Kobayashi hits out at new F1 cars’ lack of pace

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We’ve chronicled Renault’s reliability issues thus far in Formula One testing. We haven’t done as much chronicling of the lack of pace, by comparison, given the fact teams aren’t in an outright pace push as yet while dialing in their new technologies.

Still, with the best Renault time at Bahrain more than five seconds off the pace of Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes W05, it’s Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi has taken the chance to speak out about it.

“We are not in race conditions here, but if we were in race conditions I think I should bring a GP2 car,” he said to reporters in Bahrain this week, via Autosport. “”The lap time is still quicker in GP2. We need to work, but in this moment if we were to race, I think it’s not Formula One.”

Kobayashi later said he’s not interested in merely finishing races, but truly wanting to close the gap to the bigger teams in front of him.

The Japanese driver was “Mr. Excitement” in his first F1 stint from 2009 through 2012, and without saying as much, he’s essentially said he’ll need miracles to make more passes happen given the team’s current pace gap to the field.

Overall times from Bahrain weren’t terribly off last year’s pole at the head of the field. But the gap from first to last is significantly greater now than it has been at any point in the last five years with the most recent iteration of chassis and V8 engines.

Kobayashi wasn’t an out-and-out speed demon when at Toyota or Sauber, but he should have the early pace edge on rookie teammate Marcus Ericsson within the Caterham team at the start of the year.

Problem is, if they’re too far back, it will be hard for either of them to achieve a result worth talking about.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.