Rosberg storms to Silverstone pole ahead of Vettel and Button

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Nico Rosberg has secured pole position for the British Grand Prix after taming the tricky conditions at Silverstone on Saturday afternoon, finishing ahead of compatriot Sebastian Vettel and McLaren’s Jenson Button.

In the dying moments of Q3, a number of drivers managed to improve their times, but home favorite Lewis Hamilton was not one of them. As a result, he will start the race from sixth place on the grid after aborting his lap due to the falling rain.

Following many showers overnight, qualifying began in damp conditions with more rain falling lightly, warranting intermediate tires for Q1. Hamilton was the early pace-setter in the session, and he even suggested to the team that slicks could work if the track dried slightly. However, with Sauber reporting that more rain was due, most got out early to post a lap time and avoid being caught out by the weather.

The expected rain did not arrive initially, and the teams were able to head out for their second runs on dry tires. Nico Rosberg eventually finished quickest for Mercedes, but the big shock was seeing both Ferrari drivers drop out in Q1 after more rain began to fall. Fernando Alonso spun on his final lap, whilst Kimi Raikkonen was simply on the wrong tires. The result marks the team’s worst qualifying result since the 2010 Malaysian Grand Prix.

Equally as surprising was Williams’ double elimination in Q1 as Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa also struggled in the rain. After the momentum gained in Austria, the British team came back down to earth with a bump on home soil.

For Q2, intermediates were put back on as the rain continued to fall, but once again the track began to dry after the first set of runs. Lewis Hamilton sat in P1 on the intermediate tire, only to dive into the pits for drys with five minutes remaining in the session.

Nico Rosberg had made the switch slightly earlier, and went up to first place with his lap until Jules Bianchi momentarily shot up into top spot for Marussia. Although neither of the minnow’s drivers made it through come the checkered flag, Bianchi and Max Chilton did qualify an incredible P12 and P13 on the grid. Chilton will drop back five places due to a grid penalty, but it still marks the team’s best ever qualifying result in Formula 1.

The rain caught out Sauber’s Esteban Gutierrez when he spun into the wall with one minute remaining, following the example set by teammate Adrian Sutil in Q1. Pastor Maldonado had to stop his car due to a problem and was also eliminated alongside teammate Romain Grosjean.

With no more rain falling, the drivers were able to head out on dry tires for Q3 in pursuit of pole position. Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg once again gapped the field by over a second on their first runs, but provisional pole lay with the Briton by two-tenths of a second. Sergio Perez’s first lap was good enough for third ahead of Ricciardo, whilst Vettel opted to wait for the final run to post a time.

The final set of runs saw more great improvements. Nico Hulkenberg and Sebastian Vettel briefly popped up into P1, but it was Nico Rosberg who topped them all to secure pole position. Lewis Hamilton failed to improve his final lap time though, and will start the race down in sixth place.

McLaren enjoyed a great qualifying on home soil with Jenson Button in third and Kevin Magnussen fifth. Hulkenberg’s time was good enough for P4, whilst Vettel found some time on his final lap to qualify second behind Rosberg.

However, the spoils went to Rosberg. The German driver will know that with victory tomorrow, he will deal another huge blow to Hamilton’s title chances. Once again, the Briton was caught out in qualifying, and will unquestionably be disappointed with the result.

You can watch the British Grand Prix live on CNBC and Live Extra from 7:30am ET tomorrow.

IMSA: Rolex 24 Team Preview – GTLM

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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MotorSportsTalk’s Kyle Lavigne continues the team preview of entries for the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. At nine entries, it is the smallest of the three classes entered in this weekend’s Rolex 24 and down from last year’s 11 entries, but past events indicate it may be the event’s most competitive class.

The 2017 Rolex 24 saw four different marques from four different teams battling for the GTLM win late in the race, with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing taking the win with Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais. And in 2016, Corvette Racing saw its No. 3 and 4 entries duel to the checkered flag, with Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, and Marcel Fassler victorious in the No. 4 machine.

Below is a breakdown of the teams entered in the GTLM class.

Corvette Racing
Car: Corvette C7.R
No. 3 (Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller)
No. 4 (Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner, Marcel Fassler)

Outlook: Corvette Racing has been a perennial powerhouse in GT racing over the entirety of the 21st century, and that isn’t something that’s likely to change. Coming off their 13th championship last year – Garcia and Magnussen took home last year’s GTLM driver’s crown – Corvette Racing now hunts for its fourth Rolex 24 triumph.

With an unchanged package that is proven to be both fast and reliable, Corvette Racing looks set to again feature prominently in the GTLM battle. Barring problems, both cars should be battling up front for the win.

BMW Team RLL
Car: BMW M8 GTLM
No. 24 (Jesse Krohn, John Edwards, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus)
No. 25 (Alexander Sims, Connor De Phillippi, Bill Auberlen, Philipp Eng)

Outlook: Of all the GTLM entries, BMW Team RLL sees by far the most change to its program. Out is the M6 GTLM and in is the brand new M8 GTLM. Jesse Krohn, Nicky Catsburg, Augusto Farfus, Philipp Eng and Connor De Phillippi are all new drivers to the team, while veteran Bill Auberlen will only contest the four Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup events in 2018.

At the Roar Before the 24, the program appeared to lack speed. Sunday qualifying, to decide pit stall and garage selection, saw the No. 25 qualify the better of the two BMWs, but one second slower than the next quickest car – the BMW set a 1:45.056 for seventh in GTLM, behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, which set a 1:44.037.

It remains to be seen if there is more speed in the BMW machines, but they remain the most unproven of the GTLM entries. A victory seems out of reach at the moment, but that could change if the package improves.

Risi Competizione
Car: Ferrari 488 GTE
No. 62 (Toni Vilander, Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Davide Rigon)

Outlook: Risi Competizione came excruciatingly close to winning last year’s Rolex, but a late-race battle between James Calado and Dirk Mueller, of Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, saw Mueller come out on top, while Calado was shuffled back to third by the time the checkered flag fell.

They did not win an event last year, but this is a team that knows how to win big races – they have previously won the Motul Petit Le Mans – and should once again prove to be a major player in the GTLM battle.

The only major change comes in their driver lineup, with Alessandro Pier Guidi and David Rigon joining the lineup and Giancarlo Fisichella departing. But, with Calado and Toni Vilander returning to anchor the driving team, this change is not expected to slow the team down. Expect them to battle at the front all race long.

Ford Chip Ganassi Racing
Car: Ford GT
No. 66 (Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller, Sebastien Bourdais)
No. 67 (Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook, Scott Dixon)

Outlook: Ford Chip Ganassi Racing returns to the Rolex 24 as defending race winners – Hand, Mueller, and Bourdais delivered the victory in 2017. Further, they return with the same driver lineups and car they used. In short, every indication is that they enter this year’s event as favorites to repeat.

The Roar Before the 24 gave further evidence of this. Both of the cars were among the quickest in every session at the Roar, and Sunday qualifying saw its No. 66 end up at the top of the board, with the No. 67 in third.

The GTLM field is strong all the way around, but this team is likely the favorite entering the event.

Porsche GT Team
Car: Porsche 911 RSR

No. 911 (Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy, Frederic Makowiecki)
No. 912 (Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber, Gianmaria Bruni)

Outlook: Porsche GT Team brings with it a star-studded driver lineup that features former class winners of the Rolex 24, former overall winners of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, and a ton of all-around talent.

The team finished a close second at last year’s Rolex 24, with the No. 911 entry, behind the race-winning Ford from Chip Ganassi’s stable. Later that year, they visited victory lane – Porsche finished 1-2 at Lime Rock Park, with the No. 911 taking the victory – proving that the mid-engine 911 RSR is more than up to the task and gives the team everything they need to be contenders.

Porsche will have a fight on their hands, but this is a team that expects to compete for a victory, and they did win this event in 2014. They round out a titanic GTLM grid and should be a fixture throughout the day.

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