Ganassi pair leads Wednesday Sonoma IndyCar test

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IndyCar teams completed more than 1,000 laps in five hours of testing on Wednesday at Sonoma ahead of this Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (4 p.m. EST, NBCSN). Drivers from the “big three” teams of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport locked out the top seven as teams worked to find grip and consistency at the 1.99-mile Sonoma Raceway.

Dario Franchitti, winless in 2013, led from Scott Dixon in the pair of Target Hondas. Interestingly this is only the fifth weekend of 13 thus far in 2013 where Franchitti has had Target on his car (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Toronto). Franchitti’s best lap of 38 turned was 1:18.2945, just ahead of Dixon’s 1:18.3694.

Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti), Will Power, Helio Castroneves (both Penske), James Hinchcliffe and Marco Andretti (Andretti) locked out the top seven ahead of the Dragon Racing Sebastie(a)ns, Bourdais and Saavedra, and Justin Wilson.

Hinchcliffe, Bourdais, Ryan Briscoe (Panther Racing), and series debutante Lucas Luhr (RW/Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing) set their fastest times in the morning two-hour session, with the remaining 21 clocking in their best in the afternoon. JR Hildebrand was 18th on his first day for Barracuda Racing, while James Davison’s first day in an IndyCar at Sonoma ended 23rd for Dale Coyne.

Official practice begins on Friday.

1. Dario Franchitti, 1:18.2945, 38
2. Scott Dixon, 1:18.3694, 46
3. Ryan Hunter-Reay, 1:18.4707, 37
4. Will Power, 1:18.5082, 45
5. Helio Castroneves, 1:18.8965, 48
6. James Hinchcliffe, 1:18.9329, 43*
7. Marco Andretti, 1:18.9912, 35
8. Sebastien Bourdais, 1:19.1274, 34*
9. Sebastian Saavedra, 1:19.2560, 35
10. Justin Wilson, 1:19.2731, 43
11. Simona de Silvestro, 1:19.3386, 39
12. Ryan Briscoe, 1:19.3941, 38*
13. Charlie Kimball, 1:19.4095, 51
14. E.J. Viso, 1:19.4495, 28
15. Josef Newgarden, 1:19.4671, 38
16. Tony Kanaan, 1:19.5319, 31
17. James Jakes, 1:19.5426, 44
18. JR Hildebrand, 1:19.6668, 51
19. Graham Rahal, 1:19.7002, 58
20. Simon Pagenaud, 1:19.7100, 57
21. Tristan Vautier, 1:19.9103, 44
22. Takuma Sato, 1:19.9302, 36
23. James Davison, 1:20.1534, 50
24. Ed Carpenter, 1:20.2236, 45
25. Lucas Luhr, 1:20.2262, 44*

*Set fastest time in Practice 1 instead of Practice 2

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home ofΒ Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.