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Bottas edges Hamilton to lead second Italian GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas threw his hat into the ring as a contender for Italian Grand Prix victory by edging out Mercedes Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets in second practice at Monza.

After trailing Hamilton by four-tenths of a second in FP1 on Friday morning, Bottas bounced back by getting the upper-hand over Mercedes’ chief title chaser, recording a best lap of 1:21.406 to lead FP2.

Bottas finished 0.056 seconds clear at the head of the field, leading Mercedes to another one-two finish and continuing its record of having led every session at Monza in the V6 turbo era, starting in 2014.

F1 drivers’ championship leader Sebastian Vettel was able to draw Ferrari closer to Mercedes after lagging over a second behind in FP1, finishing just a tenth off the pace in third place. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen closely followed in P4.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo took P5 and P6 for the second successive session, with both focusing on their race programs in FP2 given their pending grid penalties.

McLaren proved to be a surprise package in second practice as Stoffel Vandoorne and Fernando Alonso took P7 and P8 respectively despite their ongoing engine troubles with Honda. The pair were seen engaging in some tow practice, with Vandoorne set to lead its charge in qualifying given Alonso’s penalty.

Esteban Ocon took P9 for Force India, while Felipe Massa completed the top 10 for Williams, leading the British team as rookie teammate Lance Stroll suffered a strange spin at Ascari that left him pointing in the wrong direction.

Carlos Sainz Jr. saw his weekend go from bad to worse, suffering a possible engine issue after receiving a grid penalty earlier in the day that forced him to park up with plumes of smoke escaping from the rear of his Toro Rosso.

Haas’ Kevin Magnussen also had a session to forget, breaking the suspension on his car after running wide over the kerb at the exit of the second Lesmo.

Running at Monza continues with FP3 at 5am ET on Saturday, followed by qualifying at 8am.

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.