F1: Virgin To 'Evaluate' d'Ambrosio In Friday Practice, Five Title Contenders With Five Races To Go Photo:
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Mike Stevens | Sep, 21 2010 | 0 Comments

Jerome d'Ambrosio will replace Virgin regular Lucas di Grassi for four of the remaining five Friday morning practice sessions in 2010.

Recent speculation hinted at the possibility of a 2011 race seat for the Belgian GP2 driver, whose manager has revealed he has already raised the majority of the necessary budget.

Manager Yves Decorte told a newspaper last week: "And if we can do it quickly, he might even be able to drive on a Friday morning at the end of the season."

But Virgin has not confirmed that the Gravity-managed d'Ambrosio, 24, is definitely replacing Brazilian rookie di Grassi next year.

"We have a contract with Timo Glock for another two years and an option on the services of Lucas di Grassi for next year," insisted team Chief Executive Graeme Lowdon.

"Both drivers have done an outstanding job for us in our debut season."

The new British team said d'Ambrosio has been signed only "in an evaluation role" for the forthcoming rounds in Singapore, Japan, Korea and Brazil, explaining that Virgin "will be using this opportunity to evaluate Jerome's potential".

D'Ambrosio, who started the 2010 season as a Renault test driver, will also contest the end-of-season young driver test after the Abu Dhabi season finale, Virgin announced.

"We are always looking to progress new racing talent and the team out of which Virgin Racing was born has a long history of this," Lowdon said.

For D'Ambrosio, it would be the realisation of a long-standing goal: "My ultimate goal has always been to race in Formula One and I am delighted to get a step closer. Looking at the 2011 season, this will be very usefu," he said

Also in Abu Dhabi for the end-of-season Abu Dhabi test will be Dean Stoneman, who secures the Williams outing as a prize for becoming the new F2 champion.



Five Title Contenders, Five Races To Go

With five races still to run in 2010, there are still five drivers in the running to be World Champion.

"I wouldn't want to call it," said team boss Martin Whitmarsh, whose McLaren drivers Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button are both contenders.

Also among the gang of five within a margin of a single race victory of Mark Webber's lead are his Red Bull teammate Sebastian Vettel and the Ferrari of Fernando Alonso.

"I think that out of the five, it will eventually just be a duel between Vettel and Webber," pundit and former triple World Champion Niki Lauda told Bild newspaper.

"They have the edge because their package is the best overall," he added.

Indeed, Ferrari came close to writing off Alonso's chances before the Italian team travelled from its Maranello base to Monza and won.

The Spaniard agrees that he is still in the running -- but only just.

"It will be almost compulsory now to be on the podium in each race," Alonso said.

"I don't know how many points I have but I know I'm 21 behind the leader."

His F10 car was the fastest on the long lines of Monza, but team boss Stefano Domenicali is not expecting a repeat this weekend.

"Singapore is a track where Red Bull will return to its usual levels, McLaren will be strong and it will be a harder fight than what we saw at Monza," he is quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

But the Italian acknowledged: "The truth is I think no one really understands what happens this year, in the sense that things happen differently at each race compared to what is said beforehand."

Brazilian commentator Lito Cavalcanti surmises: "The Red Bull is good everywhere, but the cars of the rivals are very strong only sometimes."

Vettel thinks the RB6 will be strong under the Singapore lights, telling Bild am Sonntag newspaper: "Advantage Red Bull, disadvantage McLaren."

But Whitmarsh does not quite see it that way.

"What I hear people say we'll be strong here or weak there, I don't know how they work that out," the Briton said.

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