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Mercedes duo maintain same mindsets for title showdown in Abu Dhabi

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The stage is set for the third installment of Nico Rosberg vs. Lewis Hamilton in the battle for the 2016 Formula 1 World Championship, and the second time it’s come down to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix between them.

The third installment, like others, has elements from the first two but isn’t identical.

Hamilton led the points each of the last two years before going into the championship-deciding race, and has thus far prevailed in both of them.

Meanwhile in 2014, the specter of double points loomed large against the race as a backdrop, and Hamilton’s won coupled with Rosberg’s non-points finish ensured they didn’t come into play. That regulation was dropped after that lone occurrence.

The two are tied on wins with nine apiece this year; a 10th for either would ensure Mercedes a 19th win from 21 Grands Prix in this, the longest season in F1 history.

However, so long as Rosberg gets on the podium, the title is his. And with the “one race at a time” mentality having served him well all season, the German isn’t changing his strategy now.

“Obviously, the result in Brazil wasn’t the one I was going for. But Lewis did a great job and second place wasn’t a disaster in the end,” Rosberg said heading into the race in the team’s pre-race advance.

“I’m looking forward now to Abu Dhabi. It feels great to be in the World Championship battle with Lewis for a third year in a row. I will give it everything to end the season with a win. I’ve had a great week, relaxing and catching up with my family and friends, so I feel like I’m in a good place.

“In Brazil, after the race, I was joking that I would still be taking things one race at a time. But, the more I think about it, the more that’s actually not as crazy as it sounds. I have to treat this like any other race. Doing a good job on a Grand Prix weekend is always a challenge. Nothing in this sport is easy, so this won’t be any different and I still have to go all out for a good result.

“I have great memories from winning at this track last year and it’s somewhere I’ve usually been strong in the past, so I have every reason to feel confident. The closer it gets, the more I’m feeling excited. It will be a big battle and hopefully the fans will get a great show to end the year.”

Hamilton, who’s won in Abu Dhabi on two occasions (2011, 2014), continues with the nothing-to-lose mentality – as given the situation he’s been faced in since his power unit failure in Malaysia and subsequent shocker of the weekend at Japan, he’s done everything he’s needed to since to get back in the game.

“To finally win in Brazil was a moment I’ll never forget. It had been a long time coming,” he reflected.

“I’m in a good place right now. I’m feeling super strong in this amazing car that everyone at the factories has worked so hard to give us. I’ve had 31 wins in four years with this team so far, which is just crazy. I’m so thankful for the great opportunity these guys have given me. We’re continuing to make history together.

“It’s not been a perfect season and I’m faced with pretty impossible odds no matter what I do this weekend. But I can’t and won’t give up. You never know what might happen – however unlikely it may seem. I’ll be proud of myself and what I’ve achieved as long as I feel I’ve given my all and performed at my best.

“And, whatever happens, I’m proud of everyone who’s been a part of the success we’ve shared over the past few years. I’m approaching this weekend the same as I do every race. I want to win and I’ll give it everything to finish the season on a high.”

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
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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.