Marussia-Caterham battle set for grand finale

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The season-long battle between Marussia and Caterham is finely poised heading into the final race of the season with rain forecast that could see a race of attrition ensue to allow either team to finish well up the order.

Marussia currently occupy tenth place in the constructors’ championship by virtue of Jules Bianchi’s thirteenth-place finish at the Malaysian Grand Prix back in March. Although finishing P10 with zero points may not appear to matter much, there is a sizeable increase in prize money over eleventh place as well as the prestige of being the best of the ‘new’ teams on the grid.

With rain falling throughout today’s qualifying session for the Brazilian Grand Prix, both teams would have felt that there was a chance to get a jump on the field and make it through to Q2 as we saw at Spa earlier this year. Instead, the teams occupied their usual positions at the back of the grid, but Jules Bianchi feels that he could have qualified better than P21 after a mistake cost him time on his fastest lap.

“A very difficult qualifying today,” Bianchi said. “We had to do everything we could early on as we knew the rain was coming, but in the end the window of opportunity was really only one lap. For everything after that it was too wet to improve. I’d made a big mistake at the end of my one quick lap as well, so it’s disappointing as I was so close to van der Garde. So now we just have to be positive for the race and do everything possible to achieve the right result for the team.”

For Caterham to finish ahead of Marussia, either Giedo van der Garde or Charles Pic must finish thirteenth or higher during the race on Sunday. For this to happen, a race with multiple retirements must ensue but a wet race could allow this to happen. Regardless, the season-long battle between these two teams is set to go down to the very last lap.

This mirrors the events of 2012 when Caterham’s Vitaly Petrov passed Pic (then with Marussia) in the final few laps of the season to claim tenth place in the constructors’.

Ricciardo set to see Dale Jr.’s final Texas ride in two weeks (VIDEO)

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We’ve written before about Daniel Ricciardo’s love of Dale Earnhardt and his love of the No. 3, which Ricciardo has selected as his permanent number for the duration of his Formula 1 career. And additionally, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has offered up the opportunity that one day Ricciardo could race a JR Motorsports car in NASCAR Xfinity Series competition, and Ricciardo has said he’d be up for it.

And although Earnhardt Jr. has only used the No. 3 on a handful of occasions in his career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Ricciardo knows how much the number means to the NASCAR veteran as he prepares for his final few starts in the Cup Series the tail-end of this year.

After the Mexican Grand Prix next week, Ricciardo is set to stay in North America for the off-week between the Mexican and Brazilian Grands Prix.

In that break, he said he’ll see Earnhardt Jr. in person at the Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway (Sunday, Nov. 5, 2 p.m. ET, NBCSN) to ensure he gets to see him before he retires from full-time competition.

Ricciardo explained his planning during Thursday’s pre-race edition of the NBC Sports Group original digital series Paddock Pass, speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton at the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin.

“Well I’ll see him for the first time in Dallas. I’m gonna go to the NASCAR race in two weeks time at Texas Motor Speedway,” Ricciardo told NBCSN.

“Yeah, so, I gotta see him race before he hangs up the helmet.

“The Earnhardt family is a huge name in motorsport, not only in America but all over the world. Yeah I wish him well.”

Ricciardo is also optimistic he’ll get the chance to do a helmet swap with Earnhardt Jr. at the event.

“Hopefully I get to see him perform well in Texas. I’m gonna try to do a helmet swap with him. We’ll see how we go.”

Stay tuned for more on this over the coming weeks.