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!”

IndyCar’s ‘Phoenix’ flying into 2023 season: Romain Grosjean enjoying the pilot’s life

IndyCar Romain Grosjean pilot
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment
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PALM SPRINGS, Calif. – The IndyCar driver known as “The Phoenix” already has taken flight before the 2023 season, and newly licensed pilot Romain Grosjean also got a head start on the opener.

Fulfilling a dream several years in the making, the Andretti Autosport plunged into aviation training over the offseason. Since beginning with online studying last August, Grosjean quickly progressed to earning his licenses for multiengine planes and instrument ratings while completing 115 hours of flight time.

He has landed twice at Albert Whitted Airport, whose primary runway also doubles as the front straightaway on the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg street course.

“Just to land on the start-finish line, that was pretty cool,” Grosjean said during IndyCar Preseason Content Days ahead of the Feb. 2-3 test at The Thermal Club. “The air traffic control guy was like, “Yeah, left on Acre Five, turn, and then back. I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, that’s the last corner of the racetrack, I’ll take it and go back to the pit lane. He was like, ‘Oh, yeah, yeah, that’s true.’ So it was quite funny.”

Grosjean, 36, said he had wanted to become a pilot since he was 30 but was discouraged by Europe’s complicated and time-consuming licensing process (“to go to ground school twice a week, and with our life, it’s impossible”). He was inspired again last year by (now former) teammate Alexander Rossi, who flew to some 2022 races after earning his license a couple of years ago.

“I thought that was pretty cool,” said Grosjean, who had grown “bored of waiting in the airports.”

He plans to fly to nearly all the races this year (“if the weather is good enough, I’ll be flying”) and jokes about being “commercial by the end of the year, so then I can take Roger (Penske). Roger can pay me to fly him around to races if things go bad with racing.”

Grosjean’s social media has been filled with posts about his new hobby, which afforded him the opportunity recently to take his wife to Key West for lunch from their home in the Miami area. The trip took 37 minutes there and 41 minutes on return and highlighted why Grosjean loves flying: “Freedom. Freedom to go anywhere you want, anytime you want. It’s the beauty of it. We can go to the Bahamas for a day if we want to. Anywhere. I think that’s just great to know that you can do whatever you want.”

It’s reminiscent of the cross-country trip across the Midwest in an RV that Grosjean took with his family during the summer of his 2021 rookie season.

“There’s one thing that I told my kids, and I told my friend about America, and for me, that’s the biggest difference between Europe and here, is here everything is possible,” said Grosjean (whose “Phoenix” nickname was derived from a brush with death in his final Formula One start). “If you have the wish, if you give yourself the possibility of doing it, everything is possible. It is different in Europe. Much more boundaries on the way. Much more steps that you need to do in a certain order. But if you want to be extraordinary (in the United States), if you want to do something different, you don’t need to do those steps because you can work through.

“Yeah, I like doing things, and when I do them, I like doing them well. But here I think just the opportunity of driving the RV, flying planes, for my kids to do whatever they want to do, we love that here. Yeah, it’s been the best discovery for us.”

The Swiss-born Frenchman already has flown himself to a race this year, jetting up the Florida coast for his Rolex 24 at Daytona debut last month. It was his debut as a Lamborghini factory driver, and his new deal will continue with the Twelve Hours of Sebring and possibly the Petit Le Mans while he also helps develop the automaker’s new hybrid prototype (LMDh) for next year.

Grosjean, who finished a disappointing 13th in the 2022 points standings with one podium for Andretti in his first full season, said IndyCar will remain his priority in 2024.

But he hopes the IndyCar schedule will afford racing in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship endurance races and perhaps another his longest plane flight yet — a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

“I’ll keep my fingers crossed like that we get the weekend off from IndyCar,” said Grosjean, noting that 10 IndyCar drivers were in the Rolex 24. “I think it would make a lot of sense. I think for both series it’s amazing. If we can get Le Mans, it’s also amazing because it’s just cool.

“I remember Mario flying across the Atlantic doing Monaco and the Indy 500, and those guys, they were racing everywhere, Formula 3, Formula 2, Formula 1. They were doing the races in opening of the Formula 1 race, and I think that’s very cool for us. So yeah, looking forward to the project. There’s going to be a lot of development coming on. By the time we finish the IndyCar season, the LMDh will be here in the States, and that’s when I’m going to spend a lot of time on it.”