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.

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

Sebastian Vettel took another victory on his way claiming a fourth drivers title. The race had been led by both Romain Grosjean and Mark Webber but Vettel’s strategy allowed him to jump both. Elsewhere Sauber took their first double points finish of the season with Hulkenberg sixth and Esteban Gutierrez seventh. The Mexican became the first rookie to score points this season. Fernando Alonso’s fifth place finish keeps him in contention for the drivers title.

Red Bull
IMG_2875Sebastian Vettel finished on the top spot of the podium for the ninth time this season. The German lost out to Grosjean at the start to be third on the first lap. In the end it was strategy which helped him to the win with Grosjean and Webber having also led the race at different points. The two stop strategy was the winning combination with Grosjean and a three stopping Webber stuck in traffic. Webber started on pole but lost out to Grosjean who led from lap one. The Australian later regained the lead but was on a three stop strategy. After his third stop he was behind Grosjean and managed to catch him but could only pass him with a few laps left to run. It was too late to catch Vettel and challenge for the win. The double podium moves the team a step closer to the constructors title.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean had looked set to take his first F1 win showing Lotus he is more than ready to lead the team next season. Third place looked inevitable with the speed of the Red Bulls but the Frenchman had managed to jump both at the start to lead the race. Like Vettel he was two stopping but Vettel managed to get the better of him. Grosjean ened third after Webber passed him on the penultimate lap. Kimi Raikkonen had started ninth but by the end of the race he was in fifth. The Finn charged through the field and eventually got passed Nico Hulkenberg to chase Fernando Alonso. Although he was catching the Spaniard late in the race there were not enough laps for him to catch and pass.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso finished in fourth after a close battle with Hulkenberg and Raikkonen. Alonso was behind his teammate at the start and could not find a way past. At the first set of pitstops both Alonso and Massa had been jumped by Hulkenberg. This remained until after the second pitstop. Hulkenberg was still ahead but Alonso bided his time catching the Sauber as passing near the end of the race. Felipe Massa eventually held on for tenth place after having a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane and a close battle with Jenson Button on the line. The Briton got ahead for ninth right on the line after they had clashed at the previous chicane. Alonso can still mathematically win the championship but seems to have given up on his chances.

Sauber
Sauber had a double points finish for the first time this season. Hulkenberg finished a strong sixth whilst Esteban Gutierrez claimed the first points of his F1 career with seventh holding off Nico Rosberg to the line. Hulkenberg jumped the Ferrari’s at the first round of pitstops and attempted to hold off Alonso and Raikkonen but was eventually passed by them both. Eight points were well earned alongside Gutierrez’s six. The Mexican produced the good result keeping a faster car behind him and becoming the first rookie to score points this season. The double points finish moves the team further ahead of Toro Rosso in the constructors championship.

Mercedes
It was a day to forget for Mercedes. Lewis Hamilton attempted to get between the slow starting Red Bulls but had his tyre punctured after hitting Vettel’s front wing. He made it back to the pits but his car was damaged enough to have to be retired after just nine laps. Nico Rosberg also had a difficult day he had been running higher up in the top ten before being given a drive through penalty for an unsafe pit release. This dropped the German driver back and he was unable to pass the impressive Sauber of Esteban Gutierrez. He finished the day in eighth taking hime four points.

McLaren
McLaren came away with two points in what proved to be an interesting and battle-filled race for the team. Jenson Button struggled with his tyres throughout the race having to make three stops. He was ovetaken by Massa on the last lap but managed to get ahead of him in the drag to the line to finish ninth with two points. Sergio Perez also had to make three stops – however one was unscheduled after he suffered a puncture after a collision with Nico Rosberg and could only manage to finish in 15th.

Force India
Force India continued with their slump in form with Paul di Resta finishing in 11th and Adrian Sutil in 14th. Di Resta had been fighting for the final point among the other midfield drivers but could not keep up and finished ten seconds down on tenth place finisher Massa. Sutil didn’t have a much better day. Having started last he went straight through the middle of the backmarkers at the start to avoid the Giedo van der Garde and Jules Bianchi collision at the start. Another race with no points means Sauber moves ever closer to passing them in the constructors title.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne finished 12th whilst teammate Daniel Ricciardo was 13th. The Australian gambled by starting on the harder compound tyre and ran a long first stint. After his pitstop he made a charge through the field but went off the track passing a Force India. This gave him a drive through penalty which pushed him back down the grid. He had been in the lower points but was unable to get back finishing behind his teammate.

Williams
The two Williams drivers were fighting it out among themselves throughout the race as they failed to make the points once again. Pastor Maldonado had been in the points at one point but fell back to finish 16th just a few lengths ahead of his teammate Valtteri Bottas in 17th.

Caterham
Caterham finished ahead of Marussia once again as Charles Pic beat Max Chilton to the line. Pic had avoided the incident which his teammate Giedo van der Garde got caught in to finish 18th. Van der Garde was involved in a first lap incident with the Marussia of Jules Bianchi as both ended their day in the gravel.

Marussia
Max Chilton finished behind Caterham rival Charles Pic as they continue in their battle for backmarker supremacy. Chilton was 19th. Teammate Jules Bianchi ended his day in the gravel on the first lap after a collision with the Caterham of Van der Garde.

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

Lewis Hamilton took a emphatic win – his first for Mercedes – as he held off both Raikkonen and Vettel. Impressive strategy helped him to the win whilst Grosjean’s hopes of converting his qualifying into a win for Lotus ended in multiple stewards inquiries. There were plenty of stories up and down the field as Ferrari struggled to keep up with their Red Bull rivals as Williams took their first point since the US Grand Prix in 2012.

Mercedes
IMG_2955Lewis Hamilton took his first ever win for Mercedes at the Hungarian Grand Prix. He kept his cool alongside a clever strategy to convert the pole into a win. Hamilton kept hold of first position as the lights went out with all the drama happening behind him. Sebastian Vettel initially closed on Hamilton but the Mercedes was not struggling with high tyre degradation. Hamilton was the first of the front runners to pit coming out behind Jenson Button. He quickly regained second but Vettel was caught behind and Hamilton extended his gap to the championship leader. As the race went on it was clear Mercedes had a real chance of the win and Hamilton did not disappoint. The long wait for his first Mercedes win was finally over. Conversely Nico Rosberg lost out in the race. He struggled from the start losing time after a clash with Massa. His afternoon ended in smoke and fire with an engine failure just a few laps from the finish.

Lotus
Lotus will have mixed feelings after Sunday’s race. Romain Grosjean had avoided a penalty post qualifying to start third and had looked set to challenge for the win. He started well despite being squeezed by Vettel on the opening lap. His strong pace kept him in the running and he made an impressive pass on Massa. He later made a pass on Button whilst following Vettel and clipped the McLaren. He was also given a drive-through penalty for passing Massa whilst all four wheels were off the track. At the end of the race he received a 20 second penalty for the Button clash but it did not change his finish of sixth place. Kimi Raikkonen took another podium with a strong second place. He had come under pressure from Vettel in the closing laps but withstood and went on to claim another 20 points. A good points haul for the team but there will be questions over whether the stewards were fair with Grosjean and a sense of what could have been.

Red Bull
Sebastian Vettel took third place ahead of his teammate Mark Webber in fourth. Vettel’s podium came after a number of close battles throughout the race. The German squeezed out Grosjean at the start to hold onto second place before challenging Hamilton in the early laps. After the first round of pit stops he was caught behind Button who was on the medium tyre. Hamilton had passed Button and pulled away to help him towards the win. Vettel then struggled to pass Raikkonen in the closing laps. Vettel still leads the drivers championship. Webber had a disaster of a day on Saturday to only qualify tenth. He made steady progress through the race to recover to an impressive fourth.

Ferrari
Fernando Alonso hung on to fifth place after a tough race in a less than competitive Ferrari. Grosjean had been chasing him in the closing laps but he kept hold of IMG_3575the position to take home the ten points. Alonso’s race was rather anonymous much the same as teammate Massa. The Brazilian finished eighth behind Button’s McLaren. He had been passed by Grosjean in turn four but the Frenchman was later given a drive through penalty for going over the white lines. Massa had also avoided a close call with Rosberg in the early laps suffering minor damage to his front wing. Much of the talk after the race was surrounding rumours Alonso’s management had held talks with Red Bull about a possible move in 2014. Alonso and Ferrari dismissed the claims but Red Bull did little to calm the storm.

McLaren
Jenson Button had a good race to finish seventh after some battles throughout the race. His decision to start on the mediums kept him among the front runners early in the race. Hamilton and Vettel both came out behind him after the first stops. His fellow Brit passed him easily but he managed to keep Vettel behind for a number of laps. It did not help his race overall but gave McLaren some much needed airtime. A clash with Grosjean saw the Frenchman given a post race 20 second penalty but it did not affect the race result. Sergio Perez had a uneventful race to take ninth place.

Williams
Williams took their first point in the 2013 season with Pastor Maldonado finishing tenth place. This was Williams first point since the 2012 United States Grand Prix. IMG_3024The Venezuelan had run in the top ten at different points in the race but benefitted from Rosberg’s late retirement and penalties for other drivers. Valtteri Bottas’ race ended early with a hydraluic problem. A good weekend for Williams with the change in tyre compounds looking to have benefitted the team.

Sauber
A drive through penalty ended Sauber’s chances of scoring at a third consecutive race. Nico Hulkenberg had been on course to secure a single point for the third race in a row having qualified 12th. The German just held onto 11th from then two fast catching Toro Rosso’s. He had a drive through penalty after speeding in the pit lane due to a shift down problem. Esteban Gutierrez didn’t make it to the end of the race having to retire due to a gearbox problem.

Toro Rosso
Daniel Ricciardo failed to convert his impressive qualifying form into a strong race performance as he only finished 13th. He was once again beaten by his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne with the Frenchman passing the Australian with just four laps to run. The car lacked pace but some will be left wondering why Vergne is being disregarded in the Red Bull race despite comfortably being ahead of Ricciardo on a number of occasions.

Caterham
Caterham are now comfortably leading the Marussia’s in race conditions. Giedo van der Garde led teammate Charles Pic for the whole race. A strong performance from both drivers will help to put their minds at rest amid rumours one of them may lose out to another driver in 2014.

Marussia
Marussia suffered from a disappointing lack of pace. The team had worked to close the gap to Caterham in practice and qualifying but it was not enough to beat them on Sunday. Jules Bianchi once again led home teammate Max Chilton.

Force India
Force India’s season seems to have stalled as once again the team faced a hard weekend. Things had looked slightly better than Germany with Sutil qualifying 11th but he lost out at the start and later retired from his 100th race with a hydraulic leak. Paul di Resta only started 18th after a poor qualifying but made up a number of places on lap one. He later struggled outside the points before retiring with three laps to run.

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 German Grand Prix

Sebastian Vettel took a fantastic home victory despite being chased by both Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean. The two Lotuses took second and third as a differing strategy allowed Fernando Alonso to take fourth. There was drama as a cameraman was caught by Mark Webber’s lose wheel and a rolling Marussia brought out the safety car. 

Red Bull

Sebastian Vettel took an emphatic victory in front of a home crowd. The German held off a strong challenge in the closing laps from a fast charging Kimi Raikkonen having withstood pressure from Raikkonen’s teammate Romain Grosjean earlier in the race. Vettel led from the first lap and won by just over a second. Teammate Mark Webber had started third but climbed one place on lap one for a Red Bull 1-2 in the early laps. His chances of a podium ended after his first pit stop when he was released from his pitstop without the right rear tyre secured. The tyre flew off hitting a cameraman who had to me taken to the medical centre. Webber was a lap down when he rejoined  but the safety car period allowed him to recover to seventh to allow Red Bull to take a double points finish. The team were later fined for an unsafe release.

Lotus

Both Lotuses finished on the podium with a second and third place finish. Kimi Raikkonen had challenged Vettel in the closing laps and believed he could have won had he not had to pit again. The safety car had allowed the Finn to close up on Vettel from 12 seconds down on the leader but it was not enough to challenge for the win.  Romain Grosjean had challenged Vettel earlier in the race but could not within the DRS zone to attempt an overtake. The safety car led to him having to pit but Raikkonen was able to leapfrog Grosjean. Grosjean held on to third despite pressure from Fernando Alonso in the closing laps.

Ferrari

A day of mixed fortunes for Ferrari. After choosing to run on mediums in qualifying Fernando Alonso climbed from eighth to fourth. The Spaniard was challenging Grosjean for the last podium spot in the closing laps but did not have enough to pass him. His teammate Felipe Massa’s day ended prematurely after he spun out on lap four at the first corner. The BrazilIan driver had been in sixth place after starting seventh on the medium tyres.

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton was passed but both Red Bulls having started from pole position. The race didn’t get much better after he was running behind late stoppers Nico Hulkenberg and Jenson Button. Hamilton was sixth in the closing laps but managed to pass Button on the last lap to finish fifth. Nico Rosberg started 11 th and struggled to make much progress. He ended the day in plinth place ahead of fellow countryman Hulkenberg.

McLaren

Germany seemed to signal a turning point in McLaren’s less than impressive season. Having qualified a strong ninth Button ran high up in the order on medium tyres. After pitting he stuck to his strategy to finish a strong seventh after being passed by Hamilton on the last lap. Sergio Perez finished a strong eighth for a double points finish for the British team. Perez had started 13th. Button was unhappy with the backmakers Caterham who he suggested led to him being overtaken by Hamilton on the last lap.

Sauber

Sauber made a rare appearance in Q3 of qualifying on Saturday after a fantastic effort by Hulkenberg in Q2. The team decided not to run in Q3 and started on the medium compound tyre. Hulkenberg started strongly and ran high up until his first pitstop. He kept ahead of the Force India of Paul di Resta to finish where he started in tenth to take he final point of the day. Esteban Guttierrez also had a better qualifying session but started on an opposing strategy to Hulkenberg on the soft tyres. He had a steady race to finish 14th but was fighting throughout to hold position. Whether or not this is a return to form for the team amid its financial problems only time will tell.

Force India

A disappointing weekend all round for the team. They struggled in qualifying with both drivers failing to make Q2. Paul di Resta started 12th whilst Adrian Sutil started 15th. Both failed to make much progress with Di Resta ending the day in 11th and Sutil 13th. Sutil struggled with tyres and had to be switched from a two stop to a three stop strategy. The team were later fined for an unsafe pit release of Di Resta into the path of Jean Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso.

Toro Rosso

A strong qualifying result did not help Daniel Ricciardo during the race. Despite starting sixth on the grid Ricciardo struggled early in the race and found himself back in the midfield fighting for position. He ended the day a disappointing 12th. Jean-Eric Vergne also had a day to forget – he retired on lap 22 with a hydraulic problem. Early in the race he had to taking avoiding action after Paul di Resta was unsafely released in his path during a pit stop. Force India were later fined.

Williams

Williams’ 600th Grand Prix start was a disappointing affair for the team. A bad Saturday saw both drivers miss Q2 but things had looked slightly better in the race. Both Pastor Maldonado and Valtteri Bottas battled it out among the midfield. They ran better than in previous races this year but could only manage 15th and 16th by the end of the race. They would have hoped for better for such a momentous weekend.

Caterham

Both Caterham drivers finished the race ahead of the Marussias. Charles Pic ended the day in 17th after a close fight with his teammate Giedo van der Garde . Van der Garde went on to finish 18th. Jenson Button later complained that the two Caterhams had hindered his race in the closing laps leading to Lewis Hamilton passing him on the final lap.

Marussia

Jules Bianchi’s retirement on lap 24 led to the only safety car of the day. Bianchi ground to a halt on lap 22 his car momentarily catching fire and after the Frenchman had left the car it began to roll down a hill and across the track. The marshals had not yet had a chance to recover the car. Max Chilton was unable to make any progress and finished behind the two Caterhams.

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Raikkonen vs Ricciardo: who is really in contention for a Red Bull drive?

Some impressive performances from Toro Rosso driver Daniel Ricciardo could be moving the Australian closer to a Red Bull drive. This comes as it was revealed Red Bull were keeping an eye on the young driver should Kimi Raikkonen – the teams first choice – be unavailable. But which of the two drivers is really in contention for a future Red Bull drive?

With speculation continuing to grow Mark Webber will not be retained beyond 2013 after Malaysia’s Multi 21 row, Raikkonen and Ricciardo have been lined up as a potential replacements.TORO ROS

The Australian has scored seven points this season and sits in 12th in the drivers championship. There have been impressive performances from Ricciardo. The first came China where he produced his best ever qualifying of seventh and later converted this into a solid points finish. He pushed in the final laps of the race to get ahead of midfield rivals Paul di Resta and Nico Hulkenberg.

His performance in China was also replicated in Spain. The points haul may not have been as many as in Shanghai but the Australian drove a clean race in an upgraded and faster Toro Rosso to finish 10th.

Ricciardo has out-qualified his teammate Jean-Eric Vergne four times and out-raced him three times in the five races so far this season. However not every race has been as successful or impressive as China and Spain. In Australia he retired after 39 laps suffering from exhaust failure whilst in Malaysia it was another exhaust issue which put an end to his race with five laps to go leaving him classified 18th. In Bahrain he also had a disappointing race finishing 16th a lap down on winner Sebastian Vettel.

As previously mentioned, should Webber leave the world championship winning team, the man in pole position to replace him is in fact 2007 world champion Raikkonen. The Finn is favourite according to paddock whispers and he is also without a contract for 2014.

LOTUS SINGWhilst Lotus remain confident Raikkonen will stay with them for 2014 the benefits of making the move to Red Bull may outweigh the cons. Lotus may have the potential to win a championship- but it is not certain. 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 the Finn towards the Austrian team.

Raikkonen has performed faultlessly this year. He is second in the drivers championship just five points behind Vettel. He won the first race of the season in Australia and has finished in second position three times. His worst performance this season has been seventh in Malaysia.

With Raikkonen, Red Bull would also have an experienced driver who has proved he can win a championship. In comparison 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.

The truth of the matter is that there is really only one driver in contention for the Red Bull drive. The team are understood to want Raikkonen, and in light of his recent form it is understandable. However it is not inconceivable that should he not make the move Webber will be signed for another season.

Red Bull say they won’t make a decision until the summer. There may be more than one name floating around for the second seat but one thing is for certain – the team’s 2014 driver line-up is far from settled.

Has Bahrain signalled a return to form for Romain Grosjean?

LOTUS

Last weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix appeared to signal a return to form for Romain Grosjean. A flawless performance with plenty of on track action- minus any crashes or near misses he became known for in 2012- saw him take his first podium of 2013. So have we now seen the return of Grosjean challenging for podiums in a car which looks capable of winning a championship?

Just over half a year ago I wrote my first ever article for my blog beckycreedf1 about whether Grosjean deserved his ban for causing the first lap crash in Belgium. After the race in Spa the rest of his 2012 season proved turbulent- a mixture of point scoring races (four in the final seven races) and retirements due to accidents and mechanical issues (three).

So when the 2013 season came around many said this was Grosjean’s chance to prove he could be more consistent and produce the podium and race winning results he had hinted at being capable of last season (think Canada 2012).

However 2013 didn’t exactly start as Grosjean expected or wanted. In Australia whilst teammate Kimi Raikkonen dominated the field and finished first, Grosjean could manage just 10th place. By Malaysia things had improved and Grosjean secured a sixth place finish. In China Grosjean had a fairly anonymous race ending up ninth but once again Raikkonen was much further up the field taking another podium with second.

There must be something about the Bahrain circuit for Grosjean. In 2012 he secured his first ever podium for Lotus with a third place finish and in 2013 he replicated that result taking his first podium of the season.

He seems to have shaken off any problems which had remained from last season- a season in which he retired from crashes and accidents six times- and is beginning to relish the task of challenging his teammate.

Grosjean drove a clean and controlled race in Bahrain overtaking Paul di Resta for he final podium place in the closing laps. That is not to say he had a quiet race- there was plenty of close racing and a well executed three stop strategy.

He was heavily criticised for his driving and crash prone nature last season but seems to be going to great lengths to change people’s opinions this year.

However it should be remembered Grosjean did show flashes of brilliance last season producing podiums performances only to end his next race with a retirement after a crash (think Hungary 2012’s third position followed by Belgium’s lap one incident which saw him banned).

This season could end up much the same but Grosjean seems to have grown as a driver over the last couple of races. He knows this year could be make or break and his driving has shown he certainly means business in 2013.

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Malaysian Grand Prix 2013: Lotus set the pace on Friday

Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time of FP2 on Friday at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

The Lotus driver set the time before the rain began to fall in the final half and hour of practice in Sepang.

Behind him Sebastian Vettel set the second fastest time with Felipe Massa setting the third fastest time.

Fernando Alonso set the fourth fastest time at his 200th Grand Prix appearance ahead of Mark Webber who set the fifth fastest time and is also taking part in his 200th Grand Prix.

Romain Grosjean was sixth in the second Lotus ahead of Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes.

Behind them Paul di Resta set the eighth fastest time ahead of Lewis Hamilton in the second Mercedes.

Adrian Sutil set the 10th fastest time despite an issue with his car bringing his session to a premature end.

The Mclaren’s of Sergio Perez and Jenson Button were just outside the top ten setting the 11th and 12th times respectively and showing things do not look much better for the team in Malaysia.

The Sauber’s of Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez were13th and 14th with both drivers suffering spins during the session.

Jean Eric-Vergne was 15th for Toro Rosso ahead of Pastor Maldonado and teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Jules Bianchi impressed for Marussia again setting the 18th fastest time ahead of Williams rookie Valtteri Bottas.

The Caterhams of Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde set the 20th and 21st fastest times with Max Chilton setting the 22nd time.

FP3 is at 5am UK time with qualifying at 8am. Full coverage of all practice and qualifying sessions can be seen on Sky Sports F1. Extended highlights of qualifying are on BBC One at 1pm.

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

Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix proved to be an exciting return for the sport. The race saw an unexpected win from Lotus’ Kimi Raikkonen who has made his intentions clear- he is one of the contenders for the 2013 championship. I take a look at how each team faired at the first Grand Prix of the 2013 season.

Lotus
Lotus secured an unexpected win in Australia, with Kimi Raikkonen managing a two stop race. The Finn had only qualified seventh but Raikkonen kept out of trouble and over the race dispensed of those in front of him to take home the 25 points and lead the drivers championship. The day was of a contrasting nature for Romain Grosjean. He qualified in eighth behind his teammate but he found himself battling with Jenson Button for much of the race in the lower midfield. Grosjean took the final point of the day with 10th position and this sees Lotus sitting in second in the constructors championship, four points behind Ferrari. One thing is certain after the race- Raikkonen has asserted himself as a championship contender.

Ferrari
Sunday was a positive day for Ferrari with Fernando Alonso securing second and Felipe Massa finishing fourth. Massa outqualified Alonso and stayed ahead of him at the start of the race until an ill-timed pitstop saw him fall from leading the race to seventh position. Alonso stayed with race leader Kimi Raikkonen in the latter stages of the race to secure a podium for Ferrari. The team leave Australia with 30 points and lead the constructors championship. All round a good weekend for Ferrari who will be confident heading to Malaysia.

Red Bull
Heading into the race weekend Red Bull looked strong and some wondered if they would be unstoppable, topping FP1 and FP2 and qualifying first and second. However the race was a different story. Whilst Sebastian Vettel led from pole, Mark Webber lost numerous places at the start falling from second to seventh. Vettel pitted on lap seven surrendering the lead and eventually went onto finish third, securing his first podium of the season. Mark Webber had a contrasting day but fought back to secure sixth and eight valuable points. Overall an average weekend for Red Bull who sit in third place in the constructors championship.

Mercedes
Mercedes had a mixed weekend. Lewis Hamilton qualified third and Nico Rosberg sixth and both were in contention for podiums and points in the early part of the race. Rosberg found himself having to retire on lap 26 with an electrical issue despite having earlier led the race. Hamilton survived to the finish but had to resort to ‘Plan B’ and three stops after attempting a two stop race. He eventually went on to finish fifth, over ten seconds behind fourth place Felipe Massa. The performance overall was good from Hamilton but the team will want to eradicate mechanical issues to have any hope of challenging in the constructors championship.

Force India
The Force India drivers qualified 9th and 12th respectively with Paul di Resta and Adrian Sutil and it was Sutil who benefitted from exiting in Q2. The German, making his F1 return after a year out, started on the Medium compound tyre and stayed with the front runners before taking the race lead. Sutil kept stayed ahead of Vettel, Alonso and Raikkonen until lap 21 when he pitted. Sutil would later lead the race again before having to pit for the Supersoft tyre and end up finishing in seventh place. Behind him teammate Di Resta finished in eighth place, taking Force India’s points total to 10 and fifth in the constructors. Di Resta said after the race he felt he had been ‘robbed‘ of seventh as the team had asked him to stay behind Sutil.

McLaren
McLaren struggled over the weekend with Jenson Button only qualifying 10th and Sergio Perez a lowly 15th. The race didn’t get much better with Button having to pit on the fourth lap to change his Supersoft tyres for Mediums and he only ran in the midfield for much of the race. Ninth position is all Button could manage with Perez finishing 11th. McLaren will want to improve their performance since scoring just two points from a Grand Prix does not bode well for the rest of the season. They will hope to rectify this next weekend in Malaysia.

Toro Rosso
Jean-Eric Vergne finished in 12th for Toro Rosso whilst Daniel Ricciardo failed to finish at his home Grand Prix after an exhaust issue. Vergne was in contention for 10th, battling Sergio Perez and Romain Grosjean in the late stages of the race but could only finish in 12th after a failed overtake attempt on Grosjean. Overall a disappointing day in the office for Toro Rosso and it looks as if they may struggle to score points in the opening races of the season. They will hope for better in Malaysia.

Sauber
Sauber only had one car start the Grand Prix after the team decided not to race Nico Hulkenberg because of issues with the fuel system. Hulkenberg has not had any luck in his three races at Albert Park, failing to make it to the end of lap one with Williams in 2010 and Force India in 2012. Esteban Gutierrez made his F1 debut as the sole Sauber driver and put in a good performance. The Mexican kept out of trouble and was the top rookie finisher with 13th place. The team will want to take steps to prevent issues with the car and make sure both cars do actually start the race in Malaysia.

Williams
Valtteri Bottas was Williams sole finisher in Australia after Patsor Maldonado beached his car in the gravel following a trip over the grass. Bottas put in a strong performance and finished 14th on his debut in F1. The FW35 brought to Melbourne seems to be a step back from the promising times seen in pre-season testing. The team will hope to be more competitive in a week’s time in Malaysia.

Marussia

Sunday proved to be a good day for rookies drivers Max Chilton and Jules Bianchi. After 58 laps Bianchi beat Caterham rival Charles Pic to 15th and Chilton overcame Van der Garde for 17th. Both drivers looked impressive on their debuts and Marussia look set to be taking the battle to Caterham for 10th in the constructors.

Caterham
Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde finished 16th and 18th respectively as they battled with the Marussia drivers to lead the back of the grid. The two backmaker teams looked much closer during the race and this should prove to be a good battle for 10th in the constructors.

2013 Team Preview: Lotus

Drivers: Kimi Raikkonen, Romain Grosjean

2012 Constructors position: 4th
2012 Drivers position: Raikkonen 3rd, Grosjean 8th

2012 saw Lotus in limbo between the top three teams and the midfield. The team scored nine podiums during the season but only managed one win despite promise and mechanical developments. They should have been capable of more wins but at many of the Grand Prix they were fighting their own battle to qualify well enough to get a win and ensuring both cars finished each race.

LOTUS

Lotus have retained both Raikkonen and Grosjean, but 2012 was a contrasting season for the drivers. Whilst Raikkonen had seven podiums, Grosjean had seven retirements. Raikkonen was F1s Mr Consistency scoring at all but one race- the Chinese Grand Prix. He finished the season 3rd in the drivers championship but over 70 points behind Vettel and Alonso. Grosjean finished eighth in the drivers championship but was accident prone, with his first lap crash in Belgium getting him banned from the Italian Grand Prix. Raikkonen’s win in 2012 shows that should Lotus produce a championship winning car in 2013 then Raikkonen will definitely be in contention for the drivers title. Lotus will need both cars to finish in the points consistently to beat Mercedes for fourth and challenge the front runners of Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari.

LOTUS SING

The car has looked consistent and quick during pre-season testing. On long runs and race simulations the car has had similar pace to the Red Bull and should be capable of challenging for more wins this season however it will be a tough fight for fourth in the constructors against Mercedes.

Predicted 2013 Constructors position: 5th