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Wolff: Hamilton has been ‘on another level’ since summer break

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Heading into the United States Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton is always the race favorite given his success there throughout his career.

Unsurprisingly his Mercedes AMG Petronas boss, Toto Wolff, has nothing but high praise for Hamilton and after his incredible run of form since Formula 1’s summer break, is singing his praises even more than normal heading into the round at Circuit of The Americas this weekend.

Hamilton won three straight races out of the break in Belgium, Italy and Singapore, with second in Malaysia and another win two weeks ago at Japan now having swung the world championship completely in his favor as he enters Austin with a 59-point lead.

“We must also add our drivers to our list of strengths. Lewis has driven brilliantly this year – and since the summer break in particular, he has been on another level,” Wolff said in Mercedes’ pre-Austin advance.

“It has been impressive to watch him extracting everything from the car and working with the team to solve problems and improve even further.”

While not criticizing Valtteri Bottas, who’s had a rough run of form the last couple races sorting his driving style to the tight optimal operating window of this year’s Mercedes chassis, Wolff said he should be better as the season heads to its final fifth of the campaign.

“Valtteri has had a tougher time in recent races – but he demonstrated his work ethic and character to deliver a strong weekend in Suzuka, and he will be aiming to build on this performance in the final four rounds,” he said.

Wolff said the peaks and valleys in the car’s performance will serve it better as the team prepares for 2018, to look to have a more consistently dominant car over the course of the season.

“We returned from those races with a lot more understanding of our car and of the reasons for the performance swings we have experienced this season,” he said.

“Some of that understanding is already being applied to the final races, some of it will flow into next year’s project. But the bitter taste of our defeat in Malaysia once again confirmed that the tough days are the ones when you learn most – and when you lay the foundations for future success.”

Times for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix on the NBC Sports networks are linked here.

Carb Day: Tony Kanaan is fastest in final practice for Sunday’s Indy 500

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Tony Kanaan wants to put legendary driver and team owner A.J. Foyt back into Victory Lane at the Indianapolis 500.

Kanaan took a big step toward achieving that goal in Friday’s final practice for Sunday’s 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing.

Kanaan was fastest of the 33-driver field, with a best lap around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval at 227.791 mph, more than 2 mph faster than the second-fastest driver, Kanaan’s former teammate, Scott Dixon (225.684 mph).

Foyt won a record-tying four Indy 500’s as a driver. It’s been nearly 20 years since he also won as a team owner in 1999 with Kenny Brack behind the wheel.

Marco Andretti was third-fastest (225.200 mph), followed by Sebastien Bourdais (224.815), Charlie Kimball (224.712), 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato (224.083), Will Power (223.942), Danica Patrick (223.653), Spencer Pigot (223.584) and Ed Jones (223.556).

Other notable driver speeds included:

* Pole sitter Ed Carpenter was 14th fastest (223.219 mph).

* Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champ Josef Newgarden was 15th (223.186 mph).

* Helio Castroneves, hoping to earn a record-tying fourth 500 win, was 17th (222.913 mph).

* Graham Rahal was 21st (222.526).

* Former 500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay was 26th (221.916 mph), followed by rookie Robert Wickens (221.821 mph), carrying the mantle for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with James Hinchcliffe having failed to qualify for the race.

* The biggest surprise was 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, who was 32nd fastest (221.374 mph).

We’ll have the full speed grid, as well as full driver quotes, shortly. Please check back soon.

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