Rosberg quickest in damp first practice for US GP

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The United States Grand Prix weekend in Austin, Texas, kicked off in rather pedestrian style as heavy rain limited running throughout the first practice session on Friday morning, allowing Nico Rosberg to top the timesheets.

As predicted earlier this week, showers struck the Circuit of The Americas overnight and in the morning that left the track damp at the start of FP1.

Drivers headed out on the extreme wet tire early on, with Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Raffaele Marciello setting the pace before the track dried out and allowed for running on the intermediate compound.

None of the teams opted to undertake excessive running, instead preferring to complete the required car checks and installations before some gentle wet laps in the spray.

Rosberg set the pace for Mercedes, posting a fastest lap of 1:53.989 to finish 1.2 seconds clear of the field in P1, drawing first blood at COTA despite completing just a handful of laps.

Red Bull drivers Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo ran well in the damp conditions to finish second and third respectively ahead of Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz Jr. World champion-in-waiting Lewis Hamilton finished fifth overall, leading home title rival Sebastian Vettel in sixth.

McLaren used the session to get to grips with its power unit upgrades as Fernando Alonso ended FP1 in ninth place, but by finishing third in the speed trap at the end of the back straight, signs of improvement were there to see. Teammate Jenson Button – running with the Sochi-spec power unit – finished 13th.

A brake problem limited Kimi Raikkonen’s running during the session, leaving him eighth with just six laps to his name. Pastor Maldonado failed to post a time due to a gearbox issue that forced Lotus into a rebuild of his car throughout FP1.

Second practice for the United States Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 3pm ET on Friday.

Valtteri Bottas wins chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix

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SPIELBERG, Austria — Valtteri Bottas won a chaotic season-opening F1 Austrian Grand Prix while six-time series champion Lewis Hamilton finished fourth after getting a late time penalty Sunday.

The Formula One race was interrupted three times by a safety car, and nine of 20 drivers abandoned, including both Red Bulls of Max Verstappen and Alexander Albon – who tried to overtake Hamilton on the outside with 10 laps left, touched wheels and flew off track.

Hamilton was given a 5-second time penalty for causing the collision, having earlier been hit with a three-place grid penalty after an incident in Saturday’s qualifying was reviewed by stewards.

SHOW OF SUPPORT: Drivers take knee before race

Bottas led all 71 laps in the eighth victory of his career. It was the second consecutive victory in the season opener for the Finn, though he won four months earlier in 2019 after this season’s start was delayed by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Lando Norris of McLaren F1 celebrates after his first podium finish (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).

Bottas started from pole position and Hamilton from fifth, but it looked like a straight fight between the two Mercedes drivers as has been the case so often in recent years.

But late drama in Spielberg ensured otherwise and Hamilton’s time penalty meant Charles Leclerc took second place for Ferrari, and Lando Norris sent McLaren’s garage into raptures – and threw all social distancing rules out of the window amid the euphoria – with third place.

It was the 20-year-old British driver’s first career podium, and his superb final lap was the fastest of a dramatic season opener.

Norris became the youngest British driver to secure a podium finish and the third-youngest ever in Formula One.

Valtteri Bottas leads Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton during the Formula One Grand Prix of Austria (Mark Thompson/Getty Images).