the way this weekend.”

Until that point, the Dutch teenager had impressed. Beginning on medium tyres, Verstappen settled on a pace in the early-1’35s, which dropped to the mid-1’34s as tyre wear and lessening fuel became factors. “I had a good first run on the mediums; a lot of people around me were on softs and I was still able to stay quite close to them.” While those who started on softs wore through the Pirelli’s sooner and (mostly) pitted between laps 21-26, Verstappen maintained an impressive consistency and rose as high as 6th before stopped for is own set of softs on lap 32.

Unfortunately within a tour the power unit had breathed its last and Verstappen’s day was done. “As soon as I re-joined the race after my pit-stop I saw smoke, so I reported that to the pit-wall and they asked me to stop the car. It’s a real shame, because I was feeling good, the car was working well and if I had been able to stay on track I think we would’ve finished in the points.”

If nothing else, this trio are on the road to proving their worth in the top level of the sport. They each have long roads ahead of them, but they have started very well indeed.

"Sainz made a confident, if understated start." © Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

“Sainz made a confident, if understated start.” © Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

"Verstappen impressed as the youngest debutante." © Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

“Verstappen impressed as the youngest debutante.” © Getty Images/Red Bull Content Pool

“Australian GP: Hamilton and Mercedes dominate in Melbourne”

Hamilton stretched his legs ahead of Rosberg. © MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.

Hamilton stretched his legs ahead of Rosberg. © MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.

When a sponsor pays huge amounts for their name / logo / brand to appear on the side of a car, there usually some expectation – or at least hope – that it will appear repeatedly throughout broadcasts across the globe.

This is usually tougher for sponsors paired with teams at the back of the field, or even worse – the midfield, where even the latter cannot get exposure due to not being at front, but not getting lapped either.

Of course there is far more to sponsorship activation today than that, but it still plays a part in the process. So much of modern day sponsorship in international sport is about business-to-business dealings, as opposed to simply plotting images on a screen.

That would just be nonsense.

This morning, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg utterly dominated the Australian Grand Prix – the first Formula One race of the 2015 season – with the former taking the top spot and looking reasonably untroubled throughout.
It was a reminder that just because one is fastest during the Friday practice sessions, that is not necessarily going to translate where it really matters. It was also a reminder that domination at the front will lead to broadcast directors giving attention to other battles on track.

While Rosberg appeared to get close to the rear of the reigning champion from time-to-time, Hamilton rarely ever looked threatened. If anything, the double-world champion probably enjoyed one of the most understated victories of his career.
His praise post-race was, naturally, saved for the efforts of his team. “It’s quite unbelievable, really, what this team has done. It’s a great feeling to start off the season the way we finished the last and the car is just incredible.”

From the start, Hamilton was never troubled and held an easy lead into turn one, while Rosberg tentatively kept his works machine ahead of the squabbling pack – led by Felipe Massa’s Williams – upon corner entry. There was chaos behind as a Ferrari (Kimi Raikkonen) sideswiped another Ferrari (Sebastian Vettel) who touched a Sauber (Felipe Nasr) who clattered a Lotus (Pastor Maldonado) who was introduced to a wall (concrete). Virtual safety car.

Following the brief neutralisation, Hamilton again led away, although he was helped to build a sizeable gap into turn one by a sleepwalking Rosberg. The Briton pushed on and built a solid gap to Rosberg and was at one point over four seconds ahead of his German teammate / rival (delete where appropriate).

The victor tried to press home the win was not all easy. “It was still a tough race, though, as Nico was very quick throughout. It was about managing fuel and also the tyres – trying to see how long we could push them.”
That was all Hamilton had to do to a degree. By keeping some air between himself and Rosberg, Hamilton controlled the race, knowing too that there was little to push beyond the realms of necessity. Rosberg did close in at various times, but Hamilton merely turned up the wick – just enough – to solidify his position. He added, “Once I’d built a two second gap it was about maintaining it. But when Nico turned up the heat it was tough. He drove really well and it’s a great result for the team to start the season with a 1-2.”

Despite this, the Mercedes pair finished nearly half-a-minute ahead of the 3rd place Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari). Now that’s domination.
Hamilton was also happy to see Ferrari back on the pace and the 30-year-old acknowledges that a resurgence from the Scuderia could do much to add an extra dimension to the season. “It’s good to see Ferrari back up here on the podium. I think they have taken a big step, so I anticipate a good fight with them this year at some point and we can’t back off.”

Indeed Ferrari’s step up also was also noticed by Mercedes F1 boss Toto Wolff. “Ferrari have bounced back strongly, too, and it’s good to have them back in the game – they have everything they need and they will be coming closer.” Just as long as they do not get close enough…

During the race, Rosberg was informed to cool things down as he was using too much fuel, which added yet another nail to chances of victory in Melbourne. It was a feature commonly seen last witnessed and a deficiency that Rosberg has yet to eliminate.
Naturally there are those who will scream and shout about team orders – tin foil hats not only go cheap nowadays, they also come in different sizes – but the reality is probably closer to Rosberg’s general higher use of fuel compared to Hamilton.

However the German feels his race was lost not on Sunday, but during Saturday. “Yesterday after Qualifying I was already on the back foot and that’s difficult to change in a race against Lewis. I need to have a better Saturday, which I was able to do last year.”
In a way, it goes further than that. Hamilton’s advantage from the start and in the race gave him first say over pit strategy, with the Englishman taking new tyres on lap 25, shuffling Rosberg’s stop to one tour later. The season is still in its infancy and with nineteen Grand Prix still to run, Rosberg is already looking ahead. “It’s still a long season with lots of races to go. I want to strike back in Malaysia, so that’s the focus.”

And so, Mercedes traipsed almost unseen to an astonishing 1-2 finish; their 43rd victory in all championship competition if one allows the author to go back as far as July 1935 and Rudolf Caracciola’s win at Spa-Francorchamps in the W25B machine – that was a 1-2 finish as well.

The aforementioned sponsors and their associates who fret in marketing might just care about that statistic though, but television coverage? Maybe, just maybe the Mercedes were simply too quick for the cameras.

Rosberg (left) congratulates Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.

Rosberg (left) congratulates Hamilton. © MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.

Toto Wolff was certainly pleased with the result. © MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.

Toto Wolff was certainly pleased with the result. © MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS.

“DTM unveil new weekend structure details”

Photo: ‘Wittmann will be the defending DTM champion in 2015. © ITR / DTM Media Services.

Photo: ‘Wittmann will be the defending DTM champion in 2015. © ITR / DTM Media Services.

The DTM this week announced further details as to the restructure of its race weekends for the coming season.

The German touring car series revealed recently that it was to switch to a two-race-per-weekend schedule, but could not confirm how the format would play out, until now.

From the knock-out qualifying of previous seasons, the series has taken the decision to place two 20-minute qualifying sessions per weekend, allowing both grids to form in a natural manner; however, both races are to follow a rather different path.

Saturday’s event will last 40 minutes plus one lap, but changing tyres will be optional. This was determined to open up potential strategy options, with those stretching tyre life placing themselves against those who opt for pitstops and the faster lap times that come with fresher tyres, although the strategic thinking will also need to weigh up time lost sitting in the pits.

Sunday’s race is to be a 60-minute plus one lap affair, with a tyre change mandatory for all runners through the duration.
ITR Chairman Hans Werner Aufrecht commented, “With two championship rounds per weekend we provide the spectators twice as much of the things that count: more door-to-door battles, more thrilling decisions, and more fascinating motor racing. And we are convinced that the differing race formats will make for entertaining and thrilling races.”

Both races are to be weighted with full championship points. The season begins at the Hockenheimring at the beginning of May and will once again be supported for the most part by the FIA European Formula 3 Championship.

“GP2 Series: Gasly, Lynn and Stanaway head first test”

Stanaway was quickest over the three days in Abu Dhabi. © GP2 Series Media Services

Stanaway was quickest over the three days in Abu Dhabi. © GP2 Series Media Services

DAMS duo Pierre Gasly and Alex Lynn headed days one and two of the first GP2 Series pre-season test in Abu Dhabi, with Status GP’s Richie Stanaway quickest on day three.

Gasly took the top spot just prior to the chequered flag on day one at the Yas Marina circuit, following a brief toe-to-toe on the timesheets with Arthur Pic (Campos).

The Frenchman initially headed the scoreboard with a 1:49.089s not long after a brief red flag stoppage caused when Carlin’s Julian Leal stopped out on track; however an improvement from Pic encouraged the Red Bull junior to go quicker still, with Gasly settling on a 1:48.897s come the close of day.
Racing Engineering’s Alexander Rossi was fastest in the morning, albeit on what can best be described as a very green track and blustery conditions. Marlon Stöckinger (status GP) also caused a brief stoppage when he ground to a halt at turn five not long before lunch.

A fast time in the morning session was enough to keep Lynn ahead for the entirety of day two. The reigning GP3 Series champion – and Williams Formula One reserve – set his best on super-softs as the clocked ticked toward lunch. For the most part, it was day where the combatants completed longer runs and race stints; however that did not stop the occasionally qualifying run, as conditions reached the optimum at the height of the day. Gasly featured again, as the Frenchman made it a DAMS 1-2, courtesy of a low-fuel super-soft tyre run.
There were a couple of red flag periods during the day when Rio Haryanto (Campos) and Norman Nato (Arden) caused stoppages; however Nato recovered to top the afternoon session on super-softs.

Richie Stanaway turned the quickest time on the final day of testing with a 1:48.441s, as times returned to their day one marker. There was a ginger fight for the top spot on super-softs, with Evans, Raffaele Marciello (Trident) and Stoffel Vandoorne (ART GP) swapping quick times, only for the trio to be demoted by Stanaway and the persistent Gasly.
Sergey Sirotkin found some speed to head the slower afternoon session; however the series of red flags in the afternoon peppered the running with interruptions. RUSSIAN TIME duo Artem Markelov (twice) and Mitch Evans brought out brief red flags, as did Zoël Amberg (Venezuela GP Lazarus); however the biggest incident was courtesy of Rossi, who clattered the barrier lightly at turn eight.

The teams also used the time to test the championship’s new DRS, which is being introduced to the GP2 Series this year. The system will operate in the same way as in Formula One, with drivers behind obtaining an advantage at certain sectors of the track should they be within one second of the car ahead.

“Meanwhile, at school…”

Last year's winners of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy with Adrian Newey. © Infiniti EMEA

Last year’s winners of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy with Adrian Newey. © Infiniti EMEA

Following on from its successful inauguration last year, American motor brand Infiniti has launched the second edition of the Infiniti Performance Engineering Academy.

Open to university students across Europe, the academy purports to offer successful applicants an opportunity of a lifetime to work with championship winning Formula One team Red Bull Racing.

Having uncovered three successful candidates from last year’s opening programme, Infiniti have decided to expand the number of places on offer to five, according to Infiniti EMEA Vice President Francois Goupil de Bouille. “This year, we are taking it a step further by increasing the number of global places to five and guaranteeing at least one place goes to a student from Europe,” said de Bouille, adding “In an industry that is notoriously difficult to get into, this is an unprecedented chance for talented young engineers.”

After initial assessments, the top rated applicant from Europe will receive a twelve-month fully paid internship with Red Bull Racing and Infiniti’s European Technical Centre.
A similar prize for applicants from Saudi Arabia, Russia, China and the United States will also be awarded with an internship programme, bringing the victors into key road car projects, and with the race team in various areas of engineering.

Roles on offer include vehicle dynamics, design, aerodynamics and electronics, with a view to ensuring applicants become exposed to the technical crossover, especially with regards to hybrid technology.

Adrian Newey explained further. “We’re looking for engineers who are technically very strong, but they need to excel in other areas too. Whether you’re designing and building road cars, or working in Formula One, the ability to think laterally, creatively and operate seamlessly within a team are crucial. It will be tough and they will be expected to work, but the rewards are high.”

For more information, visit academy.infiniti.com

“F1: Merhi joins Manor Marussia for opening rounds”

Merhi took 3 wins on his return to single-seaters. © Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI / Renault Sport Media.

Merhi took 3 wins on his return to single-seaters. © Jean Michel Le Meur / DPPI / Renault Sport Media.

Former DTM racer Roberto Merhi has been announced as the second driver with the Manor Marussia F1 team today.

The Spaniard is set to contest at least the opening rounds of the season, making his Formula One debut at Melbourne this weekend, although it is unknown at this stage how many Grand Prix he will enter.

PROFILE
Drivers of 2014: Roberto Merhi

Merhi ran in three FP1 sessions with Caterham toward the end of last season, before the Leafield team collapsed.
He said, “I am incredibly excited to be making my Formula 1 debut with Manor Marussia F1 Team in Melbourne this weekend. It is a big responsibility but I feel ready to make this step in my career and to show that I can make an important contribution to developing a team.”

After finishing 3rd in the Formula Renault 3.5 series last season, the 23-year-old has also been signed by the Pons Racing team, as he looks to contest that series on a full-time basis. However it is understood that should a sponsor arrive to take Merhi beyond those first few races, he will push to remain in Formula One.

FEATURE
“Roberto Merhi: A Racer Reborn”

Merhi enjoyed several years in single-seaters prior to a two-year stint in DTM with Mercedes, and although he scored a Mercedes-powered championship victory in the Formula 3 Euro Series in 2011, his time in touring cars brought precious few rewards.
A move to FR3.5 in 2014 reinvigorated Merhi’s single-seater career, with the then Zeta Corse racer challenging eventual champion Carlos Sainz Jr for the title up until the final weekend.

Merhi will partner the already signed Will Stevens; another graduate from FR3.5’s 2014 campaign.

“F1: Alonso withdrawn from season opener”

Alonso will not be racing in Australia. © McLaren-Honda F1 team / Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic.

Alonso will not be racing in Australia. © McLaren-Honda F1 team / Sam Bloxham/LAT Photographic.

McLaren Honda racer Fernando Alonso has been withdrawn from the season opening Australian Grand Prix following his test crash in Barcelona nine days ago.

The Spaniard suffered a concussion amidst an off at the quick turn three at the Catalan circuit on February 22nd, quickly taking him out of the rest of pre-season testing.

An update released today by the McLaren team confirmed that while he has been cleared of all injuries, Alonso’s personal doctors have advised that he should “limit as far as is possible any environmental risk factors that could potentially result in his sustaining another concussion so soon after his previous one.”
As such, the 33-year-old has been withdrawn from the Australian Grand Prix and replaced by reserve driver Kevin Magnussen.

It is a sensible suggestion from Alonso’s medical team, who are keen to avoid the possibility of ‘second impact syndrome’, which in many circumstances can lead to either permanent brain damage or even death.
The subject of ‘second impact syndrome’ is one that is now being taken very seriously across the sporting land, whether it American Football, boxing, motorsport, football or any other professional activity.

The double-world champion has already begun physical training to facilitate his return and it is anticipated that Alonso will compete at the Malaysian Grand Prix at the end of this month.

For those with satellites attached to their heads, it appears there is still no conspiracy here.

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