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Hamilton pulls clear for Mercedes in final Abu Dhabi F1 practice

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Lewis Hamilton sent a warning shot out to his Formula 1 rivals in Abu Dhabi ahead of qualifying by pulling clear in final practice at the Yas Marina Circuit, heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes.

After eking clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in FP2 on Friday night, Hamilton was able to enjoy a greater buffer to the chasing pack in final practice on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton recorded a best lap time of 1:37.627 to finish almost three-tenths of a second ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Ferrari ending FP3 half a second off the pace.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel failed to complete a qualifying simulation on the ultra-soft tire late in the session, leaving them third and fourth respectively.

Ricciardo led Red Bull’s charge in FP3, finishing fifth overall ahead of teammate Max Verstappen in P6. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were seventh and eighth for McLaren, with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sergio Perez completing the top 10 for Renault and Force India respectively.

Final practice was briefly interrupted by a Virtual Safety Car period after a parasol stood at one of the marshal posts blew onto the track and sat on the apex of Turn 8.

Once recovered, the session was able to return to green with no major incidents following in the final 30 minutes.
Qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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