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F1: Daniel Ricciardo posts fastest time in 1st German GP practice run

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HOCKENHEIM, Germany (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo was fractionally faster than Lewis Hamilton in the first practice session for the German Grand Prix on Friday.

The Red Bull driver topped the charts by just .0004 seconds ahead of Hamilton’s Mercedes. His pace may count for little, however, considering Ricciardo starts Sunday’s race from last because of a grid penalty for engine-part changes.

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen was third quickest, about .2 seconds behind his teammate in hot sunshine at the Hockenheimring track.

There is a second practice later Friday, and a third practice Saturday before qualifying.

German driver Sebastian Vettel, who leads defending champion Hamilton by eight points in the title race, was fourth quickest. But the top three drivers were using the faster ultrasoft tire compound, while Vettel ran with softs.

Valtteri Bottas momentarily lost control of his Mercedes, and Kimi Raikkonen likewise his Ferrari, and both briefly veered off track. They were fifth and sixth quickest, respectively. Nico Hulkenberg also gave the home fans a scare when he flew off the track and ploughed over some gravel, recovering control of his Renault just before a wall.

In another encouraging performance, Charles Leclerc placed ninth with a considerably slower Sauber car while running on softs.

Leclerc, who is from Monaco, has greatly impressed in his debut season. So much so he is being touted to replace the 38-year-old Raikkonen at Ferrari next year.

Ricciardo’s penalty is because his team had to make multiple changes to the hybrid system, the energy store and the electronics unit for a combined total of 20 grid positions.

Drivers are allowed to use two of each specific engine part during the season before incurring penalties, but this is the third time Ricciardo is using each individual element.

F1 races in Austin, Mexico City hitting financial rough patches

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AUSTIN, Texas — Two of Formula One’s three races in North America are facing financial issues that are raising concern about their future.

Organizers of the U.S. Grand Prix won’t get at least $20 million from the state of Texas for the 2018 race after missing a paperwork deadline set by state law. And new questions lurk about the future of the Mexican Grand Prix after the country’s new president suggested the government may not spend on the race like it has the last four years.

Both races have been popular with drivers and fans, and have enjoyed key dates on the F1 calendar. Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton clinched season championships in Texas in 2015 and in Mexico City in 2017 and 2018.

Officials in Formula One and at the Circuit of the Americas, host of the U.S. Grand Prix, did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.