Rosberg returns Mercedes to P1 in final Suzuka practice

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Nico Rosberg closed out practice for the Japanese Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets as teams scrambled to make up for Friday’s washout at Suzuka.

Rain in FP1 and FP2 meant placed extra importance on the final practice session on Saturday morning, forcing the teams to try and condense their regular dry running programme into just 60 minutes.

Most of the teams headed out early in a bid to get the jump on the field, with the early pace being set by the Red Bull duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Daniil Kvyat.

However, as the session wore on, Mercedes found its feet and managed to return to the top of the timesheets for the first time since FP1 in Singapore with Rosberg leading the way.

A fastest lap of 1:33.995 was enough to give Rosberg P1 by almost three-tenths of a second ahead of teammate Lewis Hamilton, who struggled to match the pace of his German counterpart as Mercedes was forced to make changes to his car throughout FP3.

Ricciardo underlined Red Bull’s strong early pace by finishing third-fastest at the end of practice, half a second down on Hamilton at the head of the field. Kvyat did not get a chance to Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa hinted that Williams could be in for a more fruitful weekend at Suzuka by finishing fourth and fifth.

Ferrari’s hopes of a second straight win appeared to take a hit as Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel could only finish sixth and eighth respectively, finishing over one second behind Rosberg’s fastest time. However, the Italian team did run an alternative programme to most of the field, and Vettel had his best lap ruined by Kvyat, suggesting that there was more pace in the tank.

Max Verstappen split the Ferraris in seventh, whilst Romain Grosjean put Lotus’ recent troubles behind him to finish ninth ahead of Carlos Sainz Jr., who rounded out the top ten.

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 2am ET on Saturday.

Coyne signs Ferrucci for final two IndyCar races of 2018

Photo: IndyCar
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Dale Coyne Racing will field a third entry at the Grand Prix of Portland and the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma for former Haas F1 test and reserve driver Santino Ferrucci, the team revealed earlier on Friday.

Ferrucci previously raced with Coyne at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit, where he finished 22nd and 20th, and will drive alongside Sebastien Bourdais and Pietro Fittipaldi. The entry, the No. 39 Honda, will also feature sponsorship from Cly-Del, a Connecticut-based manufacturing company.

“I am extremely grateful to Dale (Coyne) and everyone at Dale Coyne Racing for giving me this opportunity to get back behind the wheel of an IndyCar in Portland and Sonoma,” said Ferrucci, who had been racing in FIA Formula 2 this year until it came to an unceremonious end in July.

Ferrucci continued, “I’m also excited to be bringing my long-time sponsor Cly-Del on board and introducing them to the world of IndyCar racing. I truly enjoyed my time with Dale Coyne Racing in Detroit earlier this season and I couldn’t be more excited to be back with them for a couple more races as I look to the future and enter the next chapter of my career.”

Team owner Dale Coyne highlighted the team’s experience with Ferrucci as a motivating factor in signing him up again for the final two races.

“We were very impressed with Santino at Detroit this year, and not just by his performance behind the wheel, but also by his professionalism and maturity outside of the race car,” said Coyne.

Coyne added, “We’ve had lengthy discussions with Santino in the past few months and we’re excited to have him back for the final two rounds of the season. We look forward to seeing what he will do with this opportunity as he gets back behind the wheel of an Indy Car. We’re also happy to welcome Cly-Del to our ever-growing family of sponsors.”

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