Rosberg rocks Hockenheim to win German GP for Mercedes

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HOCKENHEIM, GERMANY – Nico Rosberg has capped off an incredible two-week period in his life by winning the German Grand Prix, becoming the first driver to win for Mercedes in Germany since Juan Manuel Fangio in 1954.

However, the star of the race was undoubtedly Mercedes teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who charged from 20th on the grid to finish the race in third place behind Williams’ Valtteri Bottas, thus minimizing the points advantage for Rosberg in the championship battle.

Bottas continued his streak of podiums in second place, and somehow managed to fend off Hamilton in the final few stages of the race. Sebastian Vettel finished an excellent fourth for Red Bull, with Fernando Alonso finishing as the lead Ferrari in fifth place.

The start saw Rosberg make a good getaway from pole position to stay ahead of Bottas, but the safety car was immediately deployed when Felipe Massa was rolled by McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen. Thankfully, the Brazilian landed the right way up and was able to walk away from the crash, whilst Magnussen was able to continue in the race. Daniel Ricciardo had lost ten positions as he tried to avoid the incident, and Hamilton made a fair start to pick up three places off the line.

The racing resumed on lap three once the wreckage had been cleared, and Rosberg set about opening up a gap to the rest of the field. Hamilton continued to charge through the field, making light work of Max Chilton and Pastor Maldonado. He soon found a way past Adrian Sutil, albeit with a gentle nudge on his sidepod at the hairpin, and was soon on the cusp of the top ten.

Ricciardo and Hamilton began to scythe through the order together, pulling off some great overtakes. Both passed Kimi Raikkonen in fashion to move into the top ten, but all the while, Rosberg was extending his lead at the front lap by lap. In the battle to make the podium, Sebastian Vettel tussled with Fernando Alonso through the traffic, producing some incredible wheel-to-wheel racing.

When Rosberg made his first stop, he came out still in the lead ahead of Hamilton, who was yet to pit after starting on the prime tire. Bottas ran third – net second – after changing to the prime tire. Four laps into his second stint, the Finn made light work of the Mercedes driver. Hamilton duly pitted when Vettel and Alonso began to close, and emerged from the pits in eighth place on another set of primes.

The Briton soon set about continuing his charge, passing Ricciardo for seventh, but was lucky to only lose a front endplate when he made contact with Jenson Button at the hairpin. Hamilton was a bit closer for his second attempt, and made light work of his former teammate to take sixth, before passing Hulkenberg for P5 one lap later.

In the battle ahead, Vettel and Alonso continued to scrap for position through the pit stops, with the Spaniard finally finding a way past the Red Bull after his second pit stop. Sebastian would not let the Ferrari go though, as he looked to secure just his third podium finish of the season.

Rosberg came in for his second stop on lap 42, and emerged in the lead ahead of Hamilton. The Briton pitted just one lap later, fitting the super-soft tires and coming back out in fifth place. Rosberg, on the prime tire, was seeing the advantage to his teammate gradually shrink as Hamilton continued to light up the timing screens with personal bests and fastest laps.

Daniil Kvyat’s race came to an early end after a fire broke out on his Toro Rosso. The Russian youngster had dropped down the order after being spun by Sergio Perez earlier on, and he was clearly frustrated to see his race go up in smoke with 20 laps remaining.

Hamilton put his super-softs to good use, catching Alonso and passing him for third place after Vettel pitted for primes to release him into fourth. Bottas was next up on his hit list, but he pitted for another set of options in anticipation of a safety car after Adrian Sutil spun his Sauber on the main straight. However, the marshals were able to recover it under double yellow flags.

Having pitted, Hamilton had to pass Alonso for a second time, and was catching at a considerable rate of knots. The Spaniard soon lost out to his former teammate once again, and took to the pits with ten laps to go for a set of super-soft tires. He came out in seventh place, and set about recovering some positions from the longer runners ahead. His battle with Daniel Ricciardo was particularly enthralling, but he could not quite find the pace to catch Vettel for fourth.

Hamilton found himself narrowly trailing Valtteri Bottas in the dying stages of the race, and despite the Finn’s tires being 40 laps old, he was still finding the pace to stay ahead. Ultimately, the Finn came home in second, securing his third consecutive podium finish. Hamilton’s tires had simply been pushed too much come the end, but in third place, he has limited the damage of Rosberg’s win.

With this victory, Rosberg has extended his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship to 14 points. In the last two weeks, he has got married, seen Germany win the FIFA World Cup, signed a new long-term contract with Mercedes, and now – for the first time – he has won the German Grand Prix.

Now, the focus for Rosberg will be to maintain his lead heading into the summer break, with next weekend’s Hungarian Grand Prix being the last until the end of August. At the halfway stage of the season though, he has an important lead over his teammate in the drivers’ championship.

Mercedes continuing to explore Formula E, October deadline on entry

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GENEVA, Switzerland – Mercedes has until October to make a final decision on entering the FIA Formula E championship and activating its option for a place on the grid in season five, when it would have to be a customer team.

Mercedes announced last October that it had secured an option on a place in Formula E from season five, becoming the latest manufacturer to express its serious interest in the all-electric series.

No updates have been forthcoming from Mercedes regarding its Formula E interest since then, although a number of personnel are understood to have attended the recent Berlin race as it continues to evaluate the series.

When asked by NBC Sports about Mercedes’ Formula E plans at the FIA Sport Conference in Geneva earlier this week, head of Mercedes-Benz motorsport Toto Wolff confirmed that an evaluation was still ongoing ahead of an October deadline to trigger its option.

“We are exploring Formula E at the moment and try to form an educated opinion,” Wolff said.

“It is something that is very different, although I think they’ve done a great job in establishing the series in a couple of years only.

“We are in a fact-finding moment and we will make up our mind until October.”

Mercedes missed the deadline to join Formula E in season five (2018/19) as a manufacturer, with nine companies being listed by the series back in March.

Should Mercedes want to enter Formula E in season five, it would have to do so as a customer team, enjoying a powertrain supply from another manufacturer.

“The rules are what they are. If we decide to enter Formula E, we will be a customer team in season five,” Wolff said.

“There’d be no other solution.”

Verstappen quickest in opening Azerbaijan GP practice

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Max Verstappen led Red Bull Racing to a one-two finish in the opening Formula 1 practice session ahead of this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix, finishing half a second clear of teammate Daniel Ricciardo at the top of the FP1 standings.

Verstappen and Ricciardo were able to make the most of low grip conditions at the Baku City Circuit through first practice, with a number of their rivals finding things more difficult and struggling to keep their cars on-track.

Verstappen recorded a fastest lap time of 1:44.410 in the Red Bull RB13 to take P1 overall, finishing four-tenths of a second clear of Ricciardo.

Sebastian Vettel took third place for Ferrari, half a second down on Verstappen at the front after squeezing a late lap in before a red flag stoppage in the closing stages of the session.

FP1 was halted when Sergio Perez became the first driver to crash at the tight Turn 8 section, carrying too much speed into the corner and clouting the barrier with his Force India car.

Despite the shunt, Perez ended the session fourth ahead of Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who failed to challenge the front-runners at the head of the field, finishing over a second behind Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas was sixth in the second Mercedes ahead of Esteban Ocon and Felipe Massa, with Kimi Raikkonen and Daniil Kvyat rounding out the top 10.

Second practice in Baku begins at 9am ET live on the NBC Sports app before being re-aired on NBCSN at 2pm ET.

Road America weekend, Thursday notes

Brett Hundley with Will Power and Mario Andretti. Photo: IndyCar
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It’s a busy day of testing, practice and qualifying for all the series not named the Verizon IndyCar Series on Thursday at the KOHLER Grand Prix weekend.

IndyCar sessions begin on Friday and as such there wasn’t meant to be as much to report on that end… until late Thursday afternoon when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports confirmed Mikhail Aleshin’s temporary absence and Robert Wickens to fill in.

Meanwhile with Esteban Gutierrez having been confirmed for the rest of the season at Dale Coyne Racing, it’s anticipated he will have his first oval test next week at Iowa Speedway, to have his first running on an oval ahead of the July 9 Iowa Corn 300.

Here’s a couple other IndyCar notes…

DIXON’S SURPRISE TO A YOUNG FAN

Advance Auto Parts IndyCar Radio Network reporter Jake Query, who will also be hosting this weekend’s Indy Lights coverage from Road America on NBCSN, found a fan letter from a young girl named Lucy addressed to INDYCAR after Scott Dixon’s wild ride at the Indianapolis 500. Lucy proceeded to thank INDYCAR for its safety efforts in keeping Dixon intact.

Well, between the efforts of Query and the IndyCar PR staff, a meeting between the two was arranged. You can see the video of that, below.

PACKERS QB TAKES A RIDE WITH MARIO

Not that Packers QB though.

Green Bay Packers backup quarterback Brett Hundley had a ride today with Mario Andretti in Honda’s Fastest Seat in Sports, the two-seat IndyCar. He posted on it below.

Elsewhere, here is a bit more from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and Pirelli World Challenge ranks.

MRTI

  • First practice is in the books for USF2000 and rather than Oliver Askew being on top for Cape Motorsports, it was actually the Pabst Racing team that went 1-2-3 with Dutchman Rinus VeeKay ahead of Guyana driver Calvin Ming and Brazilian Lucas Kohl. Not bad for Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team. Askew was fourth, and David Malukas was an impressive fifth. Full results are here.
  • In first qualifying for Pro Mazda, Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni took the pole with a best time of 2:06.5835, ahead of Cape Motorsports’ Anthony Martin at 2:07.9055. Team Pelfrey’s trio of Carlos Cunha, TJ Fischer and Nikita Lastochkin completed the top five. Full results are here.
  • Overall, the USF2000 field grows by one from the projected 18 up to 19 with F4 driver Jacob Loomis moving up to Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 Tatuus USF-17 Mazda, filling in for Ayla Agren. Agren’s full-season teammates Robert Megennis and Kaylen Frederick paid tribute to Agren, who is still here this weekend, with tribute cool shirts.
  • Meanwhile the Pro Mazda field dips by two. Neither Phillippe Denes, who was seventh in points heading into the weekend, nor Kevin Davis is here. It leaves the field at 15 cars, including series debutantes Kris Wright (who has tested with JDC Motorsports), Dave Zavelson and Kevin Bury. Zavelson’s car number switches from 4, listed initially, to 2.
  • Max Hanratty, who returns, has a new livery on his No. 6 ArmsUp Motorsports entry.
  • Anthony Martin is confident any issues with his Cape Motorsports Pro Mazda car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course have been sorted. The Australian proved that point by leading the opening practice session with a best time of 2:13.1661 in mixed conditions. Full times from that are linked here.
  • The reduced USF2000 field sees a couple drivers here who may be back later this year but others who may be done for the year. Agren, out at Team Pelfrey this weekend, is here and working towards a return later this season. Her past teammate at Pelfrey, Luke Gabin, is also here and is unsure whether he’ll be back in action for Exclusive Autosport.
  • Meanwhile Darren Keane, who makes his debut with Newman Wachs Racing in USF2000 this weekend, is expected to return to the team for remaining races. He’ll miss Iowa Speedway but plans to return at Mid-Ohio. Ozz Negri coaches Keane in USF2000; Tom Dyer, another Acura NSX GT3 driver, coaches the Pelfrey USF2000 drivers.

PWC

  • The PWC grid drops by a couple this week with a couple changes in the GT and GTA ranks. Bentley Team Absolute is down to one car with Yufeng Luo not here in his No. 78 Bentley Continental GT3, leaving only Adderly Fong. Fong, however, will miss the Mid-Ohio weekend owing to a schedule clash with the China GT Championship. Pablo Perez Companc, who was also due to race in GTA in the No. 69 Mercedes-AMG GT3, is another no-show this weekend.
  • K-PAX Racing has eclipsed the 100-podium plateau in recent rounds. The team’s three-car lineup resumes this weekend with Alvaro Parente, Bryan Sellers and Mike Hedlund, Parente and Hedlund having just returned from the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
  • Austin Versteeg makes his debut in the GTS class No. 13 ANSA Motorsports KTM X-BOW GT4, a car that’s won this season in the hands of Nico Jamin. Jamin is here this weekend in his Andretti Autosport Indy Lights car.
  • PWC had several test and practice sessions during the day.

Wickens set to substitute for Aleshin until further notice at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Robert Wickens will temporarily fill in for Mikhail Aleshin at this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America.

The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team released a statement on Thursday afternoon confirming Aleshin’s absence for at least Friday owing to immigration issues, with that potentially set to stretch into the remainder of the weekend if the situation is not resolved.

The statement is below.

Hinchcliffe has also posted a tweet going into the weekend. The two participated in a ride-swap earlier this year where Wickens made his IndyCar test debut at Sebring (recap here) and Hinchcliffe ran in Wickens’ DTM car in Italy after the St. Petersburg opener (recap here).

The two drivers were teammates in A1 Grand Prix about a decade ago; Wickens has race experience at Road America as he finished seventh in a Formula Atlantic race in 2007. Hinchcliffe was 14th in the same race.

Beyond his DTM commitments, Wickens raced in this year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona with Starworks Motorsport, and ran 100 laps during the week in a PC class Oreca FLM09 he shared with a handful of others. Conor Daly and Sean Rayhall were among the notables in the other car.