Barcelona F1 2nd Test Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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So that’s that. Pre-season testing for the 2015 Formula 1 season is officially over. The next time we’ll see the cars out on track, it will be under sunny skies in practice for the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on March 13.

How the winter has flown…

Valtteri Bottas was the man to claim the final bragging rights in testing, posting a fastest lap time of 1:23.063 to finish four-tenths of a second ahead of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel at the top of the timesheets.

However, the smart money will remain on Mercedes in Melbourne. The German team opted to focus on its long run pace on Sunday as Nico Rosberg combatted the setup problems that had hindered him on Friday, meaning that he could only finish seventh at the flag.

For one last time in Barcelona, here’s the full round up in the Paddock Notebook.

SESSION REPORT

NEWS FROM THE PADDOCK

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Done and dusted

That’s it for winter testing in 2015. It seems crazy to think that as of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix in November, we have 100-and-odd days to go until the first race of the 2015 season. Now, we are just 14 days away from the lights out in Australia. It’s all very exciting. As testing wrapped up on Sunday, most of the teams opted to focus on their long run pace in an attempt to iron out all of the final issues before they head down under, and the pecking order appears to be shaping up.

Who’s where?

I’m going to stick my neck on the line here and try to predict some kind of pecking order. Mercedes is by and large the quickest team once again, enjoying one second-plus advantages. If you don’t think that it can repeat its domination from 2014, then think again. The W06 Hybrid is just as powerful as its predecessor, and it poised to give Mercedes yet another double title success. Williams appears to be second fastest, with Ferrari and Red Bull then just behind. Lotus is then a solid fifth, and you could argue that McLaren (when it works), Toro Rosso and Force India are anywhere in the following order. Sauber has improved, but still props up the order – until Manor Marussia turns up, that is.

Let’s not blame Pastor

When Pastor Maldonado crashed into the barrier at turn four on just his second lap of the afternoon, Twitter burst into a series of jokes and accusations. “Classic Pastor” et al. However, this one wasn’t his fault at all. A brake problem on the E23 Hybrid meant that he could not make the corner, resulting in the crash. It was an unfortunate end to what has been a very good winter for Lotus. Keep an eye on the team to make a strong comeback in 2015.

Nico and Lewis prepare for round two

With Mercedes enjoying another sizeable advantage in 2015, it seems as though the drivers’ title will prove to be the second round of Nico Rosberg versus Lewis Hamilton. If it lives up to the treat that we were offered in 2014, then that is no bad thing at all. Nico said today that although posting the fastest time of testing means nothing in the grand scheme of things, it is still a nice edge to take into the new season. When asked about it on Saturday, Lewis couldn’t care less. Let the games begin…

Coming your way in the next two weeks…

So you’ve survived the winter and now have just two weeks to go until the first race of the season. Eek! How can you get your F1 fix between now and then? NBC Sports has you covered. Following on from their adventures in 2014, we’re sending Will Buxton and Jason Swales back off for a second season of Off The Grid in 2015, starting with a digital-only special in Mexico at Force India’s new livery and sponsor launch. It will be available to watch online ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, but if you can’t wait that long, check out a teaser here.

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So that’s all for testing. Thank you as always for following our F1 coverage on MST, and be sure to join us in two weeks’ time for the first race of the year in Australia. It promises to be yet another thrilling season.

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.