Verstappen quickest in opening Mexican GP practice

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Max Verstappen kicked off Formula 1’s return to Mexico by topping the timesheets in first practice at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Verstappen posted a fastest lap time of 1:25.990 in a session that saw all of the drivers heading out to get as much mileage as possible to learn the track.

This weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix is the first to be held since 1992, with the track in Mexico City being reprofiled in places to be up to Formula 1 standards.

Overnight rain left the track damp for the first 30 minutes of the session, forcing the drivers to head out on the intermediate tire before eventually making the switch over to slicks.

Verstappen rose to the top of the timesheets with five minutes remaining, taking top spot by three-tenths of a second ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat who had led for much of the session.

Replays did show that Verstappen cut one of the esses on his final lap, but his time was not deleted by the stewards, allowing him to retain top spot.

Nico Rosberg’s hopes of ending his recent run of bad luck were dashed in FP1 as a brake fire developed on his Mercedes, forcing the German to sit out most of the session. He eventually returned to the track for one flying lap at the very end of FP1, finishing sixth-fastest.

Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton finished a further half a second back in P11, but like most of the drivers, the three-time world champion spent much of his session focusing on mileage instead of optimum lap time.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen also had a brake issue develop on his car, but a quick repair from Ferrari allowed him to rally to third place ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel in P4. Daniel Ricciardo followed his former teammate home in fifth.

Following Rosberg in sixth, Valtteri Bottas and Carlos Sainz Jr. managed to slip into seventh and eighth, while home favorite Sergio Perez ended the session ninth. Felipe Massa rounded out the top ten for Williams.

FP2 for the Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC Sports Live Extra from 4pm ET, with delayed-as-live coverage being shown on NBCSN at 11:30pm ET.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”