IndyCar notes: Montoya’s sponsors; BHA, second Coyne still firmly TBD

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Several IndyCar Series news and notes to hit that have taken place in the last 24-48 hours. Here’s a quick recap:

  • Eleven of 18 races have been revealed for Juan Pablo Montoya’s primary sponsorship on his No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet. The eight weekends and nine races announced for Verizon Wireless, confirmed via the @PaddockInsider social media account are: St. Petersburg, Long Beach, both Indianapolis races, the Detroit doubleheader, Texas, Sonoma and Fontana. Hawk Performance was also announced Tuesday as primary sponsor for JPM at the Toronto doubleheader and Mid-Ohio.
  • Bryan Herta Autosport tested Englishman Jack Hawksworth Monday, and will again on Wednesday at Sebring. Hawksworth has had two prior tests in Honda-powered cars at Sebring, for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Dale Coyne Racing. It’s just a test for now. The team is yet to confirm its commercial partners for 2014 and asked if he was concerned to not be testing, Italian Luca Filippi responded on Twitter, “No! Never! Keep the faith!”
  • Dale Coyne Racing is testing with Justin Wilson this week – his first time back in an IndyCar since his Fontana accident – and made several formal team announcements. Michael Cannon, who’s been working with the team this offseason, is officially confirmed as Wilson’s engineer. Darren Crouser has also been added as Team Manager, which could see the eponymous team owner’s role not as hands-on. The team also said of its second car, “Efforts continue for the second car and the #18 will be joining the fray at its test in early March.”
  • Mike Conway is not among those in Florida this week; the Englishman was said to be “in Italy testing a P1 sports car car.” For those who can read between the lines, that means Conway would be doing some running in Toyota’s new TS040 Hybrid; he is the team’s test and reserve driver. Conway also has a full-season FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 deal confirmed with Millennium Racing, apart from his IndyCar commitments.
  • IndyCar media day is being held today in Orlando. We’re not expecting a ton of news from that, but something big-ish could emerge. For the most part, it’s been interesting to watch Twitter for those drivers arriving either late last night or early this morning for the one-day event.

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.