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Kubica runs first F1 laps since 2011

Kubica 3

Robert Kubica returned to the cockpit of an F1 car today, over six years after the rally accident that appeared to have ended the single-seater career of the 2008 Canadian GP winner.

The Pole drove 115 laps in a 2012 V8-engined Lotus-Renault E20 at Valencia, the same venue where he last tested for the same team in February 2011. Shortly after that test he suffered a serious rally crash in Italy, in which his car was penetrated by a piece of metal barrier.

He later returned to rallying, and has also had GT circuit outings, but it was generally accepted that he would not be able to drive a single-seater properly due to restricted arm movement as a result of the accident. However, he recently tested GP3 and Formula E cars.

The car he drove today is one that Renault uses to give young drivers mileage, and for demos and so on. Test driver Sergey Sirotkin also drove.

Renault has said little about the test, other than on its Twitter account. In a series of Tweets the team said: “It’s true. It really is Robert Kubica. Back in one of our cars after six years. So why did we keep it quiet? It was a private test, for Robert. But we can tell you this… Robert complained about grip, understeer, downforce and had the biggest smile on after his 115 laps!”

Kubica 3It remains to be seen whether Kubica, who is still only 32, will get further outings.

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It was 50 years ago today: Sgt Pepper’s racing connection


The Beatles with a young Adam Cooper – not me but the son of photographer Michael!

It was 50 years ago today that the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album emerged, and The Beatles changed the musical landscape once more.

Apart from the fact that the Cosworth DFV won its debut GP three days later, there’s not much to connect motor sport with the most famous album in rock history. What a pity that racing fan George Harrison, who attended GPs at Aintree in his youth and had been to Monaco just the previous year, didn’t add a Fangio or Moss to the list of Beatle heroes pictured on the cover. However, there is one small anecdote that I can recount here.

In March 1967 Paul McCartney came up with the song She’s Leaving Home, inspired by a newspaper article, and he was eager to get into the studio to record it. Since he wanted a string section, he naturally called George Martin, who had scored the non-Beatle accompaniment to the likes of Yesterday and Eleanor Rigby. Such a job was not the work of a moment, and Martin had to tell McCartney that he was busy with a Cilla Black recording session, and couldn’t drop everything.

I rang him and I said, ‘I need you to arrange it.’,” McCartney recounted in the book Many Years From Now. “He said, ‘I’m sorry, Paul, I’ve got a Cilla session.’ And I thought, Fucking hell! After all this time working together, he ought to put himself out. It was probably unreasonable to expect him to. Anyway, I said, ‘Well, fine, thanks George,’ but I was so hot to trot that I called Mike Leander, another arranger.”

Leander had attracted McCartney’s attention in part because of a version of Yesterday he’d recorded with Marianne Faithfull, which featured strings, a choir, and the full works. He was a good stand-in for George Martin.

This where our racing connection comes in, as Leander was also the business partner of Richard Lloyd, later to become famous as both a BTCC and WEC driver and team boss, and the man who brought Bentley back to Le Mans in 2001. He also did much to popularise the original VW GTI in the UK. Sadly, he was to perish in a plane crash in 2008.

In the 60s Richard combined club racing with a career in music. For a while he was a producer at Decca – working with the ace R&B outfit Graham Bond Organisation, which featured future Cream members Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce – while the list of session musicians he could call upon for other projects included a couple of guys called Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones. He also worked with comedy music group The Scaffold, whose members included Mike McGear – better known as Mike McCartney.

Anyway, Richard told me once that when Paul first called Leander and asked him to help out on She’s Leaving Home, he accompanied his colleague to McCartney’s house near Abbey Road to discuss the commission. So Richard got to hear an early version of one of the great Beatles songs, and was a first hand witness to the discussions about what Paul wanted Leander to do with the backing.

As McCartney recounted, “I got him to come over to Cavendish Avenue and I showed him what I wanted, strings, and he said, ‘Leave it with me.’”

This being 1967, McCartney had “recreational substances” to hand. And as Richard recalled it, while they were talking the front door bell rang, and someone looked out of the window and saw a policeman waiting patiently outside.

Did this signal the start of a raid? The previous month Mick Jagger and Keith Richards had been arrested for alleged drug offences at the latter’s home in Sussex, where the aforementioned Marianne Faithfull was also famously present. George Harrison and girlfriend Pattie Boyd had been there too, but left before the police moved in – indeed in later years the theory was the Beatles were initially regarded as off-limits by the overzealous cops (although before the end of the decade the notorious Sgt Norman Pilcher would nab both George and John Lennon).

The Stones bust was big news, and in the circumstances, McCartney could be forgiven for being a little nervous. Richard recalled that panic ensued, and the “substances” were quickly flushed down the McCartney WC. Somebody, probably Paul himself, then answered the door, presumably wearing his best cherubic choirboy look.

Does that car over there belong to anyone here?,” enquired the policemen. “No, it’s not ours,” came the reply. “Sorry to bother you.” The PC duly wandered off in search of an alternative owner, his mind presumably focussed more on an out of date tax disc or broken tail light than any off-duty misbehaviour by one of the most famous people in the country at that time. Macca and co could relax – and regret that they had rather hastily disposed of the stash.

Leander went home, wrote the arrangement, and returned it to Paul. On March 17 George Martin, disappointed that he’d been sidelined by the impatient McCartney, dutifully conducted the 10-player string section – and a Beatles classic was born. And Richard Lloyd was left with a story to treasure…

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Kimi Raikkonen: “You can always go a bit faster here…”

It’s been a long wait, but Kimi Raikkonen silenced a few of his critics with a superb pole in Monaco – nine years after the last time he started from the top spot in the 2008 French GP.

To be fair he did spend two of those seasons driving rally cars, but nevertheless it has been a long barren streak for the former World Champion.

A mistake by team mate Sebastian Vettel ensured that the Finn stayed on top when Q3 came to an end, and Raikkonen was guaranteed the most prestigious – and important – pole of the season.

“I would have happily taken any other place also, but it just happens,” he said. “But it’s something we haven’t really got in the last races. But if you take any circuit, here it’s the most important to be in front but it doesn’t automatically give you a win or a good result.

“There are so many things that can happen in a race that are nothing to do with you. You might be doing and the team might be doing a perfect job but actually there are absolutely other things which might destroy the whole race so it’s going to be a long difficult race but we have two cars in the best possible positions, so that’s the main thing.”

Raikkonen said it had been a good weekend so far.

“I think it’s the very fine details that make a difference here. If you have just a little bit of an off feeling with the tyres or something like that in one place, it limits you to go fast and obviously in those low-speed corners you can lose a lot of time for basically nothing. It’s tricky to put the good laps together.

“You try to kind of, in the practice, take it a bit easier, not to destroy the car, because then you are going to lose a lot. Then you push and hopefully you get it right. But I think it’s such small differences. It’s nothing to do with conditions or anything else, it’s just whoever gets the best feeling and being able to push.

“We’ve been struggling a little bit in certain places and we’ve been working and trying to figure it out and in qualifying it was better, by no means perfect, but it’s never going to be perfect. It was good enough and I was very happy with the car in there.

“If you look you can always go a bit faster here and there but that’s normal, it’s a never-ending story like that. We had a good timing when we went out. I felt good, so I was able to push and it was quite a nice straightforward qualifying. So happy for myself, happy for the team. Obviously we have two cars in the front tomorrow so let’s try to make the best out of it.”

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Mercedes looks for answers as Hamilton struggles for grip

Lewis Hamilton admitted that Mercedes has a lot of work to do after the team struggled badly in afternoon practice in Monaco on Thursday.

The former champion was fastest in the morning session, but the team lost its way in the warmer conditions in the afternoon, as both Hamilton and his team mate Valtteri Bottas struggled for grip. Lewis was only eighth fastest, and was 1.1s off Ferrari’s pace.

“I can’t, because I don’t understand it,” said Hamilton when asked to explain it. “P1 was really good, the car was feeling great. Then there was night and day difference, black and white. P2 was a little bit different, we couldn’t work the tyres for some reason, lots of sliding about.

“Lot of studying to do to find out where we went wrong, but I’m confident in my guys. I don’t know if it’s set-up. It’s just with the tyres, I don’t know why the tyres weren’t working.

“That’s something we have to study and figure out for Saturday. It gives the guys here more time to work on the car, spread over two days, rather than everything tonight.”

Asked about the challenge of driving round Monaco at the record speeds seen today he said the higher downforce levels made it easier.

“It’s the same as before. The car is a lot better, it’s got more grip. If anything, it might be easier. It feels great. Monaco is always amazing to drive, and it’s definitely the best car I’ve driven round here.”

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Pascal Wehrlein: “The health and fitness is no issue any more”

Sauber’s Pascal Wehrlein was one of the unexpected stars of the Spanish GP as the German used a one-stop strategy to earn eighth place.

He actually finished seventh on the road, but lost a spot to Carlos Sainz after receiving a five-second penalty for going the wrong side of the bollard at the pit entry. He started on the soft tyres and pitted for mediums under the VSC after 33 laps.

“A really exciting race, a really hard race,” he said. “We did only one stop, so from the first lap on the most important thing is to drive as quick as possible, but also manage the tyres. This was quite hard. The first soft stint, it went forever, and then the cars from behind with fresh tyres and a lot more pace were coming, and it was really important to defend the position. In the end I had a good fight with Sainz, and managed to keep him behind me.

“Then with the five seconds penalty its P8 in the end. Definitely a lot more than what we could have expected from this weekend. I’m looking forward to having some updates on the car for the next race, and hopefully we can see these results more often.

“I think it was the perfect strategy for today. Plan A was one stop, Plan B was two stops, and we committed to the one-stop since yesterday, and I said I want to try one-stop, otherwise there are no points we can get from this race. We have to take the risk. At the end it paid off, and I’m really happy about it.”

The result was particularly welcome after Wehrlein’s fitness issues earlier in the season: “I think I showed already in Bahrain I’m back. It’s just nice to see that my back is fine, I am performing at a very high level, and the health and fitness is no issue any more.”

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Lewis Hamilton: “I think it’s going to be tough race…”

Lewis Hamilton will start the Spanish GP from the 64th pole position of his career, despite failing to improve on his second run in Q3.

The Briton’s first run time thus did the job for him, although he only just stayed ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who would have stolen pole had he not had a poor end to his lap.

It started out that we were potentially a tenth ahead of the Ferraris, but in P3 it seemed that we were lot closer, so, quite level. So it was really intense for us, making sure we pulled out every millisecond we can. We made some changes as we got into qualifying, and the car felt great, so I was very happy with it. The Q1 lap was very, very good. The Q2 lap was so-so, but good enough. Then the first lap of Q3 was very good and the second lap was up, I think almost two tenths. I didn’t finish it that way, but still it was good enough to keep me ahead.”

Hamilton is expecting a close race on Sunday, with Vettel, Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen all in the frame.

I think it’s going to be a tough race tomorrow, for sure. You see how close it is between us and it’s all milliseconds between us. I think it’s the third longest run down to Turn One so of course it’s going to be important to get a good start, but we’ve worked hard on them, so I’m going to try to do the best job I can.

Valtteri’s had some great starts so I’m going to try and follow in his footsteps there and then yeah, positioning can help a lot here and being on the clean side of the grid is an advantage generally. Usually it’s a little bit of an advantage and hopefully I’ll be able to utilise that – particularly compared to Sebastian – and then in the race it’s just about looking after those tyres. It’s a very, very long, hard race, both physically and mentally and for the car and the tyres – but we’ve prepared in the best way we can and I think hopefully got the car in a much better position than I did in the last race.”

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Sauber and Honda finally confirm deal

Sauber and Honda have finally confirmed that they will become partners in 2018, ending the Swiss team’s long relationship with Ferrari.

Honda’s announcement makes it clear that it still expects to be supplying McLaren next season as well.

Team boss Monisha Kaltenborn said: “It is a great honour for the Sauber F1 Team to be able to work together with Honda in the coming seasons. Our realignment is not just visible through the new ownership but also now with our new technological partnership with Honda.

We have set another milestone with this new engine era, which we await with huge excitement and of course we are looking for new opportunities. We very much look forward to our partnership with Honda, which sets the course for a successful future – from a strategic as well as from a technological perspective. We thank Honda for making this great partnership happen.”

Katsuhide Moriyama, Chief Officer, Brand and Communication Operations of Honda, added: “In addition to the partnership with McLaren which began in 2015, Honda will begin supplying power units to Sauber as a customer team starting from next year. This will be a new challenge in Honda’s F1 activities.

In order to leverage the benefits of supplying to two teams to the maximum extent, we will strengthen the systems and capabilities of both of our two development operations, namely HRD Sakura and the operation in Milton Keynes. We will continue our challenges so that our fans will enjoy seeing a Honda with dominant strength as soon as possible.”

The deal obviously gives Honda the chance to place one of its proteges, such as F2 racer Nobuharu Matsushita, with the team.



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