Hamilton hits back in final practice for Australian GP

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Lewis Hamilton responded to the pace shown by Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in FP1 and FP2 by topping the final practice session for the Australian Grand Prix, giving him an edge heading into qualifying later today.

The British driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:27.867 to finish six-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the timesheets, with Rosberg finishing down in third place for Mercedes.

Mercedes once again proved in FP3 that it has lost none of its advantage from 2014, with Hamilton easing into first place on the soft compound tire in the final 10 minutes of the session. Although Rosberg did finish behind Vettel, it is likely that the Silver Arrows will be scrapping for pole position later today at Albert Park.

A number of teams did not enjoy such a good session, though. Red Bull had yet more problems with its Renault engine as Daniil Kvyat was forced to park up early on, leaving him at the bottom of the timesheets come the end of the session.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson suffered a spin heading out of the chicane on the back straight, but managed to avoid the wall, whilst Max Verstappen continued to wrangle with his Toro Rosso car.

Heading into qualifying, Mercedes remains the team to beat, but the battle for second will be very close indeed. Ferrari and Williams filled out the remaining positions in the top six, suggesting that Vettel, Kimi Raikkonen, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa will be the men vying for a top three qualifying position later today.

You can watch qualifying live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2a ET today.

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.