Rosberg dominates in China for sixth consecutive F1 win

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Nico Rosberg extended his streak of Formula 1 wins to six races by claiming a dominant victory in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Rosberg led all but the opening three laps of the race in Shanghai, keeping his cool through a dramatic opening stint that saw a number of his rivals drop back and hit trouble.

The German driver ultimately finished over half a minute clear of the field to continue his perfect start to the 2016 season with a third win.

Sebastian Vettel fought back from a poor start to finish second for Ferrari ahead of Red Bull’s Daniil Kvyat, while Lewis Hamilton recovered from the rear of the field to finish seventh despite taking five pit stops in the race.

Off the line, Mercedes’ start woes struck again as Rosberg slipped behind Daniel Ricciardo, leaving the German driver to settle for second place at the end of the first lap. Daniil Kvyat also made a good start in the second Red Bull, forcing Sebastian Vettel wide and into the path of Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen who sustained damage as a result.

Starting last after his qualifying engine failure on Saturday, Lewis Hamilton had hoped to make up some positions off the line, only to tangle with Felipe Nasr and lose his front wing, forcing him to head into the pits for repairs.

Ricciardo’s spell in the lead lasted just three laps as he sustained a tire failure on the back straight, prompting race control to call for the safety car and allow the debris on track to be cleared after a frantic opening salvo.

All of the super-soft runners pitted under the safety car, with Vettel taking repairs and dropping down the order. Rosberg remained in the lead for the restart, while those who had not pitted were able to vault up the order. Felipe Massa ran second for Williams ahead of Fernando Alonso and Manor driver Pascal Wehrlein, with Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez sitting fifth.

Mercedes opted to bring Hamilton in twice under the safety car so he did not need to use any more compounds in the race to leave him 21st, while Vettel ran 15th after his long pit stop.

Rosberg quickly opened up a gap to the chasing pack, but those fighting through the field showed few signs of backing down. Vettel worked his way into the top five within five laps of the restart, by which point Hamilton stood on the brink of the top 10.

Once the early soft runners had made their first stops, the race began to settle down with Rosberg enjoying a comfortable lead up front. Mercedes eventually brought him in at the end of lap 20 to cover off the threat from Kvyat, who had trailed by around 11 seconds ahead of the stops. Rosberg emerged from the pits still leading, with Hamilton rising to third momentarily before making his fourth pit stop of the race on lap 21.

Vettel’s charge had taken him right the way up to third once the order had cycled through the second round of pit stops, albeit 15 seconds down on Rosberg at the front. Hamilton and Raikkonen duelled for position while working their way into the top 10, making points likely as the race hit half distance.

Mercedes took the decision to change Hamilton’s strategy yet again with 25 laps remaining, bringing the Briton in for his fifth pit stop and fitting medium compound tires so he could go to the end of the race without pitting again.

The battle for second place hotted up in the second half of the race as Kvyat and Vettel ran closely. The pair took their battle to the pit lane where Kvyat retained his advantage, only to be passed one lap later by Vettel on the soft tire. However, medium-shod Kvyat would find his tires more workable towards the end of the race.

Rosberg made a hassle-free final stop on lap 36, again retaining his lead while Hamilton found himself dicing with the Williams pair of Felipe Massa and Valtteri Bottas over fourth position. The Briton soon eased past Bottas, but was joined by the recovering Ricciardo who duly moved ahead on a fresher set of medium tires. Hamilton now ran sixth, while Ricciardo made hay by claiming fourth from Massa just a few corners later.

Hamilton continued to struggle in the closing stages with his worn mediums, losing another place to the charging Raikkonen on soft tires. The Finn then made light work of Massa for fifth, leaving Hamilton to toil behind the Williams driver.

At the front, Rosberg had quietly gone about his business to extend his lead over the final stint before crossing the line to score his sixth consecutive grand prix victory, finishing 37 seconds clear in P1.

Rosberg becomes only the fourth driver in the history of F1 to win six races in a row, and to make for even better reading, no driver has won the opening three rounds of the year and not claimed the championship.

Vettel’s soft tires held up to the end to give him second place ahead of Kvyat, who scored Red Bull’s first podium finish of the year in P3. Teammate Ricciardo followed in fourth ahead of Raikkonen in the second Ferrari.

Hamilton was unable to pass Massa in the final laps of the racing, allowing the Brazilian to finish sixth. In seventh, Hamilton saw the deficit to Rosberg in the drivers’ championship swell to 36 points after just three rounds.

Toro Rosso youngster Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jr. put their fresher tires to good use late on to pass Bottas, allowing them to finish eighth and ninth respectively. Bottas was forced to settle for P10, rounding out the points for Williams.

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg struggled in the second half of the race, fading to P11 and P15 for Force India. The McLarens also failed to live up to their expectations as Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button ended the race 12th and 13th respectively.

Esteban Gutierrez finished for the first time in 2016, crossing the line 14th as Haas teammate Romain Grosjean ailed home in 19th. Marcus Ericsson finished 16th for Sauber ahead of Kevin Magnussen and Pascal Wehrlein, with Felipe Nasr, Rio Haryanto and Jolyon Palmer rounding out the bottom three positions as all 22 cars finished the race.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

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But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds