Ferrari reveals title challenger SF71H

This is the Ferrari SF71H that will challenge rival Mercedes in this year’s Formula 1 world championship.

The halo-fitted new racer was shown off at Ferrari’s Maranello base, four days before the start of pre-season testing at Barcelona.

It features the Italian outfit’s traditional red livery, although the colour white has been reduced in contrast to its immediate predecessors.

The SF71H is the first Ferrari Formula 1 car since the 2009 machine not to feature Santander branding, following the Spanish financial giant’s decision to end its sponsorship deals.

The Scuderia heads into the season with the same driver line-up as it’s fielded in the past three years, Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

Both were present at the launch, alongside the team’s new development driver Daniil Kvyat and Ferrari-backed Sauber reserve Antonio Giovinazzi.

The 2017 car’s predecessor, the SF70H, was Ferrari’s most competitive offering in years, helping Vettel to five race wins.

It sustained a credible title challenge against the hybrid era’s dominant team Mercedes for most of the season, before late-campaign accidents and engine reliability woes allowed the Silver Arrows to break away.

Ferrari’s tech chief Mattia Binotto confirmed the SF71H was an “evolution” of last year’s design, but also revealed the team has moved to a longer-wheelbase design, akin to the one preferred by Mercedes in 2017.

On the engine side, Ferrari is to start the season with an evolution of last year’s design. It is thought to have focused on reliability in particular, given last year’s problems and with Formula 1 moving to a limit of three engines per season.

High hopes rests on the success of the SF71H in terms of victories. Ferrari and the passionate race fans are expecting a more competitive and trouble-free season that will lead to that elusive Formula 1 title. Best of luck to the Scuderia.

Mercedes showcase their 2018 racer at Silverstone

The current Formula 1 world champions Mercedes presented their 2018 racer at Silverstone.

Valtteri Bottas was the lucky driver to experience the W09 at a cold and overcast day at the British Grand Prix venue, with Mercedes using one of its two filming days to complete a shakedown.

Bottas will carry out a series of laps in the morning before handing over the car to four-time world champion Lewis Hamilton in the afternoon.

Mercedes officially launch the car with a presentation with a live social media stream.

The four-time world champion team will be the sixth F1 team to launch its 2018 challenger, following Haas, Williams, Red Bull, Sauber and Renault.

The W09 certainly looks the business and it will be fascinating to see what main challenger Ferrari has in store later.

Sleek Renault racer

This is the Renault R.S.18, sporting a revised livery that features more black than yellow.

The Enstore-built car will be driven by Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz, with the latter joining Renault in the last four races of the 2017 season.

Renault improved from ninth in the 2016 constructors’ championship to sixth in 2017, beating Toro Rosso at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The team’s development through 2017 was dramatic and it ended the campaign with the fourth-fastest car on merit, behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

Renault managing director Cyril Abiteboul wants to continue that upward trajectory this term.

“Last year was successful in many ways,” he said. “It was the second year in our rebuilding and a further step towards our long-term plans and aims.

“2016 was all about recruiting, investing, bringing in new sponsors, new talents and building our brand. It was a quantified progression towards what we want to become and challenging the top teams.

“Our headline target [for 2018] is to show continued progression through results. We want to be able to showcase our progression in every regard; power unit, chassis, operations, drivers.

“Everything must improve and we must continue to grow.

“We want to demonstrate this in many different ways, from the teams we will be directly racing against, to the gap to the leaders, including also our fan base and the respect that our team will inspire in our way we behave on and off track.”

Renault is the fifth team to reveal its 2018 design, after Haas, Williams, Red Bull and Sauber.

Liking the bold colours from Renault with the increase of black against the yellow. It does remind me of Jordan GP back in the days of Benson and Hedges sponsorship.

Best of luck to Renault in the upcoming Formula 1 season, challenging the other similar powered cars that is Red Bull and McLaren.

Alfa Romeo partners with Sauber

Sauber have unveiled their new-look 2018 Formula 1 racer thanks to an exciting tie-up with Alfa Romeo.

The C37 features a new colour scheme as part of a close partnership with Ferrari this season, with team boss Fred Vasseur concluded a title sponsorship deal with Alfa Romeo for 2018.

The logos of the Italian car manufacturer, a sister brand of Ferrari, prominently feature on the engine cover.

The car itself adopts a new aerodynamic philosophy, which technical director Joerg Zander hopes can deliver a step forward in performance.

“The 2018 challenger is the result of the hard work that everyone in the factory has put in over the last few months,” he said.

“Speaking about the C37, the car philosophy is much different to that of the C36. The aerodynamic concept has changed significantly and the C37 has several new features in comparison to its predecessor.

“We are positive that the new concept offers us more opportunities and will help us to make improvements during the course of the season.”

The new Sauber is fitted with Ferrari’s current power unit, with the team having run a year-old version throughout 2017.

Speaking earlier this year, driver Marcus Ericsson reckoned there was no reason why the team could not challenge strongly in the midfield thanks to progress on the engine and aero front.

“We’re up against Haas and Toro Rosso,” he said. “I think next season will be very unpredictable in some races.

“It could go very well and at points we could also challenge Renault and Force India. But there will be other races where there will be problems and we will be further down.

“The goal is simply to get into the group of teams that are in the midfield – but it is clear that there will be a very open battle grand prix after grand prix.

“I want to be in the best shape possible to find the satisfaction that was missing in 2017.”

Great to have Alfa Romeo back in Formula 1 and it’s refreshing to see a new look for Sauber. Best of luck to Charles Leclerc too, as the Formula 2 champion steps up into his first season of Grand Prix racing.

Special test livery with the 2018-spec Red Bull

Red Bull Racing has become the latest Formula 1 team to unveil its new car ahead of the upcoming 2018 season.

The new racer, the RB14, will be driven by Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, who combined for three race wins with its predecessor last year.

Fitted with the mandatory halo cockpit protection device, the RB14 has been unveiled with a striking and beautiful blue camouflage-style livery instead of the familiar red and dark blue concept the team had used for the past two seasons.

However, Red Bull has made it clear the livery is “special edition”, and that the paint job that will be used in race trim will only break cover at pre-season testing in Catalunya.

British car manufacturer Aston Martin has prominent branding on the camo livery, and the RB14’s rear wing in particular. The marque will serve as Red Bull’s title sponsor this season, having decided to step up its involvement with the outfit.

The RB14 will be powered a Renault V6 turbo hybrid, which will remain branded as TAG Heuer for a third straight season.

Hopefully this 2018-spec racer will be very competitive and can challenge the might of Mercedes and Ferrari for the championship. Best of luck to Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo for the upcoming season.

Williams reveals the FW41

Williams Martini Racing has become the second Formula 1 outfit to officially reveal its 2018 car at an event in London.

The FW41 is the first race car designed by chief technical officer Paddy Lowe and head of aerodynamics Dirk de Beer.

The Mercedes-powered design looks significantly different to its predecessor, as Williams followed through on its plan to change the team’s aerodynamic philosophy.

Williams was a regular podium contender at the start of the V6 engine era and finished third in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015, but has since dropped down the competitive order.

It finished fifth for second year in succession in 2017 with 83 points, 55 fewer than in 2016 and 104 points adrift of Force India in fourth.

Lance Stroll and rookie Sergey Sirotkin, who replaces Felipe Massa, will form the team’s driver line-up this season, with Robert Kubica fulfilling the role of reserve and development driver.

Still not keen on that halo safety device. Blame the FIA in pushing this feature through… Anyway, best of luck to Williams in the upcoming Formula 1 world championship.

Haas unveils 2018-spec racer

Haas has become the first Formula 1 team to reveal images of its 2018 racer, with computer renderings of the VF-18.

The American outfit sprung a surprise by revealing the car ahead of the other competitors, like Williams and Red Bull Racing, with a post on the popular social media site.

The Ferrari-powered car is an evolution of last year’s VF-17, with the most visible differences being the removal of the shark fin engine cover and the addition of the halo.

The team says a lot of the focus on changes to the car have been on overcoming aerodynamic and handling weaknesses that hindered its progress throughout the 2017 season.

In particular, the team wants to create a more stable platform to ensure that its form does not vary to the extremes like it has in the past.

One area where a lot of effort has gone in to, for example, has been weight reduction in a bid to help it use more ballast to help with the set-up.

Team owner Gene Haas said: “We eliminated a lot of the variables where we knew we were weak. We’ve focused on what it’s going to take to get our car to be consistent and close that gap to the top teams.”

Gunther Steiner, team principal, acknowledged that there was little radically new on the car, beyond the changes forced by the shark fin and halo regulation changes.

“The biggest part of the car’s evolution was the addition of the halo,” he said. “It took quite a bit of study by the aerodynamicists, but the designers had to work hard to modify the chassis so the halo could survive the mandated loads.

“The total minimum weight of the car increased because of the halo, and there’s a higher centre of gravity simply because of the halo’s position. But, everyone is in the same boat.

“The regulations stayed pretty stable between 2017 and 2018, so the VF-18 is an evolution of our car from last year. It’s less about reinvention and more about refinement. You see elements we had from last year on the car this year.”

Steiner believes that Haas can make good progress in the constructors’ championship if it learns to extract more from its car on weekends.

“Our 2017 car was actually pretty good, but we didn’t always get the best out of it, and that’s what we aimed to change in 2018,” he explained.

“We got the car as light as possible to carry more ballast. We were able to do a better job of putting the weight where we wanted it.”

The Haas VF-18 has retained the corporate grey, red and black colours of the company, edging back towards the colour scheme it had in its maiden 2016 campaign.

Congratulations to Haas Formula 1 for showcasing their new race car ahead of the other teams. Hopefully the VF-18 is competitive in the upcoming season.

Alonso to race in the WEC and Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota

Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso will have the unique opportunity to compete at the famous 24-hour Le Mans race and other selected World Endurance Championship rounds this year, his McLaren team confirmed.

Alonso is chasing his dream of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours. He has won the Formula 1 street race twice.

Following his debut sportscar appearance at Daytona last weekend, a deal has now been reached for Alonso to race for Toyota in as many WEC events as possible.

However, McLaren and Alonso have agreed that his priority remains Formula 1 – so he will miss the Japanese race at Fuji on October 21 because it clashes with the United States Grand Prix.

Fernando Alonso commented that he was delighted at the opportunity to take part in sportscar racing alongside his Formula 1 ambitions.

“I’ve never been shy about my aim of winning motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. We tried for Indy last year, came close, but just missed out,” he said.

“This year, I have the chance thanks to McLaren to race for the win at Le Mans. It is a big challenge – much can go wrong – but I am ready, prepared and looking forward to the fight.

“My deal to race in WEC was only made possible through the good understanding and strong relationship I have with McLaren, and I’m very happy that they listened and understood what this means to me.

“In no way will this challenge take away from my main target of Formula 1 with McLaren. In 2018, my aim is to be competitive at every grand prix, and I feel sure that we are closer to achieving that.”

McLaren executive director Zak Brown said his team had no problem in giving Alonso permission to race elsewhere, because it felt a boost to his motivation would be beneficial to its Grand Prix hopes.

“It’s no secret that Fernando has wanted to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours. And I think everybody within our organisation appreciates that a motivated, hungry and happy world-class driver such as Fernando is a formidable asset for any team in F1,” said Brown.

“Last year, we came to the joint decision to go racing with Fernando at the Indy 500 rather than at the Monaco Grand Prix. But we’ve always said that we would consider each opportunity on a case-by-case basis, and we both know that, in 2018, our core priority is success in Formula 1.

“Like Fernando, at McLaren we’re racers at heart, and our team is built on a brave heritage of competing and succeeding in different forms of the sport. Equally important is the confidence that nothing detracts from our number one goal of Formula 1.

“After proper evaluation, we are satisfied that this campaign does not do that, and that McLaren’s best interests prevail.”

This is exciting times for the motorsport fans as the most complete Formula 1 driver – in terms of experience and skills – is racing at the most famous 24-hour event. Best of luck to Fernando Alonso and I hope he can emulate Nico Huldenberg by winning Le Mans.

Bottas signs off Formula 1 season with victory at Abu Dhabi

Valtteri Bottas held off his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to win the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina.

Bottas retained the lead from pole at the start and though he lost it briefly when he pitted first, he resisted the pressure from Hamilton to secure his third win of the season.

World champion Hamilton crossed the line 3.8 seconds adrift, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel completing the podium in third.

Once Bottas got through Turn 1 in the lead, he quickly opened up a one-second lead over his team-mate before gradually building it up to two seconds before the stops.

He was the first of the Mercedes drivers to pit, swapping the ultra-softs for super-softs and rejoining in second place.

Hamilton stayed out for three further laps, clocking the fastest lap in the process, but couldn’t make up enough ground and rejoined behind Bottas.

The world champion attacked his team-mate, briefly getting within DRS range, but locked up at Turn 17, running off track before rejoining.

Hamilton kept up the pressure and even got within 0.5 seconds after Bottas had a lock-up of his own, but his team-mate responded by putting the hammer down and pulling away.

The result was Mercedes’ third one-two of the season. The perfect sign off to a successful, winning season.

Vettel had a quiet race in a lonely third place ahead of Ferrari team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo was on course to finish fourth, but pulled off track and retired the car with a hydraulic problem shortly before the halfway point.

His team-mate Max Verstappen finished fifth, just 0.8 seconds behind Raikkonen with Nico Hulkenberg sixth to secure sixth place in the constructors’ championship for Renault.

Hulkenberg escaped with a five-second time penalty for leaving the track and gaining an advantage when battling Sergio Perez on the first lap.

By the time Hulkenberg took the penalty at his pitstop, he had comfortably built enough of an advantage to negate it.

His team-mate Carlos Sainz Jr retired for the fourth time in six races after the team did not attach the front-left tyre properly at his pitstop.

But for the incident, Sainz had been on course to leapfrog Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa into ninth place by running long before pitting.

Perez finished seventh, 6.8s clear of Force India team-mate Esteban Ocon.

Alonso signed off the McLaren-Honda partnership with ninth place, securing the team’s third consecutive points finish.

Massa completed his 269th and final Grand Prix in the points in 10th and celebrated with a few doughnuts after the chequered flag.

He had been ahead of Alonso in the first stint but the McLaren passed the later-stopping Williams on its out-lap.

Romain Grosjean was involved in the race’s most entertaining battle, squabbling with Lance Stroll over P13 in the first stint and eventually coming out on top after multiple passes and repasses.

The Haas driver finished P11, ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne, with Kevin Magnussen recovering from a first lap spin that dropped him to the back of the field to finish P13.

Stroll ended up making three pitstops on a day everyone else stopped once and fell to last.

And so ends Formula 1 2017. Well done to Valtteri Bottas in winning the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. That victory will boost his confidence over the winter break, ready to mount a challenge for next season.

Congratulations to Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes on winning the titles. Better luck next time Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari. Fingers crossed next season the racing will be exciting and competitive.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix race results:
1    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    55    1h34m14.063s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    55    3.899s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    55    19.330s
4    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    55    45.386s
5    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    55    46.269s
6    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    55    1m25.713s
7    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    55    1m32.062s
8    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    55    1m38.911s
9    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    54    1 Lap
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    54    1 Lap
11    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
12    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    54    1 Lap
13    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
14    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
15    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    54    1 Lap
16    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    54    1 Lap
17    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    54    1 Lap
18    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    54    1 Lap
–    Carlos Sainz    Renault    31    Wheel
–    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    20    Hydraulics

Final drivers’ standings:
1    Lewis Hamilton    363
2    Sebastian Vettel    317
3    Valtteri Bottas    305
4    Kimi Raikkonen    205
5    Daniel Ricciardo    200
6    Max Verstappen    168
7    Sergio Perez    100
8    Esteban Ocon    87
9    Carlos Sainz    54
10    Nico Hulkenberg    43
11    Felipe Massa    43
12    Lance Stroll    40
13    Romain Grosjean    28
14    Kevin Magnussen    19
15    Fernando Alonso    17
16    Stoffel Vandoorne    13
17    Jolyon Palmer    8
18    Pascal Wehrlein    5
19    Daniil Kvyat    5
20    Marcus Ericsson    0
21    Pierre Gasly    0
22    Antonio Giovinazzi    0
23    Brendon Hartley    0

Final constructors’ standings:
1    Mercedes    668
2    Ferrari    522
3    Red Bull-Renault    368
4    Force India-Mercedes    187
5    Williams-Mercedes    83
6    Renault    57
7    Toro Rosso-Renault    53
8    Haas-Ferrari    47
9    McLaren-Honda    30
10    Sauber-Ferrari    5

Bottas grabs Abu Dhabi Grand Prix pole from Hamilton

Valtteri Bottas scored his fourth career pole position, beating his Mercedes team-mate Lewis Hamilton to the top spot at the Yas Marina circuit.

It seems Hamilton was the favourite for the top spot after leading the way throughout free practice, and was fastest in Q2 as well, but Bottas was fractionally quicker than Hamilton in Q1 and got back ahead during the first runs in Q3, taking provisional pole with a one minute, 36.231 seconds lap.

That proved enough for top spot when neither Mercedes driver found time on their second runs, Hamilton falling short by 0.172 seconds.

Sebastian Vettel was third fastest in the best of the Ferraris, improving to a one minute, 36.777 seconds best on his final Q3 run but ending up almost four tenths down on the Mercedes pair.

Team-mate Kimi Raikkonen was provisionally fourth quickest until a last-gasp effort from Daniel Ricciardo’s Red Bull displaced Raikkonen from the second row by just 0.026 seconds.

Max Verstappen rounded out the top six, 0.353 seconds down on Raikkonen.

Nico Hulkenberg’s Renault was best of the rest in seventh, less than a tenth clear of Sergio Perez, who in turn was only 0.023 seconds clear of team-mate Esteban Ocon.

Ocon was compromised by battling for track position with Bottas on their final Q3 out-lap.

Felipe Massa’s Williams completed the top ten, 0.153s further back after only completing one run in Q3.

Massa was one of only six drivers to find time on his second run in Q2, which proved enough to bump his old Ferrari colleague Fernando Alonso out of the top ten by 0.071 seconds.

Carlos Sainz Jr was another of those to find time after a “poor out-lap” ruined his first run. He got his Renault up to P12 ahead of the second McLaren-Honda of Stoffel Vandoorne, despite suffering a problem with his engine at the last corner.

Kevin Magnussen was P14 for Haas, almost half a second adrift of Vandoorne but well clear of Lance Stroll, who could not lap faster than one minute, 39.6 seconds however hard he tried.

Stroll at least made Q2 for the eighth time this season, his passage from Q1 coming at the expense of Romain Grosjean, whose Haas missed the cut by just 0.013 seconds as Stroll pulled the first of those one minute, 39.6 seconds laps out of the bag at the end.

“Oh God that was everything!” said Stroll over the radio upon learning he’d made the top 15.

Pierre Gasly put the best of the Toro Rossos P17, two tenths slower than Grosjean and two tenths clear of Sauber pair Pascal Wehrlein and Marcus Ericsson, who were separated by just six hundredths of a second.

Brendon Hartley qualified slowest of all by some distance in the Toro Rosso. Porsche’s World Endurance champion delivered a “scruffy” first lap, improved on his second run, but finished the session nearly half a second down on Ericsson.

Qualifying last negates Hartley’s grid penalty for taking a ninth MGU-H on his Renault engine ahead of practice.

So a fantastic way to sign off Mercedes’ qualifying result this season. 15 poles and another front row slot. It’s going to be a fascinating race at Yas Marina with the fight for the runner up spot between Bottas and Vettel.

Qualifying positions, Yas Marina:

1    Valtteri Bottas    Mercedes    1m36.231s
2    Lewis Hamilton    Mercedes    1m36.403s
3    Sebastian Vettel    Ferrari    1m36.777s
4    Daniel Ricciardo    Red Bull-Renault    1m36.959s
5    Kimi Raikkonen    Ferrari    1m36.985s
6    Max Verstappen    Red Bull-Renault    1m37.328s
7    Nico Hulkenberg    Renault    1m38.282s
8    Sergio Perez    Force India-Mercedes    1m38.374s
9    Esteban Ocon    Force India-Mercedes    1m38.397s
10    Felipe Massa    Williams-Mercedes    1m38.550s
11    Fernando Alonso    McLaren-Honda    1m38.636s
12    Carlos Sainz    Renault    1m38.725s
13    Stoffel Vandoorne    McLaren-Honda    1m38.808s
14    Kevin Magnussen    Haas-Ferrari    1m39.298s
15    Lance Stroll    Williams-Mercedes    1m39.646s
16    Romain Grosjean    Haas-Ferrari    1m39.516s
17    Pierre Gasly    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m39.724s
18    Pascal Wehrlein    Sauber-Ferrari    1m39.930s
19    Marcus Ericsson    Sauber-Ferrari    1m39.994s
20    Brendon Hartley    Toro Rosso-Renault    1m40.471s