F1 technical chiefs uneasy over proposed ‘revolution’ in 2017

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MONTMELO – A number of technical chiefs working in Formula 1 have expressed their unease over a proposed overhaul of the regulations for the 2017 season, believing that the sport should instead focus on the positive aspects of its current formula.

In 2014, the technical regulations underwent seismic changes in a bid to take the sport into a hybrid era, focusing on new V6 turbo ‘power units’ that replaced V8 engines.

The move did not please all within the sport, though. The new engines were far quieter than their predecessors, leading to criticism from ex-Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo and even F1 Group CEO Bernie Ecclestone.

Over the winter, a number of ideas were proposed to revolutionize the sport including new-look cars and louder engines, but the teams agreed that they could only be implemented in 2017 at the earliest.

Speaking in yesterday’s FIA press conference, a number of technical chiefs expressed their concern over knee-jerk changes, and instead preferred to focus on refining the product that the sport currently has.

“There’s a lot talked at the moment about the rule changes for 2017, but I think people forget at the moment the racing’s actually quite good,” Lotus technical director Nick Chester said.

“There are some very good battles up and down the whole grid and as the cars’ performance is improving a lot – I think we’re seeing two seconds improvement from last year – do we really need a huge change of regulation?

“A huge change of regulation is going to open up the grid again. There’ll be bigger differences between teams and obviously it’s going to add a lot of cost.

“So I think we shouldn’t forget that [the] show’s actually not bad at the moment.”

Sauber’s Giampaolo Dall’ara supported Chester’s thoughts, saying: “I wouldn’t add much to what he has been saying.”

Despite being the focus of much of the criticism, the technology behind the power units has been a great success as the cars are now lapping quicker than the V8-powered models whilst using considerably less fuel.

“I think it would be foolish to mess around with the immense amount of good work that has been done on the power units,” McLaren’s Jonathan Neale said.

“Maybe some minor adjustments but it’s a much more efficient package, it’s got some great technology, it’s still maturing in the sport and the price can come down it it’s left to mature because we’re just not putting in the same R&D costs.”

However, Neale does think that some minor changes can be made to help improve the sport, such as making the step up from junior formulas to F1 more noticeable.

“We’ve spoken about a step change in aerodynamics, to make sure that these cars are difficult to drive and maintain that performance gap to other junior series, and F1 remains an out-and-out race.

“We can still have the efficiency, we can still have many other attributes of the sport, but I think it should just be a flat-out race.”

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.