Hamilton, Vettel hail first ’17 wheel-to-wheel battle at Spain (VIDEO)

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Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel exchanged mutual respect and admiration for each other following their gripping scrap in today’s Spanish Grand Prix, as Hamilton took his second win of the season for Mercedes to match Vettel’s total at Ferrari.

Vettel led away from the start while Hamilton was in behind him. But the two opted for different strategies for when they’d run their one mandatory set of Pirelli’s harder compound, the mediums, during the race.

Hamilton ran them in a middle stint while Vettel ran his for his final stint, opting to run longer to the finish in hopes Hamilton’s softs would fall off and bring him back. Vettel pitted first and Hamilton pitted later in the first stint, which shifted the race a bit.

Vettel lost time on two occasions this race. He was stuck behind Valtteri Bottas, who ran longer on the first stint by more than 10 laps compared to when Vettel first pitted, and while he made it past the Finn it allowed Hamilton to close.

Then when he opted to pit for the mediums, as it came just at the conclusion of the race’s lone Virtual Safety Car, he emerged right alongside Hamilton – which set up their scrap over the next several laps before Hamilton eventually made the pass for the win.

Hamilton and Vettel’s one side-by-side moment into Turns 1 and 2 saw Hamilton go sideways onto the rumble strips, but while the incident was noted by the race stewards, it was not investigated. Hamilton made it past Vettel for the lead on Lap 44 of 66 and that was all she wrote for the race.

Controversy did not reign between these two on the podium, as they hailed their first proper wheel-to-wheel fight this year.

“The team did an incredible job today. That’s how racing should be. That’s as close as it should be, as Sebastian was incredibly close,” Hamilton said. “It was so much fun. The start, I don’t know exactly what’s gone wrong. It wasn’t good enough.

“(On the contact) I think in heat of moment it’s hard to view. I felt I ran out of road, but that’s how racing should be.”

Vettel added, “I was pushing so much. I had a really good start at the beginning. I put the clutch in. We managed to stay ahead in a nice rhythm, but Lewis stayed out longer on the strategy. I knew in the end it’d be crucial.

“I was a bit surprised it was so close. I tried to brake as late as possible. Not sure if we touched but I managed to stay ahead! A car gave me a tow. But when I was alone, he blew past. We tried to stay in the race. Well done to him.”

Vettel explained why Ferrari opted not to go for what was termed “Plan C” – a potential third stop to switch onto another set of softs.

“We had a huge gap to Daniel (Ricciardo), so we could have done anything really,” he said. “Obviously there was a big conversation trying to do something.

“We wondered about Lewis’ tires. But we didn’t have any problems as the track had a lot of rubber at the end, so we didn’t do it.”

Vettel now leads Hamilton by six points, 104-98, after this result.

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.