Rosberg fastest in final practice at Suzuka as Hamilton crashes

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Nico Rosberg has closed out the final practice session for the Japanese Grand Prix as the fastest driver as teammate and title rival Lewis Hamilton crashed out late on, leaving his mechanics with plenty of work to do ahead of qualifying later today.

Just one hour after Red Bull announced that Sebastian Vettel would be leaving the team at the end of the season, the drivers headed out on track with more than just FP3 on their mind given the far-reaching implications of his decision.

Rosberg is one of the few drivers not to be affected by his departure, though, and he duly put in a fine display in FP3 to finish as the fastest driver with a lap of 1:33.228, finishing just under one second clear of Lewis Hamilton.

The Briton saw his session come to an early end when he went straight on at the first corner, crashing into the wall. Although it was not a severe crash, it is likely to leave the Mercedes team a race against time to get his car ready for qualifying (live on NBCSN from 1am ET).

Fernando Alonso – the man Vettel is set to replace at Ferrari – finished third in the final session, finishing just two-tenths shy of Hamilton’s time and ahead of constructors’ championship rivals Williams, whose drivers – Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas – finished fourth and fifth.

Vettel became the centre of attention both on and off track when his engine failed, forcing him to park his car up early on. He finished down in 15th place.

Following Hamilton’s crash, the pressure will be on for Mercedes to get his car fixed ahead of qualifying, which is set to be another straight fight between the Briton and Rosberg for pole position.

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

Travis Pastrana leads flag-to-flag in Nitro Rallycross as the series returns to America

Pastrana Nitro Rallycross
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Travis Pastrana waited until the final trip around ERX Motor Park to take his Joker Lap – a longer way around the course that all drivers must do at least once in a race – and came out cleanly to win his first Nitro Rallycross race of 2022. With this win, Pastrana is the third driver to visit Victory Lane in the first three rounds of the 2022-23 season.

“This is the closest to a motocross track,” Pastrana told Katie Osborne on Peacock. “Thank you so much for a beautiful facility. It’s been a rough start to the season and I’m so thankful to be back out here. We had a good run in the side-by-side and now for this. This is much needed.”

Another thing needed was the sense of improvement. And Pastrana earned that affirmation each time he completed a lap around the course.

“I get my lap times read out and they said ‘fastest time of the week,’ ‘fastest time of the week’ (each time around) ” Pastrana said. “This is really special. We’re a long way behind in the championship, but welcome to America.”

In a pre-race press conference, Pastrana said that as Nitro Rallycross heads back to America, it was time for an American to win and he made good on his promise. Pastrana took the early lead over Robin Larsson and let the back of his Subaru hang out, taking risks he might not otherwise take if not for his need to win.

How to Watch Nitro Rallycross

Larsson’s second-place finish completed a perfect sweep of the podium in three rounds. In fact, he has not yet finished worse than second after winning the opening round at Lydden Hill in the United Kingdom and finishing second at Strangnas in Sweeden.

Fraser McConnel rounded out the podium for his best result of the season. He finished fourth in each of the first two rounds.

Last year, Pastrana finished second in this race to Scott Speed before narrowly edging his teammate for the championship.

Andreas Bakkerud crashed in prelims, but rebounded to finish just off the block in fourth. Bakkerud won the second round ahead of his teammate Larsson.

Oliver Bennett completed the top five.

Minneapolis is the first of three rounds scheduled in the United States. Next on the schedule is Glen Helen, Calif. on Octo 30 and then Phoenix at Wild Horse Pass on November 12th. Nitro Rallycross will then head to Saudi Arabia in December to continue their 2022-23 season.