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MANOR: A VERY POSITIVE OUTCOME

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The Manor Marussia F1 Team notched up its ninth two-car finish today and its second best combined race result of the season in the 2015 Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.
Alexander Rossi, making his F1 debut, ended the gruelling night race at the Marina Bay Street Circuit in 14th position, while his team-mate Will Stevens crossed the line in 15th place.
Alexander’s confidence has been steadily building since he took to the Singapore streets for the first time in Friday’s opening free practice session, notwithstanding the fact that this track provides one of the most challenging initiations for any newcomer.
The unforgiving nature of the tight and twisty circuit, coupled with high temperatures and fierce humidity, are usually more than enough for any driver, but Alex also had to contend with running the latter half of the race without radio communications to the team, which effectively meant that he was racing blind.
It was a small error from lead qualifier Will Stevens that lost him track position on the first lap, and he was unable to recover the place.
He pushed hard to take advantage of the opportunities created by two safety car periods, but this only served to penalise him with severe rear tyre degradation in the final stint.
John Booth, Team Principal: “I’d like to start by congratulating the whole team on an incredible job here in Singapore this week, culminating in our second best combined race result and our ninth two-car finish of the season. This is not an easy environment for any team member to operate in, and that’s before we add a new driver into the mix. Our trackside operation this week has been incredibly slick and particularly creditworthy were the substantial repairs required on both cars in the field on Friday; cars which, today, enabled both drivers to take the chequered flag. As we saw, this was not the case with some teams further up the field. The drivers did an excellent job in what was a tough race, Alexander coping admirably with the pressure of his F1 debut. He delivered a solid and confident performance, whilst also having to contend with having no radio communications in the second half of the race, which was tricky because of the instructions we needed to give him during the second Safety Car period. Will also did a good job, but was battling rear tyre degradation for the final stint and did well to finish the race on that set. All in all, a very positive outcome at the first of the fly-away races.”
Will Stevens: “Overall, it hasn’t been a good weekend for me. Today I actually had my best race start of the season, but unfortunately I made a mistake on the first lap, which cost me position. The safety car helped out, and I tried my best whenever I was close enough, but there was too much tyre degradation on the rears towards the end. It’s a big shame, because I’ve really enjoyed racing on the streets here, but sometimes things just don’t go your way. Hopefully the next time out at Suzuka will be a more typical race for me.”
Alexander Rossi: “My Formula 1 debut has been a long time coming, but today has been pretty special. All the hard work to get here finally paid off and it was a fantastic feeling to be racing on the streets of Singapore in my first ever Grand Prix. It wasn’t the most straightforward of races; I didn’t get the best of starts, and as the procedure is quite new to me, it’s something I’ll need to work on. I recovered quite well though and managed to get a good run into Turn 5, where I was able to get past my team-mate. Everything was going well until around the midpoint of the race, when I lost radio communications. This was particularly challenging because of the second Safety Car period and I wasn’t able to receive instructions from the team about when to unlap myself. Despite that, I think we managed everything well and I’m very appreciative of all the effort put in by the team to make my Grand Prix debut a successful one.”
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Another season ahead, will it be better than the last? I'm certainly hoping there will be less politics involved but that's just wishful thinking! Perhaps I will post less on such issues moving forwa

Bernie's really damaging the sport. He's so far behind the times it's impossible to listen to anything he has to say. Just looking at the way other sports leagues have grown over the past 20 years com

I disagree Massa only had one line to of the pits Hulkenburg saw him and could have avoided the contact and still passed Massa as he was on cold tyres. Good race though

Grosjean likely to confirm Haas move next week

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Romain Grosjean will exit the Lotus F1 Team and join newcomer Haas next season, with an announcement from the Frenchman due next week at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Lotus confirmed on the Sunday of the Singapore GP that they would retain Pastor Maldonado, who comes with £20 million in backing from sponsor PDVSA, but failed to mention who his team-mate would be.
It's now understood that Grosjean won't be retained, despite a potential takeover by France's Renault - a deal which has been agreed but not signed off due to ongoing talks with Bernie Ecclestone and CVC over historical payments.
Many expected that Renault would look to retain Grosjean as part of its takeover deal, but Renault Sport F1 managing director Cyril Abiteboul recently admitted to Canal+ that the Frenchman isn't part of their plans.
In fact, it's believed that another Frenchman, current Ferrari reserve Jean-Eric Vergne, will take up the second seat at Lotus (or Renault as it's likely to be known).
Grosjean said this weekend that he had made a decision regarding his future, but refused to reveal any further details.
It's thought that Grosjean will partner Esteban Gutierrez at Haas in 2016.
Ferrari were keen to secure seats for both Gutierrez and Vergne and with the latter speculated to be joining Lotus, Gutierrez is therefore favourite to take up a role at Haas.
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Manor's Alexander Rossi 14th on debut without race radio

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American driver Alexander Rossi managed to beat Manor team-mate Will Stevens on his F1 debut despite not having radio communications for half of the Singapore Grand Prix.
Rossi replaced Roberto Merhi ahead of this weekend and crashed during his first practice session on Friday, before being out-qualified by Stevens on Saturday.
However he got ahead of Stevens early in the race and turned in an impressive performance to finish 14th.
It later emerged Rossi had completed half the race without any communication to his pit wall, something he said was difficult to manage at the twisty Marina Bay street circuit.
"[it was] half way through, which made my life difficult," Rossi said about the loss of radio. "But fortunately we were able to relay a lot of information via the pit board, which resolved any potential issues and we were able to manage it quite well."
The loss of radio explains why the American driver had been between Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen before the second safety car restart despite being a lap down.
Rossi should have been released to catch the pack and admits he needs to brush up on his knowledge of safety car regulations.
"I didn't find it that weird, what was happening. Apparently everyone else did so I'll have to look into that and understand what the exact regulation is because I thought the green light would go on for the safety car. But at the end I think we were able to manage letting the leaders by quite well, so at the end of the day it worked out just fine."
After his tough start in FP1, Rossi says he was relieved to turn in a good performance.
"It was good. At the end it was a good result for the team - our main objective was to bring the car home in one piece and get a decent result out of it at the same time, I think everyone can be quite happy with that.
"This is the hardest track to debut on and we got through it relatively unscathed. I'm just pleased the team managed to bounce back from what was a difficult Friday."
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VERSTAPPEN: THERE WAS NO REASON TO SWITCH POSITIONS

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Dutch teenager Max Verstappen said he had the support of Toro Rosso bosses after ignoring team orders to claim a stunning eighth place finish at the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday despite stalling at the start.
The 17-year-old had qualified in eighth but quickly fell a lap down after his car faltered, but the rookie stormed back to eighth with five laps remaining only for team officials to ask the youngster to allow Carlos Sainz through.
Vertsappen refused and led his Spanish team mate over the line to take the eight points and move on to 30 and 11th place in the drivers standings, 19 points ahead of Sainz.
“If you are one lap down and you manage to be back in the points as the leading Toro Rosso, for me there was no reason to switch positions,” Verstappen told reporters.
“After the second time I think I made it quite clear I didn’t want to do it. At the end it was the right decision. No debrief yet but I have spoken to the team and they said good decision.”
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Verstappen received a warm embrace from Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost after speaking with reporters, backing up claims all was well in the camp, and joked his father Jos, a former Formula One driver, had said he would have kicked his son had he let Sainz through.
The rookie was more coy on relations with Sainz, however, adding he did not think the Spaniard was angry with him.
Sainz earlier said he felt he should have been given the chance to pass and push the Force India of Sergio Perez for seventh place.
“This year I have let him by three or four times. He was told to let me by four times and didn’t. It’s a bit of a pain,” he told the BBC.
Verstappen said his team mate was not quick enough to pass the Mexican, “Both of us we couldn’t get past. The (Force India) speed was unbelievable. If you are on different strategies it is quite clear, let him go, but we are on the same strategy.”
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The incident threatened to overshadow a super debut display by the sport’s youngest ever driver under the floodlights on the notoriously tight 23-turn Marina Bay Street Circuit.
The Dutchman said the anger of the early stall helped him as he stormed through the field, aided by two safety car stops, to finish in the points.
“One lap behind but from there on I didn’t give up, I was very angry of course and I think at the beginning of the race the pace was amazing,” he said.
“I was flying, the car was really good. That is what I needed. It was very enjoyable, the cars in front of me, passing them on very tricky corners, so yeah great race, a lot of fun.”
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HULKENBERG PAYS PENALTY FOR SINGAPORE COLLISION

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Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg had a Singapore Grand Prix to forget on Sunday when the German crashed out after 12 laps following a collision with Felipe Massa’s Williams and was immediately given a grid penalty for the next race.
Hulkenberg started in 11th place and had made his first pit stop at the Marina Bay Street Circuit but was broadsided by the Brazilian, who was exiting the pitlane at high speed after making his first tyre change.
The German’s car was briefly airborne before it slammed into the barriers at Turn Three while Massa was able to continue despite suffering damage to his bodywork and front wing but was later forced to retire on the 31st lap.
“I saw him coming out of the pitlane but afterwards I knew I was in front. And then I got hit in the back,” Hulkenberg told reporters.
Hulkenberg, 11th in the standings on 30 points going into the race, was unable to continue and stewards investigated the incident as the German made his way back to the paddock on foot.
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He was deemed to be at fault for the collision with stewards saying he “should have left Massa racing room” and given a three-grid-position penalty for next week’s Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka.
“I was on the racing line ahead going into Turn Three and he’s (Massa) coming out of the pits and touches me on the back,” Hulkenberg said, explaining how he saw the incident.
“A bit strange also and I don’t understand why the penalty’s given right away and why they didn’t listen to what the different views were. I’ll go back and speak to the team.”
Massa, for his part, felt the penalty was justified, “Well, I think honestly the penalty is correct,” the Brazilian said. “I was inside. He just turned the car over my car… I couldn’t do anything. For sure, what he did was not correct.”
MIKA: Silly penalty IMO, Hulkenberg had right of way, don't know why Massa got away with that when Hulkenberg had the line.

I disagree Massa only had one line to of the pits Hulkenburg saw him and could have avoided the contact and still passed Massa as he was on cold tyres. Good race though

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Good to see Rossi bring car home in one piece w no radio.....USA!

Ferarri, Ferrari, Ferrari!.....so happy for them

There are team orders sometimes but glad to see Max stick to his guns after crappy start, I agree w his decision, if his teammate was quicker that would be one thing but good for you Max.....that kid is the real deal

Frenchie to Haas.....that would be a great catch for Haas

Qualifying was very exciting this race IMHO

Mercedes is human after all we learned

Enjoyable race overall for me

Bart

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BUTTON EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE END OF F1 CAREER IN JAPAN

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Jenson Button is preparing to announce his decision to end his sixteen-year Formula 1 career, according to multiple reports in the UK media that have emerged at the start of this week.
With McLaren’s contract option on the British driver for 2016 set to expire at the end of September, and the parties rumoured to have been bickering over a scheduled pay increase, 35-year-old Button is said to have decided to take the decision into his own hands.
He has resolved to “bow out on his terms after another season in an uncompetitive car”, said Daniel Johnson, correspondent for the Telegraph.
The reports said Button, the 2009 world champion has selected this weekend’s Japanese grand prix as the scene of his announcement due to his affinity for the country.
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Writing in the Times, Kevin Eason said McLaren supremo Ron Dennis wanted Button to stay beyond 2016 but has “accepted his driver’s decision”.
It is almost certain that Button will be replaced by either McLaren reserve Kevin Magnussen, or fellow team junior Stoffel Vandoorne, who is dominating the GP2 championship.
Button, a 15-time grand prix winner, has been linked with a move to Le Mans endurance racing as well as television broadcasting, such as F1 commentary or presenting on the BBC programme Top Gear.
He made his Formula 1 debut at the 2000 Australian Grand Prix with Williams-BMW and has gone on to start 278 races, and also drove for Benetton, Renault, BAR, Honda, Brawn GP and now McLaren.
MIKA: This if true, is really sad news. Jensen has another couple years in him, shame about his luck with cars but he is a World Champion.
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AUDI HEADING TO FORMULA 1 WITH RED BULL

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Audi’s Ingolstadt board has given the green light to enter Formula 1, the German publication Bild claimed in an exclusive report.
Actually, the latest rumours about the Volkswagen Group putting together a F1 foray for one of its brands was broken at the weekend by Eddie Jordan, the former F1 team owner who as British television pundit now regularly breaks major stories.
“Sometimes Eddie is wrong,” suggested Red Bull team boss Christian Horner, according to Auto Motor und Sport.
Horner had been asked about Jordan’s prediction because Red Bull is currently without an engine supplier for the future, having split behind the scenes with Renault.
Auto Bild claims that, minus “only a few signatures”, the Audi board has made the decision to enter F1 in 2018, collaborating with Red Bull as sponsor and pulling out of Le Mans and DTM.
“For me, nothing has changed,” Audi’s racing chief Dr Wolfgang Ullrich is quoted as saying.
The latest news follows hot on the heels of Red Bull’s renewed threat to quit F1, insisting that with Mercedes not willing and Ferrari not yet agreeing to supply an engine, it could be left without horse power.
Horner said: “The fact that we currently have only two strong engine manufacturers is unhealthy for formula one. With the V8s, we had three or four engines that were able to win.
“It is important for F1 that there are several competitive engine suppliers.”
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HAMILTON: WE WILL HIT BACK STRONGLY IN SUZUKA

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Formula 1 championship leader Lewis Hamilton promised to come out fighting at this week’s Japanese Grand Prix after a freak technical mishap in Singapore opened the door to his rivals.
The Mercedes driver failed to finish a race for the first time in more than a year after a simple metal clamp came loose in his engine, leading to a sudden loss of power.
Nico Rosberg finished fourth to lie 41 points behind Hamilton in the standings, while Sebastian Vettel won the race to move within eight of the second Mercedes driver.
It capped a woeful weekend for Hamilton, who earlier failed to earn a record-equalling eighth straight pole position and was seeking his eighth win of the year.
While he still enjoys a healthy lead in the standings, any more gremlins in the remaining six races could bring Rosberg and Vettel right back into the title race.
But the 30-year-old Briton said he had been driving well until the technical failure, and vowed to resume his hot run of form when he arrives at Japan’s Suzuka circuit.
“It’s still a long way to go and I know I lost some points today, but I was fast and on form and I will make sure I bring that out to Suzuka to fight back,” Hamilton said.
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He added: “The race was going very well. For me it felt like I was driving at my best in the race. I think I had the pace to win. I did everything.”
Team principal Toto Wolff called it a “character-building” weekend after Vettel earlier loosened Mercedes’ 23-race hold on pole position, demonstrating their lack of pace.
The slow corners and short straights of Singapore do not play to the strengths of the Mercedes engine, but Wolff said the race was a warning-shot to his team.
“There were times in the race when the pace looked okay but the guys in front were managing their tyres, too, so we must be realistic about our level of performance at this circuit,” he said.
“Now we need to analyse everything precisely, understand the wrong turn that we took this weekend to learn the right lessons – and then close this chapter.
“One bad weekend doesn’t overshadow our achievements so far this year but we know that there is no room for complacency after a weekend like this. We will aim to hit back strongly next weekend in Suzuka.”
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WOLFF: WE CANNOT WRITE IT OFF AS A ONE-OFF

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All eyes are on Mercedes as the team otherwise dominant in the V6 turbo power unit era suffered a mysterious loss of form in Singapore.
One might be forgiven for thinking Fernando Alonso would recoil at his old team Ferrari’s third win of the season on Sunday.
But the McLaren-Honda driver told RAI: “It’s nice to see people other than Mercedes on the podium. We will have to take a picture and put it on the wall as they have dominated for two years. I’m happy for my friends at Ferrari and I hope it continues.”
Much more than happy, meanwhile, is Ferrari’s team boss Maurizio Arrivabene, who according to some promised before the start of the season to walk barefoot up the hills near Maranello if a red car wins three times in 2015.
“Actually I said four wins,” he grinned, “which is why I want us now to have five wins!”
Ferrari took an undoubted step forward recently with the introduction of another engine specification, but also clearly faster in Singapore was Red Bull.
“It is difficult to understand what happened with Mercedes here,” said Red Bull’s Christian Horner.
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“I think if it’s the same in Japan next weekend, then Ferrari even has a chance at the world championship. But we could get to Suzuka and it’s business as usual,” he added.
Mercedes will certainly be hoping so.
“I don’t think we could have lost so much in our car in such a short space of time between the last race (at Monza) and here,” boss Toto Wolff said before leaving Singapore, but he also admitted that the problem in Singapore remains a mystery for now.
“We cannot write it off as a one-off,” said Wolff. “We need to analyse the situation and find the cause.”
“I would like to go to Suzuka without this headache, then we would only have to worry about a possible typhoon,” he half-smiled.
Wolff said early analysis shows that Pirelli’s new tyre pressure rules played “no role” in what happened at Suzuka, and eased his pessimism with comfort in Mercedes’ record of utter domination to date.
“The car has not lost its aerodynamic qualities overnight,” he said. “The engine is not suddenly no longer a good engine.”
Even Ferrari’s Arrivabene knows that, as he was asked if Singapore signalled the potential start of a ‘new era’ for F1, “Honestly, I don’t care about a new era. I care about winning.”
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HORNER: MAX IS DOING A GREAT JOB

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Sensational teenage rookie Max Verstappen may be about to leap into contention for a meteoric promotion to Red Bull Racing.
Hot on the heels of his good showings debut and recent reports linking him with Ferrari, the latest gossip is that the talented Dutchman is now shaping up for a move from Red Bull’s junior team Toro Rosso.
Interestingly, Red Bull has left the door on its 2016 lineup slightly ajar, indicating that Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat are staying but not actually announcing the news officially for now.
“Ricciardo,” said team boss Horner, “is on a long-term contract as is Dany Kvyat, who obviously, from our perspective, has options that we have to exercise at certain points in time.”
Verstappen, meanwhile, catapulted straight from F3 to F1 last winter and, in Singapore, continued to astound with his fighting drive from the back and controversial defiance of team orders.
Horner admitted the young Dutchman, to finally turn 18 next week, is on Red Bull’s radar.
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“It shows that investing in youth works,” he told the Guardian. “We have demonstrated it with Sebastian, Daniel Ricciardo, Daniil Kvyat and these two youngsters (Verstappen and Toro Rosso teammate Carlos Sainz).”
As for meteoric Verstappen, Horner said: “Max is doing a great job and he is probably going to give us a headache in a season or two. It is a great problem to have and the driver quality we possess within our group is fantastic.”
Horner said recently at Monza, however, that Red Bull would think hard before changing its current driver lineup, particularly as Ricciardo and Kvyat are performing well.
“Well, changing drivers in any team is quite a big thing,” he insisted. “The drivers are pretty fundamental components and I think that if ever you’re going to change, you want to change for the better.”
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TORO ROSSO WANTS ENGINE UNCERTAINTY TO END

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Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost says he wants a quick decision to be taken about the identity of their engine supplier beyond 2015.
Although Red Bull chiefs have insisted the senior team can afford a longer delay, Tost says the situation is slightly different for Faenza based Toro Rosso.
It is believed that, at least behind the scenes, Red Bull and Renault have agreed to definitely part ways at the end of the season.
However, Mercedes is refusing to be Red Bull’s alternative supplier and Honda is not yet offering deals for customers, meaning the only options left are Ferrari power or to quit F1.
“We have had good talks with Renault and the results are likely to be clear to everyone,” said Red Bull Racing team principal Christian Horner.
“There is a good dialogue now with Ferrari but the ball is in their court. We are waiting for an answer. If we do not have an engine, we cannot race, that is obvious,” the Briton added.
It is believed that, facing the very real prospect of Red Bull and Toro Rosso being left without engines, Bernie Ecclestone is now stepping in.
The feeling in the paddock is that, while Red Bull has made threats before, this one is genuinely serious.
“Red Bull leaving would be critical to the entire sport,” Mercedes’ team chairman and F1 legend Niki Lauda admitted.
Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo, however, said in Singapore: “I’m not worried yet. I think we’ve still got time. I think if we’re in this position in December, then maybe I’m a bit worried. Maybe then I’m facing a year of getting paid to do nothing.”
Slightly more worried, however, is Tost, boss of the similarly Red Bull-owned secondary team Toro Rosso.
“We are a smaller team,” he told the Austrian broadcaster ORF. “We have only half the people that the other team has. We have to start in early October with the design of the car, otherwise it will not be ready in time.”
“It is important,” added Tost, “that we know what power unit we are using, because each manufacturer has different dimensions and we know that in formula one, every millimetre counts.”
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VERGNE AND OCON LINKED WITH RENAULT SEAT

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The candidates are already beginning to shape up to join Pastor Maldonado at the new works Renault team next year.
Even though the French carmaker’s buyout of the Enstone team is not yet formalised, it is strongly believed that a deal is now done.
So after the Singapore grand prix, although still known as Lotus for now, it was announced that Pastor Maldonado is staying put at Enstone for 2016.
Current team owner Gerard Lopez said: “We hope to be able to make further positive announcements regarding the team in the near future.”
One of them, however, will apparently not be a new deal for Romain Grosjean, even though the Frenchman was earlier barracking for the Renault buyout.
It is believed Grosjean ultimately lost patience with the perilous waiting-game at Enstone – with lawyers once again set to stave off administration in a week – and accepted an offer from Haas-Ferrari.
Cyril Abouteboul, a Renault official, said that is “a shame”.
“Perhaps it was just a matter of timing, as is often the case,” he told the French broadcaster Canal Plus. “Romain is a great driver and he deserves a great team.”
The 2016 seat alongside Venezuelan Maldonado, therefore, is theoretically free, and the Swiss newspaper Blick said an early favourite is Frenchman Jean-Eric Vergne, who is currently a Ferrari test and Formula E driver.
Auto Motor und Sport agreed that Renault will want a French driver at the wheel, and claimed that Renault ambassador and F1 legend Alain Prost rates Vergne highly. But also mentioned was the talented GP3 driver Esteban Ocon.
The 19-year-old is part of Mercedes’ development programme, and it is believed the German marque and Renault could begin to collaborate next year.
El Mundo Deportivo, for instance, claims that Mercedes could continue provide parts of its hybrid system to Renault for its works team beginning in 2016.
That would reportedly allow Lotus to more seamlessly switch to works Renault power, even though next year’s machine has been designed around the current Mercedes infrastructure.
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Manor braced for emotional Suzuka amid Jules Bianchi memories

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Manor returns to the scene of Jules Bianchi's life-ending crash at this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix expecting one of the most emotionally difficult races of its time in Formula 1.
Bianchi was involved in a horrific accident during the 2014 Suzuka F1 race on October 5 last year, when driving for the then-Marussia team, and died on July 17 after a nine-month fight for survival.
Almost a year on from the incident, the thoughts of everyone connected with F1 - and particularly all involved with Manor - will again turn to Bianchi.
Speaking to AUTOSPORT, sporting director Graeme Lowdon said: "Jules is never far away from our thoughts.
"We're now going to Japan, and we have to go there as a team and conduct our business in a professional way, and we have to be strong.
"A lot of the guys currently in our team were there last year, so we know it's going to be difficult, but equally we know Jules was a racer and would want to see the team focus on the job of racing.
"But I'd be lying if I said there won't be difficult moments because there definitely will be, no two ways about it."
The team has yet to decide on how best to honour Bianchi's memory.
Through the Monaco Grand Prix weekend every team member wore a red wristband that carried the words 'MONACO 2014. P8. #JB17'.
That was in recognition of Bianchi securing the team's first, and still only, points finish in F1 in Monte Carlo last year.
Lowdon, who wears the wristband every day as a reminder, added: "Monaco was obviously difficult, but this [weekend] will be even more so. At least with Monaco we had so many happy memories.
"Monaco, though, turned out to be very emotional, more so than I perhaps realised.
"I'd been to visit Jules a week or so beforehand, and going to Monaco I'd had positive thoughts positioned in my mind.
"I'd been in to see him, talk to him, told him we were going back, and I thought Monaco would be poignant, but not too difficult.
"In the end I found it incredibly difficult, and that was a race where we had all the good memories.
"But equally what I learned from that is that you don't really know how you are going to feel until you are there, and it will be that way for this weekend."
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Williams F1 team makes breakthrough on low-speed circuits

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The pace Williams showed in the Singapore Grand Prix proves it has made a breakthrough on low-speed Formula 1 circuits, says its performance chief Rob Smedley.
Valtteri Bottas finished fifth while Felipe Massa was on course for points before picking up a puncture from a collision with Force India's Nico Hulkenberg and later retiring with a gearbox problem.
Williams has suffered a tendency to understeer heavily at low speed and as a result it struggled in Monaco and Hungary earlier this season.
But Smedley said that having worked hard since Monaco to find solutions, the team has recently arrived at conclusions of that work.
"We have made great inroads over this last period of time in terms of dragging pace out of it around a circuit like this," said Smedley.
"We have done a great deal of work on that, it's been constant since Monaco, on that.
"Getting the car to work in certain conditions was a bit of a problem for us.
"We were really just in the last weeks arriving at the conclusions of that work and how we could make it better.
"We found we could make some of it better with the car set-up itself like we have done this weekend while some of it will have to come from the drawing board or the science textbooks.
"Certainly, we have done a really good job in getting the car working round here.
"It's not perfect, but we have made a good step forward.
"Going back to Hungary, even with the same car, on basis of this weekend you can see we would have done a lot better on that type of circuit."
Bottas agreed that Williams has made some progress with the weaknesses of the car.
"We know better how to operate the car on these type of tracks and how you approach the set-up of the car," he said.
"We've made progress but we haven't definitely sorted it out because we saw how close we were to the Ferrari in Monza and on this type of track they are so far ahead.
"I'm sure there's still plenty of things we can do better."
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McLaren-Honda's F1 form is starting to hurt, says Jenson Button

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Jenson Button has conceded the McLaren-Honda partnership's lack of results this Formula 1 season is now starting to hurt.
With Button and team-mate Fernando Alonso both retiring from the Singapore Grand Prix with gearbox issues, McLaren has now recorded four double retirements in a single F1 campaign for the first time in 20 years.
At a circuit where the team had hopes of being more competitive, it came away empty handed for the 10th time in 13 races.
"It was a difficult day for us, a difficult weekend," Button said. "We thought we'd be more competitive, but we weren't.
"We'll look over what we did, what we should have done and where we're going to go from here, and look forward to the next weekend.
"But yeah, it's hurting a little bit, and I think for the whole team it's tough.
"They are still doing a mega job - they are pushing flat out in Woking and Japan, and that won't stop. It's just we're not improving as fast as we'd like.
"This was a race where we could have got into the points, but every car except the Manors could have got into the points if they were lucky, so that's not a big enough target really."
Asked how long he could stay patient, the 35-year-old replied: "I don't know, but I'm not alone, it's a team effort.
"We know it's not good enough right now. We just have to keep pushing."
Next up is Honda's home race in Japan, and on its own circuit at Suzuka, where Button knows McLaren will receive strong support during what is likely to be another tough weekend given the layout.
There has also been strong speculation that Button will choose the Japanese GP weekend to announce his retirement from F1.
"I feel the fans will be very supportive," he added. "They always have been.
"I went there with the [Honda] Earth car [in 2007] and they were very supportive. It's been a tough year this year, but it's still nothing like that year.
"I'm looking forward to it. I always love Suzuka, even though I don't think it's going to be the best race for us.
"But we'll get a lot of support there, it's Honda's home circuit as well, they own it, so I'm really looking forward to that support, and the Japanese fans are always fantastic.
"There are few places you go in the world where you have a full house, and you so look forward to seeing a full grandstand and the support you get from the fans.
"I think every driver looks forward to it, but especially driving for a Japanese manufacturer."
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BUTTON: TOTALLY. I HAVE MADE THAT DECISION

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Jenson Button has confirmed he has made a decision about his future in Formula 1 and is set to announce it at the Japanese Grand Prix, prompting speculation he will call it quits from the pinnacle of the sport.
Multiple British newspapers on Monday claimed F1’s veteran of 16 consecutive seasons is preparing to announce his retirement this weekend in Japan.
McLaren has an option on the 2009 world champion’s services for 2016, but amid the Honda-powered team’s poor performance this year, the reports revealed that Button has taken the decision into his own hands.
Fellow Briton and world champion Damon Hill, who similarly made a difficult decision to retire during the 1999 season, interviewed Button after the Singapore grand prix and says he sensed the 35-year-old had made his mind up.
“I’m not certain, he may stay, but when we spoke with him he was at ease with whatever was coming his way,” Hill told the Guardian.
For his part, Button hinted that the struggles of the past seasons, and particularly this year as he languished at the back of the pack, have sapped his “joy” of being in F1.
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There are rumours he will split his time between Le Mans and some television broadcasting work from 2016.
“The joy is only there if you’re fighting at the front, because you feel like you’re achieving something,” said Button. “If you’re fighting near the back you’re still driving an F1 car, but you can easily get joy driving something else. The joy you get is competing. It’s about fighting at the front.”
The Mirror newspaper quoted Button as admitting he feels more relaxed now that he has made a decision, “Totally. I have made that decision, that’s the important thing. It is always nice to make an announcement when you are at your home grand prix.”
His home grand prix likely to be with reference to the grand prix at Suzuka, as Japan is the home country of his wife Jessica.
Hill added: “My gut feeling is that he’ll call it a day. He’s had a long period doing this and doing something different maybe has more appeal.”
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ITALIAN DECLARE ALONSO DROPPED FOR VETTEL A MASTERPIECE

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After 13 races and 4 victories into Sebastian Vettel’s first year as a Ferrari driver, the passionate, fickle and partisan Italian press could not be happier.
“When you consider that he earns less,” La Repubblica said after the Singapore grand prix, “the exchange of Alonso for Vettel was a masterpiece.”
The gushing praise comes after Vettel’s dominant and unexpected third win of the season in Singapore.
“If fate and symbols mean something,” said La Gazzetta dello Sport, “it has to be said now that Vettel has won three times just like his idol Michael Schumacher at Ferrari in 1996.”
And La Stampa said: “Now Ferrari can dream of the impossible. Vettel never loses his head, and his victory is a personal masterpiece as well as a success of the entire team.”
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Former Ferrari team boss Cesare Fiorio, however, is urging for calm and told RAI, “It is always permissible to dream, but also to keep feet on the ground.
“Singapore was the most favourable circuit for Ferrari of all the ones to come, but perhaps as Japan follows so quickly it means Mercedes has little time to solve its problems.”
But Fiorio, who led Ferrari in the pre-Jean Todt era, also has high praise for the resurgent Maranello team.
“The engineers and designers have developed the car at an incredible speed, recovering a gap that seemed hopeless and putting Ferrari at a level close to Mercedes,” he added.
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GROSJEAN: I AM VERY HAPPY WITH THE CHOICE I HAVE MADE

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Even with a takeover by the French carmaker Renault now imminent, Romain Grosjean appears destined for the Lotus exit and a move to start-up Haas F1 Team.
It is believed the Frenchman, despite earlier gushing about the prospect of a Renault works team, has accepted an offer to spearhead the new Haas-Ferrari lineup next year, almost certainly with Esteban Gutierrez as his teammate.
Grosjean, 29, announced in Singapore that he has made his decision, but would not disclose what it is. But the hints that it involves leaving Enstone and joining Haas are strong.
“I think that as drivers we like to take risks. It’s part of our job,” he now tells the French broadcaster Canal Plus. “And when you make a sports career at the highest level, you make choices and there are inevitably times when they are also risky.”
“You should analyse the pros and cons of every situation and I’m pretty happy with the choice that I have made.”
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Grosjean hinted that the long wait for Lotus’ buyout by Renault, with potentially-fatal court dates repeatedly on the horizon, ultimately pushed him in the direction of Haas.
He added, “I looked at everything and at some point you have to move forward and say ‘Come on, let’s go’. I cannot tell you more except that I am very happy with the choice I have made and, in my head, it was very clear.”
Grosjean was mentored and groomed by Renault since his early days in Formula Renault through to his days in GP2. They gave him a break when they fast-tracked him to F1 in 2009, but was dropped at the end of that season.
He returned to the F1 grid with Lotus in 2012 and in total has started 77 grands prix, finishing ten times on the podium. A victory at the highest level still eludes him.
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WOLFF: HAVE PIRELLI GIVEN US A DIFFERENT TYRE TO THE OTHERS?

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Although immediately dismissing it, Team boss Toto Wolff admits even he contemplated a conspiracy theory amid Mercedes’ mysterious below par showing in the Singapore Grand Prix.
Wild rumours that Pirelli deliberately supplied the wrong tyre compounds to the reigning world champions as payback for the Monza pressure saga did the rounds in the paddock last weekend.
“For a moment I thought ‘Have Pirelli given us a different tyre to the others?’ I’m not saying that it happened, just that I thought it,” said Wolff, as this would explain Mercedes’ sudden loss of pace.
“I don’t remember any time in my formula one career when something like this happened,” said world champion Lewis Hamilton.
“We didn’t change anything in the car and suddenly we are 1.5 seconds behind. This is a new experience for us, but I have no reason to think it will continue. We will win more races,” he insisted.
Teammate Nico Rosberg is also still baffled, particularly after Mercedes dominated so strongly at Monza just two weeks earlier.
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“In 15 days we lost 1.5 seconds to Ferrari and 2.5 to Red Bull. And no one in the team knows why,” said the German.
Asked to contemplate the Mercedes mystery, Williams’ chief engineer Rob Smedley surmised: “It must be the tyres. Whenever you’re talking about something more than half a second, it must be something to do with the tyres.”
Indeed, many are expecting harder tyres and a more normal racing circuit, like Suzuka this weekend, to host Mercedes’ spectacular comeback. It may also be that the softer tyres and the nature of the Singapore layout suited Ferrari particularly.
Ferrari’s Maurizio Arrivabene admitted: “Singapore was ideal for us. And Japan is not. It is similar to Silverstone, another track where we have struggled in recent years.”
Former driver Marc Surer, now a German television pundit, told Bild newspaper: “Ferrari needs hot weather or very soft tyres. Unfortunately I can think of no more races this year where we will see both at the same time again.
“For me,” he added, “it is clear that Mercedes will solve its problems this week and return to its former strength. Japan is an absolute engine and downforce track and Mercedes will be strong there.”
Potential rain in Japan, however, may mix the pot up yet again. And Wolff left Singapore admitting he had heard there is a typhoon lingering off the coast near Suzuka.
“After the storms of the past few weeks,” agreed Surer, “there is talk of a typhoon in the coastal region of Suzuka for the coming weekend.”
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RED BULL DID NOT PUSH FOR MERCEDES POWER REVEALS LAUDA

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Red Bull did not push too hard for a supply of Mercedes engines, the German team’s chairman Niki Lauda has revealed.
Obviously splitting with Renault, the energy drink-owned camp is now threatening to pull out of formula one because one alternative, Mercedes, is refusing to work with them and the other, Ferrari, is yet to sign on the dotted line.
But Lauda told Sky Sport that the perception Mercedes was simply not willing to supply Red Bull is not quite true, “I spoke once to Dietrich Mateschitz. I even went there myself.
“He said ‘In principle, I would be interested’ but there was nothing else. That was two or three months ago,” revealed Lauda.
Instead, with Lotus set to switch from Mercedes to Renault, the German marque will fill up its customer roster for 2016 by inking a deal with Manor.
So Lauda said the matter of working with Red Bull is now a moot point, as Mercedes “has taken a fourth team and so we are full”.
Meanwhile, amid rumours Mercedes could help Lotus transition to Renault next year by collaborating with the French carmaker in the hybrid area, Lauda said he “does not exclude” that eventuality.
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MCLAREN PREVIEW THE JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

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Suzuka is owned by the Honda Motor Company. It was built in 1962 and its unique figure-of-eight layout came from the pen of renowned designer, Dutchman John Hugenholtz. The track is narrow and the layout is fast and flowing, making it one of the most revered challenges on the Formula 1 calendar.
The best drivers and cars usually excel at Suzuka because it’s a very unforgiving racetrack. It’s undulating and bumpy, and to be fast a driver needs to demonstrate commitment and great precision. Even the smallest of mistakes can be punished severely when the average lap speed is in excess of 230kph (143mph).
There’s a predominance of fast corners all around the lap, but no section is more challenging or exciting than the sequence of fast corners in Sector One known as the Esses. All five of these bends is inter-linked and all are taken at a minimum speed of 130mph/210kph. In fact, only one corner around the 5.807km/3.608-mile lap is taken at less than 100kph (62mph).
The high cornering forces place a lot of stress on the tyres, which is why Pirelli are taking their two hardest compounds to the race: the Medium (Option) and the Hard (Prime). This combination has already been used on three occasions this year, most recently at the British Grand Prix, and it should throw up some interesting strategic options during the race.
McLaren has enjoyed many successes at the Japanese Grand Prix. The team has won the race on nine occasions, with two of those wins being achieved with Honda power. The team’s most recent victory came in 2011, with Jenson Button.
Fernando Alonso: “Our pace was more encouraging in Singapore, but I think it will be harder for us at Suzuka due to the characteristics of the track. Of course we’ll do everything we can to maximise our performance at what is a fantastic racetrack and Honda’s home grand prix.”
“I’m full of anticipation about going to Suzuka. It’s a really tough circuit, and a huge test for the drivers, as a lot of it is really narrow and bumpy so you need absolute commitment into every corner. It has almost the opposite characteristics to Singapore in terms of set-up, so it’s a very different challenge that we’ll face next weekend.
“Like Jenson, I have a strong affinity with Japan, I love the country and I’ve always been fascinated by its culture. I’ve also loved racing there and I’ve won both at Suzuka and Fuji, so it holds a lot of special memories for me. The fans are one-of-a-kind and the circuit absolutely deserves its legendary status – it’s one of the most exciting on the calendar.
“Singapore is now behind us, but Suzuka will surely be a challenge. Our car is well balanced and feels good to drive, but on a circuit with such a high average speed it will be difficult to beat our competitors. We’ll take the samurai spirit with us to Suzuka, and as usual we won’t give up.”
Jenson Button: “In many ways the Japanese Grand Prix is like another home race for me. I love the country and its people, and Suzuka is one of the most demanding tracks in F1. The corners are fast and flowing and a qualifying lap around here feels like nowhere else.”
“Suzuka is my favourite track on the calendar without a doubt. The thrill of the Esses, the Degners, Spoon, 130R – they are a combination of corners like no other in Formula 1 and for a driver it’s a mega challenge.
“Japan is like a second home for me. My wife is half-Japanese, I spend a lot of time there, the country is beautiful and the people are so warm and enthusiastic, you can’t fail to love it. I still regard my win at Suzuka in 2011 as one of my best – it’s such a challenge to get right as the circuit is narrow, twisty, and technical, so it’s one of the victories of which I’m most proud.
“Suzuka is the home grand prix for Honda too, so it will be an important weekend for the whole team. It’s not going to be an easy race, as the track is so quick and reliant on top speed, but we’ll be giving it our absolute all for the fans.”
Eric Boullier, Racing director, McLaren-Honda: “Suzuka is a place that every Formula 1 fan regards as special – it’s a circuit that has hosted those classic races that have gone down in history, and produced some incredible racing and on-track battles that are talked about for years after.
“For McLaren, it’s extra-special, since it’s also the home of Honda, so returning there this year will be even more emotional than normal. First and foremost, to give ourselves any kind of fighting chance next weekend we must focus on our reliability after the disappointment in Singapore. From Marina Bay, one of the lowest-speed tracks on the calendar, we go to Suzuka, one of the fastest, so preparation will be key.
“It’ll be interesting to see how the drivers and cars cope with the challenge of the downhill grid, and the famous figure-of-eight Suzuka circuit is always a fantastic spectacle in front of the most enthusiastic fans we see anywhere in the world. All of us at McLaren-Honda are working hard to continue to show our improving pace, and we hope we can put on a good show for our fans, partners and guests next weekend.”
Yasuhisa Arai, Honda R&D senior managing officer – chief officer of motorsport: “It is a wonderful feeling to be back home and to be racing in front of our fans. The fans are incredibly passionate and loyal to F1 and to Honda, so as the McLaren-Honda team, we will do our best this weekend.
“That said, Suzuka is a notoriously technical and difficult circuit for all cars and drivers. We have to be realistic that the race will be a big challenge for the team this weekend. Our engineers have started their preparations for the task ahead for what will hopefully be a good race.”
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MANOR PREVIEW THE JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

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Round 14 of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, the 2015 Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix, takes the Manor Marussia F1 Team to Suzuka, a very technical circuit that will be challenging for all sorts of reasons this weekend.
John Booth: “After the high of a positive Singapore Grand Prix, we head to Japan hopeful of a similarly strong performance this weekend. There will, however, be a rather more challenging backdrop for our team in Suzuka, after Jules’ devastating accident here last season. There is no escaping the fact that this will be an extremely emotional week for us. Many of the team members who were with us in 2014 are back with us this year, including our colleagues at Scuderia Ferrari and of course Will and Alexander, both of whom were in Suzuka last year in their roles as Reserve Drivers. It will also be a different emotional experience again from Monaco, a place full of so many special memories for our team, and Hungary, where we all had to say a very difficult goodbye to a greatly-loved friend and colleague. We think of Jules every single day; he will forever be a huge part of our team. Without doubt, our memories are overwhelmingly happy ones, celebrating his incredible achievements in our race cars and the enjoyable times we shared along the way. Jules’ funeral reminded us that he was a special gift to so many people, not least of all the magnificent Bianchi family, who are always in our thoughts and prayers. We were Jules’ team, and with that in mind I would ask everyone to understand and respect that, this weekend, we wish to deal with the experience of returning to Suzuka in a very private way. Our commitments will reflect this. It is my job to provide the team with the right environment in which to be able to do their job in spite of very difficult circumstances. This will be my primary focus. Jules has not only been constantly in our thoughts since that terrible day in 2014, but his name has also been on our car at every single race. That tribute, our incredibly fond memories of Jules and the camaraderie we have within our team are all we need to race on in his honour in Suzuka this weekend.”
Will Stevens: “This will be a very emotional weekend for us. We’re already a very close-knit team but occasions such as this only bring us closer and that helps us through the challenges we’ve experienced on and off the race track. In the same circumstances, Jules would have gone about the business of racing in a very focused and professional way and that is exactly what I’ll be doing. I didn’t have the best weekend in Singapore, albeit we secured another good two-car finish for the team. But I need to get on top of some of the issues which hampered my performance there, so we’ll work together as a team to understand and address them so that we can bring home another good result for Jules.”
Alexander Rossi: “My F1 racing debut in Singapore last weekend really couldn’t have worked out any better for me and I learned such a lot in a very short space of time. I head to Suzuka eager to pick up where I left off and focused on taking things to the next level, with the benefit of a little more familiarisation with the car and on a different type of race track. One thing I didn’t need to learn – because I already knew – was what a great group of people I am fortunate enough to be able to call my team. They made things very easy for me in Singapore and with a difficult weekend ahead for all of us, I’m hoping to do the same for them.”
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LOTUS PREVIEW THE JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

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After a Singapore Grand Prix probably best forgotten, Deputy Team Principal Federico Gastaldi is looking forward as well as answering some of the questions of the moment.
The team has just confirmed Pastor for 2016. What can you tell us about this?
Federico Gastaldi: We have an existing multi-year deal with Pastor so it was time to publically confirm he will be driving with us as part of this deal in 2016. Whilst it is true that Pastor has experienced a difficult season in 2015, from working with him we know his strengths very well. This year has certainly been a trying season for many reasons, but Pastor is always positive and always delivering to the best of his ability. He is a pleasure to work with and we will both benefit from the continuity of the relationship continuing into its third season.
What’s the current situation with Romain?
FG: We expect an announcement about Romain’s future will be made very soon too. It’s a case of watch this space.
What’s your evaluation of the race weekend in Singapore?
FG: It was a race weekend which showed the depth and strength of character of everyone at Enstone. We struggled for pace early in the weekend but dug deep and were able to fight back. We attacked the race with a strategy designed to work us up the order and go for any points. Ultimately, it didn’t work for Pastor or Romain on this occasion, but it is a measure of the team that we never give up.
What can you tell us about developments at Enstone?
FG: Certainly circumstances are forcing us to pursue a rather unusual approach to this season but we’re getting near to a resolution. Certainly, we have been subject to an unbelievable amount of scrutiny and it’s impossible to speak to five different people in the paddock without getting five different versions of what might be about to happen! There’s no point trying to dance faster than the music!
How much is the team looking forward to racing in Japan?
FG: Competitively, we can’t wait as it’s the first opportunity to put our no points score in Singapore behind us and get back into our championship fight. Then there’s the aspect of racing in Japan itself. There is a huge appetite for motorsport so it’s really a special experience being there. We have the added stimulus that Honda has re-joined the sport after a period away. Whilst we have all seen they have experienced some growing pains in their first season back, we all know the amazing motorsport history they have and it’s good for Japan and good for Formula 1 to have them competing. The Japanese fans are among the most special in terms of their knowledge and devotion to the sport. So it is very important for us to be racing here and also to have a good weekend on the track. The whole nation of Japan gets tuned in to the F1 groove and it is good for the country and for F1. Suzuka is also a great challenge for the drivers and they will be hungry to deliver. Like Spa, Monaco and Silverstone, I don’t think anyone dislikes going to Suzuka. It has everything that makes F1 great; an incredible track, great fans and somewhere that the drivers and engineers really learn a lot about the car. For many reasons, we all hope to be able to enjoy a sake after a positive Japanese Grand Prix in 2015.
Romain Grosjean gets excited about what is probably his favourite Formula 1 race track, Suzuka
Why do you love the Japanese Grand Prix so much?
Romain Grosjean: Suzuka is probably my favourite track in the world and for many, many reasons. Of course 2013 holds a great memory as I led the race for a while. Mainly I love it so much because the track is a massive challenge and also the spectators are so passionate about F1. There is not a single corner on the track that is not a big challenge. When you finish a lap at Suzuka you really appreciate it because you know the car and you have been really tested and that you can be proud if you have got the maximum from everything.
What are the specific challenges of Suzuka?
RG: It’s the kind of track where you find time and improvements, however small, all of the time. It is a very special race track in this respect. Sector one is unbelievable and after you have finished it you can breathe a little bit…but not for long. There is no margin for error with very little run-off area and the track is quite narrow, especially at the top of the hill. I love it. Every metre of the Suzuka track is special and every metre a challenge. The Spoon Curve is especially fantastic, a real thrill to drive in an F1 car.
Where is best for overtaking opportunities at Suzuka?
RG: There are a few good areas like the first corner, but only if you get a good exit from the last chicane. But probably the best one is in to the chicane itself, after the long back straight and 130R. If you get a tow here you can get inside under braking. There is also a small chance at the hairpin and maybe in to Spoon Curve too, but you have to be brave and usually rely on the guy in front to co-operate. Suzuka is quite a narrow track so it is not that easy to overtake, but it is a great challenge and very satisfying when you manage to execute one.
What about the whole experience of being in Japan?
RG: You have to mention the fans. They certainly are special and unique. Suzuka is probably the only place we go to where you arrive at the track on a Thursday and the grandstands are almost full! They replay the race afterwards once, twice, three times and the fans stay at the track until we have gone home. They are brilliant fans, very loyal and knowledgeable about the sport. It is in their culture now and you can’t imagine a Grand Prix not happening in Japan. We have to have a race there anyway because I like to receive my mini-Romain every year from the fans. Fantastic!
How do you think the circuit will suit the E23?
RG: Suzuka is a track that highlights the good aspects of a chassis and it will certainly be a better place to exploit the positives of the E23 than Singapore. At Suzuka the driver can make a difference to some extent, especially through sector one, so I will be pushing very hard here to get the very maximum we can.
What’s your overview of the Singapore Grand Prix?
RG: We tried a strategy which didn’t work. That’s the easy thing to say afterwards, and if it had worked we’d have been pretty happy. We worked well as a team over the weekend to improve the car and qualifying was pretty rewarding after some tough sessions earlier. The race was pretty hard, but we did everything we could but sadly it didn’t work for us. I hope we’re in the right position for a good collection of points in Japan.
When can we expect an announcement about you and 2016?
RG: Soon.
Pastor Maldonado talks about the confirmation he continues with Lotus F1 Team for 2016 as well as the challenge and fun of the Suzuka circuit
Congratulations on the confirmation of your continuation with the team, this must help you focus more on the rest of the season?
Pastor Maldonado: It’s one less thing for my management team to worry about. It’s true that we did have a contract for next year but as we’ve seen before, Formula 1 is sometimes not too friendly towards contracts. It’s great for the team to be able to confirm their faith in me and I’m really looking forward to continuing our relationship and racing with them for a third season. Before that we have another six races to go in 2015 so that’s my focus now, starting with Suzuka this weekend.
How much do you look forward to racing in Japan?
PM: Very much indeed. It is always nice to know you are going to be challenged by a circuit. If everything gets hooked-up then Suzuka is a pleasure. I really hope we can have a good weekend because at Suzuka it makes it even more of a pleasure to get it right. I think that for a driver it is at least comparable with Spa, maybe even better on some corners. I just love racing at Suzuka and indeed in Japan as a whole.
What are the highlights of driving a lap at Suzuka?
PM: There are so many. The start of the lap is incredible with the sweeps up the hill, right-left-right-left. It is really fast and you need a very good and nimble car to change direction quickly. They are really challenging corners where you need maximum concentration and bravery. The run-off is quite small, so it is really satisfying to get them right. When I first drove this track in 2011 it was a big deal for me because I knew that I could find a lot more time in the car. The corners are like this because you never get them 100% right the first time, you learn and learn which is what a great race track should be like I think. Then you have the Spoon Curve which is magnificent and 130R which is still challenging despite being flat-out now. All in all a great, great circuit and with some really steep gradients too. Almost a perfect track!
What is the best memory you have from Suzuka?
PM: Well apart from the first time I actually drove the circuit, it was when I had a really good race in 2012. I qualified down in 14th but managed to overtake quite a few and get some points for eighth position. I remember having a good fight with Nico Hülkenberg in the Force India all race long.
How do you evaluate your Singapore Grand Prix?
PM: If you look at where we started we did make good progress through the field and looked to have some good opportunities. Unfortunately, after the contact from Jenson my rear diffuser was damaged and the downforce helps work the tyres better. This meant we weren’t able to preserve the tyre performance as long as we hoped and we made an additional pit stop. It was a good race from the car, with some fun battles.
Jenson wasn’t happy with the contact?
PM: No driver’s happy if there’s a car in front of them and they want to get past, especially if it damages their car trying to overtake. We both got damage to our cars; he was behind me trying to get past, I was defending my position. That’s racing, The stewards reviewed it and determined that there was no further action necessary.
Technical Director Nick Chester looks at the challenges of Suzuka as well as further afield
Suzuka is a very distinct circuit – what are the challenges?
Nick Chester: The challenges are the high speed corners. You can’t run maximum downforce in Suzuka – as you will end up a little too slow on the straights – so you need to give the driver sufficient downforce to give confidence in the fast twisty bits whilst not clipping their wings down the straights. This is part of the reason why Suzuka is such a driver favourite, as drivers can be absolutely on the limit without the car totally stuck to the ground through maximum downforce. It’s not just having sufficient downforce, it’s ensuring that this is delivered in a balanced nature. Getting the suspension set-up spot on is essential here too. You need to extract all the grip that’s possible from the car.
What were the issues the team faced in Singapore?
NC: Street courses can often be pretty particular in their demands and that’s something we saw in Singapore. We knew it wasn’t going to be one of the easiest races of the year for us, but we did have to really work hard to get to the best pace we could with the E23. We didn’t get the tyres into their working window at the right time early on in the weekend and we also had all the usual street course challenges. Romain – in particular – with his engineers were able to make some subtle and positive changes to get him into the top ten for qualifying which was rewarding for all.
How did the race itself play out?
NC: Both drivers did terrific jobs out on track which is always very pleasing to see, even when you don’t get the ultimate result you want. With the pace of the car and the starting positions, we had to try quite aggressive strategies. This was particularly the case with Romain after he lost positions at the start meaning we brought forward his stops to undercut and gain track position. Unfortunately this meant we missed out on a quick pit stop under the virtual safety car at the first stop. We suffered worse tyre degradation than expected on Romain’s final stint which cost us in the last few laps. Pastor made up positions from his start but was compromised later on after the damage sustained from Jenson. It was certainly an interesting race and a challenging one on the pit wall.
Pastor continues with the team next year, what does this mean for preparations?
NC: Pastor is a great person to work with and you always benefit from continuity. It’s true that for various reasons Pastor’s first two seasons with the team haven’t been the easiest, so we’re looking forward to working with him in what has potential to be a much more settled environment. We’ll certainly be looking to have a stronger season in every regard in 2016.
Do you expect Romain will be partnering him again next year?
NC: We know Romain has made his decision and we will all know soon.
The Japanese GP is the second race of a back-to-back pairing; how does that affect preparations?
NC: It does make for a busy week with the added challenge of the crew changing their body clocks to local time after fighting the urge to do that for the night schedule of Singapore. Fortunately, both locations are relatively straight-forward to work in so there aren’t additional challenges like you have in Monaco for instance. Our set-up crew is well versed at packing-up and building-up the garages and rest of the infrastructure we have, but certainly they have busy few days with the back-to-backs.
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SAUBER PREVIEW THE JAPANESE GRAND PRIX

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After a quick debriefing and recovery from the Singapore Grand Prix, the Sauber F1 Team travels to Suzuka for the next Asian oversea race. The Japanese Grand Prix will take place this coming weekend on the Suzuka Circuit from the 25th to 27th September.
Marcus Ericsson (car number 9): “I am really looking forward to Japan. It is a place I know well as I lived there for a year during my time in the Japanese Formula 3 in 2009. It will be nice to go back and meet all the passionate fans. I really like the track a lot and it is a lot of fun to drive there. I am looking forward to the Suzuka track’s challenge. With the aero update, I am confident we will be able to be in a strong position to fight for points there.”
Felipe Nasr (car number 12): “It will be my first time driving a Formula One car on the circuit in Suzuka. I have always heard positive things about the track, and I cannot wait to drive there. The circuit is at the same time a real challenge for us drivers, as there are many medium and high speed corners, up and downhill sections, as well as tricky braking zones. The Japanese fans really stand out. There are so many people who are passionate about Formula One there. I like the atmosphere a lot. In Suzuka we will continue to work on our update package. We will validate the data from the race weekend in Singapore in order to make a further step ahead.”
Giampaolo Dall’Ara, Head of Track Engineering: “After quickly debriefing following the Singapore Grand Prix and recovering some energy, the Sauber F1 Team’s focus shifts to the long, high-speed corners of Suzuka. This track can be considered as a landmark in the F1 calendar; it features a variety of challenges for the engineers and, more importantly, the drivers, who can count on the very enthusiastic support of passionate fans. The high levels of lateral acceleration in the fast corners and the abrasiveness of the tarmac are such that Pirelli has allocated the hard and medium tyres for the event, which is a solid choice in line with the previous races there. Everyone in the team looks forward to keeping fighting hard for more points.”
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