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McLaren heaps praise on Norris after strong first F1 test

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier was quick to heap praise upon British youngster Lando Norris following an impressive maiden Formula 1 test with the team in Hungary on Wednesday.

Norris, 17, finished his first day in the McLaren-Honda MCL32 second-fastest, only trailing Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, racking up 91 laps in the process.

Norris joined McLaren’s junior program at the beginning of the year and currently races in the FIA European Formula 3 series, but relished the opportunity to impress in a 2017-spec F1 car.

“It was a great experience driving a 2017 McLaren-Honda. It was a fantastic opportunity for me to learn and further develop as a driver,” Norris said.

“It was good to drive at a track I’d been to before and it was pleasing to get up to speed with the current McLaren-Honda. I was also present earlier in the week and it was interesting to watch the team work from the sidelines while I picked up valuable information from Stoffel [Vandoorne] who was behind the wheel on those days.

“I managed to get through all the tests that the team asked me to complete, and everything went well. Getting used to the car was a bit of a challenge at first but by the end of the day I felt very comfortable. I got a lot of laps under my belt and I really enjoyed the experience.

“Big thanks to the team for giving me this opportunity. Hopefully it will be the first of many.”

Boullier added: “Lando has impressed us all with his maturity, professionalism and speed, and has got to grips very quickly with the car in only his first outing in the MCL32.

“His feedback with the engineers has been valuable and accurate, and he’s certainly an asset to our test driver line-up, not to mention a potential star of the future.”

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.