van der Garde happy to have found his feet in F1

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Caterham’s Giedo van der Garde has conceded that his first few races in Formula One were something of a struggle, but the Dutchman is happy to have found his feet to now find himself competing at the front of the backmarkers’ battles.

Marussia and Caterham may not be fighting for points, but the battle for P10 in the constructors’ championship looks set to be one of the few results not to have been decided heading into the final round of the season. Currently, Marussia occupy that position by virtue of Jules Bianchi’s thirteenth-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix, but van der Garde is determined to get Caterham back into the top ten.

“Of course for us it’s very important to get the tenth place back,” the Dutchman said on Thursday in India. “I think the last few races we’ve seen that we’ve always been in front in the race compared with Marussia, so the one thing we need is a little luck and the only thing we can do is maximize ourselves, maximize the car, maximize the team and the rest is luck.”

In terms of his own season, van der Garde believes that he has turned a corner in the last few races after a baptism of fire into the sport, but there is still room for improvement.

“At the beginning, I struggled a little bit, then in the middle of the season everything fell into place and since then I’ve had good speed. I still have to improve the qualifying a little bit but race pace has been very good.”

van der Garde’s future is yet to be confirmed, but the Dutchman’s recent performances should be enough to secure him a place on the grid in 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.