Hamilton heads up Mercedes one-two in final Australian GP practice

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Lewis Hamilton completed a hat-trick of P1 finishes in practice for the Australian Grand Prix by topping the final session ahead of qualifying on Saturday morning at Albert Park.

Drivers were afforded their first dry running of the weekend in the 60-minute FP3, allowing Mercedes to show its true colors as Hamilton led home teammate Nico Rosberg for a one-two finish.

Ferrari hoped to build on its strong showing in testing by running Mercedes close in final practice, and although Sebastian Vettel finished the session just two-tenths behind Hamilton, the status quo appears unchanged from the end of 2015.

Mercedes bided its time before unleashing both Rosberg and Hamilton on their low fuel runs and offering the first sign of the true pace of the new W07 car.

Rosberg duly resumed normal service with his first flying lap, going six-tenths quicker than the rest of the pack to take P1 with 25 minutes remaining. Hamilton followed suit after a suspension change, slotting in to second place.

Ferrari responded by sending Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen out on the super-soft tire, with the latter splitting the soft-shod Mercedes drivers initially.

Vettel rose to P1, beating Rosberg by three-tenths of a second before Mercedes sent its drivers back out on super-softs. Rosberg beat Vettel’s time by half a tenth before Hamilton went faster still to take P1 overall, his time being good enough for top spot come the end of the session.

Rosberg retained second place ahead of Vettel at the checkered flag, while a late lap from Carlos Sainz Jr. saw him finish fourth ahead of Raikkonen and Toro Rosso teammate Max Verstappen.

Valtteri Bottas ended FP3 in seventh place for Williams ahead of Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo. Felipe Massa finished ninth in the second FW38 car, beating Force India’s Sergio Perez in P10.

Haas F1 Team looked to get both of its drivers out early to complete its first dry running around the Albert Park circuit, only for a run-in with Rio Haryanto in the pit lane at the start of the session to set Romain Grosjean back. Haas changed the floor on the Frenchman’s car as a precaution, and he managed to finish the session 19th. Teammate Esteban Gutierrez ended FP3 just ahead in P18.

Qualifying for the Australian Grand Prix is live on NBCSN from 2am ET on Saturday.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
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.

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.