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Norris joins Carlin for 2017 FIA F3 season, targets title in rookie year

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Rising British racer Lando Norris will contest the full FIA Formula 3 European Championship season in 2017 with Carlin.

Norris, 17, was one of the most successful young drivers on the European junior racing scene in 2016, claiming both the Formula Renault NEC and Eurocup 2.0 titles as well as the Toyota Racing Series crown in New Zealand.

The Briton is set to enjoy his first Formula 1 test with McLaren next year after winning the McLaren BRDC Autosport Award earlier this month.

Norris’ primary focus through 2017 will be the FIA F3 series that has recently helped to launch the careers of Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon and Lance Stroll, all of whom will race in F1 next year.

On Thursday, Norris confirmed that he would be continuing his partnership with British racing team Carlin through 2017, setting his sights on the FIA F3 title in his first full season, having enjoyed three races in the series this year.

“I’m very excited to be joining Carlin and can’t wait to contest the FIA Formula 3 European Championship,” Norris said.

“My aim is simple and the same as at the start of every season: I want to win the championship title outright. Although it’s my ‘rookie’ F3 season, I’m totally confident with the package, the team and Volkswagen.

“The competition will be tough, it’s an ultra-competitive series, of that there is no doubt. Many of the drivers I’m up against will be in at least their second year in the category so will have a lot of F3 experience on the tracks we’ll be racing on.

“There will be a couple of circuits totally new to me but this year in Renault I learnt them quickly. If, in my first year, the outright F3 title is not within my grasp, it won’t be for the want of trying and then winning the ‘rookie’ title is an absolute must.”

Team owner Trevor Carlin added: “We are very pleased and proud that Lando and his management have chosen to stay with the team for a third season, and I’d like to thank them for the trust they’ve placed in our FIA F3 team after two very promising outings in Hockenheim and Macau.

“Lando is an incredibly exciting young driver and has already shown in his short career his talent, dedication and work ethic. We very much look forward to working with him again in 2017 and showing what we can achieve together in FIA F3.”

Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.