Boullier: Raikkonen was paid late but we can keep him


Lotus team principal Eric Boullier believes he can keep Kimi Raikkonen from leaving the outfit to join Red Bull for 2014.

But he admitted the 2007 world champion had been paid late by the team earlier in the year. “It was paid late, yes,” Boullier told the BBC. “But it has been paid. We have to if we want to keep him.”

Boullier said Raikkonen was keen for assurances about how competitive the team will be in future. “Two years in a row we have closed the gap with Red Bull,” he said. “He wants to know if we will keep going like that.”

Raikkonen returned from a two-year F1 absence to join Lotus last year. He won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix for the team and began the new season with a victory in Melbourne. He hasn’t won since but four second places have helped him to third in the drivers’ championship, 41 points behind Sebastian Vettel and seven behind Fernando Alonso.

His contract with the team expires this year and a vacancy has opened up alongside Vettel at Red Bull following Mark Webber’s decision to joined Porsche in the World Endurance Championship.

Fellow world champions Alonso, Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are locked into long-term contracts with their current teams, leaving Raikkonen among the favorites to join Red Bull, along with development drivers and Toro Rosso racers Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne.

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.