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Rosberg tops opening Austrian GP practice for Mercedes

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Nico Rosberg sent out an early warning shot to his rivals in Austria by topping the first practice session at the Red Bull Ring on Friday morning for Mercedes.

Rosberg posted a fastest lap time of 1:07.373 to beat Mercedes teammate and championship rival Lewis Hamilton by three-tenths of a second at the checkered flag.

The session saw drivers get to grips with the newly-resurfaced Red Bull Ring, which is also sporting a number of new kerbs and a revised pit entry for the weekend.

Despite locking up and running wide on a handful of occasions, Rosberg’s best time was enough to defeat Hamilton, the Briton unable to respond during the 90-minute session.

Hamilton suffered a spin at Turn 3 that led to a brief Virtual Safety Car period, with Romain Grosjean also going off-track as he arrived at the scene.

The only other stoppage came when Max Verstappen suffered a suspension failure, having also lost part of his front wing after running over the new kerbs earlier in the session.

Sebastian Vettel finished as the best of the rest for Ferrari, ending the session six-tenths of a second off Rosberg at the top of the timesheets. Teammate Kimi Raikkonen followed two-tenths further back in P4.

Daniel Ricciardo finished fifth for Red Bull, while teammate Verstappen still ended the session eighth in spite of his damage. Newly-re-signed Carlos Sainz Jr. charged to sixth for Toro Rosso ahead of Williams’ Felipe Massa, while their respective teammates – Daniil Kvyat and Valtteri Bottas – rounded out the top 10 behind Verstappen.

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.