Lack of Marussia deal “a strange mystery”

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Marussia chief executive Graeme Lowdon admits he is mystified why his team haven’t been offered a commercial deal to continue participating in Formula One.

Bernie Ecclestone has not offered terms to the team which finished 11th in the constructors’ championship last year.

“All teams should be treated equally,” Lowdon told The Times. “For whatever reason, that does not seem to be the case. We just don’t have a deal with the commercial rights-holder.”

“Why should that be? This sport is full of strange mysteries and that is one of them.”

Ecclestone announced in April only the top ten teams would receive payments as of this year. HRT, who finished 12th in the championship last year, went into administration over the winter.

Lowdon questioned the decision of F1 owners CVC to tilt the playing field against the smallest teams: “That board has to make a decision on how it treats companies it deals with. We are one of those companies, and it chooses to treat us differently. It doesn’t make any sense to me, but then I don’t work for CVC. Maybe they have a master plan.”

“All we ask for is a level playing field,” he added.

Marussia first entered Formula One in 2010 when the team was owned by Virgin Group tycoon Richard Branson. Russian sports car manufacturer Marussia later bought his stake in the team.

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.