Button, Alonso show they’ve still got it at Silverstone

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There were two fascinating performances at Silverstone Sunday that showcase two great elements of Formula One. One is when a driver outperforms his or her machinery; the other is when a veteran shows the relentless doggedness and determination they showcased earlier in their careers.

On Sunday, former World Champions Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso did just that in their down on outright pace 2014-spec McLaren-Mercedes and Ferrari, respectively.

Button ran second early, ultimately passed by Lewis Hamilton in the opening laps, but consistently ran third or fourth the remainder of the race.

What followed in the closing laps was very nearly a spiritual drive as Button closed to the tune of 1-1.5 seconds per lap on the ailing Daniel Ricciardo, on older, softer tires in his quest for his elusive first British Grand Prix podium.

He came up just short at the flag but it was a memorable performance. It was especially well-timed considering comments made by Ron Dennis telling him to “step it up” entering the weekend.

Yes, the tire gap had a lot to do with it but you could tell this was Button at his fighting best – a la race-winning performances of Hungary 2006 or Canada 2011 for instance – when he could have been resigned simply to bag the fourth place and not be able to reel him in. He was spurred on by the home crowd and Ricciardo reckoned if Button had had one more lap at his disposal, he would have been past.

It would have been fitting for Button to score a home podium and to pass Ricciardo to have the honor. It was Button, coincidentally, who inherited Ricciardo’s podium at Ricciardo’s home Grand Prix in Melbourne following the Red Bull driver’s disqualification for exceeding the fuel flow limit. Alas, Button has a podium this year, but wasn’t able to celebrate it. And this was a day that he drove better than in Australia, but again, came up just shy of the rostrum.

Meanwhile Alonso’s fight with Ricciardo’s Red Bull teammate, Sebastian Vettel, was amazing to watch in the moment and is likely going to enter F1 lore in the years to come.

Ace stat man Sean Kelly mentioned Alonso in the same breath as Gilles Villeneuve for Ferrari, and Ayrton Senna for 1992 in McLaren – no small comparison. Being mentioned in that regard meant that Alonso, again, simply willed a car on a day it had no business being as high up as it was.

This has been the hallmark of Alonso’s Ferrari career. He went there expecting to win more World Championships; instead, year after year, he’s had to ring the absolute hell out of a car that has traditionally been third or fourth best, at best, on the grid. This year it might not even be that high considering the engine and chassis are both down by comparison to the Mercedes power unit and the Mercedes, Red Bull and even Williams chassis.

For Button, 34, and Alonso, 33 later this month, they’re closer to the ends of their F1 careers than the beginning. Button is the most experienced driver on the grid with 250+ Grand Prix starts since 2000; Alonso only trails by a handful with 225+ since 2001. They are now F1’s old guard – despite entering the sport at age 20 and 19, respectively.

Still though, as F1 always stands on the balance of youthful exuberance versus the wisdom, sage and experience of the veterans in terms of the grid, it’s refreshing to see the old dogs still have some youthful bark.

Seeing them put on these performances at the iconic and legendary Silverstone Circuit was simply great theater that spanned generations.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.