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Stroll becomes F1’s youngest front-row starter with star Monza display

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Lance Stroll will become the youngest driver in Formula 1 history to start a race from the front row of the grid on Sunday after a stunning display in Italian Grand Prix qualifying at Monza.

Driving an F1 car in extreme wet conditions for the first time, Stroll splashed his way to P4 in the final stage of the session, finishing behind Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton and the Red Bull pair of Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo.

With Verstappen and Ricciardo falling back due to engine penalties, Stroll rises to second overall, becoming F1’s youngest front-row starter.

Stroll beats the existing record held by Max Verstappen from the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix by 23 days, adding another record to his resume after becoming F1’s youngest ever podium finisher in Baku three months ago.

“It’s a couple of ‘youngest evers’ this season and that feels good!” Stroll told NBCSN after the session.

“The podium at Baku was great. Front row at Monza is great. Let’s just keep it going.

“I just put it together at the end. In the whole session, we were competitive. Knew best grip under braking, Lesmo 1 and 2. I built up throughout session and put it together by Q3.”

The result comes following a difficult start to life in F1 for Stroll, who arrived with limited experience and has scored points in just three races so far this season.

“We know it’s not a secret it’s been difficult for us in the last few events,” Stroll said.

“We’re almost over-pushing the car.Sometimes it’s tricky getting out of Q1!

“We’re under control and can go from the back of the grid to the front of the grid today.”

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

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.