Montoya committed to Ganassi through end of NASCAR season

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Those hoping for a Juan Pablo Montoya versus Chip Ganassi rivalry – personally – will have to wait until the 2014 IZOD IndyCar Series season begins. Right now, the two are still respectful of each other and their decisions to move in different directions next year.

“Well, I tried to call him this morning to tell him about it, and actually we texted because he was in Europe,” Montoya said Monday on a conference call about relaying the news to Ganassi. “I feel like he was very excited for me. Something that we have with Chip is that we are very good friends. We have a lot of respect for each other.

“As he had to make a decision this year to go a different direction, I had to do the same thing. And I have a great opportunity and a great chance with Team Penske, and you know, we are going to be competitors and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

A Ganassi-to-Penske switch is IndyCar’s equivalent of a Red Sox-to-Yankees move in baseball. Or Packers-Bears in football. But Montoya has done something similar before in Formula One, when he left Williams after the 2004 season.

“It’s exciting. I mean, if you think about it, I lived that before in Formula One between Williams and McLaren, and that was fun,” Montoya said. “Honestly, when I raced the IndyCars, the guys to beat – you were looking where the Penskes are, and to be driving one of those, it’s fun. I’m really excited. I feel like a 5-year-old kid right now.”

Montoya and Penske Racing President Tim Cindric have ruled out the option, for now, of Montoya running a third IndyCar at the season finale at Fontana. Montoya said he remains committed to his NASCAR duties to finish out the year, although you figure it would make sense for Ganassi to field an entry at some race for Kyle Larson before his rookie season in 2014.

“I’m still committed with Chip and the NASCAR program for the next nine races. We all are working very hard to get that oval win for the end of the year and keep running as good as we can; get a couple poles and do whatever we can to the end of the year,” Montoya said.

Cindric added, “From my perspective, yeah, I’d love to run him in Fontana, but something tells me Chip’s probably not going to let that happen! We already talked about the fact that he’s got to stay focused and the commitments that he has on the 42 car there. We’re certainly not going to get in the way of any of that, and there’s a seat for him here as soon as he’s able to take it. But no, there’s no plans for that as we sit here.”

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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