Hulkenberg: Le Mans entry ‘completely different’ to Alonso’s Indy shot

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Nico Hulkenberg is surprised by Fernando Alonso’s decision to skip the Monaco Grand Prix so he can enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 next month, believing it is “completely different” to his own shot at Le Mans two years ago.

Alonso announced on Wednesday that he would be racing in this year’s Indy 500, bailing on the Formula 1 race in Monaco so he can pilot the McLaren-Honda-Andretti entry at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hulkenberg was the last F1 driver to cross codes, entering the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche in 2015 as part of its third-car line-up in the LMP1 class.

Alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, Hulkenberg claimed an unlikely victory in the 24-hour race, becoming the first current F1 driver to win at Le Mans since 1991.

Comparisons have been drawn following Alonso’s announcement, but Hulkenberg said it was different as his Porsche duties never impacted on his work in F1 with Force India.

“My case was completely different. I didn’t go away from F1 in the way he is,” Hulkenberg said on Thursday in Bahrain, as quoted by

“I would have never done it if I had to miss a race for it, especially Monaco. A big decision and big news obviously and he can do what he wants.

“I am a bit surprised like everybody about this situation.”

Hulkenberg also said that Alonso’s run in the ‘500 will be a challenge given he will have just 10 days of running prior to the race to get to grips with the new style of car he will be racing.

“I think it is quite tough. I don’t know much about Indy but he has never driven these cars or an oval, so do you think you can come in and win that easily?” Hulkenberg questioned.

“I at least had half a year practice [for Le Mans]. It sounds like a challenge but obviously Fernando likes challenges.”

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.