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MRTI: pre-season testing Day 1 notebook

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Preparations for the 2018 season of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires kicks off this weekend, with all three series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – taking part in pre-season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Indy Lights was the first to take to the track, doing so on Friday on the 1.5-mile oval. Below are highlights from the first day of testing.

  • Six Indy Lights drivers turned laps – four from Andretti Autosport (Ryan Norman, Dalton Kellett, Pato O’Ward, and Colton Herta, with Herta in the effort from Andretti Steinbrenner Racing) and two from Juncos Racing (Victor Franzoni and Alfonso Celis Jr.).
  • Ryan Norman turned the quickest lap of the day, at 187.170 mph.
  • Victor Franzoni, last year’s Pro Mazda champion, made his debut in the Soul Red livery, signifying he is the reigning champion from the preceding series in the ladder system and a recipient of a Mazda Motorsports scholarship. “It’s a huge honor,” Franzoni said of carrying the Mazda colors. “Representing Mazda will be one of the best things of 2018, for sure. I don’t think the pressure will increase because my pressure is to win the championship in any color, but I’m excited about what I will learn representing a big brand like Mazda and hoping to do a great job inside and outside the track.” Franzoni had the fifth quickest lap, at 183.379 mph.
  • Juncos Racing confirmed Alfonso Celis Jr. as their second driver earlier on Friday morning, with the Homestead test providing Celis Jr. an immediate chance to get acquainted with the Dallara IL-15 chassis. Celis Jr. contested the World Series Formula V8 championship, where he was a pole winner and race winner in 2017 on his way to third in the championship standings.
  • Although Pro Mazda and USF2000 did not run on Friday, some news did emerge ahead of testing in the form team confirmations for the remaining “Soul Red” Mazda scholarship drivers. Oliver Askew, last year’s USF2000 champion, will contest the 2018 Pro Mazda season with Cape Motorsports, the same team with whom he won the USF2000 title. In USF2000, Keith Donegan, winner of the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, joins ArmsUp Motorsports for the 2018 season.

Testing continues on Saturday with Pro Mazda and USF2000 hitting the track on the 2.21-mile road course.


Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.