Rosberg dominant in final practice for Australian GP

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Nico Rosberg has dominated the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, which starts later tonight at 2am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

The German driver posted a fastest time of 1:29.375, comfortably finishing over 1.3 seconds quicker than second-placed Jenson Button whilst Fernando Alonso rounded out the top three. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth, but the Briton failed to post a fast lap time on the option tire, suggesting that Mercedes is still the team to beat heading into the rest of the race weekend.

When the final practice session got underway, the big question was whether or not the teams would send their cars out and risk a failure ahead of qualifying. Both Marussia and Lotus broke their curfews to work on the car overnight, whilst Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson needed to complete some running or he may not have been permitted to start the race on Sunday.

With ten minutes of the session gone, Esteban Gutierrez reported a problem on his Sauber with his gearbox, forcing him to crawl back to the pits at low speed. Kevin Magnussen was the first driver to set a truly representative time of 1:33.130, but the Danish rookie did take a trip through the gravel at turn nine as he pushed his McLaren to the limit. He was soon toppled by fellow youngster Daniil Kvyat by around half a second. Marcus Ericsson, having failed to post a timed lap all weekend, finally got out on track for Caterham, although he did stay at the bottom of the timesheets.

At the front, normal service from Friday was resumed as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton went first and second for Mercedes with Felipe Massa a few tenths off in fourth place. However, Hamilton soon established his inter-team dominance to move six-tenths clear of Rosberg. At the halfway point in the session, seven of the top eight times had been set by Mercedes-powered cars, whilst Ferrari had not emerged from the pits, nor had defending world champion Sebastian Vettel.

When the German driver did come out on track, he immediately found some pace and moved up into fourth place with teammate Daniel Ricciardo slotting into P6. Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso also chose to bide their time and finally come out at the halfway point in the session, and both drivers moved up into the top ten with their lap-times.

With twenty minutes to go, Nico Hulkenberg made a huge improvement on his previous best to move within one-tenth of Hamilton at the top of the table, having switched to the soft option tire. Compatriot Nico Rosberg followed his example, and moved 1.5 seconds clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso moved up into the top three on the soft tire, but couldn’t come close to Rosberg’s lap.

Once again, the session ended with a Lotus parked up at the side of the road as Pastor Maldonado’s car came to a halt at the penultimate corner, suggesting that the team’s problems are dire. Having hit problems earlier on, Sauber changed the gearbox in Gutierrez’s Sauber, resulting in a five place gird penalty, whilst Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean failed to emerge from the pits.

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix begins live at 2am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

Recapping the 2018 Dakar Rally with “best of” video highlights

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EDITOR’S NOTE: NBCSN will air additional Dakar Rally highlights on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

As it has done so for four decades, the 40th annual Dakar Rally – the most grueling test of man and machine anywhere – produced a number of surprise finishes and also several disappointments for drivers or riders who were expected to do well in the nearly 5,600-mile trek that began in Peru and continued through Bolivia and ending in Argentina.

NBCSN has aired highlights from all 14 stages (actually 13, because one stage was completely rained out) during the Rally’s two-week run, which concluded Saturday.

Here’s some of the “best of” highlights from the overall Rally highlights, followed by a quick guide that gives you wrapups to all 14 stages.

So, without further adieu, here’s NBCSN’s “best of” the 2018 Dakar Rally:

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of cars

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of bikes

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of trucks

2018 Dakar Rally: Best of quads

Lastly, here’s a day-by-day wrapup of how the Rally played out.

MORE: Dakar Rally daily stages schedule, NBCSN broadcast schedule, list of all competitors.

MORE: Stage 14 overall Rally wrapup

MORE: Stage 13 wrapup

MORE: Stage 12 wrapup

MORE: Stage 11 wrapup

MORE: Stage 10 wrapup

MORE: Stage 9 cancelled due to weather, impassible course conditions

MORE: Stage 8 wrapup

MORE: Stage 7 wrapup

MORE: Stage 6 wrapup

MORE: Stage 5 wrapup

MORE: Stage 4 wrapup

MORE: Stage 3 wrapup

MORE: Stage 2 wrapup

MORE: Stage 1 wrapup