Webber: Leaving without any regrets

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The worst thing for any sportsman to do is retire bearing regret or with a black cloud over their head. Many see Michael Schumacher’s ‘comeback’ as being a mistake, whilst the likes of Jacques Villeneuve and Ralf Schumacher saw their careers end in a rather muted manner. However, for Mark Webber, his retirement will be one where he has no regrets lingering from his eleven-year career.

When asked in the FIA press conference whether or not he had any regrets, Webber said: “No, no I don’t think so.

“At this level, you’re always open to some adversity here and there and challenges, that’s how this sport is, any top flight sport is going to be snapshots of different things which you could probably have done better here and there, but there’s no career which is like this. You’re going to have ups and downs and getting off the canvas is part of the rules, so I’ve been very fortunate to have some very very special memories for sure.”

Webber has finished 3rd in the drivers’ championship twice (2010 and 2011), as well as winning three constructors’ titles in a row with Red Bull. However, the Australian driver is still keen on adding to his raft of memories from his time in F1.

“I’m looking back with very fond memories and I’ve still got races to go obviously this year so still looking to add to those great memories and helping Red Bull still achieve very very good results.”

Webber will see out his contract with the team, with his final race being the Brazilian Grand Prix in November. Although this rumor has been circulating for some time, NBC Sports’ Will Buxton suggested on Twitter that Webber’s decision had been made before the beginning of the season.

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.