Rosberg tops red-flagged final practice

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Nico Rosberg has continued his clean-sweep of the sessions in Monaco by finishing quickest in final practice on Saturday.

The German driver’s good form from Thursday was evident once again, putting in a quickest time of 1:14.378 to edge out Romain Grosjean and Sebastian Vettel at the top of the time sheets. The session was interrupted by two red flags, the first of which came out with around 20 minutes left in the session after Felipe Massa went off at Ste Devote. The accident will certainly give Ferrari a busy lunchtime in the two hour break before qualifying if they are to get Massa out for the session, but thankfully he walked away unharmed.

Soon after the session restarted, Adrian Sutil suffered his second crash of the weekend at Massenet which ended his session early. However, the car was recovered under yellow flags, but the session was brought to an early end after Grosjean binned his Lotus at Ste Devote after avoiding Lewis Hamilton, who was coming out of the pits. This came after the Frenchman had damaged his first set of tires earlier in the session after scraping the barrier, and Lotus will also face a big repair job if they are to run in qualifying.

Grosjean had led at one point, with most drivers leaving it late to run on the super-soft tire, but it was Rosberg who ultimately finished fastest. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber impressed for Red Bull to finish 3rd and 7th, marking an improvement from Thursday, whilst Fernando Alonso finished a good 4th for Ferrari ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

Kimi Raikkonen could not match his teammate’s pace in P6, but Paul di Resta, Pastor Maldonado and Nico Hulkenberg will all be delighted to have finished in the top ten. At the front though, it was all about Rosberg, who finished a full six-tenths clear of Grosjean. The German driver has been unstoppable so far this weekend in Monaco, and it’s hard to look past a Mercedes pole position in qualifying.

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
Brett Farmer/LAT Images/IMSA
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.