Coulthard: Hamilton can win with Mercedes

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Former Formula One driver David Coulthard has given Lewis Hamilton his support for the coming season, believing that his compatriot can succeed with Mercedes.

Hamilton has received some criticism after leaving McLaren for a team with just one race win since their return to the sport in 2010, but former Red Bull driver Coulthard believes the Mercedes racer will still be competitive.

“Yes, of course he can win. That team has wins in its DNA and won the championship in its Brawn guise.

“It will be the making of him as a man and a racer because you do need different experiences and environments to really develop as an individual. He can reset everything going to Mercedes because he is not Lewis the teenager, happy to be there and desperate to be a F1 driver.”

Coulthard also spoke about Hamilton’s reputation in an interview during the BBC’s 2013 F1 launch, comparing it to when he first entered the sport in 2007.

“He is an existing world champion and goes there as such and will build new relationships. They see the Lewis of today rather than the Lewis as a young kid who should be grateful for the opportunity.”

Hamilton has been quick to write off his chances in 2013, believing it would take a year before both he and teammate Nico Rosberg could compete for race wins. However, following an impressive showing in winter testing, Mercedes are favorites to win the first race in Australia. The unpredictable opening Grand Prix could give many teams a chance of winning, and Coulthard was quick to point this out.

“It is always unpredictable in Melbourne. We do get some mixed results there. But that said, it is not a slow car that wins the race.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.