Hamilton leads maiden Baku F1 practice as Ricciardo crashes


Lewis Hamilton set the pace for Mercedes as Formula 1 enjoyed its first running at the Baku City Circuit in Azerbaijan ahead of this weekend’s European Grand Prix.

Baku plays host to its maiden grand prix this weekend, using the fastest street circuit on the calendar while incorporating the modern and historic parts of the city.

Low levels of grip and the narrow nature of the track made the first practice session an exploratory one for the entire grid, given that drivers had only tasted it on the simulator or a video game before the session.

Mercedes predictably went out early in search of fast lap times, with Hamilton and teammate Nico Rosberg exchanging blows at the head of the field.

Ultimately, it was Hamilton who led come the end of the session, posting a fastest lap time of 1:46.435 to edge out Rosberg by three-tenths of a second.

Hamilton was fortunate to complete the session after scraping the barrier at Turn 3, but was not the only driver to test the limits of the Baku City Circuit.

Sebastian Vettel suffered an early spin, while a number of drivers ran wide at Turn 15 including Esteban Gutierrez, Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr., the latter breaking his nose cone in the process.

Valtteri Bottas kept up Williams’ strong form from Canada by finishing third, six-tenths of a second behind Hamilton at the top of the timesheets.

Fernando Alonso finish fourth for McLaren in FP1, 1.5 seconds behind Hamilton at the top, while Vetel bounced back from his spin to finish fifth for Ferrari.

Force India’s Sergio Perez ended the session sixth ahead of Jenson Button in the second McLaren, who was followed by Felipe Massa and Sainz. Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the top 10.

It proved to be a session to forget for Red Bull as both Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen hit trouble, a leak limiting the latter’s running throughout the session.

Although Ricciardo was able to get out, his session came to an early end after he clouted the barrier at Turn 15, damaging the right-hand side of his car and warranting a red flag stoppage.

Second practice in Baku kicks off at 9am ET on NBCSN and Live Extra.

IndyCar Power Rankings: Pato O’Ward moves to the top entering Texas Motor Speedway


The NBC Sports IndyCar power rankings naturally were as jumbled as the action on the streets of St. Petersburg after a chaotic opener to the 2023 season.

Pato O’Ward, who finished second because of an engine blip that cost him the lead with a few laps remaining, moves into the top spot ahead of St. Pete winner Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, who finished fourth in his Arrow McLaren debut. Scott Dixon and St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who led 31 laps) rounded out the top five.

St. Pete pole-sitter Romain Grosjean (who started first at St. Pete after capturing his second career pole position) Callum Ilott (a career-best fifth) and Graham Rahal entered the power rankings entering the season’s second race.

Three drivers fell out of the preseason top 10 after the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg – including previously top-ranked Josef Newgarden, who finished 17th after qualifying 14th.

Heading into Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway, here’s NBC Sports’ assessment of the current top 10 drivers through the first of 17 races this year (with previous preseason rankings in parenthesis):

NBC Sports’ IndyCar Power Rankings

1. Pato O’Ward (5) – If not for the dreaded “plenum event” in the No. 5 Chevrolet, the Arrow McLaren driver is opening the season with a victory capping a strong race weekend.

2. Marcus Ericsson (7) – He might be the most opportunistic driver in IndyCar, but that’s because the 2022 Indy 500 winner has become one of the series’ fastest and most consistent stars.

3. Alexander Rossi (10) – He overcame a frustrating Friday and mediocre qualifying to open his Arrow McLaren career with the sort of hard-earned top five missing in his last years at Andretti.

4. Scott Dixon (3) – Put aside his opening-lap skirmish with former teammate Felix Rosenqvist, and it was a typically stealthily good result for the six-time champion.

5. Romain Grosjean (NR) – The St. Petersburg pole-sitter consistently was fastest on the streets of St. Petersburg over the course of the race weekend, which he couldn’t say once last year.

6. Scott McLaughlin (6) – Easily the best of the Team Penske drivers before his crash with Grosjean, McLaughlin drove like a legitimate 2023 championship contender.

7. Callum Ilott (NR) – A quietly impressive top five for the confident Brit in Juncos Hollinger Racing’s first race as a two-car team. Texas will be a big oval litmus test.

8. Graham Rahal (NR) – Sixth at St. Pete, Rahal still has the goods on street courses, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan remains headed in the right direction.

9. Alex Palou (4) – He seemed a step behind Ericsson and Dixon in the race after just missing the Fast Six in qualifying, but this was a solid start for Palou.

10. Will Power (2) – An uncharacteristic mistake that crashed Colton Herta put a blemish on the type of steady weekend that helped him win the 2022 title.

Falling out (last week): Josef Newgarden (1), Colton Herta (8), Christian Lundgaard (9)