Italian GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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Lewis Hamilton will be leaving the Monza paddock with his tail up after securing his first pole position in almost four months in today’s qualifying session.

The Briton edged out teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg for top spot in the final part of qualifying, finishing two-tenths of a second clear at the checkered flag after producing a scintillating lap in his first run.

For Rosberg, the result ended his four-race streak of starting on pole position, but we must look at the bigger picture here: our two title protagonists are starting the race from the front row of the grid just two weeks after they came together at Spa-Francorchamps.

What more could we want for a race? There will be fireworks. It may not end in contact, but whoever wins – if they win fair and square – will take a huge psychological advantage into the final six-race stint of the season.

Here is the penultimate paddock notebook from the Italian Grand Prix weekend, rounding up all of today’s action and news.



At the end of a rather tenuous two-week period, wasn’t it inevitable that Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg would start the Italian Grand Prix side-by-side on the front row of the grid?

Both drivers put in mighty efforts during the qualifying session today, bouncing back from problems earlier on in the weekend. However, when it mattered, Hamilton was able to eke out those extra few tenths in style. In fact, his pole time was set during his first (and theoretically slower) run, and was four-tenths quicker than the rest of the field at first. Eventually, Rosberg managed to halve that gap, but he still just couldn’t find enough time.

So where does this leave us for tomorrow’s race? Both drivers have said that they are free to race as per the meeting held with the team last week, and both know that a repeat of Spa would have dire consequences. You can expect the Mercedes pit wall to hold its breath for the first stint of the race before splitting its drivers’ strategies, just as we saw in Bahrain and Spain. Come the final race to the flag? Who knows. By virtue of his championship lead, Nico is the man who is more likely to settle for second place tomorrow. That said, can Lewis really afford another non-score?

Just behind the Silver Arrows lie Williams, who finally lived up to its billing as the ‘best of the rest’ at Monza. Valtteri Bottas’ long-run pace is reportedly better than that of the Mercedes drivers, but it would come as a great surprise if he is a genuine threat to them. Nevertheless, both he and Felipe Massa will know that a solid points score will take the team above Ferrari in the constructors’ championship.

The prancing horse endured a difficult session, qualifying seventh (Fernando Alonso) and 12th (Kimi Raikkonen), but both drivers felt that they could have done little more. For Alonso, this was particularly true, given that all of the six cars ahead of him are powered by Mercedes engines. Time and time again, Fernando drags his car through the mire.

Ferrari’s motorhome was a hive of activity just before qualifying today. According to reports in the Italian press, Luca di Montezemolo could be set to resign as the president of the Italian marque. When he graced a huge media scrum on the steps of the Ferrari team unit today, he made clear that he would not be stepping down. Most left disappointed.

The stage is set for a quite thrilling Italian Grand Prix, so make sure you don’t miss a second of it. Sparks – and perhaps even bodywork – will fly.

You can watch the race live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7.30am ET tomorrow.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

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.