Heikki Kovalainen won’t be the only new driver in Friday free practice one for the Bahrain Grand Prix. Marussia reserve driver Rodolfo Gonzalez will also make his first appearance for the team, replacing Jules Bianchi.
It’s the 26-year-old Venezuelan’s first drive on a Grand Prix weekend.
“I love this circuit; it will be quite dusty in FP1 but it’s also good fun and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can achieve,” he said. “I would like to thank the team for their faith in me. They have made me feel so welcome and have bent over backwards to involve me in every aspect of the racing.”
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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.
SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.
Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.
The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.
SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.
Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.