Rosberg cautious of Red Bull threat in Japan after Friday practice

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Nico Rosberg remains wary of the threat posed by Red Bull at Suzuka following Friday’s Formula 1 practice running ahead of the Japanese Grand Prix.

Rosberg led both practice sessions ahead of teammate and drivers’ championship rival Lewis Hamilton as Mercedes dominated proceedings at Suzuka.

Red Bull’s leading driver in FP2 was Max Verstappen, who finished eight-tenths of a second adrift of Rosberg over one lap, but the German is wary of the threat the team may pose given it did not complete a time on the soft-compound tire.

“It’s been a case of finding my way today. It began with quite a lot of understeer and we had to work through the setup in order to find a better balance on the car,” Rosberg explained.

“In the afternoon, the medium tire didn’t seem as strong as the hard as we saw in Malaysia. However, on the soft tire we showed good one-lap pace, the balance felt good and the track was really exciting to drive.

“It looks like we’re ahead of the Ferraris, but it remains to be seen as to where we are compared to the Red Bulls.”

Following his agonizing retirement when leading the Malaysian Grand Prix last weekend, Hamilton felt grateful to have a trouble-free Friday despite trailing Hamilton in both sessions.

“It’s been a really good day with no problems on the car which is great. We managed to get plenty of laps in but there’s still some work to be done overnight in order to find more pace,” Hamilton said.

“That’s a work in progress and hopefully we’ll be going into Sunday in good shape. It’s great to be here in Japan and I’m excited to get out on track again for qualifying tomorrow.”

Qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 2am ET on Saturday.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.