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Bottas: Next three months the most important of my F1 career

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Valtteri Bottas believes the next three months are shaping up to be the most important of his Formula 1 career as he plots to gatecrash Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton’s fight for the drivers’ title.

Bottas has made a flying start to life with Mercedes since joining back in January, taking two race wins to sit 33 points shy of points leader Vettel with nine rounds remaining.

While Mercedes teammate Hamilton is the chief rival to Vettel in the title race, Bottas still believes he is in contention, making the upcoming stretch of races crucial.

When asked by NBCSN if the next three months were the most important of his career, Bottas said: “Yes, but I don’t think about that too much. I just want to really go race by race.

“I think that is the best approach, and not think about it too much. I know there is still, in theory, a chance to be world champion, and I believe it is possible because this is Formula 1.

“You never know until the last race and until there’s no possibility in the points in theory.

“As I said, just go race by race, being the best me here in Spa and then doing it in the next race and the next and see how it goes.”

The Belgian Grand Prix is live across NBCSN, CNBC and the NBC Sports app this weekend.

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.