Williams retains Massa and Bottas for 2015 F1 season

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MONZA, ITALY – Williams Martini Racing has confirmed that both Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas will be remaining with the team for the 2015 Formula 1 season.

In a press conference ahead of today’s Italian Grand Prix, team founder Sir Frank Williams presented both drivers to the media and was delighted to announce the news.

“Both of our drivers are very hard working, and understand who the competition is,” he said. “Beating the best is very, very difficult, but with our driver pairing, we will be strong in the constructors’ championship, and both of our two drivers could be world champion next year.

“That’s our announcement: both of our drivers will be staying with us next season. I’m delighted personally. This is really a triumph for us I think.”

Williams has turned its fortunes around in 2014, bouncing back from one of its worst ever campaigns. After scoring just five points in the entirety of last year, the team currently ranks fourth in the constructors’ championship, and is in the race to finish ahead of bigger teams such as Ferrari and McLaren.

For Massa, this announcement confirms that he will enjoy a second season with the team following his move from Ferrari at the end of last year.

“It’s fantastic to be part of the Williams team,” the Brazilian said. “It’s an amazing team with fantastic people. It’s like a family.

“It’ll be fantastic to do another championship next year and we are preparing to make this team stronger and stronger, bigger and bigger and I’m sure we can do a great job for the second part of the championship this year fighting with four teams.”

Valtteri Bottas has been one of the breakout stars of the 2014 season, scoring four podium finishes and producing some stunning drives that reportedly caught the eye of McLaren. However, the Finn will not be on the move for 2015.

“First of all I’m really, really happy to continue with the team for next year. With Williams, I got the opportunity to get to Formula 1, so I’m very pleased [the team] gave me the opportunity.

“Why is it good to stay? Why not? We are on the right way. We have made a big step from last year. The team has a really good future and we are not yet at the peak.

“Williams has in the past many, many years at the top, so I’m really confident we can do it again it again, so I’m really looking forward to next year.”

With this announcement, the 2015 F1 driver market begins to become a bit clearer. Reports had linked Bottas with a move away from the team, whilst the likes of Jenson Button and Felipe Nasr were rumored to be in the running for a seat at Williams.

However, it now looks even more likely that the status quo from 2014 in the top teams will remain for next season.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds