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Hunter-Reay, Hinchcliffe, Power fastest in 2nd IndyCar practice in St. Pete

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Several IndyCar drivers pulled closer to breaking the one-minute per lap barrier during Friday’s second practice session for Sunday’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was fastest on the 1.88-mile temporary street course with a speed of 1:00.8295.

James Hinchcliffe was second fastest (1:00.8724), followed by Will Power (1:00.9933).

“Not a bad way to start the season,” Hunter-Reay told the IndyCar Radio Network. “But it’s early still and we need to get our heads together at Andretti tonight and figure out how to make them go even faster tomorrow.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay was the fastest of the 24 drivers that took to the track for Fridays second IndyCar practice at St. Petersburg.

Fourth fastest was Scott Dixon (1:01.1004), followed by defending series champion Josef Newgarden (1:01.1012), 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi (1:01.1542), rookie Robert Wickens (1:01.2190), defending St. Pete Grand Prix winner Sebastien Bourdais (1:01.2741), Tony Kanaan (1:01.3185), 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato (1:01.3491) and Marco Andretti (1:01.3780) was bumped from 10th to 11th at the last minute by Rossi.

All told, Honda-powered cars held 8 of the first 11 spots in the session.

12th through 20th were Matheus Leist, who was fastest in the first practice, with a best lap of 1:01.4385, followed by 2016 series champ Simon Pagenaud (1:01.4509), Spencer Pigot (1:01.5505), rookie Jordan King (1:01.5579), Ed Jones (1:01.5819), Gabby Chaves (1:01.6177), Zack Veach (1:01.8423), Charlie Kimball (1:01.9166) and Graham Rahal (1:01.9993).

Lastly, 21st through 24th were Zachary Claman De Melo (1:02.0368), Max Chilton (1:02.0636), Jack Harvey (1:02.1640) and Rene Binder (1:02.3254).

Chaves recorded the most laps (22) of all 24 drivers.

Just like it was to several drivers in the first practice session earlier in the afternoon, Turn 4 continued to be a confounding issue in the second practice.

Scott Dixon and Takuma Sato joined others like Tony Kanaan and Hunter-Reay from the first practice by spinning into the Turn 4 run-off area before righting their cars and getting going again.

Also, Hunter-Reay just missed smacking the wall after hitting a bump in Turn 9.

“Everybody’s sliding around down there,” Hunter-Reay said. “I’m sure no one’s going to say their totally happy with their car.”

With about 10 minutes left in the session, rookie Rene Binder spun backwards entering Turn 3, yet somehow also avoided hitting the wall. Safety workers helped him get his car righted and he took the car into the pits.

With about 3:30 left, 2016 IndyCar champ Simon Pagenaud also spun in Turn 3, leaving him to gently and slowly make his way back to the pits.

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.


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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.