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Antonio Giovinazzi expecting easier time in second F1 weekend

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Antonio Giovinazzi expects to have an easier ride during his second Formula 1 race weekend after receiving plenty of notice to replace Pascal Wehrlein at Sauber for the Chinese Grand Prix.

2016 GP2 runner-up Giovinazzi was informed just hours before final practice for the Australian Grand Prix that he would be stepping in for Wehrlein at Sauber, with the German driver still lacking fitness following his accident at the Race of Champions in January.

Giovinazzi put in a solid display on debut, almost reaching Q2 and eventually finishing the race 12th despite having less than an hour of practice time in the C36 car prior to the race.

Sauber announced on Monday that Giovinazzi would be returning to the race seat for China, and may also appear in Bahrain next weekend should Wehrlein still be unfit.

“It was a special weekend. It was my first F1 grand prix, a dream came true,” Giovinazzi said, reflecting on his debut.

“Since I was a kid the dream was to arrive in F1 and to drive there was a fantastic experience, fantastic weekend. It was a quite late call on Saturday morning but I really enjoyed everything I did from FP3 to quali to race. So, I will never forget.”

Giovinazzi feels that his second race weekend will be much smoother given he already has one race distance under his belt, as well as getting a full complement of practice running this time around.

“To start from FP1 will be more easy, and also to have the experience from Melbourne will make everything a lot more easy,” Giovinazzi said.

“It will be a different race weekend though. The weather also looks difficult. So, it will be maybe wet and also to have some experience in the wet conditions will be good.

“What I can do is to do my best and hope the result can be good like Melbourne.”

Hamilton tops second Abu Dhabi F1 practice with new track record

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the top of the timesheets in second Formula 1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday evening, beating Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Hamilton trailed Vettel through the daytime-run opening practice session, but managed to strike back by recording a new track record at the Yas Marina Circuit for Mercedes.

Hamilton recorded a fastest lap time of 1:37.877 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Vettel at the checkered flag, appearing to have an edge across a single lap on the ultra-soft tire.

Red Bull threw its hat into the ring as a possible rival for pole through Daniel Ricciardo, who finished the session third-fastest, three-tenths of a second back from Hamilton at the head of the field.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP2 in fourth place in the sister Ferrari, finishing within half a second of Hamilton, and managed to edge out fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was a further two-tenths back in P5.

Max Verstappen failed to get in a quick flying lap during FP2, ending the session one second down in P6 for Red Bull.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s tight intra-team fight at Force India continued through FP2 as the pair were separated by just 0.01 seconds, taking seventh and eighth respectively to finish as the leading midfield drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault and McLaren, with Felipe Massa following in 11th for Williams on his final Friday appearance in F1.

Massa was fortunate to avoid an accident with Ricciardo during the final 15 minutes of the session after a mix up at the hairpin when the Brazilian tried to get a wider line for the back straight.

Running in Abu Dhabi continues with final practice at Yas Marina on Saturday morning from 5am ET on the NBC Sports app, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on NBCSN.