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

Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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