Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn says improving the balance of their car is the key to improving their performance in this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg lined up third and sixth for last week’s race in Australian but slipped back during the race.
“The first race of the season provided some very encouraging signs for the team,” said Brawn. “Our car performed well and seemed to be competitive in all of the conditions that the Melbourne weather gave us.”
“However, we didn’t quite find the correct balance for the race which compromised our ability to maximize the starting positions of Lewis and Nico. With the second race in Malaysia following this weekend, we’re looking forward to the opportunity to put that right.”
Hamilton was on a two-stop strategy during the race but had to switch to a three-stop plan after damaging one set of tires while battling with Fernando Alonso. Hamilton finished fifth, while Rosberg retired with an electrical problem.
Executive director Toto Wolff identified reliability as an area the team also need to make progress on after other problems with the W04 during testing:
“Our car showed some good potential at times in Australia and both Lewis and Nico performed strongly in all conditions. So our engineering focus is on improving the base performance and correcting our weaknesses, especially in terms of reliability.”
Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.
“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”
The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.
“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”
Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.