Marussia plan to increase lead over Caterham

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Marussia are bringing upgrades for their MR02 this weekend which should put them further ahead of closest rivals Caterham.

“While we would not call the upgrades we have for this race comprehensive, they are still significant,” said team principal John Booth.

“We will be running some new suspension parts that we proved out in testing but delayed until we had some further race distance experience with the MR02. We also have some new front and rear brake ducts.”

Booth added the team will make a “bigger push” on development once the series returns to Europe at the Spanish Grand Prix in May.

Marussia finished behind Caterham in the championship last year but have been ahead of their rivals since the series began.

Caterham have previously said the next major step on their CT03 will also come once the ‘European season’ begins. Charles Pic is hoping set-up improvements for this weekend’s race will give him a better car:

“On Friday and Saturday morning we’ll also be working on several performance areas that the team has been looking at since Malaysia, particularly around dialing out the understeer issues I had in Australia and Malaysia. We have a few setup options to try to help with that, and some ideas we’re going to look at with Pirelli so I’m sure we can make good progress on that.”

However he will miss the first practice session on Friday as local driver Ma Qing Hua makes a one-off appearance at the wheel of the Caterham.

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.