Rosberg first to tame the Red Bull Ring in Austria practice

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Nico Rosberg has finished fastest in the opening practice session for this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:11.295 to finish 0.140s ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, as the Silver Arrows once again completed a one-two at the top of the timesheets.

FP1 acted as the first opportunity for many of the drivers to get to grips with the Red Bull Ring, given that just four have raced here in F1 before and only a further five have in junior categories.

Most of the teams opted to prioritize track time for their drivers to give them as much time as possible to learn the circuit, and many ran wide and made mistakes.

For this session, Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari and Rosberg’s Mercedes were both fitted with skid blocks in order to produce sparks – the latest idea intended to improve the show. The German’s Silver Arrow certainly gave off some sparks heading down the main straight, but otherwise it was not overly noticeable.

In the first thirty minutes, all of the drivers headed out to post a time using their ‘free’ set of Pirelli tires. Lewis Hamilton set the early pace with a lap of 1:12.255, with Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Hulkenberg lying just a tenth further back.

Marcus Ericsson’s session came to an early end, though, after his car came to a halt on the exit of the first corner. Adrian Sutil was also sidelined due to a broken hose which affected the turbo on his car.

Rosberg ascended to the top of the timesheets at the halfway point in the session with his fastest lap. Jenson Button, Kevin Magnussen, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso all looked to challenge him, moving up into the top three, but the task eventually fell to Lewis Hamilton. He moved to within two-tenths of his teammate with twenty minutes to go.

Sebastian Vettel was very lucky not to end his session in the wall, having spun at the final corner. His Red Bull performed a 720º spin and narrowly avoided the barrier, meaning that he was able to continue.

Spots of rain began to fall in the final stages of the session, preventing the drivers from improving their times late on. As a result, Rosberg closed out first practice on top ahead of his teammate, with Alonso, Massa and Button completing the top five. For Red Bull, all hopes of continuing its form from Canada appeared to be dashed with Daniel Ricciardo finishing thirteenth, and Vettel finishing fifteenth.

Rosberg will be hoping to continue this form in FP2, which is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET today. Click here for more information on NBC’s broadcasting of the Austrian Grand Prix.

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

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NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?