Hamilton fights back to seventh in rollercoaster Chinese GP

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Lewis Hamilton made the best of a bad situation in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix by fighting from the back of the grid to finish seventh for Mercedes.

Hamilton arrived in China set on ending teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg’s run of five straight race wins, only to be hit with a grid penalty for a gearbox change before the weekend had even started.

His problems grew worse on Saturday when his engine failed in qualifying, leaving him to start from 22nd in Shanghai.

Hamilton made a good start to pick up a few positions off the line, only to get tangled up in an incident with Felipe Nasr at Turn 2 (pictured) that forced him into pitting for repairs.

It would be the first of five pit stops for the Briton in China, with Mercedes changing strategy in reaction to the race that kept twisting in the early stages.

The decision to fit him with a set of medium tires and go long to the end of the race on lap 31 allowed Hamilton to rise up to fifth at one point, but he was unable to pass Williams’ Felipe Massa for position.

This gave Daniel Ricciardo and Kimi Raikkonen the chance to catch and pass Hamilton on fresher, quicker tires, leaving him to settle for seventh come the checkered flag.

Hamilton said he felt it was the most he could achieve given the circumstances, and is now focusing on cutting the 36 point gap to Rosberg in the coming races.

“I got a good start, but it’s always tricky being at the back and trying not to get caught up in the domino effect of any contact at the first corner,” Hamilton said.

“I tried to avoid whatever happened in front of me but I just got tangled up in it. It was just a bit unfortunate, really. From there it was always going to be a battle – but I had a lot of fun fighting back through! There were plenty of overtakes, from what I can remember!

“I gave it everything I had and P7 was about the limit. There was nothing left in the tires at the end and, although it’s pretty good for overtaking here, I had quite a lot of damage to the car which made it difficult to get close on the brakes. From what I could feel there was definitely some aero loss and possible suspension damage too, as the car seemed to be flexing all over the place.

“But that’s racing – it happens sometimes and at least I still managed to get a few points on the board. It’s a pretty big hit points-wise today – but I’ll just have to do what I can to make it up over the next few races.”

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

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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.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

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.