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Nico Rosberg: “My day was good because our car is fast…”

Nico Rosberg was pleased with his day’s work in Sochi on Friday, despite not getting a clean lap in on new supersoft tires in the afternoon session.

Rosberg topped FP1 but had to settle for third in FP2, some 0.8s off team mate Lewis Hamilton. Nevertheless the German is optimistic for the remainder of the weekend.

“My day was good because our car is fast,” said Rosberg. “I’m pleased to see that again, because it is a very, very different track, a very unique track. The asphalt is strange here, different to everywhere else – smooth might be the right word. So it’s not easy to get it right, car-wise and driving-wise. It’s been an interesting day, but good. We got off to a good start, so I’m pleased with that.

“Race pace was looking good as well, both on one lap and race pace, but of course we didn’t see what Vettel could have done, so we have to be cautious. But in general I think it’s been positive.”

Asked if the race would be a one-stop as in past years he said: “It’s still looking similar, there’s not much tyre wear, so a one-stop again could be a possibility.”

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F1 engine deal approved by World Council

The FIA has formally confirmed that the much vaunted “global agreement” on power units has been fully agreed and passed by the World Motor Sport Council.

The agreement, which focuses on reducing costs, guaranteeing supply, convergence of performance and improved engine sound, covers the 2017 to 2020 seasons, and will be implemented in the sporting and technical regulations. As part of the deal the FIA has guaranteed power unit rules stability until 2020.

Reducing costs has been the major thrust of the deal. The FIA says: “Agreement has been reached on a significant reduction in the price of power unit supply to customer teams and a reduction in cost to manufacturers over the coming years.

In 2017 the power unit price for customer teams will be reduced by €1m per season compared to 2016. From 2018, the annual supply price will be reduced by a further €3m.

Cost reduction on power units will be driven by changes to the Sporting and Technical regulations in 2017 and 2018, with a progressive reduction of the number of power unit elements per driver per season.”

Regarding the guarantee of supply, the FIA said: “Supply of power units to customer teams will be ensured, as the homologation procedure will include an “obligation to supply” that will be activated in the event of a team facing an absence of supply.”

The most contentious issue has been performance convergence, but the FIA is confident that a way forward has been found.

The new agreement includes a package of measures aimed at achieving performance convergence. The token system is to be removed from 2017. Additionally, constraints on power unit part weights, dimensions and materials, and on boost pressure will be introduced in 2017 and in 2018.”

Finally attempts are being made to further improve the sound of the engines: “Manufacturers are currently conducting a promising research programme into further improving the sound of the current power units, with the aim of implementation by 2018 at the latest.”

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Booth joins Toro Rosso management team

Former Manor F1 team principal John Booth, who left the outfit he founded at the end of last season, has taken up a new role with Scuderia Toro Rosso.

The Englishman will work on a consultancy basis as director of racing while continuing to oversee his newly formed Manor LMP2 team.

“It is a great honour to join such a well-established and competitive team as Scuderia Toro Rosso” said Booth. “It is a team that has achieved so much in a relatively short space of time. I am looking forward to getting started and working with Franz and the team this weekend in Sochi.”

“I have known John for many years and I am delighted to welcome him to the team,” said STR’s Franz Tost. “Formula 1 is becoming ever more complex, with recent changes on the tyre front, car set-up, radio communications and so forth.

“Therefore, having a competitive car and talented drivers, both of which we have, on its own is not enough. With his vast experience I am sure John will help the team raise its game and become a more effective force over a race weekend.”

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Sirotkin lands Renault F1 role

Sergey Sirotkin has joined Renault Sport F1 as a test driver, and the Russian will drive Kevin Magnussen’s car in FP1 in Sochi on Friday.

The 20-year-old, who has extensive GP2 experience, was previously involved with Sauber.

This is a great opportunity for me, although it has all come together so quickly,” said Sirotkin. “I still can’t quite believe it. This is, however, the moment that all young racing drivers are working towards, and I am determined to learn as much as I can, as quickly as I can, doing the best possible job for the team while driving in Free Practice 1.”

Sergey is one of the most promising drivers from the junior categories so it is great for us that he is joining Renault Sport,” said team boss Frederic Vasseur. “We saw that he was the most promising rookie in the GP2 Series last season, where he achieved a race win and podiums, and for 2016 he is very well placed to fight for the title. He has driven the Sochi Autodrom in a GP2 Series car previously so we have confidence in the job he will be able to do for us this weekend.”

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FIA formally approves extra Pirelli testing

The World Motor Sport Council has now formally approved rule changes to accommodate extra Pirelli testing for 2017.

Details were agreed in a meeting between the FIA, teams and Pirelli in China, and the rule modifications were then passed by votes of the Strategy Group and F1 Commission on Monday.

As expected initial testing of 2017 compounds in 2016 sizes will be conducted with 2013 or 2014 cars before the focus moves to the new 2017 sizes fitted to “current” cars – which means 2015 or ’16 chassis – with suitably modified suspension. It’s understood that seven teams have indicated an interest in taking part in these tests, which will be subsidised by Pirelli.

The FIA noted: “The further testing was deemed to be essential for the purpose of developing the new tyre sizes permitted by the 2017 F1 Technical Regulations.

“The changes will allow 25 car days of testing with current cars, fitted with 2017 tyre sizes, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“In addition, there will be an opportunity to test prototype 2017 tyres (in 2016 sizes) on 2013 or 2014 cars – these tests on older cars only apply in 2016.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

The further testing was deemed to be essential for the purpose of developing the new tyre sizes permitted by the 2017 F1 Technical Regulations.

The changes will allow 25 car days of testing with current cars, fitted with 2017 tyre sizes, in 2016, 2017 and 2018.

In addition, there will be an opportunity to test prototype 2017 tyres (in 2016 sizes) on 2013 or 2014 cars – these tests on older cars only apply in 2016.

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Mercedes questions 2017 rule changes

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has made it clear that he doesn’t support the 2017 F1 aerodynamic changes which are expected to be rubber stamped by April 30.

High downforce and wider tyres are part of a package that in theory has been agreed, but could yet be postponed given that lap times are already much faster this year. New engine rules, specifically relating to customer prices and guaranteed supplies, are also supposed to be signed off by the end of the month.

There are two weeks to go until we have our final commission and strategy group meeting in order to come up with the regulations,” said Wolff. “On the engine front we are pretty much there. We have an agreement which needs to be ratified by the stakeholders, but there are lots of benefits for most of the teams in that agreement. So I am hopeful that they will be done.

And in terms of the 2017 regulations, we voted for them and we voted for the so-called McLaren proposal a while ago. There will be discussion around it, if it is the right way forward. Of course, but I don’t think that will get the necessary majority to turn it down again and come up with something else.”

Wolff is adamant that the racing is closer this year because the rules have been stable.

You remember what we always said. Even if it is uncomfortable for the commercial rights holder [Bernie Ecclestone] that we have been running away with lots of races and the two championships, the longer you keep regulations stable the more the performance is going to converge between everybody and this is exactly what is happening now.

The engines are converging, the teams are converging, the gains we are making are smaller as the curve flattens out and the others are making bigger steps so I think we are having an ideal situation with great racing. Three great races in a row now, are we capable of reacting quick enough and acknowledging that, and reverting to regulations which seem to be okay now. I don’t know.

We are going to change it. Somebody else or us is going to run away with the championship next year because it is in the regulations, everything starts from the beginning. More downforce which you won’t see just on pure laptime, less overtaking because the wake is much more extreme. There is nothing to be sold on that. There is no selling proposition in those new regulations in my opinion. We should just leave it alone.

And maybe speaking against ourselves because clearly we don’t have the advantage we had last year, but the racing is great and will become even greater if we leave the regulations alone.”

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Wolff impressed by Hamilton’s maturity

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says that Lewis Hamilton’s personal development has been “mind blowing” as he has matured over the past few seasons.

In making his case Wolff cited how the World Champion reacted to the problems he experienced in qualifying in China today.

Having failed to complete a flying lap rather than express frustration Hamilton went out of way to to show his support for the Mercedes crew.

“He’s in a great place,” said Wolff when asked if we were seeing a new Lewis this year. “The development I’ve seen in him as a personality is mind blowing, over the last three years he’s been with the team. He’s won two championships and found himself, I think, as a person.

“You can imagine how much pressure he is under with all the people who criticise, and nevertheless he follows his instinct, he follows his way, and that seems to be functioning. And for the team it’s great. We have two very competitive drivers who are in good spirits and who have integrated so well in the team and give energy to the team and push the team forward.

“The Lewis I’ve seen today coming back straight into the garage after such a situation and shaking everybody’s hand, giving a little clap of support, it just leaves me with my mouth open.”

Told later of Wolff’s comments Hamilton agreed that he’s much more comfortable this year.

“Firstly that’s very warming to hear that from Toto, someone I respect highly, and who has been a real part of this journey that I’m on,” he said. “It is just a part of the growing process. Since I’ve been in F1 my friends have been ‘you don’t know who you are,’ and I guess searching for yourself… I just feel comfortable in who I am, and I’m happy. I don’t really know how to explain it. It’s definitely a positive, there’s no negatives in it. I hope it can reflect in a much better result than it’s looking like at the moment this year.”

Lewis stressed that he’s focussing all his energy on the future.

“For sure my mentality is perhaps a little bit different, more relaxed. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy, I’m fighting for the World Championship, and at the moment, [Nico is] walking away with it. There’s a long, long way to go, so there’s no real need to be too stressed about it, there’s no reason to dwell on what just happened an hour ago, because there’s nothing I can do.

“All I can do is try and shape the future, and that’s really what I’m trying to put my energy towards. Zero energy to what’s behind me, 100% energy to what’s in front.”

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