Alonso loses P10 in Russia after time penalty

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Fernando Alonso’s 250th grand prix weekend ended on a low note after the stewards handed him a five-second time penalty for exceeding track limits in Sochi on Sunday.

Alonso had only qualified 16th on a track where McLaren expected to struggle, but benefited from a flurry of late incidents that saw him finish tenth and pick up a solitary world championship point.

However, having been warned about exceeding track limits during the Russian Grand Prix, Alonso was called before the stewards after the race for running wide repeatedly at turn 16.

By way of a penalty, five seconds were added to his finishing time, dropping him down to P11 behind Toro Rosso driver Max Verstappen.

Despite being disappointed to have lost the point, Alonso was pleased with McLaren’s performance as both of its cars finished inside the top ten on-track.

“To have both cars finish in the top ten at a circuit where we didn’t expect to fare well was a nice surprise,” Alonso said. “It was just a shame to lose out afterwards.

“In fact, the car performed very well in the race – I think we were able to look after the tires a little bit better than the cars around us, and, on an afternoon where every little bit helped, we made the most of that.

“We’ll now hope for more performance at the next race, in the USA. It’ll be tough, and we’ll have to remain realistic, but I’m definitely happy with today’s result. Now, we can keep moving forwards and improve things for the future.”

Teammate Jenson Button managed to finish the race in ninth, marking his first points since the Hungarian Grand Prix at the end of July.

“Today, we did everything right, did the best we could, and we took home some points,” Button said. “I was a sitting duck for the first couple of laps. I couldn’t really fight off the people behind, my deployment was cutting off at the end of the straights, so it was very easy for people to overtake.

“That was tricky. They were trying to pass me into Turn 13, which is a pretty scary place, especially when you don’t have DRS and can’t gauge the closing speed of the cars behind.

“Still, it wasn’t bad. I was racing Fernando for the whole race, which was all I could really do, as all the other cars were quicker.

“We haven’t made massive progress with the car’s performance, but we did lots of interesting things with the set-up this weekend. We’ll analyze those and see whether they paid off or not.”

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

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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.