Who could be racing for Caterham in Abu Dhabi?

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Following Friday’s announcement that Caterham will now be lining up on the grid for the final race of the Formula 1 season, a number of questions have been brought up, largely surrounding the long-term future of the team and the suitability of its crowdfunding project.

However, with Marcus Ericsson confirming that he has cut all ties with Caterham ahead of his move to Sauber, the backmarkers will need to draft in at least one replacement for the final round in Abu Dhabi.

So who could be the drivers that do indeed line up on the grid in Abu Dhabi?

Kamui Kobayashi

The Japanese driver was supposed to be Caterham’s leading light in 2014, not being a conventional pay driver and instead being hired for his talents. However, he has since become something of a second thought for Caterham. In Belgium, he was dropped for Andre Lotterer, and was not set to race in Italy before being called on Wednesday in Japan and told to get on the next flight so he could race. Kobayashi could race in Abu Dhabi, but only if Caterham can’t find a higher bidder.

Andre Lotterer

Following his one-off appearance at Spa, Lotterer turned down a second race for Caterham at Monza, instead choosing to focus on his WEC commitments with Audi. The German has been offered the chance to race in Abu Dhabi, according to Autosport, and said he is not sure if he will take it up. With the WEC finale in Brazil just one week later, it might be a bit of a stretch for Lotterer.

Roberto Merhi

Merhi is perhaps the most likely candidate for the seat alongside Kobayashi, having enjoyed a very successful practice run-out at Monza in September. The Spaniard reportedly has a deal to race in Abu Dhabi, so expect him to make his F1 debut. After considering quitting motorsport at the beginning of the year, making his F1 debut would be the perfect way to mark a huge turnaround in events.

Max Chilton

This is more of a ‘two and two makes four’ deduction, but the outcast Marussia driver may look to make an F1 return in Abu Dhabi. Neither party has said that it will happen, but if Chilton is looking to use his budget to secure a seat for the final race of the year, he would be a very viable option for Caterham.

Jolyon Palmer

Again, this is more based on logic than anything, but if GP2 champion Palmer was looking to make his F1 debut early, he could give himself a very busy weekend in Abu Dhabi by vying for the seat. However, he might think it better to bide his time and work on a package over the winter to find a place on the grid for 2015.

Alice Powell

Largely unknown in the US, Alice Powell enjoyed a successful junior career in the UK before taking part in some GP3 races last season. Reports suggested that her family was putting together a package for her to take part in FP1 in Abu Dhabi, but without a super licence, and far bigger offers on the table, this is a long shot if there ever was one.

Ultimately, the seats will go to the highest bidders, so in reality, it is a very open fight. With more staff being made redundant earlier this week, though, it seems that making the grid in Abu Dhabi may only paper over some of the cracks at Caterham.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.