Rosberg edges out Hamilton for Mexican GP victory


Nico Rosberg became the first winner of the Mexican Grand Prix since Nigel Mansell in 1992 after edging out Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton in an intriguing battle at the front of the field.

Rosberg controlled proceedings throughout the race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez on Sunday, only losing the lead for four laps through the pit stops as he scored his first race win since the Austrian Grand Prix in June.

One week on from his third Formula 1 championship success in Austin, Hamilton was forced to settle for second in Mexico on Sunday, but appeared unhappy with Mercedes’ strategy call after it switched both of its drivers to a two-stop strategy mid-way through the race.

Off the line, Rosberg made a good getaway to retain his lead through the opening complex of corners ahead of Hamilton. Just behind, Sebastian Vettel and Daniel Ricciardo made contact, leaving the former with a puncture that forced him to pit for repairs at the end of the first lap, dropping to the very rear of the field.

There was worse news for Fernando Alonso, though, who was told to retire his McLaren after just one lap due to a power issue on his car. Max Verstappen managed to capitalize on the incident at the front to jump from eighth to sixth.

Hamilton pushed to cut the gap to Rosberg, but was unable to keep up with the German’s pace through the opening stint of the race, causing him to drop two seconds back before the first round of pit stops. Rosberg pitted first on lap 26, releasing Hamilton into the lead until he stopped two laps later, emerging in second place once again.

In the race to complete the podium, Daniil Kvyat managed to push on during the opening stint of the race after making a good start to retain third place after the first round of pit stops. Williams opted to bring both Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa in early to try and get the undercut on the Red Bull drivers, and although it allowed the duo to pass Daniel Ricciardo in fourth, Kvyat continued to lead the quartet.

Bottas was fortunate to still be in the race after another run-in with Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen. Three weeks on from their clash on the last lap of the Russian Grand Prix, the Finns made contact again when Raikkonen squeezed Bottas to the inside of turn five, leaving the Williams driver with nowhere to go. Raikkonen was clipped, causing damage to his right-rear tire that forced him to retire from the race.

Throughout the second half of the race, Rosberg continued to monitor and control the gap to Hamilton, leaving the Briton to toil in second place. However, with a lead of around 30 seconds over the rest of the field, the Mercedes drivers were comfortable in their own intra-team battle at the front.

Vettel’s fightback was stunted when he was forced to pit for a second time to change tires, dropping him further back from the top ten. After emerging from pit lane between Rosberg and Hamilton, Vettel soon fell a lap down on most of the front-runners, ending his faint hopes of points in Mexico on a tough day for Ferrari.

Despite originally planning to go to the end of the race with just one pit stop, Mercedes opted to play it safe and bring both Rosberg and Hamilton in for a second stop to ensure their tires lasted to the end of the race. Rosberg was brought in on lap 46, with Hamilton – after much protest, believing Mercedes’ fears were unjustified – coming in two laps later, emerging from the pit lane behind his team once again.

The field was bunched just a few laps later when Vettel slammed into the barrier at turn seven, prompting the stewards to deploy the safety car and bringing Ferrari’s miserable day to an early end as it suffered its first double retirement since the 2006 Australian Grand Prix.

Rosberg and Hamilton continued at the front following their recent stops, while most of the remaining runners opted to take a second pit stop. Kvyat retained third, running on the option tire ahead of Bottas and Ricciardo, with the latter passing Massa for fifth by this stage.

The safety car returned to the pits with 14 laps to go, allowing Rosberg to lead the field away for the restart. The German driver managed to keep Hamilton back at the green flag, although both had off-track moments as the stop-heavy nature of the circuit began to take its toll on their brakes.

Just behind, Bottas got the jump on Kvyat to take third place, but was not able to drop the Russian driver immediately, creating a close fight for the final podium position in the final stages of the race.

Despite coming under pressure from Hamilton late on, Rosberg managed to monitor the gap and hold on to his lead until the end of the race to end his win drought that had dated back to the Austrian Grand Prix in June.

Hamilton followed Rosberg home in second place, finishing 1.9 seconds behind his teammate. Bottas managed to drop the Red Bulls to secure his second podium finish of the season, crossing the line in P3.

Kvyat’s headed up Red Bull’s charge in fourth, finishing ahead of teammate Ricciardo in P5. Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg followed in sixth and seventh, while Sergio Perez’s home race ended with four points for eighth place. Max Verstappen and Romain Grosjean rounded out the points in Mexico.

Pastor Maldonado narrowly missed out on a points finish, crossing the line six-tenths of a second behind Grosjean in the sister Lotus car. Marcus Ericsson was the sole Sauber finisher in 12th after teammate Felipe Nasr retired, while Carlos Sainz Jr. and Jenson Button ended the race 13th and 14th.

Alexander Rossi managed to continue his perfect record against Manor teammate Will Stevens, finishing 10 seconds clear at the flag.

Tom Blomqvist keeps eye on IndyCar during impressive rise: ‘ I would love to give it a go’


DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – In between two of his latest superstar-driver-in-waiting performances, Tom Blomqvist walked through the Daytona International Speedway garage in anonymity.

“Nobody knows who the (expletive) I am,” he said to a team member with a laugh (and without a trace of being miffed), evincing the cheeky humor of someone born in England, raised in New Zealand and also of Swedish descent.

The lack of recognition in the garage might have been because he was clad in a relatively nondescript shirt, hat and sunglasses instead of a colorful firesuit covered by sponsor logos. But he also was on the way to a Friday race eve media availability where his entrance was greeted by only one reporter (after a few minutes).

During a news conference a day earlier, he sat patiently on the dais while his Indy 500-winning teammates and car owner fielded nearly all the questions – even though Blomqvist had turned maybe the most impressive lap of the month to win the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position in the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category.

The Meyer Shank Racing driver still might lack the attention commensurate with his already world-class CV (which expanded Sunday with his second consecutive Rolex 24  victory for MSR), but Blomqvist, 29, clearly isn’t bothered by it.

He carries the quiet confidence of knowing his immense talent will ensure results that will make him impossible to ignore.

“To a degree, I guess, it’s definitely ramped up a lot for me,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports. “In America, I’m starting to get a lot more (attention). In the last year, I’ve quite often got a lot of maybe what you’d call the glory moments. It’s been fun. And within the paddock, there’s a lot of respect for me anyway. It’s been good.”

There have been several moments of acclaim since he joined MSR barely a year ago in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. In his first start for the team at last year’s Rolex 24, Blomqvist turned in a Herculean performance to position the No. 60 Acura for the victory (giving way to Helio Castroneves because he was too “cooked” to complete the last 74 minutes).

He was even better this year at Daytona.

He ripped off a monster “one and done” pole-winning lap to beat the clock in qualifying on the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course. During the race, Blomqvist was as dominant in his first stint as his last in the ARX-06 while taking the checkered flag. He set the mark for the fastest time on Lap 6 that no one topped over the final 755 laps.

The 10 fastest laps in the race belonged to Blomqvist, carrying over his speed from the 2022 when he won the Petit Le Mans season finale to clinch the premier prototype championship at Michelin Road Atlanta.

A year earlier at the same track, he had burst onto the radar of car owner Mike Shank, who was intrigued by Blomqvist’s results as a BMW factory driver in the Formula E and DTM series. In 2014, Blomqvist also finished between second in F3, between champion Esteban Ocon (now with Alpine’s F1 team) and Max Verstappen (who has won the past two Formula One championships).

“He did a lot of high-level stuff, and then kind of fell out of favor, or I don’t know what happened, but he was a free agent,” Shank said. “I started looking at his numbers, and I’m like, ‘We should test this guy. So I take him to Road Atlanta in the fall of ’21, and he got in the car and just slayed it.”

Within minutes, he had called co-owner Jim Meyer.

“I’ve got our guy,” Shank said. “This is our guy. There’s no question about it.

Honda Performance Development president David Salters hugs Tom Blomqvist after the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

“Now what’s happened, though, and I think if you look back at the Rolex here last year (and) what he did, he’s a gold nugget. He reminds me a little bit when (Robert) Wickens came into IndyCar out of DTM (as a rookie in 2018).

“He truly believes he’s the fastest guy out there, and he proved it (at the Rolex 24).”

Said David Salters, president for Honda Performance Development: “We love Tom. He’s the real deal, isn’t he? Immensely talented, super smart, and on it.

The great thing about our teams, the strength in depth is tremendous. But if you look through the sports car racing now, that’s the standard you have to have. Tom, brilliant, Filipe (Albuquerque), brilliant. Ricky (Taylor). You can go through that list. They’re all superstars. Tom is awesome. His lap in qualifying quite frankly was unbelievable.”

Having conquered one of the world’s greatest endurance races twice with Acura, Blomqvist could be ticketed for the world’s biggest race next – the Indy 500 — with HPD’s primary brand.

He tested a Dallara-Honda for MSR last October at Sebring International Raceway, and while he plans to focus solely on IMSA this season, he remains very intrigued by IndyCar.

And with Castroneves, 47, beginning a one-year deal with MSR’s IndyCar team, there could be an obvious opening in 2024.

“Obviously, it’s not in the cards this year,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports the day before the Rolex. “Yeah, I would love to give it a go. To be honest, I think that would be an amazing step for me in my career. I enjoy the sports car stuff so much. It’s been really good to me lately. I really enjoyed the style of racing.

“But I feel like IndyCar would be a step up for me and my career. It would be fantastic if I could get that opportunity. But yeah, I guess I have to keep pushing Mike or something to give me a shot. But obviously for now, the focus is here in the sports car stuff. It’s not really down to me at the end of the day. And I’ve got to do my job and then the people who pay the bills and make the decisions obviously have to decide if that’s something worth pursuing.

“But yeah, I’d love to give it a go, and I definitely would be up for it.”

Tom Blomqvist after winning the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole on the final qualifying lap (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

A transition from IMSA to IndyCar naturally would be easier than switching teams, but it also would be comfortable because Blomqvist already seems such a good fit at MSR.

It might have seemed an unusual pairing given his European-heavy background, but Blomqvist likes the Midwestern culture that’s been built at MSR. Based just outside Columbus, Ohio, the team’s shop has “no egos, and that just enables each and every one of to reach our potential.

“Obviously, with Honda, we obviously have some great resources, but we’re up against Porsche, BMW and some big heavy hitters in the motorsports world,” he said. “I wouldn’t say we’ve got a huge team compared to them, but we’ve obviously got a very capable team, and I think that’s what has been so impressive and really, really nice to see about the work that’s been done. No stone has been left unturned.”

Blomqvist still is living in Europe and planning to commute for the nine-race GTP schedule (which has a nearly two-month break after the Rolex 24 until the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring). But though he’s “got good friends in America, so I do have places to stay,” he seems open to being based more permanently near MSR in America.

“Let’s see what the future brings, and if that means me spending more time over here,” he said. “It’s a fantastic team. It’s a different environment to what I’m used to. It’s obviously now a hugely successful team, but it is a small team. It does feel like a very small family-operated team, which it is.

“I think Mike’s really just built this thing. It hasn’t happened overnight. Mike’s a great guy and put a lot of trust and faith in me, and I played a relatively good part in some of the success last year. I was able to reward him and give him my all every time I’m on track, and he respects that. But we are still a small team. In the grand scheme of things, we still are a really, really small team.”

Blomqvist said the BMW factory program would have two or three times the staffing of MSR – just on one of its two GTP cars.

“But it’s not the number of people that makes a difference, it’s the quality of people, and obviously Mike and HPD are a fantastic operation to go racing,” Blomqvist said. “We’re racers at heart.

“I’ve been part of some big outfits, and the European way of working is very, very different to how people go about racing in America. I’d say it’s more seat of your pants. A lot of emotion and kind of rides on that competitive spirt, competitive nature and on their personalities. It’s a lot more pure. It feels very pure. You want to win, so we go out and don’t cut corners on trying to win.”

Though it’s aligned with Liberty Media and has big-budget backing and support from Honda Performance Development, MSR also is much less corporate than most GTP teams.

A longtime and respected team owner who has built a sponsor portfolio, Shank also describes his maniacal dedication to success as “messed up,” and he’s known for dropping vulgarities into postrace interview with his blunt and self-deprecating sense of humor.

Meyer Shank Racing co-owner Mike Shank congratulates Tom Blomqvist on the Rolex 24 at Daytona pole position (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).

With a more laid-back but sometimes just as biting demeanor, Blomqvist has become the team’s unquestioned leader behind the wheel

“I definitely feel a lot more immersed,” he said. “Within the team, I was a bit more of an unknown quantity the start of last year. Obviously after last season, the team trusts me a lot. And that gives me a lot of pleasure, pride and confidence. In this sport, confidence is a huge aspect of drivers’ psychology in a way. We’re in extremely high-pressure moments where my job is to perform under the pressure of these organizations and the brand as well.

“It’s just a good, healthy team to be a part of. It’s a high-pressure environment, but the team obviously have put a lot of faith in me, and I’ve been able to deliver for them on occasions.”

Rolex 24 starting lineup
Tom Blomqvist celebrates after winning the pole in the No. 60 Acura ARX-06 (Mike Levitt/LAT/IMSA).