Nico Rosberg goes lights-to-flag in Monaco to defend crown

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Nico Rosberg has gone lights-to-flag to win the Monaco Grand Prix ahead of Lewis Hamilton, who managed to hold off Daniel Ricciardo in the final few stages of the race when the British driver struggled with his vision.

The German driver defended his Monaco crown, having won the race last year, and also matched his father’s tally of five grand prix victories in Formula 1.

After a tense qualifying session yesterday between Rosberg and Hamilton, they settled their differences cleanly on track today with Rosberg beating his teammate and re-gaining the lead of the drivers’ championship. However, Hamilton vented his frustration over the team’s pit strategy following two safety car periods in the race today, but was forced to settle for second place.

However, the real star of the race was Jules Bianchi, who finished eighth on track to score Marussia’s first ever points in Formula 1, having made its debut back in 2010. He was dropped to ninth following a five second penalty, but it still gave them two precious points.

The start saw Rosberg make a fine getaway to stay ahead of Hamilton, whilst Sebastian Vettel slotted into third place. His teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, was less fortunate, and dropped behind the fast-starting Kimi Raikkonen. Sergio Perez and Jenson Button went into battle, but the Force India driver came off worse as he ended up in the wall at Mirabeau, bringing out the safety car on the first lap.

On lap four, the race resumed and Rosberg stayed ahead of Hamilton. However, Raikkonen was on the move again as he passed Vettel for P3, but it turned out that the world champion had lost drive. He dropped down to last place, and after a pit stop he was able to get back on track for another lap before retiring from the race. Hamilton began to turn up the heat on Rosberg, and was on his rear wing in no time. The German driver held it together, though, and kept his teammate at bay, gradually opening up the gap.

Further down the order, Daniil Kvyat hit trouble with his car after making a great start, and was forced to park up his car and retire, bringing his first race at Monaco to a premature end. Jenson Button and Valtteri Bottas were the beneficiaries, moving up into P10 and P11, whilst Kamui Kobayashi was in the ‘magic’ 13th place for Caterham after 13 laps. Adrian Sutil was another man on a mission, making some brave overtakes at the Loews hairpin where – traditionally – overtaking is impossible.

Hamilton radioed to his engineer with concerns about his tires, but the team assured him that everything was in order. Rosberg enjoyed a lead of around 1.5 seconds at the front, and a lock-up at Mirabeau raised a few smiles in the paddock.

Esteban Gutierrez, Jules Bianchi and Max Chilton all were handed a five second stop/go penalty by the stewards for starting out of position on the grid, which they all duly took at their first pit stops.

In the battle for third place, Ricciardo made serious inroads on Raikkonen to get within half a second of the Finn. The Red Bull’s charge was stopped when the safety car was deployed to clear the debris caused by Adrian Sutil crashing into the wall on the exit of the tunnel. This sparked a mad dash to the pits for a fresh set of tires, but the order at the front remained unchanged after the stops.

Hamilton was quick to ask the team why he was not pitted one lap earlier, showing his discontent as he was still stuck behind Rosberg. They informed him that he did not have to stop again in the race, meaning that it was a straight fight to the end between the two Silver Arrows.

Having been in third place, Raikkonen was forced to make another pit stop after being hit by a lapped Marussia, costing him the chance of a podium finish. This did release Daniel Ricciardo up into third place ahead of Fernando Alonso.

On the restart, the Mercedes drivers once again set about re-establishing their lead, and Rosberg remained ahead of Hamilton, with the Briton still stewing over the decision not to pit one lap earlier. However, Rosberg was told to manage his fuel carefully for fear of running out later in the race.

Jules Bianchi was a man on a mission for Marussia, forcing his way past Kamui Kobayashi when Kimi Raikkonen made a move on the Caterham. The Frenchman was running in P12 at one point as he looked to give the team its best result of the season, and fought well to keep Vergne behind him around the tight corners of Monaco. Eventually, the Toro Rosso driver suffered an engine failure and had to retire from the race with 26 laps to go.

In the battle for the small points, Valtteri Bottas began to struggle with his tires, creating a train with Gutierrez, Raikkonen and Massa all looking to find a way past the Finn. However, it turned out to be an engine failure which eventually forced him to stop at the Loews hairpin.

Luckily, a safety car period was not required to recover the car. It did promote the train of cars up a place, and put Bianchi up into P11. However, he was under investigation for serving his five second stop/go penalty under the safety car, which is not permitted. Bianchi moved up into the top ten when Esteban Gutierrez spun at La Rascasse, ending both his race and Sauber’s hopes of some points.

At the front, Rosberg began to open up the gap to Hamilton, leading by over four seconds. The Briton reported that he had something in his eye and was struggling to see, allowing the German to pull well ahead and extend his lead. Hamilton once again got angry with his engineer over the radio, saying he “didn’t care” about the gap to Ricciardo despite the Red Bull closing in with fastest lap after fastest lap.

As Hamilton hit traffic, Ricciardo clung onto the back of the Mercedes with a few laps remaining. However, Raikkonen and Magnussen came together at the hairpin and ended in the wall, elevating Bianchi up into eighth place. Both drivers were able to continue, but had dropped down a few places.

In the final few stages, Ricciardo came close but not close enough to pass Hamilton. For Nico Rosberg though, there was sheer jubilation as he secured his second win in Monaco, and re-took the lead of the drivers’ championship.

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.