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The colour Purple for Pirelli as Abu Dhabi test is confirmed

Pirelli has confirmed that the 12-hour tyre test will take place in Abu Dhabi on December 1, two days after the final race of the season.

As previously noted the World Motor Sport Council had to vote on a rule change to allow the test to go ahead. The purpose of the day is to run the new 2016 Ultra Soft and revised constructions – the FIA considered that it was vital to let it go ahead on safety grounds.

The test will run from 9am to 9pm, and teams are expected to run up to 500kms each, and they can run more than one drives. 

Some teams had been reluctant to agree to the test being added to the schedule, mainly on cost grounds, and because they had booked travel arrangements that could not be changed.

However, the likes of Sauber and Force India have been appeased by Pirelli agreeing that teams could run rookie drivers, who bring finance, for part of the day, despite its original requirement for drivers with 2015 experience. Manor told Pirelli last weekend that it would not take part.

Pirelli says: “Teams have been asked to run preferably race or reserve drivers, and they will not be allowed to try new parts nor alter the cars during the test.

Pirelli will define the test programme for each car. The tyres used during this test will not be considered as part of the testing allocation for 2015.”

Meanwhile Pirelli has confirmed that the Ultra Soft will have a purple sidewall.

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Susie Wolff gives up F1 dream as she announces retirement

Susie Wolff has announced her retirement from competitive motor sport after four years with Williams.

During that time she held various roles, latterly as an official test driver. She drove in several FP1 sessions, becoming the first woman to appear on a GP weekend since 1992, but her dream of racing at the top level remained out of reach. He final outing will be in the upcoming Race of Champions.

It remains to be seen whether she is making room for a replacement, although well-financed F3 man Lance Stroll has been linked with Williams. Meanwhile Alex Lynn is expected to have an enhanced role with the team.

I’d like to thank Williams for the opportunity they have given me over the last few years which has allowed me to achieve my dream of driving a Formula 1 car,” said Wolff. “It has been great to work with everyone at the team, both at Grove and trackside, and I’d like to thank everyone who has been part of my journey at Williams. I am now closing this chapter but looking forward to new challenges in the future.”

Claire Williams said: “Her feedback and knowledge of the car has been an important part our recent development and we will be sorry to see her go. We want to thank her for all her efforts and wish her the very best for her future endeavours. We will of course be supporting both Susie and Felipe at the Race of Champions, and hope Susie has a great weekend to mark the last time we see her race.”


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Kimi Raikkonen: “If you ask him for sure he’s gonna blame me…”

Kimi Raikkonen Valtteri Bottas collided for the second time in three races in Mexico, but this time it was the Ferrari man who ended up out of the race with broken suspension after the Williams drier retired in Russia.

Despite their history Raikkonen says he’s not planning to sit down with Bottas and talk things through.

I don’t think it helps or changes anything,” he said when asked by this writer. “What has happened has happened – maybe he feels better now what happened in Russia. I have nothing against anybody, this is racing. If he has a better feeling now it is good for him, but things have a certain way of working it out in the long run.

It’s been a shit weekend but we go for the next one and hopefully at one point certain things will turn around and we start getting a good result. It is not nice for me or the team, but it is part of the game. And unfortunately we have been going through that for quite a while, and I am sure we will get a good result.”

Raikkonen said he wasn’t aware of Bottas coming alongside.

Not really. Obviously I saw him outside on the previous one. Like I said, it was tight, but if you ask him for sure he’s gonna blame me. I am sure if he would go over the kerb there would have been space. Obviously it was quite slippery there so he locked a bit the front wheel. The end result is what it is.

We came worse out of it, so that is life. It is not going to change any more. Our end result, whatever would have happened, doesn’t change. It was a bad weekend overall, not just for me but also for the team. We not generally not a more worse team than previous races, but obviously it was not ideal, but we will be back at the next races.”


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FIA takes on manufacturers as it launches tender for low-budget V6

An alternative ‘spec’ engine package for F1 looks likely to become a reality as Bernie Ecclestone and Jean Todt are pushing the concept of low budget engine for 2017 – one that would literally take the power away from the manufacturers.

Both men have become increasingly concerned at the influence wielded by the engine suppliers. Sources suggest that the FIA will could launch a tender process for a 2.2-litre turbo turbo V6, similar to the current Indycar engine, as soon as next week. How an equivalency formula would be worked out remains to be seen.

The news comes after the idea receiving no support at the meeting of the sport’s engine manufacturers in Geneva last week. However the manufacturers also rejected any kind of cost cap on their current engine supply deals, and has prompted prompted the FIA to act. It remains to seen if the concept is ultimately being used as a bargaining chip to bring those costs down.

Ecclestone has long been pushing for a way to find a “Cosworth” who can supply a budget engine to struggling teams, and Todt is also sympathetic to the idea of a low cost package. It could be forced through for 2017 without unanimous support.

In April when I asked Ecclestone about a twin-turbo V6 he told me: “I never wanted to go back to V8s, I wanted to set up a single engine to be in F1, which they could run for let’s say 10% of what these manufacturers spend. It would be a different regulation, which would be cheaper. If the manufacturers then decide this would be a good thing, then that’s OK. Or if they want to supply [current] engines at a realistic price to the teams, then good.”

Asked about how two types of engine could compete in parallel he said: “We used to run turbos with normally aspirated engines before. You can do either.”

A return to V8s or a move to a twin-turbo V6 with a basic KERS package has also been mentioned as a last ditch alternative for Red Bull to use in 2016, although it would require unanimous support for a rule change.

Longer term the turbo idea was always more likely to fly than a return to V8s, as it would represent less of a loss of face for the FIA and those who have been pushing the new technology.

Red Bull boss Christian Horner remains open to the idea of an alternative, and he also favours a turbo route rather than a move to older technology, as he indicated today when asked about the prospect of a return to V8s.

“We might have to because we don’t have an engine!,” he joked. “I think if you look at what the plus points of the V8 were, the sound was the obvious one for the fans. It was quite simple technology compared to what we have now, so the costs were quite significantly lower.

“But the machinery that we have now through the regulations, they’re incredible bits of equipment, and I think what we need to do rather than look backwards look forwards to what should the engine developed be for the future. There’s elements of what we have that are strong at the moment that can be improved, and I would certainly love to see the volume go back up, and certainly the cost of development come down.”

Inevitably these representing manufacturers are happy with the status quo, and don’t want to see any kind of dumbing down of F1 technology.

“Honda joined the sport because of the challenge of the technology,” said Eric Boullier. “And obviously some may regret the engine noise of the V8, some may regret the cost as well, but it’s true that we have to look forward. It’s a piece of technology that’s brilliant, once it works, in our case hopefully soon, it’s a nice challenge to run these engines.”

My April story can be found here:


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Red Bull engine supply saga “critical” as Ferrari offers 2015 engines

Red Bull’s engine supply situation has reached a “critical” stage according to team boss Christian Horner.

With Mercedes having already turned down an approach from Red Bull it’s now clear that Ferrari is now only offering 2015 engines, as opposed to the 2016 customer units that will be supplied to Haas and Sauber.

Matters are further complicated by the fact that Toro Rosso also requires an engine, and due to its lower level of resources the Italian team needs to finalise the design of its 2016 contender at an earlier stage.

The current situation is quite critical, because as we sit here, we don’t have an engine,” said Horner. “The important thing for us is to have a first class engine. First of all we need to conclude our situation with our current supplier. But I think Dietrich [Mateschitz] has made the situation very clear.

Regarding the deadline he said: “We are already late, already very late. It was already difficult two weeks ago, so we’re very, very late.

Toro Rosso are in a similar situation. Their timing is more critical than Red Bull Racing, even.”

Horner has suggested that Red Bull Racing’s staff would do something else if it pulls out of F1.

Then we’re in a position where we can’t compete. Then for sure we’ll have to look at other activities. Milton Keynes is full of a lot of talent, and we would have to look at where we apply that talent.”


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Perez confirmed at Force India for 2016

Sergio Perez has been confirmed at Force India for 2016.

Lotus had expressed an interest in Perez and his Mexican sponsorship, but he had always indicated that his preference was for continuity and staying with his current team.

I am very happy to confirm that I will be staying with Sahara Force India,” said Perez. “It means I can simply focus on the important stuff – driving the car and scoring points for the team. Since coming here I’ve really grown as a driver and I feel I’m performing at my best. I’ve always said I want to establish myself in a team and it’s the right moment to announce my commitment for the future with Sahara Force India. I can feel the potential in the team and there is a good energy, which gives me confidence for next year. I think we can continue to deliver strong results and I will do my best to help drive the team forward. I also want to say ‘thank you’ to Telmex and Telcel for their continued support, which has played an important role in my journey over the last ten years.”

His negotiations with the team were complicated by the fact that they happened in parallel with commercial arrangements, which is why Nico Hulkenberg’s deal was done some time ago.

“One deal is more complex, there are commercial issues involved, whereas the other is a driver contract,” Force India’s Bob Fernley told this writer in Monza.

“We have two drivers that get on well within the team, they’re pushing each other all the time. Both of them are excellent racers. I’m not sure that we could do better, that’s the key.

“I think that they are both very happy at Force India. Obviously Nico had a choice, and he’s made that choice, and I think it’s the same thing probably with Checo. Nico was out of contract, Checo’s is a renewal.”

The news leaves Jean-Eric Vergne and Kevin Magnussen as the drivers most likely to replace Romain Grosjean should the last-named be confirmed at Haas.

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Lotus: Singapore trip not a crucial deadline

Lotus deputy team principal Federico Gastaldi denies that the build-up to the seven flyaway races represents a crunch time for the Enstone team as it awaits news on the potential Renault takeover.

The next 11 weeks involve considerable expense for all the F1 teams in terms of freight and personnel travel and accommodation costs, and Lotus has made no secret of its cash flow problems.

“Everything has been planned, like all teams were look ahead,” Gastaldi told this writer. “Part of the freight has already gone to Singapore, hotels and airline tickets are booked. What can I say? In a couple of weeks it will be the same thing, can you go to Japan?

“Here we are, and if people keep speculating about our financial situation, there’s nothing we can do. They hear what they hear. It doesn’t make any good, the rumours and the gossip. I understand that you have to ask.”

He conceded that recent weeks have been challenging as the team waits for the Renault deal to go through.

“It’s not been easy. We’re working on it and we’ll keep pushing. It’s a Renault decision. We are doing our best to try it make it happen, but it’s up to them, it’s not up to us.

“We cannot pretend to be comparing ourselves or competing with the budgets of Mercedes or Ferrari or Red Bull, but listen, we are not far away from being competitive.”

Meanwhile Gastaldi admitted that the double retirement in Monza represented a significant lost opportunity. After Romain Grosjean’s timely third place at Spa in Italy both the Frenchman and team mate Pastor Maldonado were eliminated as a result of contact with other cars in the first chicane.

“I was actually certain that we could be in the points with both cars. We had a good car, both drivers were doing a good job, we had a good qualifying session, we didn’t expect to be out on the first or second lap, but here we are. It’s only been race situations where both cars went out of the track on the first lap. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

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