Lotus to test Raikkonen, Prost, Valsecchi at Silverstone next week

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Next week’s young driver test at Silverstone (July 17-19) will actually include the second oldest driver on the Formula One grid – Kimi Raikkonen.

But the Lotus driver knows what he’s doing. He, like any other full-season entrants, is now eligible to participate in the test to sample Pirelli’s new compounds that have yet to make their race debut. Raikkonen will run on Friday, after Lotus development driver Nicolas Prost runs on Wednesday and third driver Davide Valsecchi runs on Thursday.

The decision was made in spite of the restrictive in-season testing rules and regulations.

“It’s great timing for us to have this season’s young driver test scheduled in the middle of the year as it allows us to evaluate more of the new parts we have for the E21 as the championship battle intensifies,” team principal Eric Boullier told the official Formula One website. “Remarkably, the UK has been having some notably good weather recently so we’re looking forward to getting some good running across the three days.”

Trackside operations director Alan Permane added: “Obviously we want to give all three drivers the maximum track time possible as well as assessing the latest upgrades to the car. Our aim on the third day will be to help Pirelli understand the latest changes to their tires at the same venue where they most notably had issues this season.”

Besides the tire test, this will also be a valuable time for Prost and Valsecchi to gain more mileage. Lotus’ driver situation for 2014 is very much fluid with rumors of Raikkonen (paid late by Lotus but still in its frame) potentially leaving to replace Mark Webber at Red Bull, and Nico Hulkenberg linked to the team as a potential replacement.

Schmidt Peterson hires IndyCar’s first female lead engineer, will work with Hinchcliffe

Photo courtesy Audi Sport
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Leena Gade, who helped lead Audi to three wins in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports as lead engineer for the No. 5 Arrow Electronics Honda of driver James Hinchcliffe.

“I’m really honored that I’ve got a chance to come across and work in INDYCAR,” Gade said in a team media release. “When I was a kid, I used to watch Indy car (racing), especially when Nigel Mansell first came over (in 1993), and I followed it quite a lot.

“During my sports car days, it was a little less so, until I had friends come across to the U.S. to work in it like Piers (Phillips, SPM’s general manager).

“I’m quite honored to be given the chance. It is going to be something completely different to anything I’ve ever done before, so it’s a big learning curve, but it’s a challenge that I’m really relishing, so I’m looking forward to it.”

Gade, who grew up in India and is from Great Britain, is one of the most recognized engineers in all forms of international motorsports. She becomes the first female lead engineer in Verizon IndyCar Series history.

She’s also the second female lead engineer in Indy racing history, joining Diane Holl, who served as engineer for Adrian Fernandez, Tony Kanaan (Tasman Motorsports) and Richie Hearn (Della Penna Motorsports) in CART from 1996-2000.

Gade, who holds engineering degrees from the University of Manchester in England, has engineered cars in several race series and for several manufacturers, including F1, BMW, A1 Grand Prix, GT racing, Jaguar, Audi and most recently with Bentley Motorsport.

She became the first female race engineer to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2011, and followed that up with another Le Mans win in 2012, as well as being part of the World Endurance Championship drivers and manufacturers titles in the same year.

Also in 2012, she was named FIA WEC “Man of the Year” and was awarded the C&R Racing Women in Technology award from the Lyn St. James Women in the Winner’s Circle Foundation.

Her team also won Le Mans for a third time in 2014.

“There was significant interest in Leena amongst the international motorsports community, so we’re really excited that she sees where we’re taking SPM, believes in what we’re doing and that she is now a part of our organization,” Piers Phillips said. “ I’ve known Leena for quite some time now and I’ve worked alongside her, so I knew the credit she’s been given is well deserved. We’re very much looking forward to throwing her into the deep end and seeing her add to the team’s success.”

Gade and Hinchcliffe go into the deep end that Phillips referenced when they take part in a team test Jan. 24 at Sebring International Raceway, the first time the pair will work together.