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GP Week : Issue 188
F1 >>> nEWs Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has warned his team not to get carried away by their recent surge in form, telling them to concentrate on consistency and consolidation – not possible titles – I the second half of the season. Mercedes, who have had to endure three largely unsuccessful years since returning to the sport as a fully- fledged manufacturer in 2010, have built what many believe is the fastest car of the year, one that saw a Silver Arrow start on pole at seven of the first ten races. The team have, however, generally struggled with tyre wear in races, with drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton tending to tumble down the order on Sunday afternoon more often than not. But there are indications that the team is getting on top of the tyre wear issue, with Hamilton winning in Hungary despite track temperatures exceeding 50 degrees. Budapest marked the team’s third victory in five races, prompting talk that Mercedes could mount a full -fledged title charge in the second half of the season. “If half a year ago we would have talked about championship opportunities in the Drivers' or Constructors' Championship it would have been absolutely crazy,” Wolff (left, above) was quoted as saying by Autosport. After the summer break, Mercedes sat second in the constructors’ standings, 69 points behind leaders Red Bull, while Lewis Hamilton, on 124 points, was within reach of title leader Sebastian Vettel. But with significant rule changes set to kick in next year, teams will have to make the switch from developing their current car to concentrating resources on 2014. The decision comes down to balancing the competing priorities of winning the title in 2013 – the last year of the current regulations – or focus on building a car that can be strong from the beginning of the new era. “If you look at our competitors they have been able to perform at the top in a sustainable way,” Wolff said. “T hat is what we need to achieve – consolidation should be the agenda for the second half of the year, not looking at the championships.” Wolff: consistency is our prey this year sergey sirotkin took his first steps towards becoming the youngest Formula One driver when he visited sauber’s Hinwil base for a seat fitting last week, with the Russian also set to get his first taste of an F1 car in a demonstration run next month. At the factory Sirotkin – who turns 18 on Sunday – interacted with the Swiss team’s engineers and was also given a lesson on the functions of a Formula One steering wheel ahead of the planned demo run in the Black Sea resort town of Sochi, which is set to host the first Russian Grand Prix in 2014. “My visit to the Sauber F1 Team headquarters was busy,” Sirotkin said. “I learned a lot about the team and many other things. I had a seat fitting, met the engineers and learned about the car and what happens over a race weekend. I also had a lesson with the steering wheel. “I am happy because, if you had told me six months ago that one day I would visit this workshop and meet this team, I would have never believed you. It’s great. The dream is so close to becoming reality now.” Putting Sirotkin into a race seat next year is Sauber’s end of the bargain under a deal the Hinwil-based squad has struck with three Russian entities who have thrown the outfit a lifeline intended to put the team on a firmer financial footing after a period of treading water. One of the entities – the National Institute of Aviation Technologies - - is headed by Sirotkin’s father and while it has been reported that the deal is conditional on Sirotkin being slotted into a race seat in 2014, Sauber have said the investment is not dependent on the driver. But questions remain as to how ready Sirotkin will be to make his Formula One debut. The Russian – currently racing in the Formula Renault 3.5 series where he lies ninth in the standings – doesn’t yet have the superlicence without which he cannot take part in practice sessions at race weekends, let alone race in grands prix. With no further in- season or young driver tests scheduled this year, Sauber will have to look at other options to help Sirotkin obtain his superlicence. “He will keep on racing in Formula Renault; beyond that he could do lots of simulator running, but that isn’t real life, and Sauber does not have a simulator so that is not an option,” N ico Hulkenberg told Autosport. “I wasn’t ready for Formula 1 at that point. It is ambitious, maybe a bit risky, but it’s not my decision.” Hulkenberg is not the only one who sees the inherent risk in slotting Sirotkin into a race seat next year. His current Formula Renault 3.5 team boss Igor Salaquarda also feels it is perhaps a little too early for the Russian racer to make the step up to Formula One. “He is definitely too young for [F1],” Salaquarda said. “I don’t mean that he can’t do it physically – anyone can drive a Formula One car today. It’s much harder to cope with the enormous pressure of the world championship. “Sergey has only driven in Formula Abarth and Auto GP and Italian F3, but in both those series he had little serious competition. As such, he was fast. But if anyone is expecting him to win here right now, it’s simply too much to ask. He should spend more time in the 3.5 -litre class to gain more experience.” SIROTkIn MAkES hIS START WITh SAuBER 9 GPWEEK.com // 9 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: