Hamilton edges out Rosberg to claim pole position in China

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Lewis Hamilton will start tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix from pole position after edging out Mercedes teammate and probable championship rival Nico Rosberg in qualifying at the Shanghai International Circuit on Saturday.

The defending Formula 1 world champion had dominated proceedings in practice, and carried this form into qualifying by producing a scintillating final lap in Q3 that was good enough to secure him a fifth pole position at the Chinese Grand Prix.

However, he was very nearly denied pole by Rosberg, who fell just 0.042 seconds short in the final stage of qualifying, leaving him frustrated in second place on the grid ahead of Sebastian Vettel and Felipe Massa.

Hamilton began qualifying as he meant to go on by posting the fastest time in the early part of Q1, easing into the second stage on the medium tire whilst the rest of the field had to complete at least one run on the faster soft compound. Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen were unable to challenge the Mercedes duo at first, but eventually secured a one-two after both drivers made the tire switch later on in the session.

It proved to be the right decision as the track rubbered in quickly towards the end of Q1, resulting in a number of changes towards the bottom of the timesheets. McLaren’s progress was not so clear in qualifying as Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso dropped out in Q1 once again, whilst Nico Hulkenberg was caught out by improvements from cars towards the bottom, leaving him in 16th.

The Manor duo of Will Stevens and Roberto Merhi qualified P19 and P20, but ensured their place on the grid for the race by finishing within the 107% time.

Q2 saw Mercedes make the move onto the soft tire and quickly put it to good use as Hamilton and Rosberg eased into P1 and P2 at the beginning of the session. Their advantage over the rest of the field stood at 1.6 seconds until Ferrari sent its drivers out, with Vettel half a second down on Hamilton. Both teams were able to stick to just one run in Q2, assured of their place in the final part of qualifying.

The small margins between the midfield cars meant that all of the drivers from fifth to 15th were at risk of dropping out, with Williams’ Felipe Massa being the big name on the brink of elimination. The Brazilian was one of a number of drivers to improve and get through though, as Sauber got both of its drivers into Q3 for the first time since the 2013 United States Grand Prix.

Pastor Maldonado dropped out in Q2 once again, alongside Daniil Kvyat of Red Bull and the Toro Rosso pair of Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz. Sergio Perez languished at the bottom of the timesheets in Q2 in P15.

With Ferrari opting to re-use a set of its tires from Q1 at the start of Q3, Hamilton and Rosberg were left to fight among themselves for provisional pole position on their first runs in the final session. Hamilton produced a near-perfect lap to go almost three-tenths quicker than Rosberg, whilst Massa was 1.5 seconds down on his time in third place.

However, both of the Mercedes drivers were forced to go out for a second run when Ferrari moved onto fresh options, giving Rosberg one final chance to deny his teammate pole position. His cause was aided when Hamilton produced a scrappy last lap in Q3 and failed to improve. However, despite posting the fastest final sector time of the weekend with his final effort, Rosberg fell 0.042 seconds short, handing Hamilton a third straight pole position in China.

Sebastian Vettel produced a good final lap to put his Ferrari third on the grid, albeit some nine-tenths of a second down on Hamilton. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas ran well for Williams to qualify fourth and fifth, whilst Kimi Raikkonen had to settle for sixth place in the sister Ferrari.

Daniel Ricciardo and Romain Grosjean both outperformed their teammate stop secure P7 and P8 respectively, whilst Sauber locked out the fifth row as Felipe Nasr beat Marcus Ericsson to ninth place.

After losing out in Malaysia to Ferrari, Mercedes has bounced back in style in qualifying on Saturday. However, the Silver Arrows will know that the job is only half done, with tomorrow’s race set to provide a thrilling battle between Hamilton, Rosberg and perhaps Vettel at the front.

You can watch the Chinese Grand Prix live on NBCSN from 1:30a ET on Sunday.

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.