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FORMULA 1

LCH BEATS VETTEL TO POLE POSITION IN CHINA

LCH claimed his second successive pole position of the new season in China. He was, however, pushed to the limit again by Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who finished second, just one-thousandth of a second in front of Hamilton’s team-mate Valtteri Bottas.

Hamilton saved the best to last, setting a flawless pole lap on his final run in Q3 that Vettel was unable to match. But Ferrari have proved once again they have the pace this season to match Mercedes and with rain forecast for Sunday in Shanghai, the race could be a feisty spectacle.

“We knew it was going to be close,” said Hamilton. “It was going to mean we would have to pull out all the stops and really have a very, very perfect lap. I managed to just chip away at it from session to session. No major issues. But the last lap was my best lap, which is always the plan.

Lewis Hamilton’s battle with Sebastian Vettel could match F1’s great rivalries
“It is more exciting than ever for me because we are really fighting with these guys. It is amazing and that is what racing is all about, and it really pushes you to raise the bar every time you go out, which I love.”

The second Ferrari, driven by Kimi Raikkonen, will start from fourth but the best Red Bull could manage was fifth, with Daniel Ricciardo over a second back from the pole-sitter’s pace. Max Verstappen, suffering from a power problem in his Red Bull, was knocked out of Q1, and will be 17th on the grid.

Vettel, however, who started from second at Melbourne and went on to win, was optimistic for Sunday. “I think we can still improve. Let’s see what the race looks like tomorrow. The conditions will be quite different,” he said. “I think it should be an exciting race. The car is good, so I’m confident, no matter the conditions that the car is working, and we will try to do the fastest race.”

Hamilton has not driven on the full wet tyre this season, having not done so in testing due to an electrical fault on his car. Should the rain come on Sunday – and the forecast is that it is very likely – it will bring a fresh challenge.

“Tomorrow will be a new lesson for me to learn if it is wet and it will be interesting to see,” he said. “Ferrari have a very, very strong car, particularly a step up more so in the race pace and how they treat their tyres, particularly when it’s warm, so it will be interesting to see what the weather brings us tomorrow. Whatever the case it’s going to be close between us and that bodes well for one of the most exciting days to come for a long time.”

This was the 63rd pole position of Hamilton’s career, putting him only two behind Ayrton Senna and five behind Michael Schumacher in the single lap discipline. Hamilton’s time of 1.31.678 was two tenths in front of Vettel – with the new regulations having seen the previous lap record, 1.32.238, set by Schumacher in 2004, comprehensively demolished. The top four were separated by less than four tenths and clearly the pace Ferrari showed in Australia was not a one-off peculiar to Albert Park.

“It is more exciting than ever for me because we are really fighting with these guys,” said Hamilton. “It is amazing and that is what racing is all about, and it really pushes you to raise the bar every time you go out, which I love.

BRITISH F4

ERICSSON TO RACE IN BRITISH F4 WITH FORTEC MOTORSPORTS

Fortec Motorsports and Hampus Ericsson, younger brother of Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson, have agreed terms on a deal which will see the talented Swedish karter race in the F4 British Championship certified by FIA – powered Ford EcoBoost. Ericsson will compete in the series’ Ford F4 Challenge Cup where entrants contest a maximum of seven out of 10 meetings during the season.

“I’m really excited and happy to race in British F4 with Fortec Motorsports,” said Ericsson. “I cannot wait to start my first race at Donington Park.

“I wanted to make the step up from karting to cars and British F4 is the best place to do that. The championship is so competitive and the tracks look very interesting to drive.

“I raced with Alex Quinn in karting and he’s really strong. I also know Logan Sargeant well. To compete against talented drivers like them is what every driver wants to do to prove themselves.”

Ericsson finished runner-up in the Swedish Karting Championship’s KJ Junior class last year and in the top three in the Junior 60 class two years prior.

The 15-year-old joins fellow rookie Oliver York at Fortec Motorsports, who impressed in his maiden outing at the opening round of the UK’s leading single-seater series.

“I’m looking forward to racing alongside Oliver,” added Ericsson. “I think we can work really well together and achieve excellent results.”

Older brother Marcus was no stranger to success with the Fortec Motorsports team, winning the Formula BMW UK Championship in his rookie year and then recording a number of podiums with the team in Formula 3 before climbing his way up to Formula 1.

While Hampus will hope to emulate his brother, he’s keeping his feet firmly on the ground: “I did a couple of testing days in November with the team, but I definitely need to build up my experience of the car and that will happen as I do more and more laps.

“This year is very much a learning year. It will be my first year racing in cars. At the moment I’m not looking too far ahead in my career beyond British F4. I need to take things one step at a time, but it would be nice to be overtaking my brother Marcus in a Formula 1 race one day.”

Fortec Motorsports team owner Richard Dutton echoed the sentiments of his newest recruit: “2017 is very much a learning year for Hampus. He has missed pre-season testing so it’s not going to be easy for him, but we’re looking forward to the rounds at the end of the season to see how much he has developed. The first part of the year will definitely be about learning and building experience.

“Hampus has been very competitive throughout his karting career and I think he has the ingredients to succeed in cars. He set the lap record at the World Junior Karting Finals in Bahrain and performed very well so there’s no doubting his raw speed and talent.

“He tested with us in Valencia last November. It was his first time in the car, but he impressed. In an ideal world he would have done plenty of pre-season testing, but we’ll do the best we can.

“We have put together a very exciting programme for Hampus and I think he will become part of the Fortec Motorsports young driver programme too.”

FORMULA 1

WILLIAMS MARTINI RACING CHINESE GP PREVIEW

7th – 9th APRIL
SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT
ROUND 2 OF 20

Aerodynamic performance is tested at the Chinese Grand Prix thanks to the circuit’s 1km back straight and its combination of sweeping turns. The back straight is a great place for overtaking, but not the only opportunity on the track. The layout’s demanding
corners test the Pirelli tyre whilst fans cheer on their heroes in the 24,000 capacity grandstand.
An addition to the calendar in 2004, the first sequence of corners on the track have been described as one of the hardest in Formula One as fast entry speeds are quickly discarded under heavy breaking due to a tightening track for almost 270° before quickly changing direction. The Chinese Grand Prix is host to the continuing growing fan base in Asia.

For China, Pirelli has made available the supersoft, soft and medium tyres.

Paddy Lowe, Chief Technical Officer: “The Shanghai International Circuit is the first track this season which will test the all-round performance of the car and so we will arguably see a truer measure of the relative performance of the cars within the new regulations. It is a great track with some demanding high-speed corners and a long back straight which is traditionally good for overtaking, but requires good set-up to ensure speed can be carried onto the straight. It is great to be heading to China as there is a growing fan base with more local fans each season showing remarkable dedication to the sport. It is also an important race for us understand where we are in the Championship to address the challenges for the season with our continued aim to improve and make progress.”

Felipe Massa: It’s always nice to go to China. I really like the track. It has a very old style, with many high speed corners and one of the longest straights in Formula One. It’s definitely a fun track to drive. I also love the Chinese fans. They have a lot of love and whenever I leave my hotel they’re always outside waiting! So I’m really looking forward to seeing them all again.

Lance Stroll: This will be my first time in mainland China, as in the past I have just been to Macau where I raced in F3. I don’t know a lot about the circuit. I have only done some simulator work on the track, so I still have to wait to see what it is like in reality. However, I have watched some of the races there so have an idea about the scale of the track. After Melbourne, which is a narrow track, I am going to change my approach a bit as it is a little more forgiving with the large run off areas. Having said that, I shall just prepare in the normal way as well as I can for the race.

LAGUNA SECA

JENSON BUTTON TO DRIVE ICONIC MCLAREN M23 AT ROLEX MONTEREY MOTORSPORTS REUNION

McLaren ambassador Jenson Button will delight fans when he gets behind the wheel of Emerson Fittipaldi’s 1974 world championship-winning McLaren M23 at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion on August 17-20.

The event, held at the similarly iconic Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, represents all that is good and glorious about classic motorsport, with more than 550 historic entries on the race card for the weekend.

For Jenson, who notably drove the M23 at Silverstone and in London’s Leicester Square at the premiere of the Rush movie in 2013, the Monterey event will mark his first outing in Formula 1 machinery since hanging up his F1 helmet in Abu Dhabi at the end of 2016.

“It’s always special to drive a grand prix car with an illustrious history, and the M23 wrote one of the most significant chapters in motorsport history throughout much of the 1970s,” said Button. “It’s a somewhat strange sensation to drive a car from this era – you sit much more upright in the cockpit, and you feel like you could almost reach out of the cockpit and touch the front wheels. But, once you drive it, you quickly start to understand what made it so successful – it’s incredibly easy to drive, has a really consistent balance, and plenty of feel. Everything you put into it, you get out of it, which is very rewarding for a driver.”

The McLaren-Ford M23 contested 80 grands prix between 1973 and 1978, winning 16 grands prix and three world championships (1974 drivers’ and constructors’; 1976 drivers’).

“We are honored to host Jenson Button at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and showcase a car with such great history,” said Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. “Formula 1 is the pinnacle of racing advancement and Jenson’s spirited exhibition laps will provide a superb link to motorsport’s past that fans will assuredly enjoy.”

This year’s Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion honors the Diamond Jubilee of Formula Junior and the 70th anniversary of Ferrari, as well as celebrating the 60th anniversary of the raceway itself. The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion has matured over the decades to become much more than a showcase of exemplary historic and period-correct cars racing at an iconic venue. It is a lifestyle experience where like-minded premium brands assemble to celebrate motoring’s finest cars with enthusiastic collectors, racers, fans, and journalists.

Advance hospitality, VIP, preferred parking and general admission tickets to the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion are on sale at www.MazdaRaceway.com. For additional information, please call the Ticket Office at 831-242-8200.

FORMULA 1

RED BULL RACING ON FRIDAY PRACTICE IN MELBOURNE

DANIEL RICCIARDO
First Practice Session: 1:24.886, Position: 3, Laps: 19
Second Practice Session: 1:24.650, Position: 5, Laps: 27
“We looked pretty strong this morning and then we tried a few things this afternoon but I don’t think they worked in our favour. I’d like to learn a bit more from this afternoon’s session and then if we could pull all of that together with the strength of this morning I’ll be happy. Mercedes sure is quick but it’s more Lewis at the moment than Valtteri, who looks like he’s more in the group of Ferrari. I think we can be there as well. Pole might be a stretch but I think we can be in that next little group with the right set-up and the right lap in quali. If Lewis does the perfect lap then that’ll be a challenge to take the pole away from him but we’re not too far off. You certainly feel more traction with the new tyres. I thought the times would have been quicker though; this morning I felt a big chunk of grip but I was expecting low twenties. There is still time to improve tomorrow. I think the wind changes so that’ll make a quicker lap time but the traction is nice. It felt awesome to be out on the track this morning, I just felt I was back in my happy place and it was cool to already see so many fans on a Friday. It’s also a circuit I enjoy because it’s a fun layout. I think we can have a very good weekend from here.”

MAX VERSTAPPEN
First Practice Session: 1:25.246, Position: 4, Laps: 19
Second Practice Session: 1:25.013, Position: 6, Laps: 8
“Today was about trying to find and improve the balance of the car after getting out on track for the first Friday practice of the year. We are about where I expected us to be, we have some work to do overnight to make sure we are in a good position for tomorrow and can get the best out of the car. It was nice to try the RB13 for the first time here at Albert Park, it definitely felt faster and a bit more enjoyable through the corners, being a street circuit it will improve by qualifying quite a lot which means more fun for us. I ran wide and ended up on the grass which unfortunately damaged the floor and cut short the second session for me. Mercedes seem quick once again so they are the target to beat but we must also do some work overnight to be ahead of Ferrari who also look strong. Hopefully we will have a good start on Sunday, then we are at the front and can make it hard to overtake.”

F1Weekly podcast # 722

NASIR BRINGS BACK MORE INTERVIEWS FROM THE INDYCAR SERIES OPENER IN ST. PETERBURG FLORIDA AND THE 12 HOURS OF SEBRING. ON THIS EPISODE WE FEATURE AN INTERVEW WITH INDYCAR OWNER DALE COYNE AND…HERE ARE SOME WORDS FROM PADDY LOWE ON THE F1 SEASON OPENER DOWN UNDER.

Paddy Lowe:
It is an exciting time of year for everyone in Formula One including the huge number of fans around the world, as we head to Australia for the first race of the season. This year is particularly exciting as the regulations have changed substantially concerning the bodywork of the cars and the dimensions of the tyres, so we expect to see quicker cars and far more challenging racing for the drivers.

Coming back to the paddock has that feeling of being “back to school” after our winter away: everybody energised for the new season ahead, meeting friends again and welcoming new faces. I always feel that the first qualifying session of the year is the most intense and interesting hour in the entire Formula One calendar, as that is the point when all the smoke and mirrors of winter testing must stop and the real pace is finally put on the table. It is only then that we will see how the cars and drivers perform and get our first true indication of the season which will unfold.

The race itself is always eventful with more than the usual degree of incident and car failure as the cars and drivers engage in their first competition of the year. And the spectators bring extra enthusiasm to Albert Park, many of them having come from all over the world to see this first race of the F1 season. From a technical point of view, the tyres for this year’s race are not only wider but also softer – having the ultrasoft in play at Melbourne for the first time – so we will without doubt see some record breaking lap times this weekend and perhaps more evidence of driver fatigue in the race than we have seen in recent years.

For me personally, I’m very happy to be back at Williams, the team where I started my Formula One career. We have a very talented group of people here and two great drivers with whom I haven’t worked before, so I’m looking forward to stepping into the paddock with them in Melbourne to start the 2017 season.

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