Rosberg leads Hamilton in first Belgian GP practice

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Nico Rosberg has made the best possible start to the second half of the F1 season by finishing fastest in the first practice session for this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix.

The German driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:51.577 to finish less than one-tenth of a second clear of Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton, with the early signs suggesting that little has changed over the summer break to end the team’s dominant streak.

The session took place in cool and dry conditions at Spa on Friday morning, as the drivers got their first opportunity to try out the 2014-spec cars at one of the sport’s most famous circuits.

Although they were still able to take Eau Rouge flat, a number of the drivers did come unstuck at other sections of the track. Marcus Ericsson spun his Caterham at turn one, whilst Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel also hit trouble on their cars, with the latter being forced to miss the final part of the session.

F1 rookie Andre Lotterer put in a solid display in his first outing in an F1 car since 2002, finishing one-tenth of a second ahead of full-time driver Ericsson. Alexander Rossi finished ahead of both Caterhams in 20th position, but will now hand the reins back over to Max Chilton for second practice later today.

Alonso finished as the best of the rest behind the Mercedes cars, some two-tenths down on Rosberg’s time for P1. Jenson Button was fourth, a further six-tenths back, ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Sergio Perez. Kevin Magnussen and Nico Hulkenberg came home in seventh and eighth place respectively, whilst Daniel Ricciardo and Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten.

Join us for FP2 live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET today. This will be followed by F1 Extra at 9.30am and then the premiere of Off The Grid: Budapest at 10am.

SMP Racing unveils BR1 LMP1 car in Bahrain ahead of WEC entry

SMP Racing
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SMP Racing has publicly unveiled its new BR1 LMP1 car that will enter the FIA World Endurance Championship from 2018.

SMP Racing opted to pull out of racing full-time in the WEC for 2017 in order to focus on its preparations for an LMP1 entry the following year, with the decision being taken long in advance of Porsche’s exit announcement.

Officials from the Russian-backed SMP Racing, as well as drivers including recent IndyCar racer Mikhail Aleshin (sporting a broken arm in a sling), Vitaly Petrov and Sergey Sirotkin were all on hand to unveil the car on Friday in the Bahrain International Circuit paddock ahead of this weekend’s WEC finale.

The BR Engineering BR1 features a Dallara chassis and an AER engine, and has completed over 2,000 km in private testing, with further running set to be completed in the coming weeks.

SMP Racing plans to field two cars in the WEC’s LMP1 class next year, and is keen to get as many Russian drivers as possible in the seats from its wide pool of talent.

Even with Porsche’s departure from LMP1, the class is set to feature a bigger field thanks to the increased number of privateers moving up, with Toyota set to remain the sole manufacturer in the class.