Hungarian heaven for Hamilton in his first Mercedes win

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Lewis Hamilton has won the Hungarian Grand Prix following a brilliant display at the Hungaroring that saw him finish ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel, claiming his first win for Mercedes and his fourth Hungarian Grand Prix victory.

Hamilton’s pace throughout the race was highly impressive, making his strategy work as Vettel – the pre-race favorite – got stuck behind Jenson Button for 12 laps and ended up losing a great deal of time to Hamilton before eventually falling behind Raikkonen during the final part of the race.

Off the start, Hamilton proved that he had learned from his mistake in Germany by holding the lead into turn one from Vettel and Grosjean, but the Lotus quickly came under pressure from Nico Rosberg and Fernando Alonso. The Ferrari driver could not quite pass Grosjean after being forced wide, allowing Rosberg to attempt a pass. However, the Mercedes was touched by a fast-starting Felipe Massa, causing Rosberg to run off the track at turn five and drop down to 12th place. On the medium tire, Button and Webber both made good starts to try and get in the running with their alternative strategies but they could not match Hamilton’s pace out in front. The Briton began to open up a lead over Vettel as Grosjean quickly reeled in the Red Bull, although he could not quite pass using DRS. Just nine laps into the race though, Hamilton elected to pit for fresh tires, releasing Vettel and Grosjean at the front but Red Bull soon pitted Vettel in reaction to Mercedes’ tactic. As a result, Lotus had their drivers P1 and P2 with the plan being to two-stop as their rivals would have to pit one extra time. However, the high tire wear meant that both Grosjean and Raikkonen had to pit, handing Mark Webber the lead on the medium tire.

The race slowly began to move away from Vettel as he got stuck behind Jenson Button and unable to get past, allowing Romain Grosjean to catch him up and, more worryingly, Hamilton to open up a five second lead over the Red Bull. Knowing he had to find a way through, Vettel tried to pass Button on the inside of turn two but instead made contact with Button, causing damage to his front wing and allowing Grosjean and Alonso to close up as Button pulled away. After dropping back, Vettel drew Button back in and made a fine pass on the inside of turn four, with Grosjean making contact on his way past the McLaren. At the front though, Hamilton took the lead once Webber pitted and enjoyed a 13 second lead over Vettel, putting the Mercedes driver in the box seat to claim his fourth win in Hungary.

Lotus took the decision to pit Grosjean in order to get the undercut on Vettel, and the Frenchman pulled off a great overtake on Massa in order to stop himself from being held up. Hamilton soon followed the example of the Lotus, coming out ahead of Raikkonen to hand Vettel the lead once again. However, the Briton soon disposed of Webber and re-took the lead when Vettel and Alonso pitted, with Vettel re-emerging behind Jenson Button once again. This time though, Vettel soon passed the two-time Hungarian GP winner but the gap to Hamilton now stood at 15 seconds.

Romain Grosjean’s race soon took a turn for the worse after the stewards handed him a drive-through penalty for the pass on Massa after putting all four wheels outside of the white line, ending his chances of a maiden grand prix victory. His teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, put himself in a position to two-stop following a long run during his second stint. Mark Webber had also been pushing hard to make his strategy work, coming back out in P3 after his second stop, and he was ahead of Hamilton when the race leader made his final pit stop. However, Hamilton made a brave move on the inside of turn three to re-take second place, now just 7 seconds behind Vettel who still had one more stop to make. The German driver looked to open up the gap to Hamilton, but he was soon forced to pit and dropped to 4th behind Hamilton, Webber and Raikkonen.

Vettel quickly set about catching Raikkonen and began to pressurize him for 2nd place once Webber had pitted for the final time. Mercedes gave Hamilton the call to cool his engine, with the 11 second cushion to Raikkonen allowing him to ease off in the final ten laps of the race. Vettel was forced to back off from Raikkonen in order to cool his car down, but he then began to push once again and was on the rear wing of the Lotus with just five laps remaining.

Mercedes’ near-perfect afternoon took a turn for the worse when Nico Rosberg pulled over at turn four following a sizeable engine failure, causing the engineers to become concerned about the condition of Hamilton’s car. This did elevate Maldonado into the top ten, handing Williams their first point of the season come the checkered flag. Vettel once again closed on Raikkonen, complaining when he wasn’t given enough room to make a pass on the Lotus, and the defending world champion could not find a way past on the last lap. Out in front though, Hamilton managed to keep it on-track to take his first win for Mercedes since joining the team and his fourth in Hungary crossing the line ahead of Raikkonen, Vettel, Webber and Alonso.

Road America weekend, Friday notes

Abnormal USF2000 podium of Malukas, VeeKay, Kohl. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – The Verizon IndyCar Series had two practice sessions today (you can see linkouts to practice one, and practice two, here). But it was far from the only action at Road America.

With seven sessions from the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires and three sports car sessions, two Pirelli World Challenge and the first Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires race, it was a very busy day of action.

Notes from all of those sessions are below.

MRTI

  • In USF2000, a rare occasion happened. Oliver Askew not only didn’t win the first race of the weekend, but had a mechanical issue that sent him to pit road. It opened the door for Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay (full surname of Van Kalmthout) to capture his first series win in a banner day for Augie Pabst’s Oconomowoc, Wis.-based team. Pabst Racing finished first (VeeKay), third (Lucas Kohl, in his first podium) and fourth (Calvin Ming, after starting 15th). Splitting them up was BN Racing’s David Malukas, the young Chicago native having scored a surprise pole position in the morning, finishing an impressive second place.
  • The first Pro Mazda race of the weekend saw Victor Franzoni on top over Anthony Martin, as the two championship combatants this season continued their bout. Martin (Cape Motorsports) and Franzoni (Juncos Racing) exchanged the lead early before Franzoni got past, then waltzed away. Team Pelfrey’s Nikita Lastochkin finished third for his first podium finish of his Mazda Road to Indy career, after two years in USF2000 and now into his first Pro Mazda season.
  • An intriguing Indy Lights qualifying session for race one saw Freedom 100 winner Matheus Leist continue his recent form. The Brazilian rookie edged Carlin teammate Neil Alberico for the top spot, with Ryan Norman best of Andretti Autosport’s quartet in third. Points leader Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) starts fourth while Nico Jamin (Andretti) is fifth, Wisconsinite Aaron Telitz (Belardi) 11th and Colton Herta (Andretti/Steinbrenner) 13th. Zachary Claman De Melo (Carlin) did not qualify due to a mechanical issue. Kaiser led practice earlier in the day.
  • The Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires held three other sessions on Friday. As noted, Malukas won the pole for the first USF2000 race held earlier Friday. Qualifying for the second race took place after IndyCar second practice, and saw VeeKay on pole. In qualifying for Pro Mazda race two, the grid is jumbled after an apparent strategic error cost Franzoni a proper lap time. A red flag meant he wasn’t able to set a realistic time and he will start from 15th and last on Saturday. Meanwhile Martin will be on the pole for Saturday’s race.

RESULTS

Indy Lights: Weekend Results
Pro Mazda: Weekend Results
USF2000: Weekend Results

SPORTS CARS

Photo: Global MX-5 Cup
  • Patrick Gallagher edged Bryan Ortiz by just 0.0263 of a second in a new record closest finish in Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires, which breaks the record for the second time in three races. After Robert Stout beat Gallagher by 0.0632 at Indianapolis, Gallagher turned the tables with his win today, moving his McCumbee McAleer Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup car to the outside of Ortiz exiting Turn 14.
  • Pirelli World Challenge had only two sessions total today, one practice apiece for GT and GTS/TC.

RESULTS

MX-5 Cup: Weekend Results
PWC: Weekend Results

Tony Stewart to race in Rico Abreu fundraiser at Calistoga

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SONOMA, Calif. (AP) NASCAR is back at Sonoma Raceway and the defending race winner won’t be part of the field on Sunday.

Tony Stewart, who scored the last of his 49 career victories here, is retired now and watches the Cup races as a team owner. He still plans to race this weekend.

Stewart will run at Calistoga Speedway in an event that is being largely promoted by Rico Abreu and his father, local businessman David Abreu.

The race used to be called the Wine Country Classic, but has been renamed the Boys and Girls Club Dirt Track Classic. David Abreu designed the event as a fundraiser for a facility to house after-school programs for local children in Calistoga.

“My dad and I have always wanted to promote a race to raise money for the Boys and Girls Club,” Rico Abreu said. “There is a need for it with our demographics and it accommodates hundreds of kids in our valley. It provides them a safe place to learn and grow.”

Rico Abreu, one of the nation’s top dirt track drivers, benefited from the program along with his two siblings in St. Helena.

Stewart, Abreu and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. are among those entered in the Saturday night dirt track event to help draw attendance.

David Abreu, founder of St. Helena’s Abreu Vineyards, is hoping to raise $250,000 for an equipped clubhouse at the Calistoga Boys and Club location. He will give a famous “Macho Magnums” – 40 magnums from his Napa Valley 2010 collection – to the first $100,000 donor.

It will be Stewart’s first Winged Sprint Car start at the Calistoga half-mile. He did win a USAC Western Midget Series race in 1994. He also set the midget track record that same weekend and held it until USAC made its return to the venue in 2008.

“I’m really looking forward to running the Calistoga Speedway since I haven’t raced there since 1994,” Stewart said. “I’m also excited to see all the improvements that have taken place at the track since the last time I’ve been there.”

Abreu is driving as well as promoting and fundraising. He’s competing Saturday night in the Sprint Car Challenge Tour 360’s and the King of the West-NARC 410’s.

“Having Tony Stewart and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. in competition will certainly be an exciting thing for all the fans in Nor-Cal,” said Rico Abreu.

More AP Auto Racing: http://racing.ap.org/

Newgarden, Penske top second practice at Road America

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Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden topped second practice in a 1-2-3-4 sweep for the Team Penske outfit, driving the No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet. Newgarden’s best lap of a 1:42.8229 was about five hundredths of a second quicker than teammate and defending race winner Will Power, who was second with a 1:42.8229. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves completed the Penske top four sweep, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe the best of the Honda drivers in fifth.

The session was only briefly interrupted early on when Alexander Rossi went off the track in Turn 14 and gently slid into the tire barrier. The red flag was flown to remove the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda from the barrier, but Rossi was able to continue, ending the session in 11th after leading the morning practice.

Of note, Dale Coyne Racing’s Ed Jones enjoyed a strong session to end up sixth, while teammate Esteban Gutierrez was 17th on his return to Coyne.

Also, Robert Wickens continued to fill in for Mikhail Aleshin, ending Practice 2 in 20th. While Aleshin is reportedly en route to Road America, it is unknown if Wickens will continue his fill in role through the weekend.

Times are below. Practice 3 rolls of at 12:00 p.m. ET (11:00 a.m. local) on Saturday.

Sauber says it’s ‘soon’ to naming Kaltenborn’s successor

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Sauber F1 Team enters this weekend’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix without a team principal and trying to work ahead on its 2018 preparations, making it a tough weekend for one of Formula 1’s smallest teams.

Sauber team manager Beat Zahnder attempted to explain the team’s managerial structure this weekend in Kaltenborn’s absence and teased when he hoped a decision would be made regarding Kaltenborn’s successor.

“Jorg Zander, the technical director and myself, we’ve been entrusted to run the operation of the team this weekend but this is only temporary,” Zahnder explained during the FIA team principal press conference on Friday.

“It doesn’t change a lot for us because our job is to have two cars running as quickly as possible around the circuit and for me it’s a little bit more media work.”

Asked when he hoped to have a successor named, Zahnder replied, “I hope soon. We were talking to some candidates and I hope we can announce it sooner rather than later.”

Former Renault F1 chief Frederic Vasseur’s name has been floated this week, as have other former F1 team chiefs Dave Ryan and Jost Capito, after Colin Kolles’ name was floated earlier in the week.

Zahnder said he could not explain the insider workings of the team.

“I cannot, no. You’ve seen the official press statement from Mr Picci and it seems that Mr Picci and Mrs Kaltenborn had different views how to operate the company. We shouldn’t forget that it’s not only a race team, it’s a home team as well with 350 people or so, but I cannot give you more information because I’m not actively involved in that decision,” he said.

Sauber is still in the process of not only finishing this year but also preparing for its 2018 switch to Honda power. This is an important change and one that comes amidst the turmoil currently encapsulating McLaren and Honda’s turbulent relationship.

“We have started with the project and there is an exchange of information on the logistical side, on the set-up side and the garages,” Zahnder explained. “We have to organize computers and IT stuff and things like this so the work has started, yes.”

With the two McLaren Hondas set to start from the rear of the grid this weekend, Sauber can at least work to get into Q2 and get further up the order with its pair of Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein.