Bottas beats the field in final Austrian GP practice

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Valtteri Bottas has finished fastest in the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Austrian Grand Prix, beating Lewis Hamilton into second place with his final lap.

The Finn posted a late time on the option tire to edge out Hamilton and Williams teammate Felipe Massa, whilst Nico Rosberg was forced to settle for fifth place behind Toro Rosso rookie Daniil Kvyat.

FP3 gave the drivers one final chance to get to grips with the Red Bull Ring circuit ahead of qualifying, and the majority of them headed out early in the one hour session in order to make the most of the running time. The early benchmark was set by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen, and the Dane remained at the top of the timesheets to begin with with a good lap of 1:10.998. His teammate, Jenson Button, was less fortunate, suffering a problem with his brakes that ended his session early.

Felipe Massa was the first driver to displace Magnussen at the top of the timesheets, and his example was soon followed by Valtteri Bottas and Daniil Kvyat at the front of the field. Bottas soon got the upper hand on his teammate, finishing three-hundredths of a second faster than his teammate after the first set of runs.

Fernando Alonso bided his time before heading out, and slotted into third place with his first time. Mercedes, however, opted to take it easy to begin with, as neither Hamilton nor Rosberg challenged the drivers at the head of the standings at first. With 23 minutes remaining, though, the German driver ascended to P1 by a full three-tenths of a second.

For the final part of the session, the drivers made the switch to the super-soft tire compound in order to perform a simulation qualifying run ahead of this afternoon’s pole position shoot-out. Alonso was one of the first to make the switch, and moved up into first place as a result, with Rosberg remaining in second place with his initial effort on the red-ringed tires. Hamilton and Massa both had enjoyed spates of time at the top of the timesheets, but it was Bottas who stole the show with his final lap time to finish just 0.050 seconds ahead of the Briton.

Will Williams’ good form continue in qualifying? Find out by watching the session live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET today.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?