Rosberg dominant in final practice for Australian GP

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Nico Rosberg has dominated the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix, which starts later tonight at 2am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

The German driver posted a fastest time of 1:29.375, comfortably finishing over 1.3 seconds quicker than second-placed Jenson Button whilst Fernando Alonso rounded out the top three. Lewis Hamilton finished fourth, but the Briton failed to post a fast lap time on the option tire, suggesting that Mercedes is still the team to beat heading into the rest of the race weekend.

When the final practice session got underway, the big question was whether or not the teams would send their cars out and risk a failure ahead of qualifying. Both Marussia and Lotus broke their curfews to work on the car overnight, whilst Caterham’s Marcus Ericsson needed to complete some running or he may not have been permitted to start the race on Sunday.

With ten minutes of the session gone, Esteban Gutierrez reported a problem on his Sauber with his gearbox, forcing him to crawl back to the pits at low speed. Kevin Magnussen was the first driver to set a truly representative time of 1:33.130, but the Danish rookie did take a trip through the gravel at turn nine as he pushed his McLaren to the limit. He was soon toppled by fellow youngster Daniil Kvyat by around half a second. Marcus Ericsson, having failed to post a timed lap all weekend, finally got out on track for Caterham, although he did stay at the bottom of the timesheets.

At the front, normal service from Friday was resumed as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton went first and second for Mercedes with Felipe Massa a few tenths off in fourth place. However, Hamilton soon established his inter-team dominance to move six-tenths clear of Rosberg. At the halfway point in the session, seven of the top eight times had been set by Mercedes-powered cars, whilst Ferrari had not emerged from the pits, nor had defending world champion Sebastian Vettel.

When the German driver did come out on track, he immediately found some pace and moved up into fourth place with teammate Daniel Ricciardo slotting into P6. Kimi Raikkonen and Fernando Alonso also chose to bide their time and finally come out at the halfway point in the session, and both drivers moved up into the top ten with their lap-times.

With twenty minutes to go, Nico Hulkenberg made a huge improvement on his previous best to move within one-tenth of Hamilton at the top of the table, having switched to the soft option tire. Compatriot Nico Rosberg followed his example, and moved 1.5 seconds clear of teammate Lewis Hamilton. Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso moved up into the top three on the soft tire, but couldn’t come close to Rosberg’s lap.

Once again, the session ended with a Lotus parked up at the side of the road as Pastor Maldonado’s car came to a halt at the penultimate corner, suggesting that the team’s problems are dire. Having hit problems earlier on, Sauber changed the gearbox in Gutierrez’s Sauber, resulting in a five place gird penalty, whilst Valtteri Bottas and Romain Grosjean failed to emerge from the pits.

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix begins live at 2am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

Supercross reveals 2023 Daytona track designed by Ricky Carmichael for 16th time

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For the 16th consecutive year, Ricky Carmichael has designed a signature course for the Daytona Supercross race, which will be March 4, 2023.

Eli Tomac took advantage of a last lap mistake by Cooper Webb last year to win a record setting sixth Daytona race – and with that win, he broke out of a tie Carmichael.

Construction on the course will begin two days after the completion of the 65th running of NASCAR’s Daytona 500 when haulers start to unload 7,200 tons of dirt onto the grassy infield in order to create a course 3,300 feet long.

“Ricky has designed yet another incredible course for this year’s Daytona Supercross,” said Daytona International Speedway President Frank Kelleher in a press release. “We’re thrilled to unveil it to the fans, and we can’t wait for them to come out to the track and see it in person.”

MORE: Designs for SuperMotocross finals at zMax Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway

Carmichael’s Daytona course will take center stage for Round 8 of the 17-race Supercross season and the 31-race SuperMotocross season.

The Supercross race coincides with Daytona’s Bike Week, which runs from March 3-12 and includes races from the American Flat Track series and the legendary Daytona 200 speedway race that is contested on the infield road course.

Last year’s course was reported to have 57 obstacles including the return of an over-under bridge. For 2023 the number of obstacles listed in 42, but that will not keep this from being one of the toughest tracks on which the Monster Energy Supercross series will race.

Many of the same elements from last year will be present including sharp turns, vaulted jumps, sand sections and a finish line that aligns with the oval tracks’ start/finish line.

“This year’s Daytona Supercross design is one of the best,” Carmichael said. “It races great for the riders – it’s safe yet challenging and it’s very similar to last year with the split lanes. Daytona is the toughest, gnarliest race on the Supercross circuit, but it’s the most special to win.

“This track is going to produce great racing and I think the riders are going to put on a fantastic display for all our fans.”

While Tomac has dominated this race during his career, Daytona has also been the site of some other dramatic victories. In 2021 Aaron Plessinger scored his first career Supercross podium in 35 starts with a win there and reversed a three-year streak of bad luck on the track.

The Daytona Supercross race is the first of two the series will contest on speedway infield courses. A little more than one month later, Atlanta Motor Speedway will enter their third season as a supercross venue. These two courses will serve as an early test for the SuperMotocross three-race finale that begins September 9, 2023 at zMax Dragway in Charlotte, North Carolina. The three playoff races will each be held on courses that contain elements of Supercross and Motocross, much like Daytona and Atlanta.