Hamilton closes out Canadian GP practice fastest

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Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix, which is live on NBCSN from 1pm ET today.

The Briton produced a repeat performance from FP2 by finishing in first place, but he was not followed by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg this time around. The German driver was forced to settle for third place behind a high-flying Felipe Massa in the Williams.

The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve bathed in bright blue skies at the beginning of FP3, giving the drivers and teams the perfect conditions in which to complete their final running ahead of qualifying.

The shorter session meant that the drivers had to get out on track quickly to complete their installation runs, ensuring that all systems on the car are as they should be. Kevin Magnussen was the first to post a lap time, and eventually brought his best effort down to a 1:18.325 before any other driver threatened to topple him.

The session came to an abrupt halt when Esteban Gutierrez span his Sauber at the first chicane. The Mexican driver ended up careering backwards into the wall, bringing out a red flag to help recover the stricken C33. After a terrible start to the season, it will only give the Swiss team another headache to deal with ahead of qualifying later today.

Once the session restarted, the front-runners soon headed out on track to post their first lap times. Sergio Perez was the first to better Magnussen’s lap time before Lewis Hamilton pulled out another seven-tenths over the Force India. Ferrari enjoyed a brief period in the top two positions with Fernando Alonso leading from Kimi Raikkonen, but Hamilton soon redressed the balance by going another half a second quicker.

Williams soon got into the mix as Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas moved up into second and third place respectively, only for Hamilton to widen the gap by half a second yet again despite a nervy moment coming out of the final corner. His teammate, Nico Rosberg, soon found his feet to go just six-hundredths of a second faster. Once again on the harder tire, the advantage clearly lay with Mercedes.

In the final ten minutes, a number of others also looked to complete a final qualifying simulation run ahead of the session later today. Hamilton and Rosberg both ventured out late on, but neither opted to post a time on the super-softs. Felipe Massa was the big mover, jumping up into second place behind Hamilton and ahead of his German teammate. Fernando Alonso finished in fourth place ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton’s gap of four-tenths of a second came despite posting his time on the slower set of tires, and the Briton appears to be set to claim his fifth pole position of the season later today. However, Rosberg will be keen to fight back and hold on to his championship lead, setting the stage for a close battle.

You can watch qualifying for the Canadian Grand Prix live on NBCSN from 1pm ET today.

Mario Andretti says Colton Herta could be next American star in F1

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Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.

If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.

“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”

The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.

Mario Andretti drives his Lotus-Ford to victory in the 1978 Grand Prix of the Netherlands (Bernard Cahier/Getty Images).

Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.

Scott Speed was the last American to run a full F1 season in 2006, and Alexander Rossi made the most recent F1 start by a U.S. driver in 2015. Rossi has said he has no desire to return to racing in Europe after winning the 2016 Indianapolis 500 and becoming an IndyCar championship contender.

But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.

“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.

“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”

Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.

Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.

A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.

“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.

“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”

Mario Andretti with four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton before the Nov. 22, 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).

During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:

–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;

–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;

Mario Andretti Colton Herta
Mario Andretti and Kyle Petty saluted “The King” by wearing their Richard Petty-style hats during the latest “Coffee With Kyle” (NBCSN).

–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”

–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.

“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”

Watch the full “Coffee With Kyle” episode in the video above or by clicking here.

Mario Andretti looks on before the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26, 2019 (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).