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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.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”