The 2014 F1 driver market as things stand

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The driver market for the 2014 Formula One season has been a hot topic for almost six months now, having been kick-started by Mark Webber’s decision to retire from the sport and move to Porsche’s revived LMP1 programme. Following Lotus’ confirmation of Pastor Maldonado for 2014 on Friday, the final few seats are ready to be filled, meaning that we are close to knowing just who will be on the grid in Australia next March.

RED BULL RACING

Confirmed: Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo
Ricciardo was confirmed as Webber’s replacement back in September, stepping up from Toro Rosso.

MERCEDES

Confirmed: Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg
More of the same for the German marque in 2014 after an impressive year.

SCUDERIA FERRARI

Confirmed: Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen
Raikkonen replaces Massa to create the strongest line-up on the grid next season, but also the most volatile. 

LOTUS

Confirmed: Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado
Money helped forge Maldonado’s move away from Williams; Grosjean could flourish as team leader.

McLAREN

Confirmed: Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen
Experience meets potential with this line-up, and it will be fascinating to see how Magnussen fares in 2014.

FORCE INDIA

Confirmed: None.
Candidates: Paul di Resta, Adrian Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, James Calado.
Hulkenberg is the obvious choice here, and with di Resta eyeing up a drive in IndyCar, the second seat is between Sutil and Perez.

SAUBER

Confirmed: None.
Candidates: Esteban Gutierrez, Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez, Sergey Sirotkin, Adrian Sutil
With questions surrounding Sirotkin’s funding, the return of Perez to form an all-Mexican team with Esteban Gutierrez is perhaps the most likely line-up, although Sutil could seek refuge at Sauber should Force India drop him.

SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO

Confirmed: Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniil Kvyat.
Kvyat was not the obvious choice, but some impressive displays in practice at Austin and Interlagos proved that he can challenge Vergne despite his lack of experience.

WILLIAMS

Confirmed: Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa
In Massa, Williams has secured a valuable and experienced driver who should compliment the promising Bottas well.

MARUSSIA

Confirmed: Jules Bianchi
Candidates: Max Chilton, Rodolfo Gonzalez
Chilton is likely to be retained after a solid – albeit far from successful – debut season.

CATERHAM

Confirmed: None
Candidates: Giedo van der Garde, Charles Pic, Marcus Ericsson, Heikki Kovalainen, Alexander Rossi
Kovalainen is closing on a seat, but after missing out on P10 in the constructors’, Caterham may have been forced into a rethink. GP2 drivers Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi could be viable options.

Bourdais hopes last year’s crash turns into Indy 500 Cinderella story on Sunday

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Sebastien Bourdais has relived his May 20, 2017 crash during Indianapolis 500 qualifying over and over in his mind, day after day, week after week and month after month.

He would think of the worst crash of his open-wheel racing career at least once — if not several times — a day, particularly when he’d experience a slight twinge of pain.

“I think about it every day,” Bourdais told MotorSportsTalk. “Even though I’m functionally 100 percent now, it’s still very rare that during the day that there’s not a little pinch or something that reminds me of what happened.”

But this past weekend while qualifying for this year’s 500, one year later, the French driver said he was finally able to work past the mental roadblock that just would not leave his mind.

The solution was simple: complete the task he wasn’t able to do so last year, namely, qualifying for the race – and qualifying well.

Bourdais will start fifth in Sunday’s 102nd Running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, in the middle of Row 2.

“(Last year’s crash is) still in my mind,” Bourdais said. “But I think the biggest hurdle, at least mentally, was qualifying last weekend, putting yourself back in the same set of circumstances, going back on the line there.

“It felt a little bit the same, chances of rain, some rain, delays, you get back in line, conditions change, everything gets harder because it gets hotter, but that’s the biggest hurdle to overcome. After that, it’s back to business.”

Bourdais has already won once in 2018 – the season-opening race in his adopted hometown of St. Petersburg, Florida.

It helped jump start him to a strong overall run in the first five races of the season, including a fourth-place showing two weeks ago at the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Indianapolis, coupled with entering the 500 third in the Verizon IndyCar Series standings.

Now, he wants to win the biggest race of his career. If he does so, he’ll feel as if he finally and completely has come full circle from last year’s devastating wreck that shattered his pelvis, going head-on into the Turn 2 wall at a reported 228 mph.

“Well, it’s the Holy Grail of IndyCar, it doesn’t really get any bigger than that,” Bourdais said of the 500. “It’s the biggest achievement that you can accomplish in IndyCar.

“I don’t think I’m any different than anybody else: we all want to win it pretty bad, but I’m sure after what happened after last year, it’d be a Cinderella story.”

But there’s a caveat to Bourdais writing that story: “There’s 32 other drivers that want to accomplish the same thing, and it’s a one day event. We’ll give it our best shot … you can only give your very best and see what happens on that given day.”

Bourdais has a lot going for him heading into Sunday. First off, he’ll start from the highest qualifying position he’s ever had in what will be the seventh Indy 500 of the 39-year-old’s racing career.

Second, his confidence and comfort level are higher than they’ve ever been coming into the annual classic at the 2.5-mile Brickyard oval.

Third, he’s forgiven himself – not IMS – for what happened last year. He has no ill feeling towards the racetrack, nor does he seek revenge. If he were to start thinking that way, it would serve no positive purpose.

“No. I’m not really that way,” he said when asked if he wants revenge over the racetrack. “The track didn’t beat me up, I beat myself.

“The bottom line is there were a couple of reasons why it happened, but I got more comfortable and more confident and confidence and comfort at some point just bite you at Indy.

“You just do your laps, you get into such a rhythm and the week had gone perfectly with an awesome car and there was not a doubt in my mind it was going to stick (going into Turn 2), and that’s when it happened – and I paid the price.”

So, Bourdais is simply going to go out and race, again, hoping to complete what he started last year before being so painfully derailed.

His best finish to date in the 500 has been seventh (2014). He just needs for his Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser – Sullivan Honda to finish six places higher on Sunday.

And if he does, his move to Dale Coyne Racing last year – he’s competed in 13 of 23 races with two wins, 3 podiums and one pole – would only serve to make what already has proven to be a great move into a potentially brilliant move.

Because, yes, Bourdais isn’t just thinking Indy 500 win, he’s also thinking of a potential championship this season.

“I sure hope so,” Bourdais said when asked if his team’s success will continue. “I like to say it’s (the success that the Coyne camp has had since he came there) a little bit of my baby, bringing in Craig (engineer Craig Hampson) and Olivier (race engineer Olivier Boisson) and reinforcing the existing crew.”

Bourdais is no stranger to winning championships. He won four straight combined titles in CART and the Champ Car World Series from 2004 through 2007 (he also won 28 races in that four-year span).

“Obviously, it’s one thing to get into a winning team and basically meet expectations,” Bourdais said. “It’s another thing to try and build something and change the status of the underdog and turn him into a contender week in and week out.

“We got a glimpse of that last year, and this year, we’ve been competitive every weekend so far, and that’s a great feeling. Once you’re able to be competitive on street course, road courses, short ovals and superspeedways, then you can start saying and thinking championship.”

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