ROB LAD­BROOK

“It’s a shame Wil­liams won’t take a gam­ble”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News -

It’s been a twist­ing tale so far and, un­for­tu­nately, will most likely have fea­tured an ad­di­tional fast swerve some time after the story to the left was writ­ten and com­mit­ted to print.

Christ­mas can be a bit of an odd time for weekly publi­ca­tions like Motorsport News. Due to print dead­lines we have to com­mit to the sto­ries as they stand just be­fore the fes­tive break, mean­ing work­ing ahead of our­selves to a cer­tain ex­tent.

That’s not the most ideal sce­nario when you have a story such as the Bot­tas will-he-won’t-he leave and the Mercedes will-they-won’t-they pay for him saga.

While Mercedes stated there would be no firm an­nounce­ment on which driver would part­ner Lewis Hamil­ton at the team un­til the New Year, those in the know are be­gin­ning to see the smoke clear­ing, and a dis­tinctly Fin­nish fig­ure be­gin­ning to emerge – and it’s not Kimi Raikko­nen.

Nico Ros­berg’s shock re­tire­ment last year hasn’t helped Mercedes a great deal. While there’s a very long line of driv­ers ready to queue up to race the best car on the grid, how many are ac­tu­ally suitable?

Hav­ing two strong, ex­pe­ri­enced driv­ers is un­doubt­edly the best way to keep a team at the front of the grid, es­pe­cially dur­ing a year that will fea­ture such sweep­ing changes to the tech­ni­cal reg­u­la­tions. Bot­tas would be the per­fect fit. He has the ex­pe­ri­ence, the de­vel­op­ment knowl­edge and the un­doubted speed to give Hamil­ton a fight up front. It’s a good mix.

In com­par­i­son, surely Wil­liams could have looked a bit fur­ther afield in its scope of op­tions?

I get the need for ex­pe­ri­ence, and Massa does bring con­sis­tency, but doesn’t it feel like he’ll be lop­ing along for an­other, largely un­wanted, season?

Massa took the de­ci­sion to re­tire from F1. He wasn’t forced out. He de­cided to leave on his own terms. Surely that should be re­spected?

While it’s great to have one of F1’s most like­able driv­ers back in the pad­dock, it is a shame Wil­liams couldn’t have broad­ened its scope a lit­tle.

Two rook­ies was never go­ing to be ideal, but if you want ex­pe­ri­ence, why not look at the huge pool of sea­soned tal­ent cur­rently ma­ligned from F1.

How about Jean-eric Vergne, who is cur­rently ply­ing his trade in For­mula E hav­ing been ditched by Toro Rosso, per­haps un­fairly, to make way for Car­los Sainz Jr. The French­man is still one of the most im­pres­sive driv­ers I’ve seen in ju­nior for­mula, and never got the shot he de­served in F1.

Or how about Lu­cas di Grassi? Again he’s im­mensely tal­ented and proven that in the World En­durance Cham­pi­onship many times. Eigh­teen F1 starts in an ail­ing Vir­gin Rac­ing car hardly gave him the right plat­form to shine.

Or what about WEC cham­pion Bren­don Hart­ley, one of the quick­est driv­ers in sportscars and a former Red Bull re­serve. Or Se­bastien Buemi, Loic Du­val, An­to­nio Felix da Costa, Robin Fri­jns, Bruno Senna… the list goes on.

If Massa wanted to step back, Wil­liams surely can’t say there weren’t any other op­tions. And who knows, per­haps given the right car we’d have seen one of the ‘for­got­ten’ stars of F1 shine be­lat­edly. Now it looks un­likely that we ever will.

Ben Hin­ge­ley will switch to race for Fortec Mo­tor­sports in his sec­ond cam­paign in the BRDC Bri­tish For­mula 3 Cham­pi­onship this year.

After claim­ing the For­mula Jedi ti­tle in 2015, his first year of car rac­ing, Hin­ge­ley grad­u­ated to the re­vamped Bri­tish F3 Cham­pi­onship with HHC Motorsport last season.

Hin­ge­ley had an in­con­sis­tent cam­paign, but fin­ished the season in strong form with podi­ums at Snet­ter­ton and Don­ing­ton Park – where he also se­cured his first pole po­si­tion – to fin­ish 10th in the points.

Fol­low­ing HHC’S with­drawal from the cham­pi­onship at the end of the season, Hin­ge­ley had been look­ing for al­ter­na­tive op­tions, and con­tested the Au­tumn Tro­phy event at Snet­ter­ton with Fortec last Oc­to­ber.

He has since com­pleted fur­ther test­ing mileage with the out­fit, in­clud­ing a trip to Va­len­cia in the mid­dle of De­cem­ber.

“I am de­lighted to be re­turn­ing to the Bri­tish F3 Cham­pi­onship with Fortec Mo­tor­sports,” said 19-year-old Hin­ge­ley. “We have just re­turned from a fan­tas­tic few days test­ing in Va­len­cia and I am feel­ing re­ally con­fi­dent for the com­ing season. Fortec is a pro­fes­sional team with a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence and I am look­ing for­ward to work­ing with them.”

Hin­ge­ley is the team’s sec­ond driver con­firmed for the 2017 season, with Ni­co­lai Kjaer­gaard hav­ing also agreed a deal to race in F3 ( see rac­ing news, page 7).

Hin­ge­ley heads to Fortec

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