Rosberg takes European GP pole as Hamilton crashes out of qualifying

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Nico Rosberg will start the first European Grand Prix in Azerbaijan from pole position after setting the pace in a dramatic qualifying session in Baku on Saturday.

Rosberg edged out Force India’s Sergio Perez to take pole for Mercedes at the Baku City Circuit as teammate Lewis Hamilton made four mistakes across the course of a session marred by yellow flag periods.

Mercedes left it late to capture pole position after a mistake from Hamilton caused both drivers to lose their first run in Q3.

Hamilton was fortunate to get out of Q2 after making an error, with a third trip into the run-off area handing provisional pole to Perez.

When Hamilton made another mistake during his final run in Q3 and hit the wall before stopping on-track at Turn 10, it appeared that pole was Perez’s to take.

However, Rosberg managed to time his final effort perfectly to take P1 by seven-tenths of a second just moments before Q3 was red flagged, despite brushing the wall on his lap.

With the clock frozen at two minutes, drivers had enough time to get back out and try and squeeze in one more lap. However, traffic meant that only Daniel Ricciardo could improve his position, finishing third behind Rosberg and Perez.

Perez will drop to seventh on the grid by virtue of a penalty for changing his gearbox after a crash in FP3, lifting Ricciardo onto the front row of the grid for Ferrari.

Sebastian Vettel narrowly outqualified Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen for P4, leaving the Finn to settle for fifth place at the checkered flag. Both gain a place as a result of Perez’s penalty.

Felipe Massa impressed for Williams, finishing fifth in Q3 ahead of Daniil Kvyat and Valtteri Bottas. Max Verstappen finished ninth for Red Bull ahead of the crest-fallen Hamilton in P10.

With team owner Gene Haas and NASCAR driver Kurt Busch in attendance in Baku, Haas F1 Team had hoped to impress and get one of its cars through to Q3. However, Romain Grosjean was forced to settle for P11, narrowly missing out on a top-10 stat, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was left 15th on the grid after a mistake on his final lap.

A radio mix-up left Nico Hulkenberg 12th on the grid, the German unaware that he had the tires or fuel to complete a late final effort in Q2, while Carlos Sainz Jr. struggled to match the pace of Toro Rosso teammate Kvyat, finishing 13th.

McLaren was unable to keep up its streak of Q3 appearances as Fernando Alonso could only qualify 14th, while teammate Jenson Button was knocked out in Q1 after damaging his tires while locking up, finishing 19th in the session.

Sauber impressed by getting one of its cars through to Q2 courtesy of Felipe Nasr, who finished 16th. Teammate Marcus Ericsson’s poor run of qualifying form continued as he finished 20th, only avoiding a last-row start after a quick final lap in Q1.

Manor enjoyed a strong showing in qualifying as both Rio Haryanto and Pascal Wehrlein came close to reaching Q2, finishing narrowly inside the dropzone in P17 and P18 respectively, just than two-tenths off Nasr’s time.

Renault’s difficult comeback season in F1 hit a new low as Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer locked out the back row of the grid, finishing eight-tenths of a second adrift of a Q2 berth.

The European Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 8am ET on Sunday.

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.