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.

Audi bids farewell to Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich upon retirement

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Audi bid farewell to its iconic head of motorsport, Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich, at its end-of-season ‘Race Night’ event in Germany on Friday upon his retirement.

Ullrich took over the reins as Audi’s head of motorsport in 1993 and stayed in the role for 23 years, overseeing its arrival in the prototype class of sports car racing and domination of the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Ullrich stepped down from the position at the end of 2016, handing the reins over to ex-Audi DTM chief Dieter Gass, and attended his final racing event with the German marque at its first works Formula E outing in Hong Kong earlier this month.

Ullrich was honored at the Race Night event on Friday and thanked for his efforts in developing Audi into a force within global motorsport.

“In 566 factory-backed commitments during this period he celebrated 209 victories, 13 of them in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, eleven in the 12-hour race at Sebring and nine in the ‘Petit Le Mans’ at Road Atlanta,” a piece on Ullrich’s tenure for Audi’s website reads.

“31 driver titles in super touring car racing, in the DTM and in the sports prototype category are credited to him. 57 campaigners were Audi factory drivers during Wolfgang Ullrich’s era and he was responsible for 18 new developments of racing cars – an impressive tally.”