Lotus confident of their chances in Barcelona

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After up-and-down qualifying efforts in the first four races, Lotus came through with better “Q” form on Saturday at Circuit de Catalunya as Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean — who both hit the podium last time out in Bahrain — placed fourth and sixth respectively on the grid for tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix (7:30 a.m. ET, NBC Sports Network/NBC Sports Live Extra).

Naturally, Raikkonen (pictured), who comes to Barcelona 10 points back of championship leader Sebastian Vettel, isn’t letting himself get hyped up about the performance on Saturday. But he wonders if the Mercedes front row of pole sitter Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton will be able to finally turn their one-lap mastery into something more.

If they can’t, the Finn and his other main rivals may be in prime position on Sunday.

“You can’t really say on Saturday what will happen; you just have to make a good start and then see what you can do,” Raikkonen said. “We’ve got two fast Mercedes ahead of us and we’ll have to see how strong they are over a full distance. I’m sure the Ferrari and Red Bull will be competitive, so like any race we’ll just do our best and see where we end up.”

A mistake on his flying lap in Q3 caused Grosjean to originally qualify seventh this morning, but he was elevated to sixth following a grid penalty for Ferrari’s Felipe Massa. Lotus has done well in taking care of their tires this season, and the Frenchman is banking on that to help him get another solid result.

“We saw a lot of degradation during Friday’s [practice] sessions and today, it was a bit warmer, so with the changing conditions tyre management will again be key,” he said. “Our car is quite good in this aspect; it has been well designed and prepared by our engineers to preserve the tires, so we’ll see what happens and hope to find the best possible strategy.”

Watch tomorrow’s Spanish Grand Prix online and on your mobile device.

Plans for Alonso sports car debut in Rolex 24 gathering speed

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Plans for McLaren Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso to appear in next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona are gathering speed as the two-time World Champion angles for a drive at Le Mans in 2018.

Alonso announced on Thursday he had signed a new, multi-year deal to remain with McLaren in F1, but has left the door open to continue his pursuit of the Triple Crown of Motorsport and become just the second driver in history to complete it.

Alonso has won the Monaco Grand Prix twice and made his Indianapolis 500 debut this year, retiring with an engine issue, and has made no secret of his ambition to race at Le Mans one day.

With no date clashes, the possibility exists for Alonso to race at Le Mans in 2018, potentially with Toyota in the LMP1 class following McLaren’s split with Honda.

However, Alonso could make his 24-hour race debut five months earlier, with reports emerging on Thursday that he could be in line to appear in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

First reported by Sportscar365, Alonso could be set to race for McLaren executive director Zak Brown’s team, United Autosports, at Daytona in January, with no clashes existing with his F1 commitments.

Alonso remained coy when asked about the chances of him appearing at Daytona, but admitted additional preparation for a possible Le Mans appearance would be of interest.

“For the Indy 500 it was a nice experience, I felt very competitive but it was a big challenge that I took from zero, from no testing, not any similar race before it,” Alonso said, as quoted by Reuters.

“If I want to prepare Le Mans, maybe there are other possibilities to prepare Le Mans a little bit better than I prepared the Indy 500.”

He added more about his other race program in Thursday’s pre-race Paddock Pass episode, speaking to NBCSN. “To be the best driver in the world you have to win in different series at different times. It’s possible I can compete in different races next year,” he said.

Brown said he would be happy to field Alonso at Daytona, and confirmed their pair had already loosely discussed it.

“If Fernando wants to do Daytona and we have a seat available, we would put his name on it happily,” Brown said.

“We’ve started joking around about it, and we saw where jokes got us last time,” he added, referencing the eventual entry to the Indy 500.

United Autosports will field two JS P217 cars at Daytona in January, and has already confirmed ex-F1 racer Paul di Resta, McLaren junior Lando Norris, American endurance racer Will Owen and Danish youngster Philip Hanson in seats.

McLaren reserve and 2009 F1 world champion Jenson Button had been linked with a drive for United Autosports at Daytona, but Brown confirmed to Sportscar365 this was no longer an option.

“Jenson won’t be driving for us. I don’t know what he’s going to be doing,” Brown said.

“I thought he was going to be in the Penske car. Not sure what happened there.”