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Hamilton’s 4th title ranks him among F1’s great drivers

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MEXICO CITY (AP) Lewis Hamilton is driving his name toward the top levels of Formula One’s record books. The final word on his standing among F1’s greatest drivers is still to come, but with four championships, he’s made a strong argument he belongs among the very best.

Hamilton won his fourth career championship Sunday with his ninth-place finish at the Mexican Grand Prix. A tough race didn’t produce the podium celebration he wanted, but clinching the title with his lowest finish of the season and two races to go defined a year in which he fought off an early challenge from Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel .

This championship, along with his first in 2008, should quiet some of those who argue Hamilton is F1’s master of good fortune, a driver who won titles on the strength of a car no one outside the Mercedes garage could match.

“It’s been a long journey these past 10 years,” Hamilton said. “It’s crazy to think I continue to put the Hamilton stamp, the Hamilton name, in the history books. Beyond my time there will be kids that know the name, and that’s probably what I’m most proud of.”

Hamilton’s 2017 title ties him with Vettel and Alain Prost as four-time winners. Juan Manuel Fangio won five, and Michael’s Schumacher’s seven championships still tower over the sport.

Could Hamilton push for Schumacher’s record? He’s 32 and said he wants to keep racing. With both he and Vettel still driving in the front, many pages of the record book could still be re-written.

“I’ll continue to race while I love it,” Hamilton said. “I think there’s more in me.”

This championship pushed Hamilton past the three won by his idol, Aryton Senna, who was killed in a crash in Italy in 1994 and is regarded as one of F1’s greatest and most skillful drivers. It also puts him ahead of Sir Jackie Stewart for the most titles won by a British driver. After Sunday’s race, Hamilton grabbed a British Union Jack and waived it on a “victory” lap before draping it over his shoulders as he celebrated.

Stewart credits Hamilton’s seat in a dominant Mercedes car as the key ingredient to his success. Stewart won his titles in 1969, 1971 and 1973.

“If you have the right car at the right time, it’s not very difficult to win the world championship. If you continue to have the best car, you continue to win the world championship, like Sebastian did, like Schumacher did,” Stewart told The Associated Press.

“In my era, we had a lucky time. Most of us drove the Ford engine, so there was no difference between one or another and they were relatively small teams winning the world championship. The competition was more even. Now I don’t think anyone would say Mercedes hasn’t been totally dominant, and before them Red Bull.

“Take Fangio, who drove so consistently in Maseratis, Alfa Romeos, Ferraris and Mercedes. He just went in and did it with great style,” Stewart said.

Mercedes has been dominant.

Hamilton won his first championship with McLaren and his other with Mercedes. Of his 62 career victories, which rank second to Schumacher’s 91, 40 have come since 2014 when F1 adopted its current turbo hybrid engines.

When Hamilton didn’t win in 2016, his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg did. Those two fought pitched battles for the championship in 2014 and 2015 that ruined a childhood friendship and tested Hamilton’s nerves inside his own team.

But Hamilton wants credit for his decision to leave McLaren for Mercedes in 2013 with an eye on the future. While Mercedes has dominated, McLaren has flailed around the middle or the back of the pack.

“I wonder how many people thought it was the worst move to Mercedes?” Hamilton said Sunday. “Isn’t it cool to see someone take a risk like I did and it to come out the way it has?”

Hamilton and Vettel have raced in a much safer era than previous greats. Many of F1’s safety reforms came after Senna was killed. Hamilton said last week that Senna would have won more titles if safety conditions were better.

“The nervousness on the starting grid is a shadow of what it was,” Stewart said. “Everybody has their own era. Lewis, it’s his era.”

Hamilton’s contemporary, Williams driver Felipe Massa, counts Hamilton among the best. The Brazilian has raced against Schumacher, Vettel and Hamilton, and it was Hamilton’s last lap in Sao Paolo that beat Massa to the championship in 2008.

“Lewis is definitely one of the best drivers in the history of Formula 1,” Massa said. “He’s there.”

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso called Hamilton a “champion of his generation.” The former two-time champion and Hamilton were teammates 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.

Hamilton’s legacy among F1’s giants may also be measured by his impact beyond the sport. He’s an international celebrity with a persona like a rock star. He’s a world traveler even outside of Formula One’s far-flung locations and his social media presence draws millions of followers.

Emerson Fittipaldi, who won championships in 1972 and 1974, said Hamilton is the star and winner Formula One needs.

“As an ambassador for Formula One, he is incredible. He reaches a broader public than anyone else can reach,” Fittipaldi said. “We need a champion like Lewis.”

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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