More mechanical gremlins for Red Bull, Vettel in Bahrain

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Write off Red Bull at your own peril, given they’re likely to be on form once the Formula One community actually gets to the season opener at Melbourne, Australia next month.

But after the issues encountered in Jerez last month, and two weeks’ work at the factory, more mechanical gremlins popped up in today’s first running in Bahrain. Sebastian Vettel completed only 14 laps before stopping on track.

“We sorted out the issues from Jerez and we were able to do some laps today,” said the four-time defending World Champion, via the team’s official website. “However, very often you fix one problem and another pops up, which is what happened. That’s testing.”

Per veteran F1 journalist Adam Cooper, the issue today was brake-related, and led to a small fire in the rear of the car. It was one of several brakes issues reported.

Race engineering coordinator Andy Damerum said this was different than what occurred at Jerez.

“We are obviously playing catch-up and for us this was very much like a first test, so we were sending the car out to do one lap, then two and trying to build from there,” he said. “In that regard the laps completed were good. However, we were sidelined by a mechanical gremlin but one unrelated to the issues in Jerez.”

The next three days in Bahrain are crucial for Red Bull, as the team needs to get its issues ironed out before the end of the week. Full running at the second Bahrain test, without incident, will be the target at that point.

Vettel is in the car tomorrow as well, with Daniel Ricciardo taking over on Friday.

Williams confirms Kubica and Sirotkin for Abu Dhabi F1 test

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Williams has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy his third Formula 1 test outing with the team at the end-of-season running in Abu Dhabi next week as rumors grow regarding a possible race seat for 2018.

Almost seven years after his last F1 start, Kubica’s remarkable return from severe injuries sustained in a rally accident saw him enjoy two private tests with Renault before completing running with the team in a 2017-spec car in Hungary over the summer.

Reservations over Kubica’s capabilities prompted Renault to pass on giving him a seat, instead opting to hire Carlos Sainz Jr. for next year, only for Williams to become an alternative for the Pole.

Kubica tested a 2014-spec Williams at both Silverstone and the Hungaroring in recent months, and will now sample a 2017 car when he tests at Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Circuit next Tuesday and Wednesday.

Kubica will share track time with regular Williams racer Lance Stroll and Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin, who has worked with Renault over the past two years but also missed out on a 2018 seat.

“Williams Martini Racing is pleased to confirm it will run Robert Kubica and Sergey Sirotkin for the Abu Dhabi Pirelli tire test, alongside current race driver Lance Stroll,” a statement from the team reads.

“The Pirelli tire test will take place over two days at the Yas Marina circuit during the week following the 2017 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

“On day one Robert Kubica will drive the FW40 in the morning session, before Lance Stroll takes over in the afternoon.

“On day two Sergey Sirotkin will drive in the morning and afternoon sessions before handing over to Robert in the late afternoon.

“The test is aimed at evaluating 2018 candidate tires on behalf of the Formula 1 tire supplier Pirelli.

“Williams is excited to have this opportunity to assess the new tyres across such an interesting range of drivers: Lance, as confirmed race driver for 2018, Robert with his huge experience, and Sergey as a very promising young talent in Formula 1.”

Williams denied earlier this week it has signed Kubica to partner Stroll for 2018, but indications are the deal looks very likely to go ahead, subject to the relevant paperwork and contracts being finalized.