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Formula 1: Recapping the past week’s news

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News out of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship from this past week revolves exclusively around pre-season testing, which wrapped up on Friday. The next time Formula 1’s drivers and teams will get together as a group, it will be for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix (March 23-25).

A look at single-lap speeds from this past week saw Scuderia Ferrari lead the way most often, with Sebastian Vettel quickest on Tuesday and Thursday, while Kimi Raikkonen was quickest on Friday. Red Bull Racing also spent some time at the top of the time sheets, with Daniel Ricciardo setting the quick time on Wednesday.

Conspicuous in their absence at the very top of the speed charts was Mercedes AMG Petronas, with neither Lewis Hamilton nor Valtteri Bottas turning the quick lap of any day from the past week.

However, that may have been by design. A look at the time charts indicates that neither driver turned his best lap of any day this week on the new hyper soft Pirelli tires. With those now the softest tire compound available, they would be the tires used to set the quickest lap times.

However, while others used the new “hypers” to set an ultimate lap time, that did not seem to fit into the Mercedes game plan. In particular, Thursday and Friday saw them focus on long-run pace almost exclusively. This is also reflected in the total laps they turned, as the team crossed the 1,000-lap mark on Friday.

The overall feeling is that Mercedes remains the team to beat, with both Ferrari and Red Bull vying for next in line in the pecking order. Sahara Force India and Renault Sport F1 Team have also looked strong at various points, and may do battle for “best of the rest” behind Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull. Haas F1 Team also showed speed at various times during the week, again putting them squarely in the mid-field mix.

The team that seemed to generate the most intrigue is McLaren F1 Team. While they made a power unit change in switching to Renault from Honda – after three problematic seasons plagued by reliability and power issues – the team struggled with reliability for much of the week, with both Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne suffering a range of mechanical problems.

While the McLaren-Renault package seems to have speed, reliability remains a question mark.

Alfa Romeo Sauber and Williams Martini Racing were the teams that seemed to languish near the bottom in terms of outright speed – a Williams driver turned in the slowest lap each day during Week 2 of testing, with Sauber not far ahead of them.

As a result, Williams and Sauber might be the bottom two teams in the pecking order, and may need to rely on problems from other teams in order to contend for finishes in the points.

Testing recaps from this week are linked as follows: Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday.



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.