Williams has doubled its quota of Brazilians named Felipe, with overnight news emerging ahead of the final day of testing in Bahrain.
The legendary team confirmed the signing of Felipe Nasr as its official reserve and test driver behind race drivers Felipe Massa (his countryman) and Valtteri Bottas. Nasr will be in the FW36-Mercedes for Saturday’s fourth day of Bahrain testing. He’ll also partake in five free practice one sessions during the course of the 2014 season.
“I am very happy to be part of the Williams family,” Nasr said. “They have a great history in the sport and some of Brazil’s greatest pilots of all time spent by staff, so it is an honor to join names as Piquet, Senna and Massa. This is a fantastic opportunity for this next step in my career and can not wait to drive an F1 car for the first time in Bahrain on Saturday. ”
Added team principal Frank Williams, “Felipe has a strong record of success in his career so far, and we’ve watched closely for a while. We have a history in Williams to bring new talent and give them a chance to show what they can do on the biggest stage in the world. When driving in FP1 five sessions this season, Felipe will have the perfect opportunity to show his skills, and I am confident he will be a strong addition to our squad of pilots.”
The 21-year-old finished fourth in his second season of GP2 in 2013. Nasr won the 2011 British F3 title and has also made a single start at the Rolex 24 at Daytona, finishing third overall in a previous generation Ford Riley Daytona Prototype in 2012 for Michael Shank Racing.
Williams is yet to confirm whether Susie Wolff will have a continued role in the team. She joined up as a test and development driver for the team starting in 2012.
Last week, Red Bull Racing revealed their new car, the RB19, and a new relationship with US-based Ford Motors in a press event in New York City complete with drivers Max Verstappen, Sergio Perez and Team Principle Christian Horner. They are the only Formula 1 team to launch in the United States, but even that small move of the needle reflects a major shift in the attitude of both F1’s management and their teams – and the extent to which the American audience has fully embraced the sport.
“It’s something fantastic and unique, for the sport to be able to break it into the U.S,” Perez told NBC Sports. “The market is huge and it’s a huge opportunity for everyone involved, for the drivers, for the team. It’s always a huge market.”
In 2023, Formula 1 will race three times in the United States and five times in North America. The Circuit of the Americas will host their 11th consecutive race in October before heading south to Mexico City. Miami returns for a second time in May on a temporary street course around the Hard Rock cafe and the third addition is in downtown Las Vegas in November.
With the Canadian Grand Prix on the schedule for June and the Brazilian Grand Prix in November, American fans are now in the ballpark of Europeans, who have eight events on the continent and one in England.
In 2022, Verstappen won every race in North America. He was kept from sweeping the hemisphere only by George Russell, who won in Brazil. That fact is less remarkable when one considers that Verstappen won 15 times in the season – nearly two-thirds of the races on the schedule.
“Sometimes it can be hard to replicate the season, but I think it’s the same as with the car, right? You always try to improve it,” Verstappen told NBC Sports. “And I always look at the little details that even when you have had a good race, you could have done better. And then of course you also learn from the bad races. So we always try to look for these little improvements and general experience you gain year after year.
“You try to do better, but of course it also depends a lot on the package you have.”
Now Verstappen’s thoughts will inevitably turn to establishing a dynasty – and America will again play a pivotal role.
“I just enjoy what I’m doing,” Verstappen said. “After the years in Formula One, when you have to be on top of your game and you gain a lot on your experience – in that sense nothing really can get to you anymore. Every year you just try to do the best you can. But a lot depends on the material around you. It’s always a bit of a guess. Start the season as fit as you can be and be well prepared. But if you don’t have the car, you’re not going to win the championship.”
Perez added two wins to Red Bull’s total, at Monaco and the Marina Bay Street course. With two of the US 2023 races on street courses, Perez hopes to close the gap on Verstappen and potentially be his principle rival for the championship.
“The strategy is clear; it is to maximize the potential of the car – and we believe we have a good car, but how good?,” Perez said “We don’t know what the competition is doing. We just give our best in building this car and we hope that it’s good enough to get us to win races.
“I think we have to work together as a team. At the same time. We both want to win the championship. It’s just having good compromise. The competition will be really strong out there, so we really need everything we possibly can get from each other.”
Formula One returns to the United States for Round 6 and the Miami Grand Prix on May 7.