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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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Fernando Alonso: “I’m looking for better results than 10th…”

Fernando Alonso admits that he has mixed feelings about leaving Scuderia Ferrari – but he cites Felipe Massa’s 2014 results after leaving Maranello as an example that he intends to emulate.

Alonso and team mate Kimi Raikkonen finished the Abu Dhabi GP in ninth and 10th places after one of Ferrari’s worst races of the season.

“It’s mixed feelings,” said the Spaniard. “Obviously I will miss the team, I will miss the guys. There are great people inside. You are always the favourite, you are always in the eyes of the people a contender for the World Championship, and that we didn’t do it is a bad thing. I need to go with some proudness, with the head up, because I fought until the end, every single point, every single race.

“It was a nice experience, every driver should experience driving for Ferrari at least one year, because it’s a unique thing. But I’m looking for better results than 10th. I think it was hard also for Felipe last year after a long relationship to say bye-bye, and he’s second now, on the podium, and we are 10th, so it’s what I’m looking for.”

Regarding his last race for the team he said: “You wish to be on the podium at least or to enjoy it a little bit better. More or less I knew it was going to be tough, because we were not competitive all weekend. We had some fights out there, it was the maximum, and probably summarised how the season was – fighting for not important positions, and try to score some points.”

Meanwhile he was keen to praise former team mate Lewis Hamilton.

“I said on Thursday that any of the two who could be World Champion would be a well deserved champion. Lewis won 11 races this year, he was perfect all season long. He deserved the championship, and I hope he enjoys it. He will be the favourite again next year.”

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RBR says Vettel and Ricciardo will start from back of grid

Red Bull says that its drivers will start the Abu Dhabi GP from the back of the grid after the FIA deemed that its front wing flaps were flexing illegally.

The team has to change the wings to make them legal, and normally that would be a change of spec, and a pitlane start. However, after the precedent of the Hamilton brake disc manufacturer change in Hockenheim if the FIA deems that the revised wing is of similar mass, inertia and function, the cars will be allowed to start from the grid.

Some rival teams told this writer that they were surprised that a change from an illegal to legal spec could be regarded as ‘similar.’

However, the team could yet start from the pitlane for strategic reasons – for example taking off wing to maximise straightline speed for overtaking.

RBR also said that it had been singled out by the FIA for a deflection test when in fact four teams were tested yesterday.

An RBR statement said: “Following the decision of the Stewards regarding the front wings on both our cars (Car 1 and Car 3), we are disappointed that we have been singled out for a front wing deflection test when it is clear that other teams are interpreting the rules in a similar fashion.

“The team accepts the decision of the Stewards and will start the race from the back of the grid.” 

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Stevens confirmed at Caterham as FIA approves superlicence

Will Stevens will race for Caterham alongside Kamui Kobayashi this weekend after his superlicence application was approved by the FIA at the last minute.

The team made the announcement just 10 minutes before the official FIA deadline for nominating drivers for the weekend. Stevens tested at Silverstone on both 2013 and 2014, logging 1100kms.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to be getting this opportunity and am very grateful to everyone involved at Caterham F1 Team for giving it to me,” said Stevens. “I feel ready for the challenge of my F1 debut and look forward to working as part of the Team in a race environment after all the work we’ve done together previously in the tests I’ve completed and back at Leafield in the sim. Hopefully this will be something we will be able to carry through to the 2015 season together.”

“We know Will very well through his involvement in the Caterham Racing Academy,” said Gianluca Pisanello, Caterham F1 Team Head of Engineering Operations. “And more importantly he has done a vast amount of time in our simulator, completing around 10,000km, which has built his experience both of this year’s car and with the engineering team that are going to Abu Dhabi.

“In addition, his 2014 test at Silverstone in our current car, where he completed over 500kms, was very successful and his race pace was very good. As a result, he was one of our best candidates for this race weekend and we are delighted to have secured his services for our return to the F1 grid. We in fact signed Will last week but have had to wait for confirmation of his Super licence before making our announcement.”

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Bianchi has returned to France, family confirms

The family of Jules Bianchi says that he was transferred from Japan to France last night – and is no longer in an artificial coma, and is breathing on his own.

In a statement they said: “Almost seven weeks after Jules’ accident at Suzuka Circuit, and following a challenging period of neurological intensive care, we are able to announce that Jules has made an important step.

“Jules is no longer in the artificial coma in which he was placed shortly after the accident, however he is still unconscious. He is breathing unaided and his vital signs are stable, but his condition is still classified as ‘critical’. His treatment now enters a new phase concerned with the improvement of his brain function.

“Jules’ neurological condition remains stable. Although the situation continues to be serious, and may remain so, it was decided that Jules was sufficiently stable to be repatriated to his native France. We are relieved, therefore, to confirm that Jules was transferred aeromedically last night from the Mie Prefectural General Medical Center in Yokkaichi, Japan, to Le Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Nice (CHU), where he arrived just a short time ago. Jules is now in the intensive care unit of Professors Raucoules and Ichai, where his care will also be monitored by Professor Paquis, Head of Neurosurgery Service.

“We are thankful that the next phase of Jules’ treatment can continue close to home, where he can be surrounded and supported by his wider family and friends. We have nothing but praise for the outstanding care provided by the Mie Prefectural General Medical Center since the accident. We owe the medical staff there an enormous debt of gratitude for everything they have done for Jules, and also for our family, during what is a very difficult time for us. In particular, we would like to extend our thanks to Doctors Kamei and Yamamichi, and also to Mr Ogura, all part of the team of personnel caring for Jules in Japan.”

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Sainz set for Abu Dhabi test with RBR

Carlos Sainz Jr will test for Red Bull Racing in Abu Dhabi next week – but it remains unclear whether it’s an indication that he is in favour with the drinks company, and could yet land the second STR race seat.

Red Bull made it clear that the test is a prize for winning the Renault 3.5 title, and underlined that it could have gone to anyone, as long as they were not affiliated with another top F1 team.

Sainz drove for RBR in the Silverstone young driver test in July 2013, and also did a demo in an RB8 at the Nurburgring this year, again as a prize for being the Renault 3.5 series leader.

The Spaniard will drive on the first day of the test next Tuesday, with Daniel Ricciardo taking over for the second day.

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Toto Wolff: “Nobody likes the double points…”

The spectre of double points has been hanging over the Hamilton/Rosberg battle all season, and after Brazil it is clear that the unpopular new rule could yet make the difference in the German’s favour.

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff insisted at Interlagos that whatever happens the rules have been the same for everyone, but made it clear that he wants to see a change for next year. He’s more concerned that a technical issue for Lewis could be the deciding factor.

“You could say that the rules are the rules, and we know what the rules are,” said Wolff. “If you lose because you haven’t got enough points it goes into the history books that you either won it or lost it. And that’s a matter of fact. Then if you imagine a scenario that the championship is being turned by a DNF for example, a technical issue, that would obviously put a big shadow over the championship.

“I would very much hope for a straight fight between the two of them at the last race, and they will give it all, and hopefully the double points will not make a difference.”

Asked if Rosberg would be a worthy champion even if it does turn on double points he said: “Whoever has most points at the end of the season is the World Champion. You have to be as pragmatic, even though some of us, if it really comes down to that situation, might have a different feeling about it, it’s what it is, and as I said before, whoever wins the championship is going to have his name in the record books. And that’s it.”

Wolff keen to see the double points rule abandoned for 2015.

“Nobody likes the double points. We are going to discuss that next time around. I don’t think Bernie likes it. So it’s probably something that we should be getting rid of for next season.”

Meanwhile RBR boss Christian Horner was non-committal on the subject: “I think you’ve got to wait until after the next race. I think it’s great that the championship is going down to the wire. It becomes an element of luck involved in what the outcome is at that last race. Difficult to think that Lewis has won 10 races to Nico’s five, and it’s all so tight.”

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