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Mercedes power: Hamilton, Bottas fastest during 1st French GP practice

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LE CASTELLET, France (AP) — Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas posted the top two times during the opening practice for Formula One’s French Grand Prix on Friday.

Defending champion Hamilton clocked the best lap time at 0.140 seconds faster than Bottas.

Red Bulls’ Daniel Ricciardo had the third best effort, followed by Ferrari pair Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel.

Vettel leads Hamilton by one point atop the standings after seven of 21 races.

The session had one red flag near the end when Marcus Ericsson spun out of control and slammed into the barrier on Turn 11. The right rear of his Sauber burst into flame before the Swede got out. Sauber said he was unharmed.

Hamilton also had a scare when forced to swerve off course to avoid ramming a slow-going Stoffel Vandoorne and slalomed around two rows of bollards before returning to the flow. Hamilton said on his team radio the McLaren driver was going “dangerously slow” when he came upon him.

Later, Hamilton complained his Mercedes was having trouble turning. After coming back out, the four-time world champion quickly went to the top of the timesheet.

This was the first chance drivers had to run on the 5.8-kilometer (3.6-mile) Paul Ricard Circuit, as F1 makes its return to France for the first time in a decade.

The track resting in wooded hills just inland from the Cote d’Azur was basked in the Mediterranean sun and subject to moments of gusting winds.

Raikkonen, Brendon Hartley (Toro Rosso), Esteban Ocon (Force India) and Vandoorne all spun their cars onto the blue-striped run-off areas at Turn Six because of a tricky tailwind but managed to stop before hitting the barrier.

Charles Leclerc (Sauber) twice spun to a brief stop, while Max Verstappen drove wide on consecutive corners and had a near-miss with Sergio Perez of Force India.

Vettel took the lead in the standings two weeks ago in Montreal where he won the Canadian GP after starting from pole position. That victory erased a 14-point lead held by Hamilton after he could manage only a fifth-place finish.

There will be two more practices on Friday and on Saturday before qualifying for Sunday’s race.

The last time a F1 race was held here at Le Castellet was in 1990 when Alain Prost won for Ferrari.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett proclaims Monday ‘Scott Dixon Day’

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IndyCar media release:

INDIANAPOLIS (Monday, Sept. 24, 2018) – Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett has declared today, Monday, Sept. 24, 2018, “Scott Dixon Day” in the city to honor the IndyCar driver’s great accomplishments.

According to the proclamation, which went into effect at 12:01 a.m., Dixon, an Indianapolis resident, is being honored for his legendary racing career, which includes winning the 92nd Indianapolis 500 in 2008 and five Verizon IndyCar Series championships. Dixon won his fifth championship on Sept. 16 at Sonoma Raceway in California. With that fifth title, the 38-year-old New Zealand native is second in total number of Indy car championships behind only A.J. Foyt.

The proclamation honors Dixon on the same day as the world premiere of the documentary, “BORN RACER,” at the IMAX Theater in the Indiana State Museum. The film, which takes an in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at Dixon’s 2017 racing season, will be available nationwide on DVD and digital download on Oct. 2. For more information about “BORN RACER,” visit bornracermovie.com.

INDYCAR is using the hashtags #DixonDay and #BornRacerMovie on its social platforms to highlight the landmark day for the five-time champion.

The proclamation of “Scott Dixon Day” from Mayor Hogsett reads:

TO ALL WHOM THESE PRESENTS MAY COME, GREETINGS:

WHEREAS, Scott Dixon, a native of New Zealand, brought his racing talents to Indianapolis 20 years ago, where he still lives with his wife, Emma, and their two daughters Poppy and Tilly; and

WHEREAS, in 2008, Scott won the 92nd Indianapolis 500 from pole position, and throughout his impressive career, he has won 44 IndyCar races, placing him third on the all-time IndyCar wins list; and

WHEREAS, on September 16, 2018 in Sonoma, California, Scott made history when he won his fifth IndyCar championship, becoming the runner-up for total number of IndyCar championships behind the legendary A.J. Foyt. He is also the longest-tenured driver to compete for the Chip Ganassi Racing team, completing his 17th season with the team in 2018; and

WHEREAS, today, the City of Indianapolis celebrates Scott Dixon’s growing list of racing accomplishments with the world premiere of “Born Racer,” a documentary about his career and the Chip Ganassi Racing team, at the Indiana State Museum, and we honor Scott for his incomparable accomplishments in racing;

NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOSEPH H. HOGSETT, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF INDIANAPOLIS, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM SEPTEMBER 24, 2018 TO BE: SCOTT DIXON DAY in the City of Indianapolis, and I ask all citizens to join me in this observation.