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Bernie Ecclestone: No hard feelings towards Liberty over F1 exit

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Bernie Ecclestone says he has no ill feeling towards Liberty Media following his exit as CEO of Formula 1 in January, but would have preferred to spend at least one more year in the role.

Ecclestone enjoyed a 40-year stint at the helm of F1 before being forced to resign from his position two months ago when Liberty completed its $8 billion takeover of the series.

Ecclestone was replaced by American executive Chase Carey, who will form part of a triumvirate to run the sport alongside commercial chief Sean Bratches and technical expert Ross Brawn.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Ecclestone said that he felt no ill feeling towards Liberty despite being removed from his role after initially planning to extend his stint in charge.

“Not at all. I know the way the world operates,” Ecclestone said, before adding that he would have preferred to spend one more year in the role to see if he could work with Liberty.

“I would have asked them to work with me for a bit, wait for a year and afterwards say: ‘Has it worked, not worked?'” Ecclestone said.

“‘Not worked? Sorry, you’ll have to leave,’ or whatever. But different people operate companies differently, obviously.

“I think this is very much the way American companies operate. Let’s be absolutely sensible about it: they bought the car, they wanted to drive it.”

Ecclestone did however feel that Liberty had judged him too harshly on his business record in F1, having previously said that the sport had not been maximizing its potential.

“These people have thought and said, and Chase has said, that I hadn’t done a very good job in the last three years,” Ecclestone said.

“I thought I had, CVC thought I had, and I managed to produce $1.5 billion-a-year income, which made their shares worth a lot of money.

“Maybe if I’d have done a lousy job people could have bought the shares cheaper.”

Now in the honorary role of ‘chairman emeritus’, Ecclestone said he plans to attend around half of the F1 races in 2017.

“I’ve been asked and invited to go to most of them, so I’ll have to try and sort it out. Probably at least half of them,” Ecclestone confirmed.

The new F1 season begins on March 26 in Melbourne, Australia.

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.