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F1: Hamilton leads Mercedes 1-2 in Spain

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The Spanish Grand Prix was one of pure dominance for Mercedes AMG Petronas.

After Lewis Hamilton and Valtteri Bottas locked out the front row, with Hamilton scoring the pole, the two rolled to a 1-2 for Mercedes on race day, as the team returned to its dominant self after a somewhat slow start to the 2018 season.

Taking advantage of a one-stop strategy, Hamilton was never under genuine threat at any point and made things look easy out front.

Bottas, meanwhile, had to regain P2 after losing out to Scuderia Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel on the start, with Vettel getting ahead and into second.

Bottas got his chance under a Virtual Safety Car on Lap 42 – Sahara Force India’s Esteban Ocon stopped on track with a mechanical problem – as Ferrari elected to pit Vettel a second time to take on new Medium compound Pirellis.

The stop moved Bottas back into second, and elevated Red Bull Racing’s Max Verstappen to third, with Vettel dropping to fourth after a slow stop.

When racing resumed, Vettel simply could not muster enough of a challenge to get back into a podium position, this despite Verstappen suffering front wing damage after contact with Williams Martini Racing’s Lance Stroll under the VSC.

In the end, Verstappen rounded out the podium behind Hamilton and Bottas, with Vettel consigned to fourth on a day that Ferrari might be disappointed with – teammate Kimi Raikkonen dropped out early with power unit troubles on Lap 25.

Verstappen’s Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo drove a quiet race to finish fifth. Haas F1 Team’s Kevin Magnussen finished sixth, while the Spanish crowd got a nice showing from Renault Sport F1 Team’s Carlos Sainz Jr. and McLaren F1 Team’s Fernando Alonso, with the two Spaniards finishing seventh and eighth.

Sergio Perez finished ninth for Force India, while Alfa Romeo Sauber’s Charles Leclerc scored points for the second consecutive race, finishing tenth.

Of note, a number of cars retired due to an opening lap pileup, sparked by Haas driver Romain Grosjean drifting wide in Turn 3 and spinning across the track. He collected Renault’s Nico Hulkenberg and Scuderia Toro Rosso’s Pierre Gasly, with all three dropping out with crash damage.

The win increases Hamilton’s lead in the driver’s championship to 17 points over Vettel (95 to 78). Bottas ranks third with 58 points.

Results from the Spanish Grand Prix are below. The next event for the FIA Formula 1 World Championship is the Monaco Grand Prix on May 24-27.

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Don’t know the Rolex 24? You should. Here’s why.

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Hello, America. It’s time to go racing again.

Yes, Supercross is now three weeks into its season, and the Chili Bowl Nationals is now effectively the Christopher Bell Invitational after the young NASCAR star won his 3rd consecutive Golden Driller last weekend.

But the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway is the first marquee event on the American racing calendar – an event that just happens to have international prestige.

It’s also the start of Daytona Speedweeks, which culminates with NASCAR’s Daytona 500 on Feb. 17. But this is no mere opening act just warming up the crowd for the headliner.

In case you’re new to this event, here are a few reasons why it stands out:

Twice around the clock: Are you the kind of person that appreciates a challenge? Well, challenges don’t get much bigger in motorsports than a 24-hour endurance race where drivers, crews, machines, and strategies must work together flawlessly. For those behind the wheel in the Rolex 24, the obstacles are numerous: Punishing G-forces, extreme mental focus, lack of sleep, and staying on top of hydration and nutrition.

Star power: Speaking of those behind the wheel, the Rolex 24 traditionally draws top drivers from other disciplines such as IndyCar, Formula 1 and NASCAR to join sports car regulars from North America and around the world. As a result, the winners’ list is a Who’s Who of Motorsports.

This year’s field includes a clutch of NTT IndyCar Series drivers, highlighted by 5-time series champion and past Rolex 24 winner Scott Dixon. But pre-race buzz has centered on two particular interlopers: Alex Zanardi, the former CART champion making his first North American start since losing his legs in a 2001 crash, and Fernando Alonso, the two-time F1 champion looking to add another endurance triumph alongside his win with Toyota in last year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Cool cars: If you’re a gearhead, the Rolex 24 is a 200-mile-per-hour candy store. Across the four separate classes of competition, 13 of the world’s premier car manufacturers are represented.

The majority of those manufacturers are found in the Grand Touring classes that feature vehicles based on road-going production models. Chevy and Ford’s eternal rivalry rages on in the factory-backed GT Le Mans, but the class also boasts efforts from BMW, Porsche, and Ferrari. It’s even more diverse in the pro-am GT Daytona, where Porsche is joined by Audi, Lamborghini, Lexus and Mercedes.

As for the exotic, purpose-built Daytona Prototypes, they are powered by engines from Cadillac, Acura, Mazda and Nissan.

Nifty fifty: This year’s Rolex 24 begins the 50th anniversary season for IMSA, the sanctioning body for North American sports car racing. A select group of teams will mark the occasion at the Rolex 24 by running historic IMSA paint schemes on their machines. You may not be familiar with these looks, but it’s worth discovering the history behind them.

Here’s an example. The Starworks Motorsports team (GT Daytona) will carry a scheme based on Audi of America’s 90 Quattro from the 1989 IMSA GTO season. Boasting sports car legends Hurley Haywood and Hans-Joachim Stuck in the driver lineup, the 90 Quattro captured 7 GTO wins that season.

Audi’s performance led one competitor to create a “no passing” sticker with Stuck’s face on it. Stuck’s response: A doll fixed to his car’s rear window that dropped its pants to moon anyone Stuck put behind him.

Status symbol: Last but not least, the Rolex 24 has a unique prize – a trophy you can wear.

Winners get a standard cup, but what they’re really after are the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watches, which include a special engraving to commemorate their victory. A standard version of this watch retails for tens of thousands of dollars, but you can’t put a price on the ones awarded at the Rolex 24.

This year’s grand marshal, 5-time Rolex 24 winner Scott Pruett, sums it up as “the ultimate reward.”

“To be presented a watch engraved with the word ‘Winner’ after 24 hours of intense racing is a moment that lives with you forever,” he added. “Your Rolex is a constant reminder of the perseverance and hard work that goes into succeeding at the highest level.”