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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Raikkonen replaces Massa at Ferrari in 2014

Kimi Raikkonen will return to Ferrari in 2014 to drive alongside Fernando Alonso.

The announcement came just hours after Felipe Massa announced on Twitter he was leaving the team.

Raikkonen’s move to the team had looked inevitable after Daniel Ricciardo was announced as the second Red Bull driver prior to the Italian Grand Prix.

The Finn previously drove for Ferrari from 2007- 2009.

On making his return to F1 in 2012 he drove for Lotus.

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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.

Who will race where in 2014: F1’s complicated driver market

Speculation has grown over the last few weeks about where certain drivers will find themselves next season. Mark Webber’s announcement he will be leaving F1 at the end of 2013 has started a flurry of rumours surrounding Red Bull next season – and the knock on effect this will have on other teams. With seats potentially up for grabs at Red Bull, Lotus and Ferrari we look at which drivers are in contention.

IMG_3183Prior to Webber’s announcement in June there had been speculation over who would replace him. So many will be unsurprised the name at the top of the list appears to be Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn is capable of winning championships and is known to be friends with potential new teammate Sebastian Vettel. The lure of a team which has won three consecutive driver and constructor titles since 2009 – and could be set to win a fourth this season – may sway him towards the Austrian team.

Current team Lotus know Raikkonen is not keen on being rushed on where he will race next season. They appear to be prepared to wait and hope the Finn will continue to race with the team in 2014. Yet there must be some doubt since it has become apparent over the last few days talks are being held with other drivers thought to include Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta. Whether these talks are in preparation to replace Raikkonen or current teammate Romain Grosjean it is unknown.

IMG_3550Other drivers thought to be in contention for the Red Bull drive seem to be Toro Rosso drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean Eric Vergne. Between the two of them Ricciardo seems to be leading the battle to land the seat despite Vergne heading the pair in the drivers championship. They are currently separated by just two points. Ricciardo qualified fifth at the British Grand Prix going on to finish eighth whilst there was another impressive performance in Germany where he qualified sixth.

Ricciardo is relatively unknown only in his second season of F1. He may be out-qualifying and out-racing his teammate but this doesn’t necessarily mean he will be able to perform in a top-team. If he can continue to show he can perform and score points he will keep himself in contention. Red Bull plan to make a decision around F1s summer break but with Raikkonen appearing reluctant to commit progress could stall.

IMG_2809Raikkonen’s potential defection to Red Bull would leave a place free at Lotus. However it seems neither driver currently with the team has a secure future. Both Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta are thought to be in contention should a place at Lotus arise. Hulkenberg made the move from Force India to Sauber for this season and things have far from gone to plan. Just seven points from nine races is not quite what he was anticipating. Having look set for a top seat he was overlooked by McLaren last season and his move to Sauber seemed to have more to do with its Ferrari connections. The German has performed extremely well in a car which is extremely bad. A Lotus seat would allow him to show the flashes of brilliance seen last season in Brazil where he led the race.

Paul di Resta is also said to be in talks with Lotus. The Force India driver is looking to have the better of teammate Adrain Sutil and has amassed 36 points this season. Stand out performances include a four place finish in Bahrain. Di Resta is also thought to be keen to make a move to Ferrari should a place open up. Also overlooked by McLaren last season he feels he deserves a chance to show he is capable of driving a race winning car.

IMG_2712At Ferrari Felipe Massa’s recent bad luck has left people questioning if he could find himself without a seat in 2014. The Italian team continue to say they support him. But a number of crashes and with just 57 points to his teammates 123 have people asking whether it is time for Ferrari to look elsewhere. Should they chose to part company with Massa their options could include Hulkenberg and Di Resta but a long term option is thought to be Jules Bianchi. The Frenchman has looked impressive in his rookie season but is not thought to be ready to make the step up to Ferrari. If the team are looking ahead to Bianchi it may spare Massa another season.

Who will end up where in 2014 is a question which will continue to run. With 10 races left in the season it may not be long before the puzzle pieces being to fall into place but until then expect lots of speculation over silly season 2014. How much of it turns out to be true – only time will tell.

**Pictures Silverstone June 28-30 ©Phil Creed**

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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Chinese Grand Prix 2013: Massa leads the way on Friday

Felipe Massa set the fastest time in the second free practice session of the Chinese Grand Prix.

The Brazilian driver set his fastest time on a soft set of Pirelli tyres and also set some impressive times on long runs on the medium compound tyre.

Kimi Raikkonen in the Lotus was the driver who set the closest time to Massa with Fernando Alonso setting the third fastest time of the session.

Nico Rosberg set the fourth fastest time for Mercedes after having set the pace in FP1.

Mark Webber was fifth for Red Bull, whilst things seem to be improving for McLaren with Jenson Button setting the sixth fastest time.

Lewis Hamilton was seventh in the second Mercedes ahead of the Force India’s of Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta.

Sebastian Vettel was tenth in the second Red Bull with Sergio Perez 11th after a spin at the start of the session.

Romain Grosjean set the 12th fastest time whilst Esteban Gutierrez was 13th in the first Sauber ahead of Daniel Ricciardo in 14th and his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne in 15th.

Valtteri Bottas set the 16th fastest time ahead of Nico Hulkenberg in the second Sauber.

Pastor Maldonado was 18th ahead of Jules Bianchi who was once again impressive for Marussia.

At the back Giedo van der Garde was 20th ahead of teammate Charles Pic and Marussia driver Max Chilton who only managed five laps in the session.

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FP3 is at 4am UK time with qualifying at 7am. Full coverage of all practice and qualifying sessions can be seen on Sky Sports F1 and the BBC.

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.

FER

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

Team-by-team look at the final pre-season test in Barcelona

Pre-season testing has shown the teams to be closer matched than ever before so as the teams prepare to head to Australia for the first Grand Prix of the 2013 season I take a look at where each team stands following the final pre-season test in Barcelona.

Red Bull

The Milton Keynes based team finished the four days with the 12th and 14th fastest times but it is unlikely that they will be that far back when racing begins in two weeks in Australia. The team are known to hide their real pace during testing and this year appears no different. The car looked good when completing long runs and race simulations. Mark Webber’s race simulation on Thursday as the track had started to dry out showed the Red Bull to be able to achieve laps way out of the reach of other teams suggesting that the RB8 could have an advantage over other teams in Melbourne. The team completed 314 laps over the four days and look to be in a strong position heading to the first race.

McLaren

McLaren ended the four days testing having completed 395 laps and with the fifth and 15th fastest times. Jenson Button’s time was set on the final day of testing and showed that the car has the potential to be amongst the front runners over one lap, however the time was still over one second slower than the Mercedes. Whilst some of McLaren’s longer runs have been slower than the other top teams they should still be competing for the podium in Australia but this may not quite stretch to a win. The car should ultimately still have the pace to challenge for the championships.

Ferrari

The Ferrari performed well at the final pre-season test setting competitive times on single lap runs. Fernando Alonso ended the week with the second fastest time whilst Felipe Massa set the fourth fastest time, even more impressive was that Alonso’s time was within four tenths of the Mercedes leading time. Together the two drivers managed 428 laps showing the reliability of the F138 and its strength against the other front runners. The team should be in contention for the race win in Melbourne and could even have both drivers on the podium however Alonso has suggested Ferrari is still behind McLaren and Red Bull.

Mercedes

Mercedes topped the timesheets on two days of the test and ended the four days with the first and third fastest times. Whilst the Mercedes had previously topped the timesheets in the other two tests it never ended the week with the fastest time. The performance of the car has led some to question what we can really read into the times, however the Mercedes certainly looks quick over one lap and should feature at the front during the first race. The team continues to downplay its chances of winning races and contesting the championship but the car looks to have the ability to win at least one race in the season and should be in contention in Melbourne.

Lotus

Lotus set fairly conservative lap times during the final test ending the four days with the eighth and 11th fastest times. Kimi Raikkonen suffered limited running after illness and a gearbox change on his only day of running. The Lotus will be a top-ten contender and should be able to challenge for some podiums early in the season. Winning a race is not out of the question but the cars at the front all appear to be close. The team managed 262 laps, a relatively low figure compared with the other teams.

Sauber

The Sauber managed 388 laps in Barcelona and set the sixth and 13th fastest times. Although the time set by Nico Hulkenberg was impressive and the Sauber should be a contender in the top ten it is fair to say it is unlikely that the C32 will qualify in sixth in Melbourne. The consistent running from the team suggests they should be regular point scorers during the season however both drivers said that tyre degradation was high during race simulations.

Force India

Force India ended the test session with the seventh and ninth fastest times but with the midfield and front of the field so tight this may not be where the cars end up in Melbourne. Paul di Resta and newly confirmed driver Adrian Sutil completed 340 laps between them and both completed race simulations. The team appear to be in a stronger position heading to Australia than they were last year and should be capable of scoring points, however Sutil’s lack of time in the car and year out may hinder the team for the first few races.

Williams

Williams finished the final test with the 10th and 11th fastest time which appears to be a fair reflection of their pace heading to Barcelona. Together they managed 298 laps as they assessed aero revisions on their FW35. The times were roughly two seconds off the pace of the Mercedes but as with all the times it is unknown what the fuel loads were and the tyre compounds were different.

Toro Rosso

Toro Rosso completed 325 laps and managed to set the 19th and 21st fastest times at the last test. The situation was similar to the previous tests were the STR8 has looked good on some days and disappointing on others. The team used the dry running on the afternoons of Saturday and Sunday to complete long runs. Although the car has the potential to score points this season the midfield is incredibly tight and the team face the likelihood of leaving Melbourne without a top ten finish.

Caterham

Caterham completed 363 laps and set the 17th and 23rd fastest times on Barcelona. Despite setting a faster time than either Marussia driver they still look to be behind their rivals and seem to have taken a step back from point scoring. They will want to bring some upgrades and updates for their car throughout the season to stand a chance of maintaining 10th in the constructors and beating Marussia.

Marussia

Marussia set the 18th and 22nd fastest times of testing with Max Chilton and new recruit Jules Bianchi. Luiz Razia found his contract had been terminated on Friday and Bianchi replaced him after losing out on the second seat at Force India. Bianchi’s time was nearly one second faster than teammate Chilton. The team completed 338 laps and still look to be ahead of their backmarker rivals Caterham. They have their best chance of claiming 10th in the constructors championship since entering F1 in 2010 but point scoring still seems a long way off unless there is another race like Brazil 2012.

2013 Rookies: Jules Bianchi

Bianchi joins Marussia as a driver for the 2013 season after the team terminated its contract with Luiz Razia.

The Frenchman took part in eight free practice sessions for Force India in 2012 with a best finish of 13th fastest time in Korea FP1.

Bianchi failed to beat either Paul di Resta or Nico Hulkenberg during the free practice sessions consistently being one second slower.

Despite not having impressed greatly with his performances his Ferrari backing helped to secure him a race seat for 2013.

The 23-year-old began his career in the French Formula Renault 2.o series finishing first in 2007. In 2008 he moved to the Formula 3 Euro series where he achieved third in the championship with two race wins and seven podiums.

Bianchi remained in the Formula 3 Euro Series in 2009 winning the championship and taking part in the GP2 Asia series. 2010 saw him join the GP2 series where he finished third for two consecutive years.

In 2012 he switched to Formula Renault 3.5 Series where he came second in the championship with three race wins and eight podiums.

Comparing Bianchi to the other rookie drivers he has had consistent results but has failed to dominate the GP2 series. He may struggle to adjust to F1 and whilst he has potential talent he is only at a backmarker team and cannot truly show his ability.

Teammate battle: Expect Bianchi to be evenly matched with Chilton and have the advantage as the season finishes.