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Ricciardo quickest in tightly-contested second Mexico F1 practice

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Daniel Ricciardo led Red Bull to the top of the timesheets in second practice for the Mexican Grand Prix on Friday afternoon as all six drivers from the three leading Formula 1 teams were covered by less than half a second.

In an incident-packed session that saw title contenders Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton both hit trouble, it was Ricciardo who rose to the head of the field as Red Bull flexed its muscle at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Taking advantage of the high-downforce setup requirements due to the high altitude levels in Mexico City, Ricciardo was able to turn in a fastest time of 1:17.801 to finish fastest, one-tenth of a second clear of Hamilton in the lead Mercedes.

Hamilton’s session got off to a rough start when he suffered a huge spin exiting Turn 11, and while he avoided any damage, the Briton lost a chunk of track time while his Mercedes team checked his car over.

Ferrari rival Vettel also suffered a setback when the fire extinguisher in his car leaked, leaving a white stain on the back of his race suit and forcing the team into finding a replacement, also leaving him on the back foot.

Vettel was able to get out and complete a qualifying simulation on the ultra-soft tire, lapping two-tenths slower than Ricciardo to finish fourth behind Red Bull’s Max Verstappen.

Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen followed in P5, with Valtteri Bottas rounding out the top six in the second Mercedes, less than half a second off his teammate.

Fernando Alonso led McLaren’s charge by taking seventh, finishing as the lead midfielder, while Force India’s Sergio Perez took eighth, two places ahead of teammate Esteban Ocon as Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg split the pair in P9.

An early red flag period was sparked when Romain Grosjean suffered a sizeable left-rear tire blowout after an issue, leaving debris from his Haas car strewn across the track and ending the Frenchman’s session in the process.

Stoffel Vandoorne also faced a setback in his McLaren early on, with a power issue forcing his engineers to wheel him back to the garage from the pit lane.

Pierre Gasly was, like Grosjean, sidelined by a problem, completing just 10 laps, plus a number of drivers suffered spins due to the low grip nature of the circuit, leaving plenty of questions to be answered in final practice on Saturday morning.

FP3 is live from Mexico on the NBC Sports app from 11am ET on Saturday.

It’s official: Laguna Seca to host INDYCAR for at least next 3 seasons

Laguna Seca, from the 1991 CART race there. Photo: Getty Images
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INDYCAR made it official today: the 2019 season-ending race will move a couple of hours down the Northern California coast to WeatherTechRaceway Laguna Seca.

Sonoma Raceway, which has hosted INDYCAR since 2005 – including the last five season-ending races (that includes this year’s upcoming season finale) – will not be part of next season’s schedule.

Earlier today, the Monterey County (Calif.) Board of Supervisors, which oversees operation of the iconic racing facility, approved a three-year agreement with INDYCAR to host next year’s season finale on Sept. 20-22, 2019.

The remaining two race dates for 2020 and 2021 will be announced later, according to an INDYCAR media release.

The 2.238-mile permanent road course previously hosted CART and Champ Car World Series Indy car races from 1983 through 2004, including the season-ending races from 1989 through 1996.

“I can’t imagine a more attractive destination location for INDYCAR’s season finale,” Mark Miles, president and CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns INDYCAR and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, said in a statement. “Monterey is a place people want to be, and we will bring all of our guests. I think it’s a great choice for us.”

Bobby Rahal, former CART/CCWS driver and current INDYCAR team co-owner of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, won four of the prior 22 previous Indy car races at Laguna Seca, all consecutively (1984-87).

“It’s great news, but I might be biased,” Rahal said. “I personally won four Indy car races there and won my first Can-Am race there. Our Indy car team won with Bryan Herta and Max Papis and our sports car team won IMSA races there.

“So I would almost bet you that Laguna Seca is the site of more victories for me as a driver and team owner combined of any track I’ve ever raced on.

“There is nothing better than the Monterey Bay area, and it’s a great circuit that always drew great crowds. So I’m thrilled to have Indy car racing coming back to a circuit I love so much. We will put on a good show, for sure.”

In addition to Rahal as a multiple winner, two-time winners at Laguna Seca were fellow current INDYCAR team co-owners Michael Andretti and Bryan Herta, INDYCAR on NBCSN analyst Paul Tracy, Danny Sullivan and Patrick Carpentier.

“The return of INDYCAR to its spiritual road racing home of Laguna Seca is a tremendous honor and testament to the appeal of Monterey, and through the support of the County of Monterey will provide a significant economic benefit to our area businesses,” said Timothy McGrane, CEO of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, “We are looking forward to creating more memories in race fans’ minds like Bobby Rahal’s four consecutive Indy car wins from 1984-1987, Mario Andretti’s farewell race in 1994 and Alex Zanardi’s last-lap overtaking of Bryan Herta in the Corkscrew in 1996 that simply became known as ‘The Pass.'”

NBC Sports Group has secured exclusive domestic television and digital media rights for INDYCAR races beginning in 2019. Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports and NBCSN, agreed that Laguna Seca is an ideal venue to close out the schedule.

“We commend INDYCAR for returning to Laguna Seca, a historic track and an inspired place for the 2019 season finale,” Miller said. “The 2019 season will be our first as the exclusive media rights partner of INDYCAR, and we could not be more pleased to broadcast the championship from beautiful Monterrey.”

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