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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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Christian Horner: “It’s a ridiculous situation that we can’t find a solution to…”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner had made his anger clear after talks over an engine unfreeze for 2015 collapsed in Brazil. Mercedes has again declined to agree to a deal after compromise solution was discussed by the main players.

While all the manufacturers can make substantial changes over the winter, their power units have to be homologated by the end of February. RBR, Renault and Ferrari, supported by McLaren and Honda, are pushing to open a second window of development later in the season – for the simple reason that they cannot complete the upgrades they want to make in the time available. All parties have to agree to a rule change for next year.

“It’s all rather frustrating,” said Horner. “You sit down and talk about things and you leave the room thinking you’ve agreed something, and then it all changes. I think you probably need to ask Mercedes their reasoning behind it. It’s a ridiculous situation that we can’t find a solution to, so I really have no idea what the outcome will be.

“You can sit in a meeting and agree things with people that then change their minds five minutes after they’ve left room. It’s a very frustrating situation. We spent a long time talking about, and we’ve agreed a position twice now, and it changes and it constantly changes. I think there’s an awful lot of frustration now between the teams.”

The alternative path for the teams that want changes is that they vote for development to be opened up beyond 2015. The regulations can be done my majority vote prior to June 30 next year.

“I think that’s the only option, because with a majority vote ’16, ’17, ’18 can be opened. So we’ll have to face the pain in ’15 in order to open it up in ’16, 17, which is ridiculous since we’ll all end up spending a lot more money over a longer period of time, whereas what should happen is a window should be opened to allow Renault, Ferrari, Honda to try and close that gap.

“There’s no guarantees that we can close that gap significantly to Mercedes. But not having the opportunity to do so, that’s the thing that seems pretty unpalatable, especially on engine technology that is immature.”

Asked by this writer about the specific issue of Red Bull Technology’s new engine group coming together so late he said: “It’s timing for everyone. To introduce a brand new engine for February is impossible.”

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Caterham withdrawal stopped surprise Barrichello comeback

Caterham’s failure to make it to Austin ended the possibility of a surprise comeback for Rubens Barrichello.

The 42-year-old has made no secret of the fact that he would like to race an F1 car again, and has always been frustrated that he did not have a proper farewell race at his home event. Since his last F1 race he has remained active in Brazilian stock cars and karting.

Encouraged by support from the Brazilian GP promoter Colin Kolles had been working for several months to put together a deal that would have seen Rubens replacing Kamui Kobayashi for the last three Grands Prix of the season.

“We would have run Barrichello in the last three races,” a team source told this writer. “We had sponsorship for this, and everything was going the right way. It would have been fantastic for F1.”

Speaking exclusively about the plan, Rubens told this writer: “It would have been great to race in front of my people once again and say goodbye properly.”

Mario Andretti suggested last weekend that guest appearances by drivers from other areas of the sport would be a great promotional tool for F1.

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