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Giovinazzi buoyant after first FP1 outing with Haas

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Antonio Giovinazzi was back in a Formula 1 car for today’s first practice session for the only the second time since his pair of outings for Sauber F1 Team to kick off the year, deputizing for Pascal Wehrlein.

The Italian had his first of seven outings with Haas F1 Team at Silverstone, in for Kevin Magnussen. He completed 23 laps, running only on Pirelli’s soft tire compound, and ended the session just over four tenths off Romain Grosjean’s pace. His best time of 1:32.031 was ahead 16th, good to beat both Renaults and both Saubers.

Giovinazzi has plenty of track experience at Silverstone but this offered him his first test since doing so with Scuderia Ferrari in April, after the Bahrain Grand Prix. That test followed the Australian and Chinese Grands Prix which kicked off the year.

“First of all, I want to say thank you to Scuderia Ferrari for this opportunity. It was a really good session. My last test was Bahrain with Ferrari a long time ago, so to be back in a car was really nice,” he said.

“It was a session to just get as many laps as we could. We didn’t make any mistakes, we tried quite a few things, and I was confident in the car. I was really happy with our performance. It’s nice to see how different teams work. I’m looking forward to my remaining six FP1 performances with Haas F1 Team. It’s a fantastic team, so I’m really happy to join them and I’ll do my best.”

Giovinazzi said this was a tougher place to debut with Haas given the number of high-speed corners, particularly with the increased cornering speed that has come with the new generation of 2017 cars.

“I started this FP1 session at one of the hardest tracks with a lot of downforce and a lot of fast corners. I think to be four-tenths from Romain is strong. He, of course, has a lot of experience and laps to start.

“I can’t wait to jump in the car again in Hungary. It will also be hard as it’s a difficult track, but I’ve already got some confidence from the car so it’ll be a little easier.”

Team principal Guenther Steiner said Giovinazzi was fine in his first run-out for the team. Haas has run Charles Leclerc, a fellow young Ferrari driver, in FP1 sessions in 2016 but this marked the first time Haas has run a third driver this year.

“A very workmanlike day. Antonio drove one of the cars in FP1 and he did a good job,” he said. “We had some issues on the first outings with both cars – some electronic issues – which we sorted and were okay with on the second set of tires. The whole day was relatively uneventful.”

Usain Bolt, Bill Clinton among headline guests for USGP at COTA

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The Circuit of The Americas paddock ahead of the United States Grand Prix may have been busy with teams and drivers preparing for lights out, but much of the attention lay with a number of headline guests including former presidents and Olympic champions.

As part of its plans to up the excitement levels ahead of Sunday’s grand prix and mirror other sporting events, F1’s new owner, Liberty Media, announced plans a couple of weeks ago to link up with iconic boxing announcer Michael Buffer and eight-time Olympic gold medallist Usain Bolt for the pre-race festivities.

Ahead of today’s race in Austin, Buffer will introduce the drivers in a number of groups before offering the call for drivers to start their engines, similar to the pre-race procedure for the Indianapolis 500.

Honorary race starter Bolt, who competed in his last athletic world championship event in London earlier this year, will appear on the start line to complete his signature victory pose before waving the green flags to launch the formation lap.

Bolt was also treated to a hot lap around COTA by Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton before the start of the formal pre-race build up program in Austin.

Liberty issued a list of celebrities and other public figures who are confirmed to be attending today’s race, including Verizon IndyCar Series champion Josef Newgarden and actor Owen Wilson among others.

One name that wasn’t on the list? 42nd President of the United States, Bill Clinton, who quickly became a focus for the paddock upon arrival three hours before lights out.

The United States Grand Prix is live on NBC and NBC Sports app from 2pm ET today.