Vettel unconcerned about Ferrari engine reliability in China

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Sebastian Vettel has no concerns about the reliability of Ferrari’s power unit heading into this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix in spite of the failures suffered in Australia and Bahrain.

Vettel failed to start in Bahrain two weeks ago after his engine failed on the formation lap, while teammate Kimi Raikkonen was sidelined in Australia by a similar issue.

Vettel has moved on to his second internal combustion engine of the season for this weekend’s race in China, and has no concerns about the problems repeating themselves.

“It was a little part that caused the problem and turned into the biggest possible consequence,” Vettel said of his Bahrain issue.

“That was a shame. Obviously we have a new engine for this weekend and as I just said I don’t expect that issue to come up again.

“It’s a bit annoying that an engine went bust, but if you learn from that and can make sure that it will not happen again then you can live with it.”

Vettel is nevertheless happy with the Ferrari SF16-H car for the season ahead, believing it to be more workable than his 2015 runner.

“The performance is not yet where we want it to be, so you could say that there are some negatives, but there is nothing that shakes me or makes me nervous for the next couple of races, or the entire season,” Vettel said.

“This team is very strong and I know that we can improve a lot. The potential is there. Now let’s bring all the ingredients together – hopefully sooner rather than later.

“I know that there is a lot coming. This year’s car allows us to play much more than last year’s car.”

Vettel finished second in practice on Friday behind Raikkonen, and is pleased with how the SF16-H car is shaping up heading into the rest of the weekend.

“Friday is not so important in terms of position but in terms of feeling. We had a decent day and the feeling with the car was ok, but we can still improve, especially the balance,” Vettel said.

“Tonight we’ll have a lot of work to do, in order to get on top of everything. For sure to go for pole is always our goal, but it’s only Friday so I would’t stress too much.

“This track is quite brutal on tires, I was sliding a lot and there was a lot of degradation. I looked at Kimi’s data and saw where he was faster.

“This afternoon we had different programmes and this is useful to make a comparison because we can learn from each other.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1:30am ET on Sunday.

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area.

The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full IndyCar season. The team showed improvement at Thermal, and Grosjean (who was fourth fastest on Day 1) said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”