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Raikkonen sets blistering pace as F1 winter testing ends in Barcelona

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Kimi Raikkonen offered a further indication that Ferrari may be one of the teams to beat in Formula 1 this year by setting a blistering pace on the final day of pre-season testing in Barcelona.

Raikkonen managed to better the existing best time of the winter set by Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel on Thursday, posting a lap of 1:18.634.

The Finn ends pre-season as the only driver to have dipped below the 1:19s range, with his lap being just a couple of tenths off the overall lap record at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

However, Raikkonen’s day was not without trouble as a late stoppage at the final chicane cost Ferrari some mileage, but it nevertheless ends the winter as the fastest team on paper.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was left to finish as the best of the rest on Friday, posting a fastest lap of 1:19.438, while Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. ended up third overall, albeit suffering one stoppage on the main straight in the afternoon.

Mercedes split its running between Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton once again in Barcelona, with the drivers finishing fourth and fifth respectively.

Nico Hulkenberg wound up sixth for Renault ahead of Force India’s Sergio Perez and new teammate Jolyon Palmer, while Williams rookie Lance Stroll had a trouble-free day en route to P9 overall.

McLaren ended pre-season testing on a sour note as Fernando Alonso’s running was limited once again by issues with his Honda power unit, the Spaniard suffering two on-track stoppages. Alonso finished up 10th, 2.7 seconds off Raikkonen’s benchmark.

Romain Grosjean had one on-track issue for Haas but finished the day 11th ahead of Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein, the latter propping up the timesheets.

With winter testing now complete, the F1 drivers will get their next taste of on-track action during first practice for the Australian Grand Prix on March 24.

Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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