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Hamilton leads Mercedes to 1-2 in opening Brazilian GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton made a rapid start to life as a four-time Formula 1 world champion by setting the pace for Mercedes through opening practice for the Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos on Friday morning.

Two weeks after clinching his fourth F1 drivers’ crown in Mexico, Hamilton returned to his Mercedes W08 car for FP1 at Interlagos and showed few signs of slowing down despite already having the championship sewn up.

Hamilton turned in a fastest lap time of 1:09.202 – a new track record at Interlagos – to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas as the Silver Arrows streaked clear at the front of the pack.

Ferrari and Red Bull failed to put up any kind of fight to Mercedes in FP1 as both teams finished over half a second off the pace, headed up by Kimi Raikkonen in the Ferrari SF70H.

Red Bull followed in P4 and P5 with Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo respectively, while Sebastian Vettel was over seven-tenths of a second back from Hamilton in sixth place.

Felipe Massa led the midfield runners for Williams in P7, making a strong start to his final home grand prix weekend, while Stoffel Vandoorne headed up McLaren’s charge in eighth. Teammate Fernando Alonso finished two places back in P10 as Esteban Ocon managed to split the McLarens in ninth for Force India.

Mercedes youngster and GP3 champion George Russell made a strong impression on his first F1 weekend run-out, taking P12 in the second Force India. Charles Leclerc also enjoyed some running for Sauber in FP1, taking P17.

Toro Rosso had a less fruitful session as both its drivers were sidelined by engine issues. Pierre Gasly’s car was hit with an MGU-H failure, while teammate Brendon Hartley failed to post a lap time after also suffering a problem early on.

Tequila Patron to end ESM and IMSA partnerships after 2018 season

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Earlier on Monday, Tequila Patron, a long-time sponsor in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, both at the team level – they have a long standing partnership with Tequila Patron ESM – and the series level, announced that they will be ending their sponsorships at the end of the 2018 season.

After sponsoring Highcroft Racing in 2008 and 2009 in the American Le Mans Series, Tequila Patron and ESM formed a partnership in 2010 to launch their own team. Since then, they have scored overall wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, and the Petit Le Mans. They have also competed internationally, in both Prototype and GT categories.

“On behalf of the entire Extreme Speed Motorsports organization, it has been an honor to represent such an amazing brand for the past 13 years,” said team co-owner Scott Sharp via a team release.

“I have the deepest gratitude for all of (Patron CEO and ESM co-founder) Ed Brown’s support. Together we have tackled various challenges, won races at each step, and built ESM into such an incredible team. Simultaneously, it has been thrilling to watch Ed and his team build the Patrón brand in a meteoric fashion and along the way become an icon in the motorsports world! We will miss not carrying the now infamous green and black livery, but the same passion for excellence will remain!”

IMSA President Scott Atherton also expressed gratitude toward Patron for their long-time involvement.

“IMSA and Patron Spirits have enjoyed a fantastic partnership for more than a decade. Tequila Patron rose through the IMSA ranks, from a high-profile team sponsor with Patron Highcroft Racing beginning in 2008, through its entitlement sponsorship of the Patron GT3 Challenge starting in 2009, and its presenting sponsorship of the American Le Mans Series beginning in 2010,” Atherton detailed.

He continued, “Tequila Patron continued in a prominent position as the American Le Mans Series merged with GRAND-AM to create the new IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and has been our entitlement partner for the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup since 2014 in addition to its longstanding support of the Tequila Patron ESM race team and its pair of Nissan DPi race cars.

“All associated with IMSA – competitors, promoter partners, series officials and fans – will miss the iconic Tequila Patrón brand next year. On behalf of IMSA, we thank CEO Ed Brown and Tequila Patron for all they have done over the many years to help us grow IMSA and the sport as a whole. We’re more proud than words can express to have counted Tequila Patron among our family of premium brand partners.”

Team co-owner Scott Sharp, in a story posted on SportsCar365, asserted that the ESM team has every intention of continuing in 2019.

“We’re working on a number of options,” Sharp said. “Obviously I think we’ve singly got the best team we’ve ever had, personnel-wise. Having been refining over the years and making selected additions, we’ve gotten ourselves to be super strong. The goal is keeping everyone together. We’re working through a few different options that will hopefully allow us to do that.”