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Vettel and Raikkonen take grid penalty hit in Austin

Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen are both set to take 10-place penalties in Austin as they will both run fresh V6s.

Both men have already used four engines, but the team has decided that it’s worth taking the hit in the USA to gain more performance for the last three races. It’s understood that while no tokens have been used, the V6s do feature some revisions.

The news means that it’s a lot less likely that Vettel can keep the title battle alive until Mexico.

“We will have the hit of 10-places penalty for a new engine at this event,” said Vettel. “But it has always been the plan, it is not a big secret. No surprise for us. To explain to you the story, it was always the plan for us, to have the strongest engine available at every single point in the season, and I think our engine guys have done a massive job.

“So this should not be understood as a downside. If anything this is a very positive sign because we have been pushing very hard and the guys managed to make big steps in terms of performance.”

Elaborating on the pros and cons the German said: “Obviously if you look at just this race, isolated, for sure it’s not great news. But then you have to look at the while project, the whole season, and it was always the plan to have a fresh engine until the end of the season here. As I said the priority was always to have maximum power at every single race, and that has been our plan.

“It has worked very well so far. Obviously we have to take the hit here, but as I said you should see the positive, the fact that we were able to make big steps.”

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Manor race drive came as a surprise, says Rossi

Alexander Rossi admits that his race drive with Manor F1 came as a surprise – and says that the deal was put together so quickly that he only booked his flight to Singapore two days ago.

Rossi, who was a Manor reserve driver last year, will contest five races that don’t clash with GP2 commitments.

“I was on a plane Tuesday evening, and I booked the flight Tuesday morning,” he said today. “It was quite a last minute thing. The discussions started taking place shortly after Monza. Obviously I’ve had quite a bit of history with this team, in ’14, so we’ve always had good communication over the beginning of this year. But I wasn’t expecting 2015 to be a year where I was racing an F1 car.

“My GP2 season is going very well and I feel very committed to Racing Engineering in that programme, and I’m very pleased that they kind of opened their doors and allowed me to do this programme, and at the same time a big thank you to Manor. Obviously it’s difficult for them to have me in and then not in for a couple of races. It took work on both sides, and I’m very pleased and thankful that we were able to do it.”

Inevitably his appointment at Manor has led to speculation that he will be in a stronger position with regard to a future drive with Haas, even if it may already be too late for 2016.

“I think the big thing that I’ve been missing for the past three years in my F1 career is actually racing. We’ve been close quite a few times. It’s very surreal now that it’s about to happen. This is a major step in kind of really firmly putting myself on the F1 map and the radar, and I’m just focussing on doing a really good job in these five races, and showing that I am capable of being in F1 and doing a good job.

“My goal is to race full-time in F1, in whatever situation that is, in whatever situation that may present itself I’m going to jump at that with open arms. What this may lead to, I don’t know. I’m hopeful that doing a good job in these five races will prove that belong here, and that I’m capable of doing it just as much as anyone else.”

Regarding his target for the weekend he said: “I think it’s going to be a moving target. I haven’t been in the car since Spa, of ’14, so I’ll just kind of being reacclimatising. But it’s not that much different to GP2, so I’m hoping to be on the pace quite quickly.

“It’s be a learning experience, I think. You have to appreciate that you’re here to do a job, but at the end of the day you’re kind of only racing one other car, and you have to respect the others on track, so that will be something that I’ll need to be very aware of. Through Friday and Saturday I’ll get quite used to that, so I don’t see it really being an issue.”

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Hellmund: I’m willing to leave Austin project

Tavo Hellmund has admitted that he would be willing to drop out of the Austin project and has been in negotiation with his COTA partners over a buyout.

Given that his Full Throttle Productions company no longer actually holds a contract with Bernie Ecclestone to run a Grand Prix, his position would seem to be weaker than it once was.

Hellmund was keen to deny suggestions that he had turned down a significant sum.

“I have personally been a little bit bothered with some of the rumours that I’ve heard, that Tavo is holding out for money,” he said today. “I had a national reporter call me today and tell me that I walked away from $39m. I’m not money oriented.

“If I had been offered even less than 10% of that you wouldn’t be seeing me today, I would be in Tahiti working on my tan. I’ve spent six or seven years working on this and made a decent salary for one of those years, and I’m hoping that we can all get this back on the road.

“As recently as last night I’ve offered my services to try to fix this, but I don’t want anyone to question my motives.”

Hellmund admitted that after the dispute began, he offered to buy the other partners out, and they not only declined but then offered to buy him out. He said that it had been an “ongoing negotiation that really has nothing to do with whether F1 and Bernie bring the circus or not.”

Later Hellmund began to explain that he had agreed to a buyout before his attorney grabbed the microphone and said that no resolution has been reached.

However Hellmund added: “Let’s just say that there’s been a difference of philosophy, and for the good of the project, I’m willing to do whatever it takes to go forward. That’s the truth.”

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