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Ricciardo quickest in tightly-contested second Mexico F1 practice

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Daniel Ricciardo led Red Bull to the top of the timesheets in second practice for the Mexican Grand Prix on Friday afternoon as all six drivers from the three leading Formula 1 teams were covered by less than half a second.

In an incident-packed session that saw title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton both hit trouble, it was Ricciardo who rose to the head of the field as Red Bull flexed its muscle at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Taking advantage of the high-downforce setup requirements due to the high altitude levels in Mexico City, Ricciardo was able to turn in a fastest time of 1:17.801 to finish fastest, one-tenth of a second clear of Hamilton in the lead Mercedes.

Hamilton’s session got off to a rough start when he suffered a huge spin exiting Turn 11, and while he avoided any damage, the Briton lost a chunk of track time while his Mercedes team checked his car over.

Ferrari rival Vettel also suffered a setback when the fire extinguisher in his car leaked, leaving a white stain on the back of his race suit and forcing the team into finding a replacement, also leaving him on the back foot.

Vettel was able to get out and complete a qualifying simulation on the ultra-soft tire, lapping two-tenths slower than Ricciardo to finish fourth behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen followed in P5, with Valtteri Bottas rounding out the top six in the second Mercedes, less than half a second off his teammate.

Fernando Alonso led McLaren’s charge by taking seventh, finishing as the lead midfielder, while Force India’s Sergio Perez took eighth, two places ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon as Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg split the pair in P9.

An early red flag period was sparked when Romain Grosjean suffered a sizeable left-rear tire blowout after an issue, leaving debris from his Haas car strewn across the track and ending the Frenchman’s session in the process.

Stoffel Vandoorne also faced a setback in his McLaren early on, with a power issue forcing his engineers to wheel him back to the garage from the pit lane.

Pierre Gasly was, like Grosjean, sidelined by a problem, completing just 10 laps, plus a number of drivers suffered spins due to the low grip nature of the circuit, leaving plenty of questions to be answered in final practice on Saturday morning.

FP3 is live from Mexico on the NBC Sports app from 11am ET on Saturday.

IndyCar star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”