Chinese Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton wants ‘alternative plan’ to prevent repeat of China practice scrapping

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Lewis Hamilton wants Formula 1 bosses to work out an “alternative plan” to keep fans entertained in the event of track running being scrapped after the majority of Friday practice for the Chinese Grand Prix was canceled.

Thick fog in Shanghai meant the medical helicopter being used was unable to land at the local hospital, while an alternative route via road was not quick enough to meet the FIA’s safety requirements.

As a result, drivers got just 21 minutes’ worth of running on Friday, with the entirety of FP2 being abandoned due to the weather conditions.

Hamilton ventured out across the pit straight during FP2 to meet his fans in the grandstand, but said he felt sorry for those watching.

“The track was absolutely fine and we could have run all day today with no issue if it weren’t for the clouds,” Hamilton said.

“It’s not good for the fans watching on TV and even worse for all those people in the stands, who have paid money to come out here from the city or even from other countries. They’ve barely seen a car on track today, which must be tough for them.

“We need to work together with the FIA and FOM to find a solution or an alternative plan of some kind when we have circumstances like this in the future.”

Following the lack of running, teams were reportedly offered an hour’s worth of practice later on Friday, only for this to be rejected, with weather conditions also not improving at this time.

Team bosses met with FIA race director Charlie Whiting to discuss the idea of holding the China race on Saturday given the poor forecast for Sunday, only for this also to be decided against, with the weekend set to continue as originally planned.

Horner keen to see return of Procar-style series for F1 drivers

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Red Bull Formula 1 chief Christian Horner would like to see the sport’s new owner, Liberty Media, revive a one-make series for drivers similar to the Procar championship that ran in 1979 and 1980.

Procar saw a number of F1 drivers go head-to-head in identical BMW M1 sportscars on a number of race weekends, supporting the grand prix.

The series only lasted two years and was followed by a one-off event at the Nürburgring in 1984, but has remained a fond memory for many in F1 who relished the chance to see elite drivers be separated by nothing but their ability behind the wheel.

Following its takeover of F1 in January, Liberty is working on plans to make the sport more entertaining, and Horner thinks a Procar-style series would help make drivers more active on race weekends.

“I’d love to see drivers more active over a race weekend,” Horner told Sky Sports.

“Years ago there was the Procar series. Get them driving in a different discipline. Why not get them involved in something like that with a one-make formula? Porsche Supercup, why not put the drivers all in that?”

Horner was asked about a possible clash between manufacturers, with the likes of Ferrari and Honda perhaps unwilling to field their drivers in a rival company’s car, but the Red Bull team boss thinks a solution can be found.

“Well if you moved it around, you could have them all in Aston Martins one weekend, Ferraris the next, Hondas the next. Or find a manufacturer that’s acceptable,” Horner said.

“But I think something like that, something to see the drivers’ skill and personality. They’re pretty quiet over a grand prix weekend.

“The sessions used to be longer, there used to be Sunday morning warm-ups, they used to be a lot more active and they have a lot of time on their hands now.”

Horner favored the return of a Procar-style series over the addition of a sprint race or reverse grid event to grand prix weekends that may offer half-points for the championship.

“I hate that idea, I think grand prix racing, the grand prix is the main event on a Sunday afternoon. Anything gimmicky like that is just WWF,” Horner said.

“Let’s just create great content and have great racing on a Sunday afternoon, and get the drivers racing wheel to wheel and them be the heroes.

“Then we don’t need gimmicks like reverse grids.”

Kimi Raikkonen sure he could have been ‘much faster’ in Australia

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Kimi Raikkonen has brushed off his quiet run to fourth in the Australian Grand Prix two weeks ago, saying he could have been “much faster” in the Formula 1 season-opener.

Raikkonen arrived in Australia expected to challenge for victory following an impressive display for Ferrari in pre-season testing, setting the fastest time of the winter in Barcelona.

While Ferrari delivered on its testing pace as Sebastian Vettel scored its first win in 18 months, Raikkonen ailed to a lonely fourth place, finishing over 20 seconds behind his teammate in the same car.

Looking ahead to this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, Raikkonen said he struggled to get to grips with the SF70H car over the weekend, and knows there is room for improvement.

“I think we learned a lot, we understand quite a bit and kind of everything came a bit late. And obviously then you don’t get a very good result,” Raikkonen said.

“Comparing to the last few years it was far from a distance. Yes, we had some difficulties, and we know afterwards that we could have been much faster.

“But still, as a team, we did a pretty solid job. We got some points, but [now a] new place, new circuit, so we’ll see.”

After hearing Vettel tip Mercedes to be the team to beat in China, Raikkonen said that he was unsure how Ferrari would compare, but has great confidence in the team’s car.

“I don’t know who it will be,” Raikkonen said when asked who the favorite for the race win would be. “We haven’t driven a single lap with the new cars here, so who knows.

“I think we have had a pretty good package and feeling in the car whichever place we’ve been, but it’s pointless to start guessing who’s going to be in front and who’s not.

“We will see over the weekend, and on Sunday, we’ll hopefully be a little bit smarter.”

Hamilton again expects stiff challenge from Vettel in China

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SHANGHAI (AP) Three-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton finds himself in an unfamiliar position just one race into the new season – facing a stiff challenge from a driver other than former Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

With Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel earning a surprising and emotional victory at the Australian Grand Prix last month, Hamilton will now try to reassert his team’s long-held position at the top of the sport at this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix.

“It just fuels the fire even more,” Hamilton said Thursday. “We wanted to win (in Australia). We wanted to be the ones at the front. And we’ve got a real fight on our hands.”

The Australian Grand Prix gave racing fans a taste of what they’ve been yearning for during three straight years of Mercedes domination – the prospect of a true rival to the silver cars at the top. Mercedes won 19 of the 21 F1 races in 2016, with Red Bull capturing the other two.

Vettel’s win – his first since Singapore in late 2015 – came after F1 instituted new regulations designed to make this year’s cars faster and bring more excitement and wheel-to-wheel racing to a sport that had grown predictable in recent years.

Following the changes, the 2017 cars now have wider tires, greater aerodynamics, bigger fuel loads and increased downforce, making them heavier but also significantly faster. The tires, which are 25 percent wider, have more grip and are more durable, enabling drivers to push harder and limit pit stops.

Despite his loss in Melbourne, Hamilton is a fan of the new rules. Anything to bring more intensity and competition to F1 is a good thing as far as he’s concerned.

“My favorite form of racing is go-karting … because it’s wheel-to-wheel, all the way, from start to finish,” he said. “I’m dying for that day to come again. I hope that happens with me and Sebastian. He’s a four-time world champion, one of the best of our generation, so I think fans are sitting on the edge of their seats for that.”

It helps that Vettel is also feeling particularly confident at the moment. Since capturing the last of his four world titles with Red Bull in 2013, he had only won three races before triumphing in Melbourne in March.

His new Ferrari team hadn’t been at the top of the podium in Australia in 10 years.

“It’s the best way to obviously kick off the season,” Vettel said. “After one race, it’s easier to say this year is better than last year, but it’s only one race.”

With a track featuring two long straights, which has favored the faster Mercedes cars in recent years, the Chinese GP presents a different challenge, however.

Hamilton has finished at the top of the podium in Shanghai four times. The now-retired Rosberg won last year’s race.

“I think Mercedes has to be still the favorite,” Vettel said. “We know that we have a good package which puts us in a strong place, but we know that there’s a lot of things we need to do to keep up with them and keep the position that we are in now.”

The other teams were significantly off the pace set by Ferrari and Mercedes in Melbourne. Max Verstappen finished fifth for Red Bull, while teammate Daniel Ricciardo was forced to retire with a mechanical failure on the 28th lap.

“For sure, we have to improve, but that’s how it is at the moment,” Verstappen said. “It’s quite a big gap, but I’m quite confident we can definitely close it in the upcoming races.”

Two-time world champion Fernando Alonso also failed to finish in Australia as his second season with troubled McLaren got off to a predictably disappointing start. The team has struggled mightily since switching from a Mercedes engine to one built by Honda before the 2015 season.

Sounding upbeat in Shanghai, Alonso quashed rumors that he might retire from F1 this season if McLaren’s prospects didn’t improve.

“I prefer to be here than in the supermarket in my hometown,” the Spaniard said. “Definitely not true.”

The 35-year-old Alonso said he’s still racing because he wants the chance to compete for podium spots again. Asked whether he’d like to finish his career with a winning team like Mercedes, he deflected the question.

“I have nothing to say right now. It’s a question for the future,” Alonso said. “Nothing is ruled out.”

Fernando Alonso not planning to quit Formula 1 mid-season

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Fernando Alonso says he has no plans to quit racing in Formula 1 mid-way through the 2017 season despite McLaren-Honda’s ongoing struggles.

Alonso began 2017 hoping to challenge for race wins and world titles once again as the McLaren-Honda partnership entered its third year.

The reality has been greatly different, with an array of issues with the Honda power unit leaving Alonso and teammate Stoffel Vandoorne on the sidelines for much of pre-season testing.

Alonso retired from the opening round in Australia after spending much of the race battling for P10, and believed that even a run to the lower reaches of the points flattered McLaren’s true ability.

Alonso’s ongoing struggles led friend and ex-F1 driver Mark Webber to suggest the Spaniard could quit F1 mid-season, preferring not to race at all instead of being at the back of the grid.

When asked by reporters in China about Webber’s suggestion, Alonso said it was “definitely not true” before explaining how content he was with his own performances.

“It’s normal from the outside that drivers speak, and I have read comments from many people and in Spain also if one ex-driver or motorbike rider they have one question that is also about Alonso,” Alonso said, as quoted by crash.net.

“Everyone seems to be quite close to me and I have a depression! But it’s not like that. In Formula 1 I am delivering at my best, I’m more prepared than ever and I perform at my best.

“The team is not very competitive now, OK that’s true and there is not much we can do from one day to another, it’s hard work.

“At the same time, I think that the team is expecting an extra job from me now, an extra result, as we did in Australia where the predictions and simulations said we were last and we were 10th.

“In China, if the prediction says we are last, hopefully Alonso is in the points.”