Hamilton cruises to German GP victory as penalty costs Rosberg

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Lewis Hamilton extended his lead at the top of the Formula 1 drivers’ championship to 19 points by winning Sunday’s German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in a dominant display.

Hamilton seized the lead from Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg at the start before crusing to his sixth win in the last seven races, heading into the summer break on a high.

For Rosberg, it was a home race to forget as a poor start and in-race time penalty left him down in fourth place at the checkered flag, dealing another blow to his championship hopes.

Instead, it was left to Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo to take the fight to Hamilton at the front, leading teammate Max Verstappen home to secure a double podium finish for the team.

In a flurry of deja vu from Hungary, Rosberg bogged down off the line to allow Hamilton to sweep into the lead down the inside at Turn 1. Rosberg was swarmed by the Red Bulls of Verstappen and Ricciardo, dropping him down to fourth by the end of the first lap – precisely how Hamilton wanted the race to begin.

Rosberg settled down into P4 and began his fightback, but found that Ricciardo was up for a fight. The Australian forced Rosberg wide at Turn 8 when the German tried to pass, leaving Rosberg to drop back again, now with the Ferraris of Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen for company.

With a fine line between two and three-stop strategies at Hockenheim, teams urged their drivers to look after their tires early on. Verstappen and Ricciardo were able to keep Rosberg at an arm’s length early on, prompting Mercedes to bring the home favorite in early for his first stop. Verstappen pitted on the same lap, and was able to stay ahead after a slow stop from Mercedes cost Rosberg more time. Ricciardo dived in one lap later, emerging from the pits still ahead of Rosberg on the soft tire as Red Bull split its drivers’ strategies.

Hamilton pitted from the lead on lap 14, three laps later than Rosberg, but was able to retain his lead ahead of Verstappen and Ricciardo. Mercedes also ran its drivers on varying tire strategies, fitting Hamilton with soft tires before informing Rosberg that he was now on ‘Plan B’ in P4.

Despite having Verstappen behind on the faster super-soft tire, Hamilton was able to slowly extend his lead over the chasing pack through the second stint of the race. Verstappen reported to Red Bull that he was struggling on his tires, hinting that the soft compound was better-suited for the rest of the race. Rosberg was also having trouble, languishing down in P4 behind Ricciardo as Hamilton pulled further and further away at the front.

Rosberg was the first of the leading drivers to make his second stop, pitting at the end of lap 27 and making the switch to the soft tire in a bid to place pressure on the Red Bull drivers ahead. Mercedes timed the stop perfectly, dropping Rosberg into clean air and forcing Red Bull to respond by bringing Verstappen in just one lap later.

Verstappen emerged from the pits just ahead of Rosberg, but struggled to get his tires up to temperature on the long run down to the hairpin. Rosberg slung his Mercedes down the inside with an aggressive move before forcing Verstappen wide at the exit of the corner, moving up into fifth place in the process.

Verstappen immediately complained about the move over the radio, with the stewards confirming moments later they would be investigating Rosberg for forcing another driver off the track. Rosberg was duly handed a five-second time penalty, much to the German’s chagrin who protested he was at full lock.

While Rosberg’s penalty continued to sink in, the rest of the front-runners began to make their second stops. Hamilton and Ricciardo both looked set for two-stop races, only to take on super-soft tires, moving onto a three-stop strategy in the process. Hamilton continued to lead with relative comfort after stopping, leading Rosberg by five seconds heading into the final 30 laps of the race.

Rosberg was told to get his head down and focus on opening up a gap to Verstappen behind, something he did in the laps that followed. Verstappen had more pressing matters: namely Ricciardo, who was charging behind on the super-softs. With the help of DRS and little resistance from Verstappen, Ricciardo swept into third place before setting his sights on Rosberg ahead, who was told to up the pace in response.

With Ricciardo looming large in his mirrors, Rosberg dived into the pits to take his penalty and fresh tires, moving onto softs for the final stint of the race. However, more time was lost as Rosberg remained stationary for eight seconds – three more than required. Red Bull once again reacted immediately by bringing Verstappen in one lap later, allowing him to emerge well clear of the Mercedes driver. Ricciardo followed suit the next time around, coming back out ahead of Verstappen but with his teammate right on his tail.

After being given the hurry up by Red Bull to create a gap to Verstappen, Ricciardo soon began to carve into Hamilton’s lead at the front. The leader’s advantage fell to just six seconds in a matter of laps as Ricciardo put his super-soft tires to good use. Hamilton reacted well, putting in a set of personal bests to extend his advantage once again, cooling Red Bull’s faint hopes of victory.

Hamilton managed to negotiate a bit of late traffic before crossing the line to pick up his sixth win of the season and extend his championship lead to 19 points over Rosberg, who was left to settle for P4 after failing to catch the Red Bulls in the closing stages.

Ricciardo finished second ahead of Verstappen in third, lifting Red Bull above Ferrari in the constructors’ championship as the Italian marque’s cars only came home fifth and sixth, Vettel leading Raikkonen.

Nico Hulkenberg led Force India’s charge in P7 after passing Valtteri Bottas late on, dropping the Finn into the clutches of Jenson Button. Concerns over fuel mileage left McLaren sweating on its points in the closing stages, but Button was able to ease past Bottas for P8 as the Finn struggled with his tires, eventually crossing the line ninth.

Fernando Alonso lost out to Sergio Perez late on, allowing the Mexican to take P10 and secure a double-points finish for Force India.

Haas’ attempt at a two-stop strategy failed to yield any points as Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean finish 11th and 13th respectively, split by Alonso, while the Toro Rosso pair of Carlos Sainz Jr. and Daniil Kvyat followed in 14th and 15th.

Kevin Magnussen enjoyed a bright start to the race, but could only finish 16th for Renault ahead of Manor’s Pascal Wehrlein. Their respective teammates, Jolyon Palmer and Rio Haryanto, finished 19th and 20th respectively behind Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson.

Heart of Racing program aims to elevate new generation of women to star in sports cars

women sports cars
Mike Levitt/LAT Images/Heart of Racing

(Editor’s note: This story on the Heart of Racing sports cars shootout for women is one in an occasional Motorsports Talk series focusing on women in racing during March, which is Women’s History Month.)

Heart of Racing driver and team manager Ian James says his daughter, Gabby, isn’t so interested in auto racing. But she is interested (as a New York-based journalist) in writing about the sport’s efforts and growth in gender equality

It’s a topic that also was brought up by James’ wife, Kim.

“They’re always saying, ‘Hey, you manage all these guys, and you help them, so why not a woman?’ ” Ian James told NBC Sports. “And I feel like there are a lot of women that haven’t had a fair crack at it in sports car racing.

Our whole DNA at Heart of Racing is we give people opportunities in all types of situations where there’s been crew personnel or drivers. And I felt like we hadn’t really addressed the female driver situation. I felt like there was a void to give somebody a chance to really prove themselves.”

During the offseason, the team took a major step toward remedying that.

Hannah Grisham at the Heart of Racing shootout (Mike Levitt/LAT)

Heart of Racing held its first female driver shootout last November at the APEX Motor Club in Phoenix, Arizona, to select two women who will co-drive an Aston Martin Vantage GT4 in the SRO SprintX Championship.

The season will begin this weekend at Sonoma Raceway with Hannah Grisham and Rianna O’Meara-Hunt behind the wheel. The team also picked a third driver, 17-year-old Annie Rhule, for a 2023 testing program.

The Phoenix audition included 10 finalists who were selected from 130 applicants to the program, which has been fully underwritten by Heart of Racing’s sponsors.

“We didn’t want it to be someone who just comes from a socio-economic background that could afford to do it on their own course,” James said. “We can pick on pure talent. We’re committed to three years to do this and see if we can find the right person. I’m very hopeful.”

So is Grisham, a Southern California native who has been racing since she was 6 in go-karts and since has won championships in Mazda and Miata ladder series. She has several victories in the World Racing League GP2 (an amateur sports car endurance series). The last two years, Grisham has worked as a test driver for the Pirelli tire company (she lives near Pirelli’s U.S. headquarters in Rome, Georgia, and tests about 30 times a year).

Starting with the Sonoma during SprintX event weekends (which feature races Saturday and Sunday), she will split the Heart of Racing car with O’Meara-Hunt (a New Zealand native she got to know at the shootout).

“It’s huge; the biggest opportunity I’ve had in this sport,” Grisham, 23, told NBC Sports. “Now it’s up to me to perform how I know I can. But I’m super lucky to be with such an amazing team and have a good teammate. The Heart of Racing has a family vibe and energy to it that’s really amazing. It’s super exciting. It’s hard to put into words.”

Grisham is hopeful that a strong performance eventually could lead to a full-time ride with Heart of Racing. The team has full-time entries in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and won the GTD category of the 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona with the No. 27 Aston Martin Vantage GT3 piloted by James, Darren Turner, Roman DeAngelis and Marco Sorensen.

James said “there’s no guarantee” of placement in an IMSA entry for Grisham and O’Meara-Hunt, but “if they prove themselves, we’ll continue to help them throughout their career and our team. The GT3 program is an obvious home for that. If they get the opportunity and don’t quite make it, we’ll be looking for the next two. The next three years, we’ll cycle through drivers until we find the right one.”

Grisham described the two-day shootout as a friendly but intense environment. After a day of getting acclimated to their cars, drivers qualified on new tires the second day and then did two 25-minute stints to simulate a race.

Hannah Grisham reviews data with Heart of Racing sports car driver Gray Newell during the team’s shootout last November (Mike Levitt/LAT).

“Everyone was super nice,” she said. “Once everyone gets in the car, it’s a different level. A different switch gets turned on. Everyone was super nice; everyone was quick. I feel we had an adequate amount of seat time, which is definitely helpful.

“It’s always cool to meet more women in the sport because there’s not too many of us, even though there’s more and more. It’s always cool to meet really talented women, especially there were so many from all over the world.”

IMSA has celebrated female champions and race winners, notably Katherine Legge (who is running GTD full time this season with Sheena Monk for Gradient Racing). The field at Sebring and Daytona also included the Iron Dames Lamborghini (a female-dominated team).

The Heart of Racing’s female driver shootout drew interested candidates from around the world (Mike Levitt/LAT).

James believes “a breakout female driver will be competing with the best of them” in the next five years as gender barriers slowly recede in motorsports.

“It’s been a male-dominated sport,” James said. “It’s still a very minute number of women drivers compared to the guys. I’m sure back in the day there were physical hurdles about it that were judged. But now the cars are not very physical to drive, and it’s more about technique and mental strength and stuff like that, and there’s no reason a girl shouldn’t do just as well as a guy. What we’re just trying to achieve is that there isn’t an obvious barrier to saying ‘Hey, I can’t hire a guy or a girl.’ We just want to put girls in front of people and our own program that are legitimate choices going forward for people.”

“There’s been some really good female drivers, but a lot of them just haven’t been able to sustain it, and a lot of that comes from sponsorship. I think (with the shootout), there’s no pressure of raising money and worrying about crash damage. We’ve taken care of all that so they can really focus on the job at hand.”

Funding always has been a hurdle for Grisham, who caught the racing bug from her father, Tom, an off-road driver who raced the Baja 1000 several times.

“I don’t come from a lot of money by any means,” she said. “So since a young age, I’ve always had to find sponsorships and get people to help me, whether it was buying tires, paying for entry fees, paying for the shipment of a car to an actual race. Literally knocking on the doors of people or businesses in my town.

“So yeah, it’s definitely something I’ve always struggled with and held me back because the sport revolves so much around money. So again to get this opportunity is insane.”

Rianna O’Meara-Hunt was one of two women selected by the Heart of Racing to drive in the SRO SprintX Championship this year (Mike Levitt/LAT).

Grisham credits racing pioneer Lyn St. James (an Indy 500 veteran and sports car champion) as a role model who has helped propel her career. She was hooked by the sights, smells and sounds of racing but also its competitive fire.

“There’s a zone you get in, that subconscious state of mind when you’re driving. It’s like addictive almost. I love it. Also I’m just a very competitive person as I think most race car drivers are.

“For sure I want to stay with the Heart of Racing. Obviously, I’m still getting to know everyone, but it’s a super family vibe. That’s how I grew up in the sport with just my dad and I wrenching on the cars. That’s what I love about this sport is all the amazing people you meet. And I think this is one of the most promising teams in this country. For sure, I want to learn as much as I can from them and hopefully continue. I feel so lucky and grateful to be one of those chosen.”