British GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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We couldn’t really go to England without it raining, could we? Intermittent showers played a big part during the F1 running today at Silverstone, with qualifying being one of the most interesting of the season as a result.

It did little to change the final result though. Once again, it was advantage Mercedes as Nico Rosberg secured his fourth pole position of the season. The German driver bided his time in Q3 and made the most of the drying track to secure P1 by over 1.6 seconds.

It wasn’t all good news for the Silver Arrows as a mistake by Lewis Hamilton left him down in sixth, and the Briton faces an uphill struggle to cut the gap to Rosberg in the championship tomorrow.

Here are all of the reports, news and analysis from Silverstone today.

SESSION REPORTS

  • After a twelve-hour period of rain overnight, FP3 was a rather soggy affair. Mercedes chose not to run, allowing Sebastian Vettel to top a session for the first time in 2014.
  • The Silver Arrows reigned supreme once again in qualifying though (well, one of them did). Marussia was brilliant, Ferrari and Williams rubbish, and Sauber – despite crashing both cars – matched its best qualy of the year.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

There’s nothing quite like a bit of rain to spice things up in Formula 1. Qualifying today was meant to be a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers for pole position once again, but Lewis Hamilton’s certainty that the track was too wet proved to be a costly one. Rosberg went for it and stormed to pole position by 1.6 seconds; Hamilton will start sixth.

This is not the first time that Hamilton has made a mistake in qualifying, though. In Austria, the Briton pushed too hard on both of his hot laps and failed to post a time, leaving him down in ninth. Although he did manage to fight his way back through the field to finish second, this mistake did appear to cost him a real shot at catching teammate Nico Rosberg.

Today, it was simply a misjudgement. Hamilton believed that the track was not improving, so bailed on his lap. The other drivers kept pushing, and even though the first sector was indeed wetter (very few improved their times in S1), the final two had dried out considerably – so much so that Rosberg’s lap was over 3.5 seconds quicker than Hamilton’s.

Praise must be heaped upon the drivers that make up the Mercedes sandwich. Sebastian Vettel matched his best qualifying result of the season in second place, whilst Jenson Button put on a show for the home fans in third ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and McLaren teammate Kevin Magnussen. Hamilton will have a tough job from P6, but the spirit of 2008 will reverberate around the grandstands at Silverstone.

The real stars were at Marussia, though. Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton perfected the timing of their Q1 laps to get through inside the top ten, but it didn’t stop there. Ferrari junior Bianchi finished a brilliant 12th with Chilton an equally-excellent P13, although he does drop down three places due to a grid penalty.

As for Ferrari and Williams, qualifying was nothing short of disastrous. All of the drivers dropped out in Q1 after badly mistiming their laps, and although some positions are made up because of penalties for Chilton, Gutierrez and Maldonado, neither team was at all pleased with the result. It will be great to see cars capable of making the podium charging through the field, though.

The weather in Britain is far from reliable, but today that was a good thing. Come rain or shine on race day though, it should be a thrilling GP tomorrow.

You can watch the British Grand Prix live on CNBC from 7:30am ET tomorrow morning.

Fernando Alonso confirmed for Toyota LMP1 test in Bahrain

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SAKHIR, Bahrain – Fernando Alonso will take his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans when he tests an LMP1 car for Toyota on Sunday at the Bahrain International Circuit.

McLaren Formula 1 driver and two-time world champion Alonso is hoping to appear at Le Mans next year as part of his bid to become just the second man in history to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.

Alonso has already completed one leg by winning the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and made his debut at the Indianapolis 500 in May with McLaren-Honda-Andretti, retiring late on due to an engine failure.

Momentum is building for Alonso to make his Le Mans debut with Toyota in 2018, starting with a first sports car run-out in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s end-of-season rookie test in Bahrain on Sunday.

Alonso arrived in Bahrain on Saturday to watch the six-hour WEC race as an invited guest of the Bahraini royal family, with his participation in the test being confirmed after the race.

“We are very excited that Fernando will test our car. When he visited us in Cologne everyone who met him could sense his enthusiasm and passion for our sport; he is a true racer,” Toyota Gazoo Racing team president Hisatake Murata said.

“We very much respect his interest in different forms of motorsport and it is a pleasure to offer him this chance to drive a hybrid LMP1 car. It will be interesting to hear his feedback on the TS050 Hybrid.”

Alonso will share running in the Toyota car with 19-year-old Thomas Laurent, who received a test as a prize for his star display during his rookie WEC campaign this year, while regular Toyota racer Mike Conway will also complete laps.