The start of the European season in Formula One also frequently marks the start of the in-season developmental arms race, where updates begin popping up throughout the paddock.
Sauber will be among those bringing a different element to Barcelona next week. Head of track engineering Tom McCullough confirmed a revised rear wing will make its debut on the C32, as the team looks to improve the car’s rear end stability.
“We have some further aero updates, including a modified rear wing, and we will be evaluating these during Friday practice,” he said. “Qualifying is particularly important here as overtaking can be difficult in the race.”
Rookie Esteban Gutierrez needs a big weekend at the Circuit de Catalunya, as team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has told him to raise his game.
“The first time I raced in Barcelona was in 2008,” Gutierrez said. “I know the track and during the winter tests I was also able to experience driving a Formula One car there. As the first of a series of European races, I think it is going to be an exciting event and I’m looking forward to that.”
Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.
The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.
“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.
Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”
Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.
“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.
Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.