Hamilton fastest in FP1 for Korean Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton has begun his Korean Grand Prix weekend in the best possible fashion by finishing quickest in the first free practice session in Yeongam, leading from Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel by the narrowest of margins on Friday morning.

The 2008 world champion and one-time pole-sitter at the Korean International Circuit posted a fastest time of 1:39.630 to finish just 0.037 seconds ahead of Vettel, with the German driver looking to win his fourth consecutive race this weekend. Having hit the front around sixty minutes through the ninety minute session, Hamilton ran strongly despite spinning his Mercedes W04 at one point. However, unlike many of his colleagues, he managed to keep it out of the wall and eventually finish the session on top.

Rodolfo Gonzalez and James Calado both got the chance to put in some laps for Marussia and Force India respectively, deputizing for full-time race drivers Jules Bianchi and Paul di Resta. However, Gonzalez did himself no favors by crashing the MR-02 car and eventually finishing seven seconds off Hamilton’s fastest time. Calado also failed to match the pace of the other Force India driver Adrian Sutil, finishing 1.5 seconds behind the German driver in eighteenth place.

Having not bothered the front-runners during the middle of the session, Vettel eventually came to the fore late on, having his first true attempt at overthrowing Hamilton in P1 ruined by a slow-going Felipe Massa. The Brazilian driver only managed to post his first time of the session with eight minutes to go after suffering from a puncture that curtailed his first run. For Vettel, the time lost behind Massa was made up later on, coming within a fraction of Hamilton’s time.

The session came to an early end after Kimi Raikkonen crashed at the final corner having made a mistake that saw him spear into the wall. The Finn suffered from back problems in Singapore, and it is unlikely that such a hefty off will have done him any favors. However, he still managed to finish P8, albeit one second down on Hamilton at the front.

Mercedes do appear to have taken a step forward following their disappointing showing in Singapore, but with Vettel still up there at the front, Hamilton will be wary of the German driver as the Briton looks to claim his first victory in Korea this weekend.

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.