Hamilton leads; Rosberg, Ferrari have issues in FP2 at Baku

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The story was much the same at the top of the leaderboard at a new circuit, with Lewis Hamilton leading second practice in the Mercedes W07 at the European Grand Prix in Baku, Azerbaijan.

The three-time World Champion clocked a 1:44.223 best lap around the new 3.7-mile, 20-turn street circuit, 0.680 of a second clear of Mercedes AMG Petronas Nico Rosberg and then with both factory Mercedes more than a second clear of the rest of the field.

Rosberg’s session ended early as with 20 minutes remaining, the German stopped on course at Turn 18 having reported a loss of drive.

Three more Mercedes power units completed the top five with Sahara Force India’s Sergio Perez in third and teammate Nico Hulkenberg in fifth, sandwiching Williams Martini Racing’s Valtteri Bottas in fourth.

Carlos Sainz Jr. was the top driver with a Ferrari power unit in sixth overall for Scuderia Toro Rosso, but Sainz was one of several drivers to run deep into a runoff during the session. The young Spaniard went off at the treacherous Turn 8 complex.

Factory Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were only eighth and 13th, with both encountering issues late in the session.

“Issue with the K, same as Kimi,” the team reported to Vettel in the final minute of the session.

What was the “same as Kimi” the Scuderia Ferrari team just mentioned? Raikkonen stopped on course with just over five minutes remaining, skidding into a runoff area while on Pirelli’s supersoft tires, with a heavy lockup. He managed not to hit anything.

Haas F1 Team also had a somewhat interesting session with Esteban Gutierrez first to tattoo the Turn 8 barrier with the right rear of the car, but the Mexican made it back home to the pit lane.

McLaren Honda’s Fernando Alonso had a clutch issue in the session, which temporarily interrupted the proceedings for him.

Despite kerbs reportedly coming up at the start of the session and with further evaluation coming from the race officials, the full 90-minute session ran as scheduled.

Times are below. Free practice three runs from 6 a.m. ET on Saturday morning via NBC Sports Live Extra, then qualifying from 9 a.m. ET on NBCSN.

Ken Roczen signs with HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki for 2023

Roczen Progressive Ecstar Suzuki
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ANAHEIM, California – Ken Roczen will make the move from HRC Honda to H.E.P. Motorsports with the Progressive Ecstar Suzuki team, ending a long and eventful offseason that saw his split from his longstanding team after he committed to running World Supercross (WSX).

“H.E.P. Motorsports is thrilled to announce that the team has signed Ken Roczen as its premier rider for the 2023 season,” the team announced on Instagram. “Former AMA Motocross champion Roczen will be aboard a Suzuki RM-Z450. Roczen, who won his most recent championship on a Suzuki, will be reunited with the brand and bring his exciting style, determination, and grit back to the RM Army.

“Ken Roczen will compete in the upcoming 2023 Supercross and Motocross Championship series which is set to start on January 7 at Anaheim Stadium in Southern California.”

For Roczen, it is a return to the bike of his youth and on which he had some of his greatest professional success.

“This thing has been going on for weeks and weeks and weeks in the making, but there was so much uncertainty,” Roczen told NBC Sports during Monster Energy Supercross Media Sessions. “It was a very unique situation. I just finally signed two nights ago, so it’s really only legit once the ink hits the paper. It’s been in the works for a long time, but there were just a lot of questions and a lot of input from a lot of other teams too.

“Good things take time, and I’m okay with that. I grew up riding Suzuki. Ot’s like a homecoming. It’s a special feeling”

Roczen won the 2016 Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championship on a Suzuki before making the move to Honda. That year he won nine of 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second as he easily outpaced Eli Tomac by 86 points. He finished third in his next Pro Motocross outing in 2018 after sitting out the outdoor season in 2017.

“I am beyond excited to reconnect with Suzuki for the 3rd time in my career. We’ve had a lot of success in the past and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can accomplish together in our future.” Roczen said in the Instagram post.