Nico Rosberg keen to make up for recent disappointments

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With his hopes of a maiden Formula 1 drivers’ championship now confirmed to be over, Nico Rosberg has set his sights on making up for a recent run of bad form starting at this weekend’s Mexican Grand Prix.

After coming within just a few laps of taking the lead of the title race back in Hungary, Rosberg has since suffered a string of defeats to Mercedes teammate and newly-crowned three-time champion Lewis Hamilton.

The title clincher for Hamilton came in last weekend’s United States Grand Prix when Rosberg made a mistake whilst leading with eight laps to go, handing his teammate the points required to win the title.

Rosberg is now hoping to make up for this disappointment and end a winless streak that dates all the way back to the Austrian Grand Prix in June.

“The championship fight is over for me this year but I have three races left to make a big push, end this tough season on a high and make up for the disappointment of the past few races,” Rosberg said.

“My first chance is in Mexico and I’m sure everyone is really looking forward to the weekend. I love discovering new places and this one will definitely be a really interesting venue. If the Mexican fans we see in Austin are anything to go by, the atmosphere will be incredible!”

F1 returns to Mexico this weekend after a 23-year absence at the redesigned Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, and Rosberg is relishing the challenge of a new track.

“My father raced there once back in the 80s so maybe he can give me a few tips… although the circuit is very different now and so are the cars, so maybe that’s not the best reference point!” Rosberg joked.

“Data will be very important in Mexico, of course, as it’s a track none of the current grid have driven before. Some of the more experienced engineers might know it – but the circuit and the cars will have changed so much since the sport last went there that it’s basically like starting from zero.

“That’s a big challenge and I’m looking forward to it. I’ve driven the circuit in the simulator to be as prepared as I can be, so let’s see what we can do.”

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds