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.

Advertisements

Team-by-team look at the 2013 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Newly crowned 2013 champion Sebastian Vettel took his 11th win of the season as he beat his teammate to the top spot of the podium. Nico Rosberg was the best of the rest with third place whilst Kimi Raikkonen started last after being disqualified from qualifying and was out on the first lap after a collision with Giedo van der Garde. There were impressive performances from Grosjean and Perez and Force India secured a double points finish for the second weekend running.

Red Bull
IMG_28752013 driver champion Sebastian Vettel passed pole sitter and teammate Mark Webber after the Australian made a slow getaway. From then on the German was challenged very little and finished the day with a thirty second gap over his teammate. He celebrated with some donuts but got his car back to parc ferme as he attempted to avoid a penalty. Team principal Christian Horner told Vettel he would be paying the fine for his celebrations. Webber had been passed by both Vettel and Nico Rosberg at the start but made it passed the Mercedes on the 20th lap to complete a 1-2 for Red Bull. A good day for the team who walked away with another 43 points.

Mercedes
Nico Rosberg was the best of the rest in his Mercedes as he finished third. He had passed a slow starting Mark Webber at the start to get up to second but this did not last. Webber managed to pass Rosberg on the 20th lap to demote the German to the bottom spot on the podium. However this was 15 well deserved points for the German. Lewis Hamilton ended the day seventh after a poor start and early pit stop, he then found himself stuck behind Esteban Gutierrez’s Sauber, Jean-Eric Vergne’s Toro Rosso and Adrian Sutil’s Force India as they were on different strategies. He had also had some brake problems on the grid but still managed to come away with six points. Altogether 21 points for the team as they battle with Ferrari for second in the constructors title.

Lotus
Romain Grosjean missed out on a podium despite chasing Nico Rosberg to the line. The Frenchman had got a good start getting passed Lewis Hamilton and Nico Hulkenberg at the start to be up to fourth at the end of the first lap. In the end that was where he stayed to pick up 12 points despite keeping Rosberg honest until the end of the race. Kimi Raikkonen had a bad day which added to his woes. Disqualified from qualifying after failing a floor test. Lotus chose to start him from the back of the grid rather than the pit lane. He hit the back of Giedo van der Garde’s Caterham on the opening lap and damaged his Lotus’s right-front suspension. Despite a mixed day for the team it has been reported their investment deal with Quantum is set to be finalised bring some stability for next year.

Ferrari
Qualifying on Saturday was less than impressive from Ferrari. Fernando Alonso failed to make Q3 for the first time this season qualifying 11th for it to become 10th after Raikkonen was disqualified while Massa was seventh. However in the race it was Alonso who shined. He had been behind his teammate for much of the race but after switching to the soft Pirellis on lap 44 he made his way through the field passing both Lewis Hamilton and Paul di Resta to end the day fifth. He had looked as if he had exceeded the track limits when passing Jean-Eric Vergne however the stewards investigated but did not take action. Massa ended the day in eighth.

Force India
Paul di Resta finished an impressive sixth for Force India as they completed another double points finish. The Scot completed a long first stint which saw him run as high as second before he pitted on lap 20. IMG_3069Alonso passed Di Resta late in the race but he managed to hold of Lewis Hamilton to claim the eight points. It will be a boost for his confidence amid worries he could be left without a drive next season. Adrian Sutil came from 17th on the grid to finish in tenth. The German tried a reverse strategy to many on the grid starting on the medium tyre. He had looked on course for ninth but was passed by Sergio Perez who had pursued the German for a number of laps.

McLaren
Sergio Perez was awarded for his pursuit of the Force India of Adrian Sutil as he snatched ninth place from the German on the final lap. He had started eighth so would have hoped for better but will be happy with two points which were hard fought for. Jenson Button had a contrasting day with front wing damage forcing an early stop. He ended the day in 12th behind the Williams of Pastor Maldonado.

Williams
Pastor Maldonado was Williams highest finisher as the team once again failed to finish in the points. The Venezuelan was 11th despite a mixed race although he never looked in contention for points. His teammate Valtteri Bottas completed a long first stint pitting on the 24th lap. He ended the day in 15th.

Sauber
Once again Sauber had looked on course for points before it all went wrong. Nico Hulkenberg had started fifth and had been running in the points before an unsafe release meant a drive through penalty. This put his right down the field and he ended the day behind his teammate in 14th. The German had overtaken both Toro Rosso as he tried to make his way back through the field. Esteban Gutierrez had some interesting battles and at one point was holding up Lewis Hamilton who could not find a way passed. In the end he finished the day in 13th just ahead of his teammate.

Toro Rosso
Toro Rosso were almost invisible in the race. Daniel Ricciardo finished 16th while teammate Jean-Eric Vergne finished 17th on a day to forget for the team. Vergne had attempted a one stop race but was losing lots of time in the final laps going from in the top ten to 17th. Both drivers were overtaken by Nico Hulkenberg in the closing laps. Toro Rosso haven’t scored points in the last two races.

Caterham
Both Caterhams finished ahead of the Marussias in Abu Dhabi. Giedo van der Garde avoided damage when Kimi Raikkonen drove into the back of him at the start. Van der Garde and Charles Pic finished where they started in 18th and 19th.

Marussia
Both Marussias lost out to the two Caterhams. Jules Bianchi finished ahead of teammate Max Chilton. Bianchi was 20th while Chilton was 21.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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 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.

cropped-cropped-f12013.png

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.

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

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.