Untouchable Vettel cruises to Canadian GP victory

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Sebastian Vettel has won the Canadian Grand Prix in emphatic style, only losing the lead during the first round of pit stops as he eased home to claim his first victory at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve by 13 seconds.

The defending world champion cruised home ahead of Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton, with the battle between Ferrari and Mercedes being the main source of action in the race. Mark Webber could not maintain his early pace and only finished 4th, whilst Nico Rosberg came home 5th ahead of Jean-Eric Vergne and Paul di Resta, both of whom will be delighted with their results. Kimi Raikkonen’s championship charge continued to falter as he could only finish P9 behind Felipe Massa.

The start saw Vettel hold onto his lead without coming under pressure from Hamilton, but Bottas was the big loser, falling behind Rosberg and Webber with Alonso following at the end of the lap. Kimi Raikkonen also struggled off the start, whilst Giedo van der Garde made up four positions on the first lap. The majority of the field elected to start on the supersoft tire, with di Resta, Grosjean, Bianchi and Chilton opting for mediums. Jean-Eric Vergne became the next driver to pass Bottas, but Adrian Sutil could not follow after making a mistake that saw him spin. Vettel continued to extend his lead at the front until the first round of stops with Hamilton and Rosberg unable to match the pace of the Red Bull. Further back, Pastor Maldonado received a drive-through penalty for an incident involving Sutil, dropping him out of the points.

Some of the drivers tried to make a one-stop strategy work, squeezing the life out of their tires and creating some action in the midfield. Jenson Button lost out to Sutil and Massa whilst Raikkonen was informed that he had to save fuel, pitting to release Vergne into 6th place. Webber continued to pressurize Rosberg, but he could not make it through and was soon fending off Alonso for 4th place. Eventually, with the aid of DRS, Webber and Alonso both passed Rosberg to sit 3rd and 4th respectively, with the Mercedes pitting for fresh tires soon after. Bottas continued to fall backwards, losing out to Perez but he did manage to keep 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen at bay for a few more laps until the Lotus passed under DRS. When lapping van der Garde, Webber made contact with the Caterham which had ignored blue flags, losing part of his front wing endplate in a clumsy incident for which van der Garde received a stop/go penalty. Alonso closed on Webber after the Red Bull made a mistake and passed him for P3 heading into turn one, maintaining his lead over the Red Bull into the second rounds of stops.

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There was no change of position at the front during the pit stops, with Vettel rejoining the race in the lead on the harder compound. Paul di Resta and Romain Grosjean ran deep into the race, optimizing their one stop strategies – something Mercedes failed to do with Hamilton, and he was soon losing time to Alonso in 3rd. After many laps of DRS and some great defence from Hamilton, the Ferrari finally made it through into second place. Hamilton was quick to get back on Alonso’s tail though, but the Mercedes just couldn’t quite find a way past. di Resta finally pitted on lap 57, with Rosberg and Vergne making a third stop to cover the Force India. For Sutil though, his weekend took another turn for the worse after receiving a drive-through penalty for ignoring blue flags, leaving him with a late battle with the McLarens, eventually finishing 10th. DRS was disabled late on which hindered Hamilton’s charge on Alonso, but Massa was able to make a late move on Raikkonen for 8th.

The win sees Vettel extend his championship lead over Fernando Alonso, and it hands Red Bull their first win in North America since they entered the sport in 2005. Alonso will be pleased to have finished 2nd after starting in 6th, but for Valtteri Bottas, 14th place will be a very disappointing result.

IMSA: Sebring test notes

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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Ahead of next month’s Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring, teams from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship took to Sebring International Raceway to round out a week of IMSA testing at the 3.74-mile road course.

Below are news highlights from Friday and Saturday at Sebring.

Derani Aiming for a Repeat of 2016 Victory

Tequila Patrón ESM’s Pipo Derani burst onto the American racing scene in 2016 with standout performances at the Rolex 24 and 12 Hours of Sebring to lead the ESM team to victory at both races.

His Sebring triumph was particularly impressive as he charged from fourth to first in the final ten minutes to secure the victory in one of the most thrilling finishes the race has ever seen.

Now two years removed from those successes, Derani appreciates the impact those 2016 triumphs had on his career.

“If you’re talking about sports car racing, you’re talking about Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans, Petit and those races that are known worldwide,” said the now 24-year-old Derani. “After winning Daytona and immediately coming here at Sebring – which if I’m not wrong, I was the first guy winning both on debut and the first Brazilian, probably to win back-to-back on those two races. It definitely changed my career. It opened many doors for myself and I’m really glad that it happened. Nothing comes easy. I’m really glad that ESM gave me the chance in 2016 to be in those races. Two years later, I can’t wait to win again.”

With testing now in the rearview mirror, Derani hopes he and the ESM team have found the right setup package to give them another chance at a victory.

“(Thursday) was a day that we managed to get a lot of information,” he explained. Most importantly, we ran a lot. We were out on track, and that is really good for us. Hopefully, this work is going to pay off really, really soon.”

United Autosports Continues American Odyssey at Sebring

Although two-time FIA Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso won’t be in the mix, United Autosports will be continuing the American adventure they started at January’s Rolex 24 with entries at the three other Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018, beginning with March’s 12 Hours of Sebring.

The No. 32 Ligier JS P217 Gibson will be the team’s entrant at the remaining NAEC events and they will look to build on a fourth-place finish at the Rolex. However, while fourth looks like a strong result, team co-owner Richard Dean felt a victory may have been within their reach.

“We were a little bit disappointed in the end, even though we finished fourth because I think with three hours to go we sat in third place and the two Cadillacs were looking like they were struggling, we felt like we had an opportunity that 24-hour races can give you,” said Dean. “But everybody’s got a story, so we came out of there with a fourth place.”

Drivers Phil Hanson and Paul Di Resta returned to the team to complete the Sebring test, while Alex Brundle filled in for an ill Bruno Senna, who is scheduled to race with the team at the 12-hour enduro.

Dean emphasized, though, that Senna’s previous experience around the track should make up for his absence.

“Bruno couldn’t travel, he wasn’t well enough, and there was just no point in him getting on a plane and being ill here,” Dean asserted. “He knows the track. Of the three drivers we’ve got, he’s the one who needed the least laps around here.

Dean added that the team is beginning to get a better foothold on American soil, citing help from Andretti Autosport, which should improve their prospects for the remaining NAEC rounds.

“We feel a little bit more organized, we’ve got our own truck now, and we’ve got a little base here, and (Andretti Autosport) have been helping us out an awful lot, so our little collaboration or alliance with Andretti has certainly steadied the ship a little bit for us and helped us,” Dean said. “We’re excited to do these remaining races, and now that we’ve got Daytona experience with us, it’s definitely going to help us do a much better job in the approach for Sebring, Watkins Glen and Petit.”

Lally Samples New Continental Tire Design

Continental Tire, the current tire supplier for the Prototype and GT Daytona classes in the Weathertech Championship, rolled out a new tire design for the Sebring test, and Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally was the first to sample it on Thursday.

“Basically, we’re all going through sweeps right now and feeling things out. What does the tire feel like when you’re in qualifying mode versus full-fuel mode?” Lally said after the initial running. “There are all sorts of stuff when you get such a change like what we’ve got here. This is a relatively big change for the GT cars. Maybe for the Prototypes, it’s not as big a change, but for the GT3 cars, it’s quite a different feel on the platform. We’re just going through that.”
The new tire design comes after a Rolex 24 that was plagued with tire problems, as several teams suffered failures, especially on the left-rear, during the 24-hour race. Wayne Taylor Racing even elected to retire their No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R after suffering five tire failures.
Miller, Bechtolsheimer Sample New CJ Wilson Racing Acura NSX GT3
Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer got to work quickly with new Weathertech entrant CJ Wilson Racing, with both drivers sampling their new Acura NSX GT3 on Thursday and Friday.
Miller is a veteran of GT3 machinery and has won big races before – he was a GTD class winner at the 2016 Motul Petit Le Mans. Bechtolsheimer, however, is all new to GT3 machinery, having primarily raced vintage cars along with forays into the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
“I’ve not driven anything close to a GTD car before,” quipped Bechtolsheimer. “The first time driving it properly here at Sebring is kind of fitting because the first time I drove a car on slicks was at Sebring two years ago in moving to Continental Tire, which was at least as daunting at the time as moving into GTD now.
“The first time I turned a lap or two in the car, even though I was just trying to figure out where all the switches were and so on, I straight away felt that this is a car that’s going to be fun to drive. It’s going to take me time to build up to be on pace, but it’s a confidence-inspiring car and its yeah, it’s a lot nicer than perhaps I was expecting.”
The Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring rolls off on March 17.