Raikkonen upbeat about Lotus progress

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Kimi Raikkonen believes that Lotus has made considerable progress in closing the gap to the top teams for the start of the 2013 Formula One season.

Although he finished the 2012 championship in third place, Raikkonen told Autosport how the team had made a step forward over the winter.

“I think even compared to the last races, it feels like we are a bit closer. We saw [Sebastian] Vettel being fast today but all the rest, everybody else, it looks tight and they are close to each other.”

Like many of the drivers though, Raikkonen did not want to read too much into his Friday pace. He finished sixth in FP1 and fourth in FP2, and similar results for teammate Romain Grosjean reinforced the pace of the Lotus.

“It is only the first Friday,” Raikkonen said. “So let’s see how it goes in the first two races and we will go from there.”

“For sure we can improve ourselves also quite a bit. They [Red Bull] were fast on the harder tires, so you expect that they would have been a bit faster on the super soft. But you never know. It is what it is and the race is a different story. It is just the first Friday.”

The team has shown good pace in practice so far, and they will certainly be in the running for a strong points haul this weekend relying Raikkonen and Grosjean can continue their good form.

IndyCar Grand Prix of Alabama final practice report

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Will Power posted the fastest lap in the third practice session for the Grand Prix of Alabama with a speed of 122.953 mph.

Rookie Robert Wickens (122.552 mph) was second fast, foretelling a continuation of his incredible rookie season.

Scott Dixon (122.237), Ryan Hunter-Reay (122.231) and Alexander Rossi (122.106) rounded out the top five.

The practice was interrupted several times for incidents. 

Ed Jones spun off track in turn five after locking up his brakes with 30 minutes remaining in practice three. He was able to drive back to the pits under his own power.

With 20 minutes still on the clock, Jordan King took a trip into the fence after posting a fastest lap of 121.753 mph. He sustained substantial left side damage to his car and came back to the pits on the hook.

“I’m annoyed really,” King said afterward on the live stream at IndyCar.com. “I slightly locked the inside front, then just stayed off onto the grass and that was it. But I wasn’t really even pushing that hard.”

With two minutes remaining, Charlie Kimball lost power and pulled off the track, bringing an end to the practice session.

Dixon also had an off-road excursion.