Sebastian Vettel

The mystery of Red Bull’s testing pace

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Are Red Bull in trouble or just keeping their cards close to their chest?

Their quickest time over the combined eight days of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya ranked seventh-quickest of the eleven teams. Just Williams, Caterham, Marussia and Toro Rosso were slower.

Red Bull usually play a cagey game in testing and this year they took that to even greater lengths. Three consecutive championship doubles mean their rivals scrutinize every move they make, especially at this critical time of the season.

When the RB9 ventured out onto the track in Spain the Red Bull mechanics awaited its return with screen and barriers to keep the photographers back. Mechanics jostled to keep lenses from getting a clear view of the car.

The team gave away little on the track. There were no headline-grabbing runs for fastest time. But in trying not to reveal too much about their car, did they create problems for themselves?

Sebastian Vettel admitted the team hadn’t got what it wanted out of last week’s two days of dry running: “I think it’s extremely difficult to pinpoint the exact area [we need to improve] as the tires are not consistent enough.”

But to a man those who watched the RB9s on the track reported they looked stable and swift. It did not look like a slow car, just one that was carrying a lot of fuel. And a full tank at this track carries a lap time penalty of up to five seconds.

So will Red Bull’s 2.4s gap to Nico Rosberg’s 1’20.130 flyer on Sunday be the cause for sleepless nights in Milton Keynes? Don’t count on it. As Vettel made clear: “Where we are now on the time sheet is not that important.”

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic. Follow F1 Fanatic on Twitter.

Status targets 2016 GP2 title after GP3 exit

2015 GP2 Series Round 8.
Autodromo di Monza, Italy.
Sunday 6 September 2015.
Marlon Stockinger (PHL, Status Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C2088
© GP2 Series
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Status Grand Prix has set its sights on winning the 2016 GP2 Series championship following its decision to close down its GP3 team at the end of the current season.

Earlier this week, GP3 issued a statement confirming its team roster for the next three seasons that featured new entries from DAMS and Virtuosi Racing.

However, both Carlin and Status did not appear on the list, signalling that both had opted to leave GP3 at the end of 2015.

Status first entered GP3 back in 2010, but only set up a GP2 team in 2015 after taking over the old Caterham Racing operation.

This will now become the main focus for the Irish outfit, though, as explained by team boss Teddy Yip Jr. earlier this week.

“Status Grand Prix has not renewed entry into the GP3 Series from 2016 onwards in order to maximize focus on our GP2 campaign,” Yip said.

“Having finished second in the team championship in the inaugural GP3 Series, we have enjoyed six successful years in the category collecting nine race wins, 26 podium finishes and vying for numerous team and driver titles.

“We are very proud to have given opportunities and achieved success with drivers such as Robert Wickens, Antonio Felix da Costa, Alexander Sims and our current GP2 race winner, Richie Stanaway.

“We now look forward to finishing the 2015 GP2 and GP3 seasons on a high before mounting a robust GP2 title campaign in 2016.”

Both GP2 and GP3 return from a one-month break next weekend in support of the Formula 1 Russian Grand Prix.

Hakkinen: Verstappen is already “a real pro”

during a media interview at the Shanghai Grand Theatre prior to the 2015 Laureus World Sports Awards on April 15, 2015 in Shanghai, China.
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Two-time Formula 1 world champion Mika Hakkinen has heaped praise upon Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen, supporting his decision to ignore team orders during last month’s Singapore Grand Prix.

Verstappen only turned 18 on Wednesday, but has already made a big impression on the F1 world during his first 14 races with his aggressive driving style and mature approach to racing.

In Singapore, Verstappen was told by Toro Rosso to let faster teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. go past, but refused to give up his position and eventually beat the Spaniard to finish eighth.

Writing in his Hermes blog, Hakkinen backed Verstappen’s decision to stay ahead and praised the Dutchman for his performances so far this season.

“A driver must be alert and keep track of what is happening around him at all times,” Hakkinen wrote. “That’s what Verstappen is. He does not simply let anyone pass if it’s not for the world championship, but only a few championship points.

“Verstappen is 18 years old, but the guy’s already a real pro. Young people are developing incredibly fast nowadays, and by that I don’t mean just drivers.”

Despite having more than half a season of F1 racing under his belt, Verstappen only gained his road driver’s license on his 18th birthday, having previously been under the age limit to drive a regular car in public.