Gutierrez heads to Monaco in need of a good result

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Esteban Gutierrez will be heading to next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix well aware that he is under pressure to score his first points of the season, after a lacklustre showing in the first four races.

The plucky Mexican debuted in Formula 1 last season and appeared to come alive in the second half of the year, scoring six points in total. However, both he and teammate Adrian Sutil have been underwhelming at best in 2014, and are yet to record a top ten finish.

In Monaco next week, a traditionally high rate of attrition could work in Gutierrez’s favor, but he knows that he’ll have to push to the limit if he is to excel around the streets.

“The street circuit in Monaco is a very special track and one of my favorites on the calendar,” he said. “As the track has many slow speed corners, we need to have a stable car. Our focus will be to get things sorted out and to make sure we are on target.

“What I like the most in Monte Carlo is driving on the narrow track between the guardrails. It is very challenging as you don’t have a lot of space, and for a perfect lap you get very close to the barriers.

“The closer you get, the more you are pushing to the limit, so using every centimetre of the track. It is very exciting and racing on the streets of Monte Carlo is always a different kind of feeling.”

Esteban hasn’t set the F1 world on fire since making his debut last year, and with Sergey Sirotkin, Simona de Silvestro and Giedo van der Garde all vying for his seat in 2015, the pressure will be on for him to deliver some results during his sophomore year.

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.