Alonso scores Ferrari’s first podium finish of 2014

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After a difficult week that saw team principal Stefano Domenicali resign on Monday, Fernando Alonso has brought the Ferrari team some joy by scoring its first podium finish of the season today in China.

The Spanish driver made a great start from fifth place, and was running in second after passing both of the Red Bull drivers and Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg. However, during his final stint, Rosberg managed to close and pass Alonso with relative ease thanks to the superior straight line speed of the Mercedes W05 car. Nevertheless, he was delighted with P3 after such a poor start to the season.

“It was a good weekend,” Alonso said on the podium after the race. “We did improve the car a little bit compared to the first three races, so we felt more competitive.

“Being here on the podium is a nice surprise for us, a nice surprise finally. Yeah, with podium finish today, I’m third in the drivers’ championship behind these two guys [Rosberg and Hamilton]. We didn’t have the start to the season we would have liked, but at the end of the day we’re still in the fight.”

Alonso’s race nearly ended at the first corner after he was tagged by Williams’ Felipe Massa. Despite a big side-swipe, both cars managed to continue, but Alonso was concerned about any possible damage.

“It was a big contact,” he said. “I asked on the radio “can you check the car?” It felt okay but obviously I don’t know from the outside how it looks. It was okay, and we were very lucky to finish the race. Hopefully next time it will be a cleaner start.”

The Spaniard finished over 50 seconds ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen, and certainly appears to be more at ease with the F14 T car than he had in the first three rounds of the season.

Ferrari will be hoping for another good result at Alonso’s home race, the Spanish Grand Prix, in three weeks’ time.

Williams to wait until new year before making 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams will wait until the new year before making an announcement regarding its Formula 1 driver line-up for the 2018 season.

Williams holds the final vacant seat in F1 for next year, with Felipe Massa retiring at the last race of the 2017 season in Abu Dhabi at the end of November.

The Brazilian’s departure has opened up a seat alongside Lance Stroll for 2018, which looked poised to be taken by Robert Kubica, over seven years after he last raced in F1 before injuries sustained in a rally accident appeared to cut his career short.

Doubts emerged about Kubica’s comeback following a test with Williams in its 2017-spec car in Abu Dhabi after the final race of the season, leading to Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin becoming the favorite.

Besides Kubica and Sirotkin, ditched Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat is also an option, but Williams has now confirmed it will make no decision on its line-up until the new year.

Sirotkin first entered the frame in F1 in 2013 when he became a development driver at Sauber, with Russian backers SMP Racing pushing to get him a race seat for the following year.

Sirotkin missed out on a full-time role at the team, leading him to focus on racing in Formula Renault 3.5 for 2014 before spending two years in GP2, where he finished third in the standings in both seasons.

Renault struck an agreement to sign Sirotkin in a junior role in 2016, leading to a number of practice run-outs over the last two seasons, but he was passed over for a 2018 race seat when it signed Carlos Sainz Jr.

Williams emerged as an option for Sirotkin following a successful maiden test with the team in Abu Dhabi alongside Kubica, with talks now set to continue over the holiday period.

Sirotkin has not taken on a full-time race program this year, making just a single competitive appearance in the 24 Hours of Le Mans with SMP Racing in the LMP2 class.

Sirotkin has also been involved in the development of the team’s BR Engineering-designed LMP1 car for the 2018 FIA World Endurance Championship season, and is likely to secure a seat should he miss out on the role at Williams.