Stevens feeling settled after first half-season in F1

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Will Stevens feels that he has settled into life in Formula 1 quickly following his first half-season in the sport with Manor.

The British driver made his F1 debut with Caterham in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2014, but joined Manor in a full-time role following the team’s revival from the old Marussia F1 Team.

With limited resources, Manor has been unable to challenge any of the other nine teams on the F1 grid, leaving Stevens to fight only with teammate Roberto Merhi at the back.

However, he has still managed to put in some impressive displays, recording a best result of 13th at the British Grand Prix in July.

Speaking to the official F1 website, Stevens explained how he believes he has still made an impact during his first half-season in the sport despite racing at the back of the grid.

“We’re racing at the back, but the people inside F1 can still see that you’re doing a good job and achieving the maximum you can in the car that you have,” Stevens said.

“So far I think people are seeing that, or at least that’s what I’ve heard. It doesn’t matter where I am on the grid, this year was all about me proving I’m ready to be in F1 and I’m ready to stay in F1.

“I’m not here just to do a year or a few races – I want to earn a career in F1. So far this year I couldn’t have asked for anymore. I’ve settled into the environment really quickly and I feel comfortable straight away being here.

“I’m enjoying every minute. I’ve been welcomed into the team and felt at home straight away – I think that’s why the results so far have been strong.”

When asked about his plans for 2016, Stevens said that he is simply focusing on his own performances out on track instead of his future with Manor.

“I’ve got lots of people working on my behalf to sort all those things out,” Stevens said.

“I’m not different to any other driver. I concentrate on the driving side and there’s other people trying to sort my future out.

“My job is to focus on what’s happening now and to achieve the best job I can. If I do that it only helps the discussions that everybody is having.”

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