Hamilton makes it three with lights to flag victory in China

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Lewis Hamilton has won the Chinese Grand Prix with a fantastic display on Sunday in Shanghai that saw the Briton go lights-to-flag and claim his third straight win.

The Mercedes driver was rarely challenged as teammate Nico Rosberg made a poor start before recovering to finish in SECOND place, whilst Fernando Alonso saw off the challenge of Daniel Ricciardo and Sebastian Vettel to come home third and claim Ferrari’s first podium finish of the season.

For Red Bull, it was a tenuous day as Vettel ignored the team’s call to allow Ricciardo past after the first round of stops. However, the Australian driver still managed to find a way past and eventually beat his illustrious teammate on track. Nico Hulkenberg and Valtteri Bottas followed Vettel home on track in sixth and seventh place respectively.

Off the line, Felipe Massa made a fantastic start to force his way up into the top four, but heavy contact with Fernando Alonso dropped him to fifth behind the Ferrari; both cars were fortunate not to suffer any damage. Hamilton held onto his lead ahead of Sebastian Vettel, who had jumped teammate Daniel Ricciardo, but Nico Rosberg was less fortunate as he dropped down to seventh. Kevin Magnussen’s luckless run continued as he was hit on the first lap, and his McLaren teammate Jenson Button also failed to get off the line well as he dropped down to 15th.

As Hamilton forged a lead at the head of the field, Alonso began to close on Vettel for second place as Red Bull and Ferrari scrapped to be ‘best of the rest’ behind Mercedes. However, as his tires began to wear, the Spaniard could not find a way past, allowing Ricciardo and Rosberg to close in the battle for P2. Jenson Button and Romain Grosjean both pitted early for a fresh set of tires, but most looked to extend their first stint in order to make a two-stop strategy work. Massa followed suit, but a problem fitting the left rear tire on his car meant that the William driver dropped down to last place.

Alonso was the first of the leaders to switch to the medium tire, and it immediately paid dividends as he got the undercut on Vettel to pass the four-time champion. The German driver refused to give in, tailing the Ferrari closely, but Red Bull told him to back off due to a straight line speed disadvantage. When Ricciardo pitted, he came out behind Rosberg, who now sat in fourth place whilst his teammate enjoyed a 30 second lead before pitting. With a fresh set of tires, Hamilton held onto his lead with a 3.5 second advantage over Alonso, who had by now gapped Vettel in third.

On the fightback from his poor start, Rosberg made a great pass on Vettel for P3 thanks to the supreme straight line speed of the Mercedes car, and the defending world champion simply could not respond. This allowed Ricciardo to close up on his teammate, and his advantage was such that the team – for the second race running – told Vettel to let him past. However, the German driver ignored this call, telling his engineer “tough luck” before defending his position. It wasn’t enough though, as Ricciardo managed to pass him into the first corner.

Romain Grosjean had given Lotus something to smile about in qualifying on Saturday after finishing in the top 10, and he continued to fight in the points during the race until a gearbox problem cruelly ended his race and forced yet another retirement for the Enstone team. However, progress clearly is being made by all at Lotus.

Vettel’s plight only worsened when he was unlapped by Caterham’s Kamui Kobayashi, prompting an angry radio message from the German driver. He soon pitted, but was out behind Ricciardo and Rosberg who pitted for the final time on lap 37. The Mercedes driver came out behind Alonso once again, but with fresher tires and lots of fuel in reserve, the German driver was easily able to make it past the Ferrari with 14 laps remaining.

Despite dropping down to third place, Alonso continued to push in order to cover the threat of Ricciardo in fourth place. The Australian driver was given the hurry-up by his team as the gap to Vettel was so great that he had little to lose by pushing. With worn tires, the Spaniard remained wary of Ricciardo in his mirrors. However, he managed to hold on as Ricciardo finished fourth and over 20 seconds ahead of Vettel in fifth.

At the front, Hamilton went unchallenged as he eased his Mercedes home by over 18 seconds, and claimed his 25th career victory. It was a peerless display that underlines not only his dominance within the Mercedes team, but also in Formula 1 at the moment. However, in second place, Rosberg did enough to hang onto the championship lead by four points.

The momentum does lie with Hamilton, though. In his junior career, every time he has won three straight races, he has won the championship that year. Could this be the season that the Briton finally clinches his second Formula 1 world championship?

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds