© Getty Images

Haas goes one better in Bahrain as Grosjean finishes fifth


The Haas Formula 1 Team’s dream start to life on the grid continued in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix as Romain Grosjean went one better than he did in Australia two weeks ago by finishing fifth.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas saw Grosjean pick up points for his new F1 operation on debut in Melbourne, marking a dream start for the American team.

Grosjean qualified ninth in Bahrain on Saturday, and made a three-stop strategy work perfectly to rise to fifth in the closing stages for Haas, picking up another 10 points. Grosjean ran Pirelli’s supersoft tires the first three stints, then finished on softs.

All the while he made several passing maneuvers, and the Haas F1 Team made their first live pit stops after the abnormal race in Melbourne.

The result sees Haas remain in fifth place in the constructors’ championship on 18 points, while Grosjean now sits joint-fourth in the drivers’ standings – ahead of Sebastian Vettel – with Kimi Raikkonen behind Nico Rosberg, Lewis Hamilton and Daniel Ricciardo.

It’s a surreal moment for Grosjean, who spoke to NBCSN’s Will Buxton after the race.

“I don’t know! This is the American dream! It is unbelievable,” Grosjean told Buxton. “We had to manage our expectations with sixth in Australia. It was good.

“Here, we’re five, with an aggressive strategy. And we can do better, pit stops, setup and so on – but this is for the guys. They’re all very tired. The work behind the scenes they are doing is huge. But this is a massive reward!

“This is real? This is real!” he said, as he slapped his own face to remind himself this wasn’t a dream – even though he said it is.

Grosjean reflected on the tire strategy, as he qualified ninth and therefore had more sets of supersofts available for the race. The Haas VF-16 chassis worked well with it.

“I had a good feeling in the car. Tire degradation has always been a strength for me in the past,” he said. “So I had a very good feeling on the supersofts. Everything was working well. It’s just nice to drive.”

Lastly, Grosjean reflected on his World Championship position.

“I’m standing fifth in the driver’s championship, and I’ve never been that high! It’s the first time in my career!

“I was gonna tweet a picture of the standings after Melbourne. Now I’m front of Vettel and right with Raikkonen?! Right now we enjoy it, we rest well, and we come back in China.”

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

24 Hours of Le Mans

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.