Friday’s Formula One Mexican GP practice was a tale of two sessions

Mexican GP practice
Mazen Mahdi / Getty Images
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Friday’s Formula One practice for the Mexican GP at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was a tale of two sessions as Mercedes topped the charts in Practice 1 with Red Bull Racing closing the gap in Practice 2.

Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton is embroiled in a tight points’ battle with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen, but it was Valtteri Bottas that topped the charts by .076 seconds over his teammate Hamilton.

Meanwhile in this session, Sergio Perez had an unwelcome homecoming on his native Mexican track when he spun into the wall in dusty conditions moments after Charles Leclerc also hit the barrier in the final turn of the course. Perez lost nearly half of the session making repairs. He was in the garage for 26 minutes before returning to shake his car down and grab the fourth position on the chart.

Once the asphalt was dusted off, Red Bull found their supremacy on a track where they are favored. Points’ leader Verstappen was more than half a second faster than his principal rival Hamilton. The speed differential may have come with a minor assist from Perez, who recovered from his Practice 1 crash and hounded Hamilton during the second session. Hamilton later complained about the “insane traffic”.

In Practice 2, Bottas also outpaced his teammate by a little less than a tenth of a second.

“We didn’t have any major issues,” Hamilton said at Formula1.com. “We’re giving it everything we’ve got. (Red Bull is) just quicker than us at the moment.

“No real concerns. We’re just chipping away at our setups and trying to improve. But we’re lacking downforce, which is probably why we had the half-second difference between us.”

With five races remaining, Hamilton knows the opportunities are slipping away. The difference of 12 points is 2.4 per race, which means Hamilton controls his own fate if he can finish ahead of Verstappen inside the top four in each race. The gap between first and second is six points, so two more victories than Verstappen provides another path to the Driver’s Championship.

Both drivers have had their share of difficulty in the first 17 races this season. The heated battle has seen on-track incidents that ended both of their days.

But Verstappen has the statistic that matters. A big part of Verstappen’s 12-point lead comes by winning three more events than Hamilton. Verstappen has also dominated in terms of laps led with 504 to Hamilton’s 154.

Hamilton has made up for the lack of domination with consistency. Entering the Mexican GP, Hamilton has scored 12 podiums – just one less than Verstappen.

Despite his spin, Perez posted the fourth fastest lap in both sessions with Pierre Gasly rounding out the top five in P1 and with Carlos Sainz in P2.

Daniel Ricciardo and George Russell lost most of the second practice to gearbox issues. Sitting seventh in the Constructors Standings, Russell said earlier this week that he is ready and willing to take more risks to earn points.

Practice will resume on Saturday.

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

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing
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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.