Vettel from Alonso in final practice for Italian GP

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Sebastian Vettel has picked up where he left off in Italy by finishing quickest in the final practice session ahead of qualifying later today at Monza.

The German driver posted a best time of 1:24.360 to finish almost three-tenths ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso and teammate Mark Webber, both of whom could not ably challenge the defending world champion on Saturday morning.

Charles Pic and Giedo van der Garde were the first drivers to post times in FP3, giving Caterham a brief period at the top of the timesheets before Sergio Perez and Jean-Eric Vergne both put in impressive laps to lead early on. All of the drivers opted to take on the hard tire in order to estimate their pace for Q1 and the race tomorrow, with this session traditionally seeing the softer compound used in the final few minutes of FP3. Following on from yesterday, Sebastian Vettel continued to lay down a searing pace, moving five-tenths clear of the field early on before his teammate, Mark Webber, halved the deficit to move into P2.

The only driver that really appeared capable of challenging Vettel on the harder compound was Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. The team, celebrating their home race this weekend, elected to send Alonso around the circuit with Felipe Massa just ahead, giving the Spanish driver the advantage of his slipstream, reducing drag. Although this strategy has been criticized in the past, Alonso proved that it was working by moving up into second place, albeit four-tenths down on Vettel out in front. His best chance to topple the German driver was hampered by yellow flags, forcing him to slow down after Paul di Resta went off at Parabolica. The Force India made heavy contact with the wall, ending his session with around half an hour remaining. Nico Rosberg was similarly unfortunate, completing just five laps in the sixty-minute session.

With just under ten minutes remaining, the drivers all fitted a set of the medium tires in order to put in a low fuel qualifying simulation run. Daniel Ricciardo was the first to post a competitive time on the option compound, going third-fastest behind compatriot Mark Webber before Alonso bumped him down to P4. Vettel resumed normal service, going quickest by two-tenths from Alonso whilst Jenson Button continued his good form to move well inside the top ten. Lewis Hamilton – pursuing a fifth consecutive pole position – failed to bother the front-runners with his first time on the medium tire, going eighth. He did however improve with his second flying lap like much of the field, moving up to P4 ahead of Perez and Ricciardo.

When the checkered flag fell, it was Vettel who once again finished clear at the top of the timesheets, making himself favorite to score his first pole position since Canada later today.

Supercross: Haiden Deegan debuts in 250s at Houston, Justin Cooper graduates to 450 class for Star Yamaha

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Rising star Haiden Deegan will make his Monster Energy Supercross debut in Houston, Texas with Yamaha Star Racing while the 2021 250 West champion Justin Cooper graduates to 450s.

Deegan, the son of motocross and off-road legend Brian Deegan and brother of NASCAR Truck Series driver Hailie Deegan, made two starts in the Pro Motocross outdoors season last year. He finished 31st overall at the Ironman Nationals in Crawfordsville, Indiana and was 13th at Fox Raceway in the season-ender at Fox Raceway in Pala, California, but the overall results did not necessarily reflect how well he ran. In both events, he challenged for top-10s during portions of the week and actually finished 10th in one of the Pala motos.

Last week, Haiden finished fifth in the Supercross 250 Futures in Anaheim 2.

“We’re really excited to get the season on the East Coast started,” said Monster Energy Team Manager Jensen Hendler in a press release. “It’s also exciting to have Haiden move up to join our pro program this season and to have Justin make his debut on the 450. The guys have been working hard and are looking forward to seeing what they can do this weekend in Houston.”

After scoring a 250SX Futures podium, Talon Hawkins gets 250 East ride.

Deegan will join Nate Thrasher and Jordon Smith in the 250 East division this week.

Cooper moves into the 450 class this weekend. According to Supercross rules, after winning the 2021 championship, he had one season to defend his title and then would be required to move up a class. Cooper missed all of last year to injury.

Cooper was healthy when the outdoor season started and he earned five podiums and nine top-fives in 12 rounds. Three of these races ended in runners-up finishes, at Hangtown, in Rancho Cordova, California, Washougal, Washington and Unadilla, New York.

Cooper joins Eli Tomac and Dylan Ferrandis in the 450 class and will race select events.

Justin Cooper learned to temper aggression with speed

Cooper’s Houston attempt will be the first of an undisclosed number of races he will compete in during the 2023 season.

“It’s been about two years since I’ve lined up for a supercross, and now it’s in a new class with the best guys, so I’m excited to just get out there,” Cooper said. “I’m looking to get back under the lights and learn what I can. Overall, I’m just really excited to be in the position to be out there, so I’m going to make the most of it and enjoy it!”

Deegan and Cooper will be part of a seven-rider Supercross lineup for Yamaha Star Racing. Nick Romano will debut in the 250 East division later this year.