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Ferrari threat makes F1 battle ‘more exciting than ever’ for Hamilton

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Lewis Hamilton says the battle for supremacy in Formula 1 is “more exciting than ever” after enjoying a close fight with Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel for pole position in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix.

Three-time champion Hamilton has led Mercedes’ dominance of F1 since the introduction of V6 turbo hybrids in 2014, with the German marque winning every title available in the past three seasons.

Hamilton spent much of the time fighting solely against teammate Nico Rosberg, with rival teams unable to pose a serious threat to Mercedes.

Following an overhaul of the technical regulations for 2017, Ferrari has emerged as a contender at the front of the pack once again, with Vettel beating Hamilton in a straight fight at the opening race of the year in Australia.

Hamilton and Vettel faced off once again for pole in China on Saturday, with the Briton emerging victorious by less than two-tenths of a second. It marked his sixth consecutive pole position, and was also his sixth in China.

“The Ferraris have looked so fast through practice this morning and each qualifying session so we knew it was going to be close, and it would mean we’d have to pull out all the stops and really have a perfect lap, a solid lap,” Hamilton said after qualifying.

“I managed to just chip away at it from session to session, no major issues. My last lap was my best lap which is always the play. Sometimes it’s in another session. The lap started off not as good as perhaps Q1’s first lap, but the rest of the lap got better and better. I think it may have been tire temperatures or something, who knows.

“[It] felt strong, and then obviously coming into the last corner knowing I’m up a couple of tenths, it’s always nervous coming into Turn 14 because you want to brake late and gain some, but you don’t want to lose everything you’ve gained, and do the last corner, coming across the line, and then just waiting after that to see what everyone else had done. These guys were behind still finishing off their laps.”

Hamilton gave his thanks to his Mercedes team, saying its efforts were more crucial than ever during the fight against Ferrari, something he relishes.

“Very, very happy, super grateful for the huge efforts the team have put in to keep us in the fight. It’s more exciting than ever for me because we’re really fighting these guys,” Hamilton said.

“It’s amazing, and I think that’s what racing is all about. It really pushes you to have to raise the bar every time you head out which I love.”

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.