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Grosjean would have been ‘destroyed’ by 2017 F1 cars without extra training

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Romain Grosjean thinks he would have been “destroyed” by the new-spec Formula 1 cars in 2017 had it not been for an intensive physical training program over the winter.

2017 offers one of the biggest changes to the F1 technical regulations in recent decades, with the cars providing greater downforce and producing quicker lap times.

The result has been an uptake in the physical challenge for drivers in F1, with Grosjean getting his first extensive run in the Haas VF-17 car over winter testing in Barcelona at the end of February and beginning of March.

Looking ahead to next weekend’s season-opener in Australia, Grosjean said that he “didn’t feel too bad” physically in the car, but admitted that his 2016 self would have struggled.

“Let’s put it this way: if I’d been in the same condition as I was last year, I would have been destroyed,” Grosjean said.

“We pushed really hard in our training. We may actually have overdone it. It’s not as bad as we thought it would be. The cars are going to be challenging and some of the races this year are going to be epic, especially where it’s warm with a high-speed track, it’ll be very hard on the body.

“I like the challenge and I like to think that we can always get more prepared and better trained. It felt good as we did the proper training. The cars are much harder to drive than last year.”

Grosjean scored points for Haas in the team’s very first race last season in Australia, but refused to make any firm predictions for this year’s race.

“I don’t really set goals. Let’s see how it goes,” Grosjean said.

“We’ll do our best and, hopefully, we’ll remember it as well as Australia 2016.”

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.