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Antonio Felix da Costa ‘unlikely’ to make Super Formula move

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina – Andretti Formula E driver Antonio Felix da Costa says a move into the Japanese Super Formula series for 2017 is looking unlikely despite talks being held.

Da Costa balances his Andretti Formula E commitments with a role at BMW, having previously raced for the German marque’s DTM team.

Reports last month linked da Costa with a move into Super Formula for 2017, the series being a favorite for many drivers including McLaren Formula 1 racer Stoffel Vandoorne and endurance star Andre Lotterer.

Despite being subject to approaches from multiple teams and having a strong interest in the series himself, da Costa said that a move for 2017 is now looking unlikely.

“Things started in Macau actually before the final race on Saturday night, a couple of talks started to come up,” da Costa told NBC Sports.

“Basically Honda and Toyota, they found out they were both interested in myself. That kind of projected things a bit which was great, and I ended up winning on Sunday which helped me in that market.

“Again, it’s a really quick car with a lot of good drivers and nice tracks, a very good culture that I would like to try.

“But at the end of the day, it’s just getting in a really quick car and driving fast cars on fast laps. It’s a little bit more unlikely now if I’m honest.”

Were da Costa to race in Super Formula full-time this year, it would have to be with the Toyota-backed Sunoco Team LeMans as all other seats are taken.

“I think they’re exploring their options. They’re keeping me in the loop and we’re staying in contact,” da Costa said.

“But if I’m honest it’s a little bit unlikely.”

Even without Super Formula, da Costa is poised to enjoy a busy 2017, having recently been named as one of BMW’s development drivers for its new GTE car that will race in the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

“We’re going to go testing very soon. That’s an exciting thing, being on a new project and starting from zero,” da Costa said.

“You get to decide where you want the seat, where you want the buttons, where you want the screens.

“And that’s really cool for me at 25 to be with a manufacturer that is known all over the world and involved in something like that.

“So I’ll be busy, that’s for sure.”

Hamilton, Bottas clock fastest times as F1 testing starts

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MONTMELO, Spain — Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas sent an ominous signal to their challengers after clocking the two fastest lap times on the first day of Formula One’s preseason testing.

Hamilton set the top time of Wednesday’s opening session’s of 1 minute, 16.976 seconds, after he took over from Bottas behind the wheel of the new Silver Arrow for the 2020 season. Bottas’ best effort was 0.337 seconds slower.

The Mercedes duo also completed the most laps of any team with 173.

Sergio Perez of Racing Point was the third fastest, followed by Max Verstappen in his Red Bull.

Hamilton enters the season as the clear favorite as he seeks to equal Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles and surpass the German’s mark of 91 career wins. Hamilton has six titles and 84 wins.

“It’s been a good day and a really good start for all of us, considering we had a long break,” Hamilton said. “So to come back and clock in over 170 laps just shows how hard everyone has been working over the winter.”

In last year’s preseason testing, the Mercedes cars were slower than the rival Ferraris. But they beat them come the first race of the year and never lost their advantage.

Hamilton and Bottas had nine one-two race finishes last season as they dominated the field to finish first and second in the overall points standings.

Wednesday’s eight hours of running went smoothly for all teams, with no accidents or breakdowns and good weather ideal for high speeds.

The only setback was for Sebatian Vettel, who couldn’t run as scheduled because of an illness.

Charles Leclerc took Vettel’s place and settled for the 11th best time of the 15 drivers who drove.

Leclerc, who finished fourth ahead of Vettel last season, said that his team had changed strategy.

“Last year in testing we were great but the first race was a little less great, and I think we have learned a few things on this,” he said. “This year we have started trying to focus more on ourselves and on trying to learn the car as much as possible during these first few days and then focus on performance later on.”

Verstappen finished third last season and is expected to again be biggest challenger to Mercedes’ dominance along with the two Ferraris.

Verstappen focused on accumulating 168 laps as Red Bull’s sole driver on the track. Alexander Albon will get his turn with the Red Bull on Thursday.

Williams’ George Russell was the first car to take the track, ensuring his team got off to a better start than during last year’s preseason when its car wasn’t ready to run until the third day of testing.

This year’s rules have not varied much ahead of the massive overhaul of regulations set to take effect in 2021 with the goal of shaking up the pecking order and closing the gap between the three traditional title challengers – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – and all the rest.

This season’s tweaks feature fewer tests days to compensate for the record-breaking 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam GP and the return of the Dutch GP. Preseason testing has been reduced from a total of eight days to six, and the mid-season test has been eliminated.

Cars will now sport shark fins on the engine cover with the number of the driver to help fans identify them better. Drivers have been given more control of the go sequence at the starting line, and those large screens that crews would wheel out to shield cars from the view of snoopy rivals during tests have been banned.

Alfa Romeo and Haas unveiled their cars early on Wednesday in the pitlane to complete the presentation of the new vehicles for this season.

Testing continues on Thursday and Friday at the Barcelona-Catalunya Circuit, home to the Spanish GP, and again from Feb. 26-28.

The season-opening Australian GP is on March 15.