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Formula 1 2017 preview: Offseason recap

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The gap between the end of the 2016 Formula 1 season and the start of the 2017 campaign perhaps feels like the least ‘offseason-y’ offseason of recent times.

Since the checkered flag dropped in Abu Dhabi and Nico Rosberg claimed his maiden drivers’ title, a huge amount has happened.

So here’s a run-down of all that has happened over the winter.

November 27 – Nico Rosberg clinches his maiden F1 world title in Abu Dhabi, finishing second in the race to win the championship by five points. Felipe Massa makes what was planned to be his final F1 start.

December 2 – Rosberg announces his immediate retirement from F1 in a press conference ahead of the FIA gala in Vienna, Austria.

December 11 – Hamilton and Wolff enjoy an “amazing” meeting regarding plans for the 2017 season. Hamilton says Mercedes will have “the strongest partnership” to defend its titles. BBC Sport reports that Valtteri Bottas is Mercedes’ prime target and has already tabled an offer for the Finn.

December 15 – Mercedes confirms that it will make no announcement regarding Rosberg’s replacement until January 3 at the earliest. Claire Williams says that Williams was open to letting Bottas leave, relying it could find a suitable replacement.

December 20 – Reports suggest that Massa has agreed to come out of retirement and return to Williams for 2017, paving the way for Bottas to leave the team.

December 30 – Massa posts on Instagram that he is back “training hard” in America.

January 3 – The earliest date for an announcement from Mercedes passes.

January 6 – Manor – the team Wehrlein raced for last year – enters administration, raising doubts over the team’s future and place on the 2017 grid.

January 10 – Mercedes confirms Paddy Lowe will leave the team after three years.

January 15 – Claire Williams says she expects to make an announcement about Bottas’ future within a week.

January 16 – Pascal Wehrlein is officially announced by Sauber; photos of Bottas in Mercedes team gear leak online; Williams confirms Massa will return; finally, Bottas is announced officially at Mercedes.

January 19 – Mercedes signs British youngster George Russell to its junior program.

January 20 – Liberty Media offers shares to F1 teams ahead of takeover.

January 22 – Pascal Wehrlein pulls out of the Race of Champions’ second day through injury.

January 23 – Liberty Media completes its takeover of F1, ousting CEO Bernie Ecclestone and ending his 40-year rein at the helm of the sport. Chase Carey becomes CEO, appointing Sean Bratches and Ross Brawn into top roles.

January 26 – Renault names BP/Castrol as new fuel and lubricants supplier.

January 27 – Manor confirms it will close after failing to find a buyer, costing over 200 jobs.

February 4 – Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne calls on Liberty to make F1 more entertaining.

February 7 – McLaren confirms that racing CEO Jost Capito has left the team after just five months.

February 9 – McLaren team manager Dave Redding confirms he will move to Williams.

February 10 – BP/Castrol also becomes McLaren’s new fuel and lubricants partner; Ferrari forced to postpone a private Pirelli test after Sebastian Vettel suffers a crash.

February 16 – Mercedes announces that ex-Ferrari man James Allison will become its new technical director; the FIA responds to “malicious” reports regarding the sale of F1; McLaren marketing chief Ekrem Sami leaves the team; Dirk de Beer becomes Williams’ new aero chief.

February 17 – Williams releases renders of its new car, the FW40.

February 20 – Sauber presents C36 car, celebrating 25 years in F1.

February 21 – Renault reveals R.S.17, targets top five finish in the championship.

February 22 – British youngster Lando Norris joins McLaren’s junior program; Force India reveals VJM10 car for 2017.

February 23 – Mercedes unveils 2017 F1 car, completes filming day.

February 24 – McLaren and Ferrari unveil their cars. McLaren’s takes the most note for a bright orange livery.

February 26 – Red Bull, Haas and Toro Rosso reveal their 2017 runners.

February 27 – Pre-season testing begins in Barcelona.

February 28 – Sauber appoints Tatiana Calderon as its new development driver.

March 2 – The first test ends with Valtteri Bottas as the fastest driver. Williams and McLaren endure difficult runs, while Mercedes and Ferrari steal a march on the field.

March 4 – McLaren denies there are any fundamental issues with the Honda power unit.

March 7 – Test two begins.

March 8 – Fernando Alonso blasts Honda, says its power unit has “no reliability” and “no power”.

March 9 – The FIA announces that GP2 will be known as Formula 2 from 2017.

March 10 – Pre-season testing comes to a close. Kimi Raikkonen ends as the quickest driver for Ferrari; 1964 world champion John Surtees dies at the age of 83.

March 16 – Paddy Lowe joins Williams as chief technical officer, having left his role at Mercedes earlier in the winter; Mika Hakkinen becomes McLaren ambassador; reports suggest McLaren has approached Mercedes regarding an engine supply.

March 18 – Manor’s remaining F1 assets are listed for auction.

IMSA: Heavy news week leading into Thanksgiving holiday

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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After the weekend and before the Thanksgiving holiday this week, IMSA has rolled out a number of announcements itself, while IMSA could be set for further announcements in the weeks to come starting next week.

Here’s a roundup:

QUALIFYING AT ROAR SET FOR PIT POSITIONS, GARAGES AT ROLEX 24

Here are key notes from IMSA’s Monday release about how Sunday at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 will take on a greater significance:

  • The pit boxes and garages each team will use during the Rolex 24 will now be allocated based on fastest qualifying times set during Sunday’s third and final day of the Roar. Each of the three WeatherTech Championship classes – Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will have a 15-minute qualifying session on Sunday, Jan. 7.
  • The fastest-qualifying Prototype will receive the first pit box on pit lane starting at pit-in and also will be assigned to the first garage in the Prototype section of the WeatherTech Championship garage. The fastest GTD car will receive the second pit box on pit lane and the first garage in the GTD section, with the fastest GTLM car receiving the third pit box and the first garage in the GTLM section.
  • New for 2018 – P and GTLM will pit together under a full course yellow. Therefore, to give class separation in the pits, P and GTLM teams are assigned pit boxes to ensure they are separated by a GTD Team.

This, coupled with the addition of the first IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda one-hour, 45-minute race with two drivers, will make this a more shaken up Roar.

REGS, REGS, GET YOUR REGS

IMSA has released the Sporting and Technical Regulations for 2018 this week. The aforementioned note about P and GTLM teams pitting together is a change from P and Prototype Challenge (PC) class cars pitting together, with GTLM and GTD together as it was this year.

Restart procedures changed will see P cars moved to the lead ahead of GT cars; this created confusion at times throughout 2017 as sometimes another class leader in PC, GTLM or GTD had been the first car behind a pace car.

Each team will be limited to one car change in-season only, subject to “force majeure.”

On the off chance a driver is racing in two cars, his or her maximum drive time will be counted cumulatively between the two cars.

There are other tweaks, of course, but most are largely procedural or within the fine print.

RATINGS REVEALED

The good news with IMSA going down from four classes to three for 2018 is that only one designated pro-am class remains in the form of GT Daytona, which requires at least one Silver (or Bronze) full-season driver alongside the designated pro. Those sneaky “Super Silvers” remain an invaluable asset for using his or her results to their benefit.

The FIA released the initial driver ratings for 2018 this week with a few changes, some young pros going up from Silver to Gold and others getting their request to get downgraded from Gold to Silver approved. Drivers have a couple weeks to appeal if they so desire.

Here’s your friendly reminder of what drivers can be in what GTD cars for the first two races at Daytona and Sebring:

  • Daytona (5 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) or five (5) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.
  • Sebring (4 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.

MAZDA KEEPS ON TESTING, CLOSES ON ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Los Angeles Auto Show, held after Thanksgiving, is a likely landing spot for Mazda Team Joest to reveal, officially, its revised “Evo” version of the Mazda RT24-P and its driver lineup for the 2018 season. While most of the Prototype class lineups (DPi and LMP2-spec cars) have been revealed, Mazda’s has been an exception. In the interim, not long after its Daytona test late last month, they’ve also been testing at Sebring.

FROM SPACE CENTER TO DOWN UNDER

Jordan Taylor undertook testing of a different kind not long ago at, of all places, the Kennedy Space Center. One of this year’s Prototype class champions was undertaking a straight line test in his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Taylor being Taylor, the moment couldn’t pass without him winning at social media (see third tweet).

Taylor goes from down a long runway to down under, visiting his first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race this weekend at its season finale in Newcastle.

‘MAKING OF A CHAMPION’ PIECES ROLL OUT

The fourth installment of IMSA’s “making of a champion” series highlights Jordan Taylor, who co-drove with brother Ricky to the Prototype class championship this year. These two are part of four done by IMSA so far, along with Pato O’Ward (PC) and Christina Nielsen (GTD). More should follow in the coming weeks.

SPEAKING OF CHAMPS, HINDMAN, AGOSTINI, PRESTIGE WIN LAMBORGHINI WORLD FINAL

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final was held last weekend at the Imola circuit in Italy and the American Prestige Performance team won the World Final overall, with co-drivers Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini.

The World Final brings together teams from North America, Europe and Asia that campaign the spec Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 in Super Trofeo regional competition. Hindman and Agostini got the weekend off on the right foot by winning the North American championship first, then followed it up at the World Final itself to topple all other domestic and international entries.

You might remember we profiled Hindman last month, as the 22-year-old’s star in the sports car world is clearly on the rise.

Somehow, someway, at the end of the day today we received the title 2017 Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Champions. Race 2 was not perfect and much more nerve racking than we would have hoped but fortunately in the end the job was done. I am honored to be sharing this with @rickyagostini as well as the entire @prestigeperfctr @waynetaylorracing team and I thank them for their incredible effort all year. With this result, we are the first ever American team to win the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Championship overall. 3/4 overall wins along with the Super Trofeo North America and World titles marks the end of a successful 2017 campaign. Back to reality tomorrow. Thank you all for following us along on this incredible journey.

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