Early contract talks ‘distracting’ for Ferrari F1 drivers

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Ferrari Formula 1 chief Maurizio Arrivabene has no plans to open early contract talks with drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, believing they would only act as a distraction.

Vettel comes to the end of his three-year deal with Ferrari in 2017, while Raikkonen remains on a year-by-year contract that is also up at the close of the season.

F1’s driver market for 2018 is set to hinge on Ferrari’s move and whether Mercedes opts to keep Valtteri Bottas, the Finn having signed an initial one-year deal for 2017.

Speaking over last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, Arrivabene was asked about Vettel’s future, but said that it was too early to start talking about plans for next year.

“Talking about contracts now is only distracting the attention of our drivers, so I’m not ready to talk about any contracts,” Arrivabene said.

“Then, I would like to see Sebastian happy during the season, because if Sebastian is happy, that means the car is very quick.”

Much of the tension that appeared to brew between Vettel and Ferrari in 2016 was defused in Australia as both claimed their first victory since the 2015 Singapore Grand Prix.

Vettel was able to outpace Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton, taking advantage of the Briton’s struggles on the super-soft tire to finish almost 10 seconds clear at the front of the pack.

Nevertheless, Vettel stressed after winning the race that it was too early to start thinking about a bid for a fifth championship and potentially end Ferrari’s drought that dates back to 2008.

“The first race is not the time to look at the table. As I’ve said before, you really have to go step by step,” Vettel said.

“It’s good to know that we have a great car but it’s just the beginning: new regulations, new generations of cars so there will be a lot of progress.

“[Mercedes] have proved to be the ones to beat for the last couple of years, more and more so. We know that they have a great engine but also they had a great car the last couple of years and they made good steps forward so we are the ones who need to catch up.

“For today I am just very happy and for sure whatever happens this year, the race today doesn’t hurt.”

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.