“All summer I’ve been closely watching the team as they’ve been building me a brand new Nissan to campaign.
“You don’t get a brand-new car every year, so it’s great to get to the first track day of the year and show the new colours off to the crowd.”
Shane Pettiona, Drive.com.au chairman, added: “Supercars has a passionate and extensive fan base that we look forward to engaging with on many levels.
“We want to bring value to the fans and we will launch a host of initiatives throughout the year that will make this partnership exciting for everyone.”
Caruso shook down the new car, given the chassis number KR-009, at Winton last week, but it will make its track debut in its new colours at Friday’s official pre-season test day at Sydney Motorsport Park.
He will continue with long-time race engineer Steven Todkill, this year marking their 11th season working together.
“We’ve been together that long that we are a bit like an old married couple now,” Caruso joked.
“In this game, that sort of continuity is really important.
“Steven is already coming at me with ideas to go faster, so we’ll have plenty of things to run though at today’s test.”
Lewis Hamilton was the victim of “multiple instances of racist abuse on social media” during and after his controversial win in the British Grand Prix, according to a joint statement by Formula One, the FIA and his Mercedes team.
The seven-time world champion was involved early on in an incident that saw championship leader Max Verstappen plough his Red Bull into a wall and out of the race.
Hamilton was hit by a 10 second penalty but went on to win the race and close the gap in the title race to just eight points.
“During, and after, yesterday’s British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was subjected to multiple instances of racist abuse on social media following an in-race collision,” they said in a joint statement condemning the behaviour “in the strongest possible terms”.
“These people have no place in our sport and we urge that those responsible should be held accountable for their actions.
“Formula 1, the FIA, the drivers and the teams are working to build a more diverse and inclusive sport, and such unacceptable instances of online abuse must be highlighted and eliminated.”
Daniel Ricciardo also hit out at the racism Hamilton has received in light of the incident, saying: “I’ve seen some of the remarks aimed at Lewis after yesterday. No matter what happens on track there is absolutely zero place for racism and hate. We have to be better than this.”
Verstappen, who was taken to hospital for checks after the race, later accused Hamilton of “disrespectful and unsportsmanlike behaviour”.
A public supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, Hamilton gave his support a week ago to the England footballers Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho who were also abused after they missed penalties in the Euro 2020 final.
“I hope this opens a conversation around acceptance,” he wrote on Instagram at the time.
“We must work towards a society that doesn’t require Black players to prove their value or place in society only through victory.”
It was always inevitable that there would be a major flashpoint between Lewis Hamilton and Max Verstappen this season, they have both been racing hard and fair and both have acknowledged the respect they have for the other for doing so.
But Horner’s tune has changed since a similar incident at the Spanish Grand Prix, when Hamilton moved where Verstappen held firm, and the Brit was able to carry on racing.
“Turn 1 was mega,” Horner said at the time. “I mean Max, that was full Max Verstappen – he was just going for it – and he positioned the car fantastically well.
“He tucked in, he got a little bit of a tow and a bit of momentum. And yeah he just braked later and ran the car wide. Thankfully Lewis had got out of it because otherwise he would have ended up in the fence.”
The last sentence of that is crucial. Verstappen’s driving is just as aggressive as Hamilton’s, maybe even more so – and Horner celebrated it, but Hamilton’s is more pragmatic. That’s why Hamilton ended up with 25 points and Verstappen went careering into the barriers.
There will be plenty more flashpoints ahead with just an eight-point difference at the top of the drivers championship now, but this could act as a key learning curve for Verstappen, one where he realises that you can lose the battle but still win the war.
Lando Norris has been brilliant, but Ricciardo’s failing have made him look even better as the Aussie’s inexperience in the car was clear for all to see.
But the British Grand Prix was a stable performance from Ricciardo, he qualified in seventh for the sprint race, where he finished sixth to qualify for Sunday’s ‘real’ race.
He went one better there, finishing fifth, but more impressively managed to hold off Carlos Sainz’s Ferrari, which was always less than one second behind him in his rear-view mirror.
“Happy with my first top five of the year,” Ricciardo said. “Took a while, better late than never. Yeah, happy with that.
“When I saw Carlos coming in that second stint he caught me so fast.
“I was obviously ready for the fight and the defence but the pace he caught me I thought maybe — if I was a betting man or if I was watching from the outside, I guess he was the betting favourite (to overtake).
“But I certainly backed myself and I wasn’t going to go out without a fight.
“I think actually pushing to defend allowed me to stay on the limit a bit more and get a bit more comfortable with the car on the edge.
“I learned a bit more from that actually so we’ll keep going.
“I definitely need to have a few (good results) in a row. I need to have that consistency now to kind of have a bit more faith in saying that.
“I want to say that and I do feel better but there’s still certainly some time on the table that I need to find and get comfortable with the car.
“But overall, a good weekend. Yeah, let’s go.”
He has the Hungarian Grand Prix next up in a fortnight’s time before the mid-season break comes into effect, giving Ricciardo and McLaren more time to strengthen that bond. Expect to see a Ricciardo more familiar to us all come the season resumption in Spa at the end of August.
Hamilton made a habit of being picked up by television cameras casually making his way to the garage on his push scooter with 20 minutes of a Friday practice session already passed. A lot of teams even use a reserve driver or a junior driver to give them experience in a F1 car, such is the lack of importance they place on a Friday in the grand scheme of the weekend.
Yet at Silverstone, while we were treated to the traditional Q1, Q2 and Q3 format, we had the added bonus of a 17-lap race as a mouth-waterer for the 52-lap main course on the Sunday. All that was lost was a non-competitive hour – previously an hour and a half – of practice sessions.
There were plenty of changes in the top 10 for the race from the sprint race, negating any fears that drivers would take it easy to avoid crashing.
But it doesn’t give us that down-to-the-wire finish that we usually get from qualifying, with pole decided on the opening lap followed by 30 minutes of what was essentially a practice session as teams got data to inform them of real race scenarios that they would experience the following day.
“For me personally qualifying is where you should get pole position, and of course Lewis was ahead there, but you jump out of the car and it actually doesn‘t… well, it does mean something,” Verstappen said.
“There‘s not the real hype of, you know, I nailed the lap and I put it on pole or whatever. So yeah, when I crossed the line today after this race and they were like, ’yeah, great job, pole position’, it feels a bit like, ’yeah, I did a kind of like one third of the race distance’ and then to hear you did pole position for tomorrow it’s a bit odd but yeah, we’ll go through it and I guess everyone has their own opinion about things.”
However, Ricciardo was more upbeat: “Qualifying is fun. It is intense and there is a lot of pressure, but for me Sunday has always been my favourite day. This is like having two Sundays, and having two chances for a race start and this level of intensity and competition two times, is fun.”
But it’s generated debate, intrigue and more eyes on the screen across the three days of racing, meaning that it is likely here to stay.
FERRARI ‘50% HAPPY, 50% FRUSTRATED’
For a while it looked like the stars had aligned and Ferrari would win at Silverstone on the 70th anniversary of its first ever F1 victory in 1951.
That was until Charles Leclerc was passed by Hamilton with just three laps to go leaving him on the second step of the podium.
Having started in P4, Leclerc jumped Valtteri Bottas before the crash between Hamilton and Verstappen left him in the lead of the pack.
He held onto the lead during the race restart despite engine issues and heavy pressure from behind until he finally succumbed with three laps remaining as the Mercedes couldn’t be contained any longer.
“[I’m feeling] 50% frustration, 50% happiness,” Leclerc said afterwards. “Obviously going into this weekend there was absolutely no hope of fighting for a win here at Silverstone. So this shows how great a job we are doing as a team. It’s not an easy situation for the team, but the team is working extremely well.
“We have shown that today with this second place and we’ve got to keep on working because that’s what we want to do consistently – fight for the win.”
It’s a positive sign for Ferrari, who are desperately working to get back into the championship debate after falling off so dramatically last year and for Leclerc himself, as he is able to show off his abilities again, despite competition from a very talented teammate in Sainz.
DOUBLE CHAMP’S QUIET RESURGENCE
There was a lot of excitement about Fernando Alonso’s return to Formula 1 this season, especially in a Renault that Ricciardo was showing could absolutely challenge for podiums regularly if in the right hands.
However, a slow start reduced him to a side show, as Alonso was racing another former multi-time champion – and former teammate – in Sebastian Vettel, but at the wrong end of the field.
However, a seventh-place finish at Silverstone has made it five consecutive points finishes for the Spaniard, compared to just two in the previous five.
And despite it not being Alpine’s best result, Alonso insisted that it still felt like it was, suggesting there is still plenty more to come this season.
“Our best result was Baku, P6, but it was a strange race – so today P7 was probably our strongest weekend on race pace,” reflected the Spaniard. “And happy for that. Difficult race for tyre management with blister concerns, and yes, we managed quite well and we delivered a good result, I think.”
Alonso was also the star performer in the inaugural F1 Sprint as he jumped from P11 to P5 in a stunning opening lap. There’s still some life in the old dog yet.