Hamilton hits back by topping second practice in Malaysia

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Lewis Hamilton has bounced back from an engine issue that sidelined him during the first free practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix by topping FP2 on Friday afternoon at Sepang.

The defending F1 world champion was limited to just four laps in the morning session after a problem with his power unit.

However, the Mercedes team worked hard to get him out in second practice when he soon re-established his dominance at the top of the timesheets.

Hamilton posted a fastest lap time of 1:39.790 to finish three-tenths of a second clear of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen, but remained frustrated after completing just 16 laps due to further minor issues with the Mercedes W06 Hybrid car.

His teammate, Nico Rosberg, failed to build on his P1 result from first practice, finishing third for Mercedes ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat and the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa.

Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel was forced to settle for seventh in the final standings, but was fortunate to continue running after a spin midway through the session that saw him narrowly avoid beaching his car.

Roberto Merhi of Manor had no such luck, though, finishing in the gravel after spinning in exactly the same place as Vettel to bring out a red flag. Nevertheless, the team’s fightback continued as Will Stevens completed 15 laps with the car in FP2.

Following difficult weekends in Australia, both Red Bull and McLaren continued to struggle in FP2. Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat both encountered issues on their cars during the session, whilst the McLaren duo of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button finished down in 16th and 17th places.

Despite finishing in top spot, Hamilton will unquestionably still be disappointed with his disjointed day of running at Sepang, having completed just 20 laps from both sessions. Nevertheless, the advantage lies with the Briton heading into tomorrow’s final practice and qualifying sessions.

You can join us for complete coverage of qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 5a ET tomorrow. For further broadcasting information, click here.

Kyle Busch interests McLaren for Indy 500, but team is leaning toward experience

McLaren Indy Kyle Busch
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With Arrow McLaren SP heavily weighing a fourth car for the Indy 500 next year, Kyle Busch is a candidate but not at the top of the IndyCar team’s list.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown addressed the possibility Wednesday morning during a video news conference with Gavin Ward, the team’s newly named racing director.

“I have not personally spoken with Kyle Busch, but you can read into that that someone else in our organization has,” Brown said. “We want to make sure if we run a fourth car, we’re in the mindset that we want someone that is experienced around the 500. It’s such an important race, and from a going for the championship point of view, we’ve got three drivers that we want to have finish as strong as possible, so if we ran a fourth car, we’d want to be additive, not only for the fourth car itself, but to the three cars and so bringing in someone who’s not done it before potentially doesn’t add that value from an experience point of view.”

Busch will race the No. 8 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing next season in NASCAR under a new deal that will allow the two-time Cup Series champion to make his Indy 500 debut. Busch, who had a previous deal to run the Indy 500 nixed by Joe Gibbs Racing, openly courted Chevy IndyCar teams to contact him during his introductory news conference with RCR last month.

After Team Penske (which has given no indications of a fourth car at Indy alongside champion Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin), McLaren is the second-best Chevy organization, and it’s fielded an extra Indy 500 car the past two years for Juan Pablo Montoya. The Associated Press reported last month that McLaren was in “serious conversation” about running Busch at Indy with Menards sponsorship.

But with its restructured management, the team is in the midst of significant expansion for 2023. AMSP is adding a third full-time car for 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi to team with Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist, and a massive new shop also is being built in the Indianapolis area.

“(It’s) not because of him but purely because of experience,” Brown said of Busch. “He’s an awesome talent and would be huge, huge news for the speedway. But yeah, I think everyone is under consideration if we decide to do it, but experience is right at the top of the list as far as what’s going to be the most important to us.”

And it seems likely there will be a veteran joining Rossi, O’Ward and Rosenqvist at the Brickyard.

“A fourth car at the 500 is very much under consideration,” Brown said. “I wouldn’t even want to get ahead of ourselves, but we wouldn’t be ruling out a fourth car in the future on a full-time basis. That definitely wouldn’t be for ’23. But as we expand the team and get into larger facilities and things of that nature, it’s something that Gavin and I have spoken about.

“I think we would be in a position to run a fourth car at the 500 this upcoming year. If we do decide to do that, we’ll make that decision soon for maximum preparation, and I would say we’re open minded to a fourth car in ’24 and beyond and probably will make that decision middle of next year in time to be prepared if we did decide to do that.”

Brown also addressed the future of Alex Palou, who will be racing for Chip Ganassi Racing next season after also signing a deal with McLaren. Though Brown declined to get into specifics about whether Palou had signed a new deal, he confirmed Palou will continue to test “our Formula One car from time to time.

“Everyone has reached an amicable solution,” Brown said. “We’ve now had Alex in our Formula One car as we have Pato. That will continue in the future, which we’re quite excited about. At this point we’re laser-focused on 2023 and glad to have the noise behind us and now just want to put our head down and get on with the job with the three drivers we have.”