Hamil­ton faster than Ros­berg in 1st 2 Abu Dhabi prac­tices

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Lewis Hamil­ton warmed up for his bid to wres­tle the For­mula One ti­tle from Mercedes ri­val Nico Ros­berg with the fastest time in the first two prac­tice ses­sions Fri­day at the sea­son-end­ing Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The de­fend­ing cham­pion, who is seek­ing a third straight ti­tle and fourth over­all, over­came a mi­nor scare when he lost con­trol of the rear of his car in the first ses­sion then dealt with some bal­ance is­sues on his wheels in the sec­ond.

He was .079 sec­onds quicker than Ros­berg in the sec­ond prac­tice af­ter beat­ing him by.374 sec­onds in the first.

It will be a wel­come boost for Hamil­ton, who trails Ros­berg by 12 points head­ing into Sun­day's race.

"We're in a good po­si­tion for to­mor­row. Pole (po­si­tion) is the goal for to­mor­row," Hamil­ton said. "I haven't man­aged it at this track for a long time but I know I'm quick here, the car feels great and there's still some time in it."

But even if Hamil­ton wins the race, Ros­berg needs only to fin­ish third to be crowned cham­pion for the first time.

Both have won nice races in a topsy-turvy sea­son that started with Ros­berg tak­ing com­plete con­trol af­ter win­ning the first four races while Hamil­ton strug­gled with en­gine trou­bles. The ti­tle race then went in Hamil­ton's fa­vor only for Ros­berg to seize the ini­tia­tive back.

"We un­der­es­ti­mate the pres­sure th­ese guys are un­der," Mercedes head of mo­tor­sport Toto Wolff said. "Some­times you have to al­low the driv­ers to ex­press their feel­ings and emo­tions. You don't want to stream­line them too much."

Mean­while, Se­bas­tian Vet­tel was third best in the evening ses­sion — en­cour­ag­ingly only .269 be­hind Hamil­ton — but he had to go back to the Fer­rari garage, say­ing over race ra­dio that he sus­pected gear­box fail­ure.

How­ever, be­cause the en­gine was be­ing used for prac­tice he will not in­cur a penalty for a gear­box change.

Fer­rari's per­for­mance in the evening gave Vet­tel en­cour­age­ment that the car can push Mercedes in Satur­day's qual­i­fy­ing.

"Over­all the car felt good and I think we should have good pace," Vet­tel said.

"Hope­fully to­mor­row we'll have a sim­i­lar feel­ing in qual­i­fy­ing and put the car where it be­longs."

Dutch teenager Max Ver­stap­pen was third in the first prac­tice and fourth in the sec­ond, where the Red Bull driver was trou­bled by some tire is­sues.

"We had a few is­sues with the car to­day which meant abort­ing the last run was the sen­si­ble thing to do," the 19-year-old Ver­stap­pen said.

"Noth­ing is bro­ken and there is noth­ing to worry about, just safe to stop early. The grip is al­ways a bit dif­fi­cult here."

The 2010 ti­tle, won dra­mat­i­cally by Vet­tel, and the 2014 ti­tle, won by Hamil­ton, also both went down to the wire in Abu Dhabi.

"It's down to the last race. It's all com­ing up: the frus­tra­tions and the happy mo­ments," said Wolff, prais­ing the men­tal strength of his driv­ers. "I find it very re­mark­able how they've man­aged their re­la­tion­ship for the ben­e­fit of the team."

The race be­gins at 5 p.m. lo­cal time and ends with night fall­ing on the desert track and tem­per­a­tures still warm, but drop­ping with a late breeze.

"Adapt­ing to that and know­ing what to ex­pect can be a chal­lenge," Ros­berg said. "But our car was work­ing well in both con­di­tions."

Ger­man Grand Prix set to be dropped from 2017 F1 cal­en­dar

The Ger­man Grand Prix is ex­pected to be dropped from the For­mula One cal­en­dar for fi­nan­cial rea­sons.

The de­ci­sion to drop the race still needs to be of­fi­cially con­firmed when the World Mo­tor Sport Coun­cil meets next Wed­nes­day.

Hock­en­heim is one of three pro­vi­sional races on next year's 21race cal­en­dar along with Canada and Brazil. The of­fi­cial cal­en­dar will be ap­proved at the same meet­ing.

But ac­cord­ing to re­ports in the Ger­man me­dia, teams have al­ready been made aware of the de­ci­sion so that it does not af­fect their travel plans. The race is pen­ciled in for July 30.

"It's un­for­tu­nate but not sur­pris­ing, es­pe­cially as the date was only con­di­tional," Hock­en­heim­ring chief Ge­org Seiler was quoted as say­ing by Ger­man news agency dpa. "There was also no of­fer ex­clud­ing all fi­nan­cial risks, which was al­ways our con­di­tion as a pos­si­ble venue."

The im­pli­ca­tions would po­ten­tially see the Hun­gar­ian GP moved by one week to take Ger­many's slot as the fi­nal race be­fore the tra­di­tional sum­mer break.

The Ger­man GP was left off the 2015 cal­en­dar, also be­cause of dwin­dling at­ten­dances and costs.

Ger­many's strug­gles to host the race con­trasts with the flour­ish­ing suc­cess of the Mercedes team and its Ger­man driver Nico Ros­berg.

Mercedes has clinched the con­struc­tors' ti­tle for the past three years, and Ros­berg is in a strong po­si­tion to win his first F1 ti­tle on Sun­day.

He leads Hamil­ton.

The other Ger­man driv­ers in F1 are four-time cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel (Fer­rari), Nico Hulken­berg (Force In­dia), and Pas­cal Wehrlein (Manor). team­mate Lewis

Brown plans to get big­name sponsors for F1 team McLaren

Zak Brown in­tends to use his com­mer­cial ex­per­tise to bring a big-name ti­tle spon­sor to McLaren.

The 45-year-old Amer­i­can was hired as ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the For­mula One team on Mon­day as part of a sig­nif­i­cant re­struc­tur­ing fol­low­ing the de­par­ture of Ron Den­nis.

Brown is well placed to at­tract po­ten­tial new sponsors given his wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence. He founded the mo­tor­sport mar­ket­ing com­pany JMI in 1995 and is an ex-For­mula Three racer who started out his ju­nior ca­reer in kart­ing.

Brown, who once had as­pi­ra­tions of be­ing an F1 driver, clearly knows what he is look­ing for.

Den­nis, McLaren's chair­man and chief ex­ec­u­tive, last week failed in a bid at Lon­don's High Court to stop the team's board from forc­ing him out.

Brown paid tribute to him.

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