Le Mans: F1, American drivers of note to watch

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A mix of ex-Formula One stars, names known to an American audience, and rising sports car talents are part of the 168 drivers that will compete in this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

  • The ex-F1 contingent: Those counting at least one Grand Prix start on their resume and competing at Le Mans include: Allan McNish, Marc Gene, Lucas di Grassi (Audi), Alexander Wurz, Kaz Nakajima, Anthony Davidson, Sebastien Buemi, Stephane Sarrazin (Toyota), Nick Heidfeld (Rebellion Lola Toyota), Shinji Nakano (G-Drive/Delta-ADR Oreca Nissan), Gianmaria Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella, Kamui Kobayashi, Olivier Beretta (AF Corse Ferrari), Jan Magnussen (Corvette), Pedro Lamy (pictured right, with Bill Auberlen) and Bruno Senna (Aston Martin).
  • Those with an IndyCar connection: Ryan Briscoe (Level 5 HPD) and Mike Conway (G-Drive/Delta-ADR) are the only current IndyCar drivers making a start at Le Mans, owing to their lack of a full-time ride. Some other names with past IndyCar experience or connection include Dario Franchitti’s brother Marino (Briscoe’s Level 5 teammate), and recent IndyCar starters Bertrand Baguette, Martin Plowman (OAK Morgan Nissan) and Ho-Pin Tung (KCMG Morgan Nissan).
  • The American crowd: The “Yanks” in this year’s field race in all classes except LMP1. They include: Kevin Weeda (Lotus), Scott Tucker (Level 5), Matt Downs, Rodin Younessi (Boutsen Ginion Oreca Nissan), Alexander Rossi, Eric Lux (Caterham Greaves Zytek Nissan), and Mark Patterson (Murphy Oreca Nissan) in LMP2, with Jordan Taylor, Tommy Milner (Corvette), Jonathan Bomarito, Tommy Kendall (SRT Viper), Paul Dalla Lana, Bill Auberlen (Aston Martin), Ricky Taylor, Cooper MacNeil (Larbre Corvette), Howard Blank (AF Corse), Tracy Krohn (Krohn Ferrari), and Patrick Dempsey, Joe Foster, and Patrick Long (Dempsey Del Piero) split between the GTE Pro and Am classes.

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.