F1 Testing in Bahrain - Day Four

F1 2014 Primer: The Teams

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In the penultimate part of MotorSportsTalk’s F1 2014 season preview, we take a look at the teams that will be vying for this year’s world championship. Although there are no new additions, we do have a number of driver changes, plus some interesting changes in suppliers and staff that could make a big difference in 2014.

RED BULL RACING

Having dominated F1 since the middle of 2009, it might come as a shock that Red Bull is no longer the team to beat. If testing is anything to go by, the RB10 car is proving to be troublesome. The only major change at the team is the arrival of Daniel Ricciardo as Mark Webber’s replacement, and he may be better poised to challenge Sebastian Vettel with the new regulations. Don’t write Red Bull off though: the team has a knack for rapid improvement.

MERCEDES

Mercedes was undoubtedly the team to beat during pre-season testing, and has a strong driver pairing in Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Upon re-entering the sport in 2010, the German marque always earmarked 2014 as being its first year of wanting to fight for the title; such a long lead-up and preparation period can only aid the team’s efforts. Ross Brawn’s departure may be felt, but with Toto Wolff and Paddy Lowe at the helm, Mercedes appears to be in good shape.

SCUDERIA FERRARI

The Italian prancing horse hopes to bounce back in 2014 after a period of regular disappointment. Although there have been race wins and fine efforts from Fernando Alonso, it is still seven years since the team last won the drivers’ championship with Kimi Raikkonen. For 2014 though, the Finn returns after leaving Lotus, creating a mouthwatering driver line-up. In terms of one-lap pace, the team may even challenge Mercedes, and could yet be a force to be reckoned with in F1 this season.

LOTUS

No team has undergone more change than Lotus over the winter. The departures of James Allison, Dirk de Beer, Ciaron Pilbeam, Eric Boullier and Kimi Raikkonen mean that the team enters 2014 far, far weaker than it was twelve months ago. Pastor Maldonado arrives and may provide some financial stability, but after missing one of the three tests, the team is certainly on the back foot, especially with the Renault engine being problematic. Romain Grosjean will hope to lead the team in the post-Raikkonen era.

MCLAREN

Coming off of the back of its worst season since 1980, McLaren is a team in transition. 2014 marks its final year with Mercedes engines before a switch to Honda, but many changes have already been made. Kevin Magnussen comes in to replace Sergio Perez, Ron Dennis returns as CEO and Eric Boullier arrives as Racing Director. The latter has replaced Martin Whitmarsh, of whom we are yet to hear news on. With Jenson Button hungry for a second title, the team could yet bounce back in fashion this year.

FORCE INDIA

Having dumped the rather underwhelming line-up of Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg (ever the nearly-man) and Sergio Perez (having left McLaren) arrive at Force India. Powered by Mercedes, the team appears to be well-placed for a strong season, so much so that Bernie Ecclestone has tipped Vijay Mallya’s team to win its first race this year. Hulkenberg and Perez are two exciting prospects, so it could be a big year for all at Force India.

SAUBER

Moving in the opposite direction to Hulkenberg, Adrian Sutil arrives at Sauber to partner Esteban Gutierrez as Sauber looks to bounce back from a tough 2013. The financial problems have been resolved, whilst the C33 has ran well during testing. The team may not win races, but it is certainly in better shape than it was at this time last year. With an array of drivers waiting in the wings for seats, the pressure is on Sutil and Gutierrez (2013’s rookie of the year) to perform.

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

Change is afoot at Toro Rosso. Following Daniel Ricciardo’s promotion to Red Bull, 19-year-old Daniil Kvyat was a surprise choice as his replacement, fending off Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. to win the seat. Jean-Eric Vergne will become the team’s most experienced driver ever in 2014, but he knows that time is ticking. The move to Renault engines may have backfired, but in Xevi Pujolar, the team has secured a greatly talented engineer.

WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING

After scoring just five points in 2013, a raft of changes have been made at Williams. Gone are many of the problems that blighted last season, including Pastor Maldonado who accused the team of sabotage in Austin. Felipe Massa’s arrival is a win-win situation for driver and team, whilst engineers Jakob Andreasen and Rob Smedley will be keen to work with Pat Symonds in his first full season. Throw in Valtteri Bottas’ huge potential, Mercedes engines and the newly-announced Martini backing, and the stage is set for a breakthrough year at Williams.

MARUSSIA

Having finally beaten Caterham in 2013, Marussia enters the new season hopeful of a repeat performance, and perhaps some points. Ferrari engines will certainly aid the efforts of Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi, whilst the possibility for races of attrition could create a big opportunity for the Anglo-Russian outfit. Relying the race goes ahead as planned, the team will also enjoy its inaugural ‘home’ grand prix at Sochi in October.

CATERHAM

All change at Caterham in 2014 as Giedo van der Garde and Charles Pic make way for fan favorite Kamui Kobayashi and GP2’s Marcus Ericsson, with the latter becoming the first Swede to race in F1 since Stefan Johansson in 1991. With a new mint image and a thirst for revenge after being marginally beaten by Marussia last season, 2014 could be a big year for Caterham and everyone at Leafield.

 

More of MotorSportsTalk’s 2014 F1 season preview
F1 2014 Primer: The Drivers
F1 2014 Primer: The Tracks
5 storylines that could define the 2014 F1 season

PWC: Parente back, Sellers, Hedlund join at K-PAX

Photo: PWC
Photo: PWC
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Defending Pirelli World Challenge GT champions K-PAX Racing have confirmed their lineup for this year’s season, which will see Alvaro Parente back to defend his crown in one of three McLaren 650S GT3s.

Parente will have two new teammates, in two talented Americans. Bryan Sellers will make his first run at a full-time PWC season in the team’s No. 6 McLaren, while Mike Hedlund, who’s driven off-and-on with K-PAX Racing technical partner Flying Lizard Motorsports, will run for a GTA title in the No. 98 McLaren.

Sellers and Hedlund replace Austin Cindric and Colin Thompson, respectively, as full-season drivers. Driver lineups for the SprintX races will be announced at a later date.

“With the addition of new teams, drivers and GT3 cars in the Pirelli World Challenge, 2017 is going to be tighter and more challenging than ever,” said Team Owner Jim Haughey. “So we are very pleased to have Alvaro, the returning Driver’s Champion, team up with the very competent Bryan Sellers in GT and Mike Hedlund in GTA.”

The full release is linked here.

These confirmations add to what’s shaping up to be, once again, a very good GT class field for the series.

Foyt confirms hire of Will Phillips as technical director

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Larry Foyt, Will Phillips and A.J. Foyt. Photo courtesy A.J. Foyt Racing
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A.J. Foyt Racing has confirmed the hire of ex-INDYCAR Vice President of Technology Will Phillips as the team’s new technical director. He’ll also serve as race engineer for Carlos Munoz this season. Trackside Online was first to report the hire.

Phillips was named as technical delegate for the Formula 4 United States Championship powered by Honda this past year, and now will be in a team role for the two-car Chevrolet outfit that Foyt has this season.

Munoz and Conor Daly will be in the pair of ABC Supply Co. Chevrolets this season, with Daniele Cucchiaroni continuing with the team as Daly’s race engineer. The duo tests this week at Sebring International Raceway’s short course.

He’s been a technical director/chief engineer, race engineer or design engineer at various teams, including but not limited to de Ferran Motorsports, Highcroft Racing, Rocketsports, and Reynard Motorsport.

“It is a privilege to join one of the most iconic teams in the IndyCar Series,” Phillips said in a release. “I have missed the competition and as such am looking forward to being back on the frontline. The depth of talent in the team is impressive and I look forward to working with them and helping create a cohesive engineering group to support Carlos and Conor.”

A.J. Foyt added, “I’m glad to have Will on our team. He’s smart and experienced and he was a close friend of “Ando’s” [the late John Anderson]. Ando worked for me and was a good friend of mine. I don’t know Will that well yet, but if Ando respected him, that’s good enough for me. I think Will can do a great job for us.”

Street in Nice renamed, unveiled in honor of Jules Bianchi

SHANGHAI, CHINA - APRIL 20:  Jules Bianchi of France and Marussia walks across the paddock prior to the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit on April 20, 2014 in Shanghai, China.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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A street has been renamed and unveiled on Monday in honor of the late Jules Bianchi in his hometown of Nice, France.

The former ‘rue du Sapin’ in Nice is now ‘rue Jules Bianchi,’ in the Frenchman’s honor. A ceremony took place Monday at that street at the intersection of ‘avenue Pierre de Coubertin.’

Posts from the unveil are linked below. Charles Leclerc, Bianchi’s countryman and Ferrari Driver Academy member who participated in a couple first F1 free practice sessions with Haas F1 Team last year, posted “You’ll never ever be forgotten.”

Bianchi died in 2015 following a coma sustained after his accident in the 2014 Japanese Grand Prix, where he suffered a diffuse axonal injury. Not long afterwards, his No. 17 was retired from active competition in Formula 1.

Bianchi scored the first points and to date, the best career finish for the Manor F1 team, when he finished ninth in the 2014 Monaco Grand Prix.

MRTI: Thompson, Castro announce 2017 USF2000 programs

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Parker Thompson. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda has received a shot in the arm with a pair of announcements in recent days.

Parker Thompson, who came up a hard-luck second in last year’s championship to teammate Anthony Martin, will be firmly entrenched as a title contender once more in 2017 with a switch to Exclusive Autosport in the team’s No. 90 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda.

The Red Deer, Alberta native raced for JDC Motorsports in 2015 before moving to Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing last season. The move reunites Thompson with fellow Canadian and EA team owner Michael Duncalfe.

“This was easily one of the hardest off seasons I have had in my motorsport career thus far,” Thompson admitted. “I honestly didn’t know if I was going to get behind the wheel of a racecar in 2017, so when the opportunity arose to become a part of the EA organization, I was ecstatic.

“This is a dream team fit for myself, in a number of different ways. I met Michael when I was just 11-years-old racing in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan at the Western Canadian Karting Championships. It just goes to show you what relationship building can do for your career down the road! Since then, I actually raced for Michael in his decorated FF1600 program, and claimed my first two formula car wins with him. There’s not many team owners in the paddock who I have had such a great history and relationship with over the years.”

More on the announcement is linked here via the USF2000 website, and Thompson also released a video that is linked below.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Andre Castro, an 18-year-old born in New York but with Colombian heritage, is the second confirmed driver at Newman/Wachs Racing ahead of its return to full-time racing. He’ll be in the team’s No. 37 entry alongside the previously announced Dakota Dickerson in the No. 36 car, with the series sophomore expected to improve this year.

“We ran Andre in our first test at Indy last October, and we had some success with him right from the start,”said team manager, Brian Halahan. “He was fast and he worked well with the team, so I feel we can build on that and have him running strong as soon as he is back in the Newman Wachs car. I think Andre and Dakota will make good teammates and push each other to the front.”

Castro is a go-kart veteran with limited car racing experience, but was nominated as a finalist for last year’s Team USA Scholarship.

“I am thrilled to be a part of Newman Wachs’ return to open-wheel racing, said Castro. After working with the team closely in the weeks leading up to the Chris Griffis Memorial test at Indy last fall, I saw that the team was incredibly serious about coming back and winning straight out of the gate. At the test itself, I was able to work with engineer Alan O’Leary extremely well, and by the end of the final day, me, a rookie driver and a returning team, together, we managed to be on top of the time sheets.”

While these two are in the USF2000 field this year, one driver who won’t be back for a second go-’round is Cameron Das, who raced his debut season with JAY Motorsports. The Baltimore teenager has stretched his wings not just in USF2000, but also in SCCA’s new U.S. F4 Championship, which he won.

Das, 16, will shift to Europe this year and will be one to watch along with new Red Bull Junior driver Neil Verhagen. Das has been confirmed with Carlin for its BRDC British F3 team, along with previously confirmed drivers James Pull and Enaam Ahmed.

“British Formula Three feels like the natural next step in my racing development,” said Das, who’s already tested for the team. “I’ve already had a chance to see Carlin in action and I couldn’t be more excited to spend the 2017 season with them. I really appreciate the support from my sponsor Autobahn Indoor Speedway and other partners for allowing me to embark on this incredible opportunity. I cannot wait for the first race weekend.”

The signing did bring up a good point – Das is unquestionably the racing driver with the name closest in spelling to actress Cameron Diaz.