F1: Hamilton outduels Raikkonen to win Italian GP; Vettel finishes fifth after spin

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Sunday’s Italian Grand Prix developed into a thrilling tactical duel between Ferrari and Mercedes, though it started with a literal bang after title combatants Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel made contact in the second chicane – the Variante della Roggia – while battling for second behind the pole sitting Kimi Raikkonen.

The contact tipped Vettel into a spin and dropped him to 18th in the running order before a Safety Car was deployed – there was also contact between Brendon Hartley, Marcus Ericsson, and Stoffel Vandoorne that caused damage to Hartley’s Toro Rosso, forcing him to retire and necessitating the Safety Car.

The incident left Hamilton and Raikkonen to fight it out for the win the rest of the way, and Hamilton even briefly overtook Raikkonen when racing resumed on Lap 4 – Hamilton got the slipstream behind Raikkonen and he made an outside pass approaching the first chicane, the Variante del Rettifilio.

However, Raikkonen immediately countered on the run up to the Variante della Roggia to retake the lead with a similar outside move, and they ran 1-2 through the opening stint until Raikkonen made his pit stop on Lap 21.

Mercedes left Hamilton out in hopes of using the overcut to give Hamilton the lead, but Raikkonen was able to bring the gap between them back down to emerge ahead of Hamilton after the Mercedes driver pitted on lap 28.

Mercedes then opted for Plan B, leaving Valtteri Bottas out in hopes that he would hold Raikkonen up enough to allow Hamilton to close back in. And the plan worked to perfection, with Hamilton all over Raikkonen’s gearbox after Bottas pitted on Lap 37.

More crucially, Raikkonen’s tires began to show big signs of wear, especially on the left-rear, hampering his ability to defend against Hamilton. And on Lap 45, Hamilton pounced, sticking an outside pass on Raikkonen entering the Variante del Rettifilio chicane to take the lead for good.

Hamilton led Raikkonen home from there to take his sixth win of the year.

Behind them, Vettel was on the charge to limit the damage from his opening lap spin and subsequent pit stop for a new front wing – he suffered damage in the contact with Hamilton. He was back in the points before the opening round of stops began, but Vettel needed to make another stop on Lap 30 for new tires.

Ultimately, Vettel came back to finish fourth.

Meanwhile, Bottas was engaged in a tense fight for third with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, and their fight culminated in contact between them as well. Bottas tried an outside pass on Verstappen entering the Variante del Rettifilio on Lap 43, but Verstappen moved across to block the move and forced Bottas into the runoff area.

Verstappen was handed a five-second time penalty for initiating the contact, and even though he crossed the finish line in third, he was relegated to fifth behind Bottas and Vettel – Bottas ultimately rounded out the podium.

Romain Grosjean finished sixth, with Esteban Ocon and Sergio Perez scoring the second consecutive double-points result for the newly renamed Racing Point Force India squad – they finished seventh and eighth.

Carlos Sainz Jr. finished ninth, with Lance Stroll finishing 10th to score the final point.

Results are below. Hamilton now leads Vettel by 30 points in the driver’s championship, and Mercedes increased the gap over Ferrari in the constructor’s championship to 25 points.

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

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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.