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Ecclestone would have tried to stop Alonso entering Indy 500

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Ex-Formula 1 CEO Bernie Ecclestone says he would have tried to persuade McLaren not to let Fernando Alonso enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 had he still been in charge of the sport.

Ecclestone’s 40-year reign at the helm of F1 came to an end in January following Liberty Media’s acquisition of the sport, with American executive Chase Carey taking over as CEO and chairman.

Ecclestone was given the honorary role of ‘chairman emeritus’, and made his first appearance in the F1 paddock since the takeover in Bahrain on Friday.

The headline news for the Sakhir race weekend was Alonso’s shock entry to the Indy 500, announced by McLaren on Wednesday.

Speaking to reporters in the paddock, Ecclestone said he thought the decision was good for Alonso, but admitted that he would have tried to stop it from happening while the Spaniard still raced in F1 if he was still in charge.

“I think it’s probably good for him. I think if I could have persuaded McLaren not to go, I would have done it,” Ecclestone said, as quoted by crash.net.

“I would have said wait until your contract finishes and then you can do what you like but you are in the middle of Formula 1 and you are a Formula 1 driver.

“But I don’t like to see him at the back of the grid anyway.”

Alonso’s entry to the ‘500 acted as evidence of the change in mindset at McLaren in the past six months, with the deal being unimaginable under the team’ former boss, Ron Dennis, who left his role last November.

Alonso was asked on Thursday if the deal had been blessed by Liberty and whether it would have been possible with Ecclestone in charge of F1, but the two-time F1 champion said it was a team decision.

“I don’t think they have a key role in all these decisions, it’s more a team decision,” Alonso said.

“But I think they are also more open than in the past and we can see also all the things we are allowed to do here, a more relaxed environment.

“So it’s a more relaxed environment for Formula 1.”

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.