Felipe Massa

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Renault not giving up in chase of Williams in F1 teams’ standings

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Renault is refusing to give up in its bid for a top-five finish in this year’s Formula 1 constructors’ championship despite trailing Williams by over 20 points heading into the final flyaway rounds of the season.

Renault returned to F1 in 2016 as a constructor after six years away, and has made progress through its second season back, scoring over four times as many points as in the entirety of the previous campaign.

Renault set a top-five finish in the teams’ standings as its pre-season target, but sits eighth with seven races remaining on 34 points, 21 back from Williams in P5.

Nevertheless, team chief Cyril Abiteboul says the Enstone crew remains determined to give its all through the closing stages of the season, not relenting in its bid to catch Williams.

“We are now focusing on these busy Asia rounds. Williams sit just 21 points ahead of us in fifth place
in the constructors’ championship and, with seven races to go, it’s very much in our capability to chase
that down by the end of the season,” Abiteboul said.

“We need to create some momentum and string together some consistent results with both cars inside the top ten. Singapore will be vital to kick start this effort.”

Abiteboul confirmed in Renault’s pre-race preview that two personnel changes had come into play in time for Singapore, intended to boost its bid to catch Williams.

“Track side, from the Singapore Grand Prix, Matthieu Dubois takes on the role of head of race strategy of Renault Sport Formula 1 Team. He will functionally report to our Sporting Director Alan Permane,” Abiteboul said.

“Matthieu joined Renault Sport in 1998 where he has held various positions including the one of Race Strategist at Enstone from 2008 to 2012. Up until now, Matthieu has been in charge of the customer track teams (Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso).

“Simultaneously, Ricardo Penteado, head of the engine track service, will take the direct responsibility for all three teams. In his day to day activities, he will be supported by the lead engineer from each team. He will also be in charge of liaising with our customers at the track.”

Williams taking ‘wait and see’ approach on Massa’s F1 future

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Williams is taking a “wait and see” approach on deciding Felipe Massa’s Formula 1 future, preferring to focus on its performances on-track towards the end of the 2017 season than distract itself with driver discussions.

Massa, 36, had planned to retire from F1 at the end of last season, only for world champion Nico Rosberg’s shock retirement and Valtteri Bottas’ subsequent move up to Mercedes to free up a seat at Williams once again.

Massa has appeared to enjoy a new lease of life in 2017, finding the new-style cars both fun and challenging as well as leading Williams’ charge on-track alongside rookie teammate Lance Stroll.

The Brazilian’s performances have led to suggestions he could continue for a second year beyond his planned exit from F1, but deputy team boss Claire Williams is not looking to firm anything up yet.

“Felipe has done a fantastic job, it’s been a bonus year for us. He very kindly came back and he’s really delivered for us,” Williams said.

“Obviously the past couple of races have been tough for him with his medical issue [in Hungary] but we’re through that now and we’re looking forward to him delivering for the rest of the year and we really just have to wait and see.

“I think I’ve made it really clear that the team at the moment are focusing on the constructors’ championship, we need to make sure that we consolidate our P5.

“I don’t think we’re going to close the gap to [Force India], unfortunately, but there’s a lot of teams behind us that would love to overtake us and take that P5 and we can’t afford that.

“So for us the focus really has to be on track performance at the moment rather than diluting that effort with thoughts about driver line-up.

“There’s still eight races to go, there’s plenty of time to be thinking about next year.”

Amid 2017 F1 struggles, Williams admits it ‘can’t have another year like this’

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Williams is currently undertaking a complete analysis of where the weaknesses in its Formula 1 operation lie, with deputy team boss Claire Williams saying: “We can’t have another year like this.”

Williams recovered from a difficult spell in F1 to finish third in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015, only to slip back to fifth last year behind Ferrari and Force India.

Force India has emerged as the leading midfield team once again in F1 this year, scoring over double the points of Williams through the opening 13 races of the season, despite Lance Stroll hitting the podium in Baku.

Williams’ chief concern in the standings instead lies behind as Toro Rosso, Haas and Renault all threaten to shuffle the British team further down the table between now and the end of the season.

A number of internal changes have taken place at Williams in recent months, with the biggest addition being that of ex-Mercedes and McLaren technical chief Paddy Lowe at the beginning of the year.

Claire Williams explained how Lowe is working hard to identify where the issues within the team lie, knowing that a repeat of its 2017 struggles cannot be tolerated.

“As you would expect, someone of Paddy’s caliber has a plan and ever since he joined us back in March this year he’s been undertaking a full analysis of the team back at the factory, but also the race team operations on the ground trackside in order to understand where the weaknesses lie,” Williams said.

“We’ve gone through that as a board and now we’re looking at how we allocate resources moving forward into 2018 so that we can address those weaknesses.

“I think a lot of our weaknesses appeared at the midpoint in last year’s season and we can’t go into another season having the same issues that we’ve had so we have full trust in Paddy.

“But also we’ve brought in a number of other senior personnel to work alongside, so Dirk de Beer heads our aerodynamic department now as well, comes from Ferrari this year to us, and some other senior engineers who are hopefully going to turn things around for us.

“But as I said, we can’t have another year like this.”

Massa cleared to race at Spa by FIA medical delegate

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The FIA has approved Felipe Massa’s participation in this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix after missing the last Formula 1 race through illness.

Massa pulled out of the Hungarian Grand Prix weekend following final practice after coming down ill, with Williams reserve driver Paul di Resta taking his place.

The Brazilian required approval from the FIA medical staff at Spa to enter this weekend’s race, which was received on Thursday.

“I feel good. I feel ready to get back in the car,” Massa said during Thursday’s FIA press conference.

“I was feeling a little bit dizzy on that weekend, vertigo is the name of what I had. It was the first time that I had this, it was a strange feeling. It unfortunately happened in the race weekend, and it kept me out of the car.

“But I feel good now, ready to get back to the second part of the season, and hopefully we can do good races.”

Lowe: Williams F1 ‘very disappointed’ with first half performance

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Williams Formula 1 technical chief Paddy Lowe says the team is “very disappointed” with its display through the first half of the 2017 season, sitting fifth in the constructors’ championship during the summer break.

Williams entered 2017 looking to bounce back after falling from third to fifth in the constructors’ standings last year, with Force India emerging as the top midfield team.

Force India has continued to hold that position so far in 2017, taking points with both its cars in all but two races to pick up 101 points.

Williams, by comparison, has struggled more with inconsistency and reliability, leaving it with just 41 points, with Toro Rosso just two behind in P6.

For technical chief Lowe, there can be no denying that Williams has underperformed, although he feels the performance of the FW40 car has been more deserving of its current points haul.

“Definitely at the half-term report stage we’re not looking as good as we’d like. We’re very disappointed, the car is quicker than that points table would reflect,” Lowe said.

“I think one of our biggest problems has been that we haven’t been scoring the points we should have done at the track with our speed of car. That’s for a number of different reasons.

“On top of that, we’ve seen a lot of variation from circuit to circuit. There are places that we significantly underperform and we really need to have a car that will perform more equally at different destinations, so that’s a big focus for next year.”