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Formula 1: Recapping the past week’s news

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This past week saw the FIA Formula 1 World Championship return to on-track action as pre-season testing kicked off at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, the week was far from smooth, with weather conditions impacting two of the four days of testing, with Wednesday’s sessions effectively wiped out because of a combination of snow and rain.

However, the final day of testing this week, on Thursday, saw the weather give way to much better conditions, and F1 teams finished out the week with the busiest day of testing so far. Three drivers turned in over 100 laps – McLaren F1 Team’s Stoffel Vandoorne (110 laps), Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastien Vettel (120 laps), and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly (147 laps), while Mercedes AMG Petronas’ Lewis Hamilton turned in the fastest lap of the week at 1:19.333.

Other drivers to lead individual days were Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo (fastest on Day 1) and the aforementioned Vettel (fastest on Day 2).

McLaren also enjoyed a strong outing in the first week of testing, this after switching to Renault power units following a problematic three-year stretch with Honda. Both Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso ranked inside the top five on Thursday (Vandoorne second, Alonso fifth) while the team has enjoyed no significant mechanical problems so far, their only on-track issue coming on Day 1 when a broken wheel nut sent Alonso spinning off the track at the final corner.

Toro Rosso, which is now running Honda power units, has also enjoyed a trouble-free opening week, with Brendon Hartley and Pierre Gasly combining for over 300 laps of running between them.

Pre-season testing resumes on Monday.

Drivers Adapting to the Halo

The newly created halo that surrounds the cockpit of all 2018 Formula 1 cars has been a point of controversy ever since the concept was conceived.

However, while the look of it remains a point of much debate, the drivers are getting used to its presence and have found adapting to it relatively easy.

The “halo” remains a point of controversy as drivers begin adapting to it. Photo: Getty Images

“When you are sitting there you only see the center pillar and a small part of the wider one, but you are not looking there anyway. It’s a small thing in the middle and that’s it, I’m completely used to it and it’s fine,” said Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas. “It took a little bit of time to get used to it but it’s OK. It’s not been disturbing anything.”

Concerns, then, about the drivers’ ability to see appear to have been alleviated, although its appearance remains unpopular.

“I’m not impressed with the whole thing. If you give me a chainsaw I would take it off,” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff asserted. “I think we need to look after the drivers’ safety but what we have implemented is aesthetically not appealing. We need to come up with a solution that simply looks better.”

F1 to Launch an Over-the-Top Streaming Service

Liberty Media and Formula 1 confirmed that an over-the-top streaming service, dubbed F1 TV, will become available early in the 2018 season.

The service will be similar in nature to ones offered by the FIM MotoGP and Superbike World Championships, featuring coverage of all on-track sessions, both live and on-demand, as well as coverage of several Formula 1 support series, such as the FIA Formula 2 Championship and the GP3 Series.

The subscription service will be offered in two tiers, F1 TV Pro at a monthly cost of $8-$12, and the less expensive F1 TV Access. More information about F1 TV can be found here.



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.