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Raikkonen, Vettel lead Abu Dhabi F1 test days for Ferrari

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Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel topped the final two days of Formula 1 running in 2017 as teams stayed on in Abu Dhabi for a Pirelli tire test earlier this week.

Pirelli has worked closely with all 10 teams across the course of the year to work on its 2018 tire compounds, and brought them together at the Yas Marina Circuit after previously conducting private, individual tests.

Teams were not allowed to test any new parts on their cars, but took advantage of the running to give their drivers a better understanding of next year’s tires when two extra dry compounds will be made available.

Raikkonen led the opening day of the test for Ferrari with a fastest time on the new ‘hypersoft’ compound, which will become the softest option next year, best-suited to street circuits where grip levels are low.

The Finn handed over to teammate Sebastian Vettel for the second day of the test on Wednesday, who kept Ferrari at the head of the timesheets by finishing almost one second clear of the field.

The biggest talking point of the test was Robert Kubica’s extended run with Williams as he pushes to secure a race seat for 2017 and return to F1 seven years after his last grand prix.

The Pole racked up 100 laps on Tuesday in the Williams FW40 and a further 28 on Wednesday in what appears to be a final evaluation of his capabilities by the team after suffering severe injuries to his right hand and arm in a rally accident in the 2011 off-season.

Formula 2 champion Charles Leclerc racked up plenty of mileage for Sauber ahead of an expected announcement in the coming days, while other youngsters on display included Lando Norris, Nikita Mazepin, Sergey Sirotkin and Sean Gelael.

F1 teams will next hit the track with their 2018 cars at pre-season testing in February.

Valtteri Bottas takes pole position for season-opening Austrian GP

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas upstaged Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton to take pole position Saturday for the Formula One Austrian GP.

The Finnish driver edged out the world champion by 0.012 seconds to claim the top spot for the season opener at the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg. He clenched his fist as he climbed out of his car and shared a hug with Hamilton.

“It’s something special when you push the car to the limit,” said Bottas, who is chasing an eighth career win. “Feels so good. It’s very impressive (from the team).”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third, and Lando Norris gave McLaren a boost by finishing fourth. Verstappen has won the past two years here, including 2019 when he started third behind Hamilton and Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.

“It’s going to be interesting quite a bit warmer tomorrow and hopefully this will play to our advantage,” Verstappen said. “Today, Mercedes was on a different level, unfortunately. Last year we were also a little bit off in qualifying so I expect we will be a bit better in the race.”

Bottas had the leading time when drivers embarked on their final laps and beat his own mark before sliding off the track into the gravel.

Hamilton was chasing a record-extending 89th career pole. He was ahead but then dropped off slightly as Bottas secured a 12th career pole.

“Great job by Valtteri. It’s a great start to the season,” Hamilton said. “We show year on year that we continue to be the best team. We’re open-minded … constantly learning from each other and pushing the boundaries.”

Ferrari struggled for speed, with Leclerc nearly one second behind in seventh and Sebastian Vettel failing to make it into the third and final part of qualifying, known as Q3. He starts the race from 11th on the grid.

Vettel is leaving Ferrari at the end of the season with his future in F1 uncertain.

Earlier, Hamilton posted the fastest time in morning practice. The 35-year-old British driver was also quickest in both sessions on Friday.

Midway through third practice, F1 newcomer Nicholas Latifi misjudged the exit of a turn and spun his Williams car into a protective tire wall.