Rosberg fastest again in second practice for Australian GP

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Nico Rosberg has continued his perfect start to the 2015 Formula 1 season by finishing as the fastest driver in second practice for the Australian Grand Prix on Friday evening.

The German driver had topped the first practice session of the year at Albert Park earlier on Friday, and managed to double up in FP2 by edging out teammate Lewis Hamilton at the top of the timesheets once again.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:27.697 on the soft compound tire, beating Hamilton by one-tenth of a second as Mercedes eased to a one-two finish yet again.

However, the Silver Arrows’ advantage did diminish from FP1, with Ferrari looking far stronger on the soft tire as Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen finished third and fourth for the Italian marque. Vettel may have finished a distant 0.7 seconds behind Rosberg at the top, but definite progress appears to have been made at Maranello over the winter.

After sitting out the first session on Friday amid its legal wrangling with ex-reserve driver Giedo van der Garde, Sauber finally hit the track in FP2 with Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson both completing laps. Nasr enjoyed a good Friday to finish 11th, but the same could not be said of Ericsson, whose running was curtailed following a suspension failure.

McLaren’s Kevin Magnussen also hit trouble on Friday evening, making a mistake at turn six to put his MP4-30 in the wall and warrant the first red flag period of the season. Magnussen was uninjured, and confirmed on Twitter that the accident was due to driver error.

Once again, Manor failed to get its cars out on track during FP2, with Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens being sidelined as the team continues to find its feet after a turbulent winter. Daniel Ricciardo and Felipe Massa were also unable to get out on track due to problems with their power units, whilst Jenson Button suffered a loss of power in the final ten minutes of the day for McLaren.

Although it may be difficult to make any firm assumptions at this early stage, Mercedes certainly appears to be dominating proceedings once again in Melbourne, setting the stage for an almighty intra-team scrap between Rosberg and Hamilton for supremacy this weekend.

Be sure to join us on Saturday for the final free practice session and qualifying, with our full broadcasting schedule viewable here.

How IndyCar rookie Sting Ray Robb got that name (and some more of his backstory)

IndyCar Sting Ray Robb
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – Every NTT IndyCar Series season brings a new round of getting to know the rookies, and it’s fairly obvious where the story starts with Sting Ray Robb.

Just for clarification, “Robb” is the last name. His given name indeed is “String Ray” on the birth certificate.

Why, yes, he does come from performance-car parentage.

And yes, the IndyCar rookie named “Sting Ray” will be driving the No. 51 Dallara-Honda for Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware.

How did that go over with a mom and dad who clearly prefer American automotive brands?

“That’s a tricky question,” Robb said with a laugh Tuesday during the IndyCar Preseason Content Days. “Yeah, my parents are big Corvette fans, and I think that they ruled out criticizing me too badly because they know the dream is IndyCar.”

“I’ll be in a Honda car and I’m assuming it’ll go pretty quick, so I’m OK with all of that.”

“They’re not going to rename you ‘NSX’ or something?” asked Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez (whose bitingly sardonic wit is regularly heard in IndyCar media centers).

“No. I hope not,” Robb said. “My name is my name. I don’t need a rename, thank you.”

Robb, 21, has been making a name for himself lately, finishing second in last year’s Indy NXT standings with 11 top-five finishes, eight podiums and two pole positions.

But the Payette, Idaho, native also has an intriguing backstory beyond his successful four years in the Road to Indy ladder system (that also included the 2020 Indy Pro title).

He hails from the same small town (northwest of Boise on the Oregon border) that produced Minnesota Twins slugger and Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew.

Robb, whose graduating class was less than 100, recently found that Wikipedia listed him and Killebrew as the “notable alumni” from Payette High School.

“It’s nice to be see and appreciate all the things that I’ve learned and been through,” said Robb, who also played some baseball in his day, adding that “I’m more of a consistent singles hitter, slap hitter if you want to call it. No home runs, just doubles or triples here and there.”

Some other facts on the newest memorable name of IndyCar:

–He’s managed by Pieter Rossi (father of Alexander Rossi, the 2016 Indy 500 winner), but he also gets a lot of help from his mother, Kimmie.

“We call her my ‘momager’ because she’s my mom and my manager,” Robb said. “She has been a huge role in my career because she does things that I’m unable to do as a driver.

“She’s able to play hardball with the contracts, etc., and have my best interest in mind when it comes to negotiating, along with Pieter. He may be someone that has a lot of experience in the series with Alexander, but he may not know what’s best for me. It’s good to have them both on my side, and I can learn a lot from them.”

–His family have been lifelong supporters since go-karting. “It was my mom, my dad, my grandparents on the road every weekend,” he said. “My dad has missed one race in my entire life, and it was because he was in the hospital. So we let him have a pass, and he was still on the phone every 30 minutes making sure that tire pressure was right, engine temp was right, we had the right gear on the car, etc.”

–Robb graduated high school a year early to focus on racing after being home-schooled as a child. “I went to someone’s house actually, and she taught me from the time I was in pre-K through sixth grade,” Robb said. “So in seventh grade I started going to public school, and I hate to say it, but I feel like I stopped learning after that point. But it was OK. I got some social skills, lucky for you guys.”

–He also has a wild story about how he landed his current ride during a random encounter in a trip to the gym (which you can read about here).