Williams write off Malaysian GP chances

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Despite Pastor Maldonado stating yesterday that Williams were close to finding the solution to the FW35’s problems, the team have failed to make any progress with the car during practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix.

“We haven’t made the progress we had hoped for today,” explained technical director Mike Coughlan. “We need to look at the data we have from both sessions to maximize the package we have. We will then head straight back to the factory to work on some improvements ahead of Shanghai.”

The decision to write off their chances even before qualifying comes after a woeful performance in practice. In the second session, Maldonado could only finish 16th, whilst teammate Valtteri Bottas finished down in 19th behind the Marussia of Jules Bianchi. Although his technical director has little hope for the rest of the weekend, Maldonado is adamant he will keep pushing.

“We didn’t have the pace today unfortunately. We need to analyse the data tonight to see what we can do.

“We have a lot of work to do but we’ll be pushing hard to see what we can achieve tomorrow.”

Bottas, who finished in 14th place on debut in Australia, also acknowledged the need to improve if he is to vindicate his credentials as the new ‘Flying Finn’.

“We hope to find some improvements, but we know we still have a lot of work to do to close the gap.”

Williams will be disappointed with the FW35 after having a strong season in 2012, as they took their first victory in over seven years. They appear to have made a backward step, but if rain does fall in Malaysia, the British-based team could yet score some points this weekend.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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