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Vettel leads Ferrari one-two in opening Spanish GP practice

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Sebastian Vettel headed up a Ferrari one-two in the opening practice session for the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona on Friday morning.

As regular pace-setter Mercedes opted to focus on medium tire runs with its drivers, Ferrari fitted Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen with the faster soft compound that allowed them to surge to the top of the timesheets.

Vettel posted a fastest time of 1:23.951 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Raikkonen in second place, marking an impressive start to the race weekend for the Italian marque.

Despite posting their quickest laps on mediums, Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton both managed to keep the Ferraris in sight, finishing half a second down in third and fourth place respectively.

Max Verstappen enjoyed his first outing in a Red Bull Formula 1 car in FP1, and despite having an early lock-up at the first corner, the Dutchman produced a fast lap later on to finish sixth, less than two-tenths of a second behind new teammate Daniel Ricciardo.

Valtteri Bottas led Williams’ charge in seventh place ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and Williams teammate Felipe Massa, while McLaren’s Fernando Alonso rounded out the top 10.

In his first practice outing since the 2014 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Renault reserve driver Esteban Ocon was forced to spend much of the session in the garage due to an issue on his R.S.16 car. The Frenchman failed to post a lap time, leaving him at the foot of the timesheets come the checkered flag.

FP2 for the Spanish Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Friday.

James Hinchcliffe on Andretti: ‘It’s certainly the place I want to be’

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Since before the start of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season, James Hinchcliffe tirelessly has worked to ensure the future would include a full-time return in 2021.

And with an opportunity to run the final three races this season with Andretti Autosport, there seems a surefire (albeit unlikely) path.

“If I go out and win all three,” Hinchcliffe joked with IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview Friday (watch the video above), “it would be hard for them to say no, right?”

Regardless of whether he can go unbeaten at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course next weekend or the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida (where he earned his first career win in 2013), Hinchcliffe will have the chance to improve his stock with the team that he knows well and now has an opening among its five cars for 2021.

All three of Hinchcliffe’s starts this season — the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, July 4 at the IMS road course and the Indianapolis 500 — were with Andretti, where he ran full time in IndyCar from 2012-14.

“Obviously, the plan from January 2020 was already working on ’21 and trying to be in a full-time program,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed being reunited with Andretti Autosport, and everybody there has been so supportive. It’s been a very fun year for me on track. It’s been kind of a breath of fresh air in a lot of ways.

“It’s certainly the place I want to be moving forward. We’ve been working on that, working on those conversations. Genesys has been an incredible partner in my three races. We’ll be representing Gainbridge primarily, but Genesys will still have a position on our car in the last three.”

Gainbridge is the primary sponsor of the No. 26 Dallara-Honda that was vacated by Zach Veach, who left the team after it was determined he wouldn’t return in 2021. Hinchcliffe can empathize having lost his ride with Arrow McLaren SP after last season with a year left on his deal.

“You never want to earn a ride at the expense of somebody else in the sense that has happened here with Zach,” Hinchcliffe said. “I feel bad that he’s not able to see out the last three races of his season. I’ve got a lot of respect for him off track. He’s been a teammate this year, a colleague for years before that and honestly a friend for years before that. I’ve got a lot of time for him and his family. I understand a little bit of what it’s like in that position and what he’s going through.”

Hinchcliffe is ready to seize the moment, though, starting with the Oct. 2-3 doubleheader race weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He had been hoping to add the Harvest Indy Grand Prix to his schedule and had been working out for the possibility.

“Then last week I had given up hope (and) was resigned that wasn’t happening,” he said. “I told my trainer, ‘I think we’re done for this year.’ Three days later, this call comes. I’m glad we didn’t make that decision too early. I feel great physically.

“I look at it as a great opportunity to continue to show I’ve still got what it takes and should be there hopefully full time next year on the grid.”

Watch Hinchliffe’s video with Leigh Diffey above or by clicking here.