Kvyat to stay at Toro Rosso in 2017

Scuderia Toro Rosso has confirmed that Dany Kvyat will remain at the team alongside the already announced Carlos Sainz next season.

Kvyat’s future at the team had been in doubt, and Force India had indicated an interest in hiring him for next season.

The news also means that there will be no race seat for GP2 star Pierre Gasly.

I’m very happy to stay with a team that feels like home to me,” said Kvyat. “I’m really looking forward to continuing the hard work together in 2017 and I’m really aiming high. I will always be fully dedicated, giving my ‘200%’, and I will be pushing as hard as I usually do, that’s for sure. I’m delighted!”

Considering how many changes there are in the Formula 1 pipeline for 2017, it’s good to know that Daniil and I will continue to be teammates here at Toro Rosso next year,” said Sainz. “We know each other very well, as we’ve been racing together since 2010, and we work well together. I know that this season isn’t over yet, but I’m already looking forward to next year!”

Team boss Franz Tost stressed that continuity is the key.

It makes a change to announce our driver line-up relatively early,” he said. “There are so many new elements coming to Formula 1 in general and to our team specifically, in terms of the change of power unit supplier, that having the same two drivers gives us stability and a benchmark to work from. For Carlos, it will be his third year with us, which speaks volumes when it comes to how highly we rate him.

In recent races, it has been clear that Daniil is back on top form. I always told him that his future with us was in his hands and he has stepped up to the mark and delivered the sort of performances that have ensured his 2017 seat in the STR 12. We now have a very talented and strong driver pairing to tackle a season in which we expect to be very competitive.”

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Force India frees Hulkenberg to join Renault

Force India has confirmed that Nico Hulkenberg will leave the team at the end of the season, thus freeing him up to join Renault in 2017.

The Silverstone team had previously confirmed that the German would be staying put, alongside Sergio Perez. Esteban Ocon is thought to be the top of the list of possible replacements.

Everybody at Sahara Force India wishes Nico well as he embarks upon a different path in Formula One,” said Vijay Mallya. “Having spent five years with us, Nico has become a great friend and contributed a huge amount to the team’s success. He’s an outstanding driver, who has scored more points for this team than anybody else. While it’s true we will miss Nico, we respect his decision to explore fresh opportunities and it would be wrong to stand in his way.”

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Webber to retire at end of WEC season

Mark Webber will retire from driving after the last WEC race of this season, Porsche has announced.

However, he will have a new role with the German company, which says that he will “represent Porsche at global events and as a consultant will contribute by lending his experience to the motorsport programmes of the sports car manufacturer from Stuttgart. This includes talent research as well as driver training for up and coming professionals and the huge number of worldwide Porsche amateur racers.”

Webber has been with Porsche for three years since leaving F1, winning the WEC title last season with Timo Bernhard and Brendon Hartley.

I have arrived where I belong,” said Webber. “Porsche is the brand I always loved most and the one that suits me the best. The 911 is iconic – it has got elegance, performance and understatement, and is never intrusive. It is just the right car for every scenario. I will miss the sheer speed, downforce and competition, but I want to leave on a high and I’m very much looking forward to my new tasks.

“It was a big change from Formula One to LMP1 and an entirely new experience. But it came at the right time for me. I found I liked sharing a car and the chemistry between Timo, Brendon and me is special and something I’ll always remember. It will be strange getting into the race car for the very last time in Bahrain but for now I will thoroughly enjoy every moment of the remaining races.”

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Suzuka grid shuffled as Raikkonen and Button take penalties

The Japanese GP grid was shuffled around on Sunday morning when both Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button took penalties.

Raikkonen, who was in third place, tumbles down to eighth with a five-place gearbox penalty. With his team mate Sebastian Vettel already put back three places the Red Bull drivers, who qualified fifth and sixth, now both start on the second row. Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean also gain.

Meanwhile Button goes to the back of the grid thanks to a 35-place penalty after a “strategic change” by Honda, having taken his sixth example of all six power unit elements.

This gives him a fresh set of equipment and specification parity with Fernando Alonso. The team felt that he had little to lose from 17th.

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Seven teams backing move for 2017 Bahrain testing

Seven F1 teams have now signed a letter to the FIA in support of moving next year’s pre-season testing from Barcelona to Bahrain to avoid what Mercedes technical boss Paddy Lowe says could be a repeat of the 2005 US GP tyre fiasco.

Pirelli has indicated that it wants to test its new, wider tyres in a hotter climate on definitive 2017 cars, which will feature much higher levels of downforce than the mule cars currently doing the prototype testing. Pirelli believes that, despite the higher loadings seen at Barcelona, it has to run its new tyres in hot conditions in order to fully explore the limits.

The teams had booked Barcelona for the two four-day tests, but Mercedes has been pushing for a move to Bahrain, with Niki Lauda personally lobbying rival teams.

Cost issues meant that Mercedes originally had limited support, but several teams have now come out in favour of the Bahrain option. One source told Motorsport.com that Bahrain provides “more bang for the buck,” with the obvious extra benefits of being able to test cooling systems in hotter conditions, and a guarantee of dry running.

Under the FIA regulations a majority of teams have to back any plan for a test outside Europe, and the teams who want Bahrain have signed a letter to Charlie Whiting confirming their support. It’s understood that those now supporting Mercedes are Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, Force India and Haas, with Red Bull, Toro Rosso, Williams and Sauber those still standing firm on Barcelona.

The letter from the former group reads: “We the undersigned agree to the two pre-season team tests for 2017 according to Article 10.6(g) of the F1 Sporting Regulations (Testing of Current Cars) to be conducted at the Bahrain International Circuit (BIC). Since the BIC is outside Europe we submit our request agreement according to Article 10.6(d). We make this agreement in support of the request from Pirelli for more representative track testing of the new tyres for 2017.”

Originally a straight choice between the two venues was being discussed. However, although in theory the rules don’t allow it the FIA is now also open to the possibility of two parallel tests running and the teams deciding which venue to attend, and that Whiting said at tonight’s drivers’ briefing that those are the three options. A first test in Barcelona followed by one in Bahrain is not thought to be on the agenda.

With the tests running in parallel that could open up the possibility of seven new cars running for the first time in public at 9am local time in Bahrain on February 27th, with the other four appearing later the same day in Barcelona – leaving the world’s media with a choice of which venue to attend.

It’s understood that Whiting will discuss the Bahrain plans further with Pirelli boss Paul Hembery tomorrow, before a meeting of team bosses on Sunday.

Paddy Lowe is adamant that the teams have to support the tyre company’s request to run in Bahrain.

The situation is that we have the biggest change in tyre regulations probably for one or two decades, and Pirelli have asked the FIA if they would support testing in Bahrain, which is outside Europe,” said Lowe.

So by regulation it requires a process to get there. So as I understand, a majority of teams support that request. For me, the important point that Pirelli were asking for is some hot condition testing of the compounds particularly. The structure of the tyre is created and tested in the lab, but the compounds they can only evaluate in real circuit conditions.

And unfortunately the mule car programme which is running at the moment has delivered three cars which are very helpful to the process, but they are not delivering the level of aerodynamic load that will be seen next year.

So for me it’s a matter of supporting Pirelli’s request to contain the risk of arriving at the first race as being the first event with hot conditions and there’s real risk to the show. We’ve seen what can happen, for example, in Indianapolis 2005. We mustn’t forget that we need to put on a show, we need to run a 300kms race with sensible numbers of tyres, so that’s not an inconsiderable risk and should be covered. So that’s why we particularly support that request.”

Meanwhile Pat Symonds of Williams made it clear that his team is still opposed to the idea.

The cost of doing a test outside of Europe is vast,” said Symonds. “Depending on exactly how you do it and how much you have to ship back to the UK, how much you can ship on to the first race – we’re talking of a minimum of £300,000, probably a maximum of £500,000 so a likely figure sitting in the middle of that.

Now to a team like Mercedes, I’m sure that they can put contingencies in their budgets to cover things like that. A team like Williams simply can’t, it’s a significant amount of our budget, it is unaccounted for and therefore I think it is the wrong thing to do.”

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Vettel lands three-place grid penalty for Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel has received a three-place grid penalty for the Japanese GP after the FIA stewards deemed him responsible for the first corner collision that saw the Ferrari driver retire and Nico Rosberg spin to the back of the field.

Vettel has also received two penalty points on his superlicence. The FIA said: “Having thoroughly reviewed the video and having spoken to the driver concerned, the Stewards determined that although the cars involved in the incident were all moving at relatively similar speeds, the driver of Car 5 made a small error entering to the inside of Turn 1 that led to the contact with Car 6. As a consequence, Car 6 was caused to spin from second place and loose multiple positions, which the Stewards determined was predominantly the fault of the driver of Car 5 and therefore ordered the penalty above for causing a collision.”

Vettel meanwhile said he couldn’t avoid the impact after he found himself squeezed by Max Verstappen.

We had a good start, then I was going side by side with Max,” he explained. “We were both battling for position into turn one. Nico in the front was turning in and he obviously decided to pick his line, which is absolutely fair and in his right. At that point with the speed I had I couldn’t slow down any more and I was also pushed by Max to the right.

I did my best under braking but I couldn’t avoid the impact. It was an unfortunate chain reaction which ruined my race and Nico’s one. I can’t do more than apologize to Nico, because the accident had nothing to do with him being in front. I think it was different to the case in Spa with Max and Kimi, as Max and I were trying to fight for turn 1, and Nico was trying to do a different thing ahead.”

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Toto Wolff: “The best Nico Rosberg I have ever seen…”

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Nico Rosberg’s drive to victory in Singapore was the best the German has produced so far.

Rosberg took pole, left Lewis Hamilton far behind in the race, and then held on to defeat a charging Daniel Ricciardo in the closing laps.

“I’ve known Nico since 2013 and that is the best Nico Rosberg I have ever seen throughout a weekend since then,” said Wolff.

“We have the tendency of saying that Lewis has an awesome pace, and this is what we have seen with Nico this weekend – he was just blindingly fast. He was sixth tenths quicker than P2 in qualifying in Singapore – something we are not used to seeing at all here.

“And in the same way he drove the race. He had a great start, controlled the pace and on the contrary, Lewis didn’t have a clean weekend, he was lacking laps in order to find the right set-up so he couldn’t really choose the direction and from then on went backwards.

“Spa wasn’t a real good opportunity for him because of the engine penalty and here it just started on the wrong foot. And he couldn’t recover. In Singapore if you are lacking laps in free practice and lacking direction on where to take the set-up, it is a vicious circle and confidence is key around Singapore and if your team mate gets out of the block in the way Nico did this weekend it becomes very difficult. Lewis is the first one to acknowledge that.

Regarding the change of momentum in the title battle he said: “We have the tendency of talking one up and the other one down. We have had this since three years, since the two of them have been fighting for the championship, you have seen those waves.

“I remember talking about Lewis’ momentum a couple of weeks ago and suddenly we have this mega Nico weekend, and in two weeks we will see if that changes or stays the same in Malaysia.”

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