Hamilton, Rosberg: Ferrari in the hunt for 2016 F1 titles

© Getty Images
1 Comment

Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg believe that Ferrari poses a more serious threat to Mercedes in the fight for the Formula 1 championships in 2016 after enjoying a strong first race in Australia.

Mercedes locked out the front row of the grid in qualifying, only for Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to run first and second for the early part of the race.

Had it not been for a dud tire call under a red flag, Vettel would likely have been in contention for the race win, but ultimately had to settle for third place behind Rosberg and Hamilton.

However, Ferrari’s pace was enough to make clear to both Mercedes drivers that the Italian manufacturer will be a more serious threat in 2016.

“I think they’re stronger this year for sure,” Hamilton told NBCSN after the race in Australia.

“There’s going to be more races that they’re ahead or at least with us in the battle, which is hopefully what the fans wanted to see. I hope that was exciting for them.

“I love this track, it’s just unfortunate with the car the way it is that you can’t follow. None of us can. It’s so hard to overtake. But hopefully at these other tracks, you’re going to see some of that real racing.”

When asked if he relished the battle with Ferrari, Hamilton said: “Bring it, let’s go!”

Rosberg echoed his teammate’s comments, believing that Mercedes must be wary of the threat posed this season.

“Ferrari is in the hunt. They looked quick, yeah,” Rosberg said.

“We need to be careful and keep pushing definitely. They’re close.”

Vettel remained coy when asked about Ferrari’s relative standing to Mercedes in 2016, saying that the team will continue to fight until it is at the head of the pack.

“We know that the car is good in the race. We know we’re lacking a bit in qualifying, obviously that’s good news because it matters on Sunday, not Saturday,” Vettel said.

“We want to be the favorites, we want to be the ones to beat. We don’t want to be lucky and then end up in the right spot. We want to earn that spot.

“There’s a lot of work ahead of us. Right now they are the favorites, so there’s a lot of work but equally a big thanks to the team. Things are coming together bit by bit and we’re on the right track.”

Despite Ferrari’s strong showing in Australia, Vettel said that he would not begin thinking about a possible bid for a fifth drivers’ championship until later in the season.

“This is only round one. I’ve always had the philosophy that race one, even until the summer break, you don’t think about the championship,” Vettel said.

“You try to do your best, you race flat out. That’s what I love, that’s what I’m here for. Everything else comes naturally.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay hired as replacement for Conor Daly at Ed Carpenter Racing

Ryan Hunter-Reay Carpenter
Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ryan Hunter-Reay was named to replace Conor Daly in Ed Carpenter Racing’s No. 20 Dallara-Chevrolet, starting in the NTT IndyCar Series event next week at Road America.

Hunter-Reay is the 2012 series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner. He finished 11th for Dreyer & Reinbold last month in the 107th Indy 500, his first start since the 2021 season finale. He drove full time for Andretti Autosport from 2010-21.

“We need to improve our competitiveness and I wanted to add a fresh perspective from a driver like Ryan who has a massive amount of experience and success as well as a reputation as a team leader. I am excited to welcome Ryan to the team,” team owner Ed Carpenter said in a team release. “We have worked together in the past as teammates and he tested for ECR at Barber Motorsports Park in October 2021, where he made an immediate impact as we were able to qualify one of our cars on the pole following that test. I am confident that his experience and technical abilities will be an asset to ECR as we move forward toward our goals as a team.”

Hunter-Reay has 18 IndyCar victories, most recently in 2018. He also is a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, having been a part of winning entries in the 2020 Twelve Hours of Sebring and 2018 Petit Le Mans. Last year, he was an endurance driver for Cadillac Racing while being on standby for Chip Ganassi Racing.

He replaces Daly, whose departure was announced a day earlier in what the driver and team said was a mutual decision.

“I was surprised when I got the call from Ed,” Hunter-Reay said in a team release. “He described how frustrated he was that his team has not been able to realize its potential despite their efforts, investments, as well as technical and personnel changes over the past few years and asked for my help. Ed and I are very close friends and have been for a long time. I’ve worked with the team in the past and they are a very talented group with high expectations and a committed partner in BITNILE.COM.

“This will certainly be a challenge for me as well. It’s a tough situation jumping in a car in the middle of the season without any testing in what I believe to be the most competitive series in the world. Certainly, part of my motivation in saying ‘yes’ to Ed is the great challenge ahead. The last time I turned right driving an NTT IndyCar Series car was in October of 2021 with this team at Barber. However, I remain very confident in both my driving and technical abilities and believe by working with the talented people at ECR and Team Chevy, while representing BITNILE.COM, we will make progress. I am going to do everything I can do to help the team achieve its long-term objectives.”

Said Milton “Todd” Ault, the chairman of sponsor BitNile.com: “It is great for BitNile.com to be aligned with an Indy 500 Winner and an NTT IndyCar Series champion. I have followed Ryan’s career for years and I am confident he will challenge the entire ECR team to perform at higher levels. I wish everyone luck at Road America.”