Hamilton quickest in damp opening Australian GP practice

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Defending Formula 1 world champion Lewis Hamilton started as he will hope to go on in 2016 by setting the pace in the first free practice session of the season in Australia on Friday.

FP1 for the Australian Grand Prix proved to be a damp affair, with rain coming and going throughout the session to limit the drivers to short windows of meaningful on-track running.

Overnight rain left the track wet to begin with until a short break in the weather allowed Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to rise to P1 with a dry-tire lap.

Rain soon returned before easing again with just under 20 minutes to go in the session, sparking a flurry of lap times from the drivers, many of whom had bided their time in the pits for much of FP1.

Hamilton took full advantage of the dry window to topple Ricciardo, only for a final dry front to come through in the dying moments of the session and give drivers a late chance to improve.

The Briton found a further six-tenths of a second to end the session P1 with a best lap of 1:29.725, leaving him 0.4 seconds clear of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat in second place.

Ricciardo ended the session in third place, although his running did come to an early end when he beached his Red Bull in the gravel at the end of the session when more rain hit the track.

A number of drivers struggled with the changeable conditions throughout the session, including Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Manor’s Rio Haryanto who spun. Max Verstappen also lost control of his Toro Rosso at one point, but was able to recover to fifth place behind Force India’s Nico Hulkenberg.

Nico Rosberg finished sixth in the second Mercedes ahead of the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button, while Sergio Perez and Kevin Magnussen rounded out the top 10.

FP1 saw Haas F1 Team make its grand prix weekend debut as both Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean got out to complete some laps in the VF-16 car, finishing 18th and 20th respectively.

Sebastian Vettel and Carlos Sainz Jr. were the only drivers not to post a time, with the latter coming to a stop in the pit lane 30 minutes in to FP1.

Second practice for the Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 1:30am ET on Friday.

Santino Ferrucci will drive No. 14 for AJ Foyt Racing full time in 2023 IndyCar season

Santino Ferrucci AJ Foyt
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Santino Ferrucci will return to full-time racing in the NTT IndyCar Series next season, joining AJ Foyt Racing.

Ferrucci had made eight IndyCar starts with three teams since his last full-time season in 2020 while also racing part time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year.

He will drive the storied No. 14 Dallara-Chevrolet for four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt’s team, which will field the car from its Waller, Texas headquarters.

“It’s incredibly exciting to be back in the INDYCAR Series full time,” Ferrucci said in a team release. “Being a part-time driver over the last two years has been hard for me, personally. I’m a race car driver, and I want to compete. Working with different teams has been exciting, and I’m proud that no matter which car I’ve raced, I’ve always shown speed and consistency. I couldn’t be more excited to join AJ Foyt Racing in the 14 Chevy. I can’t wait to make the best of it.”

Ferrucci, 24, had finished a career-best fourth in IndyCar four times, including the 104th Indy 500 in 2020. He was the 2019 Indy 500 rookie of the year with a sixth.

In nine Xfinity starts since 2021, Ferrucci has a career-best finish of 13th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“I am thrilled to welcome Santino to the team,” Larry Foyt said in a release. “He’s shown a knack for getting toward the front of the field, and I think he is a racer who moves forward on race day. A.J. sees the fire in him and has enjoyed their meetings together. I think Santino’s experience will help his rookie teammate as well, so he is a great addition to our roster.”

Ferrucci will be teamed at AJ Foyt Racing with Benjamin Pedersen, who finished fifth in the 2022 Indy Lights standings. The team has yet to specify the number for Pedersen’s entry, which will be fielded out of its Indianapolis race shop.

Foyt’s two full-time drivers last season were Dalton Kellett and Kyle Kirkwood, who is moving to Andretti Autosport.