United States GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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AUSTIN – Lewis Hamilton’s march to the 2014 Formula 1 drivers’ championship continued at the Circuit of The Americas today as he managed to catch and pass title rival Nico Rosberg to clinch his third victory in the United States.

Yet again, Rosberg was made to look decidedly average by his teammate. The German driver simply had no answer for Hamilton’s pace, failing to hold a candle to him once he had been overtaken on lap 25 of the race. The margin at the line may only have been four seconds, but the impact of this victory is far, far greater.

This was perhaps the best of the three United States Grands Prix that have been held at the Circuit of The Americas (in terms of on-track action, that is). Not only did we have a close and well-fought fight for the race win, but throughout the field there were a number of great battles. Although the grid was two teams light, Austin still threw up a fantastic grand prix weekend that saw the tide take yet another turn in the favor of Lewis Hamilton.

RACE REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Five stars for Lewis in the Lone Star State

With five wins on the bounce, Lewis Hamilton has entered unchartered territory. Only six other drivers have won five in a row before, and only two – Sebastian Vettel and Michael Schumacher – have won more than 10 across the course of a season. Quite simply, Lewis is making history.

Once again in Austin, he proved his champion credentials, overhauling Rosberg after lagging behind at the start as the medium tire came towards him. Ultimately, Rosberg was rather forgettable today. He kept Hamilton is sight, but lacked that extra gusto that the Briton has in abundance. Nico is yet to come from behind to win a race against Lewis this year.

The falsity of double points is clear

Without the utterly ridiculous double points race in Abu Dhabi at the end of the year, Hamilton would be poised to sew up the drivers’ championship in Brazil next weekend. He leads by 24 points, and would ordinarily need to carry a lead of 25 into the final race of the year to be champion.

Of course, now that figure is 50, even if he wins in Brazil and Rosberg retires, he could still end up losing the title. Nico’s only hope is that Lewis hits reliability problems late in the season – he’s got little else going for him at the moment.

Ricciardo continues to show Seb up

Another great display from Daniel Ricciardo in Austin today. The Australian driver rallied from a poor start to pass Kevin Magnussen, Fernando Alonso, Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa en route to his eighth podium finish of the season. It was another vintage display of great racecraft from Ricciardo, who is showing experience far beyond his three years in the sport.

As for Vettel? On paper, it seems that he did a good job, jumping from the pit lane at the start to P7 at the flag and overtaking seven cars in the final four laps. However, the German driver was still in a miserable mood after the race, complaining that he was too slow in the first stint and that his late overtaking spree was “fake”. The agitation at Red Bull is perhaps beginning to show as their glorious marriage enters its final three races in 2014.

Where is Kimi?

That was the question Lotus asked last year, and it’s very true once again in 2014. Kimi Raikkonen was nowhere today for Ferrari, finishing 13th out of 15 finishers behind both Lotus drivers and a Toro Rosso. The Ferrari F14 T may not be a good car, but still – his performance was simply terrible.

Fernando Alonso kept the Maranello flag flying, albeit barely in sixth place, but he rejected the idea of it being a “disaster” in the post-race media session. Instead, he was very unflustered about it – sixth was all they could do, so fair enough. The team will hope for better in Brazil next weekend, although any hopes of catching Williams are all but over.

Thank you, COTA

Ahead of the race start, I took some time to venture out into the general admission areas and meet some of the fans who had come to this weekend’s race in Austin. As I wrote in my three features earlier this week, the American market is being cracked with this race, and the wonderful turnout proved it. The sport is being embraced in the United States, and the wonderful facility that is the Circuit of The Americas put on a show once again. So thank you, COTA, for rocking it once again this weekend.

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That’s all from the paddock in Austin. We’ll be bringing you more reports and features as the fallout continues over the next few days, and the Paddock Notebook will return for the final race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

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.