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.

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.

Gutierrez set to ‘explore the feeling of enjoyment in IndyCar’

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Esteban Gutierrez has a better peace of mind for his second Verizon IndyCar Series weekend this year, this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America (Sunday, 12:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN), than his first at Detroit earlier this month.

That’s because he’s now been confirmed for the remainder of the races that Sebastien Bourdais won’t drive, until Bourdais’ return to the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda, and he has track experience at Road America from both Formula BMW races a decade ago.

“It’s a track that I enjoy a lot. It’s one of my favorite tracks. I have great memories from 2007 when I was racing Formula BMW USA,” Gutierrez reflected. “I was actually fighting my way from the back of the field in one of the races. I got up to second. We finished with a very small margin at the start/finish line. It was a very enjoyable moment, a great race that I have very close in my memory.

“Coming back quite many years after, 10 years after, I’m very, you know, excited to get into an IndyCar. Very powerful, very grippy, really nice racing car. You know, it’s really a nice experience to do every lap in this track.”

Gutierrez had a test day on June 14, which he wasn’t publicly identified for at the test but was always planned following his debut at Detroit.

“Obviously to throw myself into Detroit was quite a challenge, one of the most difficult tracks in the calendar, with no testing, straight in the weekend. I think it was a very interesting experience,” he explained.

“Now that I come to Elkhart Lake with a test behind my belt before the weekend, it’s great. I’m really enjoying a lot. I’m very happy of where I am today, with the challenge I have ahead, with the future ahead.

“I would like to explore more that feeling of enjoyment here in IndyCar. I’m just going to go through it. I’m going to live every moment. I’m going to focus on the present and see what we can do in the future.”

And although his rookie teammate Ed Jones is only nine races into his own IndyCar career, Gutierrez says he’s already been able to learn a lot from him and from Bourdais.

“(There’s) quite a lot,” Gutierrez said he’s learned from Jones already. “And also from Sebastien. I’ve been in contact with him. Been in contact with few drivers to try to get some tips, to get a feeling of what are their thoughts, their experiences, to help me, you know, get quicker into the knowledge of the car, in general, and the series, and the competition here.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with him were related to the technical side of the car, in order for me to understand how the car is working, how the car is evolving through a weekend. It helped me a lot in Detroit. It’s helping me a lot here. Obviously we had the test which allowed us as a team to prepare better.

“Yeah, race by race, it will be clearer and clearer. But Sebastien is always there involved kind of following all the meetings, following the practice sessions, the qualifyings. Yeah, is great to be in touch. Sebastien is a great driver. I really been following him from the past. So, yeah, we’re here and trying to do my best to adapt quickly to the racing here.”

Both Gutierrez and Jones are IndyCar rookies and as such are feeding off each other to learn.

“It’s all about sharing information after each session. It’s about contributing,” he said. “Obviously he has more experience than me in IndyCar, and he has proven to be quite good here. So Ed, you know, we’ve been always together in the meetings. Obviously me trying to understand what is his way of working through the weekend with the setup of the car.

“In my case, I’m very open, because obviously I have no experience in IndyCar. So been always with a very open approach, trying to get as much information as I can, absorb everything, and learn as much as possible.”

Gutierrez briefly dovetailed into the Formula E contractual situation where he had driven with the Techeetah team. He said there was “really nothing to talk about” and that he enjoyed the experience, but said this was an opportunity he wanted to explore.

What he will be exploring for the first time next week is his first oval test at Iowa Speedway on Tuesday, and he’s excited about that.

“I’m aware that it’s completely different. Fortunately I will have a test on Tuesday to prepare, to get to know the reality of an oval, because you can review a lot of data, you can prepare on the theory, but always, you know, when you get to the reality of driving, it’s a complete different story.

“I’m really looking forward to Tuesday. I’m very sure that I will enjoy it, that I will enjoy that kind of racing. So, yeah, I’m excited to get to know — to expand my racing knowledge and to know how to race in ovals.”

For now he’ll get through this weekend and look to build continuity with the Coyne team and Jones as his teammate.

Risi Competizione confirms multiple race absence from IMSA

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The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE will miss several upcoming IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, starting at Watkins Glen International next weekend.

The team has plans to return to the GT Le Mans class later this year, but hasn’t said when.

Risi’s absence was first indicated when IMSA released the Watkins Glen entry list earlier this week. It takes the sole Ferrari in class out of it for a handful of races; the pair of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella had a best finish of third so far this season.

“Following an extremely challenging first half of 2017, most recently at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, I have decided to withdraw the Risi Competizione race team from part of the 2017 IMSA season in order to consolidate resources and to reflect on future racing programs,” Team Principal Giuseppe Risi said in a release.

Risi’s crash at Le Mans was with a separate 488 GTE chassis, not its full-season one.

But the IMSA full-season one sustained back-to-back hits at Long Beach and Circuit of The Americas. Then, the brand new car took a beating after Matthieu Vaxiviere came over on top of Pierre Kaffer’s No. 82 car going into a chicane on the Mulsanne Straight.

Kaffer was sore but OK and is in Road America this weekend for Pirelli World Challenge GT action, where he competes in the No. 4 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS.

Rossi tops opening practice at Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Alexander Rossi led the opening 45-minute practice session for this weekend’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America, in the No. 98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda for Andretti-Herta Autosport.

The young American has always liked this track, as this was one of the tracks he had past experience on prior to his debut season in IndyCar.

At the 4.014-mile circuit, Rossi posted a best time of 1:43.3285, clear of three Team Penske Chevrolets of Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Josef Newgarden. Scott Dixon completed the top five.

“It’s early; it’s a good way to start,” Rossi told IndyCar Radio after the session. “We’ve known we had a fast car. We just haven’t executed. We want our first win under our belt.”

Only the top 10 drivers down to Helio Castroneves in 10th were within one second, at 0.9964 of a second.

Eighth-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay brought out an early end to the session with an off-course excursion, beached at Turn 14. He was OK but the session ended a minute or two early.

Robert Wickens, in his first official Verizon IndyCar Series session filling in for Mikhail Aleshin at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, was 20th at 1:45.6823. That was within a tenth of the returning Esteban Gutierrez at 1:45.6257, for Dale Coyne Racing.

Wickens’ teammate James Hinchcliffe was sixth in this session. Meanwhile Gutierrez’s teammate Ed Jones debuted a new Walter Payton tribute helmet; Payton was Dale Coyne’s former business partner and had his first IndyCar race as co-owner here. The late Chicago Bears running back was, of course, one of the best running backs in NFL history. Jones’ decision to wear a Bears helmet in Elkhart Lake, not far from Green Bay, is a brave one!

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports co-owner Sam Schmidt updated Aleshin’s status when speaking to IndyCar Radio during the session.

“Supposedly, he’s on a flight. He got his visa from Paris. He’s supposed to land in Chicago tonight. We’ll see,” he said.

“Yeah up until yesterday morning we thought Mikhail would come in yesterday, and cruise normal fashion. Then his passport didn’t show up. We didn’t know if a day, two or three days. Called half a dozen guys. It was a bit of a scramble. We already had Robert’s seat, so that was convenient. Who could get here the quickest and get in the car. He hasn’t driven here in 10 years. But he’s getting up to speed quickly.”

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