Vettel takes 50th F1 pole in Mexico qualifying, denies Verstappen record

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Sebastian Vettel left it late to charge to the 50th pole position of his Formula 1 career in qualifying for the Mexican Grand Prix on Saturday, edging out Red Bull rival Max Verstappen.

Verstappen had looked poised to become the youngest pole-sitter in F1 history and break Vettel’s own record from the 2008 Italian Grand Prix, having laid down the pace in Q2 before taking provisional pole with his first Q3 run.

However, a slow final effort opened the door to Vettel, who nailed his final qualifying lap to nick pole away for Ferrari, with his time of 1:16.488 being just 0.086 seconds faster than Verstappen’s best time.

Verstappen was left “super annoyed” in second, knowing the pole record had been in his grasp, while the Mercedes duo of Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas were left to lock out the second row in P3 and P4 respectively.

While Hamilton could only finish four-tenths slower than his sole remaining title rival, the Briton only needs a top-five finish to wrap up his fourth drivers’ championship on Sunday in Mexico.

Kimi Raikkonen took fifth for Ferrari ahead of Force India’s Esteban Ocon, who sprung a surprise by breaking into the top six ahead of Daniel Ricciardo, who was seventh for Red Bull.

Nico Hulkenberg and Carlos Sainz Jr. both reached Q3 for Renault, taking eighth and ninth, while Sergio Perez struggled to P10 in his home qualifying session.

Williams failed to get either of its drivers through to Q3 as Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll took P11 and P12 respectively. Massa finished two-tenths of a second back from Perez in P10, while Stroll was over 1.3 seconds adrift after a slow effort in Q2 on his sole fast run.

Brendon Hartley made his way through to Q2 for the first time in F1, easing through the first stage of qualifying, but was unable to get a shot at making it into the top 10 after suffering an engine issue before he could post a lap time.

As a result, the New Zealander finished 13th, ahead of McLaren drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne as they sat the session out due to pending grid penalties.

Toro Rosso teammate Pierre Gasly’s tough Mexican Grand Prix weekend continued as the engine issue that forced him to park up in FP3 meant he could not feature in qualifying, leaving the Frenchman P20 and with grid penalties to take.

Sauber picked up where it left off in Austin by nearly making it through to Q2 once again, with Marcus Ericsson and Pascal Wehrlein qualifying 16th and 17th respectively. The pair finished clear of Haas drivers Kevin Magnussen and Romain Grosjean as the team’s Mexico problems from 2016 reared their head once again, leaving them 18th and 19th respectively ahead of Gasly in P20.

The Mexican Grand Prix is live on NBC and the NBC Sports app from 2:30pm ET on Sunday.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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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.

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.