FIA Formula 2

Ferrari junior Leclerc takes first pole of new Formula 2 era in Bahrain

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Ferrari junior Charles Leclerc will start the first race of Formula 2’s new era from pole position after topping the timesheets in qualifying on Friday night in Bahrain.

Following Liberty Media’s takeover of Formula 1, it was confirmed that the GP2 Series – also under the same umbrella – would become F2 for 2017 and be run by the FIA.

Leclerc made the move up to F2 after winning the GP3 title last year, and had an immediate impact on the field on Friday night by storming to pole position.

Unlike many of his rivals, Leclerc opted to complete his final qualifying run midway through the session in a bid to avoid traffic or any late incidents.

Leclerc turned in a fastest lap of 1:38.907, going six-tenths clear of Prema Racing teammate Antonio Fuoco to take provisional pole ahead of his rivals’ final runs.

An incident involving Nabil Jeffri and Gustav Malja resulted in the Virtual Safety Car being issued in the final minute of the session, scuppering any late laps that could have threatened Leclerc’s time.

As a result, the Monegasque racer will start the first race of F2’s new era from pole position, heading up a one-two for defending champion team Prema with Fuoco alongside him on the front row.

McLaren youngster Nyck de Vries was able to improve late on to rise to third place, jumping clear of Norman Nato. Luca Ghiotto wound up fifth, with Honda-backed Nobuharu Matsushita in sixth.

Artem Markelov finished seventh, while title favorite Oliver Rowland ailed to P8 after a lock-up on his quick lap. Alexander Albon qualified ninth for his debut in the category, while Sergio Sette Camara rounded out the top 10.

The first race of Formula 2’s new era kicks off on Saturday at 6:10am ET. CLICK HERE to watch via live stream.

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.