Final pre-season test: Team-by-team guide

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As the Formula One teams reassemble in Barcelona in time for the final four days of pre-season testing, here’s a view on each of the teams so far.

Red Bull

Red Bull have taken their usual secrecy to new heights: media were forbidden from photographing the RB9 at its launch and the team have hidden it behind screens during testing runs.

Ferrari

The F138 is clearly a better starting point than last year’s F2012. But team principal Stefano Domenciali doesn’t expect Ferrari to start on top despite some encouraging times.

McLaren

The MP4-28 looks quick out-of-the-box but Jenson Button says the team are behind with their testing programme. They had some reliability problems in Jerez and some of their planned tests took longer than expected.

Lotus

Technical problems including a gearbox problem and a telemetry glitch has limited their running but the car looks reasonably quick.

Mercedes

While Nico Rosberg has hailed the team’s progress it’s telling that Lewis Hamilton, who drove last year’s quickest car, has been more restrained in his praise.

Sauber

The C32 has covered more mileage in testing than any other car: Sauber have completed over 2,100 miles and rookie Esteban Gutierrez has 416 laps on the board.

Force India

Remarkably the team which almost won the last race of 2012 still hasn’t finalised its driver line-up for this year. Adrian Sutil and Jules Bianchi are in the frame.

Williams

The only team not to bring their new car to the first test. Both drivers were very positive after their first taste of the FW35.

Toro Rosso

The drivers are encouraged by the STR8, which offers more versatile set-up options than its troublesome predecessor. It’s run well, too.

Caterham

The CT03 bears a close resemblance to its predecessor and so far does not look likely to trouble the midfield.

Marussia

New driver Max Chilton did all the running in Barcelona last week, raising questions over team mate Luiz Razia’s place at the squad. All Marussia have said so far about their plans for this week is that Chilton will drive on day one.

For more on testing so far see Will Buxton’s view from the track.

Keith Collantine is the editor of Formula One blog F1 Fanatic. Follow F1 Fanatic on Twitter.

Fernando Alonso likes NASCAR country, but he’s not leaving F1 any time soon

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Jimmie Johnson strolled into the Charlotte Convention Center and did a double-take when he saw Fernando Alonso hanging out in a hallway.

“What’s he doing here?” NASCAR’s seven-time champion wondered.

Alonso made the trip to North Carolina to make an appearance at NASCAR’s annual preseason media tour. No, a ride in NASCAR is not imminent, but the two-time Formula One champion is about to embark on his first major sports car race .

Alonso will race this weekend in the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona for United Autosports, the sports car team owned by his McLaren F1 boss, Zak Brown. It was Brown who paved the way for Alonso to compete in last year’s Indianapolis 500, and he is helping the Spaniard knock prestigious races off his wish list.

Alonso spent about 10 minutes chatting with Johnson, and the duo was eventually joined by sports car aces Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who were brought to the NASCAR event by IMSA to help promote the Rolex, and then Cup champion Kevin Harvick.

The meet-and-greet with Alonso was a thrill for Johnson. Alonso was equally impressed.

“The first time I heard his name it was probably 2003 on the NASCAR video game,” Alonso said Tuesday. “I used to choose him, not knowing him, just because of the car. I remember playing with another friend of mine, he likes a chocolate company I will not name now, and he was choosing that car and I was choosing Jimmie’s car.

“But that was the first time I heard of him, and obviously the success that he has in the years in motor racing, he became a legend of our sport, and massive respect.”

Johnson said he’s always been a fan of Alonso’s and spent some time telling Alonso how well he ran in the Indianapolis 500 last May. Alonso led 27 laps and seemed to be in contention for the win until his engine expired 21 laps from the finish.

“He handled himself so well, really did a great job, and I think brought a lot to the table,” Johnson said. “He brought worldwide attention to motorsports and it was really good for us here stateside.”

While in NASCAR country, Alonso was asked about potentially trying a stock car someday. It’s not something that could happen soon, he said, but it is something he’d like to at least attempt.

“Right now, it looks quite far. The driving technique and the experience all those guys have, it’s difficult for me to achieve that level,” Alonso said. “I will never know until I try, so I would like one day to test a car and after that, driving the car, I will know how enjoyable it will be in racing.

“Outside (watching), the races are great because they are all in a group, it is not predictable at all and until the last lap, you don’t know what is going to happen. We love watching from the outside, but I don’t know from the inside.”

Alonso has so far only had three days of testing at Daytona in the sports car to adjust to a closed cockpit, as well as driving at night and in traffic. Trying different series has been a thrill for him, and he’s still eyeing a way to get Le Mans on his schedule.

“It’s one thing that I would like to do, I would like to compete in the best races in the world, and Le Mans and is one of the top races,” he said. “If that day will be this year or not is still to be discussed, but maybe yes.”

More AP Auto Racing: https://racing.ap.org/