Hamilton weathers British summer shower to take 4th Silverstone win

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Lewis Hamilton scored a popular home victory in Sunday’s British Grand Prix with a dominant display at Silverstone, leading home Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg.

Hamilton survived a track limits scare to take pole position on Saturday, but was left to contend with Mother Nature in the race as rain left the track damp for the start.

Despite drying quickly, damp patches remained throughout the race, leaving drivers to fight not only with each other but also themselves.

Hamilton kept his cool throughout, making two minor errors that went unpunished as he swept to a third consecutive British Grand Prix victory.

Rosberg was unable to challenge his teammate, instead spending much of the race fighting with Max Verstappen before coming home in second place to ensure that he still leads the Formula 1 drivers’ championship – albeit by just four points now.

A short, sharp rain shower on the grid in the lead-up to lights out prompted race officials to start the race behind the safety car. Although rain had stopped falling by the time Hamilton led the field away, all drivers were required to start on full wet tires, leaving them with the dilemma of when to make the switch to intermediate or dry compounds.

The safety car peeled into the pit lane after five laps, leaving Hamilton to cross the line and get the green flag running underway. A number of drivers immediately came in to make the switch to intermediate tires, but Hamilton opted to extend his early stint as he opened up a lead over Rosberg.

Daniel Ricciardo was the first front-runner to pit, coming in from P4, but the move backfired when the Virtual Safety Car was deployed after Pascal Wehrlein spun off. This allowed Hamilton and Rosberg to pit without losing position, finding themselves ahead of Max Verstappen and Sergio Perez, the Force India driver being the biggest winner in the first round of stops.

With the sun now shining and drying the track, drivers were told to look after their intermediate tires until the time was right to make the switch to slicks. Hamilton’s lead over Rosberg stood at five seconds, with Verstappen catching both as the track got nearer and nearer to being ready for dry tires.

Verstappen soon found himself all over the back of Rosberg’s car as the German struggled on the drying track. After Rosberg made a mistake through Maggots, Verstappen pulled a brave-yet-brilliant move around the outside of Becketts, heading onto the Hangar Straight to take second place, sparking cheers in the pro-Hamilton sections of the crowd.

Ferrari was the first team to gamble on dry tires, fitting Sebastian Vettel’s cars with mediums at the end of lap 15. The majority of the pack followed suit one lap later, with Mercedes waiting one more lap before calling Hamilton and Rosberg in.

Verstappen put in a rapid lap during his brief spell leading on the intermediate tires before also coming in, emerging from the pits second and well ahead of Rosberg. However, it was Hamilton who now led once again, seven seconds clear of the field.

Verstappen began to make inroads on Hamilton’s lead, cutting the gap down to just five seconds, but the Dutchman was caught out by the standing water at Turn 1, causing him to run wide. This allowed Rosberg to close to within two seconds, with a series of fastest laps also bringing the German to within nine of Hamilton up front.

Verstappen was not the only driver to fall foul of the damp patches at the first corner. Kimi Raikkonen had a moment that saw him lose a position to Carlos Sainz Jr., only to move back ahead when Sainz made the same error a few laps later. Rio Haryanto’s error was more costly, clouting the barrier and bringing his race to an end at half-distance.

The battle for the lead took another twist when Hamilton became the latest driver to run off at Turn 1, but Verstappen was unable to capitalize after making the same mistake just seconds later. Rosberg was the biggest winner, cutting another couple of seconds out of both drivers, getting within DRS range of Verstappen once again.

Rosberg toiled behind Verstappen for a number of laps, getting closer and closer. Along the straights, Rosberg would close, only for Verstappen to put the aerodynamic advantage of his Red Bull to good use coming out of the corners. Rosberg complained to Mercedes that Verstappen was not sticking to his line, but eventually managed to make it through with a fine move around the outside at Stowe.

Despite now running second, Rosberg’s squabble with Verstappen had cost him significant ground on Hamilton at the front, the gap now standing at eight seconds with 12 laps remaining.

Rosberg produced a sequence of fastest laps to cut the gap to Hamilton down to just six seconds, only for Hamilton to respond and stabilize the gap entering the final few laps of the race.

Rosberg’s grip on second slipped with five laps remaining when he reported a gearbox issue to the Mercedes pit wall, being informed to avoiding using seventh gear by shifting through it. With F1’s new radio rules intending to ban instructions to the drivers, the incident would undoubtedly come under scrutiny late in the race.

At the front, Hamilton had no such issues, crossing the line after 52 laps to record his fourth Silverstone victory and third in succession, sending the home crowd into raptures.

Rosberg held off Verstappen in the closing stages despite his gearbox issue to take second, although the FIA confirmed it would be investigating the radio messages after the race, making the result provisional.

Daniel Ricciardo had a quiet race en route to fourth place in the second Red Bull, while Kimi Raikkonen finished fifth for Ferrari after making a pass on Sergio Perez late on. Perez was left to settle for P6 ahead Force India teammate Nico Hulkenberg, while Carlos Sainz Jr. crossed the line eighth for Red Bull.

Sebastian Vettel had a race to forget, crossing the line ninth for Ferrari. He kept the position despite receiving a five-second penalty for forcing Felipe Massa off-track earlier in the race, leaving Daniil Kvyat to pick up the final point for P10.

Williams struggled once again in the wet weather as Massa could only cross the line 11th, one lap down on Hamilton. Teammate Valtteri Bottas finished 14th, the drivers split by the McLaren pair of Jenson Button and Fernando Alonso.

Felipe Nasr was Sauber’s sole finisher in P15 after Marcus Ericsson was forced to retire early on. Haas had a similar race as Esteban Gutierrez finished 16th while Romain Grosjean retired. Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer both retired late on for Renault.

Scott McLaughlin will make IndyCar debut for Team Penske at St. Pete

Scott McLaughlin IndyCar debut
Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images
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Two-time defending Supercars champion Scott McLaughlin will make his NTT IndyCar Series debut with Team Penske in the Oct. 25 season finale at St. Petersburg, Florida.

McLaughlin, 27, drove for Penske in preseason IndyCar testing at Circuit of the Americas, Sebring International Raceway (in a rookie evaluation) and Texas Motor Speedway, and he was announced Feb. 5 as making his debut with the team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic delayed the start of the season.

Travel restrictions also made it difficult for the New Zealand native to leave Australia, where he leads the points for DJR Team Penske in the Virgin Australia Supercars series with three races remaining. He set a Supercars record last season with 18 victories.

The Supercars season will conclude Oct. 18 with the prestigious 24 Hours of Bathurst. McLaughlin then will head directly to the States to drive the No. 3 Dallara-Chevrolet at St. Pete as a teammate of Will Power, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” McLaughlin, who also has won at Barber and Indianapolis while unofficially finishing first in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge, said in a release. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my IndyCar debut.”

McLaughlin, whose wife, Karly, is from New York, said he has discussed racing in America with car owner Roger Penske since he was hired by the team for the 2017 season.

“I’ve always said I’d love to have a crack at something else,” McLaughlin told reporters in February during the preseason test at Austin, Texas. “My goal was always to win the championship in Bathurst and Australia. I ticked those boxes, and then opportunities arise over time. The conversation between me and Roger was pretty short. ‘Would you be interested in IndyCar?’ I’d literally drive a wheelbarrow with a Team Penske sticker on it. I’d race anything that comes with the opportunity.

“I’ve always intended I’d love to get America one day potentially if I’ve done my goals in Australia. I’ve always said whether it’s now or 30 years down the track, I’d love to finish up (in America). I’ve promised Karly that we would come back here eventually. She’s not pushing me by any means, but I’ve always had a passion for American motorsport and certainly would love the opportunity.”

McLaughlin also has indicated a desire to try racing in NASCAR for Team Penske. He discussed his comfort with stock cars during a 2017 episode of the NASCAR on NBC Podcast (click on the link below to hear it).

Here’s the release from Team Penske:

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (September 17, 2020) – Team Penske announced today that Scott McLaughlin, the current Virgin Australia Supercars Championship points leader, is scheduled to make his long-awaited NTT INDYCAR SERIES debut in the series’ 2020 season finale on the Streets of St. Petersburg on Sunday, October 25.

The two-time and defending Supercars Champion for DJR Team Penske (DJRTP) was set to compete in his first NTT INDYCAR SERIES race earlier this year on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course before the COVID-19 global pandemic forced several delays and postponements on racing schedules, along with international travel restrictions. Before the pandemic shutdown, McLaughlin participated in the INDYCAR SERIES preseason open test at Circuit of the Americas (COTA) in Austin, Texas, where he ran consistently well and posted the third-fastest time of the test session. The 27-year-old native of New Zealand also competed in separate tests at the Sebring International Raceway road course and the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway oval.

“This is something I haven’t stopped thinking about, but I wanted to ensure my focus was on winning our third-straight Supercars championship for DJR Team Penske and all our partners in Australia,” said McLaughlin. “We are still laser-focused on that and have three more rounds to get it done, but I’m equally as excited to finally get the chance and make my INDYCAR debut. I’ve been doing everything I can to keep up with the series this year, from watching as many races as I can on TV to even talking to the drivers and some of the engineers back at the Team Penske shop. I never knew if I would be able to get behind the wheel of one of these cars this year due to all the COVID-19 restrictions, but I wanted to be ready if it became an opportunity.”

McLaughlin currently leads the Supercars point standings with just three rounds of competition remaining on the 2020 schedule. McLaughlin has produced a series-best 10 wins and 10 poles and holds a 143-point lead over Jamie Whincup entering this weekend’s race at The Bend. Over the course of his Supercars career, McLaughlin has won an impressive 53 races and 71 poles, while helping DJRTP claim team championships in 2017 and 2019 and winning the driver’s title in each of the last two seasons. He also earned his first win in the legendary Bathurst 1000 race in 2019 with co-driver Alex Premat. Though he is in just his fourth season competing for Team Penske, McLaughlin already ranks third on the organization’s all-time wins list, trailing only Brad Keselowski and Mark Donohue.

Earlier this year, McLaughlin made his “virtual” INDYCAR debut, competing in the series’ iRacing Challenge and winning two races among the full field of current NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers that were competing against each other while traditional racing was put on hold.

“Our plan has always been for Scott to run a race in the INDYCAR SERIES this season, but we never wanted to take the focus away from the main goal, which is winning another Supercars Championship,” said Team Penske President Tim Cindric. “COVID-19 certainly altered those plans early on, but with the way the schedules have lined up at the end of this season, St. Pete became an available option and we remain committed to getting him some INDYCAR seat time. We know Scott is ready for this challenge and this should add even more excitement to the 2020 season finale in St. Petersburg.”

McLaughlin will pilot the No. 3 Shell V-Power Nitro+ Dallara/Chevrolet at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was postponed from its original date in March and will now take place on Sunday, October 25. The race on the 1.8-mile street circuit will be seen live at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, with radio coverage on the Pennzoil INDYCAR Radio Network and SIRIUS XM.