Button relishing return to “special” Monza

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McLaren driver Jenson Button is relishing Formula One’s annual visit to Monza next weekend as the European season comes to a close with the Italian Grand Prix.

Button expressed his excitement for the race in McLaren’s grand prix preview, with the Briton finishing on the podium in Italy on four previous occasions.

“I’ve always loved Monza. I really enjoy circuits that have a bit of history to them, and Monza has that in abundance – it’s one of the greatest tracks on the calendar,” Button explained.

“The place is unique: ever since we lost the ‘old’ Hockenheim, this has been the only place on the calendar where you run a really super-low downforce configuration. And you can feel it – the car accelerates up to speed incredibly quickly, feels skittish and loose when you’re running flat-out, and can be tricky and unpredictable under braking. But that’s what makes the place a special kind of challenge, and I really enjoy that.”

The race will also see McLaren celebrate its fiftieth birthday, with Martin Whitmarsh explaining yesterday how it felt right to be reaching the landmark at a historic circuit such as Monza. Button echoed his team principal’s thoughts and explained how he hopes to honor the milestone with a strong result.

“There’s nowhere quite like it. So it’s really appropriate that McLaren will be celebrating its 50th anniversary in the paddock over the Monza weekend.

“Both names are synonymous with motorsport history – you couldn’t imagine Formula One without them – so I’ll be hoping for a strong result to show the strength and depth that we have as a team.”

McLaren’s start to the season has been far from impressive, recording a best result of fifth at this year’s Chinese Grand Prix. However, with eight races remaining in the season, there is still time for the team to score at least one top-three finish in order to avoid its first year without a podium since 1995.

Williams to wait until new year before making 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams will wait until the new year before making an announcement regarding its Formula 1 driver line-up for the 2018 season.

Williams holds the final vacant seat in F1 for next year, with Felipe Massa retiring at the last race of the 2017 season in Abu Dhabi at the end of November.

The Brazilian’s departure has opened up a seat alongside Lance Stroll for 2018, which looked poised to be taken by Robert Kubica, over seven years after he last raced in F1 before injuries sustained in a rally accident appeared to cut his career short.

Doubts emerged about Kubica’s comeback following a test with Williams in its 2017-spec car in Abu Dhabi after the final race of the season, leading to Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin becoming the favorite.

Besides Kubica and Sirotkin, ditched Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also an option, but Williams has now confirmed it will make no decision on its line-up until the new year.

Sirotkin first entered the frame in F1 in 2013 when he became a development driver at Sauber, with Russian backers SMP Racing pushing to get him a race seat for the following year.

Sirotkin missed out on a full-time role at the team, leading him to focus on racing in Formula Renault 3.5 for 2014 before spending two years in GP2, where he finished third in the standings in both seasons.

Renault struck an agreement to sign Sirotkin in a junior role in 2016, leading to a number of practice run-outs over the last two seasons, but he was passed over for a 2018 race seat when it signed Carlos Sainz Jr.

Williams emerged as an option for Sirotkin following a successful maiden test with the team in Abu Dhabi alongside Kubica, with talks now set to continue over the holiday period.

Sirotkin has not taken on a full-time race program this year, making just a single competitive appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing in the LMP2 class.

Sirotkin has also been involved in the development of the team’s BR Engineering-designed LMP1 car for the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship season, and is likely to secure a seat should he miss out on the role at Williams.