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Hamilton doubles up in second USGP practice as Ferrari hits trouble

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Lewis Hamilton went two-for-two in Friday’s Formula 1 practice session ahead of the United States Grand Prix by topping the afternoon running at the Circuit of The Americas for Mercedes.

Hamilton enters this weekend on the verge of clinching his fourth F1 drivers’ title, with victory at COTA and a finish of sixth or lower for Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel being enough to settle the championship.

Hamilton started the weekend on the right foot by leading a damp FP1 session, but was able to flex his muscle and establish his edge over the field more in second practice in dry conditions.

Hamilton turned in a best lap of 1:34.668 to finish almost four-tenths of a second clear of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen at the head of the field, recording a new track record at COTA in the process.

Vettel’s hopes of striking back against Hamilton were dented early in FP2 when he ran off the circuit while on a flying lap, almost beaching his Ferrari car.

The team brought Vettel back into the pits and spent a large chunk of the session completing fixes on the car, limiting the German to just 11 laps in total. He was nevertheless still able to finish third-fastest, half a second back from Hamilton.

Valtteri Bottas took fourth in the second Mercedes, leading Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen as the trio struggled to match their teammates further up the order.

Fernando Alonso put in a stellar display for McLaren to finish as the ‘best of the rest’ behind the top three teams, taking P7 ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa and the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon, filling out the top 10.

Carlos Sainz Jr. continued his impressive start to life with Renault, beating new teammate Nico Hulkenberg for the second straight session.

Toro Rosso stand-in Brendon Hartley continued to get more laps under his belt ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, completing 41 in total en route to P17 overall.

Track running continues at COTA on Saturday with FP3 live on the NBC Sports app from 12pm ET, followed by qualifying on NBCSN at 5pm ET.

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”