Rosberg leads ominous Mercedes 1-2 in final practice

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Nico Rosberg has finished the final practice session ahead of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets, laying down a devastating pace that suggests Mercedes will go unchallenged for pole position later today.

Rosberg’s fastest time of 1:39.008 was two-tenths of a second quicker than teammate Lewis Hamilton’s best effort, but the Briton comfortably claimed second place as third-placed Kimi Raikkonen finished over 1.1 seconds off of the P1 time.

The final hour-long practice session on Saturday afternoon in Malaysia saw teams split their running between long stints on the hard tire and qualifying simulations. In both trims, Mercedes was dominant, so much so that Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso could not even better Hamilton’s hard tire time on the quicker option compound. However, Ferrari finished as the closest team to Mercedes with Kimi Raikkonen finishing strongly once again in third place.

Red Bull bounced back from another fuel sensor failure on Daniel Ricciardo’s car on Friday to finish strongly as Sebastian Vettel continues to find his feet with the new car. The German driver finished in fourth place, just ahead of compatriot Nico Hulkenberg who impressed for Force India in fifth place.

McLaren endured a very difficult final session in Malaysia as both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen were forced to park up and let the team work on their cars. This loss of running could hurt the team during qualifying, but a possible hardware problem on one or both of the cars could give the team a race against time to get them ready for the session on Saturday.

Also struggled was Lotus once again, with Romain Grosjean complaining that “the rear of the car is a disaster” over the radio.

With Mercedes looking so dominant once again in final practice, it is difficult to see any team stopping Hamilton and Rosberg from locking out the front row. Instead, it could come down to which of the Silver Arrows has that extra edge and can beat his teammate to claim pole at Sepang.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”