Lewis Hamilton dominates Chinese GP en route to fifth Shanghai victory

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Lewis Hamilton kept calm through changeable weather conditions in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix to clinch his first Formula 1 win of the year for Mercedes.

After losing out to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Australia two weeks ago, Hamilton was able to deliver the perfect response by dominating proceedings in Shanghai, finishing over seven seconds clear of the German driver to leave them tied on points at the top of the drivers’ championship.

In a race that went a long way to debunking the myths about the difficulty to overtake in F1 this year with the new cars, Max Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to finish third for Red Bull, acting as another stand-out display for the sport’s young star.

With the pre-race rain dying down in the lead up to lights out, drivers were left unsure whether to start the race on intermediate or slick tires. Caution prevailed for most, with Carlos Sainz Jr. being the only driver to roll the dice and fit a set of super-soft tires for the start.

Pole-sitter Hamilton managed to make the best getaway from the grid, retaining his lead ahead of Vettel and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. As the drivers began to dial in on the track, most opted to make the switch to slick tires, with Vettel being one of the earliest drivers to come in, taking advantage of a Virtual Safety Car called following a crash that eliminated Lance Stroll early on.

Vettel’s early stop backfired when a full safety car was called just a few laps later after Antonio Giovinazzi smashed into the wall on the main straight, playing into the hands of the front-runners who had stayed on intermediates. Hamilton was able to take a free stop and retain his lead, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo running second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and teammate Max Verstappen, who put on a remarkable charge in the opening stages from 16th on the grid.

Hamilton continued to lead upon the restart on Lap 8, but a train of cars quickly emerged with the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers behind. Verstappen’s charge saw him slip past both Raikkonen and Ricciardo in quick succession, moving up to second and quickly ditch the chasing cars as he set off in pursuit of Hamilton at the front.

With an engine issue preventing Raikkonen from getting close to Ricciardo in third, Vettel opted to take matters into his own hands on Lap 20, diving down the inside at Turn 6 to relieve his teammate of fourth place. The German was able to quickly crawl over the back of Ricciardo’s car ahead, before producing a stunning overtake around the outside of the same corner he passed Raikkonen to move up to third place, before then immediately putting in the fastest lap of the race, setting his sights on Verstappen ahead.

With Verstappen struggling to keep his super-soft tires alive, the soft-shod Vettel was able to quickly close up on the back of the 19-year-old as the race hit half distance. Unlike Ricciardo, Verstappen was not able to force Vettel into a brave overtake, with a lock-up at the hairpin causing the Dutchman to drop behind. His tires now at the end of their life, Verstappen pitted one lap later, emerging in sixth place on another set of super-softs.

With fresh boots, Verstappen quickly began to create a problem for the lead drivers. Hamilton and Vettel had planned to go to the end without stopping, yet as the Red Bull youngster lapped as much as two seconds per lap faster, they had little choice but to come in. Vettel pitted on Lap 34, coming back out just three seconds ahead of Verstappen, with Hamilton then mirroring the call two laps later, staying in the lead.

After Raikkonen made his long-awaited second stop on Lap 40, Vettel and Verstappen moved up into the podium positions, with Hamilton still leading by around eight seconds. Vettel tried to put some late pressure on Hamilton, turning up the wick with 15 laps to go, forcing the Mercedes driver to react and up his own pace, stabilizing the gap.

Hamilton was able to round out the final few laps with ease before crossing the line to clinch his fifth Chinese Grand Prix victory, and get Mercedes off the mark in 2017.

Vettel finished a comfortable second as Verstappen struggled for pace in the closing stages, leaving him to battle with Red Bull teammate Ricciardo for the final podium position, only to hold on with a fine defensive move on the final lap.

Kimi Raikkonen was left frustrated in fifth place, with his late pit stop costing him a chance of finishing on the podium, while Bottas recovered from his early setback to finish sixth in the second Mercedes.

The first slick-runner, Carlos Sainz Jr., battled his way up to seventh for Toro Rosso, while Kevin Magnussen scored his first points as a Haas driver in eighth place. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10 for Force India.

Romain Grosjean fought back well from his grid drop to finish 11th for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who was hit with a time penalty for speeding behind the safety car. Renault teammate Jolyon Palmer was 13th ahead of Felipe Massa, who suffered an issue late in the race that caused him to fall to P14. Marcus Ericsson was the last classified finisher for Sauber in 15th.

McLaren had a race to forget as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were both forced to retire. Alonso had spent the grand prix battling in the points, taking advantage of the changeable conditions to rise as high as seventh, only for a driveshaft failure to force him to retire. Daniil Kvyat was another retiree for Toro Rosso, joining Giovinazzi and Stroll on the sidelines.

F1 returns next weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Recap: Green Bay Packers QB Brett Hundley takes in Kohler Grand Prix

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When professional athletes decide to experience sports outside of the one where they make their living, it never ceases to entertain. Case and point: Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Hundley.

The 24-year-old Hundley spent the weekend at Road America, taking in the Kohler Grand Prix. His time at the facility began on Thursday, where he first paid a visit to Team Penske driver Will Power, who gave him a quick tutorial.

Will Power shows Brett Hundley a steering for a Verizon IndyCar Series machine. Photo: IndyCar

The next part of Hundley’s day saw him take a two-seater ride with none other than Mario Andretti. And, unsurprisingly, it left a big impression.

Mari Andretti takes Brett Hundley around Road America in the Verizon IndyCar Series two-seater. Photo: IndyCar

“The first lap, I’m screaming, and it’s the warm-up lap! And then the second lap: I’m just bright-eyed, going through corners. I give so much respect, that’s an awesome sport, man!” Hundley said in a media debrief afterward.

However, the day was not finished. Later on, Hundley showed off his arm strength and throwing accuracy by attempting to throw a football through the passenger side window of a moving Chevrolet Corvette. And while it took a few attempts, he eventually hit his mark.

Hundley stayed through Sunday and dawned a photographer’s bib in order to take in more of the action.

In fact, he even inadvertently photobombed second-place finisher Josef Newgarden during his post-race interview.

A video chronicling Hundley’s visit can be viewed here and additional photos from his weekend can be found on his Instagram page.

 

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Merhi confirmed for WEC return with Manor at the Nürburgring

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CEFC Manor TRS Racing has confirmed that Roberto Merhi will return to the FIA World Endurance Championship for next month’s 6 Hours of Nürburgring, replacing Jean-Eric Vergne.

Merhi previously raced for Manor in both Formula 1 and the WEC, making his most recent appearance with the British marque at last November’s 6 Hours of Bahrain.

Merhi’s last racing outing came in the Formula 2 double-header in Spain and has flirted with a move into Formula E, but was confirmed on Wednesday to be making his racing return at the Nürburgring on July 16.

Merhi will deputize for Vergne in the No. 24 Oreca 07 Gibson while the Frenchman is in New York for the city’s inaugural Formula E event.

FIA to re-examine Vettel/Hamilton Baku F1 clash

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The FIA has confirmed that it will re-examine the clash between Formula 1 title rivals Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s Azerbaijan Grand Prix to see if further action is warranted.

Vettel and Hamilton made contact twice behind the safety car in Baku, with the second incident deemed to be an act of dangerous driving on Vettel’s part.

The FIA stewards in Baku handed Vettel a 10-second stop/go penalty for the clash – the harshest available penalty besides disqualification – but faced calls to issue a stricter punishment post race.

Hamilton said that the incident set a dangerous precedent for F1 and wider motorsport, but Vettel believed his rival deserved a penalty for allegedly brake testing him.

On Wednesday, the FIA confirmed that it would be re-examining the incident in a meeting on July 3, with a verdict set to be delivered ahead of the Austrian Grand Prix.

“Following the recent incident at the Azerbaijan Grand Prix in which Car 5 (Sebastian Vettel) was involved in a collision with Car 44 (Lewis Hamilton), on Monday 3rd July, the FIA will further examine the causes on the incident in order to evaluate whether further action is necessary,” a short statement from the FIA read.

“A statement regarding the outcome of this process will be made available before the upcoming Austrian Grand Prix (7-9 July).”

Wickens not interested in full-time IndyCar switch despite practice run

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Robert Wickens is not interested in making a full-time switch to the Verizon IndyCar Series in the near future despite his practice run-out at Road America last weekend for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.

Mercedes DTM driver Wickens was called up for Friday practice at the KOHLER Grand Prix in the No. 7 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda after Mikhail Aleshin was unable to make it in time due to immigration issues.

Aleshin was able to return to the United States in time for Saturday’s final practice and qualifying at Road America, with Wickens stepping back down.

The Canadian got his first taste of an Indy car in a car swap with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ James Hinchcliffe in March, paving the way for his practice appearance at Road America.

However, Wickens is not looking to make a full-time move over to IndyCar anytime soon despite enjoying his run-out, with his focus lying with DTM.

“Not really, to be honest,” Wickens said when asked if IndyCar was something he would like to move into in Mercedes’ ‘Tales from the Paddock’ press newsletter.

“I just want to race cars. That’s the main thing. I have no urge to leave the DTM at the moment.

“Everything is going well, and I’m really happy with Mercedes.”

Wickens also went into detail about how rapidly things moved with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having only been told the day before practice that he was required for the running.

“I planned on having a relaxing weekend at home, but on Thursday afternoon I got a call from Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, which is the team that we did the ride swap with involving James Hinchcliffe back in April,” Wickens said.

“They asked if I could go to Road America and fill in for Mikhail Aleshin who had immigration issues. Fortunately, Toto [Wolff] was happy for me to do it and I was able to jump on a plane and get to Wisconsin.

“We didn’t get to the hotel until about 10pm on Thursday, and Free Practice 1 was on Friday morning very early. It took some getting used to.

“The practice itself was fun. The track was really good. It would be amazing to have a DTM race there one day.

“I definitely wanted to do the full weekend, but the full-time driver got his immigration stuff sorted and he made it to the race track by Friday night. My duties were finished, but it was still a really fun Friday.”