Hartley, Lieb named to Porsche’s WEC program

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Porsche has announced that former GRAND-AM Rolex Series driver Brendon Hartley (pictured) and German competitor Marc Lieb will complete the manufacturer’s driver stable for the 2014 World Endurance Championship – a stable that also includes ex-Formula One driver Mark Webber, Timo Bernhard, Romain Dumas, and Neel Jani.

Hartley competed for Starworks Motorsport this past season in the Rolex Series and earned an overall win at Road America for the team with co-driver Scott Mayer. In addition, Hartley has had stints as a F1 test driver for both Red Bull and Mercedes.

“I’m incredibly proud that Porsche has chosen me,” said Hartley about his appointment with Porsche. “I was deeply impressed at my first outing in Le Mans. But to compete there in the LMP1 for an iconic company like Porsche is another dimension completely.”

Lieb, on the other hand, has been a longtime factory driver for Porsche and is a three-time winner at the 24 Hours of Le Mans; his most recent Le Mans win came this year driving a Team Manthey Porsche in the GTE-Pro class alongside Dumas and Richard Lietz.

“I have been fortunate enough to celebrate victories with Porsche all over the world, even in the GT class at Le Mans,” said Lieb. “People there always asked when we would return to the LMP1 class.

“Since the [LMP1] project was given the go-ahead, I only wanted one thing: To be involved. Le Mans and Porsche, I can’t even begin to describe how excited this makes me feel.”

Now, both of them will be suiting up for Porsche’s two-car program with their new LMP1 entry, the 919 Hybrid.

“We had a substantial number of applicants from all classes for the two 919 hybrids,” Porsche LMP1 head Fritz Enzinger said. “We were looking for experience, sheer speed, technical understanding, and we wanted team players because this is more important in endurance racing than in any discipline.”

The 919 Hybrid recently wound down its 2013 testing in Portugal, a session that was noteworthy for having Webber take his first laps in the car after getting permission from his former F1 team, Red Bull; the team still has him under contract until the start of 2014.

F1 2017 driver review: Nico Hulkenberg

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Nico Hulkenberg

Team: Renault
Car No.: 27
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P6 (Spain, Great Britain, Belgium, Abu Dhabi)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 43
Championship Position: 10th

Expectations were hard to peg for Renault heading into its second full season back in F1 with a factory team, but Nico Hulkenberg was surely expected to be the man spearheading its charge.

With teammate Jolyon Palmer severely underperforming, Hulkenberg did exactly that, bringing home all but 14 of the team’s points in the final standings. However, consistency was never something he truly found.

Many of Renault’s issues were down to reliability issues, sidelining Hulkenberg for six races – four coming in a five-race stint from Singapore to Mexico – yet he only scored points in consecutive races on three occasions.

When Hulkenberg and Renault were on form, they proved to be a potent combination, often topping the midfield fight and even looking faster than Force India come the end of the season. His run to sixth at the final race in Abu Dhabi was crucial for the constructors’ championship as Renault jumped Toro Rosso, securing an extra slice of prize money in the process.

But for a driver who was so often tipped as being a future star in F1, Hulkenberg still has a lot to prove. Renault is set to offer a good platform for the German moving forward with factory support, yet if he cannot beat new teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. through 2018, concerns will surely be raised.

Season High: Charging to sixth in Abu Dhabi despite a penalty.

Season Low: A tough run to 16th in Malaysia.