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Ocon to start third at Monza, sets sights on maiden F1 podium

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Esteban Ocon has set his sights on scoring his first Formula 1 podium in Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix after starring in a frenetic qualifying session at Monza, clinching third place on the grid.

Ocon, 20, has been one of the stand-out drivers in F1’s midfield this year, scoring points in all but one race for Force India.

The Mercedes-backed youngster squeezed through to Q3 at the expense of teammate Sergio Perez before producing a fine lap in extreme wet conditions, finishing fifth overall.

Ocon will rise to third on the grid thanks to penalties for Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo, meaning he will line up directly behind pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton.

“For sure, it’s amazing. That’s what the team deserves,” Ocon told NBCSN after qualifying.

“They work so hard on every aspect. To get the second row is something amazing. The car was brilliant, I managed to push it to the limits. I want my podium!”

When asked if a podium was possible, Ocon said: “Yes, definitely. We adjusted the car, we’ll work on the car like we did on Friday.

“We have a big opportunity ahead and we have to get it.”

The Italian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Pirelli reveals new super-hard, hyper-soft F1 tires in Abu Dhabi

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Pirelli has confirmed it will add two new tires to its range for the 2018 Formula 1 season, launching the ‘super-hard’ and ‘hyper-soft’ compounds in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

Pirelli currently makes three of its five dry compounds available to teams for each race weekend, and despite varying selections across the course of the season has struggled to offer much in terms of strategy options, with one-stop races being the norm.

The hope is that the addition of two new tire compounds and a re-alignment of their durability will offer teams more choices in races.

Pirelli confirmed plans to introduce a new softest tire below the current ultra-soft earlier this month, inviting fans to pick a name.

The pink-colored compound will be known as the ‘hyper-soft’ from next year, with the arrival of a new ‘super-hard’ (colored ‘ice blue’) also being confirmed at a launch event in Abu Dhabi on Thursday.

“Compared to this year, when the tires grew by 25% to fit a brand-new generation of cars, the changes for next year are less far-reaching,” Pirelli head of car racing Mario Isola said.

“However, we’re pleased to present some important innovations with softer and faster compounds across the range: including the new hypersoft.

“We realized that, under the unique circumstances of this year, some of our 2017 compounds were perhaps conservative: the tires we have created for 2018 addresses this, in line with the objective of having around two pit stops at most races.

“However, the fundamental design concept of the tires hasn’t changed next year, preserving the attributes that all drivers have appreciated this year and allowing them to push hard from the start to the finish of each stint.

“The new range consists of faster tires that should lead to even harder and more spectacular racing in 2018.”

Besides the seven dry compounds made available, there will be the two rain tires – wet and intermediate – taking it to a total of nine for the 2018 season.