Vergne joins Ferrari in test role as de la Rosa leaves

Jean-Eric Vergne has joined Ferrari to work on car development in the team’s simulator.

He replaces Pedro de la Rosa, who is leaving the team at the end of the month. Ferrari has already confirmed that Esteban Gutierrez will be third driver, while Marc Gene and Davide Rigon both stay on as test drivers.

“On behalf of the entire team, I welcome Jean-Eric, who I’m sure will make an important contribution to our development work in the simulator,” said team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. “He will fit in to a programme aimed at improving important areas, invigorating and strengthening an already strong and capable group of professionals.”

“The objective is a unanimous one and that is to help the Scuderia get back to the top step of the podium,” said Vergne. “Having had two years working in the simulator for a top F1 team and three years racing with Toro Rosso, my experience will add to the great efforts that are currently being made in order to get the team back to its winning ways. I look forward to fulfilling my dream in becoming a member of Scuderia Ferrari and having the tifosi behind me every step of the way.”

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Montezemolo lands spot on F1 board as Bernie returns

Former Ferrari boss Luca di Montezemlo has been appointed to the board of the F1 Group, main shareholder CVC has announced.

Meanwhile Bernie Ecclestone has been reappointed to the board after stepping down earlier this year during his legal dramas. He will continue as CEO having seemingly survived a difficult year with his power intact.

Montezemolo was previously on the board in his role as chairman of Ferrari, but now has a position of non-executive director in his own right.

Montezemolo is joined in a similar capacity by Paul Walsh, the former CEO of Diageo, owners of the Johnny Walker brand. Walsh, who is also a director of FedEx and Unilever, has been tipped as a replacement for Ecclestone. The appointments of both Walsh and Montezemolo commence on January 1.

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Nico Hulkenberg: “Leaving Sauber for Force India was the right decision…”

For the first time in his F1 career Nico Hulkenberg is heading into a second season as a race driver with the same team, and the German says that the stability is a major boost for him.

Hulkenberg has bounced from Williams to Force India to Sauber and back to Force India over the past few seasons, and has now finally found a long-term home.

“I’m very happy and pleased to have that consistency now for once,” he told this writer. “And also emotionally wise it’s good to have this consistency It’s good that tor the first time in my career it was announced and the plans were concrete so early, so it’s actually a very comfortable situation to be in, to know what you do, then you can focus with your team on the future, you can work in the same direction. It’s a very nice feeling.”

Hulkenberg is happy with the way 2014 turned out: “There’s no discussion that leaving Sauber for Force India was the right decision, although in hindsight obviously it’s easy to say!

“I’m definitely happy. It was not a perfect year. We had a good start, and perhaps a not so good second half for various reasons. Obviously the car performance was not so good in the second half.

“In some of the later races we didn’t achieve our best potential, for whatever reason, and the other thing is I think some teams outdeveloped us. In the beginning of the year, in Bahrain, we were racing Ferraris, and beating Williams. They clearly overtook us, and were in front.

“We just lost out in development and bringing aero performance to the car. Aero is still king, even with the these new cars and new regulations. Other teams just put on more, and had a stronger development curve than us.”

Meanwhile he insists that he’s not disappointed by his failure thus far to break into one of the title chasing teams.

“I’m not frustrated about not being in a winning team. It is is what it is, you just have to hang on there and keep doing your best, and one day the opportunity will come, or not.

“I think you also have to say that the quality of drivers on the market is very high, if you look at the top teams they are employing good drivers already, so you cannot say. ‘He’s doing shit, get rid of him.’”

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Ferrari confirms departure of Fry and Tombazis

As had been rumoured engineering director Pat Fry and chief designer Nicolas Tombazis are both leaving Ferrari as part of a reorganisation under new boss Maurizio Arrivabane.

Meanwhile James Allison’s position as the overall technical boss as been strengthened in what Ferrari calls “a flatter structure and clear assignment of responsibilities.”

Fry joined Ferrari in 2011, while Tombazis has been there since 1997, apart from a spell with McLaren.

A team statement said: “James Allison is the Technical Director with two Italian engineers and home grown Scuderia talent reporting to him: Chief Designer Simone Resta and Power Unit Director Mattia Binotto, the latter will be supported by Chief Designer Power Unit Lorenzo Sassi, among others. Furthermore James Allison will direct track engineering activities ad interim.

“Therefore he will be responsible for all technical aspects of delivering the Scuderia’s drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, as well as the newly appointed test driver and third driver Esteban Gutiérrez, with the most competitive Formula 1 car possible.”

Arrivabene will also head a newly formed commercial department, assisted by marketing manager and erstwhile media boss Renato Bisignani. The press office will be run by former journalist Alberto Antonini.

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Stolen Red Bull trophies recovered from lake

Around 20 of the trophies stolen from Red Bull Racing on December 6th have been recovered from a lake, although the exact number is not clear as some are damaged.

They were found near Sandhurst in Berkshire, some 120kms from the RBR base in Milton Keynes.

“It’s good news that some of our trophies have been found and thanks to the police for all their help so far,” said Christian Horner. “The fact that some of the trophies were discarded in a lake and damaged shows how senseless this crime was. While the trophies mean an enormous amount to the team, their intrinsic value is low – and the extent of the damage that was caused to the factory by the offenders during the break-in was significant.

“Hopefully we can get the trophies back to our factory where they belong and get replicas made of those that we can’t. Thanks to everyone involved for their help so far.”

A statement from Thames Valley Police said: “Around 20 of the trophies were yesterday recovered from the Horseshoe Lake near Sandhurst, after being spotted by a member of the public.

“Members of the Specialist Search and Rescue Team searched part of the lake yesterday and located a number of trophies.”

The police have asked the public for help.

“We estimate about twenty trophies have been recovered, but we are liaising with Red Bull to establish the exact number, as some of the trophies are damaged,” said Investigating officer Det Con Chris Oakman.

“We would continue to ask that anyone with any information about the burglary contacts us on 101. Further, if anyone sees a trophy or trophy parts near the area of Horseshoe Lake please contact the Force.”

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Gutierrez confirmed in Ferrari reserve role

Having been dropped by Sauber Esteban Gutierrez has joined Ferrari as its new test and reserve driver.

He this follows in the footsteps of countryman Sergio Perez, who was part of the Ferrari Driver Academy before his move to McLaren. The Mexican has been talking to the Italian team since it became clear that he would not be staying with Sauber.

“We are pleased to be able to offer this opportunity to Esteban who, although young, has plenty of experience relating to the new generation of Formula 1 cars,” said team boss Maurizio Arrivabene. “I am sure that, with his experience, he will make an important contribution to the development work of the team in the simulator.

“Welcoming Esteban also means opening the gates of Ferrari to a driver from Mexico, a country where the Scuderia still has a lot of fans, just as was the case fifty years ago in the days of the Rodriguez brothers.”

“It is for me the beginning of a new path for my future and I’m going to do my utmost to contribute to the achievement of the targets set by the Scuderia,” said Gutierrez. “I want to thank everybody for their belief in my potential; this will bring a great opportunity for me to develop further and get to the top in the near future. With all my passion and dedication, I’m now looking forward to the start of this new venture.”

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Frijns a free agent as Caterham contract expires

Robin Frijns is a free agent once more after his contract with Caterham F1 expired and was not renewed.

Although the news is hardly surprising his management company has taken the opportunity to remind the world that the talented Dutchman is available.

Frijns did very little running during his time with Caterham, although he was seen in FP1 in Bahrain and Silverstone.

“I’d like to say thank you and goodbye to all the people at Caterham F1 Team, whom I have worked with over the past twelve months,” he said. “I keep my fingers crossed that there will be a future for the team in Formula One in 2015 and beyond. Especially I’d like to thank former team principal Cyril Abiteboul whom I consider to be mainly responsible for giving me the chance to become a part of the team.”

His management added: “Our partnership with Caterham expires today, since the team obviously hasn’t exercised their option to extend the contract. We cannot deny that the year has developed in a disappointing way after all, but we now have to focus on creating a better situation for next year. However, no decision about Robin’s future has been made yet.”

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