Webber pleased to see F1 return to Austria

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Red Bull driver Mark Webber has expressed his delight over Formula One’s return to Austria next season, even if the Australian driver won’t get a chance to race at the circuit due to his retirement at the end of the current year.

It was confirmed last month that a deal had been reached that would see the sport return to Austria for the first time since 2003 at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. As Formula One looks to reach new markets and exotic locations such as Abu Dhabi and Singapore, moving back to a traditional venue such as Austria surprised many, but Webber is pleased to see the move.

“I think it’s absolutely brilliant and I was really happy to see F1 is going back to a super-traditional venue,” Webber explained to Autosport, before going on to criticize the newer tracks on the calendar.

“There have been so many grands prix there in the past. We’ve lost a lot of that with the grands prix we have gone to in the last six or seven years, so it’s great to return to a venue with so much feel-good factor, and such a great location tucked into the mountains.”

The race is set to be held in July next season according to the race promoters, with much of the money behind the race supplied by Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz. For the Austrian team, having a ‘home’ race will be a new-found luxury for the champion team in years to come.

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.