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F1 drivers elect Romain Grosjean new GPDA director

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Romain Grosjean has been made a director of the Grand Prix Drivers Association by his fellow Formula 1 drivers, taking over from Jenson Button.

After stepping back from his McLaren F1 race seat at the end of last year, Button has not been present at any grands prix so far this year, but is due to race in Monaco when Fernando Alonso is at the Indianapolis 500.

The GPDA held a vote for its new director during the Russian Grand Prix weekend, with Grosjean being nominated by his peers to take over the role.

Grosjean races for NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ eponymous F1 team, and is one of the sport’s longest-serving drivers, having made his debut back in 2009 with Renault.

Grosjean joins fellow director Sebastian Vettel and chairman Alexander Wurz in running the GPDA.

“In the GPDA assembly held in Sochi on Friday 28 April, Romain Grosjean was elected GPDA director, replacing Jenson Button who stepped down from the position as a result of not permanently racing in the 2017 F1 world championship,” a short statement from the GPDA reads.

“I am proud to have been elected by my peers as director of the GPDA. We race drivers don’t always hold the same opinion, but as a group we are united in wanting the best for our sport,” Grosjean said.

“I believe was have an important role and duty to coordinate between each other and support the stakeholders in the evolution of the sport.”

“It was a pleasure working with Jenson over the past few years as he always puts in the interests of the drivers and the sport first. Thanks JB for all your effort,” Wurz added.

“Over recent years Romain has been a very active GPDA member. He has a lot of energy and thoughts about our sport and Sebastian. I welcome him as a great addition to the Grand Prix Drivers Association board.”

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.