“Danica would be good to have in F1” says Ecclestone

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What’s the one addition F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone wants to see in the sport soon? “An American woman driver”.

In his traditional pre-season interview for the official Formula One website, Ecclestone spelled out his desire to see a driver like Danica Patrick competing in Formula One:

“There should be no reason why not, providing that we find a team to take her. Danica would be good to have with one of the teams now.

“All the things that people worry about – whether a woman can cope with the G-forces and all that – she has proven that she can. She’s been there and done it.”

But having admitted that she could make the move, he doubted she would:

“What I think – and I cannot blame her for it – is that she will hardly want to give up the exposure she has in the US to come here and maybe not make it.”

Intriguingly, Ecclestone added he’d had discussions about bringing a female driver into F1 with the billionaire owner of the Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams, Dietrich Mateschitz:

“I spoke with Didi Mateschitz some time ago about the issue of an American team and at that time I said that we would want an American woman driver. He seems ready.”

The last women to attempt to start an F1 race was Italian Giovanna Amati, who failed to qualify on three attempts for the beleaguered Brabham team in 1992.

Her late compatriot Lella Lombardi is the only woman to have scored in an F1 race, picking up half a point for sixth place in the curtailed 1975 Spanish Grand Prix.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.