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Sauber, Renault reveal 2018 cars

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The Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team and Renault Sport F1 Team revealed their 2018 cars on Tuesday. Sauber’s, dubbed the C37, kicks off its new partnership with Italian auto maker Alfa Romeo and features significant changes from last year’s C36, especially regarding the aerodynamics.

“The aerodynamic concept has changed significantly, and the C37 has several new features in comparison to its predecessor,” said technical director Jörg Zander during the unveil. “We are positive that the new concept offers us more opportunities and will help us to make improvements during the course of the season.”

Team principal Frédéric Vasseur is optimistic that the team, with drivers Marcus Ericsson and Charles Leclerc, will improve their 2017 results, which consisted of only two finishes in the points (eighth and tenth, both at the hands of Pascal Wehrlein) on their way to last in the constructor’s championship.

“I am very much looking forward to the 2018 season, and to seeing Marcus and Charles on track,” said Vasseur. “We have put lots of effort and hard work into the C37 over the last few months, and it is fantastic to be launching the new car today. I am convinced that Marcus and Charles form the perfect driver line-up, with one being an experienced driver and one a promising rookie.”

Vasseur continued, “Our target ahead of 2018 is clear: We have to catch up with the field and continue improving our performance during the course of the season. We have put lots of energy and commitment into the development of the C37. I want to thank our partners and fans for their continuous support. The return of Alfa Romeo to Formula 1 sets another milestone in the team’s history, and I am proud that such a historical brand has chosen us for their return to the sport.”

For Renault, which enters its third season under its latest incarnation, their 2018 car, the R.S.18, is more of an evolution of their 2017 challenger, the R.S.17, than a revolution, featuring developments and improvements to the car’s suspension design as well as an increase in downforce from the aerodynamics.

Also, improvements to the power unit – the 2018 iteration now named the R.E.18 power unit – are expected to enhance both power and reliability, in hopes of building on a 2017 season that saw them finish sixth in the constructor’s championship.

Their launch was also somewhat unique in that they initially released holographic images of their car prior to revealing the car’s official images.

“Renault Sport Formula One Team’s ambition is clearly to uphold the outstanding record of the past and the 2017 season has confirmed we are on the right track,” asserted Renault Sport Racing President Jérôme Stoll when the car was revealed. “We are a team on the rise. We have two very talented drivers who are hungry for results. Enstone is regenerated and the workforce has already increased by more than 35%. Our investment has so far been successfully translated to the track as we rose from ninth to sixth in the Constructors’ Championship in 2017 and ended the year with the fourth fastest car.”

Cyril Abiteboul, Renault Sport Racing managing director, echoed Stoll’s sentiments, emphasizing that progress, with tangible improvements, is the ultimate goal this year.

“Our headline target is to show continued progression through results. We want to be able to showcase our progression in every regard: power unit, chassis, operations, drivers. Everything must improve and we must continue to grow. We want to demonstrate this in many different ways, from the teams we will be directly racing against, to the gap to the leaders, including also our fan base and the respect that our team will inspire in our way we behave on and off track.”

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Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).