Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas pace Portimao practices for Portuguese GP

F1 Mercedes Portugal practice
Peter Fox/Getty Images
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PORTIMAO, Portugal — Lewis Hamilton posted the fastest time in the second F1 practice for the Portuguese Grand Prix, giving Mercedes a 1-2 after his teammate Valtteri Bottas topped the first session on Friday.

The seven-time F1 champion was 0.143 seconds ahead of Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and 0.344 clear of Bottas in warm but slightly cloudy and windy conditions in Portugal’s Algarve region.

Hamilton, who is aiming for his 100th pole and 97th win, said the conditions made it difficult to get proper grip on the track.

“Everybody was struggling with balance and sliding around,” he said. “This afternoon it got warmer and windier so it seemed to make it harder for people to find time and work on their balance. I think it’ll be a close one this weekend.”

In the first practice, Bottas was fastest followed by Red Bull drivers Verstappen and Sergio Perez.

“Whoever finds more lap time overnight gets pole,” said Bottas, who is seeking his 17th career pole. “It will be close between us and Red Bull and could swing either way.”

Charles Leclerc was fourth fastest for Ferrari, followed by Hamilton.

A bizarre incident saw Leclerc’s former Ferrari teammate, Sebastian Vettel, parking his Aston Martin in McLaren’s space in the pit lane. He mistakenly stopped in the spot allocated to Ferrari during last year’s championship.

“Sorry for that, had to happen at some point,” the four-time F1 champion joked while laughing over the team radio. “I was wondering why there’s nobody there.”

There is a third practice on Saturday morning followed by qualifying.

The Portugal GP is the third Formula One race of the season.

Hamilton leads the championship by one point from Verstappen with both drivers having won one race and taken one pole position each.

Hamilton’s lead is courtesy of him taking a bonus point for the fastest lap at an incident-packed Emilia-Romagna GP, which Verstappen won.

Hamilton won the season opener in Bahrain.

“It has been (close) the last couple of races, so I’m sure it’ll be an exciting qualifying and race in store,” Hamilton said.

Bottas needs to find form after a poor race at Imola two weeks ago, where he was involved in a crash with Williams driver George Russell after an overtaking move went wrong and scored no points.

He dropped to fifth place in the standings behind Leclerc in what could be his final season with Mercedes.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing
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Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.