Vettel tops timesheets again in FP2

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Defending world champion Sebastian Vettel has continued his good pace from Free Practice 1 after finishing quickest in the second Friday session in Australia.

The Red Bull driver finished over two-tenths clear of teammate Mark Webber, with the team having made a big step forward since the final test in Barcelona.

Nico Rosberg finished third for Mercedes, with his teammate Lewis Hamilton down in seventh place despite both drivers encountering problems late in the session. The Silver Arrows will be pleased with their progress, although they have failed to repeat their testing pace so far. The Lotus pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean finished fourth and fifth respectively ahead of Fernando Alonso in sixth, and Felipe Massa struggled to match his FP1 success down in seventh.

Many of the drivers struggled with the new Pirelli tires, with their super-soft rubber prvoing particularly difficult to work with late in the session. Hamilton and Caterham rookie Giedo van der Garde both beached their cars in the gravel, and Mark Webber spun his RB9 late on as he pushed to beat his teammate.

Once again, it seems that Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus and Mercedes are closely matched with less than one second separating the top eight. McLaren appear to have work to do, finishing in 11th and 13th, whilst Jules Bianchi and Marussia will be happy to not only have beaten Caterham but also finish just three-tenths off Williams’ Valtteri Bottas.

Free Practice 2 – Classification

1 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:25.908 33 laps

2 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:26.172 +0.264 31 laps

3 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:26.322 +0.414 26 laps

4 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:26.361 +0.453 38 laps

5 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:26.680 +0.772 32 laps

6 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:26.748 +0.840 35 laps

7 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:26.772 +0.864 28 laps

8 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:26.855 +0.947 32 laps

9 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:27.435 +1.527 35 laps

10 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.187 +2.279 34 laps

11 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.294 +2.386 30 laps

12 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:28.311 +2.403 37 laps

13 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:28.566 +2.658 33 laps

14 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:28.627 +2.719 31 laps

15 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:28.772 +2.864 33 laps

16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:28.852 +2.944 36 laps

17 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:28.968 +3.060 36 laps

18 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:29.386 +3.478 39 laps

19 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:29.696 +3.788 32 laps

20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:30.165 +4.257 37 laps

21 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:30.600 +4.692 36 laps

22 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:32.450 +6.542 11 laps

Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

More to follow.

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”

Force India’s Celis gets FP1 appearances in Austria, Hungary

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Force India youngster Alfonso Celis Jr. will make his first Formula 1 race weekend appearances of the season next month, taking part in first practice for the grands prix in Austria and Hungary.

Celis, 20, joined Force India as a development driver ahead of the 2016 season, enjoying six FP1 run-outs across the course of the year.

The Mexican driver returned for 2017, taking part in pre-season testing and the running following the Bahrain Grand Prix in April.

Force India confirmed on Wednesday that Celis will return for FP1 in Austria next week, before also featuring in practice in Hungary at the end of July.