LeMansbLog

2014 24 Hours of Le Mans Race Updates

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Rolling updates from the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans are below…

7:00 a.m. ET: It’s game over for Porsche. A strategic chess match between the No. 20 Porsche and No. 2 Audi has now fallen to Audi, with Mark Webber’s Porsche slowing on the Mulsanne Straight with just over two-hours to go.

LMP2 may still be a shootout with the top three within a minute.

6:00 a.m. ET: Just when the LMP1 and LMP2 classes appeared to be settled, drama has struck at Le Mans to blow the race wide open with three hours to go at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

The No. 1 Audi, piloted by Tom Kristensen, enjoyed a healthy lead over the No. 20 Porsche, but this was lost when the car came to a halt on the exit of the first chicane. The Dane managed to restart the car, only to return to the pits for a turbocharger change. Lucas di Grassi got behind the wheel and rejoined in third place.

Timo Bernhard currently leads the race for Porsche, but he is being chased by Andre Lotterer in the No. 2 Audi, who is less than ten seconds down the road.

The GTE Pro class is currently still being led by the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari of Toni Vilander, whilst the No. 95 Aston Martin is heading up the GTE Am class.

With three hours to go, the race has been turned on its head – and there’s still a long way to go.

In LMP2, the No. 46 Ligier surrendered the lead due to a suspension problem, handing control of the class to Oak Racing and Alex Brundle.

4:00 a.m. ET: We’ve had a great lead battle in GTE-Pro between the No. 51 Ferrari and No. 97 Aston Martin come to an end after the No. 97 went to the garage with overheating issues, and lost more than 20 minutes.

The LMP2 leader had a problem as well at the end of the 19th hour, with the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan going behind the wall with apparent engine issues. The similar Ligier JS P2 Nissan entry, the No. 46 fielded by Thiriet by TDS Racing, now leads.

The No. 1 Audi (LMP1) and No. 95 Aston Martin (GTE-Am) are the other class leaders.

1:05 a.m. ET: More drama up front, this time for Audi. The No. 2 Audi had taken over the overall lead following the No. 7’s retirement, due to an electrical issue with the car’s wiring loom.

But just before the 16-hour mark, the No. 2 Audi driven by Marcel Fassler pitted to replace the turbo. That promoted the sister No. 1 car to the lead.

Other class leaders include the No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2 Nissan (LMP2), No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia (GTE-Pro) and No. 95 Aston Martin Vantage (GTE-Am).

11:30 p.m. ET: A stellar race from the No. 7 Toyota has ended in disaster and a retirement from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. Kaz Nakajima was driving the TS040 Hybrid when it came to a stop on the track a short time ago.

One of Nakajima’s co-drivers, Alex Wurz, captured the despair in the Toyota camp with a tweet:

Toyota’s Rob Leupen told Fox Sports that an electrical problem was the culprit behind the demise of the No. 7.

“It’s motorsport,” Leupen ended with a sad shrug.

With nine and a half hours remaining, the No. 2 Audi has taken control of the lead with Benoit Treluyer currently driving.

9 p.m. ET (HALFWAY HOME): It’s 12 hours down, 12 more to go in this year’s running of the world’s most prestigious sports car race – which is firmly in Toyota’s control at the moment.

Their No. 7 TS040 Hybrid is now out to a lead of almost two minutes over the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, which is managing to stay on the lead lap but can’t make up major progress.

Shortly before the 12-hour mark, Audi’s No. 1 car suddenly slowed on course and driver Tom Kristensen was forced to limp it around and back to the pits, where the crew quickly tried to diagnose the problem.

The No. 1 eventually got back on track with Lucas di Grassi now driving, but not before multiple minutes had been lost. A tweet on the Audi Sport Twitter account listed a injector change on the car.

Leading up to halfway, the hottest battle had been contested in GTE-Pro between the No. 97 Aston Martin, No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari, and No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette. But right now, the Aston Martin remains ahead of both the Ferrari and the ‘Vette.

In GTE-Am, the No. 98 Aston Martin was forced to abandon its lead and go into the garage for repairs. It eventually returned to the track but is now well off the pace; Fox Sports reported that the team had to replace the car’s power steering.

The good news for the Aston camp is that another of its Am cars, the No. 95 Vantage V8, has picked up the flag and is leading in their category.

Finally, the No. 35 OAK Racing machine with Alex Brundle in the cockpit continues to hold the point in LMP2.

6:10 p.m. ET: A touch late on this nine-hour update from Le Mans, but we held off to take into account pit stops from the race-leading No. 7 Toyota (Alex Wurz) and second-place No. 2 Audi (Marcel Fassler).

Prior to the stops, Wurz held a lead of roughly one and a half minutes to continue Toyota’s hold on the event. But after the stops, Wurz’s lead grew by an additional ten seconds. Fassler’s teammate, Marc Gene, has the No. 1 Audi in third place at one lap off the pace.

Also pitting close to 6 p.m. ET was the LMP2 class-leading No. 35 OAK Racing Ligier/Nissan (Jann Mardenborough). He continues to run ahead of the No. 36 Signatech Alpine ORECA/Nissan in that category.

Meanwhile, in GTE, Aston Martin has taken control of the lead in both the Pro and Am classes. In Pro, the No. 97 Vantage V8 of Stefan Mucke currently leads the No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari and No. 74 Chevy Corvette, while in Am, the No. 98 of Pedro Lamy is ahead of the pack.

3:30 p.m. ET: Six-plus hours are in the books and after the incidents and rain that peppered the first few hours, the race is starting to settle into a rhythm.

The No. 7 Toyota retook the overall lead; a couple issues hit the No. 20 Porsche, including a puncture and a brief off at Arnage corner. Of note, Mark Webber has taken over from Hartley behind the wheel.

LMP2 has seen the No. 34 Race Performance Oreca 03 Judd the lone interloper among a quartet of Nissans (Nos. 26, 35, 36, 46, which are Oreca 03, Ligier JS P2 and Alpine A450 branded chassis).

Corvette Racing has led in GTE-Pro and Aston Martin Racing in GTE-Am.

Just now though the third safety car period is out for the No. 47 KCMG Oreca 03 Nissan, an early-race leader, at the exit of Porsche Curves.

1 p.m. ET: After falling behind the Audi and Toyota camps in the first hour, Porsche is now leading the way at the four-hour mark with its No. 20 Porsche 919 Hybrid, which is currently being driven by Brendon Hartley.

Timo Bernhard handed the No. 20 over to Hartley early in the race’s fourth hour, and Hartley cycled back to the lead when the No. 7 Toyota of Stephane Sarrazin pitted a short time later.

However, Sarrazin has begun to mount a charge and Hartley’s lead is now under a mere 10 seconds. Audi’s No. 2 R18 e-tron quattro runs third overall with Benoit Treluyer at the wheel.

A lead change in GTE-Pro has also gone down, as Tommy Milner got his No. 74 Chevrolet Corvette around the No. 91 Porsche Team Manthey 911 RSR of Jorg Bergmeister.

In LMP2, Michel Frey was leading right up to the end of the hour, when he chose to pit. That gave the class lead to Paul-Loup Chatin in the No. 36 Signatech Alpine ORECA.

As for GTE-Am, Christoffer Nygaard sits in front in the No. 98 Aston Martin Vantage V8, while Patrick Dempsey currently runs second after taking over from Patrick Long in the No. 77 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

11:30 a.m. ET: We went back to green, briefly, after a 40-plus minutes safety car period. But another one has just occurred as after a brief period of sunshine, rain has returned to the Circuit de la Sarthe. An incident between two LMP2 cars (Nos. 48 and 41) and a spin by the oldest driver in the field, 65-year-old Harold Blank in the No. 62 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia on the Mulsanne, occurred.

We’re almost to the end of the three-hour mark, which will occur at noon ET.

10:30 a.m. ET: How fast can it change here? We’ve just had a sudden downpour and mass chaos at various points on the track.

Both the No. 3 Audi and No. 8 Toyota are crashed on the Mulsanne Corner and one of the AF Corse cars, the No. 81 Ferrari F458 Italia, is also involved.

We’ll sort this out as soon as the marshals and weather do so out themselves. We’re now under a safety car.

10:25 a.m. ET: The opening line of “Truth in 24” has occurred: It always rains in Le Mans. And now it is, at a couple random parts of the circuit including Tertre Rouge and briefly on pit lane. Need change? Wait a few minutes.

10:15 a.m. ET: The first hour of the 2014 24 Hours of Le Mans is in the books. Perhaps unsurprisingly, Toyota leads in the No. 7 Toyota TS040 Hybrid that took the pole position. Alexander Wurz had a moment as he exited just ahead of Andre Lotterer on the first round of pit stops.

Audi’s moved up nicely with the No. 2 Audi R18 e-tron quattro, driven in its first stint by Andre Lotterer. The No. 8 Toyota and No. 3 Audi were also in striking distance.

Both of the Porsches have fallen back; the No. 14 went behind the wall for nine minutes with fuel pressure issues and the No. 20 has been running two seconds off the pace all race.

Other class leaders at the one-hour mark include KCMG’s No. 47 Oreca 03 Nissan in LMP2 (Alexandre Imperatori driving), AF Corse’s No. 51 Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Pro (Gianmaria Bruni) and JMW Motorsport’s No. 66 Ferrari F458 Italia in GTE-Am (Seth Neiman). The latter leader took the lead during the first pit stop cycle.

The No. 0 Nissan ZEOD RC became the first official retirement, with gearbox issues.

Timeline: Tracking six weeks that flipped the 2017 F1 driver market

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - NOVEMBER 27:  Valtteri Bottas of Finland driving the (77) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 Mercedes PU106C Hybrid turbo and Felipe Massa of Brazil driving the (19) Williams Martini Racing Williams FW38 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 Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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The waiting is finally over. After six or so weeks of speculation, rumors and theories about who might replace Nico Rosberg at Mercedes, Valtteri Bottas was finally unveiled by the team as its second Formula 1 driver for 2017 on Monday.

Bottas’ arrival from Williams has been expected since about the middle of December, making the news hardly surprising. Nevertheless, it is still highly significant.

With Pascal Wehrlein joining Sauber and Felipe Massa due to return at Williams, the driver market is – for now – complete. We still wait for news on Manor’s future after it entered administration earlier this month.

Can’t remember all that has happened since Nico dropped the mic and walked away from F1? Here’s a timeline of events to refresh your memory.

November 27 – Nico Rosberg clinches his maiden F1 world title in Abu Dhabi, finishing second in the race to win the championship by five points. Felipe Massa makes what was planned to be his final F1 start.

December 2 – Rosberg announces his immediate retirement from F1 in a press conference ahead of the FIA gala in Vienna, Austria.

December 3 – Mercedes non-executive director Niki Lauda says he has received calls from half the F1 grid enquiring about Rosberg’s seat.

December 4 – Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel dismisses the suggestion he could leave Ferrari and take Rosberg’s seat for 2017. Lewis Hamilton claims he’s not chasing number one status at Mercedes following Rosberg’s departure.

December 6 – Mercedes F1 chief Toto Wolff admits the team has to consider Fernando Alonso for the vacant seat, but hints a deal for 2017 would be unlikely.

December 8 – Mercedes posts a tongue-in-cheek advert in Autosport magazine regarding its driver vacancy for 2017.

December 9 – Former manager and long-term confidante of Alonso, Flavio Briatore, says that the Spaniard will not take Rosberg’s seat.

December 11 – Hamilton and Wolff enjoy an “amazing” meeting regarding plans for the 2017 season. Hamilton says Mercedes will have “the strongest partnership” to defend its titles. BBC Sport reports that Valtteri Bottas is Mercedes’ prime target and has already tabled an offer for the Finn.

December 13 – Alonso tells the entire McLaren team at its base in England that he remains committed to the project, ending speculation about a possible move.

December 14 – Williams’ Pat Symonds says that keeping Bottas is “crucial” to the team’s future success.

December 15 – Mercedes confirms that it will make no announcement regarding Rosberg’s replacement until January 3 at the earliest. Claire Williams says that Williams was open to letting Bottas leave, relying it could find a suitable replacement.

December 16 – Red Bull F1 chief Christian Horner says he would not allow junior driver Carlos Sainz Jr. to take Rosberg’s seat.

December 20 – Reports suggest that Massa has agreed to come out of retirement and return to Williams for 2017, paving the way for Bottas to leave the team.

December 30 – Massa posts on Instagram that he is back “training hard” in America.

January 3 – The earliest date for an announcement from Mercedes passes.

January 4 – Mercedes confirms it will launch its 2017 F1 car, the W08, at Silverstone on February 23.

January 6 – Manor – the team Wehrlein raced for last year – enters administration, raising doubts over the team’s future and place on the 2017 grid.

January 15 – Claire Williams says she expects to make an announcement about Bottas’ future within a week.

January 16 – Pascal Wehrlein is officially announced by Sauber; photos of Bottas in Mercedes team gear leak online; Williams confirms Massa will return; finally, Bottas is announced officially at Mercedes.

Valtteri Bottas joins Mercedes F1 for 2017 season as Rosberg’s replacement

Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City, Mexico.
Sunday 30 October 2016.
Valtteri Bottas, Williams Martini Racing.
Photo: Glenn Dunbar/Williams
ref: Digital Image _X4I0171
© Williams Martini Racing
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Valtteri Bottas has officially joined Mercedes AMG Petronas ahead of the 2017 Formula 1 season, replacing World Champion Nico Rosberg.

The long-expected announced was made by Mercedes on Monday, putting an end to six weeks of speculation in the wake of Rosberg’s decision to walk away from F1.

It followed two other announcements made the same morning, with Pascal Wehrlein going to Sauber and, more importantly for Mercedes’ case, Williams Martini Racing’s release of Bottas to Mercedes and confirmation Felipe Massa would come back for one more year.

Mercedes still managed to have fun with the now worst-kept secret in F1, building up the “suspense” on Twitter:

And then Mercedes made it official, via a live video from its factory in Brackley.

Bottas joins Mercedes for his fifth season in F1, having raced with Williams since 2013 and recorded a best finish of fourth in the drivers’ championship in 2014.

The Finn led Williams to third place in the constructors’ championship in 2014 and 2015, scoring nine podium finishes during his time with the team.

Mercedes had been due to field an unchanged line-up of Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton in 2017, only for Rosberg to announce his immediate retirement from racing five days after winning his maiden F1 title in Abu Dhabi.

The news sent the F1 driver market into a late flux, with Bottas appearing towards the top of Mercedes’ shortlist alongside its in-house junior driver Pascal Wehrlein.

Mercedes decided against promoting Wehrlein due to his inexperience, having only completed one season in F1, leaving Bottas as its prime target.

Bottas had re-signed with Williams for 2017, rejecting a move to Renault, and had been set to partner 18-year-old Lance Stroll during his rookie campaign.

Mercedes’ first approach for Bottas included Wehrlein as part of the deal, only for Williams to reject the German on account of his inexperience and the need to have at least one driver over the age of 25, as per a requirement for title sponsor Martini.

Williams found a solution by luring Felipe Massa out of retirement, the Brazilian having raced for the British team since 2014.

Massa said an emotional farewell to F1 in Abu Dhabi, but is now set to return for at least one more season to help the team develop its new car, the FW40, during a period of regulation change.

With Massa agreeing to return for 2017, Williams gave the green light for Bottas to join Mercedes, ending the six-week waiting game that had played out.

Having missed out on seats at Mercedes and Williams, Wehrlein is now due to race for Sauber in 2017, replacing Felipe Nasr at the Swiss team.

The only remaining seats on the F1 grid for 2017 are at Manor, which is yet to confirm either of its drivers amid ongoing takeover talks with American-Mexican investor Tavo Hellmund.

2017 Formula 1 driver line-ups

Mercedes: Lewis Hamilton/Valtteri Bottas
Red Bull: Daniel Ricciardo/Max Verstappen
Ferrari: Sebastian Vettel/Kimi Raikkonen
Force India: Sergio Perez/Esteban Ocon
Williams: Felipe Massa*/Lance Stroll
McLaren: Fernando Alonso/Stoffel Vandoorne
Toro Rosso: Carlos Sainz Jr./Daniil Kvyat
Haas: Romain Grosjean/Kevin Magnussen
Sauber: Marcus Ericsson/Pascal Wehrlein
Manor: TBA/TBA

Felipe Massa backtracks on F1 retirement, confirms Williams return for ’17

SAO PAULO, BRAZIL - NOVEMBER 13:  Felipe Massa of Brazil and Williams stands with a Brazilian flag for his last home Grand Prix with his son Felipinho on the drivers parade before the Formula One Grand Prix of Brazil at Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace on November 13, 2016 in Sao Paulo, Brazil.  (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)
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Less than six weeks after making what was set to be his final start in Formula 1, Felipe Massa has confirmed his return to the grid for 2017 with Williams, on a one-year deal.

The news was announced by the team on Monday, completing its line-up for the 2017 campaign ahead of the season-opener in Australia on March 26.

“Firstly, I am very happy to have an opportunity to return to Williams. I always intended to race somewhere in 2017, but Williams is a team close to my heart and I have respect for everything it is trying to achieve,” Massa said. “Valtteri has a great opportunity, given the turn of events over the winter, and I wish him all the best at Mercedes.

“In turn, when I was offered the chance to help Williams with their 2017 Formula One campaign, it felt like the right thing to do. I certainly have not lost any of my enthusiasm for racing and I’m extremely motivated to be coming back to drive the FW40. The support from my fans over the last few weeks has been a huge boost and I’m grateful for that. I also look forward to working with Lance; I’ve known him for many years and seen his talent develop during that time, so I look forward to seeing what we can achieve together.”

Claire Williams, deputy team principal, added the experience Massa will bring should help the team this season.

“I’m delighted that Felipe has agreed to come out of retirement to be a part of our 2017 campaign. With Valtteri having a unique opportunity to join the current Constructors’ Champions, we have been working hard to ensure that an agreement could be made with Mercedes to give Valtteri this fantastic opportunity,” she said.

“Valtteri has been part of the Williams family since 2010 and in that time has proved a huge talent, securing nine podium finishes. I would like to take this opportunity to thank him on behalf of the whole team, and wish him a successful season as he joins Mercedes.

“Felipe has always been a much-loved member of the Williams family, and having the opportunity to work with him again is something we all look forward to. He was always going to race somewhere in 2017, as he has not lost that competitive spirit, and it was important that we had a strong replacement in order for us to let Valtteri go. Felipe re-joining us provides stability, experience and talent to help lead us forward. He is a great asset for us.

Massa, 35, announced in September that he would be retiring from F1 racing at the end of the 2016 season, making way for 18-year-old Lance Stroll to take his seat alongside Valtteri Bottas at Williams.

Massa made what would have been his final start in Abu Dhabi, having said an emotional farewell to his home fans in Brazil two weeks earlier in some of the most powerful scenes of the 2016 season.

However, following Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to retire from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title, Mercedes identified Bottas as its primary target to replace the German.

Williams was offered a discount on power units and the services of Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein in return for releasing Bottas from his contract for 2017, but rejected the proposal.

Williams stressed it wanted a racer more experienced that Wehrlein – an F1 sophomore for the coming season – to aid the development of its new car through the change in technical regulations for 2017. The team also requires at least one driver over the age of 25 to satisfy sponsor Martini, an alcohol brand.

Williams instead turned to Massa and put together a deal to bring the Brazilian out of retirement for 2017 that was accepted in the lead up to the holiday season.

Following Jenson Button’s decision to step back from an F1 seat for 2017, Massa will be the third-most experienced driver on the grid for the forthcoming season, with Australia due to be his 251st race start.

Of the active drivers racing in F1, only Fernando Alonso (278) and Kimi Raikkonen (251) have made more appearances than Massa.

Wehrlein’s 2017 shift is from Manor to Sauber, not Mercedes

AUSTIN, TX - OCTOBER 22:  Pascal Wehrlein of Germany and Manor Racing walks in the Pitlane during qualifying for the United States Formula One Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas on October 22, 2016 in Austin, United States.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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With Nico Rosberg’s surprise retirement shifting the 2017 Formula 1 silly season into a final kick of overdrive, Mercedes AMG Petronas reserve driver Pascal Wehrlein appeared well-positioned to replace the outgoing and newly crowned World Champion. He also said as much after winning rookie-of-the-year honors at the year-end Autosport Awards.

However, with Wehrlein short on overall experience after his first season at Manor and with Mercedes set to snatch Valtteri Bottas away from Williams Martini Racing, the German was passed over for the vacant seat at the three-time defending World Championship outfit.

Wehrlein will be on the move anyway for 2017 nonetheless, with Sauber F1 Team confirming his arrival there next year alongside Marcus Ericsson, who returns for his third season with the team.

“I am very delighted at being a part of the Sauber F1 Team for the upcoming Formula One Season,” Wehrlein said in a release.

“It is a new challenge in a new team, and I am really excited and looking forward to this new adventure. Our objective is to establish ourselves in the mid-field and to score points on a regular basis.

“That being said, I will do my best to support Sauber. Now I am looking forward to meeting everyone in the team and to tackling the preparations for the 2017 season.

“That being said, I will do my best to support Sauber. Now I am looking forward to meeting everyone in the team and to tackling the preparations for the 2017 season. I want to say a big thank you to Sauber for trusting in me and giving me this great chance. And surely, a huge thanks also goes to Mercedes for the support.”

It’s rather ironic Wehrlein will shift to Sauber, a team Manor was ahead of all season until the penultimate race at Brazil. Wehrlein delivered Manor’s second points finish in its seven-year history with 10th place at the Austrian Grand Prix, which was enough to slot them ahead of scoreless Sauber for most of the year.

But when Felipe Nasr came ninth in Brazil, thanks to an excellent strategy in the mixed condition race, that was enough to deliver two points and move Sauber back up to 10th in the Constructor’s Championship ahead of Manor.

Now, it’s Wehrlein who has Nasr’s old seat at the team that doesn’t have Mercedes engines, but does have the financial windfall that Manor, which has Mercedes engines, does not after coming 10th.

For Wehrlein, the shift is something of a lateral move. But if Sauber can produce a good chassis, armed with year-old Ferrari engines, the goal for Wehrlein must be to produce a Carlos Sainz-at-Toro Rosso type of campaign, punching above his weight in the midfield and breaking into double digits of points scored.

He’ll also have to be motivated knowing he was passed over not just for the Mercedes seat, but also the Sahara Force India seat taken by fellow Mercedes youngster and his second half Manor teammate, Esteban Ocon.