© Getty Images

Pressure on Lewis Hamilton at Japanese Grand Prix

1 Comment

SUZUKA, Japan (AP) For Lewis Hamilton, there is no better track than Suzuka to re-ignite his Formula One title hopes after the disappointment of last weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

Hamilton’s engine failed while leading in Malaysia, handing the victory to Red Bull driver Daniel Ricciardo. Title rival and Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg finished third to stretch his championship lead to 23 points with five races remaining.

Urgently needing a win to restore both his confidence and title chances, Hamilton is in the right place for this weekend’s Japanese Grand Prix after winning the previous two races in Suzuka.

“I will find strength from within to fight back over these next five race weekends,” Hamilton said. “If I can perform like I did last weekend and the car holds together, then good things can still come my way.”

Hamilton was furious after the incident in Malaysia but said he is doing his best to put it behind him.

“Last weekend was a massive disappointment,” Hamilton said. “Not just for me personally but for the whole team. But there’s no use dwelling on these things. That’s just negative energy.

“The guys are hurting from what happened, too, and I know they’ll be working just as hard to get things right next time. It’s not the lowest point I’ve had. There have been lower moments for sure.”

Mercedes technical chief Paddy Lowe admitted the team let Hamilton down.

“Malaysia was a bitter pill to swallow,” Lowe said. “We let Lewis down in a big way. We are continuing to investigate the issue with his engine and are doing everything we can to ensure that it is first understood and then contained for the remainder of the season.”

Rosberg, meanwhile, will be eager to widen the advantage over Hamilton in his quest for his first championship.

The German driver has started from pole and finished second at last two races in Suzuka.

“I’m here to win races and that’s the aim every time,” Rosberg said. “Suzuka is the next opportunity and I’d love to stand on top of the podium there.”

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

24 Hours of Le Mans
JEAN-FRANCOIS MONIER/AFP via Getty Images
3 Comments

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.