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Ferrari’s British GP ends in disaster with left front tire issues (VIDEO)

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For most of the British Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was unassailable at the front of the field but Ferrari at least looked like scoring a double podium finish behind him with Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel. But it all went away from them in the final five laps of the race.

Raikkonen looked the sure runner-up finisher after a weekend where he had Vettel’s measure, outqualifying him and then running second most of the race even on a longer first stint before pitting to switch from supersofts to softs.

Alas, Raikkonen’s usual sparring partner Valtteri Bottas had gone for the opposite strategy after starting ninth for Mercedes, starting on softs, then switching to supersofts. He was catching him up at least a second a lap for second, if not more, before Raikkonen slowed in the final few laps with a left front puncture.

He pitted, and looked all set to fall off the podium with Bottas up to second and Vettel to third.

But Vettel’s race eroded at almost an identical time frame with an even worse delaminating and puncture on his left front.

This issue occurred shortly after Bottas had got Vettel on his own.

Raikkonen was able to recover back to the podium in third behind Bottas as Vettel and Max Verstappen pitted, but Vettel fell to seventh, and his championship lead plunged to just one point ahead of Hamilton in the process.

Raikkonen was restrained on the podium, telling 2009 World Champion Jenson Button, “Yeah we got more or less the most out of the race. They (Mercedes) were just a bit faster. We were struggling a little bit to go faster.

“The end was an unlucky situation. For whatever reason the front left, not really exploded, but was struggling. Luckily I got back going quite fast. Unfortunately then Seb had the same thing I think a lap later. Not happy, but not the worst.”

Raikkonen was more despondent when speaking to NBCSN’s Will Buxton in the media bullpen a bit later.

“All was fine. Then it suddenly exploded. The air wasn’t in the tire. A part came off and it was flapping around. It was sudden,” he said. “It was only a few laps to go. We should have been OK.”

Vettel did not visit NBCSN within the media bullpen. His race was compromised early by brake smoke off the line and despite a successful undercut of Verstappen, did tell Sky Sports he thought the tire issues “caught us both by surprise.”

Further investigation about what caused the respective issues will no doubt occur. However, as Vettel’s now been unable to win since Monaco nearly two months ago, suddenly Hungary looms as a very important weekend ahead.

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.