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Vettel takes Brazil F1 victory as Hamilton fights from pit lane to P4

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Sebastian Vettel gave Ferrari a late-season boost by charging to his first Formula 1 win since the end of July in Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix, but it was former championship rival Lewis Hamilton who stole the show at Interlagos with a charge from the pit lane to P4.

Vettel was able to fight his way past Mercedes pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas early on and control proceedings to lead most of the way en route to his fifth win of the year, and his first since the Hungarian Grand Prix before the summer break.

Bottas had a quiet race en route to second, coming close to catching Vettel just once during the pit stops, while Kimi Raikkonen was able to hold on to the final podium position despite late pressure from the recovering Hamilton, who ultimately had to settle for P4 at the checkered flag.

Vettel made a clean start from P2 on the grid to lunge down the inside of Bottas at the first corner, but was unable to forge much of a lead on the opening lap after the safety car was deployed early following two on-track incidents.

A three-car clash at Turn 3 eliminated Stoffel Vandoorne and Kevin Magnussen on the spot, as well as forcing Daniel Ricciardo to pit for minor repairs, while Romain Grosjean and Esteban Ocon collided through Turn 6 when scrapping for position. Grosjean was able to continue, but Ocon was forced into the first retirement of his F1 career.

The carnage allowed Lewis Hamilton to rise up to P14, as well as giving Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa the chance to take fifth and sixth respectively ahead of the restart.

Vettel was able to ease clear of Bottas on the restart, moving out of DRS range before it was activated as Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen tried to stay in touch with the lead duo in third, sitting just over a second back from his Mercedes rival.

Hamilton continued to scythe through the field at the expense of the midfield runners, rising all the way up to seventh through the opening 15 laps to sit behind the battling Massa and Alonso in the race for P5. Ricciardo was doing his best to follow Hamilton’s lead, recovering from his early clash and prior grid penalty to sit inside the points for Red Bull.

Hopes of another close fight between Hamilton and Alonso as in Mexico two weeks ago were quickly dashed as the four-time champion made light work of his former teammate to take P6, before following that up with a pass on Massa one lap later. With the first round of pit stops approaching, Hamilton sat P5 and some 17 seconds off leader Vettel at the front.

Running on the soft tire, Hamilton began to gain time on the lead quartet as the super-soft runners began to struggle for pace, prompting Mercedes to pit Bottas at the end of Lap 28 in a bid to get the undercut on Vettel at the front.

Ferrari was forced to react immediately, bringing Vettel in one lap later, and found the German driver’s advantage had shrunk to just a few car lengths as he snaked out of the pit lane, albeit still in front.

Vettel was able to put his foot down and pull out over a second’s lead on Bottas, rising back up to P2 when Raikkonen and Verstappen both came in for their stops, with Hamilton leading on the soft tires he started on.

Despite his Pirellis being some 28 laps older than the tires Vettel was running on, Hamilton continued to stay on pace at the front of the pack, holding a lead of around three seconds before eventually diving into the pits on Lap 43 for a fresh set of super-softs.

Hamilton quickly began to push on fresh tires, lapping over a second a lap faster than the drivers ahead as they worked to manage their softs to get them to the end of the race. Mercedes informed Hamilton his target was a podium, with third-placed Raikkonen just 10 seconds up the road with over 20 laps to go.

Hamilton was soon able to latch onto the back of Verstappen in fourth as the Red Bull racer struggled with his tires, complaining they felt “like rocks”. The Dutchman was powerless to halt Hamilton’s advance, dropping to fifth on Lap 59.

Hamilton made use of the free air and quickly began to reel in the leading trio, leaving him just five seconds back from Vettel at the front with five laps remaining. Hamilton came close to picking off Raikkonen, only for his tires to begin to fade, causing him to slow.

At the front, Vettel managed to take the checkered flag 2.7 seconds clear of Bottas to record his fifth win of the year, as well as moving to within three points of clinching second place in the drivers’ championship for Ferrari.

Raikkonen crossed the line in third for Ferrari less than a second clear of Hamilton, who was left ruing a lock-up at Turn 1 that took life out of his tires late on. Nevertheless, the Mercedes driver’s charge from the pit lane to P4 was enough to secure him the Driver of the Day honor.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo were left to settle for P5 and P6 respectively, with both making a second stop late on to take on a fresh set of super-softs after struggling for pace.

Felipe Massa took an emotional result as he finished his final home grand prix in F1 seventh for Williams, fending off Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez on the final lap after a close fight. Massa was greeted by cheers from a passionate home crowd at Interlagos after taking the checkered flag, holding a Brazilian flag aloft from his car on the warm-down lap.

Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the points for Renault, pulling the team a point closer to Toro Rosso in the constructors’ championship after the Red Bull B-team had another tough race. Pierre Gasly took P12 behind Carlos Sainz Jr., while teammate Brendon Hartley retired with an issue.

Sauber drivers Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein took P13 and P14 respectively, finishing ahead of Grosjean, who was penalized for his clash with Ocon early on, while Lance Stroll took 16th after a late tire issue on his car.

The 2017 F1 season concludes with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on November 26.

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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