Formula One

 
               === F1 is back in Austria after 10-year hiatus ===
 
 Spielberg,  Austria (SportsNetwork.com)  - Mercedes  drivers Nico  Rosberg and
 Lewis  Hamilton set the pace in Friday's practice for the Austrian Grand Prix,
 as  Formula One has returned to this European country for the first time since
 2003.
 
 With  F1  teams becoming acquainted  with the 2.688-mile (4.326-kilometer), 9-
 turn  Red Bull Ring,  located in the scenic foothills of the Alps, Rosberg and
 Hamilton were the top-two drivers in the two practice sessions.
 
 During  the  first session, Rosberg had  the quickest time in 1 minute, 11.295
 seconds.  Hamilton  was just a tick  behind in 1:11.435, while Fernando Alonso
 from Ferrari posted a lap in 1:11.606.
 
 "I did a lot of laps today, and on a new track, every lap is important for the
 learning process, so I'm quite happy with that," Rosberg said. "In general, it
 was a complicated day for me, so there is still some lap time to find compared
 to  my teammate  [Hamilton]. My car is  bouncing a lot down the straights, and
 that  continues into my braking zones, so it was difficult there. But I'm sure
 we can improve on that."
 
 Hamilton  led  the way in  the second session. His  fastest lap was clocked in
 1:09.542, which was almost four-tenths of a second quicker than Rosberg's best
 lap. Alonso was once again third quickest.
 
 "It  didn't feel bad  out there today, considering this is a new track to me,"
 Hamilton  said.  "Already after the first  few laps, I was feeling comfortable
 and always seemed to be finding time with new lines and improvements. To be as
 quick  as I was, considering others have already driven this track, is a great
 feeling.  It was very  windy out there today, but we got a lot of running, and
 we feel set for the race on Sunday."
 
 Rosberg  and  Hamilton combined for  a total of 138  laps in the two sessions,
 which was the equivalent to nearly two race distances. Sunday's Austrian GP is
 71 laps.
 
 "The  high speed corners  were working the rear tires hard, but they seemed to
 cope well," Hamilton noted. "The feeling was good for both sets of tires, even
 in  the  long runs, so  if the car  is like  this for the  race, I'm in a good
 place.  The  goal for [Saturday]  will be pole position,  but there is still a
 long straight up to turn two so anything can happen in the race."
 
 Rosberg  enters the  Austrian GP,  the eighth  round in  this year's  F1 world
 championship, with a 22-point lead over Hamilton.
 
 When F1 most recently competed two weeks ago in Canada, Red Bull driver Daniel
 Ricciardo  scored his  maiden win, passing Rosberg for the lead with less than
 three  laps  to go as  Rosberg was dealing with  an ill-handling car. The race
 concluded  with  the deployment of  the safety  car after Force India's Sergio
 Perez  and  Felipe Massa from  Williams made contact  and spun out before both
 drivers slammed hard into the barrier on the final lap.
 
 Here  in Austria,  this will be a  big weekend for Ricciardo and his teammate,
 Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, as the Austrian GP is the home
 race   for  the  Red  Bull  Racing  F1  team.  Austrian  businessman  Dietrich
 Mateschitz,  who  founded the Red Bull  Energy Drink company in the mid-1980s,
 owns both the team and the racing circuit in Spielberg.
 
 "It's  great to  be going to Red  Bull's home race after an awesome weekend in
 Canada," Ricciardo said. "The Red Bull Ring is a tidy circuit, not the longest
 and not many corners, but what is there is good."
 
 Ricciardo's win in Canada moved him up to third in the championship standings.
 He is a distant 61 points behind Rosberg.
 
 Formerly  known  as the Osterreichring and  the A1-Ring, the Red Bull Ring has
 been significantly upgraded since it last hosted an F1 grand prix 11 years go.
 The  Austrian GP  was contested on the Osterreichring from 1970-87 and the A1-
 Ring  from 1997-2003. Zeltweg Airfield hosted the first F1-sanctioned Austrian
 GP in 1964.
 
 Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, June 22. Race: Austrian Grand Prix. Site:
 Red Bull Ring. Track: 2.688-mile (4.326-kilometer), 9-turn road course. Start
 Time: 8 a.m. ET. Laps: 71. Miles: 190.773 (307.020 km). Television: NBC Sports
 Network.
 
 06/20 22:38:02 ET

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