Vettel claims shock win for Ferrari in Malaysia as Mercedes pays for strategy mistake

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Sebastian Vettel has claimed a shock victory in just his second race for Ferrari at today’s Malaysian Grand Prix after outplaying Mercedes with an inspired two-stop strategy in the heat of Sepang.

The four-time world champion opted not to pit under an early safety car, giving himself the chance to stop just twice and get the upper hand on the three-stopping Mercedes drivers of Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton proved to be Vettel’s biggest challenger for the race win, but the high tire wear of the Mercedes Wo6 Hybrid meant that neither Hamilton nor Rosberg could challenge the Ferrari driver, finishing some 8.5 seconds behind at the checkered flag.

The start saw Hamilton make a clean getaway to remain ahead of Vettel and Rosberg, with the latter failing to make a move down the inside at turn one as he had planned on Saturday. Felipe Massa picked up a couple of positions off the line to move into fifth, whilst teammate Valtteri Bottas dropped outside of the top ten.

Both of the Sauber drivers made a good start on the first lap as Ericsson moved further up into the top ten, but the Swede soon brought his race to an early end by spinning off the track at turn one when attempting an overtaking move. With his car beached, the safety car had to be deployed.

This sparked a mad rush into the pits, with a number of teams opting to double stack their drivers to get the tire changes made. Both Hamilton and Rosberg dived in, but Vettel opted to stay out, giving himself the lead of the race upon the restart ahead of Nico Hulkenberg and Romain Grosjean.

Hamilton and Rosberg quickly looked to make up the positions they had lost by stopping for prime tires, but it was Vettel who was setting the pace at the front in clean air. While Hamilton was able to easily pick off the drivers ahead to soon move up into second place, Rosberg struggled to find a way past the likes of Massa and Daniel Ricciardo, costing him time. When he did eventually move up into third behind Hamilton, the gap between the two Mercedes stood at nine seconds.

After pitting for the first time, Vettel emerged from the pits in third place and just ten seconds down on Hamilton in the lead. Putting his fresh tires to good use, the Ferrari driver eased past Rosberg for second place just a few laps into his stint before setting his sights on Hamilton in the lead. The Briton was suffering with high degradation, particularly on his rear tires, forcing him to pit just seconds after Vettel had retaken the lead of the race.

With a fresh set of tires on his car, Hamilton moved up into second place after Rosberg pitted and soon began to put the hammer down in a bid to catch Vettel towards the end of the race. Ferrari planned to stop just twice, but Vettel would be at risk of losing out to Hamilton in the final stint when the Mercedes driver fitted another set of mediums.

Further back, Ricciardo found himself battling with brake problems, leaving him at risk of falling outside of the points. Although Hulkenberg and Daniil Kvyat did manage to pass the Australian, contact between the pair saw them both lose out. The Force India driver received a ten second penalty for causing Kvyat to spin at turn two, dropping him down to P15.

McLaren’s difficult start to the season continued as Fernando Alonso was forced to retire from the race after 21 laps. However, the Spaniard remained upbeat, having fought with the Red Bulls earlier in the day. He was eventually joined by Jenson Button on the sidelines after a problem emerged on his car with 12 laps to go.

With 19 laps to go, Vettel made his final pit stop from the lead, releasing Hamilton into first place after the Briton had reduced the gap down to 14 seconds. The defending world champion led by 10 seconds, but with his car still chewing up its tires, he had to pit just one lap after Vettel, taking on another set of primes.

As a result, Hamilton found himself in third place, 14 seconds behind Vettel with just 16 laps to catch and pass the Ferrari. The pace advantage Mercedes had hoped for in the final stint was lost as the only other set of option tires the team was able to use had already been worn in qualifying on Saturday. It seemed to be a strategic error that Hamilton had to overcome.

However, the damage had already been done. Despite closing on Vettel in the final stages of the race, without the pace advantage of the medium tire, the Briton was unable to catch the German driver in the dying stages of the race as Mercedes had planned.

For Vettel, it was a perfect day. The four-time world champion crossed the line to claim his first win for Ferrari in just his second race for the team, having out-thought and outplayed both of the Mercedes drivers on Sunday, underpinning this with an impressive pace that simply proved to be too great for the Silver Arrows.

In second, Hamilton was clearly disappointed, but the heat had proved too much for Mercedes as the car destroyed its tires. The team did contemplate stopping him for a fourth time, but the Briton eventually crossed the line in second place, just 3.7 ahead of Rosberg who completed the podium.

Despite suffering an early puncture, Kimi Raikkonen managed to rally to finish a comfortable fourth for Ferrari, proving the pace of the SF15-T. He finished 14 seconds clear of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa in fifth and sixth, with the former picking up his first points of the season.

Max Verstappen became the youngest driver in the history of Formula 1 to score a point by finishing an excellent seventh in Malaysia, pulling off some impressive overtaking moves on Carlos Sainz and Daniel Ricciardo, who finished eighth and tenth respectively. Daniil Kvyat won the intra-team battle at Red Bull to come home ninth.

After qualifying, Vettel said that he had hopes of winning the race on Sunday if more rain hit Sepang to help cut the gap to Mercedes. In the end, even in dry conditions, Ferrari managed to perfect its strategy to secure its first win since the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix in what was an important milestone at the start of the Vettel era at Maranello.

For Mercedes though, defeat came as a bitter pill to swallow. Throughout pre-season, its wariness of Ferrari was seen by most as the team downplaying its own pace. In truth though, it appears that both the Prancing Horse and Sebastian Vettel may be back in 2015 with a point to prove.

2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona: Schedule, TV info, start times, entry lists, notable drivers, more

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The new year brings the start of a new era for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, which will open the 2023 schedule with the 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

A new premier class for prototypes is the overriding story entering the 24-hour endurance race that unofficially kicks off the major-league racing season.

The new Le Mans Daytona hybrid (LMDh) cars of the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) top category will re-establish a bridge to the 24 Hours of Le Mans while bringing a new layer of engine electrification to IMSA.

With at least a few of the cars on the grid at Daytona also slated to race at Le Mans in June, it’s possible for the first time in decades (since the “Ford vs. Ferrari” battles) to have the same car win the overall title at Daytona and Le Mans.

The GTP category will feature four manufacturers, two of which are new to IMSA’s premier division. Porsche Motorsport (with Team Penske) and BMW (with Rahal Letterman Lanigan) will be fielding LMDh prototypes, joining (now-defunct) DPi category holdovers Acura (Meyer Shank Racing, Wayne Taylor Racing) and Cadillac (Chip Ganassi Racing, Action Express Racing).

Here’s what else you need to know ahead of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener Jan. 29-30 at Daytona International Speedway:


NOTABLE DRIVER ADDITIONS 

The Rolex 24 will feature 10 active drivers from the NTT IndyCar Series, including the IMSA debuts of Team Penske drivers Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who will be teamed in an LMP2 entry (teammate Will Power unfortunately had to withdraw from this debut).

Colton Herta will move into the GTP category with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud return with Meyer Shank Racing to defend their overall 2022 Rolex 24 victory. Scott Dixon also returns in the premier category with Chip Ganassi Racing for his 20th Rolex 24 start and third consecutive in the No. 01 Cadillac.

Other IndyCar drivers in the field: Romain Grosjean will make his debut in GTD Pro with Iron Lynx Racing (as a precursor to driving a GTP Lamborghini next year); Devlin DeFrancesco (Rick Ware Racing) and Rinus VeeKay (TDS Racing) are in LMP2; and Kyle Kirkwood will return in GTD with Vasser Sullivan.

Daytona 500 winner Austin Cindric also will return, teaming with DeFrancesco in an LMP2 entry for Rick Ware Racing.


CAR COUNT

The Rolex 24 field was capped at 61 cars, matching last year’s field (which was the largest since 2014). The field was capped because of the space limitations for the LMDh cars of GTP in the pits and garages.

Click here for the official 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona entry list.


STARTING LINEUP

Tom Blomqvist captured the first pole position of the GTP era, qualifying defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing in first with the No. 60 ARX-06 Acura that he shares with Colin Braun, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud.

The No. 7 Porsche 963 of Porsche Penske Motorsports will start second.

Click here for the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona starting lineup


RACE BROADCAST

The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona will be streamed across the NBC Sports AppNBCSports.com and Peacock, which will have coverage of the event from flag to flag.

Broadcast coverage of the race coverage will begin Saturday, Jan. 28 at 1:30 p.m. ET on NBC and move to USA Network from 2:30-8 p.m. and then will be exclusively on Peacock and IMSA.TV from 8-10 p.m. Coverage will return to USA Network from 10 p.m. to midnight and then move to Peacock/IMSA.TV until 6 a.m.

From 6 a.m. until noon on Sunday, Jan. 29, Rolex 24 coverage will be available on USA Network. The conclusion of the Rolex 24 will run from noon through 2 p.m. on NBC.

HOW TO WATCH IMSA ON NBC SPORTS: Broadcast schedule for 2023

Other events that will be streamed on Peacock from Daytona during January (all times ET):

Jan. 21: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 2:05 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA VP Racing Sports Car Challenge, 12:20 p.m.

Jan. 22: IMSA Rolex 24 qualifying, 1:25 p.m.

Jan. 27: BMW Endurance Michelin Pilot Challenge, 1:45 p.m.


ROLEX 24 COVERAGE FROM NBC SPORTS

Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi take their storied rivalry to a new level at Daytona

Pfaff Motorsports returns to Rolex 24 in premier parking spot punching above its weight

Cadillac, Acura battle for top of the speed charts

Herta, Rahal team up with BMW in pursuit of overall win at Rolex 24

Wayne Taylor Racing takes a step up to the next level with Andretti Autosport

Austin Cindric seeks to join legendary club of Rolex 24-Daytona 500 winners

Helio Castroneves recalls “Days of Thunder” moment in 2022 Rolex 24 victory

The “Bus Bros” tackle the “Bus Stop” for Rolex 24 at Daytona debuts

Romain Grosjean adds Rolex 24 at Daytona to his crown jewel career

Tom Blomqvist beats the clock to win Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position

GTP cars make debut in “Gymkhana”-level traffic

Five things to watch in the new GTP class as a golden era of sports cars returns

Cadillac unveils paint schemes for LMDh cars

Austin Cindric, Devlin DeFrancesco, Pietro Fittipaldi teaming up in LMP2

IndyCar drivers in the 61st Rolex 24


ROLEX 24 DAILY SCHEDULE, START TIMES

Here’s a rundown of everything happening at Daytona International Speedway over the last two weeks in January, starting with the Roar test session. Rolex 24 start times and full schedule:

Wednesday, Jan. 18

7 a.m.: GTP garages open

4 p.m.: Non-GTP garages open

4 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers load-in (park only)

6:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Thursday, Jan. 19

7 a.m.: Garages, IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship haulers open

8:30 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection

10 a.m.: Rolex 24 Media Day

2 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

5:15 p.m.: Track walk

7:30 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Friday, Jan. 20

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:45-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

9:30-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-2:15 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge practice

2:30-4 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

4:15-6 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (GTD/LMP3/LMP2 4:15-5:45; 4:30-6: GTD Pro, GTP)

8 p.m.: Non-GTP garages close

9:30 p.m.: GTP garages close

Saturday, Jan. 21

7 a.m.: Garages open

8:40-9:15 a.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge qualifying

9:30-11 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:15 a.m.-12:45 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

2:05-2:50 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 1 (streaming on Peacock)

3:10 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

4:30-5:30 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

6:30-8:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10 p.m.: Garages close

Sunday, Jan. 22

7 a.m.: Garages open

10:15-11:15 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

12:20-1:05 p.m.: VP Racing SportsCar Challenge, Race 2 (streaming on Peacock)

1:25-3 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Rolex 24 qualifying (streaming on Peacock)

8:30 p.m.: Garages close

Wednesday, Jan. 25

6 a.m.: Garages open

7:30-10 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, non-GTP

8 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 load-in

10-11:30 a.m.: Track walk

10 a.m.-noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship car photos

11:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge team manager briefing

Noon: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship team manager briefing

12:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship new driver briefing

Noon-2 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety and technical inspection, non-GTP

1:45-2:30 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

2:45-3:45 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

2:30-7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship safety inspection, GTP only

4-5:30 p.m.: Track walk

6:45 p.m.: Garages close

Thursday, Jan. 26

7 a.m.: Garages open

9-9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

9:45-10:45 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

11:05 a.m.-12:35 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:55-1:10 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 qualifying

2:25-3 p.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge qualifying

3:20-5:05 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice (3:20-5:05: GTD, LMP3, LMP2; 3:35-5:05: GTD Pro, GTP)

5:30-6:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

7:15-9 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

10:15 p.m.: Garages close

Friday, Jan. 27

7 a.m.: Garages open

9:25-9:55 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge practice

10:15-11 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:30 a.m.: Michelin Pilot Challenge driver and team manager briefing

11:20 a.m.-12:20 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

1:45-5:45 p.m.: BMW M Endurance Challenge at Daytona (Michelin Pilot Challenge; streaming on Peacock)

8:45 p.m.: Garages close

Saturday, Jan. 28

6:30 a.m.: Garages open

9:45 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship driver and team manager briefing

12:30-12:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 engine warmup

1:30-1:40 p.m.: Rolex 24 formation laps

1:40 p.m.: The 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona (starting on NBC; streaming flag to flag on Peacock)

Sunday, Jan. 29

1:40 p.m.: Finish of the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona

7:30 p.m.: Garages close