Leal completes first F1 test, Berthon joins Caterham

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GP2 drivers Julian Leal and Nathanael Berthon have both taken another step towards reaching Formula 1 thanks to Caterham F1 Team.

Leal completed his first F1 test with the team at Silverstone on Wednesday, and despite an electrical problem curtailing his initial run after just one lap, the Colombian was pleased with his day of running.

“I would like to thank everyone at Caterham F1 Team and all our partners for helping make today happen,” Leal said. “Stepping up to F1 has always been my goal and today it came true for the first time, thanks to the hard work of a lot of people, so thank you to all of them.

“We completed 51 laps which is just over the 300km required to be eligible for a superlicense, so I’m very pleased we achieved the main goal today!”

Fellow GP2 driver Nathanael Berthon has also secured a new tie with Caterham following the team’s change of ownership. He is the first member of the new ‘driver development’ programme, and new team principal Christijan Albers was pleased to confirm the signing of the 25-year-old.

“We are very pleased to welcome Nathanael into our team as the first driver in our Development Driver Program,” Albers said. “He is an exciting young talent with a proven track record in the feeder series for F1 and as he already has F1 experience he fits very neatly into our team.

“We will work closely with him to help him reach his full potential and are all excited about seeing him continue to grow as a driver, in and out of the cockpit.”

Last weekend’s GP2 races in Great Britain saw Leal secure two fifth place finishes at Silverstone, leaving him eighth in the drivers’ standings. Berthon failed to score any points once again, but did manage to equal his best finish of the season in 12th place on Sunday.

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.