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Brazilian rookie Matheus Leist is fastest in first IndyCar practice in St. Pete

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The 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season is under way.

Rookie Matheus Leist — at 19, the youngest driver on the circuit this season and pilot for A.J. Foyt Racing — was fastest in the first practice session of the new season, Friday on the temporary street course in St. Petersburg, Florida, in preparation for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The young Brazilian covered the circuit in 1:01.7231, his best overall lap of 20 that he took during the session. He also was the fastest Chevrolet driver.

Honda took the next five spots: defending Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais (1:01.7719), followed by Ryan Hunter-Reay (1:01.8812), 2016 Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi (1:02.0415), Scott Dixon (1:02.0560), rookie Robert Wickens (1:02.1833), 2016 series champ Simon Pagenaud (1:02.2162), Will Power (1:02.3069), Leist’s teammate Tony Kanaan (1:02.3370) and Spencer Pigot (1:02.3565).

11th through 20th were rookie Jordan King (1:02.4112), Graham Rahal (1:02.4569), Ed Jones (1:02.4569), rookie Zachary Claman De Melo (1:02.7376), defending series champ Josef Newgarden was 15th fastest in the field (1:02.9667), followed by Zack Veach (1:02.7902), Jack Harvey (1:02.8416), Marco Andretti (1:02.8843), James Hinchcliffe (1:03.0515) and Max Chilton (1:03.3742).

20th through 24th were Charlie Kimball (1:03.6210), 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato (1:03.6243), Gabby Chaves (1:04.1845) and rookie Rene Binder (1:04.8859).

Taking the most laps were De Melo and Harvey, with 21 laps each.

There was three incidents of note – all minor – in the session.

With just under 23 minutes remaining in the session, and while he had the fastest lap at the time, Kanaan spun coming into Turn 4.

Kanaan, who moved to A.J. Foyt Racing during the offseason after four seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing, was piloting the Chevrolet-powered No. 14 when the rear end broke free.

The car did not make contact with either a wall or another car. The incident brought out the red flag and Kanaan limped his car back to the pits for service.

With about 15:45 left in the session, Hinchcliffe also spun into the run-off area in Turn 10, but quickly got going again.

With just under 10 minutes left, Hunter-Reay spun in Turn 4. But like Kanaan’s spin, there was no contact and Hunter-Reay was able to continue on.

The second IndyCar practice session will start at 3:10 p.m. ET today.

Saturday, there will be a third practice at 11:10 a.m. ET, followed by qualifying at 2:20 p.m. ET.

Sunday, the pre-race warm-up takes place at 8:45 a.m. ET, pre-race ceremonies and driver introductions take place at Noon, with the green flag set to start the season opener at 12:30 p.m. ET.

Mercedes: F1 teams need to work together to avoid split

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MELBOURNE, Australia — Mercedes boss Toto Wolff said Friday that Formula One teams have a responsibility to try to overcome their differences over the future of the sport in the face of a threat by Ferrari to quit because of a number of proposed changes.

Bernie Ecclestone, who ran F1 for 40 years before being replaced by new owners Liberty Media last year, has raised the possibility that Ferrari chairman Sergio Marchionne could walk away from F1 and form a breakaway series over Liberty’s future vision for the sport.

Ferrari is unhappy with Liberty’s proposal to simplify engines and redistribute prize money among F1 teams after the current contract with teams expires at the end of 2020.

Ferrari team boss Maurizio Arrivabene would not comment on the specifics of Marchionne’s previous comments at the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on Friday, but said: “My only suggestion, please take him seriously.”

Wolff is also taking the possibility of Ferrari walking away seriously. He told Britain’s Press Association before the Australian GP that he agreed with Marchionne’s concerns and that Formula One can’t afford to alienate Ferrari or lose the team.

“Don’t mess with Sergio Marchionne,” he said. “Formula One needs Ferrari much more than Ferrari needs Formula One.”

Wolff was more diplomatic on Friday, saying he hopes all sides could come together for the good of the sport.

“I think this as much a battle on track as much as it is a fight off track for an advantage,” he said. “It is clear the current governance and how the rules are being made is not very functional. There’s too much different opinions and agendas on the table and we need to sort it for 2021 for the best interest of the sport.”

Red Bull boss Christian Horner agreed there are too many competing agendas, suggesting that the FIA-Formula One’s governing body-and Liberty Media come together to decide on a set of regulations and financial framework for the next contract and the teams can then decide if they want to accept it or not.

“Trying to get a consensus between teams that have varying objectives, different set-ups, is going to be impossible,” he said. “It’s history repeating itself. It happens every five or six years, every time the Concorde Agreement comes up for renewal.”

Tempers also flared during Friday’s media conference over another issue of contention between the teams – Ferrari’s recent hiring of FIA’s ex-safety director, Laurent Mekies.

Horner believes Ferrari broke an agreement among teams at a recent meeting to institute a 12-month waiting period for any former employee of FIA or FOM (Formula One Management) to be able to start working for one of F1’s teams. The concern is that former FIA staff who go to work for a specific team could share secrets from other teams.

“Certain teams were pushing for that period to be three years, but in the end it was agreed upon being 12 months,” he said. “It almost makes those meetings pointless if we can’t agree on something and action it.”

Arrivabene defended Ferrari’s move, saying Mekies would not join its team until after a six-month “gardening leave” period.

“There is nothing wrong with that because we were absolutely respecting the local law, the Swiss local law where Laurent was hired,” he said.