GP2 champion Palmer gets Lotus F1 reserve driver role

2014 GP2 Champion Jolyon Palmer has been given the role of third driver at Lotus.

The 24 year-old Brit – who tested for Force India at the post-season test in Abu Dhabi last year – finished 47 points clear of McLaren protégé Stoffel Vandoorne in GP2, racing for DAMS. From 22 races he took four wins, 12 podiums and three pole positions, including a podium finish at his home Grand Prix.

“It’s the dream to be with a Formula 1 team,” he explained. “Now I can say I am a Formula 1 driver! I tested with Force India last year which was already a dream but now to have a full role with a team, a prestigious team as well like Lotus F1 Team, is an amazing opportunity. Working as a third driver is the next best thing to being a race driver. I’ll be working with the engineers throughout the season whether I’m in the car or not. There is a lot to learn and I’ll be working to make a valuable contribution to the E23’s development. Every time I’m in the car, I’ll try to give my very best. It’s not just being quick, but also working with the engineers and the team as well”.

Palmer will travel to the races as well as getting time in the simulator and he recently visited Enstone for the first time. “It’s really impressive,” he revealed. “It was bigger than I expected but you can see when you’re here that this is a team that has won championships. You can tell the professionalism and the motivation just when you walk around. You know that some fantastic drivers have been part of the make-up here. It’s a really good feeling to now be part of this.” He also revealed that he is pushing hard for a seat on the 2016 grid. “With no race seats available this year, I will still be driving a Formula 1 car, I’ll be part of a prestigious team, one that will move forward, and my goal is to have a year out of racing now, working to be back racing in Formula 1, in 2016”.

This year Lotus will run with Mercedes engines with 2014 race drivers Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean remaining. Pre-season testing commences in a week and a half in Jerez.

Mercedes name Pascal Wehrlein as reserve driver

The Mercedes F1 team has announced that DTM race winner Pascal Wehrlein will become their reserve driver.

The 19 year old – who at 18 years of age became the youngest driver in DTM history when he made his debut in 2013 – has already completed over 30 days in the simulator completing more than 12,000km. He drove a Formula One car for the first time last week in Portimao as part of Mercedes’ Young Driver Evaluation test.

Before racing in DTM the young German won the ADAC Formel Masters championship and came second in the Formula 3 Euro Series in his first year. He currently lies 7th in the DTM championship and became the youngest ever winner last time out when he won at the Lausitzring.

“I was delighted when I learned that I would be completing a Formula One test for Mercedes in Portimao,” Wehrlein revealed. “It took me a few laps to get used to the incredible speed, the very hard brakes and the high cornering speeds – it’s in another league compared to the DTM.”

“I adapted quickly and was able to improve in each of my short and long runs,” he continued.  “In total, I drove 500km and didn’t want to head back into the pits!”

Head of Mercedes-Benz Motorsport Toto Wolff believes that Wehrlein is the best person for the job. “Aside from Nico [Rosberg] and Lewis [Hamilton], he is the driver most familiar with all the procedures of our F1 W05 Hybrid and therefore the right choice for the role of reserve driver,” he explained. “He has worked hard behind the scenes this year in our simulator, playing a very important role in our pre-race preparations. He took an important step last week when he drove a Formula One car for the first time and we were pleased to see him deliver a composed and impressive test, in line with our expectations. This was followed by a fantastic win yesterday at the Lausitzring in the DTM, making the most of the conditions where pure driving talent was able to shine. Pascal has a bright future ahead of him and we are excited to have him onboard for what will be an intense conclusion to the Formula One season.”

“All my life, I have worked hard to get the opportunity to drive an F1 car. And it was always my goal to do it win Mercedes-Benz,” Wehrlein concluded. “The test was simply the greatest experience I have had so far in motorsport. There weren’t any nerves, which surprised me – I just felt ready for it. The feedback from the team and from Toto was very encouraging and I think that I did a good job. For me, it is a nice recognition of my efforts that I have been nominated as a reserve drive for Mercedes. For me, it’s a dream come true to have completed this test and now to take on my new role.”

Wehrlein will travel with the team to Singapore for this weekend’s Grand Prix.

Susie Wolff continues as Williams’ development driver

Williams has confirmed that Susie Wolff will continue in her role of development driver for 2014. Her expanded role will see her take to the wheel of the FW36 in two FP1 sessions this season.

Wolff joined the team in April 2012 and has helped develop the FW34, FW35 and the FW36. This year she will continue to work in the simulator to help further development.

“Susie has become a valued member of our driver line-up,” Chief Technical Officer Pat Symonds said. “2014 will see her take on more responsibilities as we seek to make a strong step forward in performance. Susie has demonstrated a natural talent for developing a car and providing strong feedback and these sort of characteristics will be key this season as teams seek to quickly understand and refine the radically overhauled 2014 cars.”

Wolff, who previously spent seven seasons in DTM before joining Williams, has expressed her gratitude to Williams for giving her a chance. “I’m grateful for the support and belief Williams continue to show in me and 2014 promises to be a very important milestone in my career,” she said. “My responsibilities within the team have steadily increased as I have proved myself, culminating in the opportunity to test the car at Silverstone and conduct straight line aero tests last season. Competing in two FP1 sessions, alongside an additional full test day this season will be a big step and I am looking forward to the opportunity to get behind the wheel of the FW36 on a Grand Prix weekend. It’s a challenge that I will relish and it will be a great chance for me to continue assisting the team.”

Wolff will work alongside Felipe Nasr who was recently appointed test and reserve driver by the team.

2014: McLaren launch MP4-29

McLaren have kicked off 2014 by becoming the first team to officially launch their new car.

While other teams, such as Williams, Force India and Lotus have revealed rendered images of their cars, McLaren took the covers off the MP4-29 and unveiled it to the world via their website. With formal launches – including press in attendance – looking to be a thing of the past, McLaren uploaded a series of images and videos to their website yesterday afternoon.

The car, which looks strikingly different to its predecessor, features the ‘anteater’ nose and a solid silver livery, which could change between now and the first race in Australia.

As well as the photographs, McLaren uploaded a number of videos to accompany them. The official launch video can be found on this dedicated Launch Video page.

“2014 bring so many changes. It’s the most amount of changes in over two decades of Formula One,” Sporting Director Sam Michael said. “The most significant of all the changes is definitely the Powertrain – you’re coming from a normally aspirated engine to a turbo charged unit. You’re going to a V6 Turbo engine – it’s fuel-flow limited as well, so it means that you don’t just have unlimited amount of fuel to burn. You’ve got 100kg fuel mass for the race.”

“The biggest challenges for us to adapt to the widespread changes on the powertrain and aerodynamics this year are going to result in significant operational changes from recent history in Formula One,” Michael continued. “It’s the biggest change we’ve seen on the engine, the gearbox and even the chassis as well. Just meeting curfew times, getting through the workload of kitting engines and changing engines, gearboxes… Even if you don’t actually have failures, that’s going to be a massive task.”

“There’s going to be a lot of development this year,” race driver Jenson Button said. “I think being with a team like McLaren will be very important because we are good at developing, I think you can see that in previous years. Sometimes you get a little bit wrong, but most of the time they’re very good. It’s going to be a development race through the season, along with trying to get a handle on the reliability of the car.”

“It’s always pretty intense and there has definitely been no let-up for anyone this winter,” Button continued. “I don’t think there’s any team that has found this winter easy. We really don’t know where we will stand at the first race compared to others but we know that we are heads down, doing the best we can.”

Also giving his opinion was new driver Kevin Magnussen, who is looking ahead to his rookie season in Formula One. “The first few months have been really good with McLaren,” he said. “I’ve done lots of work in the simulator with the engineers, learning about the new car and the new regulations, and trying to improve everything before the first test.”

“I’ve come a long way in the winter – the team has been really great, they’ve helped me so much,” he continued. “They’re good at helping me out and helping me understand everything. The car this year is going to behave very differently to the old car – it has a lot more power than last year! It’s very fun to drive, it’s going to be a big challenge and in a way it’s good for me, because it puts everyone on zero again on driving style. I think it will be exciting for the fans!”

All the information, including more videos, pictures and interviews, can be found on the official McLaren website. The MP4-29 will be on track next week at the first test in Jerez.

 

McLaren Mercedes MP4-29 Infographic
Source: McLaren.com

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Gary Paffett

Gary Paffett has been a full time McLaren test and reserve driver since December 2005. In his time with the team he has completed 67 test days, 4,746 testing laps and over 21,000 testing kilometres. He also drives the team’s simulator, helping to develop the car over the year. Away from Formula One, Paffett competes in DTM and is currently in his tenth season. He was champion in 2005 and has been runner up on a number of occasions, including in 2012.

As with many drivers, Paffett started his racing career in karts. He made his debut in 1991, when he was ten years old, racing in the British Junior Kadet Championship. He finished sixth in his first season, improving to fifth in his second and third in his third. In 1994 he started racing in the British Junior TKM championship, coming second in his first year and winning the championship in 1995. He won another championship in 1996 and swept the board until 2000 – winning everything he entered.

In 1999, after becoming the British Formula Vauxhall Champion, he won the prestigious McLaren Autosport BRDC award (the year after current McLaren driver Jenson Button). This earned him a test with the McLaren Formula One team. He said of the experience: “This was my first test in an F1 car and was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The sheer speed of the cars is something that is impossible to imagine before you get the chance to drive it. I got a day of testing at Jerez in December 2000 and was invited back to a further test at Magny-Cours in January 2001”.

From there he competed in the British and German F3 championships, winning the latter in 2002. In 2003 he made the switch to DTM, driving for Team Rosberg. He finished 11th in his debut year with four points, picked up at the Nurburgring and the A1 Ring (now known as the Red Bull Ring). In 2004 he moved to the HWA team and progressed right up the order to finish second behind Matthias Ekstrom. That year he won four races – Hockenheim, Norisring, an invitational race in Shanghai and Nurburgring. He stayed with the team in 2005 and became champion, ending the year with 13 more points than Ekstrom, with an impressive five out of 11 victories. He took a year out of DTM to concentrate on his McLaren testing duties in 2006 but returned in 2007. A stint with Persson Motorsport in 2007 and 2008 saw Paffett back down the order, but a return to HWA in 2009 instantly saw him finish second again.

He currently lies sixth in the DTM championship as well as continuing his testing duties and simulator driving for McLaren. He recently celebrated his 100th DTM race at Oschersleben, back in early September. Over his career he has claimed 20 wins, 32 podiums and ten pole positions. He is the most successful DTM driver on the current grid, and is the third most successful DTM driver of all time, behind Bernd Schneider and Klaus Ludwig. 75% of his DTM race starts have resulted in points.

Paffett shares his McLaren test driver duties with Oliver Turvey. He also attends Young Driver Tests for the team. He attends races as the team’s reserve driver, and he also stepped into that role for Force India last year at the Australian Grand Prix. There have been times when Paffett has been in attendance at Formula One race weekends and, after Free Pratice on Friday, he has been flown back to the McLaren Technology Centre to work on tweaks and updates for the car. It is a relentless job being a test driver!

 

eBay Motors seek to maintain championship challenge

The eBay Motors team will seek to maintain its title challenge when the Dunlop MSA British Touring Car Championship heads to Silverstone this weekend for the penultimate meeting of the season.

Going into the latest three rounds of the year, eBay Motors man Colin Turkington sits third in the championship standings and is just 33 points away from top spot in his first season in the series since 2009, when he won the championship.

Team-mates Rob Collard and Nick Foster meanwhile will hope to move towards the top ten in the championship standings having also shown their speed on track over the course of the year in the all-new NGTC-spec BMW 125i M-Sport.

Colin’s performance in particular has been one of the main talking points of the year, with the 2009 title winner having won no fewer than five times to put himself firmly in contention for a second championship crown.

Amongst those impressed by what he has seen this season is former BTCC race winner Paul O’Neill, who has raced against all three eBay Motors men on track and now works with ITV as part of its broadcast team.

“At the start of the season, when I saw who would be driving the cars and with the knowledge that West Surrey Racing has, I knew the team would be strong,” he says. “I put it in writing on Twitter that I felt they would be battling for silverware during the season.

“However, if I’m being honest, I didn’t think that we’d be going to Silverstone with the team still in the running for the championship title. I thought there was a chance that Colin could maybe finish in the top four in the standings, but didn’t expect him to be such a contender.

“For me, the eBay Motors team is right up there with Pirtek Racing as the team of the season.”

Part of the reason why former factory Vauxhall driver O’Neill has been so impressed with the performances on track this season is because of the fact that he feels the eBay Motors team has had to ‘rewrite the rules’ when it comes to getting the most from its rear-wheel drive BMW.

“Everyone could see that the NGTC rules weren’t designed for a rear-wheel drive car,” he said, “but that was the way the team decided to go. They’ve almost had to rewrite the rules to make a car that is usable for the drivers.

“For example, the rear splitter on the NGTC car doesn’t generate much downforce, which is what a rear-wheel drive car like the BMW needs. On paper, NGTC in a rear-wheel drive car shouldn’t work, but the team has turned things on their head. I can’t really put into words what they’ve done to produce the car they have, and if they don’t manage to win the title this year, I’d put them as one of the favourites to do it next year.”

Turkington’s performances in putting himself in contention for honours come despite the fact that recent seasons have seen him only taking part in limited events around the world, with outings in Scandinavia and in the WTCC having followed his title-winning BTCC campaign.

In O’Neill’s eyes however, it’s almost as if the 31-year-old Northern Irishman has never been away.

“You have to remember that Colin had never driven a car built to these rules and didn’t have much testing before the season, yet he’s still one of the drivers who could win the title,” he said. “He had a bit of trouble early on as he got used to the car, but once he got into his stride, he hasn’t looked back.

“You don’t win a championship title in the BTCC without having a lot of talent and in my eyes, Colin is the best driver on the grid at the moment. He has the whole package. He is quick, clean, respects his competitors on track and he only seems to get caught up in incidents that aren’t his fault. In fact, I think its fair to say that the only reason he isn’t leading the championship is because of other drivers this season.

“Rob and Nick have had their fair share of problems, but they are also quick drivers on their day. In the second half of the year in particular, Rob has shown that he can be just as fast as Colin and that’s despite the fact that he’s had to deal with everything that followed his son’s karting accident, while Nick qualified as the best BMW at Brands Hatch, which showed what he can do. Luck just hasn’t always been on their side.”

Alongside his commitments with ITV, O’Neill will join Colin, Rob and Nick for a special Q&A session at the eBay Motors Hub Live, which makes its second appearance of the season in the Silverstone paddock.

As well as seeing Paul grill the three eBay Motors drivers, fans will be able to see how the compare to the three racers on the team’s simulators, have their picture taken with a BTCC winners trophy and get their hands on the new range of eBay Motors BTCC merchandise, which will be available to buy at the circuit for the first time.

“It’s great for the fans to have things like Hub Live,” Paul concludes. “When you look at the BTCC, it is probably the most accessible championship there is for fans. Where else can you get up close to the drivers for a chat and where else would you be able to actually get your hands on a winners trophy?

“The BTCC is a fantastic championship, but it is the fans that make it what it is, so it’s great for them to be able to get something back from it.”

Colin Turkington and eBay Motors Team engineer Drew McDonald preview the weekend below:

McLaren ’50 in 50′: Oliver Turvey

26 year old British driver Oliver Turvey is currently one of McLaren’s two test drivers (the other being Gary Paffett).

Turvey joined the team as a test driver back in 2009. In 2006 he was the winner of the McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year, earning himself  test outing with the team. He made his Formula One debut at the 2009 Young Driver Test in Jerez, appearing again in 2010 when he went second quickest in Abu Dhabi. In 2011 he was promoted to reserve and simulator driver. Since then he has completed six test days for the team, completing 298 laps and 1,589km.

Away from McLaren, Turvey has had a successful racing career. He started karting in 1996, winning championships between then and 2004. In 2004 he made his debut in the Formula BMW Championship, taking one win. He continued in 2005 where he picked up six podiums, and one pole position. 2006 proved to be successful as well, with five wins, ten podiums, seven pole positions and points in every race he entered. He ended the year as Vice Champion. Between 2007 and 2009 he raced in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, Porsche Carrera Cup, A1GP, and British F3 Championship to name but a few. He became Rookie Champion in the 2009 Formula Renault 3.5 series and raced in GP2 in 2010 and 2011. His McLaren association extended into the Blancpain Endurance Series, being entered as a works driver for the GT3 Team. This year Turvey drove in the Le Mans 24 Hours with Jota Sport and in the FIA World Endurance Championship.

Away from racing, Turvey has an engineering degree from Cambridge.