Hondy Indy 200 Practice

Charlie Kimball scores first IndyCar win at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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American driver Charlie Kimball became the fourth first-time winner in this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship after pulling away in the closing laps to win the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Kimball, 28, of Camarilllo, California, made the pass for the win with 17 laps remaining. Simon Pagenaud had pitted one lap previous from the lead and came out ahead of Kimball. But as the two raced down the backstretch on the 2.26-mile road course, Kimball pulled to the inside and managed to get past Pagenaud going into Turn 4.

“I knew we had the grip and we had hot tires and a little less fuel in the tank, so I knew that if I could get the run – as soon as I saw he was coming out of pit lane, I went to the overtake [boost] knowing if I could get some momentum going, I could go by him,” Kimball said to NBCSN.

“He tried to brake-check me or just go late to the throttle in the middle of [Turn] 2, but the Honda power just got me close enough to him that I could put it up the inside and take the spot. Then I just had to go clean home.”

Any chance for Pagenaud to reel Kimball back in as his tires warmed up quickly disappeared, and Kimball went on to his inaugural IndyCar win by 5.5 seconds over the Frenchman. It’s an especially impressive triumph, considering that he crashed his primary No. 83 Novo Nordisk Honda in a scary practice incident on Saturday morning and then utilized a three-stop strategy during today’s caution-free race.

“I can’t give enough credit to the guys at Chip Ganassi Racing – not just the Novo Nordisk crew but the Target guys yesterday to give me a car in qualifying to start in the Top 5 after I wrote off the primary in Turn 1 yesterday morning,” Kimball said. “They said ‘You gotta hit this target’ and all I had to do was drive the NovoLog Flexpen car to that number and she was quick. That’s all I had to do.”

Pagenaud didn’t think that Kimball would be able to pull off the move in Turn 4, but was nonetheless impressed.

“Man, that was a bold move,” said Pagenaud, one of those aforementioned four drivers who have notched their first IndyCar wins in 2013. “I didn’t think he would make it, but he did. It was a great move from him, and I can only congratulate him because honestly, I gave ’em hell today – 100 percent.”

TCGR’s Dario Franchitti completed an all-Honda podium with a solid third-place result ahead of Team Penske’s Will Power in fourth and pole sitter Ryan Hunter-Reay in fifth.

In the championship picture, points leader Helio Castroneves was able to come from 14th starting position to finish sixth – one spot ahead of Scott Dixon, who looked poised to gain on the Brazilian but instead lost some ground at the track where he’s won four times in his open-wheel career.

Heading into the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma on Aug. 25 (4 p.m. ET, NBCSN), Castroneves now holds a 31-point lead over Dixon with five races remaining in the season.

IZOD IndyCar Series – Honda Indy 200
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Order of finish, starting position in parentheses, driver, chassis-engine, laps completed and reason out (if any):
1. (5) Charlie Kimball, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
2. (8) Simon Pagenaud, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
3. (6) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
4. (2) Will Power, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
5. (1) Ryan Hunter-Reay, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
6. (14) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
7. (3) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
8. (7) Justin Wilson, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
9. (4) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
10. (12) James Hinchcliffe, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
11. (9) Simona De Silvestro, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
12. (13) Sebastien Bourdais, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
13. (10) James Jakes, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
14. (17) Oriol Servia, Dallara-Chevy, 90, Running
15. (16) James Davison, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
16. (24) Luca Filippi, Dallara-Honda, 90, Running
17. (11) EJ Viso, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
18. (22) Graham Rahal, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
19. (20) Sebastian Saavedra, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
20. (23) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Chevy, 89, Running
21. (21) Tristan Vautier, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
22. (15) Takuma Sato, Dallara-Honda, 89, Running
23. (18) Josef Newgarden, Dallara-Honda, 88, Running
24. (19) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Chevy, 64, Off course

Race Statistics
Winner’s average speed: 117.825 mph
Time of Race: One hour, 43 minutes, 29.1371 seconds
Margin of victory: 5.5334 seconds
Cautions: None
Lead changes: Five

Lap Leaders
Hunter-Reay, 1-30
Kimball, 31-41
Pagenaud, 42-47
Kimball, 48-64
Pagenaud, 65-72
Kimball, 73-85

Point Standings
1. Castroneves – 453
2. Dixon – 422
3. Hunter-Reay – 388
4. Andretti – 377
5. Pagenaud – 350
6. Franchitti – 342
7. Hinchcliffe/Kimball – 325
9. Wilson – 320
10. Kanaan – 313

Rosberg: Hamilton’s late-season form ‘the best Lewis I’ve ever seen’

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27: Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain driving the (44) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo neads Nico Rosberg of Germany driving the (6) Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 Team Mercedes F1 WO7 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo on track  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Nico Rosberg believes that Lewis Hamilton produced some of the best performances of his career towards the end of the 2016 Formula 1 season when the Briton had nothing to lose in the championship fight.

Rosberg clinched his maiden F1 drivers’ championship by five points in Abu Dhabi last Sunday, defeating Hamilton for the first time during their time as teammates.

Rosberg closed out the season with four straight second place finishes, with Hamilton’s run of victories in the same period not being enough to catch up in the standings.

Speaking in a video produced by Mercedes after his championship win, Rosberg said that he felt the most pressure after his final win of the season in Japan, the result that meant he could wrap up the title without taking another victory.

“The changing moment was Suzuka for me, when all of a sudden I had the 33-point lead and that meant it was in my hands, and it’s mine to lose, because it was enough to do second-second-second and third,” Rosberg said.

“That’s when really the pressure started for me because it became real, the chance to win the championship and to beat Lewis. It was real.”

Rosberg was only assured of the title when he crossed the finish line in Abu Dhabi, with Hamilton going deliberately slow in a bid to back the German into the chasing pack.

“Abu Dhabi was intense. It was the most intense experience I’ve ever had in a race car,” Rosberg said.

“Even qualifying, the laps in qualifying, not easy really. And for sure it has an impact on your performance. It’s not possible that you do the same performance as if you’re in Lewis’ position where he has nothing to lose.”

Rosberg believes that the lack of pressure brought the very best out of Hamilton, as he closed out the campaign with four consecutive victories from pole position.

“That’s why he got the pole positions and why I was second in the last couple of races because he’s free, has no weight and nothing to lose,” Rosberg said.

“It was the best Lewis I’ve ever seen, the last few races, because not only was he completely free, but also the most determined and motivated ever, working as hard as ever.

“[It was] massively difficult to beat him in those circumstances.”

Rosberg announced on Friday that he would be retiring from racing with immediate effect, meaning we have likely seen the last of his rivalry with Hamilton in F1.

Lewis Hamilton escapes punishment for defying Mercedes team orders in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Lewis Hamilton of Great Britain and Mercedes GP prepares for the race on the grid  during the Abu Dhabi Formula One Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit on November 27, 2016 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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Lewis Hamilton will face no punishment for defying team orders from Mercedes during the Formula 1 title decider in Abu Dhabi last weekend.

Hamilton took his fourth straight win and 10th of the season at the Yas Marina Circuit last Sunday, but fell five points short of Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg in the final drivers’ championship standings.

In a bid to make Rosberg lose places, Hamilton slowed the pack down in Abu Dhabi, causing concern on the Mercedes pit wall as Sebastian Vettel threatened to snatch victory away.

Hamilton ignored several calls from the Mercedes pit wall to pick up the pace, risking disciplinary action from the team after going against its orders.

However, Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda has confirmed that Hamilton will not be punished and that the team has moved on from the incident.

“There is no need to say anything to Lewis,” Lauda told The Mail on Sunday.

“We have no problem about how he raced in Abu Dhabi. We have drawn a line under it.”

Mercedes’ more pressing concern at the moment is finding a replacement for Rosberg after the German’s shock decision to retire from racing with immediate effect.

Hamilton’s contract with Mercedes runs for another two years, and without erstwhile rival Rosberg to battle against, is the early favorite for the championship in 2017.

Lauda claims half the F1 grid is chasing Nico Rosberg’s Mercedes seat

SUZUKA, JAPAN - OCTOBER 09: Nico Rosberg of Germany and Mercedes GP Mercedes GP non-executive chairman Niki Lauda and Mercedes GP Executive Director Toto Wolff celebrate after winning the race and the constructors championship for 2016 during the Formula One Grand Prix of Japan at Suzuka Circuit on October 9, 2016 in Suzuka.  (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
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Mercedes non-executive chairman Niki Lauda says that “practically half of Formula 1” is chasing Nico Rosberg’s seat for the 2017 season after the World Champion’s sensational decision to retire on Friday.

Rosberg was crowned F1 drivers’ champion for the first time last weekend in Abu Dhabi, only to announce five days later that he would be retiring with immediate effect.

The decision stunned the F1 world, and gave the driver market for the 2017 season a late and unprecedented twist as speculation swirled over who would replace Rosberg at Mercedes.

Speaking to La Gazzetta dello Sport in Italy, Lauda said that over half the F1 grid has enquired about Rosberg’s drive.

“Practically half of Formula 1 and maybe more,” Lauda said when asked about the interest in Mercedes’ free seat.

“I am constantly taking calls.”

Mercedes said following Rosberg’s announcement that it would take its time to decide on a replacement, with options including junior drivers Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon, or more established racers that would need their contracts to be bought out.

Lauda hinted that Wehrlein and Ocon were not first choices for Mercedes, though, saying: “Hiring a youngster is a risk and we don’t know how strong he would be.”

Lauda also revealed that he thought Rosberg was playing a joke on him when he first found out about the news, not long before the formal announcement.

“I took it badly. I was not expecting it,” Lauda said.

“At first I didn’t believe him. ‘Nico,’ I told him, ‘Are you pulling my leg? Is it a joke?’

“But he, seriously, said it was all true. Truly incredible.”

The Mercedes seat is one of just four free on the F1 grid for 2017. Manor is yet to sign any drivers for next year, while Sauber has one vacancy remaining.

FIA confirms remaining dates on 2017 WRC calendar, adds Poland

GAP, FRANCE - JANUARY 23:  Sebastien Ogier and Julien Ingrassia of France compete in their Volkswagen Motorsport Volkswagen Polo R WRC during Day Three of the WRC Monte Carlo on January 23, 2016 in Gap, France.  (Photo by Massimo Bettiol/Getty Images)
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The FIA has confirmed the full calendar for the 2017 World Rally Championship season following the latest meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Vienna this week.

The WMSC had previously approved a 12-round calendar for the 2017 season, but only confirmed the dates for the opening six rounds of the year.

In a statement issued by the FIA on Wednesday, the dates were firmed up for the entire calendar, as well as adding a 13th round in Poland.

FIA World Rally Championship – 2017 Calendar

1. Monte Carlo – 20-22 January
2. Sweden – 10-12 February
3. Mexico – 10-12 March
4. France – April 7-9
5. Argentina – April 28-30
6. Portugal – 19-21 May
7. Italy – 9-11 June
8. Poland – 30 June – 2 July
9. Finland – 28-30 July
10. Germany – 19-20 August
11. Spain – 6-8 October
12. Great Britain – 27-29 October
13. Australia – 17-19 November

In its statement, the FIA also confirmed the following regarding WRC in 2017:

  • The start order for World Championship rallies from 2017 has been amended and is now based purely on performance:
    • Day 1: All cars start according to the actual Championship classification
    • Day 2: P1 drivers start in the reverse order of the actual rally classification after Day 1. Other drivers start in the order of the rally classification.
    • Day 3: P1 drivers start in the reverse order of the actual rally classification after Day 2. Other drivers start in the order of the rally classification.
    • P1 drivers re-starting in Rally 2 will start at the end of the P1 group.
    • The start order of the first rally of the Championship will be based on the Championship classification of the previous year.
  • A WRC Trophy has been created for drivers and co-drivers participating in pre-2017 specification WRC cars. The maximum number of qualifying rallies is seven and the driver and co-driver who have scored the highest total of points in six of the qualifying rallies will win the titles. If less than five competitors register, no titles will be awarded.
  • M-Sport has been awarded the contract to supply R2 cars for the FIA Junior WRC Championship for 2017 and 2018.
  • Michelin Competition and DMACK Tyres are the registered tire companies for the 2017 FIA World Rally Championship.

Following Volkswagen’s shock withdrawal from the WRC, defending champion Sebastien Ogier is currently without a seat, but is known to be in the running for drives with both Citroen and the Ford M-Sport team in 2017.