Palmer earns third driver job at Lotus

Jolyon Palmer will run in FP1 sessions with Lotus this year

Jolyon Palmer will run in FP1 sessions with Lotus this year

Lotus has confirmed that Jolyon Palmer will be its third driver in 2015, and the GP2 champion will also run in a “significant number” of FP1 sessions.

Palmer made his F1 test debut with Force India in Abu Dhabi in November, and thus had looked well set to land a role with the Silverstone-based team.

Team principal Gerard Lopez said: “Jolyon is a fantastic talent and a very credible driver to fulfil the role of Third Driver at Lotus F1 Team. Romain and Pastor are both GP2 Series Champions, so we know what a fantastic proving ground GP2 provides. For Jolyon to have enjoyed such a successful season as he took his title last year shows his superb potential for the future. We are looking forward to seeing him in team colours and behind the wheel of our 2015 car, the E23 Hybrid, which represents an exciting new era for Lotus F1 Team.”

Palmer added: “My goal has been to become a race driver in a competitive F1 team for 2016 and Lotus F1 Team is a great opportunity for me, particularly with Mercedes engines now. To be able to learn with a major F1 team by working closely with them in every area and getting a lot of mileage in the car is the best way possible, as Valtteri Bottas proved. I am delighted to be joining Lotus F1 Team at such an exciting time and my objective is to earn a long term future with them.”

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FIA shuffles race start times after Bianchi crash

The FIA has moved forward the start times of several races as a direct result of the investigation into Jules Bianchi’s crash at Suzuka last year.

One of the key recommendations of the investigating panel was to create a bigger window of daylight in which to get races completed should there be a delay for bad weather or any other reason. In the past several events did not allow for enough daylight to allow for the official four-hour time limit in which a race had to finish.

Five races have been brought forward by an hour, namely Australia (4pm local), Malaysia (3pm), China (2pm), Japan (2pm) and Russia (2pm).

In all cases qualifying still starts later, by two hours in the case of Malaysia, and by one hour in the other four instances.

The newly reinstated Mexican GP will start at 1pm.

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A final chance for Marussia as auction is cancelled

Marussia could yet be saved before the start of the season after this week’s auction of the team’s remaining assets was cancelled.

A team source told this writer last month that an earlier auction, which took place before Christmas, would not seriously compromise the chances of saving the team. However, the second included the key equipment required to go racing, and thus represented a deadline.

The team remains in administration and still owes a huge amount of money, including over £16m to power unit supplier Ferrari.

A statement from adminstrators FRP Advisory said: “A planned auction of the Company’s remaining assets due to commence on Wednesday 21 January 2015 has been halted to allow for discussions to continue with a third party. Given the confidential nature of the negotiations underway we are unable to provide further details.”

Team principal John Booth told the BBC today that talks were “at a fairly advanced stage with a new investor – a credible investor. He added that “postponing the auction gives us a bit more time to explore it.”

Like Caterham if Marussia can be saved the team is expected to get dispensation from the FIA to use its 2014 cars, despite a rule change that affects the nose.

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Mercedes to show new W06 on first day of Jerez test

The new Mercedes W06 Hybrid will be unveiled at Jerez immediately before official testing commences on February 1.

Mercedes has a tradition of showing its new cars in the flesh at the last minute, rather than online, as other teams often do.

Nico Rosberg will drive on the first and third days of the test, with Lewis Hamilton in action on the second and fourth days.

“The workload this winter has been as great as ever,” said Mercedes motor sport boss Toto Wolff. “Where last year we were preparing for an all-new formula of racing, we are now faced with the big challenge of making the next step in our development. We know that we went into the winter with a target on our backs for the other teams – and we are certain that our rivals will be competitive from the opening race in Melbourne. So we have to focus on every detail if we want to build any advantage this year and that is what we have done.

“This is an exciting time of year as our collective efforts all come together in the new car. Everybody in Brackley, Brixworth and Stuttgart has put a great amount of effort into creating the latest Silver Arrow and I thank them for their efforts so far. We are excited to see how the car performs when it begins running.”

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Ecclestone says Hockenheim will host 2015 German GP

Bernie Ecclestone says that this year’s German GP will take place at Hockenheim, rather than at the Nurburgring.

Although the FIA did not specify a venue in the F1 calendar this year should have been the turn of the Nurburgring, which last hosted the race in 2013. However Ecclestone has not concluded a deal with the track, which has changed ownership amid serious financial problems.

It’s going to be at Hockenheim, we’re in the middle of doing something with them,” he told Reuters. “It can’t be Nurburgring because there’s nobody there. We’ve got a contract in place [with Hockenheim], we just have to amend the years of the contract. It was alternating with Nurburgring so we’ll just take that out. Providing the contract goes through as we expect it to, we’ll be in good shape.”

Ecclestone confirmed that he’d tried to acquire the Nurburgring.

We wanted to buy the Nurburgring, we made an offer and somebody topped us with a few dollars and bought it. And then they couldn’t pay and it went on sale again. I said I’d be interested and then they found somebody else. So I don’t know what’s happening.”

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Tilke upbeat on Mexico City circuit revamp

Track designer Hermann Tilke is confident that his revisions to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City will prove to be successful and will be good for spectators.

The track, which last hosted an F1 race in 1992, is being substantially rebuilt for the return of the GP on November 1. However, Tilke says he has tried to retain its character.

“There will be a new pit and paddock,” he told this writer. “But we don’t have so much space. And then after the straight we did some new corners, because this is a highlight for the spectators. We’re moving the ‘snake’, the very fast corners, to the inside. We’re almost copying it, because it was successful, but we had no safety, no run-off. And there is a big concert stadium, and we’ll lead the cars through the stadium. Of course it’s slow, but it’s for the spectators, and there will be action there.”

Meanwhile Tilke countered criticism of the layout of the Baku street track in Azerbaijan, which will join the F1 calendar in 2016. The German insists that the real circuit will be much more exciting than the map issued a few months ago might suggest, due to elevation changes and so on.

“You have to see it in three dimensions, you cannot see in those pictures. It goes really uphill to the old city, it follows the city wall from the 1200s, and it will be really exciting. It’s one hundred per cent a temporary circuit, all existing roads. We’ll refurbish some of them, but not all.

“It’s a very fast track. It’s an absolutely different challenge, and the track is different from every city track in the world. It will be different from Monaco, different from Singapore, it will be completely outstanding.”

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Williams turnaround an inspiration for Lotus

One of the most intriguing aspects of 2015 is the switch by Lotus from Renault to Mercedes power, a move that gives the team that won a race as recently as 2013 a much stronger power unit than it had at its disposal last year.

Trackside operations director Alan Permane is adamant that the team has learned from its disappointing season, and will make a step forward.

“It was hard work but for very little reward, unfortunately,” he told this writer. “We will learn from it and move on. We’ve got a very nice looking package for 2015, so hopefully we’ll do a better job.

“I think after a year of experience we know what you need from these power units and how to operate them. Of course it will be subtly different with the Mercedes, but we’ll be in a better position than we were a year ago.”

Permane draws some inspiration from the way Williams turned things around when it moved to Mercedes: “We hope to do that, quite honestly. Let’s not pretend it’s just engine with them, they did a very nice chassis as well, and we need to do the same.”

The key difference is that Williams brought in some new technical personnel over the past couple of years, that has not been the case at Lotus. However Permane says that is not a concern.

“It’s also good to have continuity. People will tell you what you want to hear. We had a fantastic season in 2013, we did a great car, and you’d say to build on that you’d want to keep the same people and keep going.

“Williams had many years in the doldrums and changes things for the better of course, and did a great job. You look at Red Bull they had the same team for all those championship years. I don’t think changing stuff around for the sake of it is what you want to do.”

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