Hamilton nears Senna’s tally, boosts title hopes with Abu Dhabi pole

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Lewis Hamilton paid tribute to the Mercedes AMG Petronas team after scoring his 12th pole position of the 2016 Formula 1 season, also the 61st of his career.

Hamilton arrived in Abu Dhabi trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 12 points at the top of the drivers’ championship, needing a drastic turnaround in fortunes to win a fourth world title on Sunday.

The Briton continued to strengthen his case in qualifying by storming to pole, beating Rosberg by three-tenths of a second on the final runs in Q3.

The result marked the 12th pole of Hamilton’s season and the fourth in succession, as well as putting him to within four of F1 legend and his hero, Ayrton Senna, whose tally is 65.

“I can’t believe I’ve had 61. I think there’s four more to go to try and catch Ayrton,” Hamilton said after the session.

“It’s been a great weekend so far. It’s been strange coming here this weekend, realizing that this is going to be the last practice and qualifying sessions with this car that has been so incredible.

“You never know when you’re going to have a car like this again. I hope we have another one in the near future, maybe next year. It’s been such a privilege driving this car.

“This weekend so far we’ve got the car in a real sweet spot, great work done by my engineers. Faultless mechanics again, [they’ve] done an incredible job. Everyone in the factory, I just want to thank everyone.

“I wouldn’t have the 61 poles I have now if it wasn’t for them. Perfect position for tomorrow.”

Hamilton will be crowned world champion if he wins the race and Rosberg finishes off the podium.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am 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.