Kovalainen to run in FP1 for Caterham at Bahrain, Spain

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Heikki Kovalainen and Caterham will be reunited starting this weekend at the Bahrain Grand Prix, although not in a race seat.

The Finn, who spent three seasons with the team through its iterations as both Lotus Racing and Caterham, will run in free practice one both in Bahrain and in Spain in several weeks.

Kovalainen’s experience will be a necessary asset as Caterham introduces its first round of updates to its 2013 chassis, which so far has been outpaced by the Marussia at the back of the grid. Caterham’s race lineup is the second least experienced on the grid with Charles Pic and rookie Giedo van der Garde.

“It’s obviously great news that I’ll be on track in Bahrain and Spain and I’m really looking forward to getting back to work and helping the team as much as I can,” Kovalainen said in a team release. “I’ll be taking part in the two FP1 sessions in Bahrain and Barcelona to give the team my input on the new parts we’re bringing to those races, and I’ll be working closely with the race drivers and the engineers on track and back at Leafield to help everyone get the most out of the new package.

“Tony (Fernandes), Cyril (Abiteboul, team principal) and I have been talking about me taking up this role for quite a while, so it’s good to finally be able to announce how I’ll be helping the team in 2013,” he added. “I’m physically ready to get back into the car and I know my experience can help give the team new ideas and options for directions to take on setup and strategy. I’m looking forward to getting back to work!”

American Alexander Rossi was set to run in FP1 at Bahrain, replacing van der Garde. The team release didn’t indicate which driver Kovalainen would fill in for, but Rossi’s news from the release is a switch to Caterham’s GP2 program replacing – incidentally – fellow reserve driver Ma Qing Hua of China.

Kovalainen and Rossi will be Caterham F1’s two official reserve drivers going forward, with Ma’s adjusted plans and official role to be determined at a later date.

Power, Newgarden, Dixon fastest in first of 2 IndyCar practices today at Barber Motorsports Park

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Will Power was fastest in Friday’s first of two IndyCar practice sessions at Barber Motorsports Park.

Power covered the 2.3-mile permanent road course in 1:07.5987 minutes at 122.488 mph in the 45-minute practice session.

Even though he spun off the course during his session, Phoenix winner Josef Newgarden still managed to be second-fastest (121.919 mph at 1:07.9141 minutes), followed by Scott Dixon (121.296 mph/1:082627), Max Chilton (121.251 mph/1:08.2882) and Ed Jones (121.215 mph/1:09.5692).

 

Sixth through 10th were Simon Pagenaud (121.208 mph/1:08.3122), Jordan King (121.113 mph/1:083661), Graham Rahal (121.059 mph/1:08.3964), St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais (121.029 mph/1:08.4131) and rookie Zach Veach (121.014 mph/1:08.4216).

Here’s the full speed chart:

Incidents:

* Early in the session, Long Beach winner Alexander Rossi ran off the track and into the grass, striking a small sign, but was able to get back on-track. However, Rossi was only able to complete 10 laps, relegating him to 20th-fastest in the 23-car field.

* Moments later, it appeared the rear brakes locked up on Newgarden heading into Turn 5, spinning him into the gravel trap. He was able to get going and returned to the pits for service and was back on-track with less than four minutes remaining in the session.

ALSO OF NOTE:

* The second practice session of the day will begin at 3:50 p.m. ET. A third practice will take part Saturday morning at 10:50 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying beginning at 4:05 p.m. ET. The race, to be televised live Sunday on NBCSN, is slated to start at 3:30 p.m. ET.

* However, weather forecast does not look promising for Sunday’s race. As of 1 p.m. ET today, the forecast calls for 100 percent rain throughout the day.

* Dixon has had an incredible record at Barber Motorsports Park, with seven podium finishes in eight starts there. Except for one thing: he has yet to win a race there. But he does have five runner-up and two other third-place showings on the permanent road course.

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