Rosberg quickest in Malaysia FP1 as Hamilton hits trouble

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Nico Rosberg has made a strong start to this weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix by finishing fastest in the first free practice session on Friday.

The German driver topped the timesheets for Mercedes ahead of the Ferrari duo of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel as Lewis Hamilton failed to record a lap time due to a problem on his car.

Hamilton was told to stop his car out on track after completing just four laps in a bid to save the race engine for the race.

Mercedes had encountered a problem with the telemetry on the defending world champion’s car at the beginning of the session, and despite its best efforts the muddle through and keep Hamilton running, the team eventually opted to cut its losses and end his session early.

Rosberg, on the other hand, had a trouble-free session. Once again, Mercedes enjoyed a sizeable pace advantage at the front of the field as the German driver finished three-tenths of a second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen with a best lap of 1:40.124.

Romain Grosjean put in a good display for Lotus to finish fourth behind the Ferrari drivers, whilst Carlos Sainz Jr. continued his strong start to life in F1 by finishing fifth ahead of Daniel Ricciardo and fellow rookie Max Verstappen.

The other big story from FP1 was the first on-track appearance for Manor in F1 this year. The team was unable to get its car out on track at all in Australia, prompting criticism from some corners despite doing everything in its power to get the car ready after a tumultuous winter.

Will Stevens was quick to get out on Friday in Malaysia though, and despite finishing with just eight laps under his belt, they were valuable and poignant ones for Manor. His teammate, Roberto Merhi, managed a further eight laps in FP1.

Fernando Alonso also made his first appearance as a McLaren driver at a grand prix in 2015, having missed the opening race of the year due to injury. The Spaniard finished a lowly 14th with a fastest lap time of 1:42.885, some 2.7 seconds down on Rosberg at the front.

Practice debutant Raffaele Marciello enjoyed a solid run-out for Sauber, managing 13 laps to finish 13th in the final standings, half a second down on full-time driver Marcus Ericsson in the sister car.

The on-track running in Malaysia continues with FP2 later on Friday. You can watch the full session live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2a ET.

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.