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Pagenaud leads Sonoma Thursday test day

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SONOMA, Calif. – Simon Pagenaud was fastest during Thursday’s six hours of testing for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma, as Team Penske set the pace on a day where finding grip and managing limited sets of tires were a pair of difficult tasks.

Pagenaud’s best time of 1:16.6511 around the 2.385-mile Sonoma Raceway track was about four tenths of a second off his pole time from last year.

All the best times were set in the second four-hour session, after there was only limited running in the first two hour session.

Sebastien Bourdais and Alexander Rossi were the two best Honda drivers behind the Penske trio of Pagenaud, Helio Castroneves and Will Power.

Takuma Sato had a heavy accident in his No. 26 Honda for Andretti Autosport at Turn 6, which brought out one of several red flags. He was OK, but his car was not with heavy left rear damage.

Combined times are below.

More to follow.

F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.