Hamilton leads final European GP practice in Baku

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Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets for Mercedes in the final practice session for the European Grand Prix on Saturday in Baku.

FP3 saw drivers attempt to dial in around the streets of Baku ahead of qualifying later today, having spent much of Friday learning the track.

Hamilton completed a hat-trick of practice P1s for Mercedes in Azerbaijan, posting a fastest time of 1:44.352 in the final minute of the session to edge out teammate Nico Rosberg.

Rosberg had led for much of the session, enjoying an advantage of nine-tenths of a second over the field after completing his qualifying simulation late in the session.

Hamilton ultimately won the intra-team battle, but Mercedes pulled well clear of the rest of the pack whose charge was led by Force India.

Nico Hulkenberg repeated the team’s impressive Friday pace to finish the session third, but its session ended under a cloud after Sergio Perez crashed with a few seconds remaining.

The Mexican driver finished the session sixth in the final standings, but has left his team with a race against time to fix the car in time for qualifying.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel, with both drivers seemingly out of the running to win in Baku given Mercedes’ pace. Max Verstappen finished seventh in the second Red Bull behind Perez.

Jenson Button continued McLaren’s strong start to the weekend by finishing eighth-fastest, but was left frustrated after apparently being blocked by Hamilton late in the session. Daniil Kvyat and Kimi Raikkonen rounded out the top 10 in FP3.

Concerns about the safety at the Baku City Circuit led to minor changes being made overnight, including the removal of some curbs and the extension of the pit entry line.

Valtteri Bottas’ session came to an early end after a drain cover came loose in the pit lane and left a hole in the sidepod on his FW38 car, again raising concerns about the safety of the track. However, there were no other major gripes during the session, suggesting that the changes have solved many of Friday’s issues.

Qualifying for the European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 9am ET on Saturday.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.