Hamilton quickest in first practice for United States GP

1 Comment

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

Attention NASCAR teams: IMSA drivers available for Daytona!

Ker Robertson/Getty Images
Leave a comment

NASCAR will be making its debut on the Daytona International Speedway road course next month, and there’s a big fan who’d like to join the historic weekend.

This fan actually has impressive credentials, too — a few thousand laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile layout that annually plays host to the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.

In 2014, the winning GTLM team in the sports car endurance classic included IMSA Porsche driver Nick Tandy, who rabidly has followed NASCAR for more than 30 years since growing up in England.

So why not try racing NASCAR? Especially because Tandy has the weekend of Aug. 14-16 free.

He’s not picky, either — offering up his services on Twitter (as well as those of Porsche teammate Earl Bamber) for an ARCA, Xfinity, trucks or Cup ride.

Tandy’s affinity for American stock-car racing runs deep.

His first trip to the World Center of Racing was as a fan attending the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, 2008. During Rolex testing in January, Tandy, 35, said he hadn’t missed a Cup race on TV in 15 years.

Among his favorite NASCAR drivers: the Earnhardts, Jimmie Johnson and Kyle Busch. When IMSA ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course in 2014, Tandy stayed a few extra days at the Brickyard and bought Kyle Busch gear for himself and his children.

He briefly took the stage during a NASCAR weekend last October. After IMSA’s season finale at Road Atlanta, Tandy made a few demonstration laps and a burnout in his No. 911 Porsche before the Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway.

He also has some experience in stock cars, having raced Modified-type grass-roots series on England’s quarter-mile short tracks.

Couple that with a Daytona road course record that includes two consecutive podium class finishes (including last Saturday) and a sports car resume with 13 IMSA victories and an overall win in the 2015 24 Hours of Le Mans … and maybe a NASCAR team should take a look.

And Tandy isn’t the only IMSA driver who likely would be available.

Corvette driver Jordan Taylor, who won the 2017 Rolex 24 overall title with Jeff Gordon as a teammate (and the inspiration for his Rodney Sandstrom persona), also tweeted his availability for the weekend on the high banks.

Sports car veteran Andy Lally, a GTD driver with multiple class wins in the Rolex 24 as well as 38 Cup starts (he was the 2011 rookie of the season in NASCAR’s premier series), also hung out his shingle.

There also is AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Jack Hawksworth (who just won at Daytona last Saturday), the Englishman who teamed with Kyle Busch at the Rolex 24 in January and made an Xfinity start at Mid-Ohio last year with Joe Gibbs Racing.

Many sports car drivers (such as Taylor) already live in Florida, and many are hunkering down in the Sunshine State with IMSA returning to action at Daytona last week and Sebring International Raceway next week. Because of COVID-19-related travel concerns and restrictions, several IMSA stars who live outside the country are riding out the pandemic within a few hours of Daytona with nothing to do.

Why not a weekend at the World Center of Racing?

Over the years, scads of “road-course ringers” (including some Formula One veterans) have tried their hands in stock cars at Sonoma Raceway and Watkins Glen International.

How about considering the many sports car drivers who already have reached victory lane at Daytona by making a few right-hand turns, too?