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Sochi Autodrom names grandstand after Vitaly Petrov

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The Sochi Autodrom has named its Turn 2 grandstand after Russia’s first Formula 1 driver, Vitaly Petrov, ahead of this year’s grand prix.

Petrov made his F1 debut in 2010 with Renault before scoring his first podium finish at the Australian Grand Prix in 2011, with the team rebranded as Lotus.

Petrov joined Caterham for 2012 but failed to score any points, and was dropped by the team for 2013 when it opted to sign Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde.

The Russian then moved into DTM and has since found a home in sportscars, racing for SMP Racing in the FIA World Endurance Championship last year.

Petrov has now been honored by the Sochi circuit, which is set to host its fourth F1 race on April 30, with the Turn 2 grandstand set to bear his name.

“I’m incredibly grateful to the organizers of the 2017 Formula 1 VTB Russian Grand Prix for the honor and respect shown to me. This is a really significant event in my life!” Petrov said.

“I’m sure that the grandstand named after me will always be packed, because it is located in one of the most exciting places of the track, where at the end of a straight the cars accelerate to 339 km/h, and all 20 drivers attack each other at the entry of the second right-hand corner.

“Throughout the race, we will also see some amazing overtakes! Once again, thank you to all my fans, as well as Formula 1 fans.”

Petrov is the second driver to have a grandstand named after him in Sochi, the first being Daniil Kvyat, who was the first Russian F1 racer to compete on home soil at the 2014 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.