Vettel ‘unfortunate’ on safety car, feels Hamilton deserved China F1 win

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Sebastian Vettel believes it would have been a close Formula 1 race between Mercedes and Ferrari in Sunday’s Chinese Grand Prix had it not been for a badly-timed safety car period that left him with “too much to do”.

Vettel won the opening race of the season in Australia two weeks ago, ending Ferrari’s 18-month win drought, and qualified second in China on Saturday behind pole-man Lewis Hamilton.

Vettel made an early pit stop under the Virtual Safety Car to switch from intermediate tires to slicks, being the first of the leading drivers to do so.

However, a full safety car period gave the likes of Hamilton and Max Verstappen a free stop, leaving Vettel fifth on-track once the race resumed.

The Ferrari driver was able to battle back to second place, finishing six seconds shy of race winner Hamilton, and while he felt his British rival deserved victory in China, he thinks it would have been a closer race without the strategy faux pas.

“I’ll just go with the fact of who won the race, they deserve to win. I think every race we do, the race winner deserves the win,” Vettel said.

“They did a better job. Obviously we were a bit unfortunate with the safety car early on, but if it wasn’t there, you never know how it would’ve impacted on the race. Was it enough? I thought yes, but it’s a long race from there and it could’ve been a different outcome.

“It was really good fun. Obviously I had a bit too much to do in the race than [Hamilton] had, I saw he was controlling the pace probably from the beginning, and then once I got past Kimi [Raikkonen] and Daniel [Ricciardo] I obviously tried to hunt him down but knowing that it would be too difficult with that car.

“In the last couple of laps I asked the team to give me an average on what we needed to catch up, to know what I have to do, and when they came to the conclusion that if it’s a bit more than 0.5 seconds per lap, I would keep pushing. Because you never know if Lewis would make a mistake or has an issue with the car, so I wanted to keep the pressure on.

“I enjoyed the fact we are racing them even if not side by side or right behind each other but 8s apart and we knew he was pushing as well so I think we are matched on pace, probably sometimes a little bit faster. Overall it’s good fun.”

Vettel and Hamilton head to next weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix tied on points at the top of the drivers’ championship, with the Ferrari driver hopeful of being back in the fight for victory.

“I think if we can challenge Mercedes it should be very good news. They’ve had a very very strong run in the last couple of years there,” Vettel said.

“I think we need to look after ourselves and work on the stuff that we can do better, must do better. We can improve so I’m happy if we can surprise them but we have to be patient.”

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, points

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

POINTS: Standings after Rolex 24 at Daytona l Michelin Endurance Cup standings l Daytona endurance points

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.