© Getty Images

Massa quietly impresses en route to fifth in Australian GP

1 Comment

Williams came away from Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix sitting third in the Formula 1 constructors’ championship after Felipe Massa enjoyed a quietly impressive race to fifth place at Albert Park.

Massa qualified sixth in Melbourne on Saturday before enduring a quiet but productive race that saw him make a two-stop strategy work well to P5 at the checkered flag.

Like many, Massa took advantage of the red flag stoppage on lap 19 to switch to the medium tire and opt for a lengthy second stint to the end of the race.

“It was a good race. To finish fifth, scoring some good points, is definitely a good start to the season,” Massa said.

“The red flag in the middle helped us to keep our strategy to one-stop and, thanks to that, we managed to overtake both Toro Rossos who had decided to go for different tires. That’s why I am happy with the result.”

Teammate Valtteri Bottas bounced back from a poor qualifying result on Saturday and a gearbox penalty to finish the race in eighth place, having started a eight positions further back.

“It has obviously been a very difficult week. The struggles we had with qualifying and then the grid penalty compromised the race,” Bottas said.

“It wasn’t the nice clean race we were hoping for, but we still have points from both of our cars. We are definitely aiming for better positions, and myself personally, so I am looking forward to Bahrain because I am sure we can do better than this weekend.”

Head of performance engineering Rob Smedley said that Williams could be pleased with its weekend in Melbourne, and has high hopes for future races.

“Australia is always a strange race. You come here and there are lots of unknowns with pace, in both qualifying and the race. You just want to make sure you get through it with a decent haul of points, and we have done that,” Smedley said.

“We can hold our heads reasonably high after that race. We made the right call in the pit lane under the red flag, fitting the medium tires and going to the end. That’s got us third in the championship now.

“Today we just got our heads down and did the job. Now we look forward to developing the car as we have some good upgrades coming.”

Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.