Button wary of Mercedes’ pace

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2009 Formula One world champion Jenson Button has labelled Mercedes as being one of the most impressive teams during the final pre-season test in Barcelona.

Like many drivers, Button is trying to work out the pecking order heading to the first race in Australia in two weeks time, and despite struggling to make sense of the timesheets, he did praise Mercedes’ pace in front of the media.

“I really don’t know who is quick and who isn’t. I’d say that one team that has been consistently quick and consistent on their runs is the Mercedes more than anyone else.”

Following three disappointing seasons since returning to Formula One in 2010, Mercedes have made significant changes for the coming season. Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher has made way for British driver Lewis Hamilton, and F1 stalwart Norbert Haug also left the team’s backroom staff.

McLaren also enter 2013 amid a wave of change following Hamilton’s departure, as well as the exit of Paddy Lowe from their F1 setup. Regardless, Button believes that the team is heading in the right direction.

“I’m happy with the progress we made today.

“I still feel there’s so much more we need to do before the first race, so I’ll be watching closely tomorrow.”

Button went on to underline the importance of track time in the pre-season test, which has been made difficult by the tricky weather conditions in Barcelona.

“We need to get a lot of laps done and that’s because we need to spend a lot of time on the circuit to understand the car a bit more and also just developing the car. Dry weather for two days and circuit temperatures in the twenties, thirties is what we need because I haven’t driven in that condition since Jerez.”

Sergio Perez will have his final run in the MP4-28 tomorrow ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, before Button closes out the test on Sunday.

Williams to wait until new year before making 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams will wait until the new year before making an announcement regarding its Formula 1 driver line-up for the 2018 season.

Williams holds the final vacant seat in F1 for next year, with Felipe Massa retiring at the last race of the 2017 season in Abu Dhabi at the end of November.

The Brazilian’s departure has opened up a seat alongside Lance Stroll for 2018, which looked poised to be taken by Robert Kubica, over seven years after he last raced in F1 before injuries sustained in a rally accident appeared to cut his career short.

Doubts emerged about Kubica’s comeback following a test with Williams in its 2017-spec car in Abu Dhabi after the final race of the season, leading to Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin becoming the favorite.

Besides Kubica and Sirotkin, ditched Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also an option, but Williams has now confirmed it will make no decision on its line-up until the new year.

Sirotkin first entered the frame in F1 in 2013 when he became a development driver at Sauber, with Russian backers SMP Racing pushing to get him a race seat for the following year.

Sirotkin missed out on a full-time role at the team, leading him to focus on racing in Formula Renault 3.5 for 2014 before spending two years in GP2, where he finished third in the standings in both seasons.

Renault struck an agreement to sign Sirotkin in a junior role in 2016, leading to a number of practice run-outs over the last two seasons, but he was passed over for a 2018 race seat when it signed Carlos Sainz Jr.

Williams emerged as an option for Sirotkin following a successful maiden test with the team in Abu Dhabi alongside Kubica, with talks now set to continue over the holiday period.

Sirotkin has not taken on a full-time race program this year, making just a single competitive appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing in the LMP2 class.

Sirotkin has also been involved in the development of the team’s BR Engineering-designed LMP1 car for the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship season, and is likely to secure a seat should he miss out on the role at Williams.