Maldonado confident Lotus will be front-runners soon

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Lotus driver Pastor Maldonado is confident that the team will soon return to the front of the grid after a difficult start to the season, setting a rather lofty target of a podium finish in the next few races.

Having undergone a number of changes and lost 20% of the staff at Enstone, Lotus entered this season under a cloud. The financial uncertainty that threatened the team was eased by Maldonado’s backing from PDVSA, but development on the E22 car was slower than expected, causing the team to miss the first test in Jerez.

Since then, Lotus has been on the back foot. In the Bahrain tests, the team encountered problems with the Renault power unit, and in Australia Maldonado and teammate Romain Grosjean qualified on the back row of the grid. In the race, both cars did retire, albeit after completing the longest runs with the E22 so far. Heading to Malaysia though, Maldonado is confident that more progress can be made.

“Hopefully this event will go more smoothly for us compared with Australia,” he said. “We know we need to work very hard to achieve our aims and objectives for the E22. We know where our main focus lies and as a team we are determined to get there.”

Despite the team being well off the pace in Australia, Maldonado is confident of the team returning to the front of the field soon.

“We’ve had a lot of initial issues with the car, but this has been the same up and down the pit lane,” he said. “I’m impressed every time I look at the packaging of the car and I know that the work going on at Enstone and with Renault Sport F1 will make the E22 into a podium contender very soon indeed.”

Even though Williams arguably has the second fastest car on the grid, Maldonado has maintained that he made the right decision to leave the team for Lotus this year. However, given that he had accused the team of sabotage, it is unlikely those at Grove will be missing Maldonado too much.

SMP Racing unveils BR1 LMP1 car in Bahrain ahead of WEC entry

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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.

Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.

The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.

SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.

Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.