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Early contract talks ‘distracting’ for Ferrari F1 drivers

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Ferrari Formula 1 chief Maurizio Arrivabene has no plans to open early contract talks with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, believing they would only act as a distraction.

Vettel comes to the end of his three-year deal with Ferrari in 2017, while Raikkonen remains on a year-by-year contract that is also up at the close of the season.

F1’s driver market for 2018 is set to hinge on Ferrari’s move and whether Mercedes opts to keep Valtteri Bottas, the Finn having signed an initial one-year deal for 2017.

Speaking over last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Arrivabene was asked about Vettel’s future, but said that it was too early to start talking about plans for next year.

“Talking about contracts now is only distracting the attention of our drivers, so I’m not ready to talk about any contracts,” Arrivabene said.

“Then, I would like to see Sebastian happy during the season, because if Sebastian is happy, that means the car is very quick.”

Much of the tension that appeared to brew between Vettel and Ferrari in 2016 was defused in Australia as both claimed their first victory since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.

Vettel was able to outpace Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, taking advantage of the Briton’s struggles on the super-soft tire to finish almost 10 seconds clear at the front of the pack.

Nevertheless, Vettel stressed after winning the race that it was too early to start thinking about a bid for a fifth championship and potentially end Ferrari’s drought that dates back to 2008.

“The first race is not the time to look at the table. As I’ve said before, you really have to go step by step,” Vettel said.

“It’s good to know that we have a great car but it’s just the beginning: new regulations, new generations of cars so there will be a lot of progress.

“[Mercedes] have proved to be the ones to beat for the last couple of years, more and more so. We know that they have a great engine but also they had a great car the last couple of years and they made good steps forward so we are the ones who need to catch up.

“For today I am just very happy and for sure whatever happens this year, the race today doesn’t hurt.”

Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.