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Kimi Raikkonen fastest in opening Spa Formula 1 practice

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Four-time Belgian Grand Prix winner Kimi Raikkonen made an impressive return from Formula 1’s summer break by leading opening practice for this weekend’s race at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.

Raikkonen led Ferrari to the head of the field with a late lap on the ultra-soft compound tire, posting a fastest time of 1:45.502 in the SF70H car.

His effort was enough to edge out Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who had led for much of the session after a rapid lap on the soft tire, only to finish 0.053 seconds behind in P2.

Sebastian Vettel underpinned Raikkonen’s pace in the second Ferrari by lapping just one-tenth of a second slower, suggesting the Italian marque may be able to take the fight to Mercedes at Spa despite prior concerns given its high-speed nature.

Max Verstappen took P4 for Red Bull ahead of teammate Daniel Ricciardo, while Valtteri Bottas finished sixth for Mercedes.

Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat both finished in the top 10 for Toro Rosso, taking P7 and P9, with Esteban Ocon splitting the pair for Force India. Stoffel Vandoorne rounded out the top 10 for McLaren.

The session was interrupted early on following a crash for Felipe Massa at the exit of Malmedy, running wide through the gravel after getting loose and slamming into the barrier. The Brazilian was taken to the medical center as a precaution before being cleared, while the Williams team was left with a sizeable repair job to complete in time for second practice.

Bottas also had an off-track excursion soon after posting his fastest time of the session, clipping the gravel at Turn 12. His Mercedes car was largely unharmed, damaging only the front wing after scrubbing off plenty of speed before clipping the barrier.

Here’s the final classification from FP1 at Spa.

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.