Max Verstappen leads Abu Dhabi practice; Lewis Hamilton fifth in return session

Abu Dhabi practice
Mark Thompson/Getty Images
0 Comments

YAS ISLAND, Abu Dhabi — Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday in the first practice for the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The Red Bull driver was 0.34 seconds ahead of Mercedes rival Valtteri Bottas and 1.14 seconds quicker than Renault driver Esteban Ocon.

Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton returned for Mercedes after a bout with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) and had the fifth fastest time. He struggled early in the session with a brake sensor issue that needed to be repaired in the team garage.

The Mercedes team announced Thursday that Hamilton had recovered from COVID-19, which returned to George Russell (who led 57 laps and nearly won last Sunday in place of Hamilton at Bahrain) with Williams in Sunday’s race.

Hamilton, who just clinched his seventh world championship, tested positive for COVID-19 the day after winning the Bahrain GP on Nov. 29 and missed last weekend’s Sakhir GP in Bahrain as he self-isolated for 10 days.

“Lewis tested negative for COVID-19 on Wednesday prior to completion of his self-isolation period in Bahrain. This enabled him to travel to Abu Dhabi on Thursday afternoon, and he tested negative on arrival,” Mercedes said in a statement. “Lewis has therefore completed the protocols required by the FIA for his entry to the paddock and will be able to take part in the race weekend.”

Governing body FIA confirmed that Hamilton was free to leave Bahrain according to the health authority regulations in place.

There are two practice sessions in Abu Dhabi on Friday. A second practice will be held later Friday at the Yas Marina circuit.

Hamilton has won the Abu Dhabi GP a record five times, including the past two years.

Sunday will also feature Sebastian Vettel’s last race with Ferrari after joining the Italian team in 2015. The four-time F1 champion, who has struggled most of the season, is racing for Aston Martin next year.

Bahrain winner Sergio Perez (McLaren) and Kevin Magnussen (Haas F1 Team) also will be making the last starts with their teams. Both will start from the rear Sunday because of penalties for using new equipment.

Final 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona results, stats

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona overall results were all streaks: two consecutive victories in the endurance classic for Meyer Shank Racing and three in a row for Acura.

And Helio Castroneves became the second driver to win three consecutive Rolex 24s and the first to win in three straight years (Peter Gregg won in 1973, ’75 and ’76; the race wasn’t held in ’74 because of a global oil crisis).

Starting from the pole position, Tom Blomqvist took the checkered flag in the No. 60 ARX-06 that led a race-high 365 of 783 laps with co-drivers Castroneves, Simon Pagenaud and Colin Braun.

RESULTS: Click here for the finishing order in the 61st Rolex 24 at Daytona l By class

Meyer Shank Racing now has two Rolex 24 victories and the 2022 championship since entering the premier prototype category of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2021.

“I think what’s so special about this team is we are a small team compared to some of our opponents, but the atmosphere, the way we work, enables people to get the best out of themselves, and I think that’s why we’re such high achievers,” Blomqvist said. “I think there’s no egos. It’s a very open book, and that just enables each and every one of us to reach our potential. I think that’s why we’ve achieved so much success in really a short time at this level of competition.”

It’s the 16th IMSA victory for MSR.

The 61st running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona marked the debut of the Grand Touring Prototype category that brought hybrid engine technology to IMSA’s top level.

In other categories:

LMP2: James Allen passed Ben Hanley on the final lap and delivered a victory in the No. 55 ORECA by 0.016 seconds. It’s the second IMSA victory for Proton Competition, which last won at Sebring in 2012. It was the first Rolex 24 victory for Allen and co-drivers Gianmaria Bruni, Fred Poordad and Francesco Pizzi.

GTD Pro: Cooper MacNeil won in the last start of his IMSA career as the No. 79 Mercedes-AMG GT3 scored the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for WeatherTech Racing and the team’s fourth career victory.

MacNeil, who co-drove with Maro Engel, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, earned his 12th career victory and first at the Rolex 24.

“Winning by last IMSA race is tremendous,” MacNeil said.

GTD: The No. 27 Heart of Racing Team delivered the first Rolex 24 at Daytona for Aston Martin, which has been competing in endurance races at Daytona International Speedway since 1964. Drivers Marco Sorensen, Roman De Angelis, Darren Turner and Ian James (also the team principal) earned the victory in the English brand’s 13th attempt.

It’s also the first Rolex 24 at Daytona win for Heart of Racing, which has seven IMSA wins.

LMP3: Anthony Mantella, Wayne Boyd, Nico Varrone and Thomas Merrill drove the No. 17 AWA Duqueine D08 to victory by 12 laps for the team’s first class win in IMSA.


STATS PACKAGE FOR ROLEX 24 HOURS OF DAYTONA:

Fastest laps by driver

Fastest laps by driver after race (over the weekend)

Fastest laps by driver and class after race

Fastest lap sequence

Lap chart

Leader sequence

Race analysis by lap

Stint analysis

Time cards

Pit stop time cards

Best sector times

Race distance and speed average

Flag analysis

Weather report

NEXT: The 2023 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season will resume with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring March 18 with coverage across NBC, USA and Peacock.