Rosberg tops FP1 at Suzuka as Verstappen makes F1 debut

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Nico Rosberg has finished fastest in the first free practice session for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix at Suzuka, edging out teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton by one-tenth of a second at the top of the timesheets.

The German driver posted a fastest lap time of 1:35.461 to finish 0.151s clear of Hamilton on Friday morning at Suzuka, but the majority of the paddock’s attention lay with 17-year-old Max Verstappen as the Dutch driver made his F1 debut.

In a shock announcement, Verstappen was confirmed as a Toro Rosso driver for the 2015 season back in August, sparking a debate in the paddock about his age and inexperience, and quite whether he was a suitable option.

However, he went a long way to proving his critics wrong by finishing his first ever grand prix weekend session in 12th place ahead of the Force India, Lotus and Sauber drivers, and just four-tenths behind regular Toro Rosso driver Daniil Kvyat.

During the session, Verstappen also broke the record for being the youngest driver to take part in a grand prix weekend, smashing Sebastian Vettel’s previous milestone by over two years.

However, his running took a turn for the worse with just a few minutes remaining when plumes of smoke emerged from the rear of the Toro Rosso car, meaning that the team is facing a possible engine replacement on Jean-Eric Vergne’s car which could hinder his running in FP2. Nevertheless, it was an impressive public debut for the Dutch youngster on Friday.

At the front, Fernando Alonso put the rampant speculation about his future behind him to finish third behind the Mercedes drivers, with Valtteri Bottas finishing fourth for Williams, some half a second down on the Ferrari driver. Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Caterham driver Roberto Merhi enjoyed his second run-out in a practice session, and despite an early spin, he ran well to beat both of the Marussia drivers and finish in 20th position.

As we have become accustom to in 2014, the advantage appears to lie with Mercedes once again, setting the stage for a great fight at the front between Hamilton and Rosberg across the course of the weekend at Suzuka.

You can watch FP2 for the Japanese Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 1am ET on Friday morning.

Andretti United team names drivers for inaugural Extreme E season

Extreme E drivers Andretti
Extreme E
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The Extreme E team formed by Andretti Autosport and United Autosports named Catie Munnings and Timmy Hansen as its drivers Monday for the series’ inaugural 2021 season.

Munnings is a successful veteran of rally series. Hansen is a past winner and champion in the World Rallycross Championship.

They both will race in the environmentally conscious electric SUV series that will hold events in five areas around the world that are threatened by climate change. Chip Ganassi Racing and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton also are fielding cars in Extreme E, which will feature male and female co-drivers on every team.

Catie Munnings

“I’m so excited to join Andretti United Extreme E,” Munnings said in a release. ““I was really intrigued when I first heard about Extreme E, I just knew I had to be involved. The male / female racing partnership is a fantastic and exciting new concept. The season has incredible locations and the racing will be very exciting. It will be a new challenge for the teams and drivers, and I’m so thrilled to be working with such a strong team.

“The championship is a really innovative concept, it’s combining motorsport and science and will produce an important legacy in each race location. Bringing the platform that motorsport has in line with the awareness that the planet needs right now is awesome and a really important message.”

Timmy Hansen

Said Hansen: “Going into the Extreme E will be a new chapter in my career, one that I am extremely excited about. It is something brand new, not only for me, but the whole of motorsport. The format is something

we’ve never seen before. I’m also delighted to be able to carry the message of something bigger – talking about the environment and doing something good for the world – that’s something that really drives me. It’s going to be a big adventure in life to see these locations and I’m going to do my best in carrying this responsibility and hopefully making people aware of the challenges we have in the world, together with our passion for racing.”