F1 notes and quotes: Bahrain Day 3

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Lewis Hamilton led Friday’s third day of testing for Formula One at Bahrain. Of course, there were more quotes of note to emerge from the day. Here’s a nugget from each of the 11 teams at the end of day:

  • Friday pace-setter Lewis Hamilton’s race simulation for Mercedes was interrupted, but he was still pleased with his level of running today. “It was nice to be able to put together a good lap today because generally speaking there seems to be less grip available than last year,” the 2008 World Champion said in the team’s post-day release.
  • Something apart from the standard line of quotes from McLaren’s Jenson Button, after clocking in second on Friday. “Today was a really busy session – my engineers looked exhausted afterwards, and I’ve never seen that before!” exclaimed the 2009 World Champion, who completed a day-high 103 laps. Button also announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Jessica Michibata, in a bit of happy news for the paddock.
  • High marks were offered by Williams’ chief test and support engineer Rod Nelson after Felipe Massa ended P3 and Valtteri Bottas spent the day doing live pit stop practice. “We are happy with how it has gone today. The car is proving to be solid and we are getting a good handle on things,” said Nelson. Massa hailed the afternoon as “busy” and “very positive;” Bottas confirmed there were no problems.
  • A good day for Sauber as well, with Esteban Gutierrez and the team able to practice pit stops and gain experience on both Pirelli’s soft and super soft compounds. “We did have small issues, but were able to solve them quickly. Mechanically and aerodynamically the car is working well, and it is becoming more consistent,” said the young Mexican.
  • Sergio “Checo” Perez took over at Force India and said he was continuing to get used to the feeling of the car, but had a few small issues in the morning. Still, 57 laps completed for him and he’ll have a second day on Saturday.
  • A telemetry glitch slowed Ferrari in the morning, as Kimi Raikkonen took over from Fernando Alonso. From director of engineering Pat Fry: “Today was a bit frustrating, because we were stopped for quite a time with a small but tricky problem. We knew that sooner or later we would have to deal with some problems and that was what happened.”
  • For Russian rookie Daniil Kvyat at Toro Rosso, a heavy day of running was just what the doctor ordered. “This was the first time I have managed to do a lot of running and it was very important for me, as well as for the team, that I completed 57 laps. We worked on many things and made progress in several areas,” he said in the team’s post-test release.
  • No official quotes or release from Lotus today, same as the rest of the week. But Pastor Maldonado did a Q&A on the team’s website yesterday , and got his first running of the week in today, so there’s that…
  • Daniel Ricciardo remained upbeat despite the latest early stoppage for Red Bull. Said the Australian, “Obviously, I would have liked to do more this afternoon but we still have tomorrow ahead of us and it’s important to be ready for that. The car is definitely making progress though. Tomorrow it would be nice to get more laps in and then roll on next week.”
  • It was a big day for Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson, with the Swede earning his FIA Superlicence after completing 98 laps (more than 300 km). “The boys have worked really hard today and we’ve pretty much had no issues which meant I could just get on with the program, and that was the main goal for today,” said Ericsson, who proved in the team’s post-test release he’s already got the standard testing line down.
  • Sadly more issues for Marussia and Max Chilton, with the Englishman only adding four laps Friday to his 17 on Thursday. Jules Bianchi returns to the wheel on Saturday.

F1 Paddock Pass: Azerbaijan Grand Prix (VIDEO)

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Formula 1 returns to Europe this weekend with the renamed Azerbaijan Grand Prix from the Baku City Circuit. The track is the second longest on the schedule and the race is renamed after being called the European Grand Prix last year (all times for the weekend via NBCSN or CNBC here).

Here with the latest from the paddock in Baku is the latest edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, with F1 pit reporter and insider Will Buxton joined by producer Jason Swales.

Swales celebrates his 300th Grand Prix on site this weekend, a major milestone after his 250th was celebrated a couple seasons ago at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas. As you can see below, McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso has joined in the festivities.

There’s plenty of fun to recap and plenty of important angles to preview in this week’s show, which you can see below in three parts.

 

Raikkonen prepared to sacrifice himself to help Vettel

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) Kimi Raikkonen is prepared to sacrifice himself in order to help Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel win a fifth Formula One title.

Vettel leads the championship by 12 points ahead of Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton after seven races. Raikkonen is fourth and already trails Vettel by 68 points.

“When I don’t have a chance mathematically to fight for the championship, for sure I will help him. I have no issues with that,” Raikkonen said Thursday. “It’s about the team and the first thing is to try and make sure we are at the top with Ferrari.”

Ferrari is chasing its first drivers’ title since Raikkonen won his only title in 2007 and its first constructors’ title since 2008.

In the constructors’ battle, Ferrari trails Mercedes by eight points heading into this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix.

“We have a good car everywhere. Hopefully we’ll be at the front again,” Raikkonen said. “It’s been close every race this year.”

Although the Finnish driver looked set for victory at the Monaco Grand Prix last month, his hopes were ended when his team brought him into the pits for a tire change earlier than he wanted. That left Vettel in the clear to race away to victory, with Raikkonen finishing second.

Even though Raikkonen was disappointed in the aftermath of that race, and made his frustration known, he now appears fully committed to helping Vettel when the time comes.

“I think we have very clear rules in the team and what the team wants us to do. It goes by those rules,” Raikkonen said. “Nothing has changed and we know exactly when things will go either way. That’s fine.”

The 37-year-old Raikkonen acknowledged that Vettel’s consistency makes him the obvious choice as the team’s No. 1 driver.

“Seb has done very good races so far and has been strong everywhere,” Raikkonen said. “I was not starting very well the first races. I was not where I wanted to be.”

Kanaan finding IndyCar ‘more competitive than ever’

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Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan believes that the Verizon IndyCar Series is becoming “more competitive than ever” as the championship’s plans for the future begin to become clear.

INDYCAR bosses have outlined a five-year plan for the series moving forward, with a universal aero kit in 2018 and a push for a third manufacturer to join Chevrolet and Honda in the future on the agenda.

The 2017 season has kicked off in an unpredictable fashion as seven drivers have shared the opening nine race wins, with Will Power and Graham Rahal being the only repeat winners.

Kanaan feels that the series is only becoming more and more competitive, with the introduction of the universal aero kit poised to aid that from next year.

“I think it is going to be more competitive than ever as we still have different aero kits that can make a difference. Next year is going to be even tougher,” Kanaan said.

“At the last race [in Texas] we had 15 cars and two-tenths of a second. I think it is the right direction, and they are also trying to keep the costs down which is the biggest challenge in racing all over the world, to get the teams to afford to be there.

“The way they are doing the kits, trying to get more teams and new teams into the series, and it is working. We had three new teams at Indy 500 and they are looking forward to coming back. We should try to add more teams and not lose cars.”

Kanaan added that a third manufacturer would be “a big help” for IndyCar, saying: “They are in talks with two others but I don’t know who they are but more people, cars, manufacturers, teams will always help.”

Having made his debut in American single-seaters back in 1998, Kanaan has raced through many different eras, but does not believe the series has ever been more competitive.

“It doesn’t get any easier and I don’t get any younger. It goes the opposite way!” Kanaan chuckled.

“It is amazing as you cannot afford to have one little problem or one little hiccup in a race. Before if you did that you would finish third or fourth but now you will finish 15th.

“You have 22 cars and in some races 21 of them on the lead lap and five seconds from one another. It raised the game for the mechanics too with the importance of pit stops.”

Sauber driver Ericsson dismisses talk of favoritism in team

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) Formula One driver Marcus Ericsson has dismissed talk of favoritism within Sauber following the unexpected departure of team principal Monisha Kaltenborn.

Kaltenborn, who was also Sauber’s chief executive officer, left Wednesday by mutual consent. The news came shortly after another team statement denying reports of unfair treatment between the Swedish driver and German teammate Pascal Wehrlein.

“There were a lot of stories in the press about this unfair advantage for one driver. It was upsetting, disrespectful, it’s false and untrue,” Ericsson said Thursday ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix. “For me and Pascal, it’s been very clear that’s not the case. We’ve both been given equal equipment.”

Ericsson has yet to score a point after seven races, while Wehrlein has four points after an eighth-place finish at the Spanish GP in May.

“We’re not going to go on holiday together, but as teammates goes we’ve been working really good together so far,” Ericsson said. “When we try different things across the cars, we discuss things.”

Sauber’s statement said Kaltenborn left “due to diverging views of the future of the company.” Her successor has not been announced.

The 46-year-old Kaltenborn joined Sauber in 2000 as head of its legal department and later became chief executive officer.

“We have to trust the owners that they know what they’re doing, and that they have a good plan for the future,” Ericsson said. “I have a lot to thank Monisha for. She was the one who gave me the chance to come here after my year in Caterham.”

Wehrlein also praised Kaltenborn for standing by him. He missed the first two races of the season after injuring his back in a crash at the Race of Champions in Miami in January, sustaining hairline cracks in vertebrae and compressing some of his intervertebral discs.

“Monisha was very close to me at one of my toughest times in my career so far,” Wehrlein said. “I am very thankful for that, and this is something that I will never forget.”