Vettel goes lights-to-flag for Singapore GP victory


Sebastian Vettel’s fairytale first season with Ferrari continued in earnest under the lights of Marina Bay on Sunday as he went lights-to-flag to win the Singapore Grand Prix.

Vettel controlled the race from the front of the pack, surviving two safety car periods and even a track invader to clinch his fourth victory in Singapore and his third of the 2015 season.

Just as they did in qualifying, Ferrari and Red Bull dominated proceedings in the race on Sunday, but were given a scare by Mercedes as Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg threatened to come into contention for the win with an alternative strategy.


However, a power unit issue forced Hamilton to retire, allowing Rosberg to cut into his teammate’s lead at the top of the drivers’ championship despite failing to finish on the podium, as Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen followed Vettel home.

Off the line, Vettel made a clean getaway to hold onto his lead through the first complex of corners. He quickly put his foot down and began to pull clear of the field, creating a gap of over three seconds on the first lap alone. The running order remained largely the same further back as Rosberg fended off Valtteri Bottas for sixth, but Max Verstappen quickly dropped one lap down when he stalled on the grid.

Vettel kicked on throughout the first stint of the race, creating a healthy buffer of five seconds to Ricciardo to protect himself from a possible undercut by Red Bull. Although the Australian was able to cut into Vettel’s lead, his hopes of getting the jump were dashed when a collision between Nico Hulkenberg and Felipe Massa sparked the first round of pit stops for the leaders.

As Massa exited the pits, Hulkenberg did not appear to see the Williams driver in his mirrors, causing him to make contact with the Brazilian. Hulkenberg’s car was sent into the wall at turn three, prompting the stewards to deploy the Virtual Safety Car.

All of the front-runners dived into the pits, allowing Vettel to defend his lead from Ricciardo on the super-soft tire. Hamilton and Rosberg managed to jump Daniil Kvyat for P4 and P5 after the Russian pitted early, and bucked the trend of their rivals by running on the soft compound tire.

The VSC was upgraded to a full safety car to allow the debris from Hulkenberg’s car to be recovered, bunching the field up for the restart on lap 19. However, Vettel could not scamper away as he did at the beginning of the race, running just one second clear of Ricciardo at the front of the field.

Just behind the leading trio, Hamilton began to bring himself into contention for the race win by producing some quick laps on the soft tire. Vettel was being forced to control his pace to make sure that he could make a two-stop strategy work, allowing the Mercedes driver to stay on a par with the leaders.

However, Hamilton’s hopes of a comeback victory in Singapore were left in tatters when he reported a loss of power on his Mercedes car. The Briton began to drop through the field, losing ten seconds per lap as Mercedes frantically tried to find the cause of the issue. It was futile, though, as Hamilton was eventually forced to retire on lap 33.

Up front, Vettel’s tire saving stint came to an end, allowing him to open up the gap to Ricciardo once again ahead of the second round of pit stops. This was sparked early by a second safety car period, caused when a fan was found walking along the side of the live track during the grand prix.

All of the leading drivers pitted and moved onto the prime tire, negating the advantage Mercedes had hoped for in the final stint of the race. Vettel resumed the race on lap 41 still leading from Ricciardo and Raikkonen, while Bottas found himself running fifth after jumping Kvyat in the pit stops.

Vettel managed to open up a healthy gap at the beginning of the stint before controlling the gap and managing his tires through the closing stages of the race, leaving Ricciardo to keep an eye on his mirrors as Raikkonen began to find pace in P3.

Having survived two safety car periods, a scare from Mercedes and even a track invader, Vettel crossed the line after 61 laps to record his third grand prix victory of the year and his fourth under the lights in Singapore.

The German driver was followed across the line by Ricciardo some 1.4 seconds later, whilst Kimi Raikkonen capped off a strong weekend for Ferrari by finishing in a comfortable third, marking his second podium finish of the season.

Rosberg failed to stay with the leading cars towards the end of the race, leaving him to settle for fourth at the flag. The result does see him cut the gap to Hamilton down to 41 points, although he is now just eight clear of Vettel in third place.

Valtteri Bottas managed to keep Kvyat back in the final stint to score his very first points in Singapore, ending the day in fifth. Kvyat finished sixth ahead of Sergio Perez and Max Verstappen, with the latter’s fightback from being a lap down after just two laps speaking volumes about his ability.

Following Verstappen’s lead in the sister Toro Rosso car, Carlos Sainz Jr. finished ninth just 1.4 seconds further back, whilst Felipe Nasr rounded out the points for Sauber in P10 after making a late pass on Romain Grosjean, who in turn had to retire on the last lap. Their teammates ended the day in P11 and P12, with Marcus Ericsson finishing ahead of Pastor Maldonado.

Alexander Rossi’s grand prix debut was an impressive one as he beat full-time teammate Will Stevens with relative ease in P14, ultimately finishing 14 seconds clear of the Briton despite having 13 less grands prix under his belt and having no radio in the second half of the race.

McLaren’s misery continued in Singapore as both Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso were forced to retire from the race, ending hopes of points on what had been a promising weekend for the British team. Hamilton, Massa and Hulkenberg were the only other retirees.

With throaty roar, NASCAR Next Gen Camaro is taking Le Mans by storm on global stage

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

LE MANS, France — The V8 engine of the NASCAR Chevrolet Camaro has a distinct growl that cannot go unnoticed even among the most elite sports cars in the world at the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

When the Hendrick Motorsports crew fired up the car inside Garage 56, NASCAR chairman Jim France broke into a huge grin and gave a thumbs up.

“The only guy who didn’t cover his ears,” laughed seven-time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson.

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France has been waiting since 1962 – the year his father, NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., brought him to his first 24 Hours of Le Mans – to hear the roar of a stock car at the most prestigious endurance race in the world.

A path finally opened when NASCAR developed its Next Gen car, which debuted last year. France worked out a deal to enter a car in a specialized “Innovative Car” class designed to showcase technology and development. The effort would be part of NASCAR’s 75th celebration and it comes as Le Mans marks its 100th.

Once he had the approval, France persuaded Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear – NASCAR’s winningest team, manufacturer and tire supplier – to build a car capable of running the twice-around-the-clock race.

The race doesn’t start until Saturday, but NASCAR’s arrival has already been wildly embraced and France could not be more thrilled.

“Dad’s vision, to be able to follow it, it took awhile to follow it up, and my goal was to outdo what he accomplished,” France told The Associated Press. “I just hope we don’t fall on our ass.”

The car is in a class of its own and not racing anyone else in the 62-car field. But the lineup of 2010 Le Mans winner Mike Rockenfeller, 2009 Formula One champion Jenson Button and Johnson has been fast enough; Rockenfeller put down a qualifying lap that was faster than every car in the GTE AM class by a full three seconds.

The Hendrick Motorsports crew won its class in the pit stop competition and finished fifth overall as the only team using a manual jack against teams exclusively using air jacks. Rick Hendrick said he could not be prouder of the showing his organization has made even before race day.

“When we said we’re gonna do it, I said, ‘Look, we can’t do this half-assed. I want to be as sharp as anybody out there,” Hendrick told AP. “I don’t want to be any less than any other team here. And just to see the reaction from the crowd, people are so excited about this car. My granddaughter has been sending me all these TikTok things that fans are making about NASCAR being at Le Mans.”

This isn’t NASCAR’s first attempt to run Le Mans. The late France Sr. brokered a deal in 1976, as America celebrated its bicentennial, to bring two cars to compete in the Grand International class and NASCAR selected the teams. Herschel McGriff and his son, Doug, drove a Wedge-powered, Olympia Beer-sponsored Dodge Charger, and Junie Donlavey piloted a Ford Torino shared by Richard Brooks and Dick Hutcherson.

Neither car came close to finishing the race. McGriff, now 95 and inducted into NASCAR’s Hall of Fame in January, is in Le Mans as France’s guest, clad head-to-toe in the noticeable Garage 56 uniforms.

“I threw a lot of hints that I would like to come. And I’ve been treated as royalty,” McGriff said. “This is unbelievable to me. I recognize nothing but I’m anxious to see everything. I’ve been watching and seeing pictures and I can certainly see the fans love their NASCAR.”

The goal is to finish the full race Sunday and, just maybe, beat cars from other classes. Should they pull off the feat, the driver trio wants its own podium celebration.

“I think people will talk about this car for a long, long time,” said Rockenfeller, who along with sports car driver Jordan Taylor did much of the development alongside crew chief Chad Knaus and Greg Ives, a former crew chief who stepped into a projects role at Hendrick this year.

“When we started with the Cup car, we felt already there was so much potential,” Rockenfeller said. “And then we tweaked it. And we go faster, and faster, at Le Mans on the SIM. But you never know until you hit the real track, and to be actually faster than the SIM. Everybody in the paddock, all the drivers, they come up and they are, ‘Wow, this is so cool,’ and they were impressed by the pit stops. We’ve overachieved, almost, and now of course the goal is to run for 24 hours.”

The car completed a full 24-hour test at Sebring, Florida, earlier this year, Knaus said, and is capable of finishing the race. Button believes NASCAR will leave a lasting impression no matter what happens.

“If you haven’t seen this car live yet, it’s an absolute beast,” Button said. “When you see and hear it go by, it just puts a massive smile on your face.”

For Hendrick, the effort is the first in his newfound embrace of racing outside NASCAR, the stock car series founded long ago in the American South. Aside from the Le Mans project, he will own the Indy car that Kyle Larson drives for Arrow McLaren in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and it will be sponsored by his automotive company.

“If you’d have told me I’d be racing at Le Mans and Indianapolis within the same year, I’d never have believed you,” Hendrick told AP. “But we’re doing both and we’re going to do it right.”

Le Mans 24 Hour Race - Car Parade
Fans gather around the NASCAR Next Gen Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 that is the Garage 56 entry for the 100th 24 Hours of Le Mans at the Circuit de la Sarthe (Chris Graythen/Getty Images).

General Motors is celebrating the achievement with a 2024 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 Garage 56 Edition and only 56 will be available to collectors later this year.

“Even though Chevrolet has been racing since its inception in 1911, we’ve never done anything quite like Garage 56,” said GM President Mark Reuss. “A NASCAR stock car running at Le Mans is something fans doubted they would see again.”

The race hasn’t even started yet, but Hendrick has enjoyed it so much that he doesn’t want the project to end.

“It’s like a shame to go through all this and do all this, and then Sunday it’s done,” Hendrick said. “It’s just really special to be here.”