Lewis Hamilton dominates Chinese GP en route to fifth Shanghai victory

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Lewis Hamilton kept calm through changeable weather conditions in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix to clinch his first Formula 1 win of the year for Mercedes.

After losing out to Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel in Australia two weeks ago, Hamilton was able to deliver the perfect response by dominating proceedings in Shanghai, finishing over seven seconds clear of the German driver to leave them tied on points at the top of the drivers’ championship.

In a race that went a long way to debunking the myths about the difficulty to overtake in F1 this year with the new cars, Max Verstappen charged from 16th on the grid to finish third for Red Bull, acting as another stand-out display for the sport’s young star.

With the pre-race rain dying down in the lead up to lights out, drivers were left unsure whether to start the race on intermediate or slick tires. Caution prevailed for most, with Carlos Sainz Jr. being the only driver to roll the dice and fit a set of super-soft tires for the start.

Pole-sitter Hamilton managed to make the best getaway from the grid, retaining his lead ahead of Vettel and Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas. As the drivers began to dial in on the track, most opted to make the switch to slick tires, with Vettel being one of the earliest drivers to come in, taking advantage of a Virtual Safety Car called following a crash that eliminated Lance Stroll early on.

Vettel’s early stop backfired when a full safety car was called just a few laps later after Antonio Giovinazzi smashed into the wall on the main straight, playing into the hands of the front-runners who had stayed on intermediates. Hamilton was able to take a free stop and retain his lead, with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo running second ahead of Kimi Raikkonen and teammate Max Verstappen, who put on a remarkable charge in the opening stages from 16th on the grid.

Hamilton continued to lead upon the restart on Lap 8, but a train of cars quickly emerged with the Red Bull and Ferrari drivers behind. Verstappen’s charge saw him slip past both Raikkonen and Ricciardo in quick succession, moving up to second and quickly ditch the chasing cars as he set off in pursuit of Hamilton at the front.

With an engine issue preventing Raikkonen from getting close to Ricciardo in third, Vettel opted to take matters into his own hands on Lap 20, diving down the inside at Turn 6 to relieve his teammate of fourth place. The German was able to quickly crawl over the back of Ricciardo’s car ahead, before producing a stunning overtake around the outside of the same corner he passed Raikkonen to move up to third place, before then immediately putting in the fastest lap of the race, setting his sights on Verstappen ahead.

With Verstappen struggling to keep his super-soft tires alive, the soft-shod Vettel was able to quickly close up on the back of the 19-year-old as the race hit half distance. Unlike Ricciardo, Verstappen was not able to force Vettel into a brave overtake, with a lock-up at the hairpin causing the Dutchman to drop behind. His tires now at the end of their life, Verstappen pitted one lap later, emerging in sixth place on another set of super-softs.

With fresh boots, Verstappen quickly began to create a problem for the lead drivers. Hamilton and Vettel had planned to go to the end without stopping, yet as the Red Bull youngster lapped as much as two seconds per lap faster, they had little choice but to come in. Vettel pitted on Lap 34, coming back out just three seconds ahead of Verstappen, with Hamilton then mirroring the call two laps later, staying in the lead.

After Raikkonen made his long-awaited second stop on Lap 40, Vettel and Verstappen moved up into the podium positions, with Hamilton still leading by around eight seconds. Vettel tried to put some late pressure on Hamilton, turning up the wick with 15 laps to go, forcing the Mercedes driver to react and up his own pace, stabilizing the gap.

Hamilton was able to round out the final few laps with ease before crossing the line to clinch his fifth Chinese Grand Prix victory, and get Mercedes off the mark in 2017.

Vettel finished a comfortable second as Verstappen struggled for pace in the closing stages, leaving him to battle with Red Bull teammate Ricciardo for the final podium position, only to hold on with a fine defensive move on the final lap.

Kimi Raikkonen was left frustrated in fifth place, with his late pit stop costing him a chance of finishing on the podium, while Bottas recovered from his early setback to finish sixth in the second Mercedes.

The first slick-runner, Carlos Sainz Jr., battled his way up to seventh for Toro Rosso, while Kevin Magnussen scored his first points as a Haas driver in eighth place. Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon rounded out the top 10 for Force India.

Romain Grosjean fought back well from his grid drop to finish 11th for Haas ahead of Nico Hulkenberg, who was hit with a time penalty for speeding behind the safety car. Renault teammate Jolyon Palmer was 13th ahead of Felipe Massa, who suffered an issue late in the race that caused him to fall to P14. Marcus Ericsson was the last classified finisher for Sauber in 15th.

McLaren had a race to forget as Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were both forced to retire. Alonso had spent the grand prix battling in the points, taking advantage of the changeable conditions to rise as high as seventh, only for a driveshaft failure to force him to retire. Daniil Kvyat was another retiree for Toro Rosso, joining Giovinazzi and Stroll on the sidelines.

F1 returns next weekend with the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”