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Sebastian Vettel leads Ferrari 1-2 in dry final Chinese GP practice

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Sebastian Vettel headed up a one-two finish for Ferrari in the final Formula 1 practice session for the Chinese Grand Prix on Saturday as drivers got the chance to complete some dry running in Shanghai.

After losing the majority of Friday’s running due to thick fog in the city that prevented the medical helicopter from operating, drivers were pleased to arrive at the Shanghai International Circuit in dry conditions on Saturday morning.

The final hour of running before qualifying was busy as drivers pushed to make up for the time lost, with teams splitting programs in a bid to gather data on both optimum tire compounds.

All drivers made the switch to super-softs for the final third of the session in order to complete their qualifying simulations, with Vettel laying down an impressive marker of 1:33.336 early on.

Mercedes drivers Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas struggled to get close with their first attempts, going over three-quarters of a second slower, spiking concern for the Silver Arrows, particularly when Kimi Raikkonen rose to second place in the second Ferrari.

Both drivers rallied later in the session, though, with Bottas lapping 0.371 seconds off Vettel’s time. Hamilton had been due to go even quicker, going faster than Vettel in the first sector, only to then run wide at the hairpin. The Briton still improved, but ended the session fourth, half a second off the pace.

Ferrari’s one-two finish acted as a warning shot to Mercedes, putting the Italian marque in the pound seat to claim its first pole since Singapore 2015 in qualifying later today.

Outside of the Ferrari/Mercedes stronghold, Felipe Massa finished as the best of the rest in fifth place for Williams, with the Red Bull duo of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo following in P6 and P7.

Ahead of his second F1 race, Lance Stroll put in an impressive display to finish eighth for Williams, with Jolyon Palmer and Carlos Sainz Jr. rounding out the top 10 in P9 and P10 respectively.

Qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 3am ET.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”