Hamilton had ‘nothing left’ after fight from pit lane to P4 in Brazil

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Four-time Formula 1 World Champion Lewis Hamilton matched the number of titles he’s achieved with a fight back to fourth place in today’s Brazilian Grand Prix, albeit just shy of a podium finish from pit lane.

After his crash in qualifying resigned him to a pit lane start, his Mercedes AMG Petronas team opted to change a wealth of components including his power unit. But crucially, one other area where Hamilton could excel by the pit lane start was that the Mercedes team prepped his car for significantly warmer conditions on Sunday in Sao Paulo, after cloudy and overcast conditions took hold of Saturday’s qualifying.

So began the charge on Sunday from the rear of the field with Hamilton already able to gain a few spots in the wake of several others crashing out on the opening lap, and then able to switch onto Pirelli’s soft tires. That enabled him to run longer on this stint, then switch later to supersofts and have enough of the softer compound to run harder at the finish.

By Lap 7, Hamilton was already up to 12th place after dispatching of Lance Stroll. Seven laps later he was already five positions higher, into seventh place after getting around Sergio Perez. That put him behind old-time sparring partners Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso in fifth in sixth, but neither the Mercedes-powered Williams nor Honda-powered McLaren were able to keep the significantly faster Mercedes at bay.

Once the cycle of pit stops for the four drivers in front of him – Sebastian Vettel, Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Max Verstappen – all had pitted to make their switch onto softs by Lap 30, Hamilton had emerged in the lead – a full last-to-first effort. But he still had a stop to make.

On Lap 44 he did so, switching onto the supersofts for the final 26 laps, and with an 18-second gap back to Vettel in the lead.

By Lap 58, Hamilton had caught Verstappen for fourth place and had cut the gap to Vettel to 10.708 seconds. He dispatched of Verstappen around the outside into Turn 3, aided a bit by DRS, a lap later.

Over the next seven laps to Lap 66, Hamilton cut the lead gap down to Vettel to 4.725 seconds – but that was as close as he would come.

Once he caught up to the back of Kimi Raikkonen, Hamilton had burned the tires off enough to where he had nothing left, and was unable to get around the Ferrari driver for third.

It marked only the second time this season (and in the 1.6L V6 turbo hybrid period that began in 2014) that Hamilton has gone successive races off the podium, the first time being at Baku and Austria earlier this year. The final gap from Hamilton back to Vettel was 5.468 seconds, and just 0.868 off the podium.

But it didn’t detract from the overall drive itself, where Hamilton earned F1’s Driver of the Day honor.

He reflected on the drive to NBCSN’s Will Buxton, post-race.

“Yeah I tell you I had nothing left when I came across the line. I gave it everything,” Hamilton told NBCSN. “I could see Sebastian just there. If only just! But I really messed up yesterday. I was quickest all weekend. It would have been pole to finish. But this made it a lot more enjoyable race. It’s tough when you make mistakes for example. You make it difficult for you and the team. But I was quicker than everyone today! That’s the positive and I take it into the next race. I can’t wait to battle Sebastian at the next race.”

Hamilton said his long-run pace on softs on Friday helped get both himself and the car in the right conditions for the race.

“I made a couple changes but not really a huge amount. I didn’t get a lot of laps,” he said. “It was different with temperatures. I changed the balance. I had good pace on the long runs on Friday, particularly on the softs. I think I was half a second quicker. I had a different aero package. I had pace. But today I was 110 percent the whole way.”

Hamilton said this brought back memories of his childhood in fighting from the back of the field to the front. After Mexico, where he finished ninth after first corner contact, this was his second straight fightback drive.

“It was so much fun. Like when I was kid, not a great go kart, started at the back. Obviously I had a good car but I was able to do something special. My tires let go right when I got to Kimi. I had nothing left!”

Title contenders stumble on the streets of Toronto

Photo: IndyCar
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The championship picture of the Verizon IndyCar Series saw a massive shakeup after Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto. While points leader Scott Dixon ended up in victory lane, his third win on the streets of Toronto and his third win of the 2018 season, all of his championship rivals stumbled.

Josef Newgarden, the pole sitter and second-place man in championship – he trailed Dixon by 33 points entering Sunday – led from the pole and looked to be a contender for the win, but a Lap 34 restart saw his day come apart.

Newgarden ran wide exiting the final corner coming to the green flag and smacked the outside wall. He plummeted through the field and pitted under caution – for a Turn 1 pileup involving Graham Rahal, Max Chilton, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Will Power, and Sebastien Bourdais – to allow the No. 1 Hitachi Chevrolet Team Penske group to examine the car for damage.

Newgarden continued on, but was never a contender the rest of the day, ultimately finishing ninth.

“I knew it would be low grip, but not zero grip. I just lost the front end completely,” Newgarden said in describing how the wall contact happened. “I feel terrible, it’s not fun to make a mistake.”

Alexander Rossi, who sits third in the championship, ran a steady sixth in the first stint until Lap 27, when contact with Will Power damaged his front wing. Rossi was then caught up in the melee on the Lap 34 restart, getting airborne over the left-front of his Andretti Autosport teammate Hunter-Reay.

Rossi again pitted for a new front wing – he had six stops in total – and ended up eighth on a day when he felt like a podium beckoned.

“It’s a pretty disappointing result. I don’t think we had the car to beat Scott (Dixon), but for sure with the problems that everyone had, we could’ve finished second. It’s been a difficult string of races,” Rossi said afterward.

Hunter-Reay, too, had a day forget. After going from sixth to third on the start, he spun his No. 28 DHL Honda into the Turn 3 Barrier on Lap 27. And like Rossi, he was caught up in the Lap 34 pileup, falling off the lead lap in the process.

Hunter-Reay languished in 16th at the checkered flag.

“It was a very unfortunate day and a big loss for us in points,” Hunter-Reay lamented. “The DHL Honda was running comfortable in third and pushing hard, but I had too much front brake lock and found the tire barrier – that’s my fault. Then after that, we got caught up in a wreck, which put us a lap down. From there we just fought to stay in front of the leader.”

Power, too, hit his struggles after the first stint, when contact with the Turn 11 wall, an incident similar to the one that his Team Penske teammate Newgarden had, bent the right-rear suspension of his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet. He also had contact with Rossi later that lap.

Power lost two laps in the pits as the team made repairs, and he took the checkered flag in 18th.

“In the last corner, I brushed the wall and bent a rear toe link, so the car was a little bit out of whack. I didn’t even know that (Alexander) Rossi and I touched. I was just kind of trying to hang on until we got a yellow and could pit,” Power explained. “I’ve never had so many DNFs; not DNF for this race, but like a DNF in a season. Still, it’s kind of how this sport can go.”

All told, their struggles mean that Dixon leads the championship by 62 points over Newgarden. Rossi sits third, 70 points of the lead, followed by Hunter-Reay and Power, who sit 91 and 93 points out of the lead respectively.

And the next race, the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio (July 29 on NBCSN) won’t make it easy for them to make up ground, as Dixon’s record there is astoundingly strong. The four-time IndyCar champion has five wins at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, his most recent triumph coming in 2014, a race in which he famously came from last on the grid (22nd) to win.

Conversely, Newgarden, Rossi, Hunter-Reay, and Power have a combined one win at Mid-Ohio (Newgarden, last year).

However, the likes of Newgarden and Rossi still appear confident that they can make up for their Toronto struggles.

“We have to move on now and try to pick it back up. With the championship battle, we’ve got a long way to go. This doesn’t help but look, we have plenty of racing (left),” said Newgarden. “We need to keep our head up here. We’re going to be just fine, we’ve got fast cars and the best in the business. If we get our mistakes sorted out, we’re going to be just fine.”

Rossi, who finished sixth at Mid-Ohio last year, echoed similar sentiment, and thinks Mid-Ohio presents an opportunity to get back on track.

“We’re very good at Mid-Ohio, we’re kind of circling Toronto and Mid-Ohio as two races we were going to be pretty good at, so we got to reset, man, and just execute,” Rossi explained afterward. “We’re fast. We’re there every weekend. That’s the important thing. It’s a lot harder to be outside the top 10 and looking for answers. We’re fighting for pole every weekend. We’re in the Fast Six virtually every weekend, so you’re putting yourself in position to have a good result, it hasn’t come really since Texas.”

The 2018 championship is far from over – the season-ending GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma being a double-points event helps ensure as much. But, if Dixon does claim the 2018 title, Toronto may be the race that serves as the turning point.

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