Max Verstappen quickest in tight final Bahrain GP practice

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Max Verstappen rallied following a tough Friday to lead the final Formula 1 practice session ahead of qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix on Saturday morning.

Verstappen lost running on Friday after hitting debris on-track, but responded with an impressive qualifying simulation late on that saw him post a best lap of 1:32.194.

The time was enough to give Verstappen top spot by one-tenth of a second ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, with Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finishing a further four-tenths adrift in P3.

The unrepresentative conditions in FP3 – the session is held much earlier in the day than qualifying or the race – prompted many to limit their running, with a flurry of late qualifying laps injecting some life into final practice.

Valtteri Bottas was able to rise up to fourth for Mercedes, 0.004 seconds shy of Vettel, edging clear of fellow Finn Kimi Raikkonen, who was fifth in the second Ferrari.

Felipe Massa finished sixth for Williams ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who was caught out by a high tail-wind on a lap, while Nico Hulkenberg was eighth for Renault. Toro Rosso rounded out the top 10 with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat.

The session largely went by without incident, the only stoppage coming after a crash for Romain Grosjean at the exit of Turn 4 that sparked a short red flag period.

Qualifying for the Bahrain Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app and via live stream from 11am ET, before being shown tape-delayed at 12:30pm ET on NBCSN.

BREAKING NEWS: Phoenix will not be on IndyCar schedule in 2019

The sun has set on IndyCar racing at Phoenix, at least for the foreseeable future. Photo: Getty Images
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The sun has set on INDYCAR continuing to race at ISM Raceway (formerly Phoenix International Raceway).

ISM Raceway president Bryan R. Sperber announced late Friday afternoon that the Avondale, Arizona track (in suburban Phoenix) will not host a Verizon IndyCar Series race in 2019.

Michael Knight of the Arizona Republic first reported the story, followed by an official statement from Sperber:

“We have enjoyed having INDYCAR at our venue for the full three years of our agreement. The series officials and teams have been tremendous partners.

“INDYCAR will not be on our schedule in 2019, we’re currently taking a pause to review schedule options for the future. INDYCAR is currently discussing with International Speedway Corporation (ISC) other potential venues and opportunities.

“We’d like INDYCAR to be on our calendar in the coming years, and we will work with INDYCAR to find a date that will help deliver a successful event.”

INDYCAR and previous open-wheel series have raced at the 1.022-mile short track since 1964:

* 1964-1978 as part of the AAA/USAC Champ Car Series

* 1979-1995 as part of the CART/Champ Car World Series

* 1996-2005 as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series

* 2016-2018 – The IndyCar series returned to ISM Raceway after a 10-year absence, However, poor attendance for each of the three years prompted both sides to not extend the three-year agreement that expired after this year’s April race.

Here’s the official INDYCAR statement:

“INDYCAR has enjoyed its time racing at ISM Raceway, but attendance in the past three years has been disappointing despite considerable investment from both sides.

“Track president Bryan Sperber and his team have been terrific partners and are developing a beautiful facility, and IndyCar will reconnect with them when conditions are right for both parties.

“Meanwhile, INDYCAR is moving forward with building a terrific schedule for the 2019 season.”

Because ISM Raceway is owned by International Speedway Corporation, speculation has already begun as to what other ISC tracks INDYCAR may seek to hold races at.

Among potential ISC properties that could host ISC events – and some already have in the past – include Chicagoland Speedway, Watkins Glen Intentional, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Kansas Speedway, Michigan International Speedway, Auto Club Speedway and Richmond Raceway.

Other ISC facilities include Daytona International Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway and Darlington Raceway.

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