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Formula One Open Wheel

THREE TAKEAWAYS: 2017 Singapore Grand Prix

Formula 1 treated fans to one of its most exciting races of the year as Singapore celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Marina Bay Street Circuit with the series’ first wet night competition.

On a circuit which is traditionally Mercedes’ bogey track, Lewis Hamilton led every lap to take his seventh win of 2017 ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas. Hamilton is the first driver to take three in a row this year after Belgium and Italy.

He inherited the victory after a dramatic opening lap crash involving poleman Sebastian Vettel, teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen. Just 12 of the 20 drivers completed the two-hour distance as the contest had the highest number of retirements in 2017.

The drivers’ championship fight has decreased, with Hamilton extending his three-point advantage to 28, with a maximum of 25 for a win.

Has Vettel Thrown Away The Title?

One of the questions answered after the event was what role Vettel played in the incident.

From multiple viewings of the accident, it appears that the German gradually slides left to try and stop Verstappen from attacking him, with Raikkonen going on Verstappen’s left-hand side to attempt to and snatch first place.

The Finn’s right-rear tire collided with the front left of the Dutchman’s car, sending him speeding without stopping into Turn 1, hitting the side of the Red Bull before Fernando Alonso becomes involved. Vettel continued momentarily before spinning into the Turn 3 wall, destroying his front wing.

The last time before this the German had a DNF was in Malaysia last season. It was then that Hamilton suffered power unit failure and the championship fell away from his grasp and towards Nico Rosberg. Has karma gone back into his direction, with nothing to choose between the two drivers who both have shown strong previous form at the upcoming tracks?

Meanwhile, Alonso was almost up to third early on, but took his ninth DNF of the year, tying his worst career record set back in 2001 at Minardi. Water is wet for the Spaniard.

Hamilton Again Shows Wet Weather Class

The three-time champion is probably one of the few drivers on the grid you would want to drive in damp conditions, and he set multiple fastest laps on his way to victory. His time of 1m45.008s is a new record with the faster 2017 machinery.

He made his way from fifth on the grid thanks to the chaos ahead and an important move around the right-hand side of a slow-starting Ricciardo before carrying on at the very right of the track to avoid becoming a passenger in the debris above.

“I came in and I saw that it was raining and I knew that this balances everything out,” he said. “I love racing in the rain, then everything unfolded in the beginning. Starting on the Intermediates I thought it was going to be much closer pace-wise. These conditions give you the opportunity to really make a difference with your driving.”

Ricciardo’s job to finish 4.5 seconds off the winner seemed impressive when his team principal Christian Horner said after the race that he had to control an issue.

“After the [initial] restart (Lap 5 of 58), Daniel started to lose an awful lot of gearbox oil, which created a lot of problems with oil pressure, and we were feeling that it was looking unlikely that Daniel would get to the end of the race,” he said. “However, he managed to nurse the gearbox of the car incredibly well for three-quarters of the Grand Prix, and though able to hold off any threat from behind from Valtteri, unfortunately he could not attack Lewis ahead.”

It was a familiar story for Valtteri Bottas. Many have wondered whether he can match up in damp or wet conditions after his spin in China earlier in the year, and he finished 8.8s behind in third. Not only that, but his drinks bottle was not fully working in one of the most physically-demanding tracks the series visits.

“In the dry, the car was performing better than expected and the pace was very good for Lewis and me,” he said. “In the wet, I struggled a bit more than him. It’s nice to bring a trophy home after what has been a tricky weekend for me.”

Notable Drivers Suffer Ups And Downs

Days after news of Carlos Sainz swapping Toro Rosso for Renault and Renault powering McLaren next season, all three parties had a solid Singapore night.

Sainz took a career-best fourth-place, while the replaced Jolyon Palmer finished just ahead of Stoffel Vandoorne in sixth. Rumors still say Palmer could have had his last contest with the team, but a positive performance won’t hurt as he looks for a new home on the grid or in another series for 2018.

Two drivers suffered difficult results due to car problems. Nico Hulkenberg was fourth until an oil leak took him to pit lane. He also spent some laps in the top-three, but collects the record for most starts without a podium in F1 history, beating Adrian Sutil’s total of 128. Haas’ Kevin Magnussen was fighting for points until an electrical failure.

What’s Next?

The 10th running doesn’t end Singapore’s story for now, as it signed a new four-year deal before the weekend to continue hosting the sport until 2021, confirming its place on 2018’s 21-race calendar.

Drivers now head to Malaysia for the final event in that country in two weeks’ time as the fight to become champion comes down to the next two months.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Force India Keeps Perez, Ocon For 2018

It has been a sometimes stressful 2017 with the drivers at Force India, but the team is keeping faith in their line-up for 2018.

Sergio Perez has signed a contract extension to continue alongside Esteban Ocon for a second season.

It will take Perez into a fifth campaign with the Silverstone-based team after four podiums, 12 top-fives and 306 points from the last 73 races together.

“Staying with Sahara Force India was always my priority,” the Mexican said. “It’s a team that has allowed me to show my talents as a driver and I feel very happy here. I’m proud of everything we have already achieved together and I think there is more to come. The team has done an amazing job this year to develop the car and establish our position as the fourth-best team in F1. In the end, it was an easy decision to continue our journey together.”

Ocon sticks alongside after completing his 14 events with them so far, collecting 13 results with points.

“Since joining us in 2014, he has matured to become one of the quickest and most consistent drivers on the grid,” team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya added. “Alongside Esteban, retaining Sergio gives us stability going into next season and one of the most exciting driver pairings in F1.”

Perez celebrated the news by placing fifth at the Singapore Grand Prix, moving level with sixth-place Max Verstappen in the drivers’ championship.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

F1 Silly Season: Sainz to Renault, and More

The Formula 1 silly season volcano erupted into life ahead of this weekend’s Singapore Grand Prix as drivers, teams, and engine manufacturers announced their plans for 2018 and beyond.

Realistically, September is the latest anyone could have left their decisions with plans underway for new chassis’ and the next campaign starting in six months’ time.

Sainz Goes to Renault

Carlos Sainz Jr. has been loaned to Renault for 2018 to partner Nico Hulkenberg.

He continues to be associated with Red Bull but will get an experience of how a manufacturer works for the first time. Sainz has only driven for Toro Rosso to date, claiming a career-best sixth four times.

“This choice is well-aligned with our mid-term strategic plans,” managing director Cyril Abiteboul said. “We feel that Nico and Carlos will complement each other on and off track and the combination should help us push forwards on the grid.”

The signing leaves Jolyon Palmer on the sidelines for now after over 35 events with the team. Rumors have also consistently linked Sainz with taking over Palmer’s seat for the next contest in Malaysia.

Palmer denied this in the press conference before the start of the weekend, saying, “I have a contract. I’ve got seven more races this year. There have been suggestions for the past 35 races that I might not be at the next one, or in the next few, so this is nothing new for me, it’s water off a duck’s back now. It’s the same, I think at probably most races this year it’s been the case and nothing has changed.”

McLaren Joins Up With Renault

Renault will power McLaren for the first time in its history in the next three seasons as the former constructors’ champions split with Honda.

It ends its time with the brand after three years. If the MCL32 does not claim a podium by the end of 2017, it will be the first time that McLaren has not finished in the top-three through a period with an engine manufacturer since the M7D Alfa Romeo-powered car in 1970.

The switch could also change the situation around Fernando Alonso’s future. The Renault engine has won in June with Daniel Ricciardo at Red Bull, and Alonso has previously said that he wants to be back on the top step. The manufacturer was also the team that Alonso won a title for in 2005 and 2006.

There’s also discussion surrounding his options now being limited, despite previously being linked to a possible  Verizon IndyCar Series ride. However, the seat he was likely to have taken was filled at Andretti Autosport by Zach Veach. As a result, he could be back in F1 with just a possible one-off ride for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Alonso gave an update in Thursday’s press briefing, adding, “There are options everywhere. And they are all very good. You just need to be patient and wait a couple of weeks. The Indy 500 is together with Monaco, as we know, there is another one still to complete, so the triple crown is still ongoing at the maximum speed. I agree with the same thing [McLaren executive director] Zak [Brown] said: if I remain in F1 it’s because I believe I can win next year. So, that will ease the decision a lot because I will be in Monaco because I don’t want to lose any points. The plan is ongoing and very good news is coming.”

Toro Rosso Moves to Honda Power

As a result of McLaren’s switch, Honda is staying in F1 in the back of the Toro Rosso chassis as it moves away from Renault. It has a multi-year agreement to run the Japanese power units.

“It will be a question of adaption of our plans rather than a wholesale change and we are in the process of re-planning our design and production activities in conjunction with Honda to ensure that we both hit all our important deadlines,” technical director James Key said. “We will be working hard not to only re-design the power unit installation but also ensure that this has minimal or no effect on the ongoing development work for 2018.”

Sainz’s vacant seat could allow Toro Rosso to debut a new racer, with several options available. Red Bull reserve Pierre Gasly is winning in the Super Formula championship with a Honda-powered car, Sean Gelael took part in his first practice session for them in Singapore, and F2 and GP3 competitors Nobuharu Matsushita and Nirei Fukuzumi are both Honda-supported and working their way through the ladder system.

Kubica, Rosberg Start Working Together

Retired 2016 champion Nico Rosberg is continuing to be involved in motorsports as he tweeted that he is helping Robert Kubica with his future.

https://twitter.com/nico_rosberg/status/908607081527349248

Kubica was one of the names in the frame for Sainz’s Renault seat after having three test sessions with them but is still waiting for an opportunity for a potential comeback.

The two of them may work perfectly as both have been in similar places before in their careers. The duo both burst onto the scene in 2006 and finished close in seventh and eighth in the drivers’ championship in the last season the Pole competed in in 2010. Kubica was then in the same bracket as Rosberg as someone who could do great things later before his rallying accident affected that.

EMAIL CAMERON AT @cpatersonf1@gmail.com

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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F2 Open Wheel

Formula 2 Reveals Next Generation of Dallara Chassis

More Dallara-based cars will have a different look to them following the introduction of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series universal bodywork, with the Italian manufacturer building a new chassis.

Formula 2 revealed their new machine, named the F2 2018, replacing the GP2-11 that heads for the retirement home after seven years of service.

The series is set to follow the old rules of GP2 and GP3 in having this last three years, racing until the end of 2020.

The announcement follows F1 in moving to a longer vehicle with a pointed front wing, developing from 5065 to 5224 millimeters and its wheelbase extending to 3135 mm – an increase of 15. Its width is unchanged at 1900mm, with the height moving to 1097 mm from 1072. It also contains more front wing elements – two instead of the previous one – and a lower, sloping nose.

FIA director of F1 and director of single-seater department Charlie Whiting explained how this helps the sport in making a better transition from national F4 championships all the way up to the ‘pinnacle.’

“The plan for a more structured junior formula ladder is designed to feature cars that better prepare drivers for the next step,” he said. “For F2, that means we needed a car that will not only educate but will also allow the drivers that are most ready for F1 to shine brightest. The car has been developed to include improved aesthetics, as well as bringing the safety level up to the highest standards for single-seater cars.”

Hello Again, Halo

The other notable change is the adoption of the controversial Halo head protection system like F1, which will no doubt continue to be a talking point in motorsport.

This system has not been tested in F2, but some youngsters such as GP3 leader and Mercedes junior driver George Russell have. The competition could be one of his future options if he goes onto win the title.

Some could be concerned that this may be an obstacle for racing – especially in a rookie learning phase – but Russell was pleased with the device at F1’s Budapest in-season test.

“I had a much better view with the Halo than I expected,” he said. “When the sun was coming down at the end of the day, it blocked the sun from my eyes. I actually saw more than I would usually see when the sun is low. From a driver’s perspective, the visibility is completely fine. The only hindrance could potentially be seeing the start lights. Getting in and out of the car with the Halo takes a bit of experience. I struggled initially, but after a few trial runs I was fine.”

The new machine will first be tested privately twice in December before one is delivered to the competitors in January, and the second given a month later. Teams will be given a shakedown session before 2018 pre-season testing begins, an event which usually happens in Spring.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Gelael Given Toro Rosso Practice Opportunities

Three drivers have already been given time in cars during Formula 1 practices in 2017, but another will join them in half of the remaining events.

Arden Formula 2 racer Sean Gelael will take part in four first practice sessions in the last eight races for Toro Rosso.

His period in the STR12 will begin at Singapore before continuing at the Malaysia, United States and Mexican Grands Prix.

Gelael has already been involved in two days of testing for the team as part of the sport’s rules over allowing young drivers – those with no more than two Grand Prix starts – a chance to gain mileage.

He competed on day one of the two-day Bahrain tests after the race in the country and was eighth overall with a time of 1m33.885s after 78 laps, 2.527s off the best time set by Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton.

A second opportunity came in the session after the Hungarian event, again competing on the first day for 101 laps, setting a 1m20.341s, 2.595s behind F2 rival Charles Leclerc in the Ferrari.

Team principal Franz Tost described how positive Gelael’s role was to the team.

“During the tests in Bahrain and Budapest Sean performed very well, helping the team in a very professional way, with a mature approach to the complex task of providing engineers with useful feedback,” Tost said. “Everyone within the team was impressed by his performance, his technical understanding, and his commitment.”

It is not currently confirmed which of regular drivers Carlos Sainz and Daniil Kvyat will step aside from their seats at each round.

A chance to practice for the Italian team is usually rare, with Kvyat and Max Verstappen’s appearances in 2013 and 2014 being indications of a future drive.

Gelael currently sits 20th in the F2 drivers’ championship after 16 races with three points.

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Formula One Open Wheel

Chaos Continues for Force India at Belgium

Eight years ago, Giancarlo Fisichella made the breakthrough performance for Force India at Spa-Francorchamps with pole position, and a second-place finish as the team grew from backmarkers to midfield competition.

In 2017, the event made memories for all the wrong reasons as drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez collided for the second and third times in 2017 and had problems for a third race following Canada and Azerbaijan.

At the start of the contest, Ocon was lucky to escape without major bodywork or suspension damage after hitting the wall while going three-wide with Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Perez going into the fast Eau Rouge section.

On Lap 29 of 44, after the two collided again approaching the same area of the track, moments after Ocon questioned pit strategy, causing a safety car period for debris.

As the Frenchman took to the outside to prepare for a move, the two drifted into each other, with Ocon suffering left-sided front wing damage and Perez getting a right rear puncture.

Ocon recovered to ninth later on, while the Mexican’s race ended a couple of laps from the end, classifying 17th, both being serviced under the safety car.

Due to this, team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya will deny the two the opportunity to make high-pressure decisions in future.

“I have been very happy with our overall performance during the 2017 season with both drivers scoring points for the team and racing freely,” Mallya said. “As much as I support competitive racing, the repeated incidents between our cars are now becoming very concerning. Under these circumstances, I have no choice but to implement a policy of team orders in the interest of safety and to protect the team’s position in the constructors’ championship.”

Drama Spills Onto Social Media Post-Race

The clashing didn’t end on track as both used social media to give their sides of the story.

Ocon tweeted highly-emotive thoughts on the safety levels of the Mexican’s battling which could be read literally or as a joke.

At the time of the crash, he was angry at his teammate’s actions.

“Guys, what the f*ck? Honestly? What the f*ck is he doing? Front wing broken now,” he told his engineers.

Perez later released a video update on his beliefs of the incident in retaliation, taking the quote as a real accusation.

On Monday morning, Ocon gave an update to his fans.

Ultimately, the drama meant that neither was able to capitalize on Max Verstappen’s DNF, with Perez still seventh and Ocon remaining eighth in the drivers’ championship. Force India stays fourth in the constructors’, with Williams lowering their advantage over fifth to 58 points.

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The History of Formula 1’s Pole Record

Back in 2006 when Michael Schumacher took his 68th and final pole position at the French Grand Prix, the total looked like a steep obstacle for anyone to climb.

That was until Lewis Hamilton came on the scene a year later. And in his 11th season in the sport, the Mercedes pilot has joined Schumacher on the same amount after setting the fastest time at Spa-Francorchamps.

Hamilton set a 1m42.553s – a new lap record – to lead the grid for the race ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Valtteri Bottas.

He is now the second British person to take this honor following Jim Clark, and it is currently the 18th record with his surname besides it.

Coincidentally for the man who now has Bottas (No. 77) as his teammate – it is the 77th change of the record since the first pole position back in 1950.

The Beginning of the Sport

As the sport first got underway in 1950, unsurprisingly the most changes at the front of this standing happened in the opening decade of racing.

Nino Farina took the first at the British Grand Prix that year before Juan Manuel Fangio started on top in Monaco. Walt Faulkner joined them on level terms when he won the pole for the 1950 Indianapolis 500, then a part of this championship.

Fangio and Farina tied on two in the next two contests before Fangio ran away to four by the end of the year, and seven at the end of 1951.

The Fall of 1952 brought Alberto Ascari’s period with the record, stealing the accolade in Italy in September, before extending his reign in Argentina, the Netherlands, France, Britain, Germany, and Italy again in 1953.

This would not stop Fangio’s time entirely, as he came back to begin a 13-year spell in the lead by taking his 13th  in Britain in 1954 before ending his career on 29, his last in Argentina in 1958.

Clark Takes Over

Fangio’s list of achievements was quickly eradicated by Lotus’s Clark as his team became dominant in the sport in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

The Scot became only the second driver to reach 20 before tying with Fangio at the 1967 German Grand Prix in August.

He took the record outright at the end of that month in Canada before having the fastest times in Italy and Mexico.

His last 33rd  was at the South African Grand Prix on New Year’s Day in 1968 as his period fighting at the front of the sport was sadly cut short on April 7 that year, dying at an F2 race in Germany.

Senna’s Supremacy

Clark’s time with the accolade was the longest period – over 21 years – until Ayrton Senna took over while fighting for his second world championship.

Starting at the front in Mexico was the 33rd of his career, but this would only be the halfway point of his amount.

Nine others in 1989 extended his record to 42, before another 10 the following year, and eight in 1991.

Just two more came for him at McLaren in 1992 and 1993 in Canada and Australia, before starting first in his first three events for Williams.

Sadly, his time would also be cut short by an accident at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, resulting in his death.

Schumacher’s Time

The final year in which Senna extended his record was the one that Michael Schumacher began his title-winning streak for Benetton.

He would be the next line in for throne, equaling the Brazilian’s tally at the 2006 Bahrain Grand Prix.

His final campaign in the sport included claiming three more at the San Marino, United States and French races.

The date of July 16, 2006, previously stood as the last time the record changed as he ended the last three months of his career without another, and without an eighth title.

What Next?

Hamilton has reached seven so far in 2017, reached double figures in the past two seasons, and has an average of eight per calendar with Mercedes – so many will wonder whether he could reach 100 if he goes on to have a career of a similar length to Schumacher’s (1991-2006, 2010-12).

For now, his next step will be to take another and complete the passing over of the baton if he wants to ensure winning the Pole Trophy for the third time in a row.

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News Open Wheel

Vettel Next Driver to Secure F1 Future

Another vacant seat on the Formula 1 grid has been taken from the market, as Ferrari completes their lineup for 2018.

Four-time champion – and 2017 title fighter – Sebastian Vettel has agreed to a new three-year contract to stay at the Scuderia until the end of 2020.

This comes just days after the news of Kimi Raikkonen continuing for 2018.

Vettel has been at Ferrari since 2015, winning seven races and taking three pole positions. It will be his longest period at a team, equaling the six years he spent at Red Bull from 2009 to 2014.

He is set to surpass 250 Grand Prix starts in the sport if he completes the duration of his deal.

Possible Repercussions?

This announcement could be the development that slows down the market for 2018 and future years in the fight for the drivers’ championship.

Ferrari has only used two world champions in their lineup this century between 2014 and 2017 and has not partnered two competitors who are multiple title-holders.

After years of rumors over whether he may one day be with the Italians, it may mean that Lewis Hamilton stays at Mercedes – or joins another team who are not yet at the front – if he continues fighting for wins in F1 until 2020 and beyond, with a seat at Red Bull unimaginable.

It also potentially delays a graduation for others on the grid or any of its Academy racers and allows a possible strong line-up of third drivers – with Antonio Giovinazzi waiting for a chance, Charles Leclerc leading the F2 championship and probably not returning to the series in 2018, and Giuliano Alesi winning races in GP3.

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F2 Open Wheel

Front Runners DQ’d, Penalized Following Belgium

The Formula 2 drivers’ championship battle is now headed in a new direction, in due part to post-race developments at Spa-Francorchamps.

Title contenders Charles Leclerc and Oliver Rowland were disqualified following the Belgian feature.

Their Dallara GP2-11 cars could not pass scrutineering after the competition because the planks at the bottom were badly worn and not enough of the wood remained for a suitable sample.

Leclerc had dominated, finishing 26.6 seconds ahead of Artem Markelov, who narrowly beat Rowland at the final corner of the event.

The Brit was in second before dropping well behind the Monegasque racer and could not hold off the Russian, who avenged his self-made crash while fighting with him the month previous at Hungary.

Stewards gave both a five-second time penalty for their behavior during the overtaking phase, as Rowland was deemed to have forced his rival off track, and Markelov gained an advantage by speeding through the run-off area and claiming second.

Final Classification

This result now shows Markelov as the winner, his third of 2017, ahead of Russian Time teammate Luca Ghiotto. The victor finished 5.9s ahead of Ghiotto on track, with the amended gap now just 0.9s.

Antonio Fuoco inherits the final spot on the podium, with Racing Engineering’s Gustav Malja and Nyck de Vries fourth and fifth.

Sergio Sette Camara moves up to sixth, as Roberto Merhi takes seventh and Norman Nato’s eighth. Connecticut’s Santino Ferrucci finishes in the points for the second time in three races in ninth, ahead of Campos’ Robert Visoiu.

It doesn’t do much for title competitiveness – with Leclerc’s lead still a massive 54 points with just 161 remaining in the season. The interesting note is the contest for second as Rowland and Markelov are now separated by just eight.

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F2 Open Wheel

Deletraz, de Vries, Merhi in New Seats For Belgium

Fitting into new surroundings will be a theme of the Belgian Formula 2 round as three drivers find themselves with different teams.

Monaco Sprint winner Nyck de Vries moves to Racing Engineering to partner Gustav Malja.

The McLaren junior racer has finished on the podium four times since graduating from GP3 and is in eighth in the drivers’ championship with 72 points.

“Perhaps this move is a surprise in the middle of the season, but I am very excited to join Racing Engineering,” he said. “We have been in touch since 2015, and it is great to finally get the chance to work together as they have a very high level of professionalism and a great track record. I hope we will be able to turn around their momentum and score the successes they have always had.”

Louis Deletraz swaps with the Dutchman, going to Rapax, where Roberto Merhi joins him for the weekend.

Deletraz claimed his only point last time out in Hungary’s feature after a post-race penalty. He has completed all-but-one event, outqualified Malja 4-3, but the Swede outperformed him 8-4 in the 12 races they have both finished and scored 27 more points.

Sergio Canamasas – who has been at the team since moving from Trident for Austria – said on Twitter that he is currently having ‘personal issues’ preventing him from competing.

Merhi previously made his F2 debut in Spain for Campos, having a best result of 12th in the sprint contest.

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The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.