Formula E/LAT

WEC Nurburgring entry list confirms FE subs, Buemi set to miss NYC

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Pipo Derani and Filipe Albuquerque are among the drivers substituting for Formula E regulars in the FIA World Endurance Championship round at the Nürburgring next month, as confirmed with the publication of the entry list for the latter event.

The clash between Formula E and WEC on the July 16 weekend has been a long-running saga for both series, with no resolution workable due to a lack of communication regarding the placement of the Formula 1 race in Germany that was ultimately canceled.

With drivers racing in both series, a number were left with a key dilemma to make when picking which race to entry, ending with a majority opting to partake in Formula E’s double-header race weekend in New York.

Two drivers have chosen to prioritize WEC, including Formula E championship leader Sebastien Buemi, who is bound by his contract with Toyota’s LMP1 team. Jose Maria Lopez is also in a similar position, racing in the sister TS050 Hybrid at the Nürburgring.

Here’s a run-down of the drivers who had to work around the clashes and where they’ve ended up, and who will be replacing them.

Sebastien Buemi

Formula E championship leader Buemi had hoped to be racing in New York – where he could have sewn up the title – but is now risking a 50-plus point loss by missing the double-header.

Buemi said that his Le Mans result would decide whether or not he could have the chance to skip the Nürburgring, only for the No. 8 Toyota crew to have a miserable race, finishing eighth overall after two hours in the garage.

Buemi’s replacement for New York will need to be decided in the next 24 hours when the race stewards are informed of the entry list. Red Bull youngster Pierre Gasly is thought to be leading the chase for the seat.

Jose Maria Lopez

Like Buemi, Lopez was tied down by his Toyota contract and was not able to get out of his duties, meaning he will be missing New York as well.

Lopez will return to the No. 7 Toyota for the Nürburgring round, having been moved into the third car for Le Mans given his lack of prior experience following his Silverstone crash and the subsequent injury that forced him to miss Spa.

Lopez will be replaced at DS Virgin Racing in New York by Alex Lynn, the team’s reserve driver. Lynn, in turn, will miss the Nürburgring race with G-Drive in LMP2, with Ben Hanley taking his place.

Sam Bird

Lopez’s Formula E teammate, Sam Bird, is another driver who said his dilemma would be solved by his Le Mans result. The Briton is fourth in the WEC GT drivers’ championship with AF Corse and just 14 points off the lead, yet he opted to prioritize his Formula E duties in New York.

Bird will be replaced at AF Corse in the No. 71 Ferrari 488 GTE by Toni Vilander, who races in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for Risi Competizione and featured at Le Mans earlier this month.

Nicolas Prost

Renault e.dams appeared the face the prospect of having neither of its regular drivers in place for New York, only for Buemi’s teammate Nicolas Prost to put his Formula E duties first.

Prost has raced with Vaillante Rebellion Racing in LMP2 so far this season, but will step back for the Nürburgring. Seasoned sportscar racer Filipe Albuquerque takes his place.

Nelson Piquet Jr.

Nelson Piquet Jr. is another driver who had the same decision as Prost, putting Formula E over his duties with Rebellion in the sister Oreca 07 Gibson. Piquet will be replaced in the No. 13 car by Pipo Derani, whose three-race stint with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing came to an end at Le Mans.

Jean-Eric Vergne

Jean-Eric Vergne has made a flying start to life in the WEC this year with Manor, regularly featuring at the top of the timesheets, and stood out at Le Mans with some mammoth quintuple stints.

Vergne won’t be at the Nürburgring, though, putting his Formula E duties with Techeetah – a team he also has commercial interests in – first. Roberto Merhi takes his place, returning to Manor after previously racing for the team in both F1 and WEC.

F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.