F1 Today – 22/02/2018

News & Analysis

Mercedes launch 2018 car at test day

Mercedes have launched their 2018 car the W09 which they hope will allow them to take a record-breaking fifth consecutive drivers and constructors championship.

The team launched their car at Silverstone where they were carrying out a filming day, allowing both Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton to try out the new car ahead of preseason testing. Mercedes boss Toto Wolff told the media “We’ve tried to stay true to our design philosophy and develop an already solid base.”

The new car is a design evolution of last year’s successful car. Wolff said the team had tried to keep the strengths of its overall pace as F1’s fastest car while ironing out the flaws.

Wolff added, “We like divas, but sometimes she was a bit difficult to understand and this is the area where we worked the most, trying to understand and preserve the speed in the car and find more driveability.”

Mercedes remain the favourites for the title, because of the stability in regulations. However, the team remain wary of the threat posed by Ferrari and Red Bull.

Wolff said Hamilton was “extremely motivated” for the new season and expected him to sign a new contract to stay at Mercedes beyond the end of this season “in a few weeks”.


Hamilton aims for new standards

Lewis Hamilton says that he is aiming to set new standards this season, but added he is expecting it to be “a closer season” but refused to single out who he thought would be his closest rival.

Speaking at the launch of Mercedes 2018 car, the four times champion told BBC News “It is quite simple – I want to somehow be better than I was last year. Last year was I think the best year I had performance-wise. How can I top it? There are lots of areas actually.”

If Hamilton wins a fifth title this season he would equal former Mercedes driver  Juan Manuel Fangio in winning five championships, with only former Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher ahead on seven.

Hamilton said he had “gone back to normality” over the winter and only in recent weeks, as he began his pre-season training programme, begun to think about his achievements.

He added “When you go back to training, you start to work out: why am I training? What is my motivation? Where are you going to find the training and the drive? What are the goals?”

Hamilton said that he spent his winter in America and Japan, which he said gave him time to reflect.

Speaking about the controversy he caused on Christmas Day when he appeared to criticise his young nephew’s decision to wear a princess dress.

Hamilton made a public apology and then deleted all the social media posts he had ever put on Twitter and Instagram. However, he is insisting that this was planned already and was not a response to the controversy.

He said “We had already planned to start a clean slate at the beginning of this year. It just so happened it was an opportunistic time to change it.”

Speaking about his future with Mercedes, he said he would remain with the team for two or three more seasons and echoed his team boss Toto Wolff who said he expected a new contract to be resolved “in a few weeks”.

Hamilton added “We speak very often, constantly talking to each other about how we are committed to each other. I know he knows there is no-one better, so he is not looking anywhere else. I know there is nowhere better so I am not looking anywhere else.”


Ferrari unveils the SF71-H

Ferrari has also unveiled their 2018 the SF71-H at a launch event at the team’s headquarters in Maranello. After the team fell short of beating Mercedes last season, Ferrari will be hoping to change Mercedes for this year’s title.

Ferrari has not won a drivers championship since 2007 with Kimi Raikkonen and last won the constructor’s title in 2008. This season Sebastian Vettel will be hoping to seal a fifth title and his first for the team.

The car features the standard red colour which the team has used for decades, with the underside of the halo being black. The team has also chosen a more aggressive side pod design, with the chief designer Mattia Binotto confirming the car has a longer wheelbase.

The team had decided against running the car on its private Fiorano test track on Thursday, regardless of the weather.


SF71H a big step up says Vettel

Sebastian Vettel says that the SF71H Ferrari’s 2018 car already looks to be a big step up from last year, that is despite the four times champion is yet to drive the car in anger.

Ferrari has launched a redder and less white livery following the departure of sponsor Santander, and are hoping that the new car will take them to a first championship in a decade. Vettel last season finished runner-up to Mercedes Lewis Hamilton.

Speaking at the team’s launch, Vettel said “ow is the time when you see the car, it’s all ready and you want to get in and go out on the track and have a go. To stand here now is very special for all of us.”

“I think they are all waiting for us to say how it feels. So we can’t wait to get out on track to see how the car performs, how it behaves. I think that’s the answer that we all want to hear and we go from there.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto said the car, which features narrower sidepods and a longer wheelbase, was an evolution of the 2017 one which performed well on slower speed circuits but lacked reliability.

“Every little detail matters, every part can make a difference and I think this year’s car is a big step from last year’s,” added Vettel.

While his teammate Kimi Raikkonen said it looked good despite the addition of the now mandatory halo head-protection device. “When it looks nice, the speed is also there. But obviously, we will see that next week,” he added


Force India not considering share sale

Force India is not considering any offers to sell the team after speculation of a possible sale to an energy drinks company. Reports in the British media have linked the Silverstone based team with a possible takeover by Rich Energy.

It has been reported the drinks company are leading a consortium of investors seeking to buy out the team for £200 million pounds.

In a statement, the team said “Following recent media reports speculating on the sale of Force India Formula One Team Limited, the company’s shareholders wish to clarify that there is no offer from potential investors under consideration.”

Force India has finished fourth in the championship for the past two seasons despite Mallya’s financial difficulties and problems with the Indian government.

India wants to extradite the businessman so he can face fraud and money laundering charges relating to the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines. He dines the charges claiming he is the victim of a media witch hunt.


Argentina in talks about 2019 return

The Autodromo Juna y Oscar Galvez is in talks with Liberty Media about possibly returning to Formula One as early as 2019. The circuit near Buenos Aires last held the Argentine Grand Prix in 1998.

The race was one of the first non-European or North American races to become part of the championship and went on to host twenty races. However, it hit financial difficulties, but a change in government has made a return possible.

Arturo Rubinstein, president of investment firm Blue Capital, which organises the Formula E race in the city, says the government has as committed £21.5 million. The circuit will require upgrades to meet the current safety standards

Rubinstein told The Independent “The government of the city of Buenos Aires has committed to fund the required works in order to get a further upgrade of the circuit according to F1 and FIA´s standards.”

“The works to repair and improve the circuit will start as soon as we sign the agreement to hold the race in Buenos Aires for a five-year term and the estimated amount is in the range of $30m.”

Argentina was priced out of the sport by emerging markets in 1990’s but feels it can emulate this success Mexico had when it returned in 2015, which has fuelled the interest of the country’s president Mauricio Macri and fans.

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