Rosberg rules in Britain as Vettel’s luck runs out

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Nico Rosberg has won today’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone after a tenuous race that saw a series of large tire failures, forcing drivers to be extra careful if they were to keep it on track.

Mercedes have struggled with their tire wear so far this season and pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton suffered a puncture when leading in the early stages of the race. Despite inheriting the lead, Sebastian Vettel’s luck also ran out as he suffered a loss of drive with just eleven laps remaining, allowing Rosberg to lead home a charging Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.

Off the line, Hamilton held his position well to lead through the opening complex from Sebastian Vettel as their teammates, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, both failed to manage a clean getaway. Webber’s cause was not aided by a side-swipe from Romain Grosjean, which left the Red Bull with front-wing damage and a battle to recover down in 15th place. Felipe Massa made a superb start from 11th to sit 5th behind Adrian Sutil, but his teammate, Fernando Alonso, failed to make his traditional good start and lost out to Jenson Button.

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Just as Lewis Hamilton began to create a gap at the front, his hopes of winning the British Grand Prix for a second time soon burst after a tire failure on the left-rear of his Mercedes caused him to drop down the order, with a similar failure on Felipe Massa’s car occurring just minutes later. This signalled to the rest of the field that it was time to pit as Vettel maintained his lead thanks to a slick stop. Jean-Eric Vergne was the leading driver not to have stopped, but he quickly paid the price as he too suffered a puncture, leaving debris on the entry to Stowe and bringing out the safety car. Webber was informed that Vettel had cuts in his rear tires, whilst Rosberg was told to avoid overheating his tires and running over the kerbs for want of preventing a similar failure to that of his teammate.

Once the clean-up had been completed, the safety car came back in and the racing resumed with Vettel leading the cars across the line. Webber’s fightback continued at the expense of Sergio Perez as his teammate was told to manage the gap to Rosberg, focusing on a progressive increase rather than an instantaneous one. Felipe Massa began to pick off the backmarkers, moving up to P13 come the second round of stops. Raikkonen was the first to pit, and he was quickly followed by Fernando Alonso and teammate Romain Grosjean. Hamilton worked his way back up into the points, tussling with compatriot Paul di Resta for 7th as Nico Rosberg began to close the gap to Vettel at the front. Raikkonen managed to leapfrog Alonso during the stops, with Webber also passing the Ferrari. Vettel and Rosberg both pitted and maintained their positions due to the huge gap that had been created, but Adrian Sutil fell from 3rd after staying out too long on his tires.

Lewis Hamilton may not have envisaged fighting for P11 after starting from pole, but both he and Paul di Resta showed great racecraft during their fight over the position which eventually went to Hamilton under DRS. The Briton then worked his way into the points by passing Romain Grosjean, following the example set by Jenson Button just one lap earlier. Just as Vettel appeared to have the race win secured, drama struck. His Red Bull lost drive and grinded to a halt on the pit straight, putting him out of the race and handing the lead to Rosberg, with the safety car being deployed to recover the stricken RB9. The front runners all decided to pit for fresh tires except for Kimi Raikkonen, who questioned the decision. This left Rosberg out in front having stopped, but Webber and Alonso both had to pass cars that had not stopped if they were to reach the podium.

On the restart, Rosberg began to pull away from Raikkonen as Alonso hounded the McLaren drivers for P6 and P7, eventually passing Button into Copse. Perez soon followed after his MP4-28 slowed into the pits, releasing Alonso into 6th ahead of Hamilton. The former McLaren teammates forced their way past Daniel Ricciardo, leaving Sutil as the next driver on their hit list. Webber and Raikkonen went wheel-to-wheel, with the Red Bull driver eventually making it through as Alonso took Sutil through the final complex of corners before catching Kimi Raikkonen after the Lotus driver lost out to Mark Webber. Fresh tires had clearly done the trick for the front runners, with Rosberg and Webber trading fastest lap times. Hamilton continued to follow Alonso’s example, disposing of Kimi Raikkonen down the Hangar Straight as Webber closed on Rosberg. However, it was not enough as the German driver kept it on track to win the third grand prix of his career.

Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato welcomes ‘Baby Borg’ to the family

Photos: Michael L. Leavitt
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Takuma Sato cast a big shadow on the world of IndyCar racing last May when he became the first Japanese driver to win the Indianapolis 500.

But there was another shadow of sorts cast along with Sato’s Indy 500 win: he and the prestigious Borg-Warner Trophy, given to each year’s winner of the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, are virtually identical in size.

The Trophy is the same height as Sato, 5 feet, 5 ¾ inches tall. And the respective weight of both the Trophy and Sato are the same: approximately 113 pounds.

Try putting that on a mantle in your house.

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

That’s why Sato was so happy to receive the Baby Borg Trophy — a miniature version of the Borg-Warner Trophy — Wednesday night in Detroit. It’s much more manageable for the mantle in his house: 18 inches tall and five pounds.

“It’s such an honor to win the Baby Borg finally, eight months after the race, it’s been an unbelievable journey,” Sato told NBC Sports. “It’s an unbelievable feeling to win the 500 and it has just gone on and on. It’s just a significant moment in my life. It’s been fantastic.

“Right now, I haven’t really decided yet (where he’ll put the coveted Baby Borg). It’s going to my home in Indiana right now. But of course, everybody wants to see it. After that, I haven’t decided, but I’m sure it’ll get a special place.”

Even though the Baby Borg is a pint-sized version of the real trophy that was presented to Sato in victory lane in Indianapolis last May, it also has the same meaning as the big trophy and served to get Sato’s excitement pumping to where he’s already counting down the days to the 2018 Indy 500.

And even more important, it will be the first time he returns to Indianapolis as the defending champion.

“(Winning the 500) has changed my life,” Sato told NBC Sports. “But what I do is exactly the same, to try and be as fast as possible when racing.

“But all the environment, the people, all the cheering and being called an Indy 500 champion, I never imagined how deep and how far it goes, just the power and energy that the Indy 500 had.

“I just never realized how much the tradition and the prestigiousness of it. It’s been fantastic and I’m sure when I go back there to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in four months as the defending champion, it’ll be a whole other dimension. I’m sure it’s going to be a whole lot of pressure, but I’m sure to enjoy the moment.”

Sato, who turns 41 on January 28, will return to the 500 this year, but with a new team. He left Andretti Autosport after last season and returned to Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, for whom he previously raced for in 2012.

Now that he’s won one Indy 500, Sato wants to make it two in a row.

“It’s a huge, another task and a new dream,” he said. “I’m excited for the new season and to go for another 500 (win), it’s another completely new dimension. Like Michael (Andretti, who he drove for last season) said, obviously, we’ll be competing against each other in the new season, but tonight we celebrated together. I think it’s going to be a real good season for me. I’d love to get another win there, of course.”

2018 BorgWarner Baby Borg Presentation to 2017 Indianapolis 500 winner Takuma Sato and team owner Michael Andretti. 17 January, 2018, Detroit, Michigan, USA.
Michael Andretti celebrates his 5 Indy 500 wins as a team owner, and Takuma Sato celebrates his first Indy 500 win
©2018, Michael L. Levitt

But not if Andretti has anything to say about it.

“He’s not allowed to win again,” Andretti laughed while also speaking to NBC Sports.

Sato enjoyed a victory lap of another sort last month when he accompanied the Borg-Warner Trophy to his native Japan for a two-plus week tour of the nation.

It marked the first time in the Trophy’s 82-year existence that it has ever been outside the U.S.

Everywhere Sato and the Trophy went drew large crowds, from Honda Racing “Thanks Day” at the Twin Rings track at Motegi to a visit to Mount Fuji, a meeting with 850 members of Sato’s fan club, and also included a two-day run in the atrium of Honda’s World Headquarters in Tokyo that had fans lined up for hours to see the Trophy and take photos of it and Sato.

“The reaction was just massive,” Sato said. “For myself, it was a dream come true, but at the same time, for a country with that history, it was an unbelievable moment, particularly the first time when Hiro Matsushita did it (drove in the Indy 500 in the 1990s) so many years ago.

“So many Japanese drivers have tried to win such a historic race, I was just so proud to be part of it. The people were really excited. The passion, I’m really particularly happy to bring it to Japan.

“To go to Japan was a massive commitment by from Borg Warner and Honda. So many Japanese fans were able to see it physically and now they’re really looking forward to this year’s Indy 500 again. It was a great moment to us.”