Verstappen leads final Mexican GP practice as Mercedes hits traffic

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Max Verstappen closed out practice for the Mexican Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets as traffic left Mercedes Formula 1 drivers Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg frustrated.

Hamilton and Rosberg were surprised by Ferrari’s pace in FP2 on Friday afternoon as Sebastian Vettel set the pace, but aimed to strike back during the qualifying simulations on Saturday morning.

Verstappen was one of the first drivers to head out for his final run in FP3, laying down a benchmark of 1:19.137 for the rest of the field to try and match.

Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo was two-tenths of a second off after having his lap compromised by Kevin Magnussen at the final corner, while the Mercedes drivers also toiled with traffic.

Hamilton finally found some space with three minutes remaining, allowing him to post a lap that was 0.094 seconds off Verstappen’s effort, but could not go any faster before the end of the session, leaving the Briton second overall.

Teammate and title rival Rosberg also struggled, running wide on one of his late laps and hurting his tires before going fourth, around half a second off Verstappen’s time at the top.

Valtteri Bottas shot up to fifth for Williams as the Ferrari drivers failed to emulate their Friday pace, with Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen finishing sixth and seventh.

Felipe Massa finished eighth in the second Williams, while Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. finished ninth and tenth respectively for Force India and Toro Rosso.

Qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 2pm ET on Saturday.

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.