British GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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“Momentum” seems to be the word of the moment in Formula 1. You either have it or you don’t. Lewis Hamilton didn’t have much of it this morning, given that he was staring down the barrel of a 30-point-plus deficit to teammate Nico Rosberg, but now he has it by the bucketload. It’s amazing what a victory can do.

Lewis has suffered from most of the bad luck thrown Mercedes’ way so far this year, but today it was Nico’s turn to come unstuck. He had his first non-score of the season as his gearbox went kaput and forced him to retire from the race. His 29-point lead has been whittled down to just four.

There were a number of interesting results and battles going on during today’s race, making it a quite fascinating grand prix – even if we had to wait a little longer for it to get going.

RACE REPORT

  • Hamilton was the home hero today at Silverstone, sending the British fans into raptures as they cheered on the Mercedes driver. Valtteri Bottas came home in second place ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

When Lewis Hamilton entered the press conference room following the race today, he was greeted with a round of applause from the assembled media. He came in beaming, holding the ‘proper’ British GP trophy and placing it on the desk in front of him while he conducted the post-race interviews.

Apart from when he was asked a question, Lewis couldn’t take his eyes off it. He looked around the base of the golden cup, looking at the other names engraved on it: Schumacher, Senna, Prost, Lauda, Stewart, Brabham, Clark. He is certainly in good company.

Today was Lewis’s day, without a doubt. The Briton made yet another rocket start to put himself in the mix upon the race restart, and was there to pick up the pieces when Rosberg’s gearbox gave up the ghost.

However, he was looking good to catch him anyway. Thanks to Mercedes’ strategy, Lewis had the option to one-stop, whereas Nico would have had to stop again had he made it that far in the race. The pace that Hamilton was laying down was mightily impressive, and he deserved the win today. The fact that Rosberg retired could prove crucial come the end of the season.

Beyond the Mercedes dominance, there were a number of other big stories. Valtteri Bottas showed his star quality once again to charge from P14 on the grid to second come the checkered flag, teaching Vettel and co. a lesson in overtaking along the way. The Finn is certainly turning heads in F1, and has the makings of a champion.

The crash between Raikkonen and Massa was unfortunate but perhaps avoidable. After running wide at Aintree, Raikkonen thought he could ride it out, keeping his foot on the throttle. Then this happened.

The impact was a mighty 47g, but the Finn limped away with nothing more than some bruising to his ankle and knee.

Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso treated us to a wonderful on-track battle in the final 15 laps of the race, with the German driver eventually coming out on top. Two champion drivers going toe-to-toe at full throttle; if only Gutierrez and Maldonado could have done the same earlier in the race.

Other honorable mentions must go to Nico Hulkenberg, who scored points yet again, and the Toro Rosso drivers who both scored points in ninth and tenth. Marussia’s Saturday form did not carry over to Sunday, although Bianchi was lapped just the once.

All in all, it was a good day to be British. Lewis Hamilton’s win has tightened everything up at the top of the championship once again, and we’re set for another epic duel at the German Grand Prix in two weeks’ time.

Ricky Brabec wins 2017 Sonora Rally (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

Ricky Brabec wins Sonora Rally. Photo: Sonora Rally
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Honda rider Ricky Brabec, who won a stage at this year’s Dakar Rally, has captured the victory in last week’s Sonora Rally, held March 21-24 in Sonora, Mexico.

He led all four of the special stages in a start-to-finish romp for victory.

Despite Joan Barreda and Steve Hengeveld’s injuries that ruled them out of the rally, Brabec still had to focus on the job at hand.

“You are really racing against yourself out here, against the terrain,” he said in a release.  “I’m much more familiar now with open up a course than I was back in January at Dakar when I had to do it for the first time.”

Fellow Honda riders Mark Samuels and Andrew Short completed the podium. Samuels won the Sonora Rally’s Dakar Challenge, which presents a free opportunity for a rider to enter the 2018 Dakar Rally.

“The hard work of getting to Dakar is still ahead of me, but I will do everything in my power to make America proud,” Samuels said.

Polaris ATR rider Dave Sykes won the UTV class, with Eric Pucelik and Mike Shirley winning the Cars class.

On background, the Sonora Rally is the only event of its kind in North America. The rally raid format requires street legal vehicles to transit along untimed “liaison” sections and timed “special stages” over multiple days, with the lowest combined time winning the event. Now in its third year, the Sonora Rally realizes the vision of founders Scott Whitney and Darren Skilton to bring a world class rally raid event to these shores (2016 recap).

Brabec’s winning ride is captured in the below video, via Race-Dezert.

Meanwhile, because photos do this event more justice than words do, those are below (All Photos: Sonora Rally)

Webber: Alonso may not see out the season with McLaren

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Mark Webber never had the easiest time in Formula 1, particularly his latter years as the number two driver at Red Bull Racing to Sebastian Vettel.

That being said, he was never on the verge of leaving it directly until he announced his plans to move to Porsche’s LMP1 Team, where he raced for three years from 2014 to 2016 before retiring at the end of last season.

But the Australian pondered whether Fernando Alonso might not be able to see out the season with McLaren Honda, if the team and manufacturer’s woes continue.

“Alonso may not stay with the team,” Webber told Belgian outlet Sporza. “Maybe Stoffel (Vandoorne) soon will have a new teammate.”

“I could see it happen that Alonso does not drive out the season. He is very frustrated. Fernando doesn’t start for a sixth or seventh place; he wants to fight for the podium.”

Webber added that for Vandoorne’s sake, starting in a team with lower expectations might not be the worst thing for him. It may allow the Belgian rookie to learn without extra pressure, since the onus is focused on the team.

For Alonso though, time is of the essence for what’s left of his career in F1. This is his last season under contract with McLaren Honda and he made no secret of his frustration for how well he drove at Melbourne, yet the car wasn’t up for it.

“Well the race was good, one of my best races driving like that,” Alonso told NBCSN post-race. “The car’s uncompetitive and to be close for a point was a nice surprise. It was good fuel saving as well. I was surprised to keep it in the points. A suspension (issue) stopped us from getting this point.

“I feel very well prepared, driving at the best of my career, and I’m fighting for one point. That’s disappointing and frustrating. But so long as I’m driving at my best, it’s a problem for the team… not me.”

Rosberg, Button soak up their first weekends out of F1 (PHOTOS)

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Since 2008, Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel have won seven World Championships. The two drivers that won titles in that period not named Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel – Nico Rosberg (2016) and Jenson Button (2009) – were both enjoying their first weekends not on a Formula 1 grid as full-time drivers for the first time in more than a decade this weekend as the 2017 season commenced at Melbourne’s Albert Park.

Rosberg made a visit to preseason testing in Barcelona a few weeks ago for his first appearance as spectator since winning the World Championship. But he watched from home this weekend with his family and posted a few thoughts during both qualifying and the race:

We’re now quite familiar with Rosberg’s home TV set and coffee table. This is the first time Rosberg has been out of an F1 race since 2005, the year he won the first GP2 championship.

Button meanwhile paid a visit to California for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana… once he got off his couch. He checked in with seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson at Fontana.

Do you guys know if there's anything good to watch on tele this weekend? @storm_and_rogue_pomskies

A post shared by Jenson Button (@jensonbutton_22) on

Given McLaren Honda’s struggles, Button is probably smart to have got out when he did. He’d been on the grid since 2000, save for a couple races out in 2005 when BAR-Honda was barred from competing after being disqualified from the San Marino Grand Prix.

Meanwhile for Rosberg, he watched as Mercedes was unable to win the season opener for the first time since 2013.

DJR Team Penske wins three of four Supercars races at Melbourne

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DJR Team Penske has won its first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship races over the weekend during the Australian Grand Prix, with Scott McLaughlin and Fabian Coulthard taking the first three wins in the four-race, non-championship race weekend.

While Penske’s teams have long succeeded in North America and have had some international success, notably a Formula 1 win at the 1976 Austrian Grand Prix with John Watson, success has thus far eluded them since arriving in Supercars two years ago as majority shareholders of Dick Johnson Racing.

McLaughlin had the honor of beating Coulthard to the first win in race one of the weekend, before Coulthard doubled up with wins in races two and three. The first two races were one-two finishes, though, and McLaughlin said he’d received a text from Roger Penske in the wake of the victory.

“I got a text from Roger straight away and they’re all pretty happy,” McLaughlin told Supercars.com.

“They’re thanking me but I should be thanking them for giving me the opportunity.”

The first race was marred by this incident between Nick Percat and Lee Holdsworth, Percat having lost his brakes entering Turn 1 and crashing into Holdsworth, who was an innocent bystander.

But once the race resumed, McLaughlin held off Coulthard for the victory.

Coulthard led from start-to-finish in race two after his second straight pole position. He did the same in race three, albeit not in a Penske 1-2 as Jamie Whincup came second for Red Bull Holden Racing Team Commodore. McLaughlin was third.

A left-front puncture stopped Coulthard making it three in a row in the fourth race, and with steering damage, McLaughlin was resigned to 17th. Chaz Mostert took the win his Supercheap Ford, ending his own winless spell that dated to August of 2015.

Also of note from the weekend, ex-IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro in her Team Harvey Norman Nissan Altima finished 13th in race one, her best finish yet in her first full season in the series.

The Supercars series is back in action at Symmons Plains Raceway on April 7-9.  Coulthard sits second in the series championship, 51 points back of Whincup’s teammate, Shane van Gisbergen.