Rosberg on top in first practice for German GP

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Nico Rosberg has finished fastest in the first free practice session for this weekend’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim.

The Mercedes driver headed up a Silver Arrows one-two with Lewis Hamilton in second place, finishing less than one-tenth of a second behind his teammate.

Rosberg has firmly set his sights on winning this weekend’s race at Hockenheim as he looks to cap off a perfect week. Since the last race at Silverstone, he has got married, seen his home nation win the FIFA World Cup and also signed a new long-term contract with Mercedes.

He began his assault on the race weekend in good fashion during FP1, although Hamilton’s pace was very impressive too. As the two drivers resume battle for the lead of the drivers’ championship, the pressure is well and truly on.

Fernando Alonso came home in a solid third for Ferrari, some three-tenths adrift of Rosberg at the front, whilst Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel finished in fourth and sixth place. Jenson Button was the meat in the Red Bull sandwich in fifth as McLaren teammate Kevin Magnussen finished seventh ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn had an issue on his car at the beginning of the session that forced him to sit in the pits for some time, but the team soon resolved it and he managed to put in 21 laps.

The session saw Susie Wolff return to the wheel of the Williams FW36 for the first time since her ill-fated practice at Silverstone. At first, lightning appeared set to strike twice when her car began to slow on her out lap. It was soon diagnosed as a gearbox issue, forcing her to stay in first gear, but she did manage to crawl back to the pits and have the car repaired.

Once Wolff got back out on track, she put in a very respectable display, finishing 15th and just two-tenths of a second off the time of full-time Williams driver Felipe Massa.

Giedo van der Garde was the only other reserve driver to take part in the session, stepping in for Esteban Gutierrez at Sauber. He finished in 16th place, whilst Adrian Sutil finished 10th in the sister C33.

For the time being though, the spoils lie with Rosberg. Be sure to join us at 8am ET for the second practice session, available via Live Extra and online by clicking here.

If you can’t join us then, you can watch the encore on NBCSN at 2:30pm ET. For more information on our F1 broadcasting options this weekend, click here.

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

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If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.