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.

IndyCar disappointed by delay of video game but aiming to launch at start of 2024

IndyCar video game 2024

An IndyCar executive said there is “absolutely” disappointment that its long-awaited video game recently was delayed beyond its target date, but the series remains optimistic about the new title.

“Well, I don’t know how quick it will be, but the whole situation is important to us,” Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles said during a news conference Monday morning to announce IndyCar’s NTT title sponsorship. “Motorsport Games has spent a lot of money, a lot of effort to create an IndyCar title. What we’ve seen of that effort, which is not completely obvious, is very reassuring.

“I think it’s going to be outstanding. That’s our shared objective, that when it is released, it’s just widely accepted. A great credit both to IndyCar racing, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, something that our fans love.”

In June 2021, IndyCar announced a new partnership with Motorsport Games to create and distribute an IndyCar video game for the PC and Xbox and PlayStation consoles in 2023.

But during an earnings call last week, Motorsport Games said the IndyCar game had been delayed to 2024 to ensure high quality.

Somewhat compounding the delay is that IndyCar’s license for iRacing expired after the end of the 2022 season because of its exclusive agreement with Motorsport Games.

That’s resulted in significant changes for IndyCar on iRacing, which had provided a high-profile way for the series to stay visible during its 2020 shutdown from the pandemic. (Players still can race an unbranded car but don’t race on current IndyCar tracks, nor can they stream).

That’s helped ratchet up the attention on having a video game outlet for IndyCar.

“I wish we had an IndyCar title 10 years ago,” said Miles, who has been working with the organization since 2013. “We’ve been close, but we’ve had these I think speed bumps.”

IndyCar is hopeful the Motorsports Game edition will be ready at the start of 2024. Miles hinted that beta versions could be unveiled to reporters ahead of the time “to begin to show the progress in a narrow way to make sure we’ve got it right, to test the progress so that we’re ready when they’re ready.”

It’s been nearly 18 years since the release of the most recent IndyCar video game for console or PC.

“(We) better get it right,” Miles said. “It’s something we’re very close to and continue to think about what it is to make sure we get it over the line in due course.”