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.
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.