2017 F1 season

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Marko tips Vettel to beat Hamilton to F1 world title

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Red Bull Formula 1 advisor Helmut Marko has backed Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel to come back stronger from the sport’s summer break and beat Lewis Hamilton to this year’s drivers’ championship.

Marko played an instrumental part in Vettel’s rise to F1 under Red Bull’s umbrella, the German winning four straight drivers’ titles between 2010 and 2013 for the team ahead of his move to Ferrari.

Vettel has claimed four wins through the opening 11 races of the year to sit 14 points clear of Mercedes’ Hamilton in the standings heading into the second leg of the season, starting in Belgium next week.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Marko praised Vettel’s mentality when battling for a championship, backing him to take a fifth title in 2017.

“I believe in Vettel, because I know his mental strength, and Ferrari has raised its game,” Marko said.

“Silverstone, I would say, was an exception. Ferrari was clearly the stronger car in the first half of the season and only due to various circumstances could they not materialize all their chances.

“We have been 60 points behind before the summer break, and still won the title with him. Seb will use this summer break to come back even stronger. That’s how I know him.”

Vettel’s most impressive title comeback came in 2012 when he reversed a 42-point deficit to Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso heading into the summer break to take the title at the final round in Brazil.

Wehrlein: Sauber F1 set for big C36 upgrade in Hungary

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Sauber is set to bring a sizeable update for its C36 Formula 1 car to the Hungarian Grand Prix next weekend, according to driver Pascal Wehrlein.

Sauber has been battling at the back of the grid throughout 2017 after years of financial difficulties, limiting the development of its new car.

The team is racing with a 2016-spec Ferrari power unit, putting it on the back foot compared to its rivals, but it currently sits P9 in the constructors’ championship ahead of McLaren.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Wehrlein confirmed that Sauber would be bringing a sizeable update package to Budapest, and was positive about the boost it may offer.

“For Budapest we are set for a big upgrade. Almost all the car, or all the aero side, will be new, so that should give us a good performance boost,” Wehrlein said.

“If what the data shows really can materialize we could be on a good go.”

Wehrlein has endured a rocky season so far, missing the opening two races through injury before leading Sauber to eighth place in Spain, as well as taking another point in Baku.

“It is no secret that my start to the season was very difficult. The injury matter was pretty tough,” Wehrein said.

“Going to Australia and not driving was hard and having to skip China was another notch on the ‘horror scale’.

“The start to 2017 in Bahrain was not bad. It felt like I had never been away, never been injured. The first qualifying took me to Q2 and I nearly finished in the points with P11, with the Sauber car!

“Since then it is going smoothly and pretty much in the right direction. Twice I scored points, with the clear highlight of Barcelona, which was exceptional for us finishing in P7, even if with the penalty it was finally P8.

“But imagine: P7 with the Sauber! Yes there have been difficult races since then, but we knew that this would happen.”

Steve Nielsen appointed new F1 sporting director

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Liberty Media has continued to bolster Formula 1’s management team by announcing that Steve Nielsen will take up the role of sporting director on August 1, reporting directly to Ross Brawn.

Nielsen has worked in F1 across four decades, most recently as Williams’ sporting manager, but was known to be leaving the team at the end of July, handing his duties over to inbound Dave Redding.

F1 confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that Nielsen would be joining the management team established by Liberty Media following its takeover of the sport in January, working with sporting managing director Brawn.

“I have known Steve for many years and have seen at first hand his skills and ability,” Brawn said.

“His appointment will strengthen the working group we are setting up to work with the FIA and the teams in defining a framework for the technical and sporting regulations for Formula 1’s next phase.

“Steve’s main responsibility will be related to sporting and organizational matters, for example by attending the meetings of the Sporting Working Group.”

Kubica set for second F1 test with Renault to ‘assess capabilities’

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Renault has confirmed that Robert Kubica will enjoy a second private Formula 1 test in the near future in order to see whether he is capable of making a full-time return to racing.

Kubica raced in F1 between 2006 and 2010 before his single-seater career was put on hold after sustaining severe injuries to his right arm and hand in a rally accident.

After a number of years in rallying, Kubica enjoyed his first F1 test in six years last month with Renault, completing laps in a 2012 car in order to give him a feel of a grand prix racer once again.

Kubica was buoyed by the test, saying last week that he felt there was an “80 to 90 per cent” chance of a full-time return in the future.

Renault confirmed on Thursday that Kubica would be getting a second test at Paul Ricard in the near future, but that this would be a more intense run to truly evaluate if he can make a return to racing in the future.

“Whilst the first day of testing at Valencia was no more than to let Robert get reacquainted with the feel of driving again, this second test will be to assess his capabilities to return to the highest level of competition,” Renault F1 chief Cyril Abiteboul said.

“This is a new phase in his personal and professional journey and we are proud to support him in the form of lending our infrastructure at Paul Ricard that is suitable for professional and non-professional drivers.

“There are still many hurdles for him to overcome, and he knows better than anyone else that only his performance will determine if he can one day return to being a professional driver.”

Force India sets up companies pointing towards ‘Force One’ rebrand

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Force India has begun the process of rebranding itself as ‘Force One’ for the 2018 Formula 1 season by setting up six companies in the UK under its proposed name.

Force India entered F1 in 2008 after Indian tycoon Vijay Mallya bought out the Spyker team, placing an emphasis on the national identity of the new operation.

The team has worked its way up the field through its time in F1, finishing a best-ever fourth in the constructors’ championship last year, but shifted its image after BWT sponsorship resulted in a pink livery for 2017.

In a bid to make the team easier to market and open up more commercial opportunities, Force India was reported in the German press earlier this month to be considering renaming itself, with recent company establishments in the UK supporting the stories.

As per Companies House in the UK, between May 31 and June 6, the following six companies were incorporated:

  • Force One Grand Prix Limited
  • Force One Racing Limited
  • Force One Technologies Limited
  • Force One Hospitality Limited
  • Force One Brand Limited
  • Force One Team Limited

All of the companies have been set up with one named officer, Thiruvannamalai Ventkatesan Lakshmi Kanthan, a former director at Force India with ties to Mallya.

Force India’s chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer explained why the name change was being considered when speaking to Sky Sports over the Azerbaijan Grand Prix weekend.

“Dropping the India, we’ve had the discussion, I think it makes sense,” Szafnauer said.

“We used to have an Indian GP, we don’t anymore, we had Indian sponsors at one point and now we have none.

“Sometimes India in the name will limit the opportunities, especially for sponsorship, so if we drop that it will broaden our horizons a bit and I think it makes sense.”