Rosberg rules in Britain as Vettel’s luck runs out

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Nico Rosberg has won today’s British Grand Prix at Silverstone after a tenuous race that saw a series of large tire failures, forcing drivers to be extra careful if they were to keep it on track.

Mercedes have struggled with their tire wear so far this season and pole-sitter Lewis Hamilton suffered a puncture when leading in the early stages of the race. Despite inheriting the lead, Sebastian Vettel’s luck also ran out as he suffered a loss of drive with just eleven laps remaining, allowing Rosberg to lead home a charging Mark Webber and Fernando Alonso.

Off the line, Hamilton held his position well to lead through the opening complex from Sebastian Vettel as their teammates, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber, both failed to manage a clean getaway. Webber’s cause was not aided by a side-swipe from Romain Grosjean, which left the Red Bull with front-wing damage and a battle to recover down in 15th place. Felipe Massa made a superb start from 11th to sit 5th behind Adrian Sutil, but his teammate, Fernando Alonso, failed to make his traditional good start and lost out to Jenson Button.

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Just as Lewis Hamilton began to create a gap at the front, his hopes of winning the British Grand Prix for a second time soon burst after a tire failure on the left-rear of his Mercedes caused him to drop down the order, with a similar failure on Felipe Massa’s car occurring just minutes later. This signalled to the rest of the field that it was time to pit as Vettel maintained his lead thanks to a slick stop. Jean-Eric Vergne was the leading driver not to have stopped, but he quickly paid the price as he too suffered a puncture, leaving debris on the entry to Stowe and bringing out the safety car. Webber was informed that Vettel had cuts in his rear tires, whilst Rosberg was told to avoid overheating his tires and running over the kerbs for want of preventing a similar failure to that of his teammate.

Once the clean-up had been completed, the safety car came back in and the racing resumed with Vettel leading the cars across the line. Webber’s fightback continued at the expense of Sergio Perez as his teammate was told to manage the gap to Rosberg, focusing on a progressive increase rather than an instantaneous one. Felipe Massa began to pick off the backmarkers, moving up to P13 come the second round of stops. Raikkonen was the first to pit, and he was quickly followed by Fernando Alonso and teammate Romain Grosjean. Hamilton worked his way back up into the points, tussling with compatriot Paul di Resta for 7th as Nico Rosberg began to close the gap to Vettel at the front. Raikkonen managed to leapfrog Alonso during the stops, with Webber also passing the Ferrari. Vettel and Rosberg both pitted and maintained their positions due to the huge gap that had been created, but Adrian Sutil fell from 3rd after staying out too long on his tires.

Lewis Hamilton may not have envisaged fighting for P11 after starting from pole, but both he and Paul di Resta showed great racecraft during their fight over the position which eventually went to Hamilton under DRS. The Briton then worked his way into the points by passing Romain Grosjean, following the example set by Jenson Button just one lap earlier. Just as Vettel appeared to have the race win secured, drama struck. His Red Bull lost drive and grinded to a halt on the pit straight, putting him out of the race and handing the lead to Rosberg, with the safety car being deployed to recover the stricken RB9. The front runners all decided to pit for fresh tires except for Kimi Raikkonen, who questioned the decision. This left Rosberg out in front having stopped, but Webber and Alonso both had to pass cars that had not stopped if they were to reach the podium.

On the restart, Rosberg began to pull away from Raikkonen as Alonso hounded the McLaren drivers for P6 and P7, eventually passing Button into Copse. Perez soon followed after his MP4-28 slowed into the pits, releasing Alonso into 6th ahead of Hamilton. The former McLaren teammates forced their way past Daniel Ricciardo, leaving Sutil as the next driver on their hit list. Webber and Raikkonen went wheel-to-wheel, with the Red Bull driver eventually making it through as Alonso took Sutil through the final complex of corners before catching Kimi Raikkonen after the Lotus driver lost out to Mark Webber. Fresh tires had clearly done the trick for the front runners, with Rosberg and Webber trading fastest lap times. Hamilton continued to follow Alonso’s example, disposing of Kimi Raikkonen down the Hangar Straight as Webber closed on Rosberg. However, it was not enough as the German driver kept it on track to win the third grand prix of his career.

Jenson Button joins NASCAR Garage 56 at Le Mans with Jimmie Johnson, Rockenfeller

Jenson Button NASCAR Le Mans
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Garage 56 entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be driven by champions of three major-league series — Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The lineup of the Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Next Gen Camaro was announced Saturday before the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NASCAR’s Garage 56 project was announced in March 2022 as a joint effort by NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear. It marks the return of a NASCAR team to Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years with Hendrick fielding a Camaro ZL1 as the “Garage 56” entry in the 100th edition of the sports car classic.

It’s long been expected the car would include Johnson, the seven-time Cup Series champion who is returning to NASCAR’s premier series as a driver-owner in 2023. Rockenfeller, the 2013 DTM champion and 2010 Le Mans overall winner, has attended every NASCAR Garage 56 test since last year while racking up simulator testing hours.

The surprise was Button, the 2009 Formula One champion who has become a popular commentator. Rick Hendrick initially said wanted four-time Cup champion and current Hendrick Motorsports COO Jeff Gordon to drive the car, and Gordon had raced a sports car at Indianapolis last year to test his race shape.

GARAGE 56 ANSWERS, ANALYSISMore on the NASCAR-Hendrick entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a release. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”

Button had one of the most prolific careers in F1 history finishing with 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 World Championship and is widely considered one of the top British drivers of all time.

“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said in a release. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.”

Johnson will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut a year after starting his first Indy 500. He has 83 victories in the Cup Series, where he will return for the Daytona 500 next month with his Legacy Motor Club team.

He also has been involved with testing the Garage 56 Camaro.

“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come – and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup – is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”

Rockenfeller teamed with Johnson on the No. 48 Ally Cadillac in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2021-22. The German driver has been the lead test driver for Garage 56 and has driven during every on-track test.

“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”

The car will continue testing with all three drivers next week at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Rolex 24 and four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who drives for Corvette Racing, will be the team’s backup driver and coach. Taylor also won the GTE Pro class in 2015 at Le Mans, where he has four podium finishes.

The project also is being supported by IMSA GTP team Action Express, whose general manager is former NASCAR executive and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Gary Nelson. Action Express built the first test car for the Garage 56 but since has handed off the project to Hendrick, where it’s being over seen by vice president of competition Chad Knaus (the crew chief for Johnson’s seven championships).

“Action Express got it going and built the mule car, and then Hendrick joined the program, took it from where we had it, and they’re doing a major percentage of the work,” Nelson told NBC Sports. “We just did a test a couple months ago on a wet track. We’ve done a couple of other tests as they were ramping their program up. Now their car is good, tested and running. We’re still involved and here to help. The Hendrick guys have taken the reins, and Rick Hendrick and Chad Knaus are a thrill to work with and doing a much better job. It’s more NASCAR than prototype racing.”