Andre Lotterer confirmed for Caterham debut at Spa

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Andre Lotterer will become the first driver in 20 years to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans and compete in a Formula One Grand Prix in the same season (Yannick Dalmas, 1994).

Lotterer, the 32-year-old German, has inked a deal to make his Formula One debut with the Caterham team this weekend in the Belgian Grand Prix, replacing Kamui Kobayashi. Earlier this week, Autosport’s Jon Noble reported Lotterer was linked to the team that now features Colin Kolles and Christijan Albers, two people Lotterer worked with in sports cars.

“I am delighted to be given the opportunity to take part in a Formula One race weekend – I want to thank Caterham F1 Team for this chance,” Lotterer told Sky Sports. “I’m ready for this challenge and I cannot wait to jump in the car and make the most out of the weekend ahead.

“I will need to get settled and used to the car quickly, as the team has worked on a number of updates and we will need to have as much time as possible out on track to optimise the car’s performance. I really enjoy racing at the legendary circuit of Spa-Francorchamps, it’s one of my favourite tracks and it’s very close to where I grew up, so this makes the weekend even more special and one to remember.”

To make this happen, Andrea Caldarelli will race in Lotterer’s place for this weekend’s Super Formula open-wheel race in Japan, and Audi has additionally given its blessing for Lotterer to race at Spa.

For Lotterer, it’s a rare dovetail back to F1 after a career that in 2002, saw him as a rising star as Jaguar’s test driver. But he never got the opportunity to race – the team had Eddie Irvine and Pedro de la Rosa in ’02 and swapped the veterans for then-young guns Mark Webber and Antonio Pizzonia in 2003.

Since, Lotterer has carved a successful single-seater career for himself in Japan, shifted to sports cars, linked up with Kolles’ customer Audi team in 2009 and earned a spot on Audi’s factory roster in 2010. He’s become a three-time Le Mans champion, co-driving to win with Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler in each of 2011, 2012 and now 2014.

And now, Lotterer has the opportunity that “Mr. Le Mans” – Tom Kristensen, the nine-time Le Mans champion – never got. Kristensen tested but never raced in F1; Lotterer will now have a one-off opportunity to sample modern F1 technology, and compare it to the technological advances of his usual bullet in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the Audi R18 e-tron quattro.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.