F1.co.uk brings you a round-up of some of the top F1 stories flying under the radar as the title battle intensified at the Japanese Grand Prix…
Sainz alive as Palmer bows out
Carlos Sainz’s pending move to Renault was accelerated over the Suzuka weekend, with Jolyon Palmer bowing to the inevitable and making way for the Spaniard for the remaining four rounds of the 2017 season.
Sainz had already been signed as the Briton’s replacement alongside Nico Hulkenberg for 2018, but Palmer was reluctant to simply move aside for his rival despite the regie‘s desire to get him on board and integrated into the team ahead of next year. Having held out to compete in Japan, however, the former GP2 champion announced that he had come to an agreement with Renault and would step down in order for the rest of the campaign.
Palmer has endured a nightmare season, with a combination of mistakes and woeful reliability leaving him with just one scoring finish – sixth in Singapore – to show for his efforts. Those eight points sit alongside the lone score he achieved in his debut season, and the Briton now moves onto an uncertain future that is unlikely to feature a return to F1.
“These things happen – it’s a shame but I’ll move on,” he told Sky Sports F1 “I respect the decision and wish the team and Carlos the best for the future as we go our separate ways.”
Sainz, ironically, ended his Toro Rosso career with a first-lap retirement from the Japanese Grand Prix, but the Spaniard’s focus is very much on the future, as he begins a loan spell with Renault four races ahead of schedule.
“Competing in these last four races with Renault gives me a good opportunity to get to know the team and the car earlier than expected,” he confirmed, “I am looking forward to start working with them, and I would like to thank Toro Rosso and Red Bull for allowing me the possibility of finishing this season with Renault.”
Even as he thanked his engineers and mechanics for ‘their support and tremendous work throughout these years’ before the team made the dash for their flight back to Europe, Sainz was handed a copy of French For Dummies by Italian television…
Gas gong gone
Sainz’s early move to Renault also has a knock-on effect for erstwhile team-mates Pierre Gasly and Daniil Kvyat, who will now form the Toro Rosso line-up at the USGP later this month.
While the Spaniard heads for Enstone and fitting for some black-and-yellow racewear, Gasly will be coming to terms with the fact that his bid for the Japanese Superformula title is over. Although he has closed to within half a point of the championship lead, the last GP2 Series champion will be unable to make it back-to-back titles as he heads to the Circuit of the Americas for his third race as an F1 driver.
Gasly, who made his grand prix debut as Kvyat’s replacement in Malaysia the week before Suzuka, had previously insisted that he would prefer to continue his F1 career at the expense of further silverware, but will no doubt have some regrets after closing the gap in the title race with two victories in recent rounds.
While Gasly and Kvyat will form a new STR partnership in Texas on the weekend of 22 October, there has not yet been any confirmation for the races beyond that. Paddock wisdom, however, suggests that the pairing could be retained for 2018, despite Kvyat being ‘dropped’ for the Frenchman after a string of poor performances blighted his 2017 campaign.
Another driver turning his attention to 2018 and a likely F1 berth is Charles Leclerc, who was crowned as the first FIA F2 champion at the series’ standalone round at Jerez over the weekend.
The Monegasque, who is being strongly linked to a Sauber seat next season thanks to his role on Ferrari’s development programme, claimed the F2 title in typical fashion by winning Saturday’s feature race in southern Spain. Leclerc, who gives the PREMA team back-to-back titles in the prime F1 feeder series following Gasly’s success in the final season of GP2 in 2016, led throughout and hung on for victory despite slowing on the last lap as his tyres gave up. He eventually crossed the line just 0.2secs ahead of title rival Oliver Rowland, with PREMA team-mate Antonio Fuoco completing the podium. Sunday’s sprint event also saw Leclerc run into tyre woes, eventually taking seventh position, but the crown was already in his bag.
“It feels amazing!” he admitted, “We’ve had a great season overall, and have always been very, very quick. The only low on the performance side was qualifying in Monza and that was my fault because I wasn’t good enough in that session. Obviously I’ve had some other lows during the season, most of all on the personal side after losing my father, and winning the championship is an amazing way for me to honour him.”
Asked if he knew where the title success would take him next year, however, Leclerc continued to be coy, refusing to disclose anything even if he knew what lay ahead.
“Now I will call my manager, because they didn’t want to tell me anything before winning the championship,” the 19-year old insisted…
Williams dynasty continues
The Williams motorsport dynasty could continue long into the future following the team’s announcement that deputy team principal Claire Williams has given birth to a baby boy.
The revelation came via the Williams team Twitter feed, confirming that Claire – who has missed the various Asian rounds in recent weeks as her due date neared – and husband Marc Harris had welcomed the arrival of Nathaniel (Nate) Louis Harris at 10.30am on Tuesday 10 October.
Mother and baby are reported to be doing well.
[Image courtesy Renault Sport F1]