Hamilton charges to Chinese GP victory ahead of Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton has claimed his second win of the 2015 Formula 1 season in China on Sunday by dominating the race at the Shanghai International Circuit, beating Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg and Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel.

The British driver capped off a perfect weekend that has seen him finish as the fastest driver in every single session by winning the Chinese Grand Prix for a fourth time, controlling the race from start to finish to subject Rosberg to a ninth defeat in the last ten races.

WATCH: Full Chinese Grand Prix Replay

Despite keeping up with the Mercedes drivers in the first half of the race, Ferrari’s pace faded in the final stint after Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen moved onto the medium compound tire, forcing them to settle for third and fourth at the finish.

Keen to protect first position from his teammate, Hamilton made an aggressive start, pointing his car across the grid to cut Rosberg off. The Briton retained his lead through the first complex of corners as Rosberg and Vettel settled into second and third place, but it was Kimi Raikkonen who was the big mover on the first lap, bravely passing both Williams drivers to move up to fourth place. Further back, Daniel Ricciardo made a poor start and dropped down the order, whilst Carlos Sainz Jr. also fell through the field thanks to a spin at turn one.

Hamilton was unable to pull away from Rosberg in the opening stint as most of the drivers struggled on the soft compound tire. Ferrari’s drivers kept the Silver Arrows in sight, but Vettel looked to get the undercut on the leading pair by pitting early and taking on another set of option tires.

However, Mercedes reacted in kind, fitting Hamilton and Rosberg with the same tires in the following two laps to ensure that they retained the top two positions ahead of Vettel and Raikkonen.

The rest of the runners had to move onto the medium tire upon stopping, but this worked well for Lotus as Pastor Maldonado and Romain Grosjean moved up into seventh and eighth place respectively. Maldonado had fought past the Sauber drivers earlier in the race, and was followed up the order by Toro Rosso rookie Max Verstappen. The Dutchman continued to show a maturity and ability that far exceeds his 17 years, pulling off some great passes on Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson at the hairpin.

After stopping, Vettel began to put the hammer down in a bid to catch both Hamilton and Rosberg. Wary of the Ferrari threat from behind, Rosberg told Mercedes to give his teammate the hurry-up as he felt he was going too slowly. However, Vettel continued to push on, bringing himself within 1.5 seconds of Rosberg in the fight for second place.

Increasingly fearful of Ferrari, Hamilton was warned by Mercedes that Rosberg would be given the preferential strategy unless he was able to up his pace. The Briton responded by opening up the gap to Vettel, posting some fastest sector and fastest lap times. Ferrari soon brought its lead driver in to try and make use of the undercut once again, but Mercedes covered this yet again by bringing Rosberg in just one lap later. A slow stop allowed Vettel to close on his compatriot, but it was Rosberg who remained ahead for the time being.

Hamilton proved that he had been backing off slightly to look after his tires by posting two very fast lap times after Rosberg pitted, and eventually came in for his final stop on lap 33. Once Raikkonen pitted two laps later, the Briton was back in the lead, enjoying a 6.5 second lead over his teammate.

Further down the field, Pastor Maldnado very nearly undid all of his hard work by locking up at pit entry, narrowly avoiding the wall. The marshals were able to push him back and get going again, but he did drop outside of the top ten as a result of the error, with a second spin ending his hopes of points. A late run-in with McLaren’s Jenson Button forced Lotus to retire Maldonado with five laps to go.

After moving onto the medium compound tire, Ferrari began to struggle. Vettel found himself falling further back from Rosberg, ending his hopes of a second-place finish and forcing him into keeping an eye on his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, in fourth place.

Ricciardo continued to fight on in China as the sole Red Bull runner, enjoying some spirited fights with Marcus Ericsson at Sauber. A fine pass at the hairpin on lap 44 saw him move into the points, following the example set by Max Verstappen, who had made a great move on Sergio Perez to eighth before the Force India driver pitted after a long second stint.

However, the Dutchman was denied a good haul of points when his engine failed on the main straight, prompting a safety car period with just three laps to go.

As a result,  there was no change in position in the final stages, allowing Hamilton to claim his second win of the season. The British driver went unchallenged in the last stint, allowing him to cross the line  ahead of Rosberg and extend his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship.

In the dying stages of the race, Raikkonen was able to reel Vettel in thanks to his fresher tires, but the safety car put paid to his hopes of a first podium finish since rejoining Ferrari. Nevertheless, a second straight fourth place finish appears to mark a return to form for Raikkonen.

Williams endured a very lonely race, running in fifth and sixth with a gap of half a minute to the cars both in front and behind until the late safety car period. Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas were happy with the result all the same, knowing it was the maximum they could achieve.

Romain Grosjean picked up Lotus’ first points of the year in P7, marking his first top ten finish since last year’s Monaco Grand Prix. Sauber enjoyed another good weekend as Felipe Nasr and Marcus Ericsson finished eighth and tenth respectively, split by Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo.

Once again, it was Hamilton who stole the show in Shanghai, dominating proceedings to claim yet another emphatic psychological victory over Rosberg. With two wins now under his belt in 2015, the Briton will be hoping to continue his good start to the season in Bahrain next weekend.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”