Bottas tops opening Mexican GP practice, Celis crashes out

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Valtteri Bottas led Mercedes to a one-two finish in first practice for the Mexican Grand Prix, beating Formula 1 teammate Lewis Hamilton by four-tenths of a second on Friday morning at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

Bottas and Hamilton arrived in Mexico off the back of clinching Mercedes its fourth straight constructors’ title last Sunday in Austin, but were tipped to face a sterner test due to the high-downforce setup required for this weekend given the high altitude levels.

Bottas was able to make a strong start to the weekend regardless, topping his first FP1 since the British Grand Prix back in July with a fastest time of 1:17.824 on Friday morning.

The Finn was followed by Hamilton in P2, four-tenths of a second further back, although Mercedes was the only front-running team to go out on the ultra-soft compound tire.

Red Bull drivers Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo slotted into P3 and P4 respectively, half a second off Bottas’ time. Verstappen was limited to just 16 laps after Red Bull boxed him early, putting the car up on jacks in order to make a number of setup changes, as per the team.

F1 title outsider Sebastian Vettel wound up fifth for Ferrari, seven-tenths of a second down on Bottas, with teammate Kimi Raikkonen taking sixth overall.

Flying the flag for Mexico on home soil this weekend, Sergio Perez made a good start to the weekend by finishing seventh overall as the leading midfielder.

However, teammate for the session Alfonso Celis Jr. had a more troubled homecoming, crashing out at the final corner and causing a red flag stoppage, as well as a decent amount of damage to the car that will go back to Esteban Ocon for the rest of the weekend.

Fernando Alonso led McLaren’s charge in P8 as teammate Stoffel Vandoorne completed just three laps due to an engine issue, while Felipe Massa and Nico Hulkenberg completed the top 10.

FP1 in Mexico also saw Antonio Giovinazzi (Haas), Charles Leclerc (Sauber) and Sean Gelael (Toro Rosso) all enjoy run-outs, taking positions 15th to 17th respectively, while Brendon Hartley’s session was cut short after a hydraulic leak.

FP2 takes place at 3pm ET later today in Mexico, live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

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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

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.