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Rosberg: “The weather is fine with me”

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AUSTIN, Texas – Nico Rosberg spoke of nailing the timing in tricky conditions en route to his third straight and fourth overall pole position for Mercedes AMG Petronas, ahead of today’s United States Grand Prix (2:30 p.m. ET, NBC).

Rosberg posted a 1:56.824 in Q2, just over a tenth clear of teammate and World Championship leader Lewis Hamilton at 1:56.929. The two were both more than a second clear of Infiniti Red Bull Racing’s Daniel Ricciardo.

“Obviously a really good qualifying. I was very comfortable with the car,” Rosberg said during the post-qualifying press conference.

“It was difficult out there with aquaplaning. You just really struggle to have control of the car. It’s been quite challenging.

“But I did a good lap with a used set of tires, which was good. Q3, we had a new set to go.”

He didn’t entirely know what to expect for the race, which should be still held in wet if perhaps drying conditions.

“For the race, we have no idea. It was supposed to be drying out,” Rosberg said.

“But who knows. Our cars race in any condition. The weather is fine with me.”

Rosberg enters the race down 73 points to Hamilton, with only a remote chance of remaining mathematically eligible for the World Championship.

If Hamilton outscores him by two points or more, Rosberg will be eliminated; however if Rosberg were to finish ahead, he’d stay alive at least until the Mexican Grand Prix next week.

Rosberg also scored the pole for last year’s USGP, albeit in clean, dry and sunny conditions. But Hamilton passed him for the lead and ultimately, the win.

Lewis Hamilton aims to match Michael Schumacher’s F1 win record

Lewis Hamilton Schumacher record
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SOCHI, Russia — Lewis Hamilton has set many Formula One marks over the years, but few are as significant as the Michael Schumacher record he can match Sunday at the Russian Grand Prix.

Victory for Hamilton at the Sochi Olympic Park would see him draw level with Schumacher at 91 career victories, more than any other driver in the 70-year history of F1.

It also would increase Hamilton’s commanding 55-point lead over teammate Valtteri Bottas in the championship standings, putting him closer to a seventh world championship, matching another Schumacher record.

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History is on the side of Hamilton, who won Sept. 13 at Mugello. He’s won four of the six Russian races so far, and all six were won by Mercedes drivers. His closest challenger is likely to be Bottas, who beat Hamilton in the 2017 edition of the Russian Grand Prix.

Elsewhere in the championship hunt, Red Bull driver Max Verstappen’s season has gone up in smoke since his Aug. 9 victory at Silverstone. An overheating engine forced the Dutch driver out of the Sept. 6 race at Monza and then a similar problem struck just before the start at Mugello. Verstappen was far slower off the line than the cars around him and was struck by Kimi Raikkonen’s Alfa Romeo.

That leaves Verstappen 80 points off Hamilton in the standings and a 25-point deficit to Bottas.

If Hamilton does win to tie Schumachher at Sochi, more fans will see it in person than any other race in a 2020 season mostly run before empty grandstands because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Organizers say the race weekend is sold out but haven’t given final ticket sales figures.

Race promoter Alexei Titov previously told Russian state TV that the stands would be at 50 percent of their capacity, which equates to around 30,000 spectators.

That’s far more than the previous season high of 3,000 fans for the most recent race, the Tuscan Grand Prix at the Mugello circuit.

Unlike at the last two races in Italy, there will be a full entertainment program on offer for fans with concerts featuring some of Russia’s most popular musicians.

Russian organizers say they’re taking precautions to keep fans safe and will have medical staff posted at checkpoints around the venue, and that spectators will have their temperature measured on entry.