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Across the globe, this racing weekend was pretty freaking crazy

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While we primarily cover open-wheel racing here on MotorSportsTalk, to complement all our NBCSN race coverage on your home of motorsport, this weekend was arguably one of the craziest ones I can recall in terms of not just open-wheel story lines throughout the weekend, but also in the sports car world in four different series.

F1

Let’s start first in China with Formula 1, and the Chinese Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg won – that is now becoming the early normal story line at the front of the field, season 2016 – but the story after the race was the disagreement between Rosberg’s fellow podium finishers Sebastian Vettel and Daniil Kvyat from their first lap clash.

Kvyat took an aggressive line into Turn 1, which shot him into the two Ferraris of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen, Raikkonen ultimately going off course and sustaining a bit of damage.

As you can see post-race, Vettel and Kvyat agreed to disagree. On the bright side for both, Vettel needed the bounce back result after his failure to start in Bahrain with an engine failure, and Kvyat secured his first podium since his first career podium at Hungary last year.

Behind the podium finishers, Lewis Hamilton’s frustrating start to the 2016 season continued. He didn’t even get to post a time in qualifying and after starting 22nd from the grid, rather than pit lane, lost his front wing on the opening lap. He recovered to seventh but is suddenly, shockingly, 36 points behind Rosberg – and as my MST colleague Luke Smith writes, in a tough spot to recover as Rosberg stands either on the verge of his first title or runs the risk of becoming a statistical anomaly.

Luke’s touched on Rosberg’s brilliance to open the campaign, and I’ll leave you to reading his thoughts on the German’s perfect start to 2016 rather than bloviate by adding any further words of my own.

INDYCAR

Pagenaud leads Dixon. Photo: IndyCar
Pagenaud leads Dixon. Photo: IndyCar

From China, we head to Long Beach, where the Verizon IndyCar Series turned in a caution-free, 80-lap run at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Sadly the racing wasn’t the story – it wasn’t the most entertaining of races to begin with – and officiating became the story when it came down to whether Simon Pagenaud deserved a harsher penalty than the Official Warning he was issued by INDYCAR Race Control.

We’ll get into more on the call later this week on MST.

ADDITIONALLY AT LONG BEACH, THE PRO/CELEB RACE WAS CRAZY

This had nothing to do with IndyCar or sports cars, but the final Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race was crazy, including the three-car pileup at Turn 8 involving three drivers, two workers and a wrecker. Brett Davern, whose running wide into the Turn 8 wall started the melee, posted this tweet with a highlight video that summed it up.

SPORTS CARS

In four series, in two continents, controversy and post-race drama ruled the day.

IMSA

Taylors lead Porsche/Corvette. Photo courtesy of IMSA
Taylors lead Porsche/Corvette. Photo courtesy of IMSA

We’ll stay in Long Beach, first, for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix. Up front the Taylor brothers dominated for the overall and Prototype ranks, and JDC/Miller Motorsports took the Prototype Challenge class win.

But in GT Le Mans, where the factory battles between manufacturers take place, it got nuts – and stupid – late in the race.

Inside of 10 minutes to go, Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette C7.R led teammate Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette with Fred Makowiecki and Nick Tandy third and fourth in the Nos. 912 and 911 Porsche 911 RSRs.

Garcia had a rare spin at Turn 4 which took him out of the proceedings, but that was only the first heartbreak for Corvette Racing in the final 10 minutes as they sought their 100th win as a team.

Makowiecki made a near desperation lunge into the hairpin, Turn 11, which punted Milner out of the lead. Tandy, who’d now been promoted to third, snuck by on the inside to take the lead and ultimately the win.

“I just got wrecked basically. Two Porsches running nose to tail… it is pretty clear what happened there,” Milner said. “It is pretty disappointing that this is the kind of racing we have here where we are better than that for sure.”

Here was Tandy’s view, as he had a front row seat: “Something had to give, he had to make a move. Maybe there could have been a bit of give and take. You can’t put it all on the passing driver. It wasn’t a mistake because he was trying to pass. But the 912 is the car higher on points after two races, and there are no team orders, he was just racing – trying to get the maximum result for the maximum effort.”

All told it was an unsatisfying ending, because the GTLM class is known for great racing between four or five manufacturers – not hit-and-runs on the streets.

PWC

Parente inherited PWC win. Photo: PWC
Parente inherited PWC win. Photo: PWC

Staying in Long Beach, for the Pirelli World Challenge Replay X D Grand Prix at Long Beach presented by Cadillac, the drama occurred both during and after the race.

James Sofronas made a rare mistake where he clipped the apex at Turn 8 on the opening lap and bumped into Austin Cindric through the right-hander, thus giving the K-PAX Racing and Flying Lizard Motorsports crew another rebuild job to his No. 6 McLaren 650S GT3. To his credit, GMG Racing team principal Sofronas owned up to it during his interview on the CBS Sports Network race broadcast and apologized to Cindric for the contact.

Problem was, that first lap accident put what was already a spotlight event even further under the microscope and further under derision because there were more than 10 minutes of yellow in a 50-minute race before the race got restarted.

A couple further incidents led to more restarts – one of them where Johnny O’Connell in his No. 3 Cadillac Racing Cadillac ATS-V.R got by polesitter Alvaro Parente in another K-PAX McLaren.

Post-race, O’Connell received a penalty for over-boosting barely over the maximum allowable, and it dropped him to second. Per the team: “During post-race inspection the No. 3 Cadillac ATS-V.R Coupe was found to have two traction control induced turbo boost spikes during the race that were out of specification. The SCCA Officials thus relegated O’Connell to second handing the win to Parente.”

Still, to the series credit, having three factory drivers on the podium is a big deal and something it can hang its hat on.

WEC

Photo: Audi
Photo: Audi

From so much drama in the LBC to so much drama in the WEC, the overall win in the FIA World Endurance Championship season-opening 6 Hours of Silverstone changed hands after the checkered flag.

Audi’s No. 7 R18 with its now veteran trio of Andre Lotterer, Benoit Treluyer and Marcel Fassler won on the road, but got bounced in post-race tech over the front skid block (see, skids aren’t just affecting INDYCAR).

“Post-race scrutineering revealed that the No. 7 car was not in compliance with article 3.5.6 a3 of the LMP1 Technical Regulations (thickness of the front skid block), and the Stewards of the Meeting decided to exclude the car from the race, as detailed in Stewards’ Decision No.27,” a statement from the FIA read.

Initially, Audi opted not to appeal, but later decided to do so. Per Sportscar365, there’s no word yet on when an a hearing will be scheduled.

ELMS

Why not add a post-race exclusion in the European Le Mans Series, as well, for good measure?

In the ELMS opener at Silverstone, the GTE-class winning JMW Motorsport Ferrari F458 Italia got bounced for having an incorrect front splitter. More here from Sportscar365.

SO WHO ACTUALLY FINISHED WHERE?

Here’s your podiums in all of the aforementioned events, above:

  • F1: 1. 6-Nico Rosberg, Mercedes; 2. 5-Sebastian Vettel, Ferrari; 3. 26-Daniil Kvyat, Red Bull
  • IndyCar: 1. 22-Simon Pagenaud, Penske Chevrolet; 2. 9-Scott Dixon, Ganassi Chevrolet; 3. 3-Helio Castroneves, Penske Chevrolet
  • IMSA
    • P: 1. 10-R. Taylor/J. Taylor, Corvette DP; 2. 5-Fittipaldi/Barbosa, Corvette DP; 3. 31-Curran/Cameron, Corvette DP
    • PC: 1. 85-Goikhberg/Simpson, JDC/Miller; 2. 8-Popow/van der Zande, Starworks; 3. 38-French/Marcelli, Performance Tech
    • GTLM: 1. 911-Pilet/Tandy, Porsche 911 RSR; 2. 4-Gavin/Milner, Corvette C7.R; 3. 62-Fisichella/Vilander, Ferrari 488 GTE
  • PWC
    • GT: 1. 9-Alvaro Parente, McLaren 650S GT3; 2. 3-Johnny O’Connell, Cadillac ATS-V.R; 3. 31-Patrick Long, Porsche 911 GT3 R
    • GTA: 1. 07-Martin Fuentes, Ferrari 458 Italia GT3; 2. 54-Tim Pappas, Dodge Viper GT3-R; 3. 44-Brent Holden, Audi R8 LMS ultra
  • WEC
    • LMP1: 1. 2-Jani/Lieb/Dumas, Porsche 919 Hybrid; 2. 6-Sarrazin/Conway/Kobayashi, Toyota TS050 Hybrid; 3. 13-Tuscher/Imperatori/Kraihamer, Rebellion R-One AER
    • LMP2: 1. 43-Gonzalez/Senna/Albuquerque, RGR Ligier JS P2 Nissan; 2. 31-Dalziel/Derani/Cumming, ESM Ligier JS P2 Nissan; 3. 26-Rusinov/Berthon/Rast, G-Drive Oreca 05 Nissan
    • GTE-Pro: 1. 71-Rigon/Bird, Ferrari 488 GTE; 2. 51. Bruni/Calado, Ferrari 488 GTE; 3. 95-Turner/Thiim/Sorensen, Aston Martin Vantage V8
    • GTE-Am: 1. 83-Collard/Aguas/Perrodo, Ferrari F458 Italia; 2. 98-Dalla Lana/Lauda/Lamy, Aston Martin Vantage V8, 3. 50-Yamagishi/Ragues/Ruberti, Larbre Corvette C7.R
  • ELMS
    • LMP2: 1. 38-Dolan/van der Garde/Tincknell, G-Drive Gibson 015S Nissan; 2. 32-Coletti/Leal/Wirth, SMP BR01 Nissan; 3. 22-Capillaire/Lombard/Coleman, SO24! by Lombard Ligier JS P2 Judd
    • LMP3: 1. 2-Brundle/Guasch/England, United Auto Ligier JS P3 Nissan; 2. 3-Patterson/M.Bell/Boyd, United Auto Ligier JS P3 Nissan; 3. 9-Trouillet/Petit/Giubbert, Graff Ligier JS P3 Nissan
    • GTE: 99-Howard/Turner/MacDowall, Beechdean Aston Martin Vantage V8; 2. 56-Talkanitsa Sr./Jr./ Pier Guidi, AT Ferrari F458 Italia; 3. 96-Goethe/Hall/Stanaway, Aston Martin Vantage V8

After ‘rough start’ to 2017, Raikkonen responds with Russia podium

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Kimi Raikkonen was pleased to put a “rough start” to the 2017 Formula 1 season behind him by charging to third place in Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix for Ferrari.

Raikkonen entered the Sochi weekend with half the points of Ferrari teammate Sebastian Vettel, having seen the German driver claim two wins and one second-place finish in the opening three rounds of the year.

Raikkonen had failed to hit the podium in F1 since the Austrian Grand Prix in July, but nearly scored his first F1 pole for nine years on Saturday after running Vettel close in qualifying.

Despite slipping behind eventual race winner Valtteri Bottas at the start, Raikkonen was able to keep Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton back early on before enduring a rather lonely race en route to third place.

“I think I have had a bit of a rough start to the season, far from ideal. This weekend for sure has been a step forward,” Raikkonen said on the podium after the race.

“We’ve been more happy with how things have been running, but we still only finished third. We lost out off the start and then not an awful lot happened after that.

“We keep trying and keep improving, I’m sure we’ll get there. It’s all about all the small details have to be exactly there, then you will get the first place, because the four of us are very close most of the time.

“It’s a small difference that makes a big difference in the end.”

Despite clinching a double podium with Vettel and Raikkonen in P2 and P3 respectively, Ferrari lost the lead of the constructors’ championship in Russia as Bottas’ victory pushed Mercedes one point clear.

Vettel heaps praise on ‘man of the race’ Bottas after Russia F1 win

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Sebastian Vettel was quick to heap praise upon Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas following the Finn’s maiden Formula 1 victory in Russia on Sunday.

Vettel entered the race in Sochi chasing his third win of the season from pole position, only for Bottas to blast past him on the run to Turn 2 on the opening lap.

Bottas was able to pull clear through the first stint before Vettel reeled the Mercedes driver in during the closing stages, with the Ferrari looking faster on the super-soft tire.

Vettel eventually fell 0.6 seconds shy of Bottas at the flag, but was full of praise for the first-time winner despite missing out on victory himself.

“I obviously tried everything to catch Valtteri, I thought there might be some kind of opportunity on the back straight,” Vettel explained.

“I was sure [Felipe Massa, who was being lapped] would lift around Turn 3, it’s flat out, and let me by so I wouldn’t lose much time. But then I think just wasn’t sure what he was going to do, and ended up losing a bit more than I was hoping for.

“In the end it doesn’t matter. I think this is the man of the race today, big congrats to Valtteri, his first grand prix win. It’s his day.

“I think we tried everything, but obviously we lost the race at the start, which was a bit of a shame. I had a good start. I think our start was probably a match to Valtteri, maybe he gained a bit of momentum at the beginning, but then he had a massive tow.

“I defended the inside, but by the time we approached braking he was already in front and able to shut the door on me, so well done. That’s where he won the race, and then he did a superb first stint, I couldn’t stay with him.

“He was very, very quick all race, no mistakes. As I said, man of the race.”

Despite finishing second, Vettel managed to extend his championship lead to 13 points in Russia after closest-rival Lewis Hamilton ailed to fourth place in the second Mercedes.

Bottas: First F1 win feels ‘amazing’, worth the 81-race wait

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Valtteri Bottas made no secret of his delight after scoring his first Formula 1 race win in Russia on Sunday, beating Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen to victory at the Sochi Autodrom.

In just his fourth race for Mercedes, Bottas charged from third place on the grid to seize the lead at the start en route to his maiden grand prix victory, coming on his 81st start.

Bottas made his F1 debut back in 2013 with Williams, and had not won a race since a British Formula 3 round at Donington Park in 2011 before today’s breakthrough.

“Amazing. It took quite a while, more than 80 races for me, but definitely worth the wait and worth the learning curve,” Bottas said after the race.

“This strange opportunity came to me in the winter to join this team, and they made it possible today, so really want to thank the team. Without them it wouldn’t be possible. It feels amazing.”

The result marked Mercedes’ second win of the season and sees the German marque re-claim the lead of the constructors’ championship, moving one point clear of Ferrari.

“We’ve had a tricky beginning of the year. The fight with Ferrari, again today, was very close,” Bottas said.

“We managed to be on top, but we have to keep pushing. We have to keep finishing with both cars all the time one and two.

“Just very, very happy now.”

Bottas takes maiden F1 victory in Russia despite late Vettel charge

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Valtteri Bottas became Formula 1’s newest winner after dominating Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix for Mercedes, leading home Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen at the Sochi Autodrom on Sunday.

In what was something of a slow-burner in Sochi, Bottas managed to seize the lead from pole-sitter Vettel at the start before perfecting the restart after a safety car period to create a healthy buffer that acted as the foundation for his first F1 victory.

Despite a late charge from Vettel – chasing his third win of the season – in the closing stages, Bottas was able to hang on and become the fifth Finnish driver to claim a grand prix victory, coming in just his fourth race for Mercedes.

Ferrari’s advantage in qualifying was quickly overturned at the start when Bottas managed to get a slipstream on both Vettel and Raikkonen, allowing him to pass ahead of Turn 2. Vettel settled down in second ahead of Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton, but the race was quickly neutralized following a clash between Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer that sparked a safety car period.

Bottas managed to perfect the restart once the incident had been cleared to quickly gap Vettel, opening up a three-second lead in the laps that followed. Hamilton was doing his best to keep in touch with Raikkonen in third, only for Mercedes to confirm that his car was overheating, forcing him to ease off his pace.

The battle for fifth also took a twist in the early stages of the race when Daniel Ricciardo suffered a brake failure, forcing him to retire from the race. Max Verstappen was able to move ahead of Felipe Massa off the line, giving Red Bull something to be upbeat about, but hopes of the podium remained slim.

Bottas’ lead stood at around five seconds after 20 laps, but his lead soon began to fall. A mixture of both traffic and tire blistering allowed Vettel to gain time hand-over-fist as the first round of pit stops neared, moving to within three seconds of the Finnish driver.

Bottas was the first of the leaders to pit, coming in for a new set of super-soft tires at the end of Lap 27. Mercedes serviced Bottas quickly, but Ferrari did not react immediately, instead choosing to keep Vettel out in the hope that the ‘overcut’ would play into his hands again as it did in Australia.

Ferrari eventually pulled the trigger on Lap 34, bringing Vettel in to make the switch to super-soft tires after seeing Raikkonen lay down an impressive pace after changing compound a few laps earlier. With Bottas struggling to match the pace of the Ferraris on the super-softs, the Finn’s stranglehold on the race looked weaker than before despite being back in the lead.

Vettel made up yet more time with 13 laps to go when Bottas ran wide at Turn 13, appearing to struggle with his front-left tire and lock up. The mistake allowed Vettel to close to within two seconds, setting the stage for a fight to the flag.

Vettel managed to find some clear air between traffic and move around a second behind Bottas with four laps to go. Bottas kept getting a good exit from the final corner, ensuring Vettel did not get DRS at first, making it difficult for the Ferrari driver to pull a pass.

A good lap saw Vettel finally dip under the one second margin and get the DRS boost with two laps to go. With Bottas also coming across traffic, the pair were separated by just a few car lengths heading onto the final lap.

Bottas was offered a late bonus when he came across Felipe Massa, running a lap down, and was able to use DRS himself. Massa also made life difficult for Vettel behind, allowing Bottas to move clear once again.

It proved to be the final act in an exciting finish, with Bottas coming through to secure his maiden grand prix victory and give Mercedes its second win of the year. Vettel was left to settle for P2, but extended his lead in the drivers’ championship in the process to 13 points.

Kimi Raikkonen endured a rather lonely finish to the race, crossing the line third to pick up his first podium finish of the year. He finished over 15 seconds clear of Lewis Hamilton, whose difficult weekend came to a quiet end in P4, over 20 seconds down on the race winner.

Max Verstappen led Red Bull’s charge alone in fifth place following Ricciardo’s early retirement, while Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon continued Force India’s record of getting both cars into the points at every race, the pair finishing sixth and seventh respectively.

Nico Hulkenberg was able to follow his first points for Renault in Bahrain with a second charge into the top 10, finishing eighth. Felipe Massa had looked set to finish sixth, only for a slow puncture to force him into a late second stop, leaving him P9 at the flag. Carlos Sainz Jr. rounded out the points for Toro Rosso in 10th.

Lance Stroll recorded his first race finish in F1, crossing the line 11th in the second Williams, while home favorite Daniil Kvyat was left to settle for 12th. Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne finished 13th and 14th respectively for Haas and McLaren, both having been hit with penalties for exceeding track limits on the opening lap. Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein finished 15th and 16th respectively for Sauber, closing out the classified running order.

Fernando Alonso’s struggles with McLaren-Honda hit a new low just before the race started when he suffered a power unit failure on the formation lap, forcing him to abandon his car at pit entry. It went down as his first ‘Did Not Start’ since the 2005 United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which curiously will be his next destination for his IndyCar test with Andretti Autosport on Wednesday.

Formula 1 returns in two weeks’ time with the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.