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Grosjean surprised by lack of F1 start-line drama in Australia

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Romain Grosjean was surprised there was a lack of start-line drama in the Formula 1 season-opener in Australia last weekend following an overhaul of clutch procedure in the winter.

In a bid to make race starts more challenging for drivers, the FIA issued new limits on clutch bite points and paddle placement on the steering wheel, placing greater onus on skill rather than settings.

“Last year, you could shape the clutch map to the clutch. They were a bit rigid where you could drop the clutch, there was a big range on the drop,” Grosjean explained.

“This year, we have to be leaner. If your travel is 10 centimeter, generally you release one centimeter – that’s 10 percent of the clutch. There’s not a place where you can play with a flat map.

“Therefore, you drop it in a good region, and you have to drop it in a perfect percentage for the grip of the track.”

Despite the tweaks, there were very few changes of position off the line at Albert Park, much to Grosjean’s surprise, although the Frenchman is sure that there could be incidents later in the season.

“It’s not easy, starts are complicated. There are a lot of equations taken into account,” Grosjean said.

“It’s pretty tricky to know exactly what to do. We’re not yet the best, but we’re going to keep working hard on it. We have some room for improvement.

“Race starts this year are going to be tricky. I was actually surprised there weren’t any big dramas at the start of the Australian Grand Prix. It may happen in the year.”

Given the difficult nature of overtaking in 2017 due to the added downforce and width on cars, Grosjean stressed that both qualifying and race starts would be more important than ever.

“Some races this year, qualifying and the start will be the key. Take Monaco, there’s no way you’re going to overtake there,” Grosjean said.

“Race starts and qualifying will be very important. Some other races, maybe China, Bahrain and Russia, you may actually see some good fights out on track.

“It’s always going to be important, but not as much as at some other venues.”

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.