F1 Testing in Bahrain - Day One

More Mercedes speed, Red Bull issues during Bahrain Day 3

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As Formula One’s testing period enters its second half – today was the seventh of 12 official days of 2014 preseason testing – the narrative didn’t change too much. Mercedes-powered cars again were fast and reliable. Renault-powered ones were again not-so-fast and fragile.

Lewis Hamilton took his turn atop the timesheets, back in the Mercedes W05 after Nico Rosberg had it on Thursday, with a best lap of 1:34.263 the fastest of the week thus far. Hamilton spent some time in the garage during the afternoon while the team experimented with different set-ups, but he wasn’t resigned to the garage because of any issues.

Jenson Button enjoyed a rather good day with second at 1:34.976, and completed the most laps on the day with 103 in the McLaren MP4-29-Mercedes. And after a rough month or so to start the year, with the loss of his father John in January, he announced much happier news with his engagement to longtime girlfriend Jessica Michibata.

Williams-Mercedes also enjoyed a positive day with Felipe Massa clocking in third, albeit some 2.8 seconds back at 1:37.066 in 60 laps, and Valtteri Bottas providing the winter’s oddest statistic thus far with 55 laps completed but no time registered. The reason for that was that the talented Finn spent the majority of his day entering and leaving pit lane, to provide the team a chance at live pit stop practice.

Things were less rosy for the Renault brigade. Daniel Ricciardo managed 28 laps for Red Bull, most in the morning and only 5 in the afternoon, thanks to further mechanical problems. Ricciardo remained upbeat, as the Australian usually is, while the now oft-quoted Red Bull race engineering coordinator Andy Damerum said the car needed to be stripped for repairs ahead of Saturday’s running.

“We came across a mechanical issue that we hadn’t encountered before and because of its nature it means we have to take the car apart,” he said in the team’s release. “As everyone in the pit lane is finding out this is a long process, so we decided to suspend running in the afternoon so that we can be ready for the final day. These issues are of course frustrating but this was unrelated to the others so it’s just a case of tackling each issue as it appears.”

Elsewhere Lotus managed its most laps thus far this week  – 26 with Pastor Maldonado – and broke into the 1:39 bracket at 1:39.642. Daniil Kyvat bettered that mark in the Toro Rosso-Renault at 1:38.974.

Ferrari’s day was neither great nor negative. Meanwhile for the tail-enders, Marussia’s Max Chilton completed only four laps before an engine change, and Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson completed 98 laps as he garners the necessary mileage for his FIA Superlicense.

Here’s Friday’s breakdown of laps completed by manufacturer, although note Bottas’ were all in-and-out laps:

  • Mercedes: 342 (Hamilton 67, Button 103, Massa 60, Sergio Perez 57, Bottas 55)
  • Renault: 209 (Kvyat 57, Maldonado 26, Ricciardo 28, Ericsson 98)
  • Ferrari: 144 (Esteban Gutierrez 96, Kimi Raikkonen 44, Chilton 4)

For the week, Mercedes holds a clear laps completed lead and have also had their teams be able to work on setups and pit stops. Renault, largely thanks to Caterham’s pounding over the three days compared to Marussia’s struggles, is ahead of Ferrari on total laps completed:

  • Mercedes: 886 (238 Wednesday, 306 Thursday, 342 Friday)
  • Renault: 505 (95 Wednesday, 201 Thursday, 209 Friday)
  • Ferrari: 462 (149 Wednesday, 169 Thursday, 144 Friday)

And here’s Friday’s times:

1. Lewis Hamilton, Mercedes, 1m34.263s, 67 Laps
2. Jenson Button, McLaren-Mercedes, 1m34.976s, 103
3. Felipe Massa, Williams-Mercedes, 1m37.066s, 60
4. Esteban Gutierrez, Sauber-Ferrari, 1m37.180s, 96
5. Sergio Perez, Force India-Mercedes, 1m37.367s, 57
6. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1m37.476s, 44
7. Daniil Kvyat, Toro Rosso-Renault, 1m38.974s, 57
8. Pastor Maldonado, Lotus-Renault, 1m39.642s, 26
9. Daniel Ricciardo, Red Bull-Renault, 1m40.781s, 28
10. Marcus Ericsson, Caterham-Renault, 1m42.130s, 98
11. Max Chilton, Marussia-Ferrari, 1m46.672s, 4
12. Valtteri Bottas, Williams-Mercedes, no time, 55

Esteban Ocon secures Mercedes DTM seat for 2016

2015 GP3 Series Round 9
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, UAE.
Sunday 29 November 2015.
Esteban Ocon (FRA, ART Grand Prix) 
Photo: Sam Bloxham/GP3 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _G7C8733
© GP3 Series
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2015 GP3 Series champion Esteban Ocon will race in the DTM championship this year with Mercedes in tandem with a reserve role in Formula 1 at Renault.

Ocon joined Mercedes’ junior program in the spring of 2015 before becoming a fully-fledged member at the end of the year just days before his GP3 title success.

The Frenchman was known to be considering a move into either DTM or GP2 for 2016, but will now replace F1-bound Pascal Wehrlein at Mercedes’ factory team for the new DTM campaign.

“It’s an incredible feeling to be part of such a professional and strong racing series,” Ocon said.

“I’m very pleased to be driving for Mercedes-Benz. It’s the best team in the DTM and I’m very grateful for this fantastic opportunity.

“Mercedes is the most successful manufacturer in DTM history. You can only achieve that with real passion and hard work, and those are characteristics that we share. After driving in free practice during the final race weekend of the 2015 season at Hockenheim, I can’t wait to start a DTM race.

“I obviously have a lot to learn, but my goal – and that of everyone in the team – is to fight for wins as soon as possible.”

Trident completes 2016 GP2 line-up with Armand

2015 GP2 Series Test 3.
Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
Friday 4 December 2015.
Philo Armand (INA, Status Grand Prix).
Photo: Zak Mauger/GP2 Series Media Service.
ref: Digital Image _L0U4261
© GP2 Series
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Trident has completed its line-up for the 2016 GP2 Series season by signing Indonesian driver Philo Paz Armand.

Armand has previously raced in a number of European Formula Renault 2.0 championships, and most recently took part in half of last year’s Formula Renault 3.5 rounds, scoring one point.

Armand will now step up to GP2 for the 2016 season, racing alongside 2015 GP3 runner-up Luca Ghiotto at Trident.

“We are very excited to start this collaboration with Philo and we are confident he will express all his talent thanks to the team’s help,” Trident team manager Giacomo Ricci said.

The grid for GP2’s support series, GP3, is also beginning to come together for the new season following the announcements of Tatiana Calderon and Honda junior Nirei Fukuzumi.

Calderon moves into GP3 from FIA F3 and will race for Carlin, while Fukuzumi joins ART Grand Prix, continuing the French squad’s association with Honda.

Marchionne calls for Alfa Romeo to consider F1 entry

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 20:  The Alfa Romeo 4C on display at the Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood Alfa Romeo Ride and Drive luncheon at The Polsky Residence on February 20, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for Vanity Fair)
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Fiat-Chrysler CEO and Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne believes that Italian car manufacturer Alfa Romeo must consider entering Formula 1 with a team in the near future.

Alfa Romeo last raced as a constructor in F1 between 1979 and 1985, but has enjoyed no involvement within the series since 1988 when it supplied engines to the Osella team.

Marchionne believes that a return to F1 would be an effective way for Alfa Romeo to grow as a brand and gain more public awareness.

“In order to restore their name, they must consider returning to Formula 1,” Marchionne told Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“Alfa Romeo are capable of making their own chassis, just like they are capable of making their own engine,” he added, before conceding that it could enjoy an engine supply from Ferrari should it wish to enter F1.

Marchionne believes that adding more manufacturers to the F1 grid is key to safeguarding the long-term future of the series.

“In the end this sport must be saved,” Marchionne said.

“The important thing is to make other car manufacturers enter grand prix racing.”

Grosjean unveils new helmet design for first F1 season with Haas

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© Romain Grosjean
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Romain Grosjean has revealed his new-look helmet design ahead of his first Formula 1 season with Haas in 2016.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas won the race to get an F1 team on the grid back in 2014, and has spent the past 18 months meticulously planning its arrival in the sport.

Haas F1 Team’s full debut is now just five weeks away, with the first on-track test of its new car coming on February 22 in Barcelona.

Grosjean walked away from Lotus at the end of last year to join Haas for the new season, where he will race alongside former Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez.

In a post on his Twitter account on Saturday, Grosjean unveiled his new helmet design for the 2016 season, featuring plenty of Haas signage.

Grosjean also revealed earlier this week that he would be racing with a tribute to Jules Bianchi on his helmet, who died at the age of 25 last July.