Double DNF for Toro Rosso caps off bad weekend for Red Bull

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The return of the Austrian Grand Prix last weekend was masterminded by billionaire owner of the Red Bull brand, Dietrich Mateschitz. As the owner of the defending world champion team and its sister squad, Toro Rosso, it was intended to be their big weekend to impress.

Instead, not only did the main Red Bull team flounder and score just four points, but Toro Rosso’s weekend also went badly as both Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat retired from the race.

It had all started so well for Kvyat. On Saturday, he qualified in seventh place ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton, only to drop back off the line down to tenth place. He then became embroiled in a battle with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo for position, and pulled off a remarkable overtake on the Australian.

Ultimately, it wasn’t to be though. Kvyat suffered a failure on his right rear wheel that sent him off into the gravel, and he was forced to retire from the race.

“I’m obviously disappointed with how today turned out, especially because everything was working so well this weekend and it seemed like a promising race,” the Russian explained. “Our pace was strong, our updates and also tire management worked well.

“The start was difficult, I lost a few positions but I managed to get a position back. From then on I was able to push hard and it looked like we could have a strong result. Around lap 26 I saw my rear right tyre blow up and I was forced to stop.”

Teammate Jean-Eric Vergne ran outside of the points for the majority of the grand prix, and eventually retired from the race due to a problem with his brakes.

“I have struggled with the brakes from the beginning of the race,” he said. “It’s difficult to drive the car with such a considerable rear locking. It’s not good for tire life and for the balance in general so it was really a tricky race. I was doing my best to finish it at least but in the end I just could not bring the car to the checkered flag.

“Problems happen, it’s a shame that they occurred here but the new aero package is working well and we have a good car to face the next grand prix in Silverstone.”

Position of F1 start lights altered to compensate for safety halo

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — The position of start lights will be altered on Formula One tracks this season, in a bid to ensure the drivers’ line of vision is not impeded by the controversial halo protection device.

The halo is a titanium structure introduced this year in a bid to ramp up driver safety, forming a ring around the cockpit top. It is designed to protect the drivers’ head from loose debris and offer better safety during eventual collisions.

Although drivers largely understand the need for it, very few like it. They are worried it impedes visibility, it looks ugly and also that fans will no longer be able to identify a driver properly from his race helmet. Drivers also take longer to climb in and out of their cars.

Formula One’s governing body has addressed concerns and asked every circuit “to make the lights at a standard height above the track,” FIA race director Charlie Whiting said.

“Pole position seems to be the worst case scenario with the halo,” Whiting added at the season-opening Australian GP. “Maybe the driver can’t quite see the lights, or see only half of them, and he might have to move his head too much.”

The new start lights were positioned lower for Friday’s first two practice sessions at Albert Park. Drivers were also allowed the rare chance to rehearse grid starts at the end of both sessions.

“We haven’t normally allowed practice starts on the grid here because it’s quite a tight timetable,” Whiting said. “What I thought would be a good idea was to give the driver sight of those lights, rather than for the first time on Sunday evening.”

A repeat set of lights has been moved from its usual position halfway up the grid to a more convenient position to the left.

“Those repeat lights were normally halfway up the grid, and they were fitted round about 2009, when the rear wings became higher on the cars,” Whiting said. “But now the wings have been lowered, there’s no need for those halfway up the grid.”