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Wolff warns against ‘dangerous’ assumptions about Mercedes’ form

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Mercedes Formula 1 chief Toto Wolff has warned against making “dangerous” assumptions about the team’s form heading into the second half of the 2017 season as it bids for a fourth straight championship double.

Mercedes has faced its most stringent challenge yet at the front of the F1 field after Ferrari made great strides with its car over the winter, allowing Sebastian Vettel to pick up four wins through the opening 11 rounds of the season.

While Mercedes still leads the constructors’ championship ahead of Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton trails Vettel by 14 points in the drivers’ standings heading into this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

“Our targets remain the same as they were before the first race: to win both championships,” Wolff said previewing the race at Spa.

“History has shown that the fastest car usually brings you the drivers’ title, and the best and most consistent driver pairing wins you the constructors’.

“So the priorities are clear: we must keep bringing performance to the car at every race – and keep racing without mistakes to maximize our performance potential at every track.”

Mercedes has been tipped to enjoy an edge over Ferrari through the second half of the season given the high-speed nature of many of the circuits, but Wolff feels such assumptions are dangerous to make.

Instead, he expects the advantage to swing back and forth throughout the remainder of the season from track to track, with Red Bull even coming into play at points.

“From what we have seen in the first half of the season, the competitive balance will swing one way and another from circuit to circuit,” Wolff said.

“Red Bull will be a threat if they can build on the performance they showed in Hungary. So we need to keep our heads down, stay humble regarding our strengths, diligent about our weaknesses and take the season weekend by weekend.

“On paper, people will assume that Spa should suit our car because it is a circuit where aerodynamic efficiency is extremely important.

“But assumptions are dangerous – we have seen too many times already this season that the form book can be rewritten from one weekend to the next.

“So we will be making no assumptions. We have to tick off the items on our work list and make sure we do the best job to maximise our potential points score.

“The motivation and determination in the factory are greater than ever. Hungary showed the strength of our team – and we intend to use the second half of this season to prove that strength.”

NHRA: Dodge/Mopar to unveil new Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car today in Denver

Photos/video courtesy Dodge/Mopar
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If you’re a fan of NHRA Funny Car racing and Dodge/Mopar, you may notice something different at this weekend’s Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals at Bandimere Speedway in suburban Denver, Colorado.

Two-time (2011 and 2014) NHRA Funny Car champ Matt Hagan – who has won the last two NHRA national events in the last four weeks – will be piloting a newly-designed 2019 Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car that makes its debut today at Dodge/Mopar’s premier NHRA national event.

The new Charger SRT Hellcat succeeds the former Mopar Dodge Charger R/T, which had been in use since 2015.

“We improved on the body design,” Hagan said of the new Charger Hellcat. “It was already a great design, a great body. But now, we’re going to have a little more downforce, a little more traction on these racetracks and it will be a huge performance advantage.”

The new Hellcat includes a number of innovations, including a new front splitter to increase downforce. Just like its predecessor, the R/T, the Hellcat will go head-to-head with Chevrolet’s Camaro in the NHRA Funny Car ranks.

“We will be able to press harder with more downforce on the nose, which translates into huge amounts of downforce on the run,” Hagan said.

According to a media release, the new Hellcat features major design changes in three key areas: the front end, bodysides and burst panel placement:

* “At the front, the shape of the nose has been tweaked and a new splitter (photo), built of carbon fiber and Kevlar like the rest of the Funny Car body, has been added. The splitter substantially mimics the look and shape of the production vehicle’s splitter while generating greater downforce to help plant the Funny Car to the track.

* “Bodyside scallops have been redesigned to more closely identify with the production Hellcat while also enhancing on-track function and performance. The deeper character lines provide greater visual ties to the street version of the Hellcat, while also helping to mitigate the “body burn” common on all Funny Cars due to the close positioning of the exhaust headers.

* “The location of the burst panel on the hood has also been reworked. The panel is now centered over the top of the engine to more efficiently release energy and pressure in the event of engine issues, a common occurrence in race cars that are pushed to the razor’s edge of performance.”

Since the R/T was first introduced into the Don Schumacher Racing corps, it has gone on to 50 wins, 42 runner-up finishes and 40 No. 1 qualifiers in NHRA national events and one NHRA Funny Car World Championship (Ron Capps, 2016).

The new Charger SRT Hellcat, which can exceed 330-plus mph and covers 1,000 feet in under four seconds, is the drag strip version of the supercharged, 707-horsepower production Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, the quickest, fastest and most powerful sedan in the world.

While Hagan will drive the first Hellcat, his other three Dodge-powered DSR teammates – Capps, Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. – will soon take delivery of their own versions of the car over the remaining 11 races of the 2018 season.

One day after winning two weeks ago at Norwalk, Ohio, Hagan and crew chief Dickie Venables put the new Hellcat through its paces with several test runs. The results were so strong that it was decided to debut the car at Denver and run all qualifying and elimination rounds with it.

“We made four good, solid runs in testing at Norwalk,” said Hagan. “We put the body through a lot of different things and were really, really pleased with it.

“I really think it’s going to translate over to performance on the race track, and hopefully more win lights in the future.”

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