Three teams poised to change engine supplier for 2014

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Three teams appear to be one step closer to signing new engine contracts for next season, according to reports.

Marussia, Scuderia Toro Rosso and Williams have all been rumored to be looking for new engine contracts to coincide with the new regulations in 2014, and, according to Auto Motor und Sport, the deals are close to being finalized.

Marussia are set to sign a contract with Ferrari which has been aided by Jules Bianchi’s drive with the backmarkers. Bianchi is a part of Ferrari’s driver academy, and he runs with the Scuderia’s logo on his helmet. Current suppliers Cosworth are set to withdraw from F1 at the end of the season, but Marussia are happy to make the change as they look to cut the gap to the midfield. Although Pat Symonds has previously stated that the team is considering all possible options, it would appear Ferrari are leading the race for a new customer team.

However, the Italian marque could lose its contract with Toro Rosso for next season. The partnership has existed ever since 2007, but Toro Rosso are reportedly pursuing a contract with Renault in order to draw them closer to sister team Red Bull. However, Red Bull are in turn rumored to be considering a rebrand of their engines under the Infiniti umbrella, which could potentially alter any plans.

Renault may be set to lose its contract with Williams, who are in talks with Mercedes over an engine supply for next season. Should the British team make the change, it would be the sixth time in eight years that they have changed supplier. Mercedes are reported to be offering a deal over $6m per season cheaper than Renault, which may be the driving force behind the agreement.

Additionally, Lotus are also said to be considering a switch in supplier when Honda enter the sport in 2015. The Japanese manufacturer has already signed a deal with McLaren, but they have expressed an interest in taking on another customer team. The changes in the F1 engine market are certainly occurring quickly in order to coincide with the regulation changes for next season, and it will only make the order even less predictable heading into 2014.

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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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.