Hamilton leads FP2 washout at Suzuka, Mercedes wins boat battle

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Lewis Hamilton topped a rain-soaked second Formula 1 practice for the Japanese Grand Prix on Friday afternoon as just five drivers set a time at Suzuka.

Rain had been forecast all day at Suzuka, arriving towards the end of first practice before growing in intensity through the afternoon, leading to the start of FP2 being delayed indefinitely.

The rain stopped around 35 minutes after the session had been due to begin, with safety car driver Bernd Maylander soon deeming the track to be dry enough for safe running.

Despite the green flag coming out with 45 minutes to go, it took another five minutes before a car appeared on-track, with Kimi Raikkonen being the first to brave the conditions.

The majority of drivers ventured out for at least one installation lap, but only five decided to post a lap time, with Hamilton ultimately finishing P1 with a lap of 1:48.719.

Force India drivers Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez followed in P2 and P3, while Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll were fourth and fifth for Williams. Stroll was fortunate not to crash, though, aquaplaning at the first corner and narrowly keeping his car out of the wall.

The real highlight of the session came during the rain delay as teams took advantage of the wet weather to send makeshift boats down the river in the pit lane, as made famous in 2010.

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.