Lewis Hamilton, triple world champion, smashed his Red Bull Ring lap record twice in Austrian Grand Prix practice on Friday, with Ferrari’s championship leader Sebastian Vettel close behind his Mercedes rival.The two, separated at the top by 14 points after eight races, got back down to business after calming a ‘road rage’ controversy that has dominated Formula One since the previous race in Azerbaijan last month.Hamilton, the only driver on the current grid to have won in Austria following the retirement of 2016 champion and team mate Nico Rosberg, swiftly demolished the lap record he set last year.The Briton then lowered his morning time by another half second in the afternoon to end the day with a best time of one minute 05.483 seconds.In changeable conditions in the scenic Styrian hills, with bright sunshine mixed in with the occasional rain shower, four times world champion Vettel was second on the timesheets with a lap 0.147 slower than Hamilton’s.Red Bull’s Dutch teenager Max Verstappen had been second in the morning, when Vettel was only fourth and half a second off the pace.Mercedes have won every year since Austria returned to the calendar in 2014, after being absent for a decade, with Hamilton triumphant in 2016.The Briton and his Ferrari rival have been closely matched on race pace, with each winning three grands prix so far this season.Vettel will be happy to have the focus back on the racing after making a public apology to Hamilton for the Baku furore last month and his comments afterwards.advertisementThe German had driven into the back of Hamilton’s car, while the race leader was waiting for the safety car to pit, and had pulled alongside to remonstrate. He ultimately finished fourth, a place ahead of Hamilton. He then accused Hamilton of “brake-testing” him, words he retracted this week.Hamilton’s team mate Valtteri Bottas was third fastest in both sessions, with Verstappen dropping back to fourth in the afternoon after being sidelined early in the session with a brake problem.Red Bull’s Azerbaijan race winner Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen were fifth and sixth in both.Ricciardo injected some Australian humour into the build-up when he jokingly told Sky Sports television, while struggling to keep a straight face, that Baku had changed everything.”I always said I want to win five races and retire so I’m probably not going to compete this weekend,” he smiled. “I think I’m done. So it’s changed pretty dramatically my position in the sport.”He then reassured “people at home who don’t understand my silly sense of humour” not to worry.
Australia captain Aaron Finch has said his team cannot afford to make mistakes if they are to do well in the upcoming limited-overs tour of India. Finch and his teammates head to India on Monday, well ahead of the two-match T20I series, starting February 24 in Visakhapatnam.Buoyed by the Big Bash League win, the Melbourne Renegades captain said Australia’s focus will be on having a clear game plan during the T20I and ODI series, which will be their second-last international assignment ahead of the World Cup, starting May 30 in England and Wales.While insisting that India are the best white-ball side in their home conditions, Finch pointed out that Australia can’t even afford to be slightly off the mark in their upcoming assignment.”I don’t think you need anything to put a pep in your step when you’re going on an Aussie tour, particularly to India,” Finch said.”If you’re slightly off the mark you’re going to get hurt. They’re the best side in one-day cricket in their own conditions, I think. So you’ve got to go there full of confidence and have a real clear game plan.”Notably, Australia lost their first-ever bilateral ODI series at home to India only earlier this year. Finch’s men squandered an opportunity to clinch the series after winning the first ODI in Sydney. MS Dhoni led India’s charge with the bat, scoring three successive half-centuries and helping the team come back from behind to create history.Australia will be without their premier fast bowlers, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood but the visitors have a lot of firepower with the likes of Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Coulter-Nile and Pat Cummins being part of the 15-member squad.advertisementKohli returns to lead India vs AustraliaIndia have announced a full-strength squad for the series, which will be their last limited-over assignment ahead of the World Cup. Virat Kohli returns to lead the side after having missed a part of the New Zealand tour while Jasprit Bumrah also joins the squad after after resting through the ODIs in Australia and the entire New Zealand tour.Meanwhile, KL Rahul has also been included in the T20I and the ODI squads as India are looking at the Karnataka batsman as a reserve opener for the World Cup. Rahul struggled during the four-Test series in Australia and was subsequently suspended from the senior national team over the Koffee With Karan controversy. Rahul though has won back his place in the side with some consistent performances for India A against the England Lions earlier this month.Australia T20I squad for India tour: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, D Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Peter Handscomb, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Ashton Turner, Adam Zampa.Australia ODI Squad: Aaron Finch(c), Alex Carey, Usman Khawaja, Shaun Marsh, D Arcy Short, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Jhye Richardson, Ashton Turner, Pat Cummins, Kane Richardson, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Lyon, Adam ZampaAlso Read | Hardik Pandya and I are seen as competitors but we share very good rapport: Vijay ShankarAlso Read | Chris Gayle hopes for fairy-tale finish at ICC 2019 Cricket World CupAlso See: