Rosberg quickest in first practice for Russian GP in Sochi


Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg has finished fastest in the first free practice session for this weekend’s Russian Grand Prix in Sochi.

As the F1 paddock continues to send its prayers and support to Marussia’s Jules Bianchi following his accident at last weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix, the on-track action got back underway this morning in Russia as the drivers took to the Sochi Autodrom circuit for the first time.

In a mark of respect to Bianchi, Marussia has confirmed that it will run with just one car in Sochi this weekend, with Max Chilton being the team’s only representative in FP1.

The new circuit posed a challenge to a number of drivers as they enjoyed their first real running in Sochi, with Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso both having off-track moments in the first session.

Nico Rosberg complained that he did not feel totally comfortable with the setup on his Mercedes car during the session, but rallied to finish fastest with a lap of 1:42.311, less than one-tenth of a second faster than teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton.

Despite his spin, Button managed to produce a good result in third place, with Alonso in fourth ahead of McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen.

On home soil, Daniil Kvyat made an impressive start to the weekend, finishing seventh for Toro Rosso behind Sergio Perez. The Russian youngster was followed by Kimi Raikkonen and Toro Rosso teammate Jean-Eric Vergne.

Valtteri Bottas rounded out the top ten for Williams, but his session came to an early end when his tire blanket malfunctioned and burned a hole through his tire.

Down the order, Sergey Sirotkin’s first practice session for Sauber saw him finish 18th, some 1.5 seconds slower than teammate Adrian Sutil, while Roberto Merhi finished down in 19th place for Caterham.

This weekend’s race marks the first ever Russian Grand Prix to be part of the F1 world championship, and the early signs coming out of Sochi are encouraging. The challenge of working with a new circuit is one that all of the drivers will be hoping to live up to, but once again it appears that Rosberg and Hamilton will be the men fighting for the race win on Sunday.

You can join us for FP2 live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 6am ET today.

NTT re-signs as IndyCar title sponsor in multiyear deal starting with the 2024 season

James Black/Penske Entertainment

The IndyCar Series has re-signed NTT as its title sponsor in a multiyear agreement starting in 2024.

NTT, a global information technology and communications company based in Japan, became the series’ title sponsor before the 2019 season after starting as a sponsor of the No. 10 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing.

NTT Data (a subsidiary of parent company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp.) will remain the official technology partner of IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indy 500 and the NASCAR Brickyard weekend.

With the extension, an IndyCar spokesman said NTT would become the second-longest title sponsor in series history. The longest title sponsor was PPG from 1980-97 (under the CART sanction of the Champ Car Series).

NTT replaced Verizon, which was IndyCar’s title sponsor from 2014-18 after IZOD from 2010-13.

“NTT is an excellent partner across our enterprise with strong expertise and a deep commitment to our sport,” Penske Corp. chairman and IndyCar owner Roger Penske said in a release. “From Smart Venue technology at the Racing Capital of the World to the reimagined Series mobile application, NTT is transforming the fan experience in new and innovative ways. We look forward to a bright future together.”

NTT has used artificial intelligence-enabled optical detection technology at IMS to provide information to the track’s operations and security teams, helping improve fan traffic flow and safety, the track said.

“IndyCar is a great partner for NTT Data because of our shared commitment to driving innovation, increasing sustainability and delivering amazing experiences,” NTT Data CEO Kaz Nishihata said in a release. “We also appreciate how IndyCar is so diverse, with drivers from 15 different countries, and races that range from short ovals and superspeedways to road and street courses. It’s both an incredible sport and a wonderful example for our world.”

NTT also has been instrumental in helping redesign the IndyCar app and providing more race and driver data for use in NBC Sports’ broadcasts by utilizing 140 data points from every car in the field.

“NTT is fully invested in the development and growth of our sport and has already established a terrific track record in our industry with problem-solving capabilities and access to top talent and tools,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said.

Said NTT Data Services CEO Bob Pryor: “We’re thrilled to continue our collaborations that enhance and expand the fan experience for motorsports and serve as proof points for data analytics, AI, and other innovative digital technologies. For more than a century, this racing series has pioneered innovations making driving safer for everyone, and by continuing this relationship, we will accelerate the pace of innovations and new technologies, particularly related to sustainability that ultimately can benefit organizations, communities and individuals around the world.”

Starting as a Japanese telephone company, NTT grew into a $100 billion-plus tech services giant with U.S. operations based in Plano, Texas.