Hamilton says F1 should level playing field between teams

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MONTREAL (AP) Reigning champion Lewis Hamilton believes returning to an old-school style of racing would solve Formula One’s ongoing problem with parity.

The four-time world champ and current leader in the standings said Thursday the vast separation between the top teams and the lower teams is hurting the sport. Mercedes has won all six races this season and will look to make it seven in a row at the Canadian Grand Prix on Sunday.

“People do continue to comment that it’s boring,” Hamilton said of the inequality between teams. “Ferrari wins for a period of time, McLaren wins for a period of time, Mercedes, Red Bull. How you stop that?

“If I had a choice, I would go back to V12, naturally aspirated engines, manual gear boxes. I would make it harder for the drivers. Take away all these big runoff areas that you have everywhere. You should not have steering assist. Or if you have steering assist, you have to keep it low. I like having it low so it’s harder for me.”

“You should be so physically exhausted after a race,” he added. “It should be so exhausting, like a marathon. I could probably do two or three races in a row, and Formula One should not be like that.”

A win for Hamilton this weekend would tie Michael Schumacher’s record for most victories at Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve with seven.

The 34-year-old has already taken four checkered flags this year. Teammate Valterri Bottas won the other two races. Mercedes leads the constructor standings with 257 points, nearly twice as many as second-place team Ferrari, which has 139 points.

Only six drivers from three teams have finished in the top five this season: Mercedes’ Hamilton and Bottas, Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Charles Leclerc and Red Bull’s Max Verstappen and Pierre Gasly. No other team has come close to the podium.

The disparity between teams goes well beyond this year. Mercedes has won the last five F1 championships while Red Bull won the previous four.

Ahead of his hometown race, Montreal native Lance Stroll echoed Hamilton’s sentiments.

“Look at the NHL, the NFL, the NBA, the teams are so close,” the 20-year-old Stroll told The Canadian Press. “That’s because it’s capped properly, it’s managed properly. That allows for exciting competitions. It would be great to see the same thing in Formula One. Instead of 2 seconds between the field, it comes down to tenths. That would really spice things up.”

Stroll is one of the drivers usually stuck in the middle of the pack, well behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. Stroll ranks 16th in the standings with four points from his first six races. He finished ninth in Australia and Azerbaijan. Stroll’s last two races were challenging though. He collided with Lando Norris in Barcelona and was forced to retire after 44 laps. Two weeks ago in Monaco, he finished 16th.

“The last couple of events haven’t suited our car,” said Stroll, the first Canadian on the grid since Jacques Villeneuve. “There are things I need to work on too. It’s a new car for me. We want to be more consistently in the points and fighting in the front.”

A year ago, Stroll crashed out of Canadian Grand Prix on the very first lap after colliding with Brendon Hartley of Toro Rosso.

“It’s got a lot of character,” said Stroll of the track. “You’re riding the curves. There’s not a lot of room for error. Long straights that allow for good overtaking. As a driver, that makes the weekend very exciting. It’s a proper race. It’s great for the fans.”

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

Petit Le Mans lineup
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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 12:10-3 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 7 p.m. to USA Network. Peacock will have flag-to-flag coverage.


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