Hamilton sure Mercedes will avoid Malaysia issues in Bahrain

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Lewis Hamilton does not think Mercedes will struggle in Bahrain like it did at last month’s Malaysian Grand Prix when Ferrari won its first race of the season, but remains wary of the threat posed by the Italian marque.

Hamilton was forced to settle for second place in Malaysia when high temperatures allowed Sebastian Vettel and Ferrari to make one less stop and beat Mercedes, springing a surprise on the German team.

Although conditions will be warmer once again in Bahrain, Hamilton does not think that Mercedes will struggle as it did at the end of March, and remains upbeat following practice on Friday.

“From what I can see it shouldn’t be as tough as it was in Malaysia from a tire perspective and we’re definitely in a better position this weekend than at the same stage in Sepang,” Hamilton said.

“Despite that, I’m sure it will still be very close with Ferrari, who look very good on the long runs. Generally, though, it’s been a positive start [to the weekend].”

The defending Formula 1 world champion finished the second free practice session on Friday evening in second place behind his teammate, Nico Rosberg, and almost half a second clear of the chasing Ferrari drivers.

“We’ve had a good day in terms of getting the long runs in and understanding the tires,” Hamilton said. “Working on race runs was the priority – although we did also show strong single lap pace.

“On my fastest lap I locked up into turn eight so lost out a bit there and there’s a few areas I need to work on to find a bit more time. It’s difficult to say how long each compound will go but the option feels great.”

You can watch qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 11am ET.

Alex Palou fastest as several go off course during IndyCar practice at IMS

IndyCar Harvest GP practice
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Alex Palou paced the opening practice Thursday for the IndyCar Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

The Dale Coyne Racing rookie turned a 1-minute, 10.177-second lap around the 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course in his No. 55 Dallara-Honda.

Jack Harvey was second, followed by Colton Herta, points leader Scott Dixon and Max Chilton.

PRACTICE CHART: Click here to see the speed rundown from Thursday’s session

FRIDAY AT IMS: Details for watching Race 1 of the Harvest GP

Qualifying for Friday’s race will be at 6:20 p.m. ET Thursday on NBC Sports Gold.

Will Power, who won the pole position for the July 4 race at the track, spun off course with just more than a minute left in the session after the left rear of his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet made slight contact with the right front of Alexander Rossi’s No. 28 Dallara-Honda.

Power was among several drivers who went off track, but there were no damaged cars during the session. Marcus Ericsson missed the final 5 minutes of the practice after being penalized for causing a red flag with a Turn 8 spin.

Arrow McLaren SP drivers Pato O’Ward and Helio Castroneves, who is driving for Oliver Askew (who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms), also veered off course as did rookie Rinus VeeKay and Santino Ferrucci.

Seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson was in attendance at the session before racing Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway. Johnson will be driving a partial schedule of road and street courses in IndyCar next season for Chip Ganassi Racing.

“Literally, the smallest of details, I can pick up on,” Johnson told NBC Sports pit reporter Kevin Lee. “It’s been really nice today just to see how a session starts and obviously to jump on the radio and listen to how the systems work and then obviously you get into the car and the setup and such. I’m at ground zero right now, a 45-year-old rookie trying to learn my way into a new sport essentially.”

Johnson told Lee his sponsorship hunt to run a Ganassi car “has gone really well. The fact that I’m here today and ingrained so deeply in the team is a great sign of where things are going. Looking forward to getting behind the wheel of a car soon and hopefully having some announcements for the world to see soon, too.”

Fans were in attendance Thursday for the first time this season at IMS, which is allowed a limited crowd of 10,000 for its races this weekend.