Five things to look out for at next weekend’s US Grand Prix

Before racing begins in Texas I take a look at five of the things you should be watching out for. From the rumours surrounding Kimi Raikkonen not racing the last two grand prix to controversy surrounding F1s unpaid drivers.

1. Raikkonen and Lotus
IMG_3183Kimi Raikkonen looks set to sit out of the final two grand prix of the season according to Finnish reports. They claim Raikkonen’s manager has revealed he will undergo surgery on a back injury this week. It is thought this is to ensure the best start to the 2014 season with Ferrari. The surgery would certainly leave him out of the final two Grand Prix in Austin and Brazil. It is thought the Finn has still not been paid by Lotus and despite the team saying they had sorted the problems between driver and themselves it seems all is still not well. But who will step in for Raikkonen if he cannot race? Third driver Davide Valsecchi, reserve driver Jerome D’Ambrosio or even potential driver for 2014 Nico Hulkenberg. Valsecchi is the most likely to get the nod.

2. Unpaid drivers
With Raikkonen going unpaid all season by Lotus a number of drivers have spoken out in support of the Finn. There are also rumours other drivers have not been paid – with one of them thought to be Sauber driver Nico Hulkenberg. Daniel Ricciardo described F1 as ‘not in the best shape’ amid the controversy. He said the situation had been discussed by the GPDA. He said he felt for the drivers who had not been paid and suggested something needed to be done. Talented drivers expect to be paid. The situation is closely linked to why F1 has pay drivers. It will always have them simply because it will always need them.

3. Alonso’s fitness
IMG_3575Questions are surrounding the fitness of Fernando Alonso following an incident in Abu Dhabi where he hit several high kerbs. The Spaniard underwent medical checks before being allowed to fly following the race. It is thought Ferrari may make a final decision on his fitness on Monday ahead of the race in Austin. If he were not able to race the team could draft in Jules Bianchi, who currently races for Marussia, and who is part of the Ferrari young driver scheme. Alonso is expected to pass the medical exam according to reports in Spain and Italy.

4. Quantum and Lotus
The deal between Lotus and Quantum was supposedly nearing completion at the last race in Abu Dhabi. Yet over a week on nothing has been announced. Quantum plans to buy a 35 per cent stake in the team through new shares issued by majority owner Genii. However the completion of the deal has not been announced and Lotus seem to be keeping coy over the deal. So who is dragging their heals – Quantum or Lotus? While no deal is finalised the 2014 driver market remains in limbo. Lotus is essentially the best seat available. Lotus and Quantum want Nico Hulkenberg – yet to secure him the deal needs to be finished. If not the seat is likely to go to Pastor Maldonado. Elsewhere Force India, Williams and Sauber wait to see the outcome before announcing their driver line-ups for next season.

5. Rossi’s Friday outing for Caterham

Alexander Rossi will get a outing in FP1 for Caterham this weekend. He has previously driven the Caterham twice in Free Practice – once in 2012 at the Spanish Grand Prix and again at in 2013 at the Canadian Grand Prix. Caterham BelgiumThe outing will give Rossi a chance to demonstrate his skills as he looks to secure a race seat in F1. It is not known who will drive for the team next year so this will be a good opportunity for the American to put in a good performance in front of a home crowd. While it may be more of a publicity stunt Rossi can certainly use it to his advantage.

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Team-by-team look at the 2013 Singapore Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel once again took a dominant victory in Singapore. Alonso and Raikkonen raced strongly to make up the podium despite being over thirty seconds behind the German. Many may have thought the race was boring but there were hints of excitement with wheel-to-wheel racing between the Mercedes, McLarens, Massa and Hulkenberg. It only seems like a matter of time before Vettel walks away with his fourth title.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel took yet another dominant victory as he moves ever closer to taking his fourth drivers title. It had looked like he had lost first position to Nico Rosberg at the first corner but Vettel managed to get back ahead just seconds later.IMG_2875 From then on Vettel was challenged very little. After the safety car, caused by Daniel Ricciardo’s crashed Toro Rosso, he was set to race Romain Grosjean at the finish before the Frenchman had to retire. Mark Webber was chasing Kimi Raikkonen for third when he suffered a gearbox problem. He was quickly caught by those behind before his car caught on fire. After hitching a lift with Fernando Alonso back to the pits both were called to the stewards. They both received a reprimand but this is the third reprimand for Webber this season. As a consequence he will get a 10-place grid drop for the next race in Korea.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso finished second recovering from a disappointing qualifying. Having started seventh he was third by the second corner after running down the side of the track. Despite his impressive race he was not in a position to challenge Vettel with the German having a gap of over thirty seconds. Felipe Massa kept us entertained as he battled with the Mercedes, McLaren’s and Sauber of Nico Hulkenberg as the race drew to a close. He ended the day in sixth. Both Massa and Alonso had gambled at the safety car pitting for Medium tyres. Massa will hope he is doing enough to advertise himself to other teams in the paddock.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen overcame a terrible qualifying and back pain to finish third. The Finn took the final podium place having started the race in 13th. There had been fears he would not race after suffering from back pain on Saturday. Raikkonen also gambled like Ferrari by pitting during the safety car for Medium tyres and made them last until the end of the race. He overtook Jenson Button to claim third as the McLaren began to struggle with its tyres. Grosjean had looked set to produce a great result after his third place start. Midway through the race he was sixth and would have challenged Vettel at the end of the race but was forced to retire with a valve problem on his engine. The Frenchman was less than impressed with his car’s failure. The team got a reprimand after a member of the team assisted with Grosjean’s stop without wearing head protection.

Mercedes
After staring from second on the grid Rosberg attempted to get ahead of Vettel at the first corner. The German managed to get ahead of his compatriot if only for a few seconds before Vettel passed him. After that Rosberg was unlikely to challenge for the lead again. He held onto second despite suffering some a lack of downforce due to a front wing problem. Whilst this was sorted at his pitstop he was passed by Alonso. Unlike others both he and Lewis Hamilton did not pit under the safety car and had to stop again. They followed each other as the laps counted down passing the Saubers of Gutierrez and Hulkenberg, then the McLaren’s of Perez and Button before passing the stricken Webber. They finished fourth and fifth.

McLaren
Jenson Button had looked on course to take McLaren’s first podium of the season after rising to third following the safety car. The Brit had pitted under the safety car changing to the Medium tyre and attempting to last until the end of the race. After losing third to Raikkonen he was quickly passed by Webber, Rosberg, Hamilton and Massa. He was by this point eighth and now battling with his teammate Perez. After Webber’s car problems Button and Perez finished in seventh and eighth.

Sauber
Hulkenberg scored points for the second race in a row. The German finished in ninth after starting 11th. Hulkenberg had a number of close battles throughout the race including the clash with Perez where he was unhappy to have to give the place back. The team gambled with both drivers pitting under the safety car for Medium tyres and staying on those tyres until the end of the race. Hulkenberg and Gutierrez were sixth and seventh before being passed by Webber, the Mercedes and Massa. Hulkenberg held off Force India’s Adrian Sutil for the two points. Gutierrez had out qualified his teammate and reached Q3 for the first time on Saturday but by the end of lap one he was behind Hulkenberg. The Mexican then lost a further two places to Sutil and the Williams of Pastor Maldonado at the end of the race to finish 12th.

Force India
Adrian Sutil took the last point with a final charge to the finish. The German had a bad start from 15th with his 17th placed teammate Paul di Resta passing him on lap one. Sutil quickly caught the battle between the McLaren’s and Hulkenberg as the laps counted down with all four separated by less than half a second. Di Resta had looked on course for points before crashing out of the battle for ninth with just laps to go. The Brit had run as high up as third being one of the last to make his first pitstop. This won’t do his hopes of getting a top drive after failing to finish the last three races.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado missed out on the final point as he finished 11th for Williams. He overtook Gutierrez in the closing laps but could not reach Sutil to take 10th place. Valtteri Bottas found himself behind the impressive Caterham of Giedo van der Garde in the early part of the race before passing him. The Finn once again had to pass Van der Garde before the end of the race. He also managed to pass the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne for 13th.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo made Q3 in qualifying and started the race from ninth but got a terrible start to be passed by a number of cars on lap one. The Australian only lasted until the 24th lap where he went straight on and into the wall bringing out the safety car. Jean-Eric Vergne’s day did not go much better. He made it to the end of the race but could only finish in 14th.

Caterham
Giedo van der Garde spent some of the race mixing it among the midfield. He ended the day in 16th behind Bottas, Vergne and a stationary Webber. The Dutchman beat Marussia rivals Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. Teammate Charles Pic ended the day last of the backmarkers in 19th.

Marussia
Max Chilton finished behind Caterham rival Van der Garde. The Brit beat his Marussia teammate Bianchi on merit under the lights. Bianchi finished ahead of the other Marussia of Charles Pic.

Team-by-team look at the 2013 Italian Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel took a dominant victory as Fernando Alonso finished second much to the delight of the Italian crowd. Mark Webber converted his front row qualifying to third – his first podium at Monza – whilst Nico Hulkenberg boosted his chances of a better seat next year with fifth in his Sauber. Both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton’s title chances suffered after a poor qualifying session and race. Here is how each team finished.

Red Bull
IMG_2875Red Bull converted a front row start into getting both drivers on the podium. Sebastian Vettel led from the off as Mark Webber lost out on second to Felipe Massa. Vettel extended his lead over the coming laps to drive comfortably to the end. At the end Fernando Alonso managed to close the gap but could get no closer than five seconds. Webber lost out to both Massa and Alonso at the start but the Australian fought back to get within a second of Alonso. Webber was also told to short-shift in the closing laps but still had enough to finish third. A great result for both drivers and the team with both the drivers and constructors titles not looking too far off.

Ferrari
Ferrari would have been hoping for more at their home race but after failing to get on the front row in qualifying second and fourth may be all they could have hoped for. Felipe Massa started ahead of Fernando Alonso and briefly got himself up to second before letting Alonso past. The Spaniard then trailed Vettel for much of the race leading for a number of laps before pitting. At the end he managed to close the gap to just over five seconds but it was not enough. Massa’s race may go some way to helping his 2014 seat chances but rumours suggest he is most likely on his way out of the team – with an announcement imminent. Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg are being touted as replacements.

Sauber
Nico Hulkenberg produced the drive of the day to finish a strong fifth in a less than brilliant Sauber. IMG_2809The German started third on the grid after an outstanding lap on Saturday. He lost out at the start and by the first corner he was fifth but a controlled race meant that is where he stayed. He had been in a race long battle with Nico Rosberg but managed to keep ahead of the Mercedes driver right up until the end. It was a contrasting day for Esteban Gutierrez – who had been the faster Sauber driver throughout the weekend – with him eventually finishing 13th. Question marks are over both drivers heads with Sergey Sirotkin set to be one of the teams drivers in 2014. Hulkenberg is also being touted as a candidate for the Ferrari and Lotus seats. Either way this performance will have helped Sauber who have struggled for much of this season.

Mercedes
Mercedes had a mixed weekend but both drivers finished in the points. Nico Rosberg had a race long battle with Nico Hulkenberg but could not pass him despite being faster. He ended the day in sixth. Lewis Hamilton was forced to recover from a poor qualifying which saw him fail to make Q3. A slow puncture meant an early stop which pushed him down the field. A fighting drive saw him make numerous overtakes in the closing laps to finish ninth. He had been on course for eighth but after overtaking Romain Grosjean on the last lap he ran off the track and had to give the place back. Hamilton has suggested his title hopes are now over.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo went some way to proving he is the right man to replace Mark Webber next season with a seventh place finish. The Australian managed to keep his Toro Rosso ahead of Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton in the closing laps using the great straight line speed of his car. Jean-Eric Vergne had been keeping Jenson Button and Hamilton behind him in the opening laps but was forced to retire with a transmission problem. He was out of the race on lap 15. Ricciardo now moves ahead of Vergne in the drivers standings.

Lotus
IMG_3183A day to forget for Lotus. Both drivers started outside the top ten but Romain Grosjean managed to get himself into the top ten. He finished eighth after a battle with Daniel Riccardo. In the last laps he kept Lewis Hamilton behind him to keep hold of the four points. Kimi Raikkonen’s day didn’t start well when he ran into the back of Sergio Perez at the first corner. He had to pit because of the damage. He drove well to claw his way back up the field but still had to make a second stop. He was overtaken by Hamilton as they made their way thorough the field. Raikkonen failed to pass Jenson Button and ended the day in 11th.

McLaren
On McLaren’s 50th birthday race the team would have hoped for more. They had seemed to have made some sort of recovery and passing Force India in the constructors championship at the last race. However things didn’t really go according to plan in Monza. Both Sergio Perez and Jenson Button had mixed it in the top ten but only one of them stayed there at the end of the race. Button took the final point finishing 10th. Perez was 12th after being passed by Raikkonen.

Williams
There was disappointment for Williams once again as both drivers finished outside the top ten. Both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas were passed by Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil on the opening lap and battled throughout the race to make up lost ground. They ended the day in 14th and 15th behind Gutierrez.

Force India
Both Force India drivers were forced to retire from the race in Monza making it a race to forget for the team as they continue to struggle in the second half of the season. Paul di Resta’s race was over on lap one when he locked up and drove into the back of Grosjean. The stewards are currently investigating the incident. Adrian Sutil started from 17th after a three place grid penalty for impeding Hamilton in qualifying. He made up the places but was forced to retire on the last lap.

Caterham
Charles Pic beat teammate Giedo van der Garde in the battle of the backmarkers. The Frenchman had a strong advantage over his teammate as both finished ahead of the Marussias. Caterham still trail Marussia in the constructors.

Marussia
Jules Bianchi once again finished ahead of teammate Max Chilton as they continue their inter-team battle. The team still lead Caterham in the constructors title but have been beaten by their fellow backmarker team in recent races.

Team-by-team look at the 2013 Belgian Grand Prix

A comfortable victory for Red Bull and Sebastian Vettel sees the team extend its leads in both the drivers and constructors titles. The German took the lead from Hamilton on the first lap and was never challenged after that point. Elsewhere there was triumph for McLaren as a solid sixth place lifts them above Force India in the constructors. There is also drama as Pastor Maldonado causes chaos at his pitstop colliding with both Force Indias and earning himself a penalty. Here is how each team got on.

Red Bull
Vettel took a comfortable if slightly boring win in Spa. He managed to pass polesitter Lewis Hamilton on the first lap and was challenged little after that. IMG_2875He leads the drivers championship by 46 points and could be on course for his fourth title after a Kimi Raikkonen retirement leaves his title hopes in jeopardy. Whether the post race boos were for Vettel or the Greenpeace protestors we will never know. Teammate Mark Webber was unhappy with his clutch on the grid and once again he suffered a poor start. He made his way through the field and was closing on Nico Rosberg for fourth but fell off the pace to finish a respectable fifth. A good weekend all round for the team but focus will once again shift to who will replace the departing Webber next season. Principal Horner says the decision is weeks away but with Raikkonen discounting himself and Webber telling the media the decision has been made and it will be a compatriot, rumours are rife.

Ferrari
A hectic qualifying left the Ferrari’s of Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa in ninth and tenth on the grid. However they demonstrated impressive race pace on Sunday to emphasise suggestions had qualifying been dry they could have been on the front row. Alonso got a good start and began to make his way through the field. He ended the day in second some 16 seconds down on Vettel. The result boosted his championship chances with him moving to second in the title race. Massa recovered from a bad start to end the day in seventh. He overtook the one-stopping Lotus of Grosjean late on in the race with just four laps left to run.

Mercedes
IMG_2955Hamilton was unable to convert yet another pole into a race winning performance despite an impressive performance last time out in Hungary. The Briton was passed by Vettel on the first lap and could not keep in touching distance of the German. He was later passed by Alonso but maintained the gap over his teammate Rosberg to finish third. Hamilton’s title hopes remain in tact but he will need another win to help bridge the gap to Vettel. Rosberg finished in the points with a strong fourth keeping Webber at bay. He ended the day just two seconds off Hamilton.

McLaren
Jenson Button finished in sixth in Spa in what was a welcome result for McLaren. The team have been battling it out with Force India and Button’s eight points see them move into fifth in the constructors title four points ahead of their rivals. Button had been running in the podium positions at points in the race after a impressive start and even led the race briefly. He didn’t have the pace of the front runners and ended the day behind Webber. Sergio Perez finished the day 11th after a drive through penalty for squeezing Romain Grosjean off the track on lap eight.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean was Lotus’ sole finisher with a drive to eighth place. The Frenchman – on a one stop strategy – had been fighting it out up and down the field. Late in the race he was passed by Massa stopping him from claiming a well deserved higher finish. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen was forced to retire ending run of 27 consecutive point finishes. His hopes of points ended after a brake problem on the car. It may have also seen his championship hopes suffer after he fell to fourth in the standings – he had been in second behind Vettel.

Force India
IMG_3069Paul di Resta had looked on course for his first pole position for a few moments on Saturday before eventually qualifying fifth. His day didn’t get much better on Sunday after a poor start left him falling behind. He recovered some of the places before being passed by his teammate. Later in the race when both he and Sutil tried to pass a pitting Maldonado, Di Resta was taken out of the race. The Venezuelan had been battling with Esteban Gutierrez before being passed by Sutil. He hit the Germans car before braking and heading for the pits taking out Di Resta in the process. Sutil managed to hang on for ninth and two valuable points but was less than impressed with Gutierrez’s tactics.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo produced an impressive late surge to pass Nico Hulkenberg and his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne and claim the last point. The Australian had started 19th one place behind his teammate but produced a good race to finish tenth. The result will continue to boost his confidence as rumours continue to gather pace that he may be on his way to Red Bull. Vergne ended the day 12th after being on course for the last point. He escaped a penalty after apparently causing Hulkenberg to go off the track as they battled it out.

Sauber
The Sauber drivers finished a disappointing 13th and 14th. Hulkenberg had started well getting from 11th to eighth on the opening lap but tyre degradation forced an early stop and a move to the harder compound tyre did not yield results. He was passed by Vergne and Ricciardo late in the race to move further down the field. Gutierrez had been on course to finish close to his teammate but was caught in the Maldonado crash and was also given a drive through penalty for gaining an advantage by going off the track.

Williams
Maldonado’s hopes of points didn’t materialise after he crashed into both Force India’s when trying to pit. The Venezuelan had been battling with Esteban Gutierrez before being passed by Sutil. Di Resta then attempted to follow the move. Maldonado hit Sutil’s car before braking and heading for the pits taking out Di Resta in the process. He received a ten second stop and go penalty for the incident and ended the day in 17th. His teammate Valtteri Bottas was 15th as Williams’ higher placed finisher.

Caterham
Giedo van der Garde drove an impressive race having reached Q2 on Saturday. He had started 14th for Caterham and held off Pastor Maldonado to finish a strong 16th on Sunday. Charles Pic failed to make Q2 on Saturday starting 22nd and last. He retired on lap 8.

Marussia
Both Marussias made it into Q2 with Jules Bianchi starting the race from 15th and Chilton from 16th. The battle between the Marussias and the Caterhams continued in the race but they were quickly falling towards the back and ended the day in 18th for Bianchi and 19th for Chilton.

Team-by-team look at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix

Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix saw Fernando Alonso take a dominant home victory as Sebastian Vettel failed to finish on the podium. There was a stand out performance from Esteban Gutierrez whilst Mercedes continue to struggle to get a grip on the Pirelli tyres. We take a look at where each team stands as the European leg of the season begins with round five.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso took a triumphant victory in front on a home crowd on Sunday. The Spaniard started fifth before impressively overtaking both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton on the first lap- taking the outside line at Turn 3. He then executed a four-stop strategy to beat Raikkonen and his teammate Felipe Massa to secure his second victory of the season and moved himself into third place in the championship. Massa started ninth but moved up early in the race. He was similarly on a four-stop strategy but could not match the pace of his teammate- however he did enough to hold of Sebastian Vettel in fourth. A good performance by Ferrari to secure a double podium.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen started fourth on the gird but was overtaken by Alonso on lap one. The Finn led the race for some laps in the middle stint before being overtaken once again by Alonso. He managed his three-stop strategy to finish a comfortable second ahead of Massa. The day didn’t finish so well for his teammate Romain Grosjean who retired on lap eight after a suspension failure. Grosjean had struggled at the start falling to ninth having started sixth. Raikkonen is now just four points behind Vettel in the drivers championship but Lotus still trail both Red Bull and Ferrari in the constructors.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel may have followed an identical four-stop strategy as Alonso but he could not compete with the Spaniard on Sunday. Suffering from tyre wear the German could only manage fourth after losing out to both Raikkonen and Massa as the race unfolded. He still leads the drivers championship but by only four points to Raikkonen. Mark Webber failed to captialise on his qualifying position at the start going from seventh on the grid to 12th. However a clean race allowed him to make his way through the field to finish fifth behind his teammate and take home 10 points.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg may have started on pole but it was a similar story to last time out in Bahrain. The German did well to keep the lead for some laps during the first stint before Alonso overtook him. Rosberg went for a three-stop strategy and managed to hold off an attack from Paul di Resta in the closing laps. The team were clearly struggling with the Pirelli tyres and do not look to be any closer to solving the issues. Lewis Hamilton’s race went badly from the start- he lost a number of positions as Vettel and Alonso overtook. He then struggled with tyre wear for the entire race finishing a lowly 12th just ahead of Adrian Sutil who was within half a second of beating the Mercedes.

Force India
The day should have been a lot better for Force India who showed good pace in the race. Paul di Resta secured a seventh place finish after a strong finish to his two stop strategy. He caught Rosberg in the final laps but was unable to overtake the German. Teammate Adrian Sutil had the third fastest lap of the race but his chance to score points was ended after a bad first pitstop which left him at the back of the field. Sutil has been unable to show his true pace after a string of bad luck and Sunday was no different- he did well to make his way back up to 13th but was unable to make it passed Hamilton for 12th in the closing laps.

McLaren
A double points finish for McLaren once again but just six points will not be what the team would have wanted. Jenson Button had a terrible start which saw him fall from 14th to 17th but s clever strategy saw him finish eighth just ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez. The pair did not repeat the wheel to wheel racing which caused tension in Bahrain. The team will be happy to take home the points after the struggles they have had in practice and qualifying.

Toro Rosso
A mixed day for Toro Rosso. Daniel Ricciardo held on to tenth place for a single point after a late surge from Esteban Gutierrez. The Australian drove a clean race to keep himself in contention for points showing the updates to his Toro Rosso seem to have given the car a bit more speed. Jean-Eric Vergne failed to finish due to accident damage retiring on lap 52. He had been involved in a clash in the pits after Sauber unsafely released Nico Hulkenberg into his path with the pair clashing. Hulkenberg suffered front wing damage and was later given a 10 second stop go penalty.

Sauber
Another disappointing race for Sauber who failed to score points once again. The team had look set for at least some points after both drivers ran in the top ten. Esteban Gutierrez had his best race for the team coming close to scoring his first point whilst chasing Daniel Ricciardo in the final laps. Whilst his three stop strategy was not enough to claim the final point he did set the fastest lap of the race of which he led briefly at the first pit stop phase. Hulkenberg had a contrasting day finishing 15th- an unsafe release but his team left him with a broken front wing after hitting Vergne’s Toro Rosso. He had to pit for repairs before being given a 10 second stop-go penalty. The upgrades brought to the race may have been an improvement but it was not enough for the team who must make many more improvements for qualifying.

Williams
Williams continue to struggle with their drivers only finishing 14th and 16th. Pastor Maldonado was lapped by Alonso on lap 43- the man he had beaten last year for the victory. The Venezuelan was given a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane to add to his woes. Teammate Valtteri Bottas may have spent much of the race ahead of Maldonado but he had to settle for 16th position behind Hulkenberg.

Caterham
A mixed day for Caterham with Charles Pic beating both Marussias after starting from the back of the grid but a retirement from Giedo van der Garde. The Dutchman had looked on course for securing the teams best finish after battling with the Williams early on however a lose left-rear wheel force him to retire. He managed to make it back to the pits after the wheel came lose but had caused damage to the floor of his car. The team could face a fine for unsafe release as a consequence.

Marussia
Marussia had a fairly quiet day with both drivers being beaten by the Caterham of Pic. Jules Bianchi once again finished ahead of teammate Max Chilton. Both finished two laps down- the only drivers to do so- in 18th and 19th. Caterham appear to be beginning to comprehensively beat Marussia who will want to improve as the European leg of the season continues.

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Team-by-team look at the 2013 Chinese Grand Prix

Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix saw impressive performances across the field from a dominant victory by Alonso to a brilliant points finish for Daniel Ricciardo. There was also some less than impressive racing from some which resulted in post race penalties. I take a look at where each team stands after round three.

Ferrari
Starting from third on the grid Fernando Alonso made a good start to give Ferrari its first win of the 2013 season. The team’s decision to start on the soft compound tyre proved to be the right one and allowed him to produce an impressive victory as others struggled in the closing laps. Felipe Massa had been right with Alonso in the early laps but stayed out one lap longer than his teammate on the softs and lost out at the pitstop. Massa was left at the back end of the top ten for much of the race eventually finishing sixth. Alonso now sits in third in the drivers championship, nine points behind championship leader Vettel whilst Massa slips to fifth. In the constructors Ferrari leap frog Lotus to second in the table just five points behind Red Bull.

Lotus
Kimi Raikkonen took second and a well deserved podium after following the same strategy as Alonso. Raikkonen had struggled at the start being passed by the both Ferrari’s and later suffering damage to the car’s nose after a clash with Sergio Perez. The team decided against a new nose cone and instead continued to the end of the race, saying afterwards the damage had effected the pace of the car. Romain Grosjean in comparison had a quiter race eventually finishing ninth after catching a fading Nico Hulkenberg in the closing laps. Both drivers escaped a post-race penalty after using DRS during yellow flags when the device should have been disabled. Raikkonen heads to Bahrain in second place in the driver’s championship whilst in the constructors the team sit in third.

Mercedes
Despite Lewis Hamilton claiming pole the team could not convert this into a race win but their pace still allowed them to take a podium after Hamilton finished third. Hamilton had mirrored the strategies of Alonso and Raikkonen but came under heavy pressure from Vettel in the closing laps as the German tried to finish on the podium with a contrasting strategy. Nico Rosberg’s race was ended prematurely after he suffered from a suspension problem from the start and retired his car soon after his second pitstop when the problem became worse. Hamilton’s second consecutive podium leaves him fourth in the driver’s championship with the team also fourth in the constructors.

Red Bull
Red Bull attempted to run a contrasting strategy to their rivals with Vettel starting on the medium compound tyre. Early in the race he was passed by Hulkenberg and leading up to the first pitstop he was unable to pass him, saying he was held up and could have gone a lot faster, ultimately compromising his race. Vettel later led the race but was quickly overtaken by Alonso and still had to pit for the soft tyre. With just five laps to run he pitted leaving him behind Hamilton. He pushed in the final laps but could not catch the Mercedes despite it being close on the line, ending the race in fourth. After a disappointing qualifying which saw him disqualified and start from the pits Mark Webber’s day did not get any better. Webber pitted after just one lap on the soft tyres and began to make his way through the field but a clash with Jean-Eric Vergne left him with a three place grid penalty for Bahrain. Later pitstop repairs saw his tyre fall off on the outlap ending his race and hopes of points. Red Bull still lead both championships but by narrow margins.

McLaren
McLaren’s performance in China suggests a slight improvement of form with Jenson Button finishing fifth after following a two stop strategy and starting on the medium tyre. He lead the race momentarily but never looked likely of reaching the podium. His performance will give some hope to those back in the factory but it still looks like more work is needed to make the car truly competitive. Sergio Perez’s driving left much to be desired leaving a number of drivers disgruntled by his defensive tactics. A brush with Raikkonen left the Lotus with damage to its nose and the Mexican could only manage to finish 11th outside the points. This weekend showed promise for the team but there is still a long way to go until the car can be challenging its rivals for podiums.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo provided jubilation in the Toro Rosso camp after securing seventh position and helping the team to get above Sauber in the constructors championship. After an impressive qualifying performance yesterday the Australian converted the position into a solid six points finish after pushing in the closing stages and getting ahead of Hulkenberg and Di Resta. Jean-Eric Vergne was hit by Webber early in the race but managed to continue, eventually finishing 12th. The team will hope to continue the form in Bahrain next weekend.

Force India
There were mixed fortunes at Force India with Paul di Resta running a good strategy to claim eight position and four points but Adrian Sutil retired on lap six after being hit by Esteban Gutierrez. Di Resta started on the medium tyre only changing to the soft compound in the final few laps holding off Grosjean and Hulkenberg for eighth. Di Resta and Sutil had clashed on lap one with the Brit hitting the rear of the German’s car and being pushed onto the grass. Sutil said he was not aware Di Resta was behind him until the impact whilst Di Resta said his early race pace was affected by the clash. Sutil’s race was ended early on in the race after Gutierrez failed to stop in time damaging the rear wing of the Force India and the Mexican picked up a five place grid penalty for Bahrain as a result.

Sauber
A disappointing race for Sauber after only coming away with one point. Nico Hulkenberg started on the medium tyre and managed to pass both Vettel and Button early on. He later led the race at the first pitstops and stayed with Vettel through much of the sceond stint. His race was compromised after the team pitted him for softs in the third stint and the car was not competitive enough in the final stint on the mediums eventually leaving him tenth. Gutierrez’s race ended early after he ran into the back of Sutil after failing to stop, he will have a five place grid penalty for Bahrain after admitting he was at fault.

Williams
An anonymous race for Williams with the drivers finishing two seconds apart from each other in 13th and 14th. Both drivers kept out of trouble but the car simply did not have the pace to challenge for points in China. Both made improvements on their qualifying positions but the car was just not strong enough in the race. There is definitely more room for improvement.

Marussia
Both Marussia driver’s finished the race but once again it was Jules Bianchi who looked impressive. Bianchi finished a strong 15th although he was helped by the four retirements of cars ahead of him. Once again he beat teammate Max Chilton who in turn finished ahead of Caterham driver Giedo van der Garde. Other Caterham driver Charles Pic split Bianchi and Chilton. A good performance from both but Marussia and Caterham are starting to look closer than at the previous Grand Prix.

Caterham
Both Caterham drivers finished the race one lap down and could not beat both Marussia drivers. Pic took 16th place whilst Van der Garde was the last classified finisher in 18th. Both benefitted from some big names dropping out but the team seem to be closer to rivals Marussia with Pic beating Chilton. Overall an improvement from previous races.

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Five things to watch out for at this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix

1. Weather: Malaysia is known for its unpredictable weather. Over the last four years it has rained on at least one of the days of the Grand Prix. Take 2009, the race began in dry conditions but by lap 19 the rain began to fall. On lap 33 the race was stopped and the result was taken from the classification on lap 31. In 2010 qualifying was under wet conditions and saw Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton start the Grand Prix in 19th and 20th place. By the Sunday the weather was dry and Hamilton finished the race in sixth. There was a similar situation in 2012 with Alonso struggling in dry qualifying ending up ninth before winning the race in wetter conditions on the Sunday. One thing is for sure the unpredictable weather makes for an interesting weekend.

2. Tyres: Tyres played a big part in last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix. Those who qualified in Q3 had to start on the supersoft tyres they had qualified on and these did not last long in the race with Jenson Button having to pit after just four laps.

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Not making Q3 was a blessing for Force India’s Adrian Sutil who had an opposing strategy to all those in front, starting on the medium compound tyre. He lead the race twice before his race fell apart on the supersoft tyre leaving him seventh. With the weather a deciding factor in tyres as well it will be interesting to see how the teams will handle this factor.

3. McLaren: McLaren’s disappointing Australian Grand Prix makes them a talking point in Malaysia. Only managing to finish ninth and 11th is clearly not where McLaren want to be and doesn’t bode well for the rest of the season. The team will be keeping the same car and package for Malaysia so it is difficult to see how McLaren will be able to improve this weekend.

BUT MACLAREN

It will be interesting to see how the team try to combat this disappointing performance. The weather conditions may play into their hands but with midfield teams such as Force India and Sauber ahead of them or right on their tail they will have fierce competition to score points in Malaysia.

4. Fernando Alonso’s 200th Grand Prix: Fernando Alonso will take part in his 200th Grand Prix this weekend in Malaysia. However having had two non-starts in Belgium in 2001 and the USA in 2005 this weekend will only be his 198th race start.

Ferrari McLaren Belgium

On the back of an impressive performance in Australia and with Ferrari leading the constructors championship, Alonso will want to produce a race winning performance here. And with the 2013 Ferrari appearing much stronger than its 2012 counterpart that won the 2012 Malaysian Grand Prix it should be a good opportunity for Alonso to win and lead the drivers championship.

5. Two DRS zones: The Sepang circuit will have two DRS zones for the first time this year. For the previous two years there had been a single DRS zone on the start/finish straight and this year will see another added on the straight that leads into the last corner. The position of the detection points of the two DRS zones mean when one driver passes another on the back straight using DRS they then face being overtaken themselves using DRS on the pit straight.

2013 Team Preview: Ferrari

Drivers: Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa

2012 Constructors position: 2nd
2012 Driver position: Alonso 2nd, Massa 7th

Ferrari were lucky to secure second in the constructors championship in 2012 after Lewis Hamilton was taken out of the Brazilian Grand Prix. They started the season well winning the Malaysian Grand Prix and consistently finishing in the points courtesy of Alonso. The drivers title looked like it was to be won by a Ferrari driver but Vettel beat Alonso to the title after a dramatic Brazilian Grand Prix. The Ferrari car looked promising in the early stages but could not beat the Red Bull in the latter Grand Prix. This led to some controversial decisions on part of the team, forcing Massa to take a grid penalty in order to benefit Alonso in Austin. A decision that ultimately proved futile and led some to question whether Ferrari really deserved to win the title.

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Alonso should be expected to challenge for the title after contesting the 2012 championship. Massa would be a long shot to even have a chance for the title on recent form, even if he improved as the 2012 season progressed. Even if you consider that he nearly won the 2008 season it is hard to comprehend that whilst Alonso is at the team Massa will be allowed the chance to challenge for a championship. 2013 also looks as if to mark Massa’s last year with Ferrari. The team made no secret that they were looking elsewhere for 2013 and with suggestions that Sebastian Vettel could be on his way to Ferrari, Massa must know that he will be potentially looking for employment at another team in 2014.

Ferrari McLaren Belgium

During pre-season testing the car has looked competitive however it has been difficult to compare it to other teams on race runs. The car should be capable of challenging Red Bull and the other front runners.

Predicted 2013 Constructors position: 2nd

Barcelona testing: Alonso and Ferrari lead the way on day three

Fernando Alonso set the fastest time on the third day of second pre-season test in Barcelona.

The Spaniard set his time on the soft tyre and completed 97 laps. His time was set in the morning session and remained unchallenged as many teams decided to complete race simulations in the afternoon.

Nico Hulkenberg set the second fastest time for Sauber, with his best effort coming on the soft tyre in the morning session. Romain Grosjean set the third fastest time in the Lotus after completing 119 laps and a race simulation.

Nico Rosberg set the fourth fastest time ahead of Pastor Maldonado in the Williams who set the fifth fastest time. Valtteri Bottas took over from Maldonado to set the sixth fastest time of the day after 68 laps.

Jenson Button struggled in the McLaren only setting the seventh fastest time after 71 laps.

Adrian Sutil returned to F1 for Force India completing 78 laps and setting the eighth fastest time on the soft tyre. His Thursday time was almost one second faster than the time set by Paul di Resta on Wednesday.

Behind him Mark Webber completed 108 laps and set the ninth fastest time ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne who managed 106 laps and 10th place.

Max Chilton set the 11th fastest time in the Marussia whilst Giedo van der Garde set the 12th fastest time after completing 93 laps for Caterham.

Tomorrow Jules Bianchi will take over from Sutil and drive the Force India as the pair compete for the second seat at the team.

The weather forecast for tomorrows session is rain.

It should be remembered that the times set in testing are unlikely to be a true gauge of each cars performance.
For full times, laps completed and tyre compounds see http://www.autosport.com/news/report.php/id/105659

Alonso to miss first pre-season test

Fernando Alonso is to miss the first 2013 pre-season test at Jerez next week.

The Spaniard will not drive Ferrari’s 2013 car when it makes its debut on February 5, the car being driven instead by his teammate Felipe Massa and test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

Massa will drive the new Ferrari for the first three days of the test before handing over to De la Rosa for the final day.

ALONSO

Alonso will not drive in the first pre-season test at Jerez

De la Rosa joined Ferrari as development driver this month and the test will provide him with experience of the car on the track which will help him when working in the simulator.

Ferrari said Alonso would work on his physical training before getting his first experience of the car at the second test in Barcelona. In Barcelona Alonso will drive for the first three days of the test before handing the car over to Massa.