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Mercedes join Ferrari in F1 quit threat

Reigning world champions Mercedes have joined Ferrari in threatening to quit Formula One amid proposed changes by new owners Liberty.

Bernie Ecclestone’s successors are seeking to create a more balance competition from 2021 onwards, including new engine regulations and cost reductions, prompting Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne to suggest the Scuderia could take the drastic step of walking away from the sport.

And Mercedes chief Wolff, speaking to Kronen Zeitung, offered a damning assessment of the impact of the new owners.

Asked which of the contributions made by Liberty stood out in 2017, he replied: “Nothing! Doing erratic actions like Michael Buffer in Austin does not make the sport any better,” he added, referring to the boxing announcer’s involvement at the United States Grand Prix.

It was put to the senior Mercedes man that Liberty and the German team are far apart in their respective priorities for the competition’s future.

“Yes,” he said.

“Because we do not see any vision. Nobody knows where the journey is going. All we know now is that sales, profits have fallen sharply.”

And Wolff readily agreed when the prospect of Mercedes ultimately withdrawing from F1 was raised.

“Such a scenario is quite possible,” he said.

“Just like Ferrari. If we do not see what Formula One stands for, then we have to ask ourselves the tricky question: not if, but where we want to operate motorsport at a high level.”

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Mercedes on the cusp of Interlagos history – Brazilian GP in numbers

Lewis Hamilton recovered from a first-lap collision with rival Sebastian Vettel to win a fourth Formula One world championship last time out in Mexico and he can help Mercedes to a piece of Brazilian Grand Prix history this weekend.

A ninth-place finish was not enough to prevent Hamilton from becoming the most successful British driver in F1 history and he will be out to end the season in style at the last two races of the year.

The drivers’ and constructors’ championships have been decided in Mercedes’ favour, but that does not mean there is nothing worth racing for at Interlagos this weekend.

Here, we take a look at the best numbers ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

4 – If either Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas chalks up the win for Mercedes, it will mark the first time a constructor has won four consecutive Brazilian GPs.

12 – Hamilton has started from the front of the grid on 11 occasions this season, if he gets one more he will match his personal best for a single campaign (12 in 2016).

4 – Gaining another pole may prove crucial for Hamilton, with the last four winners in Brazil having started at the head of the grid.

121 – Vettel’s title bid may have fallen short this season, but the German can boast more points from the Brazilian GP than any other driver. Fernando Alonso is second on the list with 108.

8 – Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo has finished third on seven occasions in 2017. If he does so once more he will be the first man to do so eight times in one campaign.

23 – For 23 consecutive races, Hamilton has earned points. On only two occasions in F1 has this been bettered: Kimi Raikkonen (27), Michael Schumacher (24).

6 – Fans attending in Brazil this week may be well advised to bring their brollies. Since 2001, the Braziliain GP has been staged under rain six times – more than any other race in F1.

2008 – The last time Ferrari reached pole and won the race at Interlagos. It was the day Felipe Massa lost the F1 world title to Hamilton in dramatic circumstances. The home favourite will race for the last time at his home GP after announcing his retirement.

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Mercedes see a return of the ‘difficult diva’

MEXICO CITY- The Fat Lady may be about to sing on Lewis Hamilton’s fourth Formula One world championship but Mercedes also saw the return of a difficult diva on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton qualified only third for Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, a race expected to secure the Mercedes driver’s place in history as Britain’s first four-times world champion.

He was nearly half a second slower than Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who has kept his hopes alive by saying the “fat lady has yet to sing”, and also behind the Red Bull of 20-year-old Dutch sensation Max Verstappen.

“The difficult diva was back today,” team principal Toto Wolff told reporters, using the nickname bestowed on the car early in the season.

“We knew that Mexico with its high downforce configuration wouldn’t suit our car,” added the Austrian, whose team have already won the constructors’ title for a fourth successive season.

“I‘m actually, considering the circumstances, quite pleased with the progress siwe have made since Budapest and Singapore, how we have understood the car better and also the tyres.”

Hamilton, who needs only to finish fifth on Sunday to be sure of the title even if sole rival Vettel wins, has been off the pace all week.

Team mate Valtteri Bottas, who qualified fourth, was fastest in Friday’s first practice and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Verstappen topped the second and third sessions at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Hamilton was second in all of them at a circuit where he won from pole last year.

The Mercedes has proved a tricky car to drive this season at certain circuits while dominant at others.

Although Hamilton won in Singapore, that was only after Vettel and team mate Kimi Raikkonen collided at the start after a three-way dash for the first corner with Verstappen.

Wolff expected Sunday’s race to put engines and brakes under considerable stress at a high-altitude circuit where overtaking is difficult.

“It’s certainly going to be difficult for all the competitors in terms of engine and brake cooling. I think we have taken a bit of a margin,” he said.

“We had assumed that the Red Bulls and Ferrari could have a really strong qualifying here. We had some hope after FP3 (final practice) and also after having shown a really strong long run with Lewis yesterday,” added Wolff.

“But you have to stay realistic and set your targets in the right way. I am a little bit deflated, third and fourth is not what we aim at but it’s probably the realistic performance level.”

(Alan Baldwin)

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FP3: BOTTAS FASTEST AS MERCEDES LOOK IMMENSE HEADING INTO QUALIFYING

Mercedes ended the final practice session at the Suzuka Circuit on top of the timesheets, with Valtteri Bottas heading teammate Lewis Hamilton. The Mercedes’ were the only two to set their fastest lap on the soft tyre, with every other driver going fastest on the super softs.

There were two red flags deployed during the sixty-minute session. The first was caused by Bottas who ran wide on the exit of the spoon corner, cutting up astroturf and hitting the barrier sideways on, damaging the right side of his Silver Arrow.

His compatriot Kimi Raikkonen was the other driver to bring out the red flag. On the run into the second Degner corner, the rear of the Ferrari stepped out, sending the Finn on a short trip across the gravel and into the tyre barrier.

Title contender Sebastian Vettel was third, and also had a scary moment at the second Degner. The German took to the gravel but managed to avoid the barriers that claimed his teammate. Max Verstappen followed Vettel in fourth place, with the second Red Bull of Daniel Ricciardo coming home in fifth.

Esteban Ocon also demonstrated his pace around the circuit, with his fastest time being only one-tenth off Ricciardo. The Frenchman was sixth, followed by Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault and Fernando Alonso, who is set to start the Grand Prix from the back of the grid.

Sergio Perez was ninth while Jolyon Palmer’s fastest time saw him enter the top 10. Williams and Haas both seem to be struggling as qualifying draws nearer, with a Q3 spot looking less and less likely for the Britsh and American squads.

Qualifying gets underway at 15:00 local time, with Mercedes emerging as favourites to take the spoils and claim the spot of most advantage for the race tomorrow.

07 OCTOBER 2017 – GRAND PRIX OF JAPAN – FREE PRACTICE 3
        DRIVER TEAM TIME   DIFFERENCE #
1.   FI   Valtteri Bottas Mercedes 1:29.055     9
2.   GB   Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:29.069   +0.014 19
3.   DE   Sebastian Vettel Ferrari 1:29.379   +0.324 23
4.   NL   Max Verstappen Red Bull Racing 1:29.910   +0.855 15
5.   AU   Daniel Ricciardo Red Bull Racing 1:30.018   +0.963 13
6.   FR   Esteban Ocon Force India 1:30.109   +1.054 12
7.   DE   Nico Hülkenberg Renault 1:30.315   +1.260 19
8.   ES   Fernando Alonso McLaren 1:30.424   +1.369 13
9.   MX   Sergio Perez Force India 1:30.563   +1.508 12
10.   GB   Jolyon Palmer Renault 1:30.764   +1.709 22
11.   BR   Felipe Massa Williams 1:30.764   +1.709 21
12.   BE   Stoffel Vandoorne McLaren 1:30.770   +1.715 18
13.   ES   Carlos Sainz jr Toro Rosso 1:30.799   +1.744 23
14.   DK   Kevin Magnussen Haas F1 1:30.982   +1.927 12
15.   CA   Lance Stroll Williams 1:31.011   +1.956 20
16.   FR   Pierre Gasly Toro Rosso 1:31.353   +2.298 25
17.   FR   Romain Grosjean Haas F1 1:31.459   +2.404 13
18.   SE   Marcus Ericsson Sauber 1:32.579   +3.524 22
19.   DE   Pascal Wehrlein Sauber 1:32.698   +3.643 21
20.   FI   Kimi Räikkönen Ferrari 1:33.962   +4.907 12

(Fergal Walsh)

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Mercedes Andrew Shovlin: “The car wasn’t working as well as it normally has done this year“

Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team Chief Race Engineer Andrew Shovlin says the squad have a lot of work to do if they are going to catch up with title rivals Scuderia Ferrari tomorrow.

It was a disappointing Friday for the Silver Arrows as drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas both struggled with grip, and were unable to unlock the potential of the W08, finishing free practice 2 in a below par sixth and seventh place, having not looked comfortable during the earlier free practice 1 session either.

“Overall it’s been a very challenging day.

“The car wasn’t working as well as it normally has done this year and the drivers were both complaining of very low grip and sliding.

“The car hasn’t looked strong in any conditions, be it on Intermediates or in the dry conditions we had in FP2. So we’re looking very carefully at the set-up and the configuration of the car just to try to understand what’s gone wrong.”

Shovlin stated that they would be working hard from now until the final practice session tomorrow, to try to get to the bottom of why they performed so poorly today, and will hopefully find a solution to turn things around for the remainder of the weekend.

“We are clearly not getting the most out of the package here. We’re going to be working very hard to unpick what we’ve seen today and come back stronger tomorrow.

“But at the moment it’s clear we’ve got a lot of work to do if we’re to present a good challenge to Ferrari and Red Bull this weekend.”
(Rachel Hack)

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Mercedes welcomes Rubrik as new partner

Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport today confirms a new team partnership with Rubrik, specialists in Cloud Data Management. With data volumes, backup and recovery requirements becoming ever more demanding in Formula One, the team is investing in class-leading technology in order to stay ahead.

Specifically, the team will be using a multi-node Rubrik cluster at their Brackley headquarters to protect the team’s critical race data.

The team will also use Rubrik’s REST API (Application Programming Interface) to integrate with their current tools to analyse their data utilisation. With this information, the team expects to become even more efficient in how it manages and utilises the vast volumes of race data.

“We are delighted to welcome Rubrik to Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport”, commented Toto Wolff, Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport. “In the fast-moving world of information technology, it’s essential to be right at the forefront, particularly for us in the area of data management, and we look forward to working with Rubrik to maximise our potential in this area.”

“Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport is at the forefront of adopting new technologies within the racing world”, said Bipul Sinha, co-founder and CEO, Rubrik. “Rubrik’s cloud data management platform will enable the team to access and manage critical race information, providing them with a new competitive edge. We are excited to partner with Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport to turbocharge their innovative approach to data management and contribute to their continued success.”

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Wolff admits a big challenge awaits Mercedes at Singapore

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff is expecting that Ferrari and Red Bull will both be very strong at Singapore this weekend.

Mercedes’ 2017 challenger, the W08, has proven itself to be a handful around tight and twisting circuits such as the upcoming race around Marina Bay.

In 2015, Mercedes suffered from a shocking and unexpected slump at the race, dropping to fifth and sixth in qualifying and bringing home just twelve points. With Ferrari turning up in 2017 with a car to match the pace of Mercedes and the ability to be faster on tight circuits, Wolff understands that the Silver Arrows need to be wary of their rivals.

“Identifying clearly our strengths and our weaknesses has been a strength of our team in recent seasons,” he said.”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. And we head to Asia this time round with the expectation that we have a big challenge ahead of us.”

With Singapore being a street circuit, the chances of a safety car being deployed is very high. In every race that has been held at Singapore, the safety car has been deployed – leading Wolff to state the strategy will play a vital role in the outcome of Sunday’s Grand Prix.

“Singapore is a fantastic showcase for our sport and a unique spectacle under the lights. But it’s a demanding weekend for the teams: the ambient conditions make life in the garage tough, it’s physically demanding for the drivers and challenging for the cars in terms of managing brake and tyre temperatures.

Safety Car periods are almost guaranteed, so there are lots of variables to consider on strategy. It’s a weekend when every part of the team needs to be at its best if you wish to score a strong finish. We will aim to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and finish strongly.”