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Australia F1 race promoters seeking date change for 2018

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The promoters of the Australian Grand Prix hope to bring the Formula 1 season-opener in Melbourne forward by one week for 2018, in order to avoid clashing with the start of the new Australian Football season.

This year’s race at Albert Park was staged on March 26, taking a later slot than usual as part of a push from F1 to create a more condensed calendar.

However, this created a date conflict between the grand prix and the start of the new AFL season, resulting in reduced media coverage in Australia for F1 as a result.

In a bid to resolve this, the Australian Grand Prix Corporation is now working with F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, to bring the race forward a week for 2018, eyeing a March 18 start to the season.

“We’re working with them and we’re very confident we’ll get an outcome, and if that works out to be March 18, then we’ll be very happy,” AGPC CEO Andrew Westacott told Fairfax Media.

“The first race of the season is going to be in Melbourne and we’re working with FOM on the date. Our desire would be to have it on March 18 and if it can’t be that, then it’s March 25.

“It’s one of those two dates.”

Liberty Media has already approved one change for the Australian Grand Prix weekend, allowing the V8 Supercars support race to become a points-paying event. It was previously a non-championship round so as to avoid detracting attention from the F1 race.

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.