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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.

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.