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Felipe Massa held talks with Jaguar over Formula E drive

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Felipe Massa has confirmed that he held talks with Jaguar concerning a Formula E drive for 2017 before making a surprise return to Formula 1 with Williams.

Massa announced last September that he would be retiring from F1 at the end of 2016, making way for 18-year-old Lance Stroll to claim his seat at Williams alongside Valtteri Bottas.

Massa was handed an unexpected reprieve when Mercedes approached Bottas to replace world champion Nico Rosberg following his surprise retirement, with the Brazilian’s comeback being made official in January.

Never keen to retire from racing completely, Massa had been exploring options in other championships including Formula E, and confirmed in Barcelona earlier this week that he did hold talks with Jaguar regarding a seat.

“[Formula E] was something that I was thinking for my future. My plan was to keep racing, so I had already decided to do this test to know the car,” Massa said.

“I even read that I already had a contract. I didn’t have anything to be honest. I didn’t have any contract. For sure some talks, and I decided to do this test with Jaguar. I didn’t cancel it. I just went there to know the car and to try it.

“It was nice, it was a nice feeling. For sure very different to what we used to here, completely different car, completely different mentality of so many different things. But I think it was nice, learning a different category, learning a different car.”

While a move into Formula E after his F1 career remains an option, Massa said that he will take no decision on his future for the time being and will focus on his duties with Williams for as long as he can.

“It was an option, Formula E. I didn’t take any decision. Now for sure, I will not take any decision now,” Massa said.

“But now I have no idea what’s going to happen. I decided to come back to Formula 1. I have no idea what’s going to happen, if I will stay [beyond 2017]. I have the same mentality as I said last year.

“If I can stay, if I feel fit, that I’m competitive, that I can do a good job and I have some good opportunities to stay in Formula 1, maybe I’ll stay.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.