Sebastian Vettel

F1 Primer: The drivers

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The Formula One world championship is contested by 22 of the best drivers from around the world.

The champions

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel (Germany) is shooting for a four consecutive drivers’ championship title, which has only been done twice before in the sport’s 63-year history.

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Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso (Spain) is among those trying to stop him. Since winning the 2005 and 2006 titles Alonso has come within a whisker of three more championships in 2007, 2010 and 2012.

Lewis Hamilton has turned his back on the McLaren team which propelled him into F1 and to the 2008 title, and taken over from Schumacher at Mercedes. Fellow Briton Jenson Button, Hamilton’s successor as champion in 2009, remains at McLaren.

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And finally there’s Lotus’s enigmatic Kimi Raikkonen (Finland) who won last year on his return from a two-year lay-off which included rally and NASCAR appearances.

Race winners

Mark Webber (Australia) and Felipe Massa (Brazil) have the unenviable task of partnering two of F1’s top talents, Vettel and Alonso respectively.

Nico Rosberg (Germany) and Pastor Maldonado (Venezuela) scored their breakthrough Grand Prix victories last year. Rosberg, son of 1982 world champion Keke, is yet to establish himself as a regular front-runner, and faces a stern challenge from Hamilton this year.

Maldonado’s win was one of few high points in a season which saw too many incidents. The same can be said of Romain Grosjean (France), who was quick but too incident-prone in 2012.

Up-and-comers

One of the most interesting storylines ahead of the 2013 season is how Sergio Perez (Mexico) will fare having been promoted to McLaren in Hamilton’s place.

Another one to watch is Nico Hulkenberg (Germany), who led 30 laps of last year’s season finale in an unfancied Force India. He’s moved to Sauber, and is tipped as a future Ferrari driver.

His fellow German Adrian Sutil returns to F1 following a one-year absence. He is reunited at Force India with 2011 team mate Paul di Resta (Britain), which promises to be an absorbing intra-team battle.

Red Bull junior drivers Jean-Eric Vergne (France) and Daniel Ricciardo (Australia) remain at their junior team Toro Rosso for a second year, bidding for a chance to join the senior team. Sophomore driver Charles Pic (France) moves from Marussia to tail-end rivals Caterham.

Rookies

Five new drivers arrive in the sport this year. You can read more about them in this earlier article:

F1 Primer

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.

Mario Andretti: 21-race calendar no bad thing for F1

FONTANA, CA - AUGUST 29:  Racing legend Mario Andretti during qualifying for the Verizon IndyCar Series MAVTV 500 IndyCar World Championship Race at the Auto Club Speedway on August 29, 2014 in Fontana, California.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images)
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1978 Formula 1 world champion Mario Andretti believes that having a 21-race calendar is no bad thing for the series as it caters to the demand for grands prix around the world.

The 2016 schedule is set to be the longest yet, featuring 21 races after the return of the German Grand Prix and the addition of the European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan.

Such a packed calendar has been met with mixed responses by the F1 community, with some expressing concern over the lack of breaks between races.

FIA president Jean Todt said in January that a 21-race calendar should be seen as a “privilege” by those in F1, and Andretti echoed his comments when speaking to El Pais.

“It does represent an extra burden for the teams, but they must also appreciate that it provides greater exposure to the brands,” Andretti said.

“It is a wonderful opportunity for F1 because you have an incredible demand and 21 occasions to showcase the sport.

“Plus the drivers are willing to run more races, so that calendar’s not a bad thing in my opinion.”

Andretti also spoke of the need to safeguard the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas, which remains subject to confirmation for 2016 amid concerns about its financial stability.

“After all the investments that were made on this fantastic venue, all people involved need to make sure we have a grand prix,” he said.

“I think F1 needs the US and vice versa. When you look at the sponsors in every team, you see that all of them are global and most do business in America.

“It is believed that the Mexico race has taken some of the spectators away, but as time goes by, both events will help each other because people are keen to see F1.”