Raikkonen to miss final two races of season for back surgery

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Kimi Raikkonen will miss the final two rounds of the 2013 Formula One season in order to undergo back surgery ahead of his move to Ferrari in 2014. This means that the Finn will no longer be racing at the Circuit of the Americas in the United States Grand Prix, set to take place next weekend.

Raikkonen has suffered from a recurring back injury throughout his career, but it has become increasingly problematic of late and it was thought that he may take the decision to pull out of the final few races of the year in order to correct the problem.

Speaking to Autosport, Raikkonen’s manager, Steve Robertson, confirmed that the Finn would not be racing in the final two rounds of the season.

“In an ideal world it would have been nice to finish the season with Lotus in the final two grands prix,” he explained. “However, due to the severe pain that Kimi is having, sadly it is not possible.”

Therefore, Raikkonen has raced for Lotus for the final time, bringing to an end a two-year stint at Enstone that has turned sour due to financial problems. He made clear in Abu Dhabi that he would consider walking away from the team early if they could not come to some sort of agreement, but team principal Eric Boullier insisted earlier this week that relations were good with Raikkonen despite him having a seat fitting with Ferrari. Nevertheless, Raikkonen’s decision to have back surgery should allow him to begin life with the Italian marque in 2014 fully fit.

Lotus released a statement on Sunday afternoon confirming the news.

“Lotus F1 Team can confirm that Kimi Raikkonen will miss the final two races of the 2013 Formula 1 season to undergo, and recover from, back surgery. The team will make an announcement about the replacement driver for the United States and Brazilian Grands Prix in due course.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.