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Hamilton pulls clear for Mercedes in final Abu Dhabi F1 practice

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Lewis Hamilton sent a warning shot out to his Formula 1 rivals in Abu Dhabi ahead of qualifying by pulling clear in final practice at the Yas Marina Circuit, heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes.

After eking clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in FP2 on Friday night, Hamilton was able to enjoy a greater buffer to the chasing pack in final practice on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton recorded a best lap time of 1:37.627 to finish almost three-tenths of a second ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Ferrari ending FP3 half a second off the pace.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel failed to complete a qualifying simulation on the ultra-soft tire late in the session, leaving them third and fourth respectively.

Ricciardo led Red Bull’s charge in FP3, finishing fifth overall ahead of teammate Max Verstappen in P6. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were seventh and eighth for McLaren, with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sergio Perez completing the top 10 for Renault and Force India respectively.

Final practice was briefly interrupted by a Virtual Safety Car period after a parasol stood at one of the marshal posts blew onto the track and sat on the apex of Turn 8.

Once recovered, the session was able to return to green with no major incidents following in the final 30 minutes.
Qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

Michelin appoints new North American motorsports director

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Michelin North America has named Tony MĂ©nard as director of motorsports, effective Jan. 1, 2020.

MĂ©nard is succeeding Chris Baker, who has held the role for the past eight years. Baker is scheduled to retire in March of 2020, ending a lengthy career that began with Michelin in 1982.

“Chris has played a vital role in the growth and success of our motorsports program, both for BFGoodrich and Michelin in North America,” said Matthieu Bonardel, global director for Michelin Group’s motorsports business entity. “His passion and understanding for motorsport fueled growth in the organization and established credibility in the market. Chris’s leadership propelled the Group, which experienced tremendous success with race wins, and advanced the way the brands leveraged our motorsports participation to benefit the overall business.”

A native of Le Mans, France, MĂ©nard has served in several positions during his 30-year career with Michelin, most recently serving global business leader for Michelin brand in the passenger-vehicle category. MĂ©nard has worked closely with the North American motorsports team since early July in preparation for the transition.

Baker oversaw the development of the motorsports function for Michelin and BFGoodrich Tires brands as a single business unit in North America. He also directed the expansion of Michelin’s involvement in IMSA sports-car racing as the “Official Tire of IMSA” and BFGoodrich Tires partnership with SCORE International Racing as the “Official Tire of SCORE.”

During Baker’s tenure, BFGoodrich achieved an unprecedented 650 off-road class wins, including five overall victories in the Baja 1000. The brand also demonstrated performance in the Battery Tender Global Mazda MX5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, Lucas Oil Off Road Racing, Ultra4 King of Hammers, and provided strong support of grass roots racing across North America with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), National Auto Sport Association (NASA), and Super Production Challenge in Canada.

“I am incredibly grateful to Michelin for the opportunities and support throughout my career, and to all the folks that I have worked with and continue to work with,” Baker said. “I want to thank all the teams, partners, officials and fans who have made our relationships so successful and are essential to the brands’ successes. I look forward to witnessing the continued success of our motorsports programs under Tony’s leadership, as well as the contributions of the Michelin Motorsport North America staff and volunteers, who are completely dedicated and invested in representing our brands in competition.”