Hamilton quickest again in second Italian GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton’s impressive start to the Italian Grand Prix weekend continued in the second free practice session on Friday afternoon as he topped the timesheets for Mercedes.

Hamilton’s fastest time of 1:24.279 was enough to give him P1 by just 0.021 seconds as he edged out teammate Nico Rosberg in a tight second session.

The advantage supplied by Mercedes’ engine upgrade was once again evident for all to see as the Silver Arrows finished over seven-tenths of a second clear of the field in FP2.

Both drivers had a trouble-free session with their new power units, suggesting that tomorrow’s fight for pole position will once again be between Hamilton and Rosberg.

Sebastian Vettel finished as the best of the rest once again for Ferrari, ending the session in third with a best lap of 1:25.038. He was followed by the Force India duo of Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg on the timesheets, whilst Kimi Raikkonen trailed behind in sixth place.

Despite taking no part in FP1 to allow reserve driver Jolyon Palmer to get some lap time, Romain Grosjean quickly acclimatized himself to Monza in the Lotus car as he finished seventh overall. Teammate Pastor Maldonado ended the session in P8, less than two-hundredths of a second further back.

Capping off Mercedes’ domination of FP2 was the Williams duo of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa, who finished ninth and tenth respectively. This meant that all eight of the Mercedes-powered cars on the grid finished inside the top ten in FP2, with the other two positions being taken by the Ferraris of Vettel and Raikkonen.

It proved to be another difficult session for Toro Rosso as both Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. struggled for pace, leaving them P14 and P15 overall. Verstappen took a trip through the gravel just as Sainz did in FP1, but managed to keep his car going and remain in the session.

The same could not be said of Red Bull, though, who had issues on its cars. A hydraulic failure on Daniel Ricciardo’s car and a gearbox issue for Daniil Kvyat limited the team’s running in FP2, leaving them towards the back of the field.

McLaren also had another session to forget as Jenson Button was forced to pit due to an “abnormality” that was spotted by the team. After changing the power units in FP1, more penalties could yet follow for McLaren ahead of the race on Sunday.

Qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Saturday, and will be followed by the premiere of NBC Sports’ original digital series “Off The Grid” from the British Grand Prix.

Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023; leaves open possibility of returning at Ganassi

Jimmie Johnson race 2023
Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images
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Though he remains uncertain of his plans for next year, Jimmie Johnson won’t race full time in 2023, scaling back his schedule after running a full 17-race NTT IndyCar Series season.

“This was a difficult choice for me, but in my heart, I know it’s the right one,” Johnson said in a statement Monday morning. “I’m not exactly sure what the next chapter holds, but if an opportunity comes along that makes sense, I will consider it. I still have a bucket list of racing events I would like to take part in. Competing at this level in IndyCar has been such a great experience.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better team to race for than Chip Ganassi and Chip Ganassi Racing. Everyone worked extremely hard for the last two seasons, pushing to get the best performances out of me every single week. The support from my crew and teammates Dario (Franchitti), Scott (Dixon), Tony (Kanaan), Marcus (Ericsson) and Alex (Palou) went above and beyond anything I could have ever asked for.”

WHAT’S NEXT FOR JIMMIE JOHNSON: An analysis of his racing options for the 2023 season

Driving the No. 48 Dallara-Honda for Chip Ganassi Racing, Johnson ranked 21st in the 2022 points standings with a career-best fifth place July 24 at Iowa Speedway.

After running only road and street courses for Ganassi in 2021, the seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion added ovals this year. In his Indy 500 debut, he qualified 12th and finished 28th after a late crash.

“I do have a desire to go back (to IndyCar), it’s just at this point, I know what’s required to do a full schedule, and I don’t have that in me,” Johnson told AP. “I don’t have that passion that I need for myself to commit myself to a full season.”

That leaves open the concept of Johnson returning part time with Ganassi, perhaps exclusively on ovals.

“We are fully supportive of Jimmie,” team owner Chip Ganassi said in a statement. “He has been a valued member of our team and if we can find a way to continue working together, we would like to do so.”

During IndyCar’s season finale race weekend, Johnson told reporters Sept. 9 that he planned to explore his options with wife Chandra and daughters Evie and Lydia. Johnson told the Associated Press that his family is considering living abroad for a year or two, and he has toyed with the idea of running in the World Endurance Championship sports car series because of its international locales.

Johnson hasn’t ruled out IndyCar, IMSA sports cars or even a cameo in NASCAR next year. Since retiring from full-time NASCAR after the 2020 season, he has entered the endurance races of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac (including Saturday’s Petit Le Mans season finale). Johnson also wants to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and is a prime candidate for the Garage 56 entry (a joint project of NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports).

Johnson told the AP he is interested in becoming the latest driver to try “The Double” and run both the Coca-Cola 600 and Indy 500 on the same day (the most recent was Kurt Busch in 2014).

“You know me and endurance sports, and ‘The Double’ sounds awesome,” Johnson, a four-time Coke 600 winner, told AP. “I’ve always had this respect for the guys who have done ‘The Double.’ I would say it is more of a respect thing than a bucket-list item, and I’d love to put some energy into that idea and see if I can pull it off.”

It is less likely that he would return to IMSA’s endurance events because its top prototype series is being overhauled, limiting the amount of inventory available for the new LMDh cars in the rebranded GTP division.

Johnson has confirmed that he would retain primary sponsor Carvana, which has backed him in IndyCar the past two years. He revealed his decision Monday during the last episode of “Reinventing the Wheel,” Carvana Racing’s eight-part docuseries about his 2023 season.

“I’m thankful for the partnership with a company like Carvana for allowing me to take this journey in IndyCar, for seeing the value in our partnership and being open to future opportunities together,” Johnson said. “They have truly showed me that there are no finish lines in life. Along with Carvana, The American Legion, Ally, cbdMD and Frank August were there every step of the way, and I couldn’t have done it without all of them. Most importantly — and the true rockstars in all of this –my family, Chani, Evie and Lydia. They have always allowed me to chase my dreams, and we are all just really excited about what the future holds for all of us. I have enjoyed every minute of these last two years.”

Said Carvana co-founder Ryan Keeton: “During the past two years, Jimmie Johnson has been so amazing to collaborate with. Our team admires his passion, hard work and commitment to continuous improvement while also having fun, and we look forward to continuing to support him next year in this new chapter.”