Abu Dhabi Test – Vettel sets pace on day two
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was fastest on the final day of a two-day tyre test at the Yas Marina Circuit. The German set a 37.5 on the hypersoft tyres during the morning, which put him almost a second faster than the Mercedes of Valtteri Bottas.
The Italian team has spent much of the day on the newest compounds of tyres the superhard and hypersofts which are at either end of the tyre range. Ferrari has rounded the year on a high as they topped both days of the test.
Bottas was almost a second off the pace, but neither he nor Vettel was able to find enough from the new tyres to get close to the pole time from Saturday. Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third fastest two tenths off Bottas and ahead of the Force India’s.
Force India split the driving between both Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, with the Mexican ahead of the Frenchman by a quarter of a second. That also cemented their form this season as the best of the rest.
However, the focus of the media and the fans has been on the Polish driver Robert Kubica in the Williams. Kubica is looking to return to the sport following injuries in a rally crash in 2011, this test is being seen as the last step in that return. He completed twenty-eight laps in the last ninety minutes putting him seventh behind Carlos Sainz.
For most of the day, Williams ran the Russian Sergey Sirotkin, who was tenth fastest and four tenths off the pace of his teammate. Stoffel Vandoorne was eighth fastest ahead of the Haas of Kevin Magnussen.
However, the Belgian’s running was interrupted after damaging his car on his fastest lap. McLaren’s reserve driver Lando Norris was twelfth fastest, almost two seconds off his teammate.
McLaren was allowed to running two cars at the test, as it made up for the cancelled Interlagos session called off a fortnight ago due to security concerns.
Charles Leclerc was eleventh fastest for Sauber, as the news of Sauber’s new sponsorship deal with Alfa Romeo was announced. Meaning he looks set to join the team next year.
Toro Rosso split the driving between Pierre Gasly and Brendon Hartley, but both finished the day routed to the bottom of the times after being over five seconds off the pace of Vettel’s Ferrari.
Pirelli makes breakthrough says Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton believes that Pirelli has finally made a breakthrough with the hypersoft tyres. The four times champion tested the compound for the first time today at the tyre test in Abu Dhabi.
In a move to create more suitable tyre compounds for all circuits, Pirelli has decided to create a wider and more viable tyre compounds. All tyres will be softer next season as well as a new softer compound the hypersoft, aimed at offering maximum performance over a single lap.
The hypersoft made its test debut on Tuesday in Abu Dhabi and Hamilton said the new compound impressed him. He told ESPN “”I’m not really the biggest fan of testing, but it’s been a positive first day of running with these new tyres.
“We managed to complete plenty of laps and collected lots of data and feedback to ensure we head in the right direction over the winter. We’ve got a good early understanding of these 2018 Pirelli tyres.”
Hamilton says that the hypersoft tyre is the “best tyre” Pirelli have produced since returning to F1. But says while the sport is moving in the right direction the other compounds are still a bit too hard.
The tyres also impressed Fernando Alonso, despite his contact with the wall. Saying “It’s been very useful for us to have a read on the 2018 tyres. They felt good, I felt the performance was there and the degradation was under control, so generally I had a good feeling.”
No concerns about Kubica’s fitness
Williams’s technical boss Paddy Lowe says the team has no concerns that Robert Kubica’s injuries will affect his abilities to race in Formula One after this week’s successful test in Abu Dhabi.
The British team are currently looking to assess the suitability of the Polish drivers’ ability to drive in the sport after life-threatening injuries in a rally crash in 2011.
Kubica has tested the teams 2014 car at Silverstone and in Budapest, with the team saying this week’s two-day test aiming to assess his fitness and physical abilities to drive the cars. Yesterday, Kubica completed a successful first day, baring a small puncher.
However, Lowe wouldn’t be drawn on whether the test had influenced Williams’s driver choice, but did say the team was pleased with Kubica’s efforts. Telling Autosport “Robert did a great job. We were very happy with that absolutely with the number of laps and with the running altogether.”
“[His feedback is] very good. He is a driver of tremendous experience and very knowledgeable about his work. His job is a professional racing driver so he has that confident and you can feel it in the garage so everybody’s happy with Robert.” Lowe also said that he was impressed by his determination to come back following the accident.
Adding “It’s a great example of his character that he considered coming back from this accident that he had and fighting away just seeking if he could come back into Formula 1.”
When asked if there were any more questions that Williams needed answering on whether it would sign Kubica, Lowe said: “We’ll keep working. We’re concentrating on the testing and then we’ll regroup afterwards to make our decision for next year in terms of racing.”
Kubica is the overwhelming favourite to get the second seat at Williams alongside Lance Stroll next year.
Sauber announces technical deal with Alfa Romeo
Sauber has announced they have reached a multiyear technical and commercial deal with the Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo from 2018. Alfa who are part of the same group as Ferrari will be the team’s title sponsor from next season.
However, Ferrari will continue to supply the Swiss team’s power units badged as Alfa Romeo. Since Fiat-Chrysler and Ferrari president, Sergio Marchionne took over as the company’s president he has made it clear he wanted to get Alfa back on the grid.
The deal between the two has been called a ‘strategic, commercial and technological cooperation between Alfa Romeo and Sauber.
When Sauber’s team principal Fred Vasseur announced the team would retaining Ferrari power units despite a deal with Honda, he said the cancelling the deal was “for strategic reasons, and with the best intent or the future of the Sauber F1 Team in mind.”
The deal will be seen important for the team’s bid to move further up the grid. This year Sauber expanded its partnership with Ferrari, which will see the team return to a current power unit next year.
Sauber was brought by the Swiss group, Longbow Finance in mid-2016. They then removed Monisha Kaltenborn in July and replaced as team principal her with Vasseur.
Sauber’s chairman Pascal Picci said “”We are very pleased to welcome Alfa Romeo to the Sauber F1 Team. Alfa Romeo has a long history of success in Grand Prix racing.”
Alfa Romeo won the first two drivers championships with Nino Farina and Juan-Manuel Fangio respectively in 1950-51. After pulling out, Alfa Romeo returned in 1979 but struggled for results over six seasons.
Tape caused Vandoorne’s handling problems
McLaren says that Stoffel Vandoorne’s dire handling problems during the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix was because of tape becoming stuck in his diffuser. The Belgian complained from early on the race about the handling of his car, with the team and himself discussing solutions on the radio.
After the race, Vandoorne told reporters that his car had “felt like a rally car”, and assumed that he had picked up some sort of damage. When the car was returned to the team, they found a piece of tape had been lodged in the diffuser.
Speaking to Autosport, Vandoorne’s engineer Tom Stallard, said “We think that Stoffel spent the whole race with a large piece of tape stuck in the diffuser. The kind of super-sticky two-inch tape, that touring car teams use to reattach the front bumper.”
“At the end of the race there was a 20cm piece still stuck to the left hand diffuser fence. During the race we believe this tape was much larger. We measured a loss of downforce equivalent to opening the DRS, but all around the lap, and without the drag drop.”
He added that about lap twenty-two the pace recovered, they believe that was because the tape snapped and then was only on one side of the diffuser.
Ferrari’s Santander deal ends without renewal
Ferrari’s eight-year deal with the Spanish bank Santander has come to an end. The branding of the bank featured on the chassis, the front and rear wings of the car and the race suits of Ferrari’s drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen this year.
Ferrari has been sponsored by Santander since Fernando Alonso joined the team in 2010, its involvement in the sport began in 2007 when it began sponsoring McLaren. The news came on the same day that Santander announced a new three-year sponsorship deal with the UEFA Champions League between 2018 and 2021.
Banco Santander Executive Chairman Ana Botín said: “Ferrari and F1, to whom we are very grateful, have played an important role at Santander over the past 10 years.”
“We will continue our support of sport because it is a valuable way to contribute to the prosperity of the communities where we work.”
However, Ferrari retains some big sponsors after a multi-year extension of its long-standing partnership with tobacco company Philip Morris earlier this year.
Webber joins Australian GP board
The state government in Victoria, Australia has announced that former F1 driver and Channel 4’s Mark Webber will serve on the board of the Australian Grand Prix Corporation board for the next three years.
The former Red Bull drivers has been named as two new additions to the board as Alan Oxley brings his 15-year stint on the board to an end. The other appointment being the Saltwater Hotels general manager Kimberly Brown.
The state’s Minister for Tourism and Major Events John Eren MP, said “The Australian Grand Prix Corporation plays a huge role in driving our visitor economy and bringing visitors to our state.”
“Mark Webber and Kimberley Brown, both leaders in their respective fields, will undoubtedly add another dimension to the board and ensure our events continue to go from strength to strength.” Chairman of the board John Harnden thanked Oxley for his work.
The corporation organises both the Formula One and Moto GP races on behalf of the government. Webber becomes the second retired racer to join the board, the other being five-time 500cc champion Mick Doohan.