It’s hard to call the Bahrain Grand Prix weekend anything but a nightmare for the Sauber squad.
While its 2013 driver Nico Hulkenberg was busy finishing fifth a second straight race for Force India, and its 2012 driver Sergio Perez making his return to the podium for the first time since Monza that year, but now Hulkenberg’s teammate at Force India, Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil had utterly miserable weekends.
Sutil’s in particular started bad and went worse as it went on. A loss of power put an early end to his Friday second practice. Saturday saw him dropped to the back of the grid after he was ruled to have blocked Romain Grosjean’s Lotus.
Then Sunday, he was the first of Sauber’s two cars that got speared by another car acting like a Swiss army knife. Gutierrez’s barrel roll after being hit by the other Lotus, driven by Pastor Maldonado, garnered the headlines but Sutil’s race ended before that dramatic moment when Jules Bianchi misjudged a braking point in his Marussia, and made contact with the German.
End result? P22 and last after rolling off from the same grid position.
“My race was over quite early. Jules (Bianchi) braked too late andwent into my car in the hairpin. I was not able to do anything to prevent it, and my car was damaged,” Sutil said in the team’s post-race release. “He was driving aggressively for the whole race and pushed me off at the start. With his move he destroyed mine as well as his own race. It was unnecessary.”
With the team’s second consecutive double DNF, Sauber has the fewest race finishes on the grid this year with just the two from Melbourne.
Continued chassis development and gains from Ferrari on the power unit front will be the only way for Sauber to progress this year, as the perennial midfielders seek the level of competitiveness achieved by Williams, Force India and occasionally Toro Rosso thus far through three Grands Prix.
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 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.
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.”
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.