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Lewis Hamilton’s F1 legacy still growing

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MEXICO CITY (AP) The checkered flag is two days away, yet the underlying expectation at the Mexican Grand Prix is that Lewis Hamilton’s fourth career Formula One championship is on course for the inevitable.

Whether it’s this week or next month, Hamilton’s nearly insurmountable lead over Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel has him facing constant questions about his legacy in the sport and where he stands among Formula One’s greatest drivers.

Hamilton tries to steer the conversation toward winning a single race, but it always returns to measuring his place in F1 history. He can win the title if he finishes as low as fifth. He’ll shoot to finish first.

“I’m trying to win,” in Mexico. “It would be cool if we did and I plan to,” Hamilton said.

If he wins the championship Sunday, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez would be the fourth city where Hamilton gets to celebrate a title, joining Sao Paolo, Brazil in 2008, Abu Dhabi in 2014 and Austin, Texas in 2015.

And with its confetti and sombreros in front of tens of thousands packed into the enormous grandstand, Mexico City provides one of the biggest podium parties of the F1 season.

A fourth world championship would put the 32-year-old Briton in some elite company. He would set the championship record for British drivers, join Vettel and former champion Alain Prost as four-time winners, and trail only Michael Schumacher (seven) and Juan Manuel Fangio (five) for the most all-time.

He also would pass his idol, Brazilian driving great Aryton Senna, who was killed in a crash in Italy in 1994 and is generally considered to be the most elegant and skillful driver in F1 history.

“Aryton’s life was cut short. If he had the chance to race in safe conditions, he would have won more,” Hamilton said. “I feel very proud to have my name mentioned with his.”

Formula One is full of disputes over who were the top drivers of different eras, and how they would fare against each other. Hamilton won his first title with McLaren, but his most dominant years have come with a Mercedes team that has had no peers in the hybrid engine era. Of his 62 career victories, a mark second only to Schumacher’s 91, 40 have come since 2014.

“He’s a champion of this generation,” said McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, himself a former two-time champion. He and Hamilton were teammates for one tempestuous season in 2007 when the rookie Hamilton upstaged Alonso and finished second in the championship by a single point.

“He won races when the car was good, and when it was not so good,” Alonso said.

Williams driver Felipe Massa, who Hamilton beat to the title with a final-lap dash in Brazil in 2008, this week already put Hamilton on the level with Schumacher and Senna.

“He’s there,” Massa said.

“It’s really made me happy to hear nice things from other drivers,” Hamilton said. “They know how hard it is to be consistent and perform.”

Hamilton has neared the 2017 title by chasing down Vettel over the second half of the season. That’s a sharp contrast to the past three years, when Hamilton’s biggest rival was former teammate Nico Rosberg in the Mercedes garage. Those tension-filled seasons fractured a childhood friendship.

Part of Hamilton’s legacy will be his persona off the track. He’s a global star for Formula One as he leads a rock star’s lifestyle with world travels, hobnobbing with other celebrities and a social media presence that draws millions of followers. After the Mexico race, he and friends plan to visit the ruins of the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu in Peru.

Rosberg’s quest for the F1 title left him exhausted by season’s end and he abruptly retired. Hamilton seems ready to keep winning. He considers himself a wiser, better racer with more still to accomplish.

“In 2008, I had all the natural talent I have now but I don’t have the experience,” Hamilton said. “It’s been more enjoyable (now). I’m more comfortable in my own skin.”

How long before he retires?

“Definitely don’t want to be here at 40,” Hamilton said. “I anticipate a couple more years.”

 

IMSA: Heavy news week leading into Thanksgiving holiday

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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After the weekend and before the Thanksgiving holiday this week, IMSA has rolled out a number of announcements itself, while IMSA could be set for further announcements in the weeks to come starting next week.

Here’s a roundup:

QUALIFYING AT ROAR SET FOR PIT POSITIONS, GARAGES AT ROLEX 24

Here are key notes from IMSA’s Monday release about how Sunday at the Roar Before the Rolex 24 will take on a greater significance:

  • The pit boxes and garages each team will use during the Rolex 24 will now be allocated based on fastest qualifying times set during Sunday’s third and final day of the Roar. Each of the three WeatherTech Championship classes – Prototype (P), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – will have a 15-minute qualifying session on Sunday, Jan. 7.
  • The fastest-qualifying Prototype will receive the first pit box on pit lane starting at pit-in and also will be assigned to the first garage in the Prototype section of the WeatherTech Championship garage. The fastest GTD car will receive the second pit box on pit lane and the first garage in the GTD section, with the fastest GTLM car receiving the third pit box and the first garage in the GTLM section.
  • New for 2018 – P and GTLM will pit together under a full course yellow. Therefore, to give class separation in the pits, P and GTLM teams are assigned pit boxes to ensure they are separated by a GTD Team.

This, coupled with the addition of the first IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda one-hour, 45-minute race with two drivers, will make this a more shaken up Roar.

REGS, REGS, GET YOUR REGS

IMSA has released the Sporting and Technical Regulations for 2018 this week. The aforementioned note about P and GTLM teams pitting together is a change from P and Prototype Challenge (PC) class cars pitting together, with GTLM and GTD together as it was this year.

Restart procedures changed will see P cars moved to the lead ahead of GT cars; this created confusion at times throughout 2017 as sometimes another class leader in PC, GTLM or GTD had been the first car behind a pace car.

Each team will be limited to one car change in-season only, subject to “force majeure.”

On the off chance a driver is racing in two cars, his or her maximum drive time will be counted cumulatively between the two cars.

There are other tweaks, of course, but most are largely procedural or within the fine print.

RATINGS REVEALED

The good news with IMSA going down from four classes to three for 2018 is that only one designated pro-am class remains in the form of GT Daytona, which requires at least one Silver (or Bronze) full-season driver alongside the designated pro. Those sneaky “Super Silvers” remain an invaluable asset for using his or her results to their benefit.

The FIA released the initial driver ratings for 2018 this week with a few changes, some young pros going up from Silver to Gold and others getting their request to get downgraded from Gold to Silver approved. Drivers have a couple weeks to appeal if they so desire.

Here’s your friendly reminder of what drivers can be in what GTD cars for the first two races at Daytona and Sebring:

  • Daytona (5 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) or five (5) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.
  • Sebring (4 drivers max): GTD: In any nominated two (2) or three (3) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum or Gold rated Driver is permitted. In any nominated four (4) Driver combination, a maximum of one (1) Platinum and (1) Gold rated Driver are permitted or a maximum of (2) Gold Drivers.

MAZDA KEEPS ON TESTING, CLOSES ON ANNOUNCEMENTS

The Los Angeles Auto Show, held after Thanksgiving, is a likely landing spot for Mazda Team Joest to reveal, officially, its revised “Evo” version of the Mazda RT24-P and its driver lineup for the 2018 season. While most of the Prototype class lineups (DPi and LMP2-spec cars) have been revealed, Mazda’s has been an exception. In the interim, not long after its Daytona test late last month, they’ve also been testing at Sebring.

FROM SPACE CENTER TO DOWN UNDER

Jordan Taylor undertook testing of a different kind not long ago at, of all places, the Kennedy Space Center. One of this year’s Prototype class champions was undertaking a straight line test in his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R. Taylor being Taylor, the moment couldn’t pass without him winning at social media (see third tweet).

Taylor goes from down a long runway to down under, visiting his first Virgin Australia Supercars Championship race this weekend at its season finale in Newcastle.

‘MAKING OF A CHAMPION’ PIECES ROLL OUT

The fourth installment of IMSA’s “making of a champion” series highlights Jordan Taylor, who co-drove with brother Ricky to the Prototype class championship this year. These two are part of four done by IMSA so far, along with Pato O’Ward (PC) and Christina Nielsen (GTD). More should follow in the coming weeks.

SPEAKING OF CHAMPS, HINDMAN, AGOSTINI, PRESTIGE WIN LAMBORGHINI WORLD FINAL

The Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Final was held last weekend at the Imola circuit in Italy and the American Prestige Performance team won the World Final overall, with co-drivers Trent Hindman and Riccardo Agostini.

The World Final brings together teams from North America, Europe and Asia that campaign the spec Lamborghini Huracán LP 620-2 in Super Trofeo regional competition. Hindman and Agostini got the weekend off on the right foot by winning the North American championship first, then followed it up at the World Final itself to topple all other domestic and international entries.

You might remember we profiled Hindman last month, as the 22-year-old’s star in the sports car world is clearly on the rise.

Somehow, someway, at the end of the day today we received the title 2017 Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Champions. Race 2 was not perfect and much more nerve racking than we would have hoped but fortunately in the end the job was done. I am honored to be sharing this with @rickyagostini as well as the entire @prestigeperfctr @waynetaylorracing team and I thank them for their incredible effort all year. With this result, we are the first ever American team to win the Lamborghini Super Trofeo World Championship overall. 3/4 overall wins along with the Super Trofeo North America and World titles marks the end of a successful 2017 campaign. Back to reality tomorrow. Thank you all for following us along on this incredible journey.

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