John Dick joins RLL’s IndyCar team as R&D chief

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The Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing IndyCar team already bolstered its engineering staff when it announced Bill Pappas would join the team last fall.

It’s added to that personnel enhancement with Thursday’s confirmation John Dick, like Pappas, is also coming over to RLL from Dale Coyne Racing.

Dick will take over as RLL’s Head of Research and Development, replacing Gerry Hughes, who was reassigned midway through 2013. Hughes returns to England after two years in America with the RLL squad.

Dick, who has over 37 years of racing experience, was the race engineer for Team Rahal driver Max Papis in 2001, and the combination produced two wins and one pole. With Coyne last year, Dick engineered the No. 18 Honda, which won Detroit Race 1 with Mike Conway.

“It’s great to have John back with the team,” team co-owner Bobby Rahal said in a release. “His experience and knowledge is a great compliment to the existing staff we have assembled with race engineers Bill Pappas and Eddie Jones. John is a key element to our plan to expand our technical department and will oversee testing and development.”

Pappas and Jones will continue to engineer RLL’s two Honda-powered cars, the second of which still does not have a confirmed driver.

Graham Rahal teased a “personnel” move at the Rolex 24 at Daytona over the weekend.

Hamilton leads damp first USGP practice at COTA, Hartley debuts

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Lewis Hamilton continued his impressive Formula 1 record at the Circuit of The Americas by topping opening practice for the United States Grand Prix on Friday for Mercedes.

A four-time winner of the USGP at COTA, Hamilton set the pace in damp conditions in first practice after rain hit the Austin area in the lead-up to the start of the session.

After initially venturing out on intermediate tires, Hamilton made the switch to super-softs at the halfway point in FP1, ultimately posting a fastest time of 1:36.335.

Hamilton’s time saw him finish over half a second clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, who he could beat to the F1 drivers’ championship at COTA this weekend should results go his way.

Mercedes got two cars into the top three as Valtteri Bottas wound up third in the second W08 car, six-tenths back from Hamilton, while Max Verstappen ended FP1 fourth for Red Bull.

Felipe Massa led Williams into the top 10 with an impressive lap en route to fifth, finishing ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

Vandoorne was left to lead McLaren’s charge after a hydraulic leak sidelined Fernando Alonso for much of the session, limiting the Spaniard to just four laps in total.

Force India managed to get both its drivers up into the top 10 as Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez finished eighth and ninth respectively, edging out Renault’s Carlos Sainz Jr. who was P10 in his first appearance for the team.

Brendon Hartley enjoyed his first run-out in Toro Rosso’s STR12 car ahead of his grand prix debut on Sunday, taking P14 overall.

The New Zealander had not driven an F1 car since a test with Mercedes in 2012, but put in a solid first display in practice, even though his race hopes are set to be hindered by a grid penalty.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 3pm ET today.