Rosberg keeping feet on the ground despite flawless F1 start

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MADRID (AP) Nico Rosberg is trying to stay calm.

After a perfect start to the Formula One season, Rosberg heads into this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix seeking his fifth win in as many races – and eighth in a row going back to last year. He is coming off two consecutive pole positions and already has a significant lead over Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton.

“Sport is all about ups and downs and being mentally prepared to bounce back stronger when they come,” Rosberg said. “With a season this long you have to just take things race by race. There are 425 points still up for grabs and anything can happen.”

Rosberg has been in top form since the end of last year, when he won three in a row to close out the season on his way to a runner-up finish behind Hamilton. He has continued to dominate in 2016 and is already 43 points ahead of his teammate, taking advantage of a series of mishaps that plagued the start of the season for the three-time world champion.

“It’s not something I could have expected, winning the first four races of the year,” Rosberg said. “It’s been a great start but I’m just enjoying the moment and the form I’m in, doing my best to keep it going and hoping I can carry it through the end of the season. I’m connecting really well with the car at the moment, which is great as it gives you this awesome confidence to push the limits.”

Hamilton is trying to remain positive despite his disappointing start.

“We’ve got the car in a good place setup-wise,” Hamilton said. “I just haven’t been fully able to exploit it. So the glass is half full for me. It will be a big challenge but there’s a long way to go with 17 races left and, if the last four are anything to go buy, there’s a lot more still to come from us.”

Hamilton had to deal with mechanical problems that kept him from competing with Rosberg in the first four races.

“The team has been on it 24-7 since returning from Russia so I’m confident they’ll get to the bottom of the problems we’ve been having,” said Hamilton, who finished second at the Russian GP two weeks ago. “I know I’m still quick. I’ve known that since Day 1 in testing. I head to Spain confident of a good weekend.”

Last week, Mercedes published an open letter to fans to dismiss speculation that it was favoring Rosberg over Hamilton. It said some of the mechanical issues happened because the team has been pushing the limits to ensure it remains competitive.

“It’s tough to ask for more (this season,)” Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said. “However, it has not been plain sailing and we have had problems that we are working hard to solve. We have rivals breathing down our necks who are relentless in their chase. If you push the limits, then at a certain stage you risk stepping over them.”

Ferrari appears closer to Mercedes in speed this season, but it has also been plagued by mechanical failures to both of its drivers. Kimi Raikkonen is third in the drivers’ standings, while Sebastian Vettel, who crashed at the Russian GP after twice being hit from behind by Daniil Kvyat, is fifth, 67 points behind Rosberg.

Teams will be at a familiar place at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya track, which is where preseason testing took place over eight days in February and March. It’s also where many teams start introducing significant upgrades to their cars, which could prompt a few surprises.

“Spain is always a track that most of the drivers know 100 percent because we are always testing there in the winter,” Williams driver Felipe Massa said. “I’d say that everyone pretty much knows the track. It is a circuit that a good car overall normally goes well because you have a little bit of everything, high-speed corners and low-speed corners. If the car works well here, it will work well on most of the tracks.”

Tales Azzoni on Twitter: http://twitter.com/tazzoni. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/tales-azzoni

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
McLaren Racing
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Formula E team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship car from Mercedes-EQ. – McLaren Racing

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – McLaren Racing

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”