Wolff: Impossible to write Ferrari off ahead of 2017 F1 season

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Mercedes chief Toto Wolff believes it is impossible to write off Ferrari’s chances ahead of the 2017 Formula 1 season given the sea-change in the sport’s technical regulations.

Mercedes dominated F1 through the first phase of the V6 hybrid era, starting in 2014, winning three consecutive drivers’ and constructors’ titles and all but eight races in the past three years.

For 2017, the technical regulations have been overhauled in a bid to make the cars faster and look more radical, prompting many teams to shift their development focus early.

Ferrari endured a difficult 2016 season, going without victory for the second time in three years, as well as suffering internal losses, most notably parting company with technical chief James Allison.

Aerodynamics is expected to be the biggest battleground in 2017, prompting concern for Ferrari’s fortunes given specialist Allison’s departure and the team’s traditional weakness in that area.

However, Wolff believes that it is impossible to dismiss Ferrari’s chances given its resources, particularly at a time when the regulations are changing so drastically.

“In 2012 and 2013, [Mercedes] were not the favorites, then with the regulatory change we became successful,” Wolff told La Gazzetta dello Sport.

“It could happen to Ferrari. It has the potential and resources to go back to being competitive.”

Allison’s position was assumed by Mattia Binotto, who previously worked as Ferrari’s engine chief before being promoted to the role of chief technical officer.

Wolff believes that Ferrari’s decision to promote from within was the right one, with a strong Italian identity working to the team’s strength.

“They focused on being an Italian team. For me, that is an added value, not a restraint,” Wolff said.

“Ferrari does not need mercenaries. I am convinced that the decisions taken by [CEO Sergio] Marchionne and [team principal Maurizio] Arrivabene are moving [Ferrari] in the right direction.”

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.