Sebastian Vettel expected to be Lewis Hamilton’s main 2019 foe

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When asked who would likely be his primary challenger in 2019, Lewis Hamilton told Formula1.com “I would imagine it’s going to be Sebastian (Vettel). And Valtteri (Bottas) alongside me.

There is a good reason for that assessment. Hamilton and Vettel spent the entire season either first or second in the standings. Vettel held the top spot six of the first 10 weeks; Hamilton led the series the other four weeks and the average difference between first and second was 9.2 points.

Then came Germany.

(Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)

Vettel crashed on Lap 51 while leading – handing the top spot over to Bottas for one lap before Hamilton took command for the final 15 circuits. The 25 points lost dropped Vettel from top rung of the championship by eight points to the second rung by 17. He would never recover and after the Italian Grand Prix, race 14 of 21, Vettel continuously slipped further behind Hamilton.

The only race after Italy in which Vettell finished ahead of Hamilton was in Mexico and by then, the championship was decided. Vettel finished second in the Mexican GP; Hamilton was only six points back in fourth.

If not Vettel, Hamilton is keeping his eye on Max Verstappen.

“They’ve got a great car,” Hamilton said. “They’ve been very strong at the end of the year, they’ve got a new engine next year. Will it be able to compete with ours? I hope so, because that would be epic if Red Bull could really start to mingle with us a bit more, weekend in, weekend out.

“They’ve got to obviously improve on their reliability, which has been a big downfall for them this year. So there’s lots of areas [to work on], but I really wish them all the best – and we are down for the competition that’s for sure.”

As Vettel was slipping behind, Verstappen was catching up. He outscored the Ferrari driver in the second half of the season and came within one point of securing third in the driver’s championship behind Kimi Raikkonen.

Of course, overtaking Mercedes is going to be a challenge for everyone. They have won the last five championships – four for Hamilton and one for Nico Rosberg. Before that, Red Bull Racing and Renault were on a four-year winning streak with Vettel behind the wheel.

Points Standings by the Week

Week Grand Prix Leader Second Third
1 Australian Vettel Hamilton (-7) Raikkonen (-10)
2 Bahrain Vettel Hamilton (-17) Bottas (-28)
3 Chinese Vettel Hamilton (-9) Bottas (-14)
4 Azerbaijan Hamilton Vettel (-4) Raikkonen (-22)
5 Spanish Hamilton Vettel (-17) Bottas (-37)
6 Monaco Hamilton Vettel (-14) Ricciardo (-38)
7 Canadian Vettel Hamilton (-1) Bottas (-35)
8 French Hamilton Vettel (-14) Ricciardo (-49)
9 Austrian Vettel Hamilton (-1) Raikkonen (-45)
10 British Vettel Hamilton (-8) Raikkonen (-55)
11 German Hamilton Vettel (-17) Raikkonen (-57)
12 Hungarian Hamilton Vettel (-24) Raikkonen (-57)
13 Belgian Hamilton Vettel (-17) Raikkonen (-85)
14 Italian Hamilton Vettel (-30) Raikkonen (-92)
15 Singapore Hamilton Vettel (-40) Raikkonen (-107)
16 Russian Hamilton Vettel (-50) Bottas (-117)
17 Japanese Hamilton Vettel (-67) Bottas (-124)
18 United States Hamilton Vettel (-70) Raikkonen (-125)
19 Mexican Hamilton Vettel (-64) Raikkonen (-122)
20 Brazilian Hamilton Vettel (-81) Raikkonen (-132)
21 Abu Dhabi Hamilton Vettel (-88) Raikkonen (-157)

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III