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F1: Recapping the past week’s news

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Formula 1 has a week off after three consecutive races between the French Grand Prix, the Austrian Grand Prix, and the British Grand Prix.

However, that doesn’t exactly mean things have gone quiet. One big team announced a shakeup in its technical team, and a young F1 hopeful may be seeing the door close after a meltdown at Silverstone.

Major news stories to emerge this week are below.

Mercedes Details Changes to Technical Staff

Four-time defending constructor’s champions Mercedes are set to have a new look to their technical staff, beginning next year.

Current engineering director Aldo Costa will be departing the team at the end of the season to take a sabbatical, and Mark Ellis, the team’s performance director, will also be retiring from his role next year.

Current chief designer John Owen will move into Costa’s role as engineering director, with Loic Serra, current chief vehicle dynamicist, will move into the role of performance director in the wake of Ellis’ departure.

Team principal Toto Wolff, in a story posted on Formula 1’s website, said of the changes, “This is a significant moment for our team and a great opportunity. We have said many times that you cannot freeze a successful organization.”

Wolff added, “It is a dynamic structure and I am proud that we are able to hand the baton smoothly to the next generation of leaders inside the team. We have been in discussion for many months with both Mark and Aldo about how best to implement this transition and to empower their successors.”

Ferrucci’s Career in Doubts After Silverstone Meltdown

NORTHAMPTON, ENGLAND – JULY 12: Santino Ferrucci of the USA prepares to drive the Haas F1 Team Haas-Ferrari VF-16 Ferrari 059/5 turbo on track during during F1 testing at Silverstone Circuit on July 12, 2016 in Northampton, England. (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Haas F1 junior driver, and young American F1 hopeful, Santino Ferrucci now faces an uncertain future following a problematic weekend at Silverstone that saw him have multiple run-ins with Arjun Maini, his Formula 2 teammate with Trident. Most notably, Ferrucci, unhappy with how he felt Maini was racing him, intentionally drove into him on the cool down lap in Sunday’s sprint race.

The team and drivers were summoned to the stewards’ office afterward to discuss the incident, but Ferrucci elected not to attend the meeting. He was ultimately fined over $70,000 U.S. dollars and given a two-race suspension for the incident and skipping out on the meeting.

Perhaps more damning, Trident has publicly voiced its support of Maini, as evidenced in the below tweets from the team’s twitter page.

Another bizarre twist surfaced following the weekend, when, in a story posted on Crash.net, it surfaced that Ferrucci and his family reportedly tried to run the political slogan “Make America Great Again,” made famous by current President Donald Trump, on his Trident entry.

Political references, ads, and slogans of any kind are not allowed in Formula 2, though Ferrucci and his family were persistent in their request, resulting in a letter being sent to them from the FIA further detailing that political advertisements and/or references of any kind are forbidden. More details can be found in the aforementioned Crash.net report.

Ferrucci did issue an apology afterward (see below), but has since been criticized for, among other things, highlighting his age and ethnic heritage as possible reasons for his actions.

As of writing, no update is available about his current role as a junior driver with Haas. Still, with his relationship with Trident now in shambles and a reputation that has taken a beating this week, Ferrucci’s budding career may now be in jeopardy.

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Sebastien Ogier in driver’s seat for sixth straight World Rally Championship title

Sebastien Ogier leads the way in the WRC title chase. Photo: Getty Images
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COFFS HARBOUR, Australia (AP) — Thierry Neuville finished the sixth stage of Rally Australia on Friday without a rear left tire, damaging his chances of catching five-time defending champion Sebastien Ogier for the World Rally Championship title.

The Belgian driver entered the rally just three points behind Ogier in the closest title fight in 15 years.

He held the upper hand on his French rival, building a near-10 second gap through the first five stages at Coffs Harbour before hitting a chicane and finishing the stage with only three tires on his Hyundai.

Neuville was fortunate the puncture occurred late enough in the day to finish all six forestry stages and avoid a retirement. But the mistake cost him 40 seconds and gave Ogier, who is 33 seconds ahead of him, a clear run at his sixth straight championship.

In his last start with Ford before a move to Citroen next year, Ogier struggled as the first to drive the dusty, slippery forest routes.

“I pushed like crazy, I was on the limit over the jump and everywhere, I can’t do (any) more,” Ogier said. “I was on the limit.”

With Ogier on sweeping duties the back markers flourished, and Mads Ostberg took the lead in his return to the series.

Ostberg was forced to miss the previous round in Spain to make way for rally winner and nine-time world champion Sebastien Loeb, who was making the last of his three guest appearances for Citroen.

Now back in the seat, Ostberg leads Jari-Matti Latvala by 6.8 seconds in the Australian rally, with sixth-stage winner Craig Breen in third.

Ogier was seventh, 38.2 seconds off the pace, but only needs to finish ahead of Neuville to claim the championship title. Neuville is in 10th place after six stages.

Roles will reverse on Saturday, with Ogier to start further back in the field and do his best on cleaner roads to make up the day-one deficit before Sunday’s final stages.

Andreas Mikkelsen, the 2016 Rally Australia champion, was an early dropout after rolling into a ditch in his Hyundai. Mikkelsen had only just avoided a tractor that had found its way onto the course.

Former winner Molly Taylor and co-driver Malcolm Read were also forced out of their event when their Subaru hit a hay bale at high speed on the morning’s second stage. Both reported soreness but suffered no serious injuries.

The 24-stage rally totals 319 kilometers (197 miles). Ten stages are scheduled Saturday with the final six on Sunday, most of them through forests on the New South Wales state’s north coast about 530 kilometers (325 miles) north of Sydney.