F1 Preview: 2017 Brazilian Grand Prix

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While Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes may have already captured both Formula 1 titles for 2017, the final two races of the year are far from being dead rubbers as attention quickly turns to next season.

Nico Rosberg proved with his charge to the 2016 F1 title just how important the late-season races can be to build momentum, having won the final three rounds in 2015 as Mercedes teammate Hamilton took his eye off the boil.

Hamilton will be eager to avoid making the same mistakes this time around, particularly with stiffer competition in the form of both Ferrari and Red Bull as they plot their assault on both championships in 2018.

Here are the key talking points heading into this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Talking Points

Hamilton looks to tighten up, finish strongly

Lewis Hamilton’s misfortune played a big role in his title defeat to Nico Rosberg in 2016, but there is a decent argument for his distractions off-track, the extended celebrations of a third title win and the subsequent downturn in form on-track being a key factor in swinging momentum in his teammate’s favor.

Rosberg convincingly won the last three races of the year in Mexico, Brazil and Abu Dhabi to set himself up well for a title assault in 2016, continuing the good form through the early part of the year.

Hamilton may be currently facing a “storm” back in his native Britain over leaked tax details, but he stressed his focus is on finishing the season strongly even with a fourth world title sewn up.

Ferrari and Red Bull have been strong in recent races, meaning Hamilton is unlikely to have things all his own way in Brazil. A victory would unquestionably be a solid way to answer his critics and send out an early warning shot to his rivals in the 2018 title race.

Can Verstappen continue his simply lovely run?

Max Verstappen had a rotten middle part of the season, suffering a number of retirements due to technical issues on his car and on-track incidents that denied him the chance to fight at the front of the pack on a regular basis.

But things have since turned around. Two wins in the last four races and a second-place finish in Japan have given Verstappen a huge amount of momentum, with his dominant victory in Mexico arguably making him the man to beat in Brazil this weekend.

Verstappen has quipped over team radio about things being “simply lovely”, and they definitely are right now. The Red Bull RB13 car is stronger than ever, giving the team the chance to finish on a high.

One year on from his star display in the rain, you can be sure that Verstappen has plenty in the tank still to produce another headline performance and fight for victory again.

Ferrari bids to prove pace after setbacks

Ferrari’s collapse over the Asian flyaways caused its capitulation in the title race, with the lack of reliability robbing us not only of a closer fight for the championship, but also in the races themselves.

Ferrari’s pace looked very, very strong in Malaysia, Japan and Mexico, yet various incidents and reliability issues meant we never got the chance to see just how the team’s SF70H car stacked up against Mercedes and Red Bull’s runners.

Vettel may have lost the championship, but he still has second place to protect from Valtteri Bottas, who is 15 points adrift in the second Mercedes. A strong end to the year will be crucial to ensure he doesn’t finish third in a two-horse race.

Farewell Felipe

Just as it was 12 months ago, the Brazilian Grand Prix is being talked up as Felipe Massa’s final F1 appearance on home soil – only this time, it definitely will be.

Massa’s surprise return this year has offered him another chance to delight the home crowd at Interlagos, but this time around it will be a farewell after confirming last week he would be retiring at the end of the season.

Massa’s form is such that a strong result to sign off on may only be a finish as high as seventh or eighth, yet you can be sure the Williams driver will be giving his all to impress at the track he grew up on and came to taste success at in F1.

Another certainty is the grace and gratitude that will flow both ways between Massa and the fans in Brazil, as seen last year after he crashed out and emotionally walked back up the pit lane draped in a national flag.

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace
Corners: 15
Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:11.473 (2004)
Tire Compounds: Super-Soft/Soft/Medium
2016 Winner: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)
2016 Pole Position: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:10.736
2016 Fastest Lap: Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:25.305
DRS Zones: T15 to T1, T3 to T4

2017 Brazilian Grand Prix – TV/Stream Times

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.

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.