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Strong British GP qualifying for Renault; Hulkenberg P5, Palmer P11

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Renault Sport F1 Team put together its best performance of qualifying this season for Sunday’s British Grand Prix (7:30 a.m. ET, CNBC) as Nico Hulkenberg posted yet another great under-the-radar lap and the under-fire Jolyon Palmer turned in one of his best laps of the year.

Hulkenberg qualified sixth, winning the unofficial best of the rest battle behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. With Daniel Ricciardo knocked out in Q1 with an apparent turbo issue on his Renault-powered, TAG Heuer-badged car, it opened up a spot on the third row for someone from the crowded midfield to emerge.

Valtteri Bottas’ five-spot grid penalty for a gearbox change knocks the Mercedes driver back to ninth and promotes Hulkenberg to a season-best fifth on the grid, and along with that his best qualifying effort since joining Renault at the start of the year.

Hulkenberg hailed both the team’s strategic calls from the pitwall during the rain-affected session and the upgrades that have come this weekend, as Renault celebrates its 40 year anniversary in Formula 1 since 1977.

“Today we had a very successful qualifying and will start the race just behind the top teams,” Hulkenberg said. “I had a good rhythm and we had good times. The team made the right calls for the right track conditions; there was a nice flow. I was feeling calm and confident with the car so I was able to produce a good lap.

“The upgrades we brought here this weekend seemed to also have played their part in our step forward. That said, tomorrow’s race is the true test. Let’s try and have a clean race. We’ll push very hard and I’ll be very happy to bring points home.”

Hulkenberg has scored 14 points this year, with a best finish of sixth place in Spain.

Palmer remains yet to score but was pleased with his performance, having only just missed Q3 to McLaren’s Stoffel Vandoorne.

“Yeah starting P11 is my second best all year. There’s a really good feeling with the car,” Palmer told NBCSN’s Will Buxton. “I needed maybe a tenth to beat Stoffel but I’m still happy with that.

“Normally I start further back! I’m confident. If there’s the normal chaos I’m pretty confident we can get some points.”

Sporting Director Alan Permane hailed both drivers’ efforts.

“We are of course very happy with the result today,” he said. “The aero updates used this weekend for the first time worked well and Jolyon just missed out on Q3 by the narrowest of margins.

“Nico is well placed for the race and Jo has a free tire choice so we’re looking forward to the start and converting the result today to points tomorrow.”

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.