Raikkonen: Not an easy day in Bahrain

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Kimi Raikkonen has called his final day of pre-season testing “not easy” after a minor problem with the Ferrari F14 T limited his running on Saturday morning.

The Finnish driver finished in third place on the timesheets with a fastest lap of 1:35.426 (over two seconds down on pace-setter Felipe Massa) as he focused on a race simulation in the afternoon. However, due to a problem with a connector, the team had to partially dismantle the car to resolve the issue after Raikkonen had completed only a handful of laps.

“I’d hoped to do more laps, but this wasn’t an easy day,” Raikkonen explained. “We lost some time this morning when we had to fix something on the car, but then we managed to make up for some of it in the afternoon.

“Running a race distance, we continued to get more data relating to fuel consumption strategies and tire degradation, even though the strong wind upset the driving a lot.

“I’d like to be able to say we did better, but there’s still one more day with Fernando to continue our preparation for Melbourne.”

Raikkonen’s next chance to get behind the wheel of the F14 T will come during practice for the Australian Grand Prix in twelve days’ time. The Finn will be hoping to repeat his feat of winning on debut for Ferrari at the 2007 race in Melbourne, but with Mercedes appearing to be the pace-setters so far this season, he may face more of a challenge than he did seven years ago.

Teammate Fernando Alonso will return to the car for the final day of winter testing tomorrow in Bahrain.

The problem with high gusts of wind and sand was noted by many drivers, with Nico Rosberg saying: “The only problem was the conditions, with a lot of wind and blowing sand at some corners meaning that suddenly you could have almost no grip which was a bit difficult to manage.”

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.