Hamilton outpaces Raikkonen to lead Belgian GP FP2 at Spa

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Lewis Hamilton sent out a warning shot to his Formula 1 rivals by setting the pace through second practice for the Belgian Grand Prix at the Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps on Friday afternoon.

Hamilton trailed Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen in FP1 earlier in the day, but was able to respond with a best time of 1:44.753 to take top spot in the second 90-minute session.

Hamilton turned his lap in on the ultra-soft tire for Mercedes, leaving Raikkonen to settle for second place, 0.262 seconds further back.

Valtteri Bottas took third in the sister Mercedes W08 car, four-tenths back from his teammate, while Max Verstappen and Sebastian Vettel trailed in P4 and P5 for Red Bull and Ferrari respectively.

Daniel Ricciardo was unable to join the quintet leading the pack, finishing 1.3 seconds down on Hamilton for Red Bull in sixth place after a slow initial run on the ultra-softs.

Nico Hulkenberg followed in P7 for Renault ahead of Esteban Ocon and Carlos Sainz Jr., while Jolyon Palmer completed the top 10 positions.

The session went by without major incident, with Felipe Massa being the only driver sidelined after a chassis change following his FP1 crash meant he was unable to get out on-track.

A rain shower struck Spa with around 25 minutes remaining in the session, prompting most teams to head back to the pits and call it a day with little to learn by running in the damp conditions.

Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso were the only drivers to brave the elements, but both quickly returned to the pits after one tentative lap, largely spent trying to keep the car in a straight line.

FP3 for the Belgian Grand Prix is live on the NBC Sports app from 5am ET on Saturday, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on CNBC.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”