Alexander Rossi ready for FP1 duty in Canada for Caterham

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Formula One is heading toward its first of two North American stops this season with the Canadian Grand Prix, and that means it’s almost time for American driver and Caterham reserve Alexander Rossi to suit up.

Back in April, Caterham confirmed that Rossi, the only American with a FIA superlicense, would run for the team in FP1 at both this weekend’s race in Montreal and again in the fall at the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas.

Rossi has been diligently preparing with lots of simulator work and hopes that it will help him as he steps into the cockpit of the real-life, Renault-powered CT05 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

“FP1 in Montreal will be my first drive of the year in the 2014 F1 car, but after the amount of laps I’ve done in the sim with the CT05, I’m already pretty familiar with how it’ll be inside the cockpit,” he said in a team release.

“Obviously, it’s not quite the same as actually being out on track, but I have a lot of F1 mileage under my belt with the various FP1s and test days I’ve completed and having driven in FP1 in Canada last year, I know I can go straight to work and help the team complete its plan for the session.

The 22-year-old has already had some FP1 experience with Caterham. In 2012, he drove Heikki Kovalainen’s car in FP1 at Barcelona, and in last year’s Canadian round, he did the same in Charles Pic’s car.

As you’d expect, Rossi is grateful to have another opportunity to drive an F1 machine.

“The chances for young drivers like me to be in current-season cars on track are very limited, and obviously every lap counts over a race weekend,” he said.

“But the fact the team sees that I can add value from the work I do in the car, and they can keep helping me to learn, shows great support and how committed they are to developing young talent.”

Last year in Montreal, Rossi had to deal with wet conditions that limited his practice time on the track. This year, he’s hopeful to have more cooperative weather and more laps – but is ready to deal with rain again if need be.

“The weather should hopefully be dry, so if that stays true we should have a full session run and be out as the green lights come on,” he said.

“If it rains, then so be it. I’ll still be focused 100 percent on the job the team asks me to do.”

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.