Toro Rosso confirms Carlos Sainz Jr for 2015 race seat

Red Bull has confirmed that Carlos Sainz Jr will race for Toro Rosso in 2015, alongside Max Verstappen.

The team has been expecting to announce its line-up next Monday, but main rival for the job Jean-Eric Vergne pre-empted any announcement by using Twitter to say that he had been dropped.

Any last question marks over Sainz were addressed after a strong performance while testing the Red Bull RB10 in Abu Dhabi earlier this week.

“Ever since I have been part of Red Bull’s Young Driver Programme, this has been my aim,” said Sainz. “And I want to thank Red Bull for putting their faith in me. I have had a very successful season in World Series by Renault this year and now I am looking forward to taking the step up to Formula 1. I tested for a day with Toro Rosso last year and I liked the atmosphere in the team. In the next few months I will be working hard on my preparation, ready to get in the cockpit in Jerez for the first test of next year. It will be nice to make my “official” debut as a Formula 1 driver in my home country!”

Team boss Franz Tost added: “With Carlos Sainz joining Max Verstappen in our driver line-up next year, we continue the Toro Rosso tradition of providing youngsters from the Red Bull Junior Driver Programme with their first steps in Formula 1. I have watched Carlos progress through the junior categories, always improving as he moved higher up the ladder, culminating in a well-deserved win in this year’s World Series. However, I also remember the day’s testing he did with us at Silverstone in 2013 in the STR8. He really surprised me and his engineers that day, with his mature approach and his speed.”

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Helmut Marko: “We have to change back to a racing engine…”

Red Bull’s push for a change of engine formula for 2016 is likely to continue to be a major talking point in the coming months, although it remains to be seen how much support the team gets.

Christian Horner and Helmut Marko share the view that the sport should go back to a simpler twin-turbo version of the current V6, which would create a better sound and allow the drivers more input into how it is operated.

Such a change could in theory be introduced for 2016 via a majority vote in the F1 Commission, should the idea get past the Strategy Group. Although Bernie Ecclestone supports change, it seems highly unlikely that it will progress. Clearly Mercedes and its customer teams will oppose any change, as will Honda, the Japanese manufacturer having just spent enormous resources on readying its hybrid power unit for 2015.

“For next year everything goes by regulations,” Marko told this writer. “We don’t ask any favours from Mercedes, we go with what the regulations allow. We hope to have a reasonable increase in performance. We can’t catch Mercedes, we know, but we want to be nearer.

“And for 2016 it’s all a new game. As Christian has said we want a new engine, because this engine is so expensive and so complicated. It’s steered by engineers. What we want is a racing engine with noise, and where the driver is in charge.

“Cost-wise, the costs can be reduced we hope by more than 50%. I think a V6 or a V8 is for sure less expensive than what we have at the moment. We could use this V6 and put a second turbo, with the wastegate, and you have the noise then. And you could put on a standard KERS, like we had on last year, and the cost that we calculated is 50% down.”

Marko is adamant that fans want the change: “We have to think globally. The viewing figures are going down, and the interest generally, and these engines are unfortunately, not the right development. It proved what F1 technology can do, but for the medium term we have to change back to a racing engine.”


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Wolff to run two FP1 sessions for Williams in 2015

Susie Wolff will continue with Williams in 2015 in the role of official test driver, having previously held the title of development driver.

She will again take part in two FP1 sessions, along with two other test days. The team says it’s evaluating candidates for the role of development driver.

“This is another step in the right direction for me,” said Wolff. “I am delighted Williams are recognising my progression, hard work and that it is performance that counts. Williams is at a very exciting stage in its history and we are moving into 2015 with fantastic momentum, I’m proud to be part of the team. I’ll be using my position to work closely with Felipe and Valtteri to make sure that the FW37 builds on the strong performance shown by the FW36.”

Regarding what Wolff brings to the team Claire Williams said: “She continues to impress us with her strong technical knowledge, the feedback she delivers and the performance when she drives the car both on the track and in the simulator. She has steadily increased her time behind the wheel since she joined us in April 2012 and her appointment as Official Test Driver was a natural progression.

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Illegal Red Bull wings were a “silly mistake” says Marko

Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko insists that the illegal front wing flaps on the RB10s in Abu Dhabi were the result of a “naïve” interpretation of the rules.

Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel qualified fifth and sixth but ultimately started from the pitlane after the FIA discovered a spring arrangement that allowed the flaps to flex.

“It was a silly mistake from our side,” Marko told this writer. “I would say it was a naïve interpretation of the regulations. We thought it was within the regulations.”

Meanwhile Marko said he was happy with the progress the team made in 2014 after its disastrous start in testing.

“We did much better than we expected – we won three races, second in the constructors’ championship, in the drivers’ third and fifth. So the recovery was good. Strategically, everything was done right. We achieved the maximum, we learned a lot, and we had to fight and keep motivation up. But it paid off.

“We had such a difference in horsepower, we couldn’t use the potential of our chassis, because if we put the wing up we lost so much on the straights. So we always had to go for a compromise. I think we did pretty well. Whenever there was a chance, bang, we were there.”


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Nico Hulkenberg: “It was pretty annoying and frustrating…”

Nico Hulkenberg finished the 2014 season on a high with a solid sixth place in Abu Dhabi, but the Force India driver was frustrated to have lost 5s with a penalty for forcing Kevin Magnussen off track on the first lap.

Hulkenberg insisted that he was not at fault, and said that without the extra handicap he would have beaten Jenson Button to fifth place. The Briton finished 1.8s ahead.

“Not much we could do there,” he told this writer. “It was reported to the stewards, and once they decide, you can’t appeal it. It was pretty annoying and frustrating to have that, because I’d done nothing wrong, it was just the battle in the heat of the first lap of the race. Kevin was pushing me wide the corner before. We were going side-by-side around Turn 6 or 7, I wasn’t purposely pushing him wide, I was sliding, and that’s what happens.

“That’s racing, and we want to see racing, don’t we? I think we touched very slightly, nothing bad or serious. Otherwise I think it could have been a fifth place, I’m pretty certain. But still a very satisfying and good end to the year.”

Regarding Force India’s improvement in form from qualifying to the race he said: “That was quite unexpected and a surprise, to be honest. Obviously it’s good that the car is at its best in the race, but this performance is really a bit out of the blue. Since Friday we changed the set-up quite a bit, but we don’t do long runs from that point onwards.

“I was confident in the car, there was good harmony between me and the car, and it was going quite well. It’s been a trend always this year that in qualy we don’t seem as strong as in the race. On the aero side we still have a lot of work in front of us, we need to get better there.”

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Standing restarts abandoned after teams voice concerns

The plan to have standing starts after safety car periods in 2015 has been abandoned after this week’s meetings of the Strategy Group and F1 Commission.

The decision came after teams did more research into what it meant, and concerns emerged regarding issues such as tyre temperatures and pressures, and the complex procedures required in the cockpit prior to any start. There were also question marks over the build-up of tyre marbles on one side of the grid creating a handicap for drivers on that side.

As has been expected for some time double points for the final race have also gone after F1 insiders accepted that the public didn’t like the idea. Fortunately they did not affect the outcome of this year’s title battle, but they also did not contribute to extending it until the final race.

The original plan, as suggested by Bernie Ecclestone, had been to have three double point races, in order to reduce the risk of a team losing out through one bad weekend.

As discussed here on Friday teams have also provisionally agreed that the likes of Caterham and Marussia can use the 2014 spec engines, if they want to. They are likely to be cheaper than the 2015 spec, and in Caterham’s case at least will open up the chance to use the 2014 chassis without major modifications to accommodate new packaging. Currently rules allow manufacturers to homologate only one engine spec.

Any changes agreed at the F1 Commission now have to be passed by the World Motor Sport Council, which meets next week in Qatar.


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Tough start for McLaren Honda as car runs five laps in two days

McLaren and Honda endured another tough day in Abu Dhabi as Stoffel Vandoorne completed only two laps, bringing the MP4-29H/1×1 test car’s official total up to five for the two-day test – without setting a flying lap time.

The car appeared to be ready to run at the start of the day before an electrical issue intervened. In the afternoon Vandoorne did an installation lap, but when he went out for a four-lap run the car shut down on track. The team was not able to get it out again before the end of the day.

Although the whole point of the Abu Dhabi test was to find problems before running begins again in Jerez in February clearly both parties were expecting to do at least some representative mileage. This week has been poor reward given the effort involved in building the test car, which was a brand new chassis – and which in theory will not be used again, assuming that the new MP-30 is ready for the first test in February.

The team does still have the opportunity to use the older car in the first test and spend a bit more time developing the definitive model before it actually runs.
The other downside of the lack of mileage is that the team may have been using the Honda test in part as a way of evaluating whether or not Vandoorne is ready for a 2015 race seat, although in theory the Belgian will do a second year of GP2.

“Although this looked like another difficult day, this is just part of the learning experience we expected when we took on the interim car programme,” said team boss Eric Boullier. “It’s useful to discover these issues pre-Christmas, as it allows us to deepen our understanding of the complex integration between power-unit, ancillaries and the car.

“And, to be honest, I’d rather be ironing out these problems here in Abu Dhabi, than discovering them in Jerez, next February.

“It’s definitely been a positive for both McLaren and Honda to conduct this test – there have been some troublesome issues, but we’ve made progress. We’ve also made an excellent start to the relationship – communication and interaction have been great, and you can really feel the positivity and sense of purpose in the garage. Any mileage we accrued this week would simply have been a bonus.”

Honda motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai added: “In short, this was a tricky day. We encountered system start-up and data communication issues that prevented us from running as we’d planned.

“However, actually conducting testing at the track enabled us to understand the complexity of the system at a deeper level. We now know what is necessary to further develop the system, and we’ll work together with McLaren to be ready for the next test – at Jerez in February.”

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