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MIKA27   

Mercedes unveils F1-powered 1000+ HP hypercar

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Mercedes AMG has unveiled its Project One hypercar, powered by its Formula 1 power unit plus four electric motors to create 1000+ horsepower.

The car, unveiled at the International Motor Show in Germany by Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes chairman Dieter Zetsche, is capable of more than 217mph (350kph) and can accelerate to 124mph in "under six seconds", half a second quicker than the Bugatti Chiron.

With F1 power units often lasting no longer than a handful of races, the power unit is limited to 11,000rpm for reliability and service reasons.

"The Mercedes-AMG Project ONE is the first Formula 1 car with MOT approval," Ola Källenius, Member of the Daimler AG Board of Management, commented. "Our highly efficient hybrid assembly stems from motor racing and the electrically powered front axle generates a fascinating mixture of performance and efficiency.

"With a system output of over 1,000hp and a top speed beyond 217 mph (350kph) this hypercar handles exactly as it looks: it takes your breath away."

The hypercar retails at an eye-watering £2.5m!

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MIKA27   

Carlos Sainz Jr. hopes to make up for 2016 result

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Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. says he is hoping to make up for last year’s disappointing Singapore Grand Prix result when Formula 1 returns to Marina Bay this weekend.

Sainz Jr. qualified in sixth position for last season’s race but made contact with Nico Hülkenberg off the line as he avoided the slow-starting Red Bull of Max Verstappen.

Sainz Jr. was forced into an early stop, knocking his strategy off-kilter, before an Energy Recovery Systems problem skewered his prospects further, as he came home outside of the points.

The Spaniard is hoping to make amends for Toro Rosso this weekend.

“Last year I performed one of my best qualifying sessions of the season, something which is very important to do in Singapore as it's difficult to overtake during the race,” he said.

“Unfortunately, the good qualifying didn't count for much in the end, as I had a frustrating start when I got hit as the lights went out.

“It was a very tough moment, as I was expecting to fight for points.

“We probably lost a chance of scoring a strong result, so let's see if we can do it this year.”

Team-mate Daniil Kvyat says Toro Rosso needs to grasp any opportunity which comes its way, as he chases his first points finish since May’s Spanish Grand Prix.

“Last year I finished in the points after a very good qualifying session on Saturday so I hope we can be competitive also this year,” said Kvyat.

“In addition, everything can happen in Singapore, the walls are very close and the physical preparation can make a big difference.

“We need to take any chance that comes our way and bring home points.”

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MIKA27   

Toto Wolff: Singapore to favour Ferrari, Red Bull

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Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has underlined that the characteristics of the Marina Bay Street Circuit, which hosts this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, should favour rivals Ferrari and Red Bull.

Mercedes has held the advantage at high-speed venues which favour aerodynamic efficiency in 2017, but struggled at low-speed circuits where high-downforce is favoured.

Additionally, while Mercedes dominated Formula 1 between 2014 and 2016, its weakest performances often came at Marina Bay, where it was defeated in 2015 and only narrowly claimed victory 12 months ago.

Wolff is confident that Mercedes has learned from previous defeats, including its displays in Monaco and Hungary this year, but is nonetheless wary that it faces a challenge this weekend.

“Identifying clearly our strengths and our weaknesses has been a strength of our team in recent seasons,” said Wolff.

“As we have pushed to become better and stronger in every area, we have put the finger in the wound in order to understand the root causes of both our good performances and the bad ones.

“In 2015, Singapore provided us with one of the most painful experiences in recent seasons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and managed to bounce back with a great win last year.

“But notwithstanding that success, this is a circuit we have found difficult to master with its combination of short, sharp corners, relatively short straights and bumpy surface.

“So far this year, we have seen the pendulum swing according to circuit type.

“On the surface, Singapore is the kind of circuit that should favour both Ferrari and Red Bull.

“Both have shown strong performance on low-speed circuits demanding maximum downforce, and we have found life more difficult at those places in 2017.

“Sometimes, characteristics like this are simply in the DNA of a car.

“Nevertheless we learned a lot from our struggles in Monaco, raised our level of performance significantly in Hungary and we have made good progress in understanding what we need to do in order to get the most from the chassis.”

Lewis Hamilton currently leads Sebastian Vettel by three points in the Drivers' Championship, while Mercedes holds a 62-point advantage over Ferrari in the Constructors’ battle.

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MIKA27   

McLaren: Stoffel Vandoorne may face Singapore GP engine penalty

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McLaren is still evaluating whether Stoffel Vandoorne will need to take on new power unit components at this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix, which would result in a grid penalty, following his retirement in Italy.

Vandoorne has exceeded his allocation of power unit components due to an array of reliability problems this year and is on to his 10th MGU-H and Turbocharger, along with his seventh Internal Combustion Engine and MGU-K.

Fernando Alonso took engine penalties in Italy after Honda introduced its Spec 3.7 power unit, in order to maximise his prospects in Singapore, with the layout set to mask some of the MCL32's weaknesses.

Vandoorne, meanwhile, had to take a penalty after a loss of power in qualifying, and then suffered a further issue in the race at Monza, owing to a suspected MGU-K issue, and it has not yet been determined whether new components will be required.

Should Honda need to fit new components to Vandoorne's MCL32 – as opposed to recycling old-spec parts – a five- or 10-place grid penalty will be issued to the Belgian at this weekend's Singapore Grand Prix.

“We’ve worked hard to try to avoid incurring any penalties which could halt our progress in Singapore,” said Racing Director Eric Boullier.

“We hope that following Stoffel’s retirement in Monza we won’t have to use any new power unit elements, although this is yet to be officially confirmed.”

Vandoorne, who has never competed around the streets of Marina Bay, is optimistic of a stronger weekend, after McLaren’s struggles in Belgium and Italy.

“We’ve had a tough couple of races as a team, but from my side I’ve also been encouraged by the performances we’ve put in across the course of each weekend,” said Vandoorne.

“In every session we’ve been able to take away positives – even if we haven’t managed to get the cars to the end of the race or finish with a good result.

“I’m pretty sure we’re due some better luck, so I hope in Singapore we’ll be able to maximise the strengths of our package over the whole weekend, and finish the all-important race day on a high on Sunday afternoon.”

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MIKA27   

'Fundamental' Halo information still needed by F1 teams to finalise 2018 designs

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According to Force India's Andy Green, teams are still waiting to receive "quite fundamental" test information on the Halo device which is delaying the final 2018 chassis designs for next season.

Although important details on the Halo have been shared such as the loads that chassis mountings will be subjected to, teams are still waiting for the details of how the load test will be conducted and applied on the head protection device.

This is delaying the process of finalising the specification of the 2018 chassis for teams up and down the grid as the load test for the Halo cannot be conducted without the real Halo fitted.

This is forcing the FIA into coming up with a new method to conduct the load test as they need to find a way to replicate the forces that are put through the chassis by the Halo. These forces would need higher loads than the Halo would be able to withstand. 

This delay has frustrated a number of teams, and Andy Green, Force India's technical director, was far from impressed: "The actual Halo that we're going to run has been defined," he said. "But the actual chassis that it bolts to hasn't.

"To try to get a chassis to cope with the sign-off loads that the FIA have imposed is a challenge.

"The Halo that we're going to race can't withstand those loads, so there's no point in using it to do the load tests on the chassis, because the Halo will fail first.

"So, you have to do it with something else, and that's what we're trying to define at the moment.

"Depending on what that something else is will change how you design the chassis, and how strong you need to make the chassis, because it delivers the load in a different way, depending on the geometry.

"At the moment we're missing the details on that device, and it's quite fundamental to the design of the chassis.

"If you fail the test, you can't run."

To solve this issue it has been suggested by the FIA that a physical test should be backed up by finite element analysis which will allow loads to be modelled on the 2018 chassis of each team. This will be a temporary alternative until a physical test will be adopted for 2019. 

This plan will be discussed next week in a technical regulations meeting.

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Pierre Gasly 'hopeful' of Malaysia debut if Carlos Sainz moves to Renault

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Red Bull junior driver Pierre Gasly says he's hopeful that he will be called up to replace Carlos Sainz at the Malaysian Grand Prix, should the Toro Rosso driver make an early move to Renault as part of an engine deal.

It's been reported that Red Bull and Toro Rosso have agreed to release the Spaniard in exchange for a supply of Honda engines for Toro Rosso next season. Renault made the demand in exchange for cancelling its contract with the Italian outfit to allow the deal to go ahead, whilst also agreeing to supply McLaren in 2018.

Whilst none of this is confirmed, an announcement is expected this week, which could see Sainz make an early move to replace Jolyon Palmer.

Gasly, who currently races in the Super Formula championship in Japan and took his second victory of the season at the weekend, is hopeful that he will be called up to replace Sainz ahead of a full-time race seat in 2018.

"Yeah, I know there are few things going on at the moment," said the young Frenchman. "We will see in the next couple of days what will happen.

"For me, it will be amazing. It's been my dream and I've been working really hard to get there. I'm still pushing every day to make it happen. So for me it will be unbelievable.

"This weekend I wanted to focus on my weekend and do the best I could. Now, we have a few days until the next race, and Malaysia will arrive quickly. Let's see how it goes. Hopefully I can be there."

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MIKA27   

Ricciardo previews the Singapore GP

Daniel Ricciardo has enjoyed some good results at the Singapore Grand Prix of late, but is predicting a tough race come Sunday.

After jokingly saying he will "lap the field" at the Marina Bay Circuit following a strong showing last time out at Monza, Ricciardo revealed to Mobil 1 The Grid that he is expecting any but an easy race.

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Kubica asks for release from Renault deal

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Another piece of the McLaren-Renault puzzle appears to be falling into place with Robert Kubica reportedly being released from his short-term deal with the Enstone-based team.

The Pole has taken part in several tests for Renault, including a first opportunity to drive a 2017 car, and made other appearances, at the Goodwood Festival of Speed for example, donning the yellow and black team colours.

However, with Renault set to sign Carlos Sainz from Toro Rosso as compensation for allowing Red Bull's junior team to switch to Honda power, Kubica has had his request accepted by Renault to free him from his contract with the team and pursue other options both in and out of Formula 1.

Kubica has been recently linked with Williams as they continue to delay making a decision on Felipe Massa's future, while Mark Hughes in his latest Motor Sport Magazine column has mentioned Sauber as another potential option for Kubica to make a sensational return to the sport.

"We understand he has been released from the short-term contract he has been on with Renault since beginning his comeback programme in May," wrote Hughes in his latest column.

"At his request, in order that he might follow up on interest elsewhere for his services (understood to be Williams and Sauber).

"His performance in the Hungaroring test in the current Renault, whilst good, still left question marks about his fitness level, evident in an inconsistency during the long runs. His ultimate speed, on the other hand, was considered highly impressive.

"If Kubica can answer those remaining questions after further training time (and only a test at the appropriate time could really do that), he would be the perfect fit for Williams’ requirements; an A-grade ace who will call it exactly how it is."

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Williams still hesitant over Massa future

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Claire Williams has reiterated that the team's only focus at the moment is the current season and would not be drawn on Felipe Massa's future.

The Brazilian was due to retire at the end of the 2016 season but was drafted back in by Williams after Valtteri Bottas made the move to Mercedes.

Massa feels he is still competitive enough to extend his stay by another year, but has admitted he will more than likely join Formula E once his Formula 1 career is over.

Claire Williams has consistently stated that the team are in no rush to confirm their 2018 line-up as it is not a priority at this stage.

But, the longer the delay, the more doubtful it seems that Massa will be retained.

"Felipe has done a fantastic job, it’s been a bonus year for us. He very kindly came back and he’s really delivered for us," said Williams.

"Obviously the past couple of races have been tough for him with his medical issue [in Hungary] but we’re through that now and we’re looking forward to him delivering for the rest of the year and we really just have to wait and see."

Robert Kubica and Sergio Perez have both been linked with Williams in recent weeks.

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Alonso hopeful ahead of Singapore Grand Prix

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Fernando Alonso believes McLaren-Honda "definitely have a better chance" in Singapore after another bout of the dreaded DNFs.

Fernando Alonso: “We knew the double-header of Spa and Monza would be difficult for us, but three DNFs out of four was still really disappointing. Still, we showed better pace than we anticipated, even though we could convert that into points. We’ve now put the European season behind us and we turn our attention to the fly-aways which signal the final chapter of the season. Singapore is a great place to start, as it’s one of the circuits on the calendar that suits our package better than others, and gives us a real chance for a more positive result. Singapore is a bit like the Monaco of the East. It’s a glamorous street circuit right in the centre of the city and the atmosphere is incredible. It’s tough – hot and humid, and hard on the cars and drivers. It’s really fun though: bumpy, tight and challenging, but exhilarating when you get it right. You need a car with good traction on the slower corners and a high downforce set-up, so we definitely have a better chance there – we just need to make sure we also have the reliability.”

Stoffel Vandoorne: “I’ve never raced in Singapore, but I’ve experienced the whole weekend alongside the team over the past couple of years. Living on European time and going to bed at 6am is surreal, and it’s part of what makes this Grand Prix one of the really special ones. Singapore is such a cool place and I’m looking forward to exploring more of the city this year. Of the Grands Prix I haven’t yet done, Singapore is one of the races that I’ve been most excited about all year. It’s a completely different experience to the other races and I think the whole atmosphere will feel pretty unique – racing under the floodlights in the middle of the city sounds really cool. The Grands Prix here have been some of the longest on the calendar, so it’ll take a lot of stamina in the high temperatures and humidity, but I feel well prepared. We’ve had a tough couple of races as a team, but from my side I’ve also been encouraged by the performances we’ve put in across the course of each weekend. In every session we’ve been able to take away positives – even if we haven’t managed to get the cars to the end of the race or finish with a good result. I’m pretty sure we’re due some better luck, so I hope in Singapore we’ll be able to maximise the strengths of our package over the whole weekend, and finish the all-important race day on a high on Sunday afternoon.”

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MCLAREN’S F1 FUTURE TO BE REVEALED IN SINGAPORE

Formula One World Championship 2017, Round 7, Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal, Canada, Friday 9 June 2017 - McLaren MCL32 of Fernando Alonso (ESP) McLaren worked on by mechanics.

McLaren’s split from Honda, and new partnership with Renault, looks imminent and the rumour mill is grinding faster as Formula One embarks on an Asian swing of races starting in Singapore this weekend.

Multiple sources told Reuters that negotiations had progressed as expected and official confirmation was likely within days.

The cracks in the McLaren-Honda partnership have been evident for months, with former champions McLaren chafing at engine problems that have left them ninth in the 10 team championship.

Media reports over the weekend that Toro Rosso driver Carlos Sainz is set to move to Renault in 2018, and maybe even before, have further fuelled speculation that the deal is done.

The Spaniard’s move would be part of a general agreement that will see Honda take their engines to Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso, whose Renault supply would then become available for McLaren.

McLaren need a more competitive engine to satisfy sponsors and retain the services of Spain’s double world champion Fernando Alonso, whose contract expires at the end of the season.

Spanish media and online reports said Sainz – a young talent long coveted by Renault – was set to move to the French manufacturer team as a sweetener for Toro Rosso terminating their engine contract.

Some suggested Sainz could be in yellow overalls as soon as Malaysia, the race after this week’s Singapore Grand Prix, if Renault dispense with the services of Britain’s Jolyon Palmer, who has yet to score a point in 13 races.

That in turn would free up a place at Toro Rosso for Pierre Gasly, the winner of last year’s GP2 championship, who has been waiting for an opening at the Red Bull junior team.

”I know there are a few things going on at the moment,“ motorsport.com quoted the Frenchman, who is racing Super Formula in Japan, as saying. ”We will see in the next couple of days what will happen.

“For me, it will be amazing. It (Formula One) has been my dream and I’ve been working really hard to get there.”

The website also quoted him saying he hoped to be in Malaysia, but the driver later denied that on Twitter.

“Just said I was hoping to drive for STR soon mate, never mentioned Malaysia,” he replied in response to a comment by NBC Sports’ F1 reporter Will Buxton. Sainz, Renault and Toro Rosso were saying nothing.

Spanish media, focussed mainly on Alonso’s future, reported that Honda had informed McLaren they were willing to switch to Toro Rosso and that Alonso was negotiating for a one-year extension.

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MERCEDES CONFIRM BOTTAS FOR 2018

Valtteri Bottas

Valtteri Bottas will race for Mercedes again next year after being given a one-year contract ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, ending growing speculation about his future.

The Finnish driver has exceeded expectations after stepping in as an emergency replacement for Nico Rosberg, who retired from Formula One days after winning last year’s title.

Despite having only modest results during his time with the Williams team, Bottas has won two races and formed a solid partnership with three-time F1 champion Lewis Hamilton.

Bottas is third in the standings and has secured a further seven podium finishes in addition to his victories.

Despite his good form, Mercedes seemed hesitant whether it would keep Bottas next year. Wednesday’s announcement means that both drivers will race for Mercedes in 2018, with both their contracts expiring at the end of next season.

The mutual respect between Hamilton and Bottas is a far cry from the tense relationship between Hamilton and Rosberg in the three previous years. The pair criticized each other’s driving after several incidents on track.

Hamilton is chasing a fourth F1 title and leads Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel by three points with seven races left. Bottas is 41 points behind Hamilton.

Team Statement:

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport and Valtteri Bottas together in 2018

  • Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport has agreed a new contract with Valtteri Bottas for the next season
  • Toto Wolff: “His performances and his upward trajectory made it a no-brainer to continue for 2018.”
  • Valtteri Bottas: “I am honoured and proud to continue to work with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport in 2018. However, there’s always room for improvement and I still have not shown my full potential.”

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is pleased to announce that it has agreed a new deal with Valtteri Bottas for the 2018 Formula 1 season.

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport have announced that it has agreed a new deal with Valtteri Bottas for the 2018 Formula 1 season.

Valtteri joined the team in early 2017 and has started 13 races for the Silver Arrows so far. Having scored 197 points, the Finn currently holds third place in the drivers’ championship. Since joining Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, the 28-year old driver has claimed his first Formula 1 wins (Russia, Austria) as well as his first F1 pole positions (Bahrain, Austria).

This season alone, Valtteri has so far secured nine podiums – equalling the number of podiums he scored in his Formula 1 career before this season.

Toto Wolff: “We gave Valtteri a big challenge this year: joining the team at the eleventh hour, stepping up to the forefront of F1 and pairing with the sport’s best driver as his team-mate. With that in mind, his results have been probably even more impressive.

“There have been ups and downs – more ups, fewer downs – and some great highlights like his two race wins in Russian and Austria. Overall, the balance of his performances and his upward trajectory made it a no-brainer for us to continue with him into 2018.

“For our team, the bonus factors are the respect and sportsmanship that have grown between our two drivers. The chemistry and dynamic between Valtteri and Lewis work and are what we need to take the fight to our competitors.”

Valtteri Bottas: “I am honoured and proud to continue to work with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport in 2018 and to remain part of the Mercedes family. Together, we continue to grow stronger day by day, and by keeping up our hard work I believe the sky is the limit.”

“Since joining the team in January, I’ve enjoyed every day working with them. The welcome and the support from every team member and all the fans has been invaluable. As a driver, I’ve been able to learn and grow massively, and we have already enjoyed some really good moments this season that I will never forget.”

“I’ve been very impressed by the mentality, commitment and the team spirit this team holds. Partnering Lewis has also been really good, and I’m enjoying the respect we have and the will to push this team forward together.”

“When the team hired me for the 2017 season, they took a leap of faith by putting their trust in my skills. This new contract for 2018 shows that I’ve earned that trust. I’m happy to have celebrated my first race wins in a Silver Arrow. However, there’s always room for improvement and I still have not shown my full potential.”

“I will continue to work hard on and off the track, to further improve my driving, get even better results and show that putting their trust in me was the right decision. I want to thank all the board members, the people at the factories in Brackley and Brixworth as well as the race team and all the fans for their support and trust. It means a lot to me.”

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MIKA27   

SHAME ON YOU SERGIO MARCHIONNE

Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne, left, and outgoing Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo attend a press conference at the Ferrari headquarters in Maranello, Italy, Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014. Fiat-Chrysler announced that Ferrari president Montezemolo will leave the company next month amid a disappointing season by the flagship Formula One team and before an imminent stock listing of merged parent company Fiat-Chrysler. The statement from Ferrari's parent company said Montezemolo will depart on Oct. 13 following Ferrari's 60th anniversary celebration of sales in the United States. Fiat-Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne will take on the Ferrari job in the immediate term. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni)

Ferrari celebrated their 70th year during a VIP packed event at Fiorano, this past weekend, but Luca di Montezemolo did not receive an invitation and in my book his absence is a shame because it smells of a personal vendetta by Sergio Marchionne to marginalise the man that did so much during his 40 or so years with Ferrari.

Among the special guests were the likes of: Jean Todt, Chase Carey, John Elkann, Piero Lardi, Maurizio Arrivabene, Sebastian Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen and Niki Lauda.

Montezemolo’s career at Ferrari began with his transfer from FIAT to the Reds in 1973, first becoming personal assistant to Enzo Ferrari before being promoted to the director of the Scuderia in 1974.

His role in keeping Ferrari interested in Formula 1 during those lean years is an intrinsic part of the Scuderia’s history. In the early seventies Montezemolo kept Ferrari in Formula 1 at a time when Enzo was dithering and looking for a way out.

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At the helm of the team he led them to titles in 1975 and 1977 during the Niki Lauda era. Thereafter he was moved to various positions at FIAT, under the close mentor-ship of chairman Gianni Agnelli, who in 1991 appointed Montezemolo to president of Ferrari, a position he held for 23 years.

During that time, he revitalised the commercial side of Ferrari and during his watch he assembled the most powerful team in the history of the sport as he brought together Jean Todt, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Michael Schumacher. What followed is etched in history and known today as the glory years of Ferrari in Formula 1. Shattering records, winning races as well as titles with monotonous regularity.

In 2014, tensions with Marchionne, then president of the group FIAT Chrysler, caused an uncomfortable environment within the organisation. In short, the bad chemistry between them led Montezemolo to resign. The rest is well documented…

This is now a clear case of the ‘victor’ rewriting the history books to fall in line with his own agenda. Marchionne’s snub of Montezemolo on the occasion of the 70th anniversary is not only shameful, it also fires a warning shot at anyone who dares to step out of line. Take note Sebastian Vettel…

By his own admission Marchionne arrived on the Formula 1 scene totally clueless of what the sport was about and his early statements were naive, while the expectations he fired-up led to unwarranted pressure on the team. Up until last year there were widespread reports of the toxic environment that prevailed at Maranello, a climate of fear that Marchionne did little ease up as he added his own primitive brand of heat.

Schumacher Todt Barrichello Montezemolo

Fortunately, Maurizio Arrivabene managed to stem the tide of dissatisfaction and turn the threats of his big boss into results on track. Sure things have improved but that is merely because the team rebounded impressively after a torrid 2016 season.

Marchionne had kept quiet as the team delivered early on in the season but a good old thrashing by Mercedes at Monza, while he looked on dumbfounded, triggered another bout of trash talking which no doubt did little for the morale of a team that is now going fist-to-fist with their rivals.

Relative to Montezemolo in Formula 1, Marchionne has achieved nothing. Since he took power the Reds have only won seven races and it is not a given that the team’s first title since 2009 (during the Montezemolo era) will be bagged come the end of the season.

Vettel has lost the lead in the championship standings after defeat at Monza, which according to Marchionne was “embarrassing” and accused the team of “screwing up.”

Montezemolo had his faults, but you could never accuse of him of being disrespectful to the team, it’s staff and drivers during his numerous years of leadership. He was driven by a passion for racing and Ferrari that Marchionne simply does not have or understand.

montezemolo schumacher todt

Like most of us that frequent this site racing is in Luca’s blood, but his successor is not of our tribe.

To eliminate Montezemolo from the celebration of such a massive milestone, a week after not being invited to the Italian Grand Prix by Ferrari, reveals the true colours of a man, despite his stature, very insecure.

Insulting Montezemolo and his legacy in such a blatant and overt manner also tarnishes the image of Ferrari, a team steeped and built with history in which the former boss played a large part in. To omit him is pure foul play by an arrogant individual who wields too much power, who puts himself above the organisation that pays his substantial salary.

To one so apparently omnipotent such as Marchionne all we can do is remind him that ‘karma is a bitch’ and although he may have a hollow victory with this sleazy action, he should brace himself for what may come back to haunt him.

Montezemolo’s absence on the VIP podium at Fiorano belittles and cheapens the objectives of an event staged to celebrate the glorious heritage of this great racing team and not highlight the personal vendetta of a wind packed despot.

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Note: An email sent to Ferrari media requesting an explanation for Montezemolo’s absence has not been answered.

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HAMILTON HUNTING SINGAPORE HAT-TRICK BUT WARY OF FERRARI

Lewis Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton arrives in Singapore as Formula 1 world championship leader and the season’s first back-to-back race winner, but Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel could dash the Mercedes driver’s hopes of a third win in a row on Sunday.

Hamilton led team mate Valtteri Bottas in a dominant one-two at the Italian Grand Prix two weeks ago to take his second successive win from a record 69th pole position.

Vettel trailed home in third place, more than half a minute behind the Briton, and lost the overall lead he had enjoyed all season with Hamilton now three points clear and seven races remaining.

Now Mercedes are braced for a Ferrari backlash at the Marina Bay street circuit.

“Singapore will be a different story but it’s better to go there in the lead than behind,” the team’s non-executive chairman Niki Lauda told Reuters after the Monza race.

Hamilton also expects a closer battle, “I think the learning from these two weeks should hopefully put us in a better position for Singapore. But I think still Ferrari are going to be quick there. They’re rapid through the medium and low speed sections of the circuits.”

The tight twists of the Singapore track, which has the most corners of any circuit on the calendar, should play to Ferrari’s strengths.

The Italian team, now 62 points behind Mercedes in the team standings, have been dominant this year at similar venues like Monaco and Hungary, scoring one-two finishes at both.

Hamilton and Mercedes also have a chequered history in Singapore, even if now retired 2016 champion team mate Nico Rosberg won there last year.

The Briton is one of only four drivers to have won the race since it joined the calendar in 2008 but Hamilton has only two wins there to Vettel’s four.

The German, the most successful driver around the city-state’s floodlit streets, scored the last of those for Ferrari in 2015, when Mercedes failed to finish on the podium.

“In 2015, Singapore provided us with one of the most painful experiences in recent seasons, so we rolled up the sleeves, learned from it and managed to bounce back with a great win last year,” said Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff. “But notwithstanding that success, this is a circuit we have found difficult to master…”

Red Bull, who took Vettel to three of his wins, boast the best record of all teams in Singapore and see this year’s race as a real opportunity.

“I believe Singapore won’t be our only chance but is one of our best chances of a win in the second half of the season,” said Australian Daniel Ricciardo.

“I’ve started second and finished second at this track in the last two years, with fastest lap both times, so my aim this year is definitely to start on pole and try to go one better in the race.”

All eyes will also be on McLaren, with a split from engine partner Honda and new relationship with Renault set to be announced imminently.

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Red Bull Racing needs 2018 title bid to keep Daniel Ricciardo

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Daniel Ricciardo has said that Red Bull Racing will have to make a big step forward in performance in 2018 to convince him to stay after his current contract with the team ends.

Ricciardo made his Formula 1 debut in 2011 for HRT before being placed at Toro Rosso for 2012 and 2013. After impressing at Red Bull's junior team, the Australian was promoted to a race seat at the senior team for 2014 and remains committed to the team until the end of next season.

Having recently been linked to a drive at Mercedes and Ferrai in the long term, it is clear that Ricciardo will be a target for a number of teams for 2019 as he searches for his maiden world championship.

"I went through that impatient phase for sure, and I am still bordering that – because I don't want to leave F1 without a championship," Ricciardo told Motorsport.com.

"At least right now, I still believe I can do that absolutely. I am looking for it – sooner rather than later.

"I thought we would be in with a really good shot this year, but it hasn't turned out like that. We have still managed to get podiums but we haven't realistically been in the championship hunt so it really needs to happen with Red Bull next year – at least from my point of view.

"I've been here for quite a few years now and I think next year we need to make a bigger step next year than we did this year, to really convince me that I can win with them.

"Do I want to win with them? Absolutely. I think that would complete the story as well. Seb [Vettel] got to complete it – he is the only guy. So my heart would love to. But we will see.

"I want an opportunity to be able to win week in and week out, while I believe I am still at the top."

As Ricciardo could be a free agent for 2019, his availability could be an influencing factor in Ferrari and Mercedes only committing to Kimi Raikkonen and Valtteri Bottas for one season. 

"I think whatever I choose to do next, let's say I have got decisions to make once my Red Bull contract is up," said Ricciardo, with 2018 offering him a free choice of what he can do for the first time in his career.

"It is the first time in my professional career that I've been a free agent – it is something I've never really had before. I've been with Red Bull since the start and it has been awesome and all that.

"But it is up to them as well if they would want to continue, and then it is a decision where I think it will be best.

"The next contract I sign, whether it is an extension or a new one, it is unlikely to be for just one year, it is probably three years. So that is a big part of the next step in my career," he added.

"For sure it is something I will put a lot of thought in to. But at the end of the day, I want to be somewhere where I can have a good chance of success and winning, but it is an environment I want to enjoy as well.

"A big part of my success is that I have fun doing this sport. I feel like not everyone is having as much fun as they should, so that is important for me."

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McLaren won't be happier with Renault - Bernie Ecclestone

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Bernie Ecclestone does not believe that McLaren will be any happier with Renault power units, ahead of an impending switch from current supplier Honda.

McLaren looks set to drop Honda in favour of Renault after both Mercedes and Ferrari rejected approaches, whilst Toro Rosso is understood to be taking up McLaren's Honda supply, with Carlos Sainz Jr. moving to Renault as part of the overall deal.

It also means Fernando Alonso is likely to remain with McLaren, having reportedly threatened to leave if the team continued with Honda, which Ecclestone says is "super news".

"The Renault deal is all done," F1's chairman emeritus told the Daily Mail.

"Alonso staying is super news, but I can't see why McLaren will be any happier with Renault than they are with Honda.

"It wasn't Honda's fault things didn't work out, it was McLaren's. Every day they had a fight about everything, instead of working with them, which was a little bit stupid."

McLaren is expected to make an announcement this week confirming its 2018 plans.

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Fernando Alonso says Singapore a 'real chance' for McLaren

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Fernando Alonso believes Singapore presents McLaren with a "real chance" of returning to the points following two difficult rounds for the team.

The team suffered a double DNF in Italy, whilst Alonso also retired from the Belgian Grand Prix with engine troubles, despite this, the team showed promising pace on two circuits which they identified as their toughest.

But Singapore's tight nature and lack of long straights means it should play to the strengths of the McLaren chassis and Honda power unit, which gives the Spaniard, who took a tactical engine penalty last time out to prepare for this weekend, some hope.

"We knew the double-header of Spa and Monza would be difficult for us, but three DNFs out of four was still really disappointing," noted Alonso. "Still, we showed better pace than we anticipated, even though we couldn't convert that into points. 

"We’ve now put the European season behind us and we turn our attention to the fly-aways which signal the final chapter of the season.

"Singapore is a great place to start, as it’s one of the circuits on the calendar that suits our package better than others, and gives us a real chance for a more positive result."

Alonso is wary that reliability could yet again spoil the party however due to the demands the circuit places on the cars and engines in particular.

"It’s tough – hot and humid, and hard on the cars and drivers. It’s really fun though: bumpy, tight and challenging, but exhilarating when you get it right.

"You need a car with good traction on the slower corners and a high downforce set-up, so we definitely have a better chance there – we just need to make sure we also have the reliability."

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Mercedes F1 engine hits new benchmark on dyno

Mercedes F1 engine hits new benchmark on dyno

Mercedes' Formula 1 engine has hit a landmark achievement on the dyno at its Brixworth factory after breaking the 50 percent thermal efficiency barrier for the first time.

The achievement is evidence of the huge strides that have been taken by the German car manufacturer in making improvements to its power unit, which is the most efficient racing engine in history.

Thermal efficiency has become a key target for modern engine builders, and is calculated on the amount of useful energy that can be produced from a given amount of heat input.

In modern F1 it has become particularly important because there is a strict fuel flow limit rate of 100kg per hour.

The 50 percent efficiency of the Mercedes F1 engine makes it one of the best internal combustions in the world too.

It is now approaching levels of thermal efficiency reached by diesel engines used in large container ships – although gas turbines can deliver more than 60 percent efficiency.

The 50 percent mark, which has not yet been reached on track, is much higher than the 30 percent efficiency that old normally aspirated engines produced.

When F1's new turbo hybrid formula arrived in 2014, Mercedes engines had a conversion rate of 44% - and it has delivered gains since then too.

In a column on Mercedes' official F1 website, the team said: "The old-fashioned, naturally aspirated engines peaked at 29 percent thermal efficiency during the V8 era - while the last time we saw these levels of power in Formula 1 was back in 2005, with a V10 that guzzled fuel at a whopping 194kg/hr. To halve the fuel flow rate for the same amount of power is quite something."

"Three and a half years after making its debut, the Mercedes-AMG F1 power unit has now achieved a conversion efficiency of more than 50 percent during dyno testing in Brixworth.

"In other words, it now produces more power than waste energy - a remarkable milestone for any hybrid, and especially a flat-out racing engine. Compared to 2014, the power output is 109 horsepower greater using the same amount of fuel."

Mercedes has used a version of its F1 engine in its new Project ONE road car, which has a thermal efficiency of 40 percent.

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RED BULL AND RENAULT SET TO SPLIT AT END OF 2018

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Former Formula 1 world champions Red Bull and engine supplier Renault are set to part company after the season, according to several media reports that have emerged ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix.

The two have had a fractious relationship since a new 1.6 litre V6 turbo hybrid power unit was introduced in 2014 and Renault’s version proved less competitive than that of rivals Mercedes.

Red Bull tried and failed to find an alternative supply, and also threatened to quit the sport altogether, but ended up staying with Renault — using the French engines but with TAG Heuer branding.

Multiple sources including Auto Motor und Soport have reported that Renault have now told Red Bull that the company no longer wanted to supply the team after next season.

There was no immediate comment from any of the parties involved, although Red Bull ramped up their criticism in the wake of Max Verstappen’s early retirement from the Belgian Grand Prix, including scathing words from Red Bull big boss Dietrich Mateschitz.

Renault is set to supply McLaren in 2018, in a deal sources say will be announced at the Singapore Grand Prix on Friday, with Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso switching to the Honda units previously used by the British team.

Those deals have already been taken for granted in the paddock but the ramifications beyond 2018 for Red Bull threw a fresh twist on the shake-up.

Renault, who now have their own factory team, and Red Bull won four successive drivers’ and constructors’ titles between 2010-13.

Red Bull are the only team other than Mercedes and Ferrari to have won a race this season.

The Honda has been the slowest and least reliable of Formula One’s four current engines but Red Bull might have to use it in 2019, given the lack of any other option at present.

That could in turn affect where their current drivers, Daniel Ricciardo and teenager Max Verstappen, end up. Both are race winners and known to be of interest to Ferrari and Mercedes.

Formula 1’s current engine rules run to 2020, after which new suppliers could come into the picture.

Red Bull have been linked to Volkswagen-owned brands Audi and Porsche in the past, with the latter acknowledging this month that it was considering a return to grand prix racing.

Several sources are predicting the energy drinks company will look to sell their teams by 2020, with Porsche possibly buying the Red Bull operation with Christian Horner at the helm of their F1 project. While Honda may purchase Toro Rosso to expand their existing project.

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RICCIARDO: I JOKE AND LAUGH BUT I’M ALSO A KILLER!

Daniel Ricciardo

Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo is proving to be ‘king of overtakers’ among this generation of Formula 1 drivers, his exploits at the recent Italian Grand Prix were of the highest order and although he is a big smiling dude from down under he reveals that he has a killer extinct second to none, perhaps nurtured by his passion for MMA of which he is a big fan.

Our own Ben Stevens sat down with his fellow Aussie ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend and shared a good old natter. Here’s the trasncript.

Ben Stevens: First things first, awesome day out in Italy. You’ve developed this year a reputation of being the “king of overtakes”. Is that something you’re aware of?
Daniel Ricciardo: Yeah I think I started it already in 2014. It’s funny, a lot of the overtakes I did last week in Monza I did the exact same in 2014 – I did the same on Kimi in Turn 1 and the same on Perez in the second chicane. It was a bit of a repeat but it was fun. I just feel like if anyone ever questions my ability or my aggression – because a lot of the time people just see me laughing and joking around but I’m also a killer! [laughs]

BS: Is that something you have to switch on? Compared to when you’ve got the helmet on and when you’ve not – you were making a joke “I like ‘em vulnerable” in the race obviously you’ve still got that [sense of humour] when you’re driving – so is there a “switch” so to speak?
DR: Yeah there is, certainly. I feel that when I put the helmet on, the switch is kind of already “on”, but I’m still able to dabble with a bit of humour in the car – I’m just having a good time. I still manage to keep a balance, still being switch on and ruthless when I need to, but I’m comfortable kind of juggling that.

BS: So especially with the one with Kimi, and I’m pretty sure it was the exact same as the one with Valtteri last year…
DR: Yeah very similar.

BS: What are you telling yourself in your head? Are you relying on past experiences?
DR: A little bit but to be honest already before the Parabolica I’m telling myself ‘if I get DRS this lap, I’m going’. I kind of have blinkers on and sometimes you need to be instinctive and you can’t always plan a move far in advance, but that one, because I knew I was catching, my tyres were still fresh I wanted to make it happen as soon as I could, I basically told myself ‘if I get DRS, I’m doing it’. I kind of had blinkers on for that so I just committed to it and was like ‘alright if it doesn’t happen I’ll cut the chicane or crash’ whatever, I don’t know, but I was going no matter what.

BS: So then if you had to break it down when you make a pass: what percentage is you, what percent is the car, what percent is the trust in the other driver?
DR: I would say you probably need 10% trust in the driver, so you need a little bit – it doesn’t dictate the move but you need a little bit – and then I think probably 20-30 in the car, and then the rest in you – more than 50% in yourself-

BS: I did forget to add one… testicular fortitude
DR: [laughs] Yeah that’s definitely in there. You need that mentality where you can’t really care too much as well. You overthink it, then you’re not gonna do it, because I could’ve easily said ‘alright, I’ll wait ‘till I’m closer, I’m in fifth it’s already been a great race, let’s not risk it’ but no, if I can do better then I want to do better, I knew if I didn’t try then I would’ve gone home that night and been like ‘ I should’ve tried it’, this and that, I never want that feeling.

BS: You said it was 10% on other drivers, so does that mean there are other drivers you wouldn’t try that move on?
DR: [pauses] I think I would always try it, regardless, but I would probably be prepared for maybe some turning in on the apex, not seeing me, all that, but then again I strategize in a way where I knew if he went early enough, or he turned in, he’s got a chance to see me in the mirrors so at the most it’s 10% the other guy – I don’t want to give him too much credit!

BS: I’m curious what sticks with you more – a good pass that you’ve made, or when someone gets the best of you.
DR: Obviously I’m filthy if someone gets the best of me! So that probably sticks with me more, but in a good way because I can learn from that and not let it happen again. I think when I make a good pass, yeah I’m excited and all that about it – I’ll watch a few replays [grins] – but then move on, because I expect that from myself. If someone does me, I don’t expect that of myself so that rubs me the wrong way more, or gets my back up more.

BS: Do you rank them? Do you say ‘this is my best pass’?
DR: I’ve ranked a few in my time. That one on Kimi was up there, I think the one with Seb in 2014 was up there-

BS: I liked Hungary 2014 – Lewis and Fernando
DR: Yeah, they were up there

BS: Because they were for the win as well
DR: Yeah. The one on Perez as well in Canada for the win – or like for second, but the “win” – there’s been a few for sure… There was one they never televised on Magnussen in 2014 in Austin, that was a good one. There’s been a few!

BS: That’s interesting then, how much of what you consider your standout moments do we not notice?
DR: Fortunately the TV picks up on most of them, but there’s been a couple which have gone under the radar. But yeah, for sure the one on Kimi everyone talked highly about that, and it wasn’t a normal, casual, easy move – that one got the credit it deserve.

BS: Do you notice the reaction on social media? Do you check? Like, say ‘I want to find out about this specific move or ‘what are they saying?’’
DR: I don’t necessarily read the comments. I’ll see if F1 post it and all that, I’ll see if it’s got say, 20,000 retweets. I’ll see the numbers and understand why that’s a popular video, but no I don’t go scrolling through and seeing what they said – A. I don’t have time to do it all and B. I’m happy if someone likes it but I’m not too bothered about someone’s opinion, if I’m happy with it that’s the main thing.

BS: I was reading your article on the Red Bull website where you were talking about you don’t have much instruction, much coaching – you compared it to tennis, and obviously [unlike in tennis] you can’t go out and practice passing. Is it still something you learn or have you always had that instinct. Have you built it?
DR: I think I built it over the years, and I’ve got it to a level where I’m very confident in racing situations now – yeah you develop it, obviously with any sport you’ve got some form of talent, and then it carries you through a certain phase but then you still need to grow and learn things for yourself along the way, I’ve just got to a level where I’m comfortable with all of that, but I’m not naïve in terms of- I don’t think I’m perfect and all of that, I still want to grow and I think the sport will keep evolving and the younger drivers will come in with different things probably. I strongly believe that, particularly since 2014, since I started to do some of these pretty cool overtakes, a lot of other drivers are trying now to do those. I really feel I’ve set the benchmark for the more modern drivers in that way.

BS: I 100% agree, it does seem the whole of F1 has gotten more aggressive, and that’s probably started with you.
DR: I think like the long lunges and that, before 2014, honestly I couldn’t tell you when I saw a driver make a massive long lunge, go from far back and pull it off. Sure, there’s some drivers who are not afraid to bang wheels, you know Seb and Alonso had their battles in Monza a few years ago and all that, so it’s not like drivers used to be afraid, but as far as committing from a long way back, I couldn’t recall anyone doing that.

It was at this point I got told to wrap it up

BS: I’ll finish with the toughest question of all.
DR: I fear this is gonna be the easiest question.

BS: It might be tough, depends – test your knowledge, maybe.
DR: Alright.

BS: If you had to compare yourself to one MMA fighter, who would you pick?
DR: Ooooh!

BS: Tough?
DR: Yeah it is tough! There’s a few I’ve liked along the way for sure. Cub Swanson was one of the first ones I really liked, him and Carlos Condit are probably two of my original favourites. I like them. I think they approach the fight in a way which is… they’re never conservative, they’re the of kind of mentality that even if they lose, they’re not leaving like ‘ah, I didn’t try hard enough’. They’re always leaving with their head held high because they put it all on the line and they use everything in their arsenal to try and get the win – ‘till the final bell if it goes the distance. That kind of mentality, that kind of conviction, and I feel they’re really humble as well is nice. They’ve got a lot of tricks in their bag and, I don’t know, I feel like I’m similar to that. Yeah, I’ll take those two!

BS: Good choices I reckon.
DR: You a fan?

BS: Yeah I’m a fan in general – boxing, MMA…
DR: This weekend should be big for boxing. (Referring to the Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez v Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin fight) 

BS: Who’re you picking?
DR: I’ll be honest, I don’t know boxing as well as I know MMA so I couldn’t give you a real-

BS: (Whispers ‘GGG’)
DR: Yeah, if I was gonna guess, definitely say from what I’ve seen I would go GGG. Who’s the favourite, is there a favourite?

BS: It started out GGG, it’s come back, I think it’s now Canelo (note: this is false, Golovkin still holds a slim edge)
DR: It’s close I guess.

BS: It was their last fight that swayed it, because GGG had a lot of problems with Danny Jacobs, and Canelo rolled over Chavez, Jr. so that made the difference.
DR: Ok.

BS: I think GGG’s probably gonna get the knockout. I don’t think Canelo’s faced power like him before, so…
DR: I’m excited to see it, for sure. Alright, cool. I could talk fighting for a long time.

(Time to go)

BS: Well we’ll do that another time then, I’ll get you talking just straight fighting.
DR: Awesome. They’re talking maybe the UFC’s gonna get to Perth in February.

BS: You’ll be there for that.
DR: Yeah I’m normally in Europe in February but I might have to come back.

BS: Testing can wait. Pshht.
DR: Yeah, I would like to avoid testing if could!

BS: Well there you go, a perfectly legitimate excuse!
DR: [laughs]

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PALMER: I’VE GOT SEVEN MORE RACES THIS YEAR WITH RENAULT

Jolyon Palmer

Jolyon Palmer has denied speculation that he risks losing his Renault race seat as from next month’s Malaysian Grand Prix, saying on Thursday that he will see out the remainder of the season.

Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz is expected to replace the Briton at Renault next year as part of a complex deal that will see the French manufacturer switch its supply of engines from the Red Bull-owned team to McLaren.

Toro Rosso will partner with Honda instead, according to multiple informed sources, in a swap set to be announced on Friday in between practice sessions at the Singapore Grand Prix.

Sainz, a Red Bull contracted driver, is seen moving to Renault on loan for next season but some media reports have raised the prospect of the Spaniard replacing Palmer before then.

“I have a contract, I’ve got seven more races this year,” Palmer, who has yet to score a point this season, told reporters. ”I’ll be in Malaysia, I’ll be racing until Abu Dhabi.”

“There’s been suggestions for, I think, 35 races that I might not be in the next one or the next few. This is nothing new for me.”

Palmer’s German team-mate Nico Hulkenberg has scored all of Renault’s 34 points.

The Briton, who has finished in the points on only one occasion since making his Formula One debut last year, has been let down by poor reliability though, He has failed to finish four times this year and did not even make the start for his home British Grand Prix.

“I think there have been a few places, Silverstone, for example, I didn’t even start the race and that was quite a strong race for us,” the 26-year-old said.

”Baku, I think 11 cars finished, I think a Sauber got the points and we broke down after, again, five or six laps. So definitely it’s not been ideal to have that level of reliability problems.”

As for next season, Palmer said he was aware of what was happening and was excited about what the future held.

Sainz, however, kept his cards close to his chest and told reporters, “I‘m sorry if you’re coming here for some headlines or anything, but you’re probably not going to get them.”

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VETTEL: IT WILL BE CLOSE IN SINGAPORE

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel is expecting a close fight with Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes at the Singapore Grand Prix, despite his peerless record and Ferrari’s supposed superiority at the night race.

Vettel has won four of the nine Singapore races so far, but he dismissed expectations that Ferrari will have the edge over Mercedes at the corner-heavy Marina Bay street circuit.

Vettel trails Hamilton by just three points in the standings, but the Mercedes driver has won three of the last four grands prix – including his crushing victory two weeks ago in Italy.

“In theory it should be a bit better here than Monza but I think it will be close,” Vettel told reporters. “We’ve seen that it’s very close no matter where we go tracks that definitely suit Mercedes or definitely suit Ferrari.”

A Mercedes win would be considered an upset in Singapore, whose 23 corners and lack of long straights tend to play to Ferrari’s strengths.

But Vettel said there had been little between Ferrari and Mercedes on tracks of all different types this year.

Asked whether victory on Sunday was vital for his season, Vettel said: “I think it’s more important to have the lead after Sunday night in Abu Dhabi.

“Whatever happens on the way, happens. The target is clear. We have a lot of races, a lot of time to get points, and then we see the count at the end.”

As well as his wins in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2015 in Singapore, Vettel drove brilliantly from the back of the grid last year to finish fifth.

But the four-time world champion said: “It’s a big challenge. It’s the longest race of the season in terms of duration. It’s the toughest one in my opinion for focus and stress.

“It’s the sort of race you look forward to the whole season but you don’t really want to start, because you know how difficult it is.”

Hamilton’s phenomenal form in qualifying, with eight pole positions this year, gives Mercedes a good chance. The pole-sitter has won seven of the nine Singapore races so far.

“If we can get the car in a place we’re comfortable in, then I think we’ll definitely be strong,” said the Briton.

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RED BULL BIG WINNERS IN MCLAREN SAGA

479868441KR00115_F1_Grand_P.jpg

All that remains is the official announcement that McLaren have ditched Honda power to take on Renault engines, which will trigger Toro Rosso’s announcement that they will be powered by the Japanese giant.

The worst kept secret in Formula 1 – McLaren to be powered by Renault – is on the verge of becoming reality whereupon a domino effect of changes will take place.

I have written before that McLaren parting ways with Honda is dubious move. In a nutshell they have sacrificed works power and a serious wad of cash to become a customer team.

Clearly the Honda debacle, which they have endured for three morbid years, is no longer tenable for the team’s management, staff at Woking, their star driver Fernando Alonso, their sponsors and of course their fans. So for the next three years it is Renault that will be bolted on to the back of McLaren F1 cars at a price.

For all this to happen Red Bull had to accept Honda power for Toro Rosso, while the senior team remains powered TAG Heuer badged Renault power units.

The question is: Why have Red Bull agreed to have Toro Rosso use the unreliable and under-powered Honda power units? 

It is no secret that Toro Rosso is ‘up for sale’ to the right buyer. But now with Honda paying a fair chunk into the team’s budget for the next few years the urgency to sell the outfit is not as pressing as before.

Red Bull inadvertently or by design are big winners in the outcome of this saga, for now they have their A-Team using bought for Renault engines while the B-Team have a works deal, albeit with a sub-standard engine at their disposal.

As woeful as the Honda has been, there have been flashes of hope. In 2016 Honda did make substantial progress with their engine. The Woking squad finishing sixth in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship – well ahead of Renault.

But the rot set in this year when Honda took a huge gamble by introducing an entirely new power unit design and build concept which on the dyno and on paper looked good. But when it ran on track it was very bad. Vibrations, over-heating and a myriad of constant problems turned the project into the sad laughing stock of the Formula 1 world.

At the same time there have been occasional glimpses of light at the end of the tunnel, but that tunnel is still a dark place for them. But having said that, if there is an organisation on the grid that do have the resources to turn things around it is Honda.

They have lost face big time, and in Japan this does not go down well at all. The fiasco has been a huge embarrassment for the corporation as an entity. Formula 1 is high profile, and their failings are well reported across the globe.

Manufacturers are involved in Formula 1 to sell more cars. The brand has taken a huge knock in terms of credibility, although I doubt that it will have major impact on overall sales of their vehicles to the layman. But the message is clear: Honda is not as good as a Ferrari obviously, Mercedes is better and now Renault are better too. But worse: Honda are slow and break down often. Not cool for the image.

One can expect that the determination to turn things around will be paramount for Honda and everyone involved in the project. Now that they remain committed to Formula 1 to save face – very important in their culture – is paramount. I predict all resources will be augmented and huge effort ploughed into the project. In other words they HAVE to make it work no matter what.

This is where it gets juicy for Toro Rosso and their owners Red Bull.

The facts are that Renault have hardly been a model of reliability this year. There have been numerous failures and problems that have afflicted all the Renault powered teams, and when they are going it is not as if they are anywhere near Mercedes and Ferrari in terms of horsepower and drivability.

The Renault factory team are anything up to two seconds down on the top times during qualifying, and lagging behind by about a second or a second and a half in race mode. Red Bull, thanks to a clever chassis although not their best, are a half a second or more adrift of the benchmark lap times, depending on the tracks.

In other words, Toro Rosso are taking a risk by crossing over to the ‘dark side’ but it is a risk worth taking. There is no guarantee that Renault will be any better (relative to Mercedes and Ferrari) next year. For sure Honda will improve because they can hardly get any worse.

As Toro Rosso struggle (or not) with Honda, Red Bull team will have the ‘comfort’ of Renault power. So what is there for the energy drinks organisation to lose? Nothing really, but may have a great deal to gain.

Should Honda get their sums right and somehow find some pixie dust to make their power units more reliable and faster, which could happen when you are shoveling money at something, then the Red Bull brigade will be smiling.

It is no secret that Red Bull and Renault escaped a messy divorce not long ago, but are still together for the ‘sake of the kids’ despite the fizz being long gone.

Red Bull are looking around because they know that big success in F1 comes with a works engine partner who will focus on them exclusively – as Renault did during the four glory years they enjoyed together at the start of this decade – thus Porsche and Audi have inevitably been linked with the team.

However, if Honda get their act together they will have access to a works power unit in their own back yard which no doubt the Japanese will gladly supply them with. This will allow Red Bull to divorce Renault once and for all.

Of course the big IF is whether Honda do get it right at some point before they walk away from Formula 1 resigned and perhaps disgusted in their failure. There is only so much embarrassment and heckling that can be absorbed before an actor walks off stage.

Back to that question: Why did Red Bull do this? To sum up, there is a substantial amount of cash coming their way and the slight chance that Honda will become a power again in Formula 1.

There are only three more years remaining in this stupidly expensive and implausible F1 engine era. What comes next, for 2021 and beyond, is expected to be a more affordable power unit solution, massive cost reduction and most likely a host of new engine builders.

Meanwhile Red Bull’s involvement beyond 2020 is subject to speculation with some predicting that Dietrich Mateschitz has had his fill of Formula 1, will pack his toys into a box and go find someone else to play with.

Until that happens Red Bull have hedged their bets wisely. Somehow they have turned McLaren’s misery into a situation where they have little to lose but a great deal to gain. Time will tell how this pans out…

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MIKA27   

PEREZ: I´M REALLY CLOSE TO SIGNING THE CONTRACT…

Sergio Perez

Sergio Perez expects to have his Formula 1  future decided before next month´s Malaysian Grand Prix and said on ahead of the race weekend in Singapore that he is currently weighing up two options.

Mexico’s Perez is currently in his fourth season with Force India. The Silverstone-based team, who finished an impressive fourth in the constructor standings last year, have said they want him to stay.

“Two options, to be quite frank, but I don´t want to comment too much on those,” the Force India driver told reporters ahead of this weekend´s Singapore night race. “I´m really close to signing the contract…”

“I think Force India is a team that is definitely capable of giving you a car to show your talent and that´s very important,” added the 27-year-old. “Let´s see what happens but, I definitely feel that it´s a great place for me.”

Perez has also been linked to with a move to Williams as a replacement for Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa, who had been due to retire last season.

Fernando Alonso, who has also been linked to Williams in media reports, is expected to extend his three-year spell at McLaren with the team set to swap their Honda engines for Renault.

If Perez were to move on, it would open up an opportunity at Mercedes-powered Force India for Pascal Wehrlein.

The 22-year-old, who is backed by Mercedes, is expected to lose his seat at Ferrari-powered Sauber to Formula Two championship leader Charles Leclerc at the end of the year.

The top three teams – Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull – have finalised their lineups for next season, with Mercedes announcing a one-year extension to Valtteri Bottas’s contract on Wednesday.

When asked whether negotiations elsewhere had any bearing on his future, Perez, who has scored seven career podiums, said: “No, not really. I was quite clear in my mind what I wanted to do. So, it didn´t change anything.”

Perez’s contract negotiations are complicated by the commercial deals his Mexican sponsors have to strike as part of any agreement for him to drive.

His Force India deal for this season was announced in Malaysia last year.

“That was the case last year. I think it will be earlier than that,” he said. “Now it´s more straightforward.”

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MIKA27   

CAREY: HONDA SEEM COMMITTED TO THE FUTURE

Chase Carey

Three years down the road, since their return to Formula 1, Honda are amid a well documented bad spell which has led to fears that the Japanese giant will pull the plug and depart, but the sport’s chief Chase Carey is confident that this is not the case.

Speaking at the All That Matters conference ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, Carey said, “Honda is a very important partner. I’ve had meetings with Honda executives around Monza. They seemed excited about where we’re going with the sport.”

He spoke as a major announcement looms, whereby McLaren and Honda will confirm that they are parting ways after three fruitless and frustrating years.

This is likely to trigger another announcement, namely that Honda will power Red Bull owned Toro Rosso from 2018 and beyond. But there has been speculation that the Japanese auto giant may quit F1.

Carey believes that the latter is not the case, “I’m not going to speak for Honda. All I can say is, for us they seem committed to the future, seem excited by the future, seem excited about where we’re going with the sport.”

The balance between technology and entertainment has been a key concern as the sport heads to the future with Liberty Media as the new owners.

The current engine formula, admittedly ingenious works of engineering, has failed in terms of being cost effective and as a result only two or three teams have any hope of winning, while the ‘wow factor’ of noise and other elements has done little to inspire fans.

Carey acknowledged, “Technology is an important part of it but you don’t want it to be a sport about engineering first and foremost. You want it to be a sport about drivers and great competition that utilises state-of-the-art competition.”

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