Webber surprised elimination F1 qualifying got second chance

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Mark Webber is surprised that Formula 1’s decision-makers opted to give the much-criticized elimination qualifying format that debuted in Australia a second chance for this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

The addition of quickfire eliminations to the existing Q1/Q2/Q3 structure in Australia proved disastrous as it only worsened the problems of not having enough cars on track and pole being decided early.

Team bosses provisionally agreed on the Sunday of the race to drop the new qualifying format for Bahrain this weekend.

However, the failure of the F1 Commission to unanimously agree on what style of qualifying should replace it meant that the Australia format will remain for the race at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Ex-F1 driver and FIA World Endurance Championship winner Webber admitted he was surprised the new format had not been scrapped, and believes it will be no better the second time around.

“I thought we were leaving Melbourne in good shape with a decision to go back to a system which was working pretty well,” Webber told British newspaper the Daily Mail.

“But that’s not the case and we are back to the Melbourne scenario which even at its best it will struggle to equal what we had.

“For me the beef I’ve got is we are still focusing on the driver that’s on the bubble or the driver that’s slow trying to get into that session.

“Now with all due respect we are focusing on Nico Hulkenberg, Sergio Perez or young Esteban Gutierrez, now that’s fine. But we’ve also got to be focusing on the laps the big boys are doing to form the first few rows of the grid.”

Webber believes that the best qualifying format for drivers was the old one-hour open track session that saw drivers head out whenever they pleased, although they were restricted to 12 laps.

“The best one that suits the drivers doesn’t always suit the commercial rights holders and the best one I had was four sets of tyres and a one hour session, and those sets of tyres didn’t have to be used for the race either,” Webber said.

“So many things have changed since then. And we still need to keep explaining the sport. We have to say there are ramifications from a qualifying session that hurts tomorrow’s race. It’s just all talk.”

Meyer Shank Racing wins second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona to begin GTP era

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The Grand Touring Prototype era began just as the previous one ended as Meyer Shank Racing’s Acura captured its second consecutive Rolex 24 at Daytona with star Tom Blomqvist emphatically starting and finishing the race.

The No. 60 ARX-06 won the 24-hour endurance classic at Daytona International Speedway by 4.190 seconds over Filipe Albuquerque of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport, giving Acura a sweep of the top two spots.

The Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac V-LMDh cars took the next two spots with Renger van der Zande (the No. 01) and Earl Bamber (No. 02) as four of the nine new GTP cars finished on the lead lap within 12 seconds of each other and four more finished the race – quashing the prerace hand-wringing of mass failures for the highly technical cars in the debut of the hybrid prototype premier category.

“Amazed is the right word,” Honda Performance Development president David Salters said when asked about reliability. “These are sophisticated cars. It’s not easy. It’s a testament to each group that they did a really good job. It was a fight all the way through the race. I didn’t expect that at all.”

There were major problems for the manufacturer newcomers Porsche Penske Motorsport and BMW M Team RLL, whose two pairs of cars all finished at least a dozen laps down or more because of major mechanical problems in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season opener.

But there were no such failures for Acura despite the manufacturer skipping any endurance testing with the new LMDh car. Salters said his

It’s the third Rolex 24 at Daytona victory for co-owner Mike Shank, who won his first in 2012.

Just as he capped the 2022 season by winning the Petit Le Mans season finale in the No. 60 Acura to clinch the final championship of the DPi division for MSR, Blomqvist was behind the wheel again for his third overall victory in IMSA.

“That was crazy,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee. “I knew we had a fantastic car. I’ve been working hard. Unbelievable. Massive, well done, everyone being part of this project and worked together on this project. What a car we’ve built.

“I was just a bit nervous. The 10 was definitely second fastest car, but we held them off.”

It was the second consecutive Rolex 24 victory for MSR’s trio of Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, who were joined this year by Colin Braun (winning his first Rolex 24 overall).

Castroneves joined select company in winning the Rolex 24 in three consecutive years (his first win was with Wayne Taylor Racing in 2021 — also in an Acura, which now has three consecutive Rolex 24s). Peter Gregg won the Rolex 24 in 1973, ’75 and ’76 (the 1974 race wasn’t held because of the oil crisis).

Castroneves and Pagenaud are entering their second consecutive year as teammates for Meyer Shank Racing’s Dallara-Hondas in the NTT IndyCar Series.

“Can you believe that?” Castroneves told Lee. “Big props to everyone. Everyone did an amazing job. Everybody worked so hard together. We got it! Another one. I can’t believe it. This is absolutely a dream come true.”

The four-time Indy 500 winner led the team in his signature fence-climbing celebration afterward — just as he had when he finished MSR’s victory in last year’s Rolex 24 and when he won the 2021 Indy 500 for the team.

“It’s always fun to climb the fence with Helio,” said Pagenaud, who drove the second-to-last stint before Blomqvist closed it out: “The competition as amazing. It was tough out there. So much fun. Hope you had as much fun as we had. I’m going to savor this one.”

Winners in other classes were the No. 55 ORECA 07 of Proton Competition (which triumphed on a last-lap pass by James Allen on Ben Hanley), WeatherTech Racing’s No. 79 Mercedes in GTD Pro, Heart of Racing’s No. 27 Aston Martin in GTD and AWA’s No. 17 in LMP3.