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Raikkonen, Vettel lead Abu Dhabi F1 test days for Ferrari

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Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel topped the final two days of Formula 1 running in 2017 as teams stayed on in Abu Dhabi for a Pirelli tire test earlier this week.

Pirelli has worked closely with all 10 teams across the course of the year to work on its 2018 tire compounds, and brought them together at the Yas Marina Circuit after previously conducting private, individual tests.

Teams were not allowed to test any new parts on their cars, but took advantage of the running to give their drivers a better understanding of next year’s tires when two extra dry compounds will be made available.

Raikkonen led the opening day of the test for Ferrari with a fastest time on the new ‘hypersoft’ compound, which will become the softest option next year, best-suited to street circuits where grip levels are low.

The Finn handed over to teammate Sebastian Vettel for the second day of the test on Wednesday, who kept Ferrari at the head of the timesheets by finishing almost one second clear of the field.

The biggest talking point of the test was Robert Kubica’s extended run with Williams as he pushes to secure a race seat for 2017 and return to F1 seven years after his last grand prix.

The Pole racked up 100 laps on Tuesday in the Williams FW40 and a further 28 on Wednesday in what appears to be a final evaluation of his capabilities by the team after suffering severe injuries to his right hand and arm in a rally accident in the 2011 off-season.

Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc racked up plenty of mileage for Sauber ahead of an expected announcement in the coming days, while other youngsters on display included Lando Norris, Nikita Mazepin, Sergey Sirotkin and Sean Gelael.

F1 teams will next hit the track with their 2018 cars at pre-season testing in February.

Tequila Patron to end ESM and IMSA partnerships after 2018 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Earlier on Monday, Tequila Patron, a long-time sponsor in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both at the team level – they have a long standing partnership with Tequila Patron ESM – and the series level, announced that they will be ending their sponsorships at the end of the 2018 season.

After sponsoring Highcroft Racing in 2008 and 2009 in the American Le Mans Series, Tequila Patron and ESM formed a partnership in 2010 to launch their own team. Since then, they have scored overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Petit Le Mans. They have also competed internationally, in both Prototype and GT categories.

“On behalf of the entire Extreme Speed Motorsports organization, it has been an honor to represent such an amazing brand for the past 13 years,” said team co-owner Scott Sharp via a team release.

“I have the deepest gratitude for all of (Patron CEO and ESM co-founder) Ed Brown’s support. Together we have tackled various challenges, won races at each step, and built ESM into such an incredible team. Simultaneously, it has been thrilling to watch Ed and his team build the Patrón brand in a meteoric fashion and along the way become an icon in the motorsports world! We will miss not carrying the now infamous green and black livery, but the same passion for excellence will remain!”

IMSA President Scott Atherton also expressed gratitude toward Patron for their long-time involvement.

“IMSA and Patron Spirits have enjoyed a fantastic partnership for more than a decade. Tequila Patron rose through the IMSA ranks, from a high-profile team sponsor with Patron Highcroft Racing beginning in 2008, through its entitlement sponsorship of the Patron GT3 Challenge starting in 2009, and its presenting sponsorship of the American Le Mans Series beginning in 2010,” Atherton detailed.

He continued, “Tequila Patron continued in a prominent position as the American Le Mans Series merged with GRAND-AM to create the new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and has been our entitlement partner for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup since 2014 in addition to its longstanding support of the Tequila Patron ESM race team and its pair of Nissan DPi race cars.

“All associated with IMSA – competitors, promoter partners, series officials and fans – will miss the iconic Tequila Patrón brand next year. On behalf of IMSA, we thank CEO Ed Brown and Tequila Patron for all they have done over the many years to help us grow IMSA and the sport as a whole. We’re more proud than words can express to have counted Tequila Patron among our family of premium brand partners.”

Team co-owner Scott Sharp, in a story posted on SportsCar365, asserted that the ESM team has every intention of continuing in 2019.

“We’re working on a number of options,” Sharp said. “Obviously I think we’ve singly got the best team we’ve ever had, personnel-wise. Having been refining over the years and making selected additions, we’ve gotten ourselves to be super strong. The goal is keeping everyone together. We’re working through a few different options that will hopefully allow us to do that.”

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