Vettel fastest in first practice at Australian GP

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Sebastian Vettel found himself in a familiar spot to start the Formula One season — in front of the rest of the field. But just barely.

The 2012 champion was 0.078 seconds quicker than Felipe Massa, whose Ferrari teammate Fernando Alonso was third, giving Vettel and Red Bull something to watch later Friday in practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Lewis Hamilton, making his first appearance for Mercedes, was fourth fastest.

The second practice session will provide slightly more insight into how Sunday’s race will fare, given that Saturday’s forecast calls for rain, affecting FP3 and qualifying. The race is expected to be dry.

Complete results of first practice:

1. Sebastian Vettel, Germany, Red Bull, 16 laps, 1 minute, 27.211 seconds.

2. Felipe Massa, Brazil, Ferrari, 17, 1.27.289.

3. Fernando Alonso, Spain, Ferrari, 16, 1.27.547.

4. Lewis Hamilton, Britain, Mercedes, 18, 1.27.552.

5. Mark Webber, Australia, Red Bull, 18, 1.27.668.

6. Kimi Raikkonen, Finland, Lotus, 17, 1.27.877.

7. Nico Rosberg, Germany, Mercedes, 17, 1.26.013.

8. Adrian Sutil, Germany, Force India, 19, 1.26.426.

9. Jenson Button, Britain, McLaren, 19, 1.26.440.

10. Romain Grosjean, France, Lotus, 15, 1.26.520.

11. Sergio Perez, Mexico, McLaren, 19, 1.26.597.

12. Nico Hulkenberg, Germany, Sauber, 19, 1.26.786.

13. Paul di Resta, Britain, Force India, 18, 1.26.910.

14. Pastor Maldonado, Venezuela, Williams, 20, 1.27.443.

15. Valtteri Bottas, Finland, Williams, 19, 1.29.443.

16. Esteban Gutierrez, Mexico, Sauber, 17, 1.30.203.

17. Jean-Eric Vergne, France, Toro Rosso, 17, 1.30.729.

18. Daniel Ricciardo, Australia, Toro Rosso, 19, 1.30.969.

19. Jules Bianchi, France, Marussia, 24, 1.31.176.

20. Max Chilton, Britain, Marussia, 23, 1.32.176.

21. Charles Pic, France, Caterham, 21, 1.32.274.

22. Giedo van der Garde, Netherlands, Caterham, 18, 1.32.388.

Rebellion confirms LMP1 return, all-star line-up for WEC super season

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Rebellion Racing has confirmed it will return to the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship for the 2018/19 ‘super season’ with an all-star line-up featuring Le Mans winners Neel Jani and Andre Lotterer.

Rebellion raced in LMP1 as a privateer between 2009 and 2016 before stepping down to LMP2 for the most recent season, capturing the class titles at the first attempt.

Following a push from the WEC and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) to make LMP1 more appealing to privateer teams, Rebellion announced on Wednesday it would return to the premier class for the 2018/19 season with a two-car effort.

WEC LMP2 champion Bruno Senna will return with Rebellion next year, as will Mathias Beche, with the pair set to be joined by four new faces.

The most notable arrivals are Porsche factory drivers Lotterer and Jani, both of whom were left without an LMP1 drive following the closure of the German manufacturer’s program at the end of the season.

American racer Gustavo Menezes will also join Rebellion, stepping up after two years in LMP2, while outstanding 2017 rookie Thomas Laurent completes the Swiss team’s line-up.

“I am looking forward to coming back where my endurance career started nine years ago,” said Jani.

“Rebellion Racing played a huge role in my career and also helped me become a factory driver for Porsche. When Porsche stopped in LMP1, it was clear for me that I wanted to race again for Rebellion.

“With the new regulations, I hope we can reach the overall podium at Le Mans and with a bit of luck, maybe we can even grab some wins during the super season of WEC.”

“I am very happy to join the champion Rebellion team,” added three-time Le Mans winner Lotterer.

“The LMP1 project is very exciting and to be able to go on with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the FIA WEC challenge is something I did not want to miss.

“I am motivated and looking forward to have a great time with great people there.”