Hamilton inches away from Rosberg to top FP2 at COTA

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Lewis Hamilton has continued his good form during practice for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix by finishing fastest once again in FP2 on Friday afternoon in Austin.

The British driver edged out teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg by just 0.003 seconds at the top of the timesheets to double up after finishing quickest in FP1 in the morning session.

The gap at the top equates to just 6.7 inches across the course of a lap at the Circuit of The Americas, proving just how tight the margins are between both of our championship protagonists.

However, Hamilton’s session ultimately came to an early end due to a fuel leak, with Rosberg also complaining of a gearbox issue.

FP2 saw the drivers divide their time between shorter low-fuel runs and race simulations, and it was Rosberg who enjoyed the upper hand in the first runs on the prime tire.

However, Hamilton soon redressed the balance at the top of the timesheets by pulling out a quickest lap of 1:39.085 to finish marginally ahead of Rosberg come the checkered flag as both opted to focus on heavy fuel runs in the second half of the session.

Both Mercedes drivers reported problems with their gearboxes, but this should not impact the rest of their race weekend as the units can be replaced for tomorrow’s running at COTA without earning a sanction from the stewards. Hamilton was given the call to pit with 20 minutes remaining due to an issue on the car, and did not head back out on track.

Fernando Alonso continued to plug away in the troublesome Ferrari F14 T, finishing third ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa in the final standings.

After his teammate was forced to sit out most of the first session on Friday, Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel came unstuck during FP2, finishing at the bottom of the timesheets after completing just 18 laps due to a gearbox issue. This setback came just hours after the FIA confirmed he will be forced to start the race in Austin from the pit lane due to an engine penalty.

Yet again, it was Hamilton who enjoyed the bragging rights in Austin on Friday, but with Rosberg for very close company, the Briton cannot rest on his laurels if he is to claim a fifth straight win this weekend and extend his world championship lead.

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Eli Tomac’s near-perfect season ended perfectly

ProMotocross.com
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From the start, Eli Tomac wanted to go into the season-ending race at Ironman Raceway with the 2020 red plate already in his possession. That final race has been know to devolve into muddy conditions and it is best not to leave things to chance.

For a rider with an almost perfect record of overall podium finishes, one would not have thought there would be much drama at the end of Round 11 at Budds Creek, but it took until the last lap of the final moto for Tomac to achieve his goal.

One reason was that Tomac’s near-perfect season was not so perfect. From the very beginning at Hangtown, Tomac struggled with poor starts to his events. Getting a bad jump out of the gate and finishing fourth in Moto 1 that weekend was not the auspicious beginning he wanted in search of his third consecutive 450 outdoor championship.

The hallmark of Tomac’s season has been overcoming bad starts. He rode through the field at Hangtown and nearly stood on the podium. Then he won Moto 2 and finished second overall. It was his first of nine consecutive overall podiums. Tomac came back the following week for a perfect sweep at Pala.

In Round 3, Tomac once again got off to a bad start. He finished fifth in Moto 1 at Thunder Valley – and then won Moto 2 in a duplication of his opening round.

In Round 5, Tomac had his worst performance until that time. He finished seventh in Moto 1. Nearly halfway through the season, a pattern was firmly established with his Moto 2 win.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

One should recall that the hallmark of Tomac’s season was strong finishes. Four the next four weeks Tomac failed to podium only one time in a moto. On that occasion, he would stumble in Moto 2 at Spring Creek in Round 8 before scoring his second perfect race at Washougal.

And that is where it got interesting. Tomac left Washougal with a 50-point advantage over Marvin Musquin. It was just the scenario Tomac had seesawed his way through the season to achieve. But it was too good to be true.

In most of his previous bad performances, there was an extenuating circumstance for Tomac’s bad start: a fall or an off course excursion. This time, he simply rode an uninspired race and finished seventh again to match his worst single moto performance. He could not fully rebound in Moto 2 and finished third.

For the first time in 2019, Tomac failed to stand on the overall podium in fourth. Worse still, he lost 10 points to Musquin and no longer had his one-race cushion.

But this is a season of recovery for Tomac. At Budds Creek last week it was reported that Tomac’s lackluster performance in Washington was due to his overdoing his chores on his Colorado ranch. Rested and restored, Tomac scored his third perfect race with Moto 1 & 2 wins. And this time, he looked sharper than he had in any previous race.

Tomac did all the could do by winning both motos, but in the closing laps at Budds Creek he needed a little help to clinch the title. As it turned out, Tomac needed the perfect performance to clinch his third consecutive championship.

In Moto 1, he narrowly edged Ken Roczen and Musquin, to give the three championship contenders a sweep of the top three spots; that was not enough to regain his cushion.

Roczen was close enough to force Tomac into The Ironman needing to score points to permanently affix the red plate on his Kawasaki in 2020, but just as Tomac’s season has been marked by second half improvements, Roczen’s has been marred by a lack of performance in the second motos.

Musquin passed Roczen late in Moto 2 last week and could have extended the drama one more week if he could have caught second-place Jason Anderson. Musquin could not erase an 11-second deficit to the runner-up and now Tomac’s almost perfect season has a distinctly perfect feel to it.

Vanessa O’Brien, Kawasaki USA

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