F1 Preview: 2016 Austrian Grand Prix

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The hills will be alive with the sound of horsepower this weekend as Formula 1 makes its annual visit to the Red Bull Ring in Spielberg for the Austrian Grand Prix.

Despite only returning to the calendar in 2014 after an 11-year absence – the old A1-Ring fully updated thanks to sizeable investment from Red Bull – Austria has already established itself as one of F1’s favorite European races.

This weekend’s race is the first of four in the space of just five weeks, going back-to-back with the British Grand Prix. A week’s grace follows before another double-header – Hungary and Germany – that takes us to the summer break.

As such, drivers’ championship leader Nico Rosberg will know that this month could prove to be make or break for his title aspirations.

After seeing Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton close to within nine points after victories in Monaco and Canada, Rosberg responded with a dominant display in Baku to open the gap back up to 24 points.

Hamilton, meanwhile, arrives in Austria keen to check the Red Bull Ring off his win list. In both 2014 and 2015, Rosberg dominated, leaving him to settle for second place both times around.

As the summer break nears, now is the time to lay down the foundations for the championship run-in. Here’s what to look out for in this weekend’s Austrian Grand Prix.

Talking Points – 2016 Austrian Grand Prix

Rosberg seeks three-peat in Spielberg

Austria has proven to be something of a banana skin for Mercedes over the past two years. In 2014, mistakes from both its drivers in qualifying handed Felipe Massa and Williams a surprise pole, while last year saw both Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg spin off on their final Q3 laps.

Both times around, the Silver Arrows bounced back to score a one-two, but with Ferrari running close in recent races, such errors cannot be repeated.

Rosberg is chasing a three-peat this weekend after his previous victories, knowing that he can take his lead back past the 30-point mark – by no means a healthy buffer, yet it will put him in control ahead of the British Grand Prix where Hamilton will be expected to dominate.

Hamilton looks to bury his Baku nightmare

Much of the good work that Hamilton did in Monaco and Canada to whittle Rosberg’s lead down from 43 points to just nine was undone two weeks ago in Baku. A string of errors in qualifying left him down the pack for the race, in which he struggled to make light work of the midfield runners as expected.

In many ways, P5 was damage limitation for Hamilton, but he still arrives in Austria knowing that he must bounce back and ensure Rosberg does not begin to run away again at the head of the standings.

The first priority for Hamilton will be to have a trouble-free weekend. Then he can focus on beating Rosberg on-track – a fight we are still yet to have truly enjoyed this season…

Can Red Bull ends its home race hoodoo?

Red Bull may own two teams and have four cars in F1, yet it has never finished any higher than eighth at its home event. Daniel Ricciardo was its sole finisher in 2014, while Max Verstappen led the charge in his Toro Rosso last year.

This year should see the Austrian team fare slightly better, although Verstappen has already admitted that the track does not suit the strengths of the RB12 car. We should therefore expect Ferrari to lead the non-Mercedes charge, perhaps leaving Red Bull to scrap with Williams and Force India behind.

Either way, Red Bull will arrive at its home race feeling more positive and hopeful that either of the past two runnings.

Checo’s roll to continue?

Sergio Perez has been one of F1’s stand-out performers in recent weeks, scoring two podiums in the last three races, taking his tally for Force India to four. He’s responsible for all but one top-three finish in the team’s history.

As such, it’s hardly surprising that the Mexican is being linked to some of F1’s bigger teams for 2017. Ferrari is known to be considering – as it did last year and the year before that – whether to stick with Kimi Raikkonen, while seats may also be up for grabs at Williams and Renault.

Tire management continues to be Perez’s greatest strength, making him dangerous in Austria where multiple stops are expected. The fact he’s now matching that nous with searing pace makes him a definite contender for a top-five finish this weekend.

Brexit and F1

Yes, Brexit. You’ll probably be sick and tired of hearing about it by now – being from the UK, I certainly know that I am. But there will most probably be some more chatter about it this weekend in Austria as the F1 paddock comes to terms with the impact of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

Already those traveling to Austria for the race will be feeling the pinch following the collapse in the pound and reduction in the exchange rate against the Euro.

The British drivers in the field – Lewis Hamilton, Jenson Button and Jolyon Palmer – will be hoping to give some joy to the country after a difficult couple of weeks. The running joke after the EURO 2016 defeat to Iceland was that England had left Europe twice in the space of four days.

Let’s see if Lewis can rekindle some sporting joy for a nation in deep need of something to celebrate.

2016 Austrian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Red Bull Ring
Corners: 9
Lap Record: Michael Schumacher 1:08.337 (2003)
Tire Compounds: Soft/Super-Soft/Ultra-Soft
2015 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:08.455
2015 Fastest Lap: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:11.235
DRS Zones: Main Straight (T9 to T1); T2 to T3

2016 Austrian Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports App 4am ET 7/1
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 7/1
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports App 5am ET 7/2
Qualifying: CNBC 8am ET 7/2
Race: CNBC 7:30am ET 7/3

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
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Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury