Kaltenborn: Fight for Sauber seats wide open

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Sauber team principal Monisha Kaltenborn has said that the team is not rushing into a decision about its driver line-up for next season, and that the fight between its reserve drivers is still very open.

Last week, Russian youngster Sergey Sirotkin said that his fellow Sauber reserve driver Simona de Silvestro was merely a “marketing move”, and that he did not consider her to be a threat for a seat at the team. Kaltenborn explained how the plan to get Sirotkin into F1 remains, but she said that there were a couple of options for the team in 2015.

“We have a couple of options and we’ll see when the time is there,” she said. “We have said that it’s our intention with the ones we have on board right now, particularly Sergey, who we are preparing on his way into Formula 1.

“He needs to focus on what he’s doing now, and he did a good job in Moscow, he won the race, so that’s continuing. We’re not in any hurry there.”

de Silvestro left IndyCar at the end of last season to join Sauber as an affiliate driver, and she is looking to make the step up to F1 in the near future. Earlier this week, it was confirmed that she would be testing in Austin, with the Circuit of the Americas becoming her official testing partner.

Kaltenborn was pleased with how de Silvestro fared at her last test in Valencia, saying: “It went very well actually, she covered 1200km, and she did a very good job.”

For the time being, the fight for the seats at Sauber remains open. Test driver Giedo van der Garde will also be hoping to stake his claim for a full-time seat, meaning that neither of the full-time drivers – Esteban Gutierrez and Adrian Sutil – can be certain of their F1 future.

Sirotkin will hope to keep up his good form in Formula Renault 3.5, but to say that de Silvestro is merely a “marketing move” would be to underestimate her position and ability.

NHRA Gatornationals: John Force qualifies 15th with no motor explosion, says ‘I need to race smart’ Sunday

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There’s good news and bad news for John Force fans.

The good news is the 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ did not suffer yet another motor explosion after enduring his third in three races during Friday’s qualifying session at Gainesville (Florida) Raceway.

In fact, Force intentionally feathered the gas pedal on his Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car to make sure it wasn’t again overtaxed, qualifying 15th with a run of 4.281 seconds at 222.88 mph.

Now for the bad news.

When Sunday’s final eliminations begin at 11 a.m. ET, Force will be matched against daughter and No. 2 qualifier, Courtney Force (3.914 seconds at 332.18 mph).

“It is a little bit of a bummer that I have to race him in the first round,” Courtney Force said of her father. “Tomorrow is a new day and we will have all our stuff ready and we will put on our game faces to go for that win.”

Courtney Force is seeking her second consecutive win, having also won two weeks ago at the second national event of the season in suburban Phoenix.

“I want to have a good side-by-side safe race tomorrow in round one,” Force said. “Our goal is to take my dad down and have a long day at the track winning rounds.

“We want to move the momentum over from Phoenix. I feel like my guys have a good handle on this Advance Auto Parts Camaro.”

But don’t count out dear old dad, an eight-time Funny Car winner at Gainesville.

“I am the kind of guy that, when it is qualifying day, I run it to the edge.,” John Force said. “I run it even if I know it will hurt itself.

“(With his three motor explosions this season) I am rethinking all that. What I am looking is the long haul. To go out here and say I have to win this race or I have to qualify low after as much stuff as we have put on the ground in Pomona and Phoenix and then to come here and do it again is bad. … We want to fix this problem and move on.

“Tomorrow I am going to have to play the odds game. I am going to run it to 700 or 800 feet and hope (Courtney) gets in trouble. I need to race smart.”

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