Hamilton doubles up to lead Rosberg once again in FP2

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Just as he did in the first practice session on Friday, Lewis Hamilton has finished fastest in FP2 in Bahrain to lead a Mercedes one-two as Nico Rosberg closely followed his teammate in second place.

The British driver posted a fastest lap of 1:34.325 to beat his teammate, and finish over one second clear of the quickest non-Mercedes driver, Fernando Alonso, in third place.

As darkness descended and the lights came on, Formula 1 entered new territory with the first night-time running for the sport at the Bahrain International Circuit. With conditions being far more representative of the race now than they had been during FP1, most of the teams quickly sent out their drivers to get in some lap times.

Predictably, Mercedes laid down the initial benchmark once again on the medium compound tire as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg carried their good form from FP1 into the second session. Hamilton edged out his teammate by 0.095 seconds after their first runs on the medium tire, proving just how evenly matched the two drivers are. Daniel Ricciardo posed the strongest challenge to Mercedes’ dominance on the medium tire, but he was over half a second down on Hamilton.

However, the team did not have it all its own way as Rosberg unintentionally blocked Sergio Perez at the final corner, and both drivers have been called before the stewards to explain the incident.

After half an hour of the session, most of the drivers opted to switch to the soft tire in pursuit of a quicker lap time. In the battle at the top, Rosberg reclaimed first place with a lap that was almost two seconds quicker than Hamilton’s best effort, albeit on the faster tire. Perez moved up into second place with his first effort before Hamilton finally emerged from the pits, and restored the Mercedes one-two by going three-tenths faster than his teammate. Fernando Alonso sat in third place after the soft tire qualifying runs, over one second down on Hamilton’s time.

One team that impressed on the soft tire was Marussia, who got Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton up into P9 and P10 at one point. Although they soon dropped down the order, it was a good showing from the backmarker team that still chases its first point in Formula 1. Chilton’s session came to an early end after a brake problem at the final corner left him stranded in the run-off area, and Adrian Sutil’s car also came to a halt just a few minutes later, ending the Sauber driver’s session. Marcus Ericsson was the third and final driver to come to a halt out on track with just six minutes remaining in the session.

Most of the teams soon turned attention to their race simulations, meaning that the Mercedes drivers remained unchallenged at the top of the timesheets. After spending most of the session in the pits, Williams finally sent its drivers out, but neither Valtteri Bottas nor Felipe Massa could bother the front-runners.

Come the checkered flag, it was Mercedes who once again enjoyed a one-two finish, and after laying down an impressive race pace during the long runs on Friday evening, it appears that it will take something out of the norm to stop either Lewis Hamilton or Nico Rosberg from claiming pole position in qualifying tomorrow.

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.