Nico Rosberg dominates en route to Monaco GP victory

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Nico Rosberg has won a thrilling Monaco Grand Prix following a cool and controlled performance, leading every lap to claim a win that sees him match the achievement of his father, Keke, thirty years ago.

Rosberg’s lead was threatened by constant stoppages thanks to two safety cars and a red flag, but he managed to finish ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber come the end of the race thanks to some excellent tire management and sheer pace. His teammate, Lewis Hamilton, missed out on the podium following a mix-up under the safety car, whilst championship contenders Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen both struggled for pace, finishing 7th and 10th respectively.

Off the start, Mercedes’ front-row lockout was threatened by Sebastian Vettel who made a good start, but he could not make any progress from P3 after getting stuck on the inside of Ste Devote. All of the drivers got through the first corner safely, and it wasn’t until the tight Loews hairpin that contact was made between Adrian Sutil and Jean-Eric Vergne. Both managed to continue with no problems unlike Pastor Maldonado and qualifying hero Giedo van der Garde, who had to pit on the first lap. Jules Bianchi was forced to start from the pit lane after failing to complete the parade lap, whilst Felipe Massa could not make much progress from P21. At the front, Rosberg and Hamilton managed to open up a small buffer to Red Bull, with most of the teams entering tire management mode. McLaren saw the rivalry between their drivers renewed from Bahrain, but Sergio Perez was forced to concede the position to Button after cutting two chicanes, and a fire on Charles Pic’s car ended his race after just nine laps.

The first round of pit stops saw Webber, Alonso and Raikkonen come in early in an attempt to use the undercut, but they appeared to gain very little. Mercedes continued to push deep into the race, with their engineers telling Rosberg and Hamilton to slowly up their pace. The Silver Arrows did eventually pit under the safety car, which was brought out for the first time in 2013 after a hefty crash from Felipe Massa, mirroring the incident in FP3 on Saturday. Hamilton was the big loser from the incident, coming out of the pits behind Vettel and Webber, but Rosberg still headed the field for Mercedes.

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Off the restart, Rosberg controlled the field and maintained his lead, with Hamilton hounding Webber for position. The Mercedes did get past the Red Bull, but only for a split second as Webber quickly recovered his position. Tailing Raikkonen, Alonso ran wide at the Loews hairpin and Button tried to squeeze past, only to touch the Ferrari and eventually lose out to Perez for P7. The Mexican driver continued to make a move on Alonso, but the Ferrari driver just managed to hold onto 6th. On lap 46, the race was red flagged after Pastor Maldonado crashed heavily into the barrier at Tabac following contact with Max Chilton. The incident was so severe that the TecPro barrier came out onto the race track, warranting the red flag, and thankfully Maldonado was okay despite the big shunt. This saw the drivers re-assemble on the grid in race order, and their mechanics were able to make changes to the cars and fit new tires.

When the racing resumed, Alonso was forced to give up his position to Perez after the FIA investigated his earlier move, and Hamilton began to put pressure on Webber for the final podium position. Not willing to settle for 6th, Perez tried to pass Kimi Raikkonen, who had opted to run on the harder tire on the restart, but he could not find a way past the Lotus. For Alonso, his weekend went from bad to worse as Adrian Sutil caught him napping to pass into the Loews hairpin. Rosberg did not let the pressure get to him at the front as he opened up a steady gap, but Bianchi cracked and his race ended in the barrier at Ste Devote following a mistake. An over-zealous move from Grosjean sent Daniel Ricciardo off down the slip road, and as the Lotus driver pitted for a fresh nose cone, the safety car was deployed for a second time. Grosjean soon returned to the pits and retired from the race.

Rosberg quickly set about opening up his lead once again on the restart, moving outside of the DRS window. Perez tried once again to pass Raikkonen, losing a portion of his front wing after the Finnish driver shut the door on his move at the Nouvelle Chicane. Raikkonen suffered a slow puncture, forcing him to pit and drop outside of the points. As the field slowed, Alonso lost yet another position to Button, with the two-time Monaco winner ending up P8. However, he recovered the position after Sergio Perez pulled off the circuit, handing 5th place to Sutil with four laps to go. Late on, Raikkonen recovered to collect one point, but nobody could stop Rosberg as he won the second grand prix of his career.

Hamilton: ‘Super-tight’ between Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull in Hungary

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Lewis Hamilton is braced for a tough fight in his bid for a sixth Formula 1 victory in Hungary after Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari ended Friday’s practice running evenly-matched for pace.

Daniel Ricciardo led Red Bull to the top of the timesheets in both FP1 and FP2, but with just half a second separating the top six drivers in the second session, there is still plenty to play for at the Hungaroring.

Hamilton wound up fifth in FP2, but feels there is still the pace in the Mercedes W08 car to bounce back on Saturday and continue his stunning Hungaroring record.

“It wasn’t the easiest start to the weekend, with the conditions very gusty. We end the day in fifth but there’s clearly good pace in the car,” Hamilton said.

“It’s super tight between Ferrari, Red Bull and ourselves at the top of the leaderboard, so it’s looking like it will be an exciting weekend. That should be good for the fans.

“There’s some more work to do overnight to fine-tune the balance to get the car just where we want it and I believe the pace is in there.

“We just need to unlock it ahead of qualifying because every tenth is going to be crucial with three teams in the mix.”

Mid-Ohio returns to IMSA schedule in May 2018

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will make its return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar in 2018, marking the first time Mid-Ohio has been part of an IMSA calendar since the 2014 merger that brought together the GRAND-AM Rolex Series and American Le Mans Series.

Mid-Ohio’s return to the calendar will occur in May 4-6, 2018, and will serve as the venerable Lexington, Ohio permanent road course’s kickoff to its new season.

It’s been since 2013 when GRAND-AM last competed there and 2012 when ALMS did, and from 2007 through 2012 ALMS was always on the same weekend as the Verizon IndyCar Series raced at the track.

More to follow…

Acura moving ahead to solidify NSX GT3 customers in 2018

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Acura Motorsports is moving ahead with plans to get its first NSX GT3 customers to race in North America, as well as worldwide, following Thursday’s formal confirmation of the manufacturer announcing it will sell the NSX GT3.

The two teams who have developed and run the car this year, Michael Shank Racing (IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Daytona class) and RealTime Racing (Pirelli World Challenge GT class) had team principals Shank and Peter Cunningham on hand today at Mid-Ohio to describe the work they’ve done in the process of getting the car ready for customers in 2018.

Shank highlighted the customer service performed by Honda Performance Development when he ran a Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 prototype in IMSA in 2015 and 2016.

The media availability this morning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course stopped short of confirming both teams will continue their own programs with the NSX GT3 next year, which would be customer-based and not factory as they are this year. That being said, both teams are working with Acura and HPD as they develop their 2018 programs.

Steve Eriksen, vice president and COO, Honda Performance Development, updated the production process in terms of getting NSX GT3s delivered to prospective customers.

“The production timeline and development was moved forward well ahead of Thursday’s announcement,” Eriksen told NBC Sports.

“That was done on purpose; the production was done well in advance to respond quickly when we get inquiries. The goal now is to move from interested parties to serious parties.”

Eriksen confirmed all four existing chassis, plus spares, run by Shank and RealTime this year are owned by HPD. It will be up to HPD to determine the path forward for those chassis after the respective seasons conclude.

For IMSA, the season finale is at Petit Le Mans on October 7 at Road Atlanta, and PWC’s last event of the year is a week later with the eight-hour SRO Intercontinental Challenge on October 15 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey.

Today’s media availability came a day after Acura confirmed the car will be available for sale worldwide at a price of €465,000 ($545,000).

This occurs after a year where there’s been more than 50,000-miles of on-track development between the two teams.

Shank has already delivered the car its first two wins in its inaugural season of IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition. The Pataskala, Ohio-based team is working to figure out its 2018 plans, with Shank preferring to focus on his sports car component first before adding any potential IndyCar program.

Here’s slightly more info about that from the release:

The NSX GT3 is eligible to race in more than two dozen FIA-sanctioned racing series around the world, including:

  • The Pirelli World Challenge and WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series in North America
  • The Blancpain GT Series and 24 Hours Nurburgring in Europe
  • The Blancpain GT Series Asia and GT Asia Series
  • The Super GT GT300 class in Japan
  • The Australian GT Championship
  • The Intercontinental GT Challenge

Additional options and complete customer support, including parts and service, training and engineering services are available.  Orders for the NSX GT3 are being taken now by HPD, responsible for sales in North America, at AcuraClientRacing.com.  JAS Motorsport is responsible for NSX GT3 sales in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, excluding Japan.  MUGEN is responsible for sales in Japan.

Pagenaud paces Mid-Ohio opening practice

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Defending Verizon IndyCar Series and Honda Indy 200 champion Simon Pagenaud paced opening practice for this year’s occasion, posting a quick time of 1:04.9079 at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Pagenaud, in the No. 1 Menards Team Penske Chevrolet, sits third in this year’s championship with 404 points. Interestingly his only win this year has come on the 1-mile Phoenix International Raceway back in April.

Graham Rahal, the 2015 Mid-Ohio winner, was second in the session in the No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing at 1:04.922. Marco Andretti made it into third in his No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda at 1:04.9814.

The top nine drivers down to Scott Dixon in ninth were separated by only 0.3241 of a second and all 21 drivers bar JR Hildebrand were within one second.

Other than a near miss when Helio Castroneves almost hit Esteban Gutierrez exiting the Keyhole, there were no issues in the session and no red flags.

Second practice runs from 2:15 to 3 p.m. ET and local time.

Times are below.