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Hartley feels ready for ‘dream’ F1 debut with Toro Rosso

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Brendon Hartley feels ready to make his surprise Formula 1 debut with Toro Rosso in next weekend’s United States Grand Prix, believing his time with Porsche in the FIA World Endurance Championship has prepared him suitably.

Seven years after being dropped from Red Bull’s junior program, Hartley was confirmed to be stepping in at Toro Rosso for the United States GP in place of Pierre Gasly, who is required to take part in the Super Formula finale at Suzuka.

The 2015 WEC drivers’ champion and 2017 Le Mans winner is under no illusions of the task ahead, having not taken part in an official F1 test for over five years.

“As soon as this weekend is over, the full focus goes onto a big, new challenge next week. There’s a lot to learn in one week,” Hartley said as quoted by Sportscar365.

“I feel ready for it, honestly. This program has taught me a lot. Working with guys like Mark [Webber], Timo [Bernhard] and Earl [Bamber], in such a good project where we’re at the forefront of technology and part of development.

“It’s going to be a busy week for me, but I’m really looking forward to it.”

Hartley’s sudden F1 chance came about after Renault completed the early signing of Carlos Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso and circumstances changed regarding Gasly’s availability.

“It’s happened quite quickly. I had quite a bit on my mind over the last week and especially at Petit Le Mans as well,” Hartley said.

“It’s an amazing opportunity. It’s going to be a dream come true. I’ve thought about that moment since I was a little kid. I’m glad to represent the WEC. I’m looking forward to it.

“I’m going to embrace it and most importantly I’m going to try and enjoy it.”

The call-up comes as the latest act in a surreal 2017 for Hartley, who is poised to wrap up a second WEC drivers’ title on Sunday just one week after winning Petit Le Mans.

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.