Sun, Oct 30, 2016 - Page 11 News List

Vettel sets pace in practice at Mexican GP

AP, MEXICO CITY

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel of Germany drives in the practice session for the Mexican Grand Prix at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on Friday.

Photo: AFP

Ferrari found the pace to put some spice into the Mexican Grand Prix.

Sebastian Vettel jumped ahead of the Mercedes championship duel by posting the fastest time of Friday’s practice sessions, sending a warning that there is still life in the Italian team near the end of what has been a disappointing season.

Vettel sprung a surprise lap of 1 minute, 19.794 seconds.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton pulled within 0.004 seconds, but could not find the lap to catch Vettel before the session ended.

“The car seems to work, not only from the result, but as an overall feeling... We had a very good day,” Vettel said, adding that he was expecting better times from Hamilton in yesterday’s qualifying.

“I think he has more in the pocket,” Vettel said.

Hamilton trails teammate Nico Rosberg by 26 points in the championship standings heading into the final three races of the season and likely needs to win to keep the pressure on. Rosberg was 0.435 seconds behind Hamilton in third on Friday.

All the drivers are contending with cool temperatures, high altitude and an evolving track, which they expect will have more grip after its debut last season.

On one early lap, Rosberg had a tire lockup near the end of the long straight, driving through the first turn and onto the grass before straightening out. That followed an early practice session when Rosberg finished a distant seventh behind Hamilton despite running on the same medium tires.

“Ferrari seemed very quick, so they will be a big threat,” Rosberg said in post-practice television interviews.

Ferrari’s good sessions on Friday show the red cars could scramble the season championship just a bit. Any pressure Ferrari can put on Rosberg favors Hamilton. Although Rosberg can win the title with two second-place finishes and a third in the final three races, anything lower than that behind Hamilton today could significantly raise the pressure when Formula One wraps the season in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.

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