McLaren drivers thrilled with chance to race Hondas

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For both McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Sergio Perez, the chance to race a Honda-powered car stirs their emotions.

Button was part of Honda’s last Formula One effort, racing in the team first known as British American Racing from 2003 to 2005 before Honda took it over outright as a works team in 2006. Button won his long awaited first Grand Prix in the No. 12 Honda at the 2006 Hungarian Grand Prix.

“I first raced a Formula One car powered by a Honda engine in 2003, and I was a works Honda Formula One driver between 2006 and ’08, winning my first Grand Prix in Hungary in 2006 in a Honda Formula One car, so I know exactly how passionate Honda is about motorsport, and Formula One in particular,” said Button.

Perez, born in 1990, grew up during Ayrton Senna’s McLaren-Honda glory years. Senna won all three of his World Championships in the iconic machinery in 1988, ’90 and ’91.

“I was born in 1990 – the year Ayrton Senna won the second of his three world championships driving for McLaren-Honda – and I’ve grown up always knowing just how much that era lives on in the hearts and minds of motorsport fans around the world,” said Perez.

“Of course, Ayrton is my hero, as he’s a hero to many millions of people living in Central America and South America. So today’s announcement not only rekindles all the fantastic memories of that successful era, but it also starts a new age – which can be even more exciting.”

Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.