Raikkonen quickest ahead of the rain in FP2

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Kimi Raikkonen managed to set the quickest time during the second Free Practice session for the Malaysian Grand Prix before heavy rain hit Sepang with around 45 minutes to go.

The Lotus driver edged out Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa, both of whom finished within one-tenth of Raikkonen, as Red Bull, Ferrari and Lotus continue to show good pace at the start of the season.

Rain clouds were forming above the Sepang International Circuit just as the session started, and many of the teams opted to get out early on the dry compounds. The high tire wear experienced in FP1 persisted, with Sebastian Vettel and Max Chilton both flat-spotting their Pirellis.

Soon after Raikkonen went quickest, the rain began to fall, and although some drivers tried to continue on their dry tires, conditions only worsened. Paul di Resta, Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez all spun before moving onto intermediate tires.

Many of the drivers decided to stay in the pits once the rain came, but some decided to get used to the wet conditions. Thunderstorms are forecast for the rest of the race weekend, meaning that any wet running could be precious to the teams.

The rain did subside towards the end of the session, and although the entire field opted to give the dry tires another run, no-one could better Raikkonen’s time at the top.

Lotus will be pleased to have shown that their Australia pace was no fluke, and Raikkonen will undoubtedly be hoping for a dry race on Sunday in order to maximize the potential of the E21. The results do suggest that Ferrari and Red Bull will be close at the front though, and a sprinkling of rain could bring the likes of Mercedes and Force India into the running.

Free Practice 2 – Classification

1 Kimi Räikkönen Lotus-Renault 1:36.569

2 Sebastian Vettel Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:36.588 +0.019

3 Felipe Massa Ferrari 1:36.661 +0.092

4 Fernando Alonso Ferrari 1:36.985 +0.416

5 Mark Webber Red Bull Racing-Renault 1:37.026 +0.457

6 Romain Grosjean Lotus-Renault 1:37.206 +0.637

7 Nico Rosberg Mercedes 1:37.448 +0.879

8 Paul di Resta Force India-Mercedes 1:37.571 +1.002

9 Lewis Hamilton Mercedes 1:37.574 +1.005

10 Adrian Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:37.788 +1.219

11 Sergio Perez McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.838 +1.269

12 Jenson Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:37.865 +1.296

13 Nico Hulkenberg Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.068 +1.499

14 Esteban Gutierrez Sauber-Ferrari 1:38.645 +2.076

15 Jean-Eric Vergne STR-Ferrari 1:38.738 +2.169

16 Pastor Maldonado Williams-Renault 1:38.801 +2.232

17 Daniel Ricciardo STR-Ferrari 1:38.904 +2.335

18 Jules Bianchi Marussia-Cosworth 1:39.508 +2.939

19 Valtteri Bottas Williams-Renault 1:39.660 +3.091

20 Charles Pic Caterham-Renault 1:40.757 +4.188

21 Giedo van der Garde Caterham-Renault 1:40.768 +4.199

22 Max Chilton Marussia-Cosworth 1:41.438 +4.869

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
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LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.