Spanish GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday


MONTMELO – When writing a column about what effect potentially losing the Spanish Grand Prix to Lewis Hamilton would have on Nico Rosberg this morning, I was wary of triggering the journalist equivalent of the ‘commentator’s curse’.

Losing to Hamilton from pole position would have by no means been the end of the world for Rosberg, but it would have been yet another blow in an increasingly difficult season. The progress that he appeared to make in Bahrain would have been lost.

When the German driver pulled away seamlessly at the start of the race and saw Hamilton drop behind Vettel, the tables turned. Hamilton had a fight on his hands, but it was Rosberg who was under pressure. Surely with a healthy buffer and a car between himself and his teammate, he could finally end his losing streak?

In the end, he could. Rosberg did not face too much of a challenge on Sunday in the race, nor did he really have to push too hard. Towards the end of his second stint on the medium tire, he was still setting personal best sectors. Clearly, Mercedes did not want him to overdo it and push harder than absolutely necessary.

The 2015 Spanish Grand Prix will not be remembered as a classic race by any means. However, it was still an intriguing event with plenty of battles up and down the field. For Rosberg though, it is arguably one of his most important victories in Formula 1.

Rounding up all of the action from Barcelona, here is the final Spanish GP Paddock Notebook.




Rosberg proves he has turned a corner

I wrote a rather scathing column following the Chinese Grand Prix, slamming Rosberg for his complaints about Hamilton’s actions in the lead of the race and saying that unless he changed his stance and mindset, he could forget all ideas of winning the title in 2015. Since then, he has been very different. In Bahrain, he fought hard with the Ferrari drivers and showed some fight, and this weekend in Spain he was utterly dominant. Of course, Hamilton was nowhere near his best, but it’s all about how you capitalize on this. Rosberg did exactly what was needed on Sunday. The title race could be about to get interesting again.

A thorn in Mercedes’ side

Sebastian Vettel has been a thorn in Mercedes’ side so far this season, and was once again in Spain. His excellent defensive driving and pace caused Hamilton to toil in third place, struggling to find a way through and only doing so once he had moved onto the hard tire. Ferrari’s pace on this compound has been poor so far this year, but Vettel once again proved that the Italian marque is a serious force in 2015 – not title-winning, but still enough of a power to play a role in hampering either Rosberg or – as we saw today – Hamilton’s charge.

It’ll buff out…

The first rule of F1 is “don’t hit your teammate”. Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado did not receive the memo ahead of this weekend’s race, though, as the two Lotus drivers clashed heading into turn three during the race. Maldonado suffered some damage to his rear wing which the team decided to remedy by tearing the broken endplate off his car, leaving him with two-thirds of a wing. Maldonado kept pushing, and was even able to pass Jenson Button in spite of the issue. In the end, Lotus had to retire the car, but I did spot the broken endplate on display in the team’s hospitality unit following the race.

McLaren’s woes continue

This was meant to be the race in which McLaren would finally bounce back and move up the field given the number of updates that were applied to the MP4-30. Instead, it was yet another miserable and troublesome weekend. Fernando Alonso did appear to have an outside chance of finishing inside the top ten after his long first stint moved him up to P7, but he soon dropped down the order before retiring with a brake problem caused by an errant visor tear-off. Jenson Button’s race was even worse, with the Briton claiming that it was “scary” to drive the car at times. Barring a miracle in Monaco, it’s unlikely that we will see the British team gracing the top ten before the end of the month.

And so to Monaco

With the first European event of the season now in the books, the F1 paddock’s attention swiftly turns to the most exciting race on the calendar: Monaco. The unforgiving streets punish the indecisive and reward the brilliant, and should once again provide us with an interesting weekend. Rosberg heads to his hometown race with his tail up after taking an important victory that ended Hamilton’s winning streak.

If the German can stick the car on pole – without a trip down Mirabeau this year – and control the race from there, then the title race may really be moving back towards an even keel. For the neutral watching, a Rosberg win in Spain was probably the best result in terms of the championship fight, setting the stage for another great battle around the Monegasque streets.

Meyer Shank Racing wins second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona to begin GTP era


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Grand Touring Prototype era began just as the previous one ended as Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura captured its second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona with star Tom Blomqvist emphatically starting and finishing the race.

The No. 60 ARX-06 won the 24-hour endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway by 4.190 seconds over Filipe Albuquerque of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport, giving Acura a sweep of the top two spots.

The Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh cars took the next two spots with Renger van der Zande (the No. 01) and Earl Bamber (No. 02) as four of the nine new GTP cars finished on the lead lap within 12 seconds of each other and four more finished the race – quashing the prerace hand-wringing of mass failures for the highly technical cars in the debut of the hybrid prototype premier category.

“Amazed is the right word,” Honda Performance Development president David Salters said when asked about reliability. “These are sophisticated cars. It’s not easy. It’s a testament to each group that they did a really good job. It was a fight all the way through the race. I didn’t expect that at all.”

There were major problems for the manufacturer newcomers Porsche Penske Motorsport and BMW M Team RLL, whose two pairs of cars all finished at least a dozen laps down or more because of major mechanical problems in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

But there were no such failures for Acura despite the manufacturer skipping any endurance testing with the new LMDh car. Salters said his

It’s the third Rolex 24 at Daytona victory for co-owner Mike Shank, who won his first in 2012.

Just as he capped the 2022 season by winning the Petit Le Mans season finale in the No. 60 Acura to clinch the final championship of the DPi division for MSR, Blomqvist was behind the wheel again for his third overall victory in IMSA.

“That was crazy,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I knew we had a fantastic car. I’ve been working hard. Unbelievable. Massive, well done, everyone being part of this project and worked together on this project. What a car we’ve built.

“I was just a bit nervous. The 10 was definitely second fastest car, but we held them off.”

It was the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for MSR’s trio of Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who were joined this year by Colin Braun (winning his first Rolex 24 overall).

Castroneves joined select company in winning the Rolex 24 in three consecutive years (his first win was with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021 — also in an Acura, which now has three consecutive Rolex 24s). Peter Gregg won the Rolex 24 in 1973, ’75 and ’76 (the 1974 race wasn’t held because of the oil crisis).

Castroneves and Pagenaud are entering their second consecutive year as teammates for Meyer Shank Racing’s Dallara-Hondas in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“Can you believe that?” Castroneves told Lee. “Big props to everyone. Everyone did an amazing job. Everybody worked so hard together. We got it! Another one. I can’t believe it. This is absolutely a dream come true.”

The four-time Indy 500 winner led the team in his signature fence-climbing celebration afterward — just as he had when he finished MSR’s victory in last year’s Rolex 24 and when he won the 2021 Indy 500 for the team.

“It’s always fun to climb the fence with Helio,” said Pagenaud, who drove the second-to-last stint before Blomqvist closed it out: “The competition as amazing. It was tough out there. So much fun. Hope you had as much fun as we had. I’m going to savor this one.”

Winners in other classes were the No. 55 ORECA 07 of Proton Competition (which triumphed on a last-lap pass by James Allen on Ben Hanley), WeatherTech Racing’s No. 79 Mercedes in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin in GTD and AWA’s No. 17 in LMP3.