Alonso lacking pace to challenge Vettel

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Fernando Alonso has admitted that Ferrari have a great deal of work to do in order to challenge pace-setter Sebastian Vettel this weekend.

“I’m not expecting any major surprises here, we already knew we were not the quickest and that was confirmed today. The car responds well, but we know there is still much to do if we want to fight with the very best.”

Alonso finished a strong third in FP1 behind Vettel and teammate Felipe Massa, but Ferrari could not continue this good form in FP2. Double-champion Alonso could only finish sixth, over eight-tenths off Vettel’s time. However, he was still pleased with his efforts during practice.

“Overall, this was a very productive Friday, as we did a lot of laps and got through an important initial analysis of the behavior of the two types of Pirelli tires available for this race.”

Ferrari look to be in the running for a podium this weekend, and although Alonso was satisfied with his pace, he did admit that it may change on Saturday or Sunday should the predicted rain showers arrive in Melbourne.

“Our efforts were helped by particularly favorable weather with sunshine and summery temperatures. However, the weather is expected to change completely from tomorrow, with wind, rain and a significant drop in temperature, which could influence Sunday’s race.”

Despite not matching Red Bull on Friday, Ferrari are in a better position than this time last season as Alonso and Massa struggled with the F2012. Both drivers have revealed their delight with the new car, the F138, and if they can develop the car over the coming weeks, Red Bull may face stiff competition in defending their world championships.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”