Difficult day in Hamilton’s eyes despite finishing fastest

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Despite finishing fastest in the second free practice session for this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton has spoken of a “difficult day” after a problem on his car lost him some precious track time in Shanghai.

The British driver suffered damage to his rear suspension at the end of FP1 on Friday morning, and the problem was so severe that the team was not able to fix it in time to get him out at the beginning of the second session some two and a half hours later.

Hamilton eventually emerged from the pits to post the fastest time of the session on the soft tire, finishing one-tenth of a second ahead of Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso. Nevertheless, the Briton was not pleased with the car, complaining about tire wear before eventually telling his team that he “can’t drive this car” and taking to the pits.

“It was quite a difficult day today as we missed some of this morning’s session which put us on the back foot slightly, but we were glad to get some laps in the second session at least,” Hamilton explained. “We’re not too happy with the balance of the car at the moment, so we need to go and work on that.”

Just as it was in 2013, tire wear is a serious concern for Mercedes, but Hamilton is also relishing a battle with the likes of Red Bull and Ferrari who appear to have made a step forwards for this weekend’s race.

“This circuit is particularly hard on tires, as it has been every year, so we need to be prepared for that,” he said. “A few of the other teams look to have improved in terms of pace, which is great as it means we will have a fight.

“There’s a lot of work to do and the guys are already here early and working late, but I’m confident that we can make some improvements going into tomorrow.”

Hamilton is looking to win three races in a row for the first time in his career, but with teammate Nico Rosberg looking to get his ownback for defeat in Bahrain, he could face a stiff challenge.

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.