Rosberg rockets to United States GP pole in Austin

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Nico Rosberg has stormed to pole position for the 2014 United States Grand Prix after beating teammate Lewis Hamilton when it mattered in the final part of Q3 in Austin today.

Hamilton had dominated practice at the Circuit of The Americas, but fell three-tenths of a second short when it mattered at the end of Q3 after Rosberg produced a stunning lap time of 1:36.067 to claim his ninth pole position of the year.

After a cold morning in Austin, conditions began to warm up as qualifying got underway. Most of the drivers opted to head out in Q1 with the medium compound tire fitted at first, with some of the slower runners opting to immediately take up the pace advantage in the session. This allowed Sergio Perez and Adrian Sutil to move into the top ten early on, but for their fastest laps, all of the drivers were on the option tire.

At the very front of the field, it was business as usual for Mercedes as Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton went P1 and P2 at the halfway stage in Q1. Ultimately, it was Hamilton who won out, finishing six-tenths of a second clear of the field.

Sebastian Vettel will be starting tomorrow’s race from the pit lane, meaning that qualifying was essentially a glorified practice session for the defending world champion. He eventually finished Q1 down in 17th place, having spent the majority of the session sat in the pits.

Jean-Eric Vergne did his hopes of being retained by Toro Rosso little good by qualifying 15th and dropping out in Q1. The Frenchman was joined by his compatriot, Romain Grosjean, and Esteban Gutierrez in the dropzone. Both Pastor Maldonado and Adrian Sutil managed to get through to Q2 with relative ease in spite of their struggles this year.

Mercedes continued to lead the way during the second part of qualifying, with Nico Rosberg setting the early pace despite complaining over oversteer on his car. Hamilton ran him close with his first run, falling two-tenths of a second short due to locking up under braking.

The problem persisted for Hamilton, forcing him to take to the pits and lose his second run. Rosberg managed to find another eighth-tenths of a second though, giving him an advantage of almost one second come the end of the session.

After impressing in Q1, Sutil and Maldonado continued their good form in Q2 to finish 10th and 11th respectively. Although this meant Maldonado did not advance to the final session, he still secured his best qualifying result of the season, finishing ahead of Sergio Perez, Nico Hulkenberg and Daniil Kvyat. With a 10-place grid penalty for an engine change, Kvyat will start the race from the back of the grid.

The final fight for pole position saw Rosberg take the early advantage, going 0.161 seconds faster than Hamilton with his first lap in Q3. The German driver went faster in all three sectors to pull clear of his teammate and put himself on provisional pole, with Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa over half a second adrift in third and fourth place for Williams.

On his final flying lap, Rosberg managed to go fastest of all in each of the three sectors at COTA to pull out another two-tenths of a second on Hamilton, leaving the Briton helpless. He was unable to improve, meaning that he finished some three-tenths of a second adrift of his teammate.

Williams’ strong qualifying form continued in Austin as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa locked out the second row of the grid in third and fourth place, finishing ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.

The McLaren duo of Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen qualified seventh and eighth place respectively, but the former will drop five places on the grid due to a grid penalty. Kimi Raikkonen and Adrian Sutil rounded out the top ten in Austin, with this being the latter’s best qualifying result since the 2013 British Grand Prix.

After a difficult run of form, Nico Rosberg was delighted to secure his ninth pole position of the season in Austin, beating his teammate soundly when it mattered. Hamilton may have enjoyed the advantage in practice, but qualifying was all about Rosberg.

Of course, there are no points awarded on a Saturday though, and the stage is set for a thrilling battle between Rosberg and Hamilton in Austin on Sunday in the United States Grand Prix.

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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