Room to improve for Ferrari after subpar outing in Australia

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While encouraged with the reliability of the F14 T after its first race last weekend at the Australian Grand Prix, Ferrari knows that it faces a sizable gap in regards to overall speed to the Mercedes camp.

Last weekend’s season opener was a entertaining one, but Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg still managed to crush the field and won by a margin of 26.7 seconds.

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s tandem of former World Champions, Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen, were left to settle for fifth and eighth, respectively.

There’s definitely work to do for the Scuderia as we head for the Malaysian Grand Prix, and two of its key figures – team principal Stefano Domenicali and technical director James Allison – have acknowledged that.

Domenicali pointed out that, among other areas, the performance of the team’s new V-6 power unit needed some work.

“I think that area is an area we need to improve,” he said according to British F1 broadcaster Sky Sports. “I know it seems not logical but the more power that you have, the less you stay on full throttle so you also benefit on the fuel.

“I don’t want to focus only on that because the car has to be improved. It’s a matter of everyone doing his job and being focused on what they have to do at home without saying it’s your fault or my fault.”

Meanwhile, Allison has been weighing the good and the bad about the car overall after the first weekend of the year.

“There is plenty about the F14T that is working very well: The starts and the pace in the corners – especially the high speed ones – are particular strong points, but we need to work further on the stability under braking and the speed on the straights,” he said to Ferrari’s official website.

He made sure to also note that with all of the changes for 2014, the Scuderia is expecting an “even more intense than normal” battle against the other teams in the paddock to develop their new cars.

“Our competitiveness was not acceptable in Melbourne,” he said. “But we intend to fight our way back up the grid with the improvements that we will bring to the car.”

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.