Hamilton quickest in first practice for United States GP

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Lewis Hamilton has made the best possible start to his United States Grand Prix weekend by finishing as the quickest driver in the first free practice session on Friday.

This morning’s running at the Circuit of The Americas saw a number of drivers show off their new helmets designs for the first time, with Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Romain Grosjean, Esteban Gutierrez and Sergio Perez all making a change for this weekend’s race.

Due to light rain overnight, some of the early running in FP1 took place on the intermediate tire, but the track soon dried and allowed the drivers to get their first taste of COTA with the new V6 turbo cars in dry conditions.

With a fastest lap of 1:39.941, Hamilton managed to edge out teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg at the top of the timesheets once again. However, with just two-tenths of a second separating the pair, we look set for another close fight at the front of the field on Sunday. The result marked Mercedes’ tenth one-two finish in FP1 in 2014.

Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen continued McLaren’s late season resurgence to finish third and fifth in FP1. Although these are very early indications at COTA, the signs are encouraging for the British team. Toro Rosso’s Daniil Kvyat split the pair in fourth place.

Felipe Nasr and Max Verstappen both put in impressive displays during their practice run-outs in Austin, deputizing for Valtteri Bottas and Jean-Eric Vergne respectively. Nasr finished the session in eighth place, with Verstappen a very respectable P10.

Daniel Ricciardo endured a difficult first session in Austin, completing just five laps and finishing 17th in the final standings. Red Bull is yet to confirm what the issue on his Red Bull RB10 car that limited his running.

In a quiet session with little more of note, the biggest absence was perhaps that of Caterham and Marussia. With neither team racing in Austin this weekend, the grid has been reduced to just 18 cars, marking a ten-year low for Formula 1.

At the front though, the Hamilton express continues to power ahead. Be sure to join us for FP2 live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 3p ET today to see if he can continue his good form at COTA.

NBC/NBCSN SCHEDULE FROM UNITED STATES GRAND PRIX

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.