Caterham make Kobayashi, Ericsson official to complete 2014 grid

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After weeks, perhaps even months of speculation, Caterham has confirmed its 2014 drivers in both Formula One and GP2. The Tony Fernandes-led squad revealed its lineup at the team’s base in Leafield this morning.

Kamui Kobayashi returns to F1 after a year’s absence, with the Japanese veteran joined by Swedish rookie Marcus Ericsson, who steps up from GP2. Robin Frijns and Alexander Rossi are the team’s reserve drivers; Rossi and Rio Haryanto will race for Caterham Racing in GP2.

“I’m very pleased we can finally unveil our F1 and GP2 drivers for the year ahead,” said team principal Cyril Abiteboul. “The process may have taken longer than we’d have liked, but we didn’t want or need to be rushed into such important decisions, and we have been in the happy position of having a wide range of drivers to choose from for both series.”

Of the F1 pairing, Abiteboul said, “In F1, I’m delighted that we’ve been able to bring Kamui back. He is a very popular driver and it’s very good for the whole team that we’ve been able to attract such an exciting driver to join us at a critical point in our development. Alongside him is Marcus who will be racing in his debut F1 season, but as a driver who has prepared perfectly for the step up with his graduation through the ranks. He’s physically and mentally prepared for what lies ahead, and he will have all the support we can give him across the team to help him fulfil his obvious potential in Formula One.”

Kobayashi raced the last two Grands Prix of 2009 with Toyota before completing three seasons with the Sauber team from 2010 through 2012. A third place in the 2012 Japanese Grand Prix stands as a career highlight before Kobayashi branched off into the FIA World Endurance Championhip in a GTE Pro class Ferrari F458 Italia last year.

“We’ve been talking to Cyril and Tony since last year about driving for the team for 2014 and beyond,” said Kobayashi. “Throughout all our discussions I’ve been very impressed with where they want to take the team and how much investment has been made already to help them achieve their goals. For me, it’s a great honor that the team hired me based on the value I bring in racing terms and the experience I have.”

Meanwhile, Ericsson said, “This is a very proud day for me and everyone who has helped make my F1 dream come true. I’ll be making the step up to F1 with Caterham F1 Team in 2014 and I’m already excited about the season ahead, and the first race in Australia in particular.”

Later on Tuesday, Caterham confirmed Ericsson would take race number 9 with Kobayashi 10 for the duration of their careers. The likelihood of the Kobayashi-Ericsson pairing came together when it was revealed earlier this week Charles Pic, one of the 2013 Caterham drivers, wouldn’t return. Giedo van der Garde, too, is now also out after just one season.

Azerbaijan GP red flagged after 22 laps following chaotic sequence

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The Azerbaijan Grand Prix has been red flagged for debris following a chaotic sequence of laps that saw three safety cars be deployed following multiple incidents, leaving the track covered in debris.

The first safety car was called after Daniil Kvyat stopped out on-track, with the marshals able to recover it with relative ease, but the bunched field on the restart soon descended into chaos.

Debris from Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari caused a second safety car period to be called within a lap, but the marshals were again able to clear this easily, allowing Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton to lead the field away for the second restart.

Hamilton and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel made contact twice behind the safety car, leaving debris on-track at Turn 15, with both drivers blaming each other for the incident.

The greater clashes came on the first lap of green flag running as Force India teammates Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon clashes at Turn 3, the latter bumping Perez into the wall. Both were required to pit for repairs, and while Ocon could get back out, Perez was less fortunate, retiring from the race.

A third safety car was called, with the stewards then deciding to throw a red flag to allow the debris on the track to be cleared.

More to follow…

Hunter-Reay leads warmup at Road America

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A weekend that has been dominated by Chevrolet and Team Penske so far saw Honda jump to the top during morning warmup. Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest for Andretti Autosport, followed by Max Chilton for Chip Ganassi Racing. Hunter-Reay’s teammate Alexander Rossi ended the session third, making it a Honda 1-2-3 in the morning warmup.

Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud was the quickest of the Chevrolet camp in fourth, followed by A.J. Foyt Racing’s Carlos Munoz in fifth.

Only 19 of the 21 drivers turned laps during the session, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon and Andretti Autosport’s Takuma Sato failing to put laps in. Dixon’s No. 9 NTT Data Honda was suffering from fuel pressure problems that kept it in the garage, while Sato was feeling under the weather during the morning, and the No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda team elected not to go out.

Coverage of the Kohler Grand Prix begins at 12:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

 

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Nato takes F2 sprint win in Baku after Leclerc penalty

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Norman Nato picked up his first win of the 2017 FIA Formula 2 season on Sunday after a post-race penalty denied Charles Leclerc a weekend double in Baku.

Ferrari junior Leclerc took an emotional victory on Saturday just days after the death of his father, and charged from P8 on the reverse grid to take the lead from Nato late on.

However, the Monegasque driver was denied the first perfect weekend in the category (including GP2) in eight years when he was hit with a 10-second time penalty for failing to slow under yellow flags.

Despite the penalty, Leclerc was still classified second behind Nato, with Nicholas Latifi completing the podium for DAMS.

Jordan King took fourth place for MP Motorsport, while Sergey Sirotkin was fifth on his stand-in weekend at ART Grand Prix ahead of fellow Russian Artem Markelov.

Nobuharu Matsushita took seventh ahead of Luca Ghiotto, while Ralph Boschung and Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10.

With second place, Leclerc extended his F2 championship lead to 42 points after chief title rival Oliver Rowland retired after leading the early part of the race.

The F2 season resumes in two weeks’ time in support of the Austrian Grand Prix in Spielberg.

Lauda on Hamilton’s Baku pole lap: ‘I’ve never seen anything like it’

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Formula 1 legend and Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda was quick to heap praise on Lewis Hamilton after qualifying in Azerbaijan on Saturday, saying he had “never seen anything like” the Briton’s Q3 pole lap.

Hamilton charged to the 66th pole of his F1 career at the Baku City Circuit on Saturday after a last-ditch effort took his four-tenths of a second clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton was overjoyed by the lap, having struggled to tame the Baku circuit during its inaugural race in 2016, and three-time world champion Lauda was equally as impressed.

“We had some problems on Friday, but the team really did a fantastic job to set the car up in the right way. And Lewis with his lap today… I’ve never seen anything like it,” Lauda said, as quoted by the official F1 website.

“It was not plain sailing at all, but a lot of thinking, digging, back to the factory, and in the end the improvement the engineers and mechanics did to the car is outstanding.

“And then Lewis, what he did today, no one else I think can do that.

“He’s fantastic, especially thinking about his lap time here, because the difference he makes to everybody – it’s only Lewis.”

Hamilton will go in search of his fifth win of the season in Baku on Sunday, with coverage of the Azerbaijan Grand Prix live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET.