FIA WEC: Ex-F1 prospects Calado, Bird do well in qualifying

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Former open-wheelers James Calado and Sam Bird appear to be taking to the World Endurance Championship nicely after qualifying up the grid in their respective classes for tomorrow’s WEC season-opener at Silverstone.

Calado and Bird are with the same AF Corse Ferrari team, but the former is in the GTE-Pro while the latter is in GTE-Am. But both of them had a fine Saturday, with Calado and teammate Davide Rigon qualifying fourth in Pro and Bird, Stephen Wyatt, and Michele Rugalo earning pole in Am.

Calado, who finished third in GP2 last year, sounded pleased with his work and hailed teammates Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander for their GTE-Pro pole on Twitter.

As for Bird, last year’s GP2 runner-up, he says he’s having fun with his “amazing opportunity” to run with AF Corse, which won last year’s WEC GTE-Pro title.

“[It’s been] really good fun, and I’m enjoying my racing in GTs,” Bird said to reporters today at Silverstone. “It’d be great to get on the podium. Obviously, the main thing is to make sure that Steve is fast as possible.

“If he can do a really good job then we’re gonna be within a shout of being on the podium if not winning the race.  Hopefully, the conditions will suit us. If not, it might be a very tricky race.”

Bird and Rugalo topped the Aston Martin of Pedro Lamy, Christoffer Nygaard, and Paul Dalla Lana for GTE-Am pole by almost a full second.

Hamilton: Abu Dhabi ‘the last race with good-looking cars’ in F1

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Lewis Hamilton believes that this weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be remembered as the last race with good-looking Formula 1 cars ahead of the introduction of the ‘Halo’ cockpit protection for next year.

Officials from the FIA and F1 Strategy Group confirmed earlier this year that the Halo would be fitted to all cars from the 2018 season in a bid to improve safety standards, with the deaths of Justin Wilson and Jules Bianchi putting head protection high on the agenda for the series’ chiefs.

Hamilton has long made his opposition to the Halo clear, believing it will ruin the look of F1 cars, and echoed his thoughts ahead of the final Halo-less race in Abu Dhabi this weekend.

“It’s the last year of looking good I think in the cars. It’s the last race where the cars will look good,” Hamilton said.

“I think next year, it’s all downhill from there in terms of how they look.

“But safety will go up at least, and maybe it could be successful in some way.”

Hamilton’s F1 title rival Sebastian Vettel was less bothered about the change, believing the field will adjust and move on.

“The cars will look different next year. Everything I’ve seen so far looks different, but on the other hand it is something we all get used to,” Vettel said.

“But no doubt the cars look better now, but we’ll get used to it, and we’ll work on the aesthetics so it can be better. It is less of a big deal.”

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo shared Vettel’s view, saying: “I don’t think it’s gonna be as dramatic as most people make it out to be.”