With the Formula One field as tightly packed as it is, even at the back of the grid, seeing the Marussia-Cosworths three to six seconds off the pace, or more, on Friday was rather troubling.
The team had a pair of mechanical issues with Rodolfo Gonzalez, the team’s third driver and taking over Jules Bianchi’s chassis, having an engine issue toward the end of free practice one. Then in free practice two, Max Chilton’s session ended early with a right front brake disc failure. Chilton’s car was parked on the entry to Turn 20, and radio chatter was not kind regarding a crane digging his trapped car out of the sand trap.
Marussia was on the back foot entering Saturday as it tries to hold onto 10th in the Constructor’s Championship ahead of Caterham. Given the challenges, Bianchi delivered a very good effort to get within a tenth of Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham for “best in class” unofficial honors. The Dutchman was 19th at 1:40.491, Bianchi just behind at 1:40.528.
“After the problems we have experienced so far this weekend, we absolutely needed to find the right solution in time for qualifying,” said Bianchi. “I’m very happy that we did this and although we haven’t been able to spend the time to tune the car, we made enough progress to split the Caterhams, which is a good result from where we were.
“Had we been fully there with the balance, who knows, it may have been possible to get ahead of van der Garde as we were just a few hundredths away. It was pretty windy in Sector 1 also, so if we look at the overall picture we have to be pretty pleased with the result. My thanks to the Team for all the hard work in resolving our problems and now we can look forward to the race with a little more confidence.”
Chilton was underwhelming at the back, nearly one second in arrears of his teammate at 1:41.401. He didn’t like his car’s balance but still said he was disappointed with his effort. Still, he’ll move up one spot on the grid with van der Garde’s Caterham teammate, Charles Pic, incurring a five-spot grid penalty after the team had to break the seal on his gearbox.
SOCHI, Russia (AP) Formula One drivers are split over plans to test a new “shield” device to protect against flying debris.
The FIA will trial the transparent screen in the coming months for a potential introduction in 2018, as it pushes for greater head protection for drivers. Recent years have seen major head injuries in several motorsport series.
“I wouldn’t mind trying out the shield, seeing how is the visibility,” Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas said on Thursday. “In terms of safety it would be a good step compared to what we have now.”
Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was another supporter, saying “we’ve still got to see a bit more, but first impressions seem OK.”
The FIA previously seemed to favor a metal frame known as the “halo,” which was designed to stop a flying wheel hitting a driver’s head but was criticized by some drivers on aesthetic grounds.
Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat said on Thursday he was “quite against” the shield and the halo. “The way Formula One should look should remain the same,” he added. “We have enough protection.”
Romain Grosjean of Haas voiced concern the “next step” would be completely closed cockpits.
Recent years have seen several high-profile head injuries, including the deaths of Formula Two driver Henry Surtees in 2009 when he was hit by a loose wheel and IndyCar driver Justin Wilson, who was struck by debris, in 2015.
In Formula One, Brazilian driver Felipe Massa missed the second half of the 2009 season when a loose spring from another car hit his helmet, leaving him needing surgery.
Haas has switched from Brembo to Carbon Industrie brakes ahead of this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in a bid to remedy its long-running braking issues in Formula 1.
NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas took his eponymous operation onto the F1 grid in 2016, with Romain Grosjean scoring all 29 of its points through its debut season.
Grosjean and then-teammate Esteban Gutierrez had their efforts spurned on a number of occasions by brake issues which continued to arise through pre-season testing in 2017 and the early races.
Haas pushed to remedy the issue by testing new Carbon Industrie brakes in the post-Bahrain Grand Prix test, with Grosjean and new teammate Kevin Magnussen conducting running.
The team duly decided to fit the new Carbon Industrie brakes for this weekend’s race in Russia, with both VF-17 cars to run with them from Friday onwards.
“To be fair to Brembo, the last update in brakes we had that arrived in China were much better. It took a long time to get them,” Grosjean explained.
“So then I was not screaming to change to Carbone Industrie but it was in the pipeline, so we tried them, and both drivers were pretty pleased with them. We felt like we had more control under braking.
“I’m very sensitive to my left pedal, so I really need to get good brakes to get good confidence and push the car to its maximum limit. So we are going to run them here.
“There is still a little bit of work we need to be doing around the mapping and finding the solution around those brakes but I think yeah, definitely it’s going to help me a little bit to find the last few hundredths.”
Alexis DeJoria will miss this weekend’s NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, with her Kalitta Motorsports team confirming DeJoria will need to tend to a family matter.
Chad Head, Kalitta Motorsports Director of Safety, will step into the Tequila Patrón Toyota Camry this weekend. No timetable was given for DeJoria’s return; after Charlotte this weekend, the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues for its third consecutive race weekend next week in Atlanta.
This isn’t the first race DeJoria has had to miss recently, as she also was diagnosed with a concussion and missed the 2016 NHRA season finale in Pomona.
Following his victory in Bahrain two weeks ago, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel arrived in Russia on Thursday targeting a third win of the year to extend his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship.
Not since 2004 has a Ferrari driver made such a good start to a season, putting Vettel in contention for a fifth world title this year – although with Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton hot on his tail, it will have to be a hard-earned success.
The fourth round of the year sees F1 head to the Olympic city of Sochi, which hosted the winter games back in 2014. The Sochi Autodrom played host to its first grand prix the same year, and is now a key part of Russia’s post-Olympic legacy.
Bringing you all of the latest news and interviews ahead of the Russian Grand Prix, Will Buxton brings you Paddock Pass.