Hamilton seeks pole record in front of Ferrari fans at Monza

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Lewis Hamilton could break Michael Schumacher’s record for pole positions in Formula One.

Championship leader Sebastian Vettel could strengthen his bid to become the first Ferrari driver to win the F1 title in a decade.

And all this while Ferrari is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

There is no lack of story lines entering this weekend’s Italian Grand Prix in Monza, where the Ferrari fans – “tifosi” – may unleash a wave of pent-up enthusiasm after years of disappointment.

That’s if things go to plan for them. It will be interesting to see how the crowd reacts if Mercedes driver Hamilton leads qualifying and breaks his tie with Schumacher to claim his 69th pole position.

Schumacher won five of his record seven drivers’ championships with Ferrari from 2000-04 and remains revered among the team’s supporters – and in F1 in general.

The current condition of the 48-year-old Schumacher’s health remains closely guarded among family and close associates.

It was while skiing with his teenage son, Mick, on a family holiday that Schumacher sustained severe head injuries in France on Dec. 29, 2013. He has been cared for at his home in Switzerland since September 2014.

Vettel leads Hamilton by seven points but could be hard-pressed to match Mercedes’ outright power on a circuit featuring long straightaways and high-speed curves.

Mercedes has won the Italian GP the last three years – Hamilton in 2014 and 2015 and the now retired Nico Rosberg in 2016.

“Monza is a circuit that has been good to us in recent years,” said Toto Wolff, Mercedes head of motorsport. “It rewards low drag and peak power, both of which are among the strengths of our package.

“But braking stability and low-speed grip are also crucial through the chicanes, and these are areas where Ferrari has held an advantage,” Wolff added. “The team that finds the best overall compromise will come out on top.”

With parts of the Monza circuit still featuring long straight sections from an old oval track, it features the fastest speeds in F1 – up to 370 kph (230 mph) on the approach to Turn 1 at the end of the start/finish straightaway.

Teams prepare low-drag configurations that are generally only seen in Italy and, with the new wider and faster cars this year, speeds could be even higher.

“It’s an incredible feeling racing down those iconic straights punctuated by the tight chicanes and big, fast corners that require a huge amount of commitment,” McLaren-Honda driver Fernando Alonso said.

On Sunday, a parade of historic cars will celebrate the anniversary of the first Ferrari-badged car in 1947.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

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Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.