Sauber celebrate best qualifying of the season in Korea

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Sauber have enjoyed their best qualifying result of the season as both Nico Hulkenberg and Esteban Gutierrez made it through to Q3, securing top ten grid positions for tomorrow’s Korean Grand Prix.

Gutierrez may have failed to score a point during his rookie season, but the Mexican driver proved in Singapore that he has great potential after qualifying tenth and running in P7 for a large part of the race before falling back in the final stages of the grand prix. In Korea, he has impressed once again in qualifying, comfortably getting through Q1 before scraping into Q3 and going on to finish ninth.

“I’ve improved my qualifying and once you have both cars working on a similar level you can push yourself a lot more,” Gutierrez said. “This is the first time I have driven here, so it is great to achieve a result like that. It is now the second time in a row I have been able to put in a good qualifying performance and that is a good feeling, because I have worked a lot to improve.”

Nico Hulkenberg qualified one place ahead of his teammate, and both drivers are set to move up one place on the grid thanks to Mark Webber’s ten place grid penalty.

“Today went really well,” Hulkenberg said. “Q1 and Q2 were like clockwork and my lap in Q3 was good too, but somehow it was more difficult, I was four tenths down on my Q2 time and the grip was not the same as in the previous session. To start P7 tomorrow is very positive and we can look forward to the race.”

Thanks to Russian investment, the team’s future has been secured with an extension of their engine deal with Ferrari being confirmed for 2014.

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.