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.

cropped-cropped-f12013.png

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.

cropped-cropped-f12013.png

Spanish Grand Prix 2013: Massa and Gutierrez get three place grid penalties

Felipe Massa and Esteban Gutierrez have both been handed three place grid penalties for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix.

Both drivers were given the penalties for impeding drivers during qualifying. Massa was given his penalty for impeding Mark Webber in Q2 and will now start the race from ninth. Gutierrez was penalised for impeding Kimi Raikkonen in Q1 and will now start from 19th.

Following Massa’s penalty Romain Grosjean, Webber and Sergio Perez move up the grid whilst Valtteri Bottas, Pastor Maldonado and Giedo van der Garde all benefit from Gutierrez’s penalty.

****

REVISED GRID

Rosberg, Hamilton, Vettel, Raikkonen, Alonso, Grosjean, Webber, Perez, Massa, Di Resta, Ricciardo, Vergne, Sutil, Button, Hulkenberg, Bottas, Maldonado, Van der Garde, Gutierrez, Bianchi, Chilton, Pic.

cropped-cropped-f12013.png

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.

cropped-cropped-f12013.png

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

Jerez testing: Massa leads the way on day three as Mercedes make up for lost time

Felipe Massa set the fastest time on day three of the first pre-season test in Jerez.

The Brazilian set the time in the morning session on Thursday and the time, set on the soft tyre, is the fastest time seen all week.

Nico Rosberg set the second fastest time on Thursday as he racked up the laps in an attempt to combat Mercedes disappointing start to testing.

The German managed 148 laps of the Jerez circuit after only managing 14 laps on Tuesday.

Sebastian Vettel got his first taste of the RB9 and an improvement in the afternoon saw him post the third fastest time. Vettel managed 102 laps but failed to set a time in the 1m18s.

Kimi Raikkonen got his first taste of the E21 setting the fourth fastest time ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne in the Toro Rosso.

Force India fielded both simulator driver James Rossiter and Paul di Resta on day three. Rossiter set the sixth fastest time after completing 42 laps whilst a exhaust issue left Di Resta with the 12th fastest time after just 12 laps.

Jenson Button set the seventh fastest time after his day ended early after he stopped out on track between turns 7 and 8. Behind him Sauber’s new driver Esteban Gutierrez was eighth ahead of Max Chilton in ninth.

Williams’ Valtteri Bottas was 10th ahead of Charles Pic who set the 11th fastest time in the Caterham.

It should be remembered that the times set in testing are unlikely to be a true gauge of each cars performance.

The first pre-season test ends tomorrow.

Ferrari Wrooom: Launch date, De la Rosa announcement and Vettel and Bianchi rumours

Ferrari chose their annual Wrooom event to make two official announcements for the 2013 season concerning the launch date of their car and signing Pedro de la Rosa as development driver.

The team have confirmed that they will launch their 2013 car on February 1, at the teams Maranello base.

The announcement made by Stefano Domenicali at the teams annual Wrooom event means it will launch its car the same day as Force India.

No name for the teams’ 2013 car has been announced but it means Ferrari will have their 2013 car ready for the first test in Jerez.

Ferrari have announced their 2013 car will be launched in February

Ferrari will launch their 2013 car in February

Ferrari also chose to announce Pedro de la Rosa had signed a deal with the team to be one of its development drivers.

De la Rosa was left without a drive after his 2013 team HRT failed to find a buyer and was forced to close down.

The spaniard will join Marc Gene as development driver with Jules Bianchi remaining part of the outfit.

De la Rosa will join Ferrari as development driver

De la Rosa will join Ferrari as development driver

Amongst all of the official announcements from Ferrari there were a few interesting comments made by team principal Domenicali.

Domenicali reinforced that Sebastian Vettel would not be at the team in 2014 as rumours refuse to die down.

The Ferrari principal suggested that having both Alonso and Vettel at the team would be detrimental perhaps alluding to when Alonso and Lewis Hamilton were teammates at McLaren in 2007.

Domenicali suggested that the outfit needed to maximise its balance as a team also saying that Felipe Massa’s resurgence to form as the 2012 season came to an end would be a good motivation point for Alonso.

Ferrari also used the Wrooom event to admit that it is still pushing for Bianchi to secure a race seat in 2013.

Bianchi is said to be in contention for the second Force India seat and these comments seem to reveal why the team is yet to announce its line up for 2013.

Bianchi is in contention for a 2013 seat with Force India

Bianchi is in contention for a 2013 seat with Force India

Behind the decision is also Force India’s engine contract, with the teams current Mercedes contract ending this year the team is exploring its options for 2014, with Ferrari a possibility.

Despite Ferrari’s wish for Bianchi to secure a seat for this season Domencali admitted they had no further information.

Massa signs Ferrari deal for 2013

Felipe Massa will remain at Ferrari for 2013 after signing a new one year contract.

The new contract was announced after Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo held a meeting with Massa over his future with Ferrari.

It had been suggested that Ferrari were looking elsewhere for 2013 with Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta being touted as replacements. However Ferrari maintained that Massa would be assessed throughout the season and after his two impressive performances in Japan and Korea the decision was made to retain him.

Despite Massa’s return to form at the last few races his overall performance this season has been disappointing. This will undoubtedly lead many to question whether he deserves to stay on at Ferrari. Whether or not his performance suggests he deserves to stay at Ferrari, the team will have made the decision based on them believing that Massa can continue to score points but not pose any championship threat to teammate Fernando Alonso.

The decision to just sign Massa for one year has added to the speculation that Sebastian Vettel could be set to drive for Ferrari in 2014 alongside Alonso. However di Montezemolo had been quick to deny rumours that Vettel would move to Ferrari and Red Bull have said that Vettel is contracted beyond the 2014 season.

Massa may have been given a chance for 2013 but it looks unlikely that he will be retained beyond that. It also remains unlikely that Vettel will go to Ferrari in 2014 as it doesn’t provide any benefit to his career.

Vettel wins but all eyes are on Massa and Kobayashi in Suzuka

Sebastian Vettel was victorious in Suzuka narrowing Fernando Alonso’s championship lead to just 4 points after a first lap crash led to his retirement from the race.

Vettel’s comfortable victory was overshadowed by two superb drives from Felipe Massa for second and Kamui Kobayashi for third. Massa’s result is the first time he has been on the podium since 2010, whilst cheered on by a home crowd Kobayashi secured his first ever podium in F1 by holding off McLaren’s Jenson Button. Both these drives came at the best time for the respective drivers as they both look to secure their F1 future.

The day did not end well for current championship leader Alonso as he found himself spinning into the gravel on lap one after his Ferrari touched wheels with Kimi Raikkonen. Mark Webber lost time on lap one when Kobayashi separated the Red Bull’s and then Romain Grosjean crashed into him in the second corner. Webber had to pit for checks to his car whilst Grosjean served a ten second penalty. Nico Rosberg also found himself having to retire on lap one after clashing with Bruno Senna.

Button took fourth ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton in fifth after both survived the lap one crashes. Raikkonen finished sixth in the Lotus holding off Nico Hulkenberg who finished seventh in the Force India. Pastor Maldonado scored his first points for Williams since his Spanish Grand Prix win finishing eighth and Webber salvaged ninth and two points after his troubles on lap one. Daniel Ricciardo closed out the point scorers in tenth having held off Michael Schumacher in the closing stages.

Behind the top ten Schumacher finished 11th in a disappointing race for Mercedes, he was followed by Paul di Resta, Jean-Eric Vergne and Senna.

Sergio Perez impressed in the early laps of the race but retired on lap 19 after a botched attempt at an overtake on Hamilton that led to him spinning into the gravel.

Vettel’s comfortable victory has helped him narrow down Alonso’s lead in the championship and gives him a great chance of winning a third consecutive championship with just five races left to run.

Despite Vettel’s victory the race was really about Massa and Kobayashi. Heading into this race both looked as though they may struggle to secure race seats for next season. However on the back of these impressive results they have most likely done more than enough to see themselves racing in 2013.

Ferrari’s big decision: will Massa stay for 2013?

With McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes already having decided on their driver line-ups for 2013, Ferrari are the only top team yet to make an announcement. Rumours have begun to circulate suggesting that the final decision for the second Ferrari seat is between current incumbent Felipe Massa and Force India drivers Nico Hulkenberg and Paul di Resta.

Ferrari hasn’t given any timescale as to when they plan to decide and announce their driver line-up for 2013 but it is thought the decision will be made within the next few Grand Prix. Fernando Alonso is already confirmed for 2013 but whether or not Massa will still be there with him is the difficult decision that Ferrari face.

With Luca di Montezemolo having said that Sergio Perez was too inexperienced to drive for Ferrari it seems to suggest that Massa is likely to stay for another year, especially when it is considered that both Hulkenberg and di Resta have the same number of Grand Prix under their belts as Perez. Despite this Massa’s inconsistent performance over the last few years had led many to believe that once his contract expired this year it would not be renewed.

Both Hulkenberg and di Resta have had equally good performances this year. The recent announcements of line-ups at McLaren and Mercedes suggest that di Resta is the biggest loser so far having been linked to both seats. The situation doesn’t look to get much better for di Resta with rumours suggesting that Hulkenberg is the more likely to get the nod at Ferrari. Some rumours even suggest that the Hulkenberg deal is already done.

The decision for Ferrari is not going to be based on money so they are looking to secure the best driver for their campaign next season. Ultimately they are looking for a driver who can score points and podiums and help them to the constructors championship. The option to stay with Massa offers the team continuity but Ferrari may need something brand new to help them next season. Both Hulkenberg and di Resta are no doubt talented options who are likely to drive for little money.

Suggestions that Ferrari are looking to employ Sebastian Vettel in 2014 would mean they are just looking for a stop-gap driver for 2013. If this does turn out to be true this could prove to be career suicide for Hulkenberg and di Resta if they moved to Ferrari in 2013. However some are sceptical that this would be the right decision for Vettel in the long run.

If Ferrari are looking for a motivated driver who can push Alonso then choosing a young and ambitious driver like Hulkenberg or di Resta could be their best option. If they just want consistency and a driver that who they know well then they may end up keeping Massa. Whether or not Ferrari choose to keep Massa is dependent on his performance in the coming races. If he manages to maintain some of his current form then he could secure himself one last chance.