McLaren, Red Bull in dispute over engineer’s deal

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Red Bull Racing has elevated Dan Fallows to the position of head of aerodynamics, while Peter Prodromou has been placed on ‘gardening leave’ ahead of his 2015 move to McLaren.

The team made the announcement this morning with the following statement:

“We are pleased to announce that Dan Fallows becomes Head of Aerodynamics at Infiniti Red Bull Racing with immediate effect.

Dan has worked as part of the team’s aerodynamic department for many years. Previously working as a Team Leader (Aerodynamics), he left the team for a short time last year. He has now returned to Infiniti Red Bull Racing to begin working in his new role.

We can confirm that Peter Prodromou has commenced a period of gardening leave; we would like to thank him for his valuable contribution during his time with the team.”

Prodromou, whose move back to Woking was confirmed last fall, worked with McLaren from 1991-2005 before joining Red Bull in 2006.

Working alongside F1 design/tech star Adrian Newey, Prodromou has played a key role in Red Bull’s dominance of the sport over the last four seasons.

However, McLaren now appears ready to pursue legal action over Fallows’ appointment with Red Bull, as it said in January that it had attained his services.

In a Wednesday teleconference, McLaren racing director Eric Boullier said that Fallows had a “legally binding contract” with the team and that “the matter is now in the hands of our lawyers.”

Additionally, the BBC’s Andrew Benson writes that after McLaren announced the signing of Fallows, Red Bull gave him the new position and a better salary in order to keep him from jumping ship.

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.