Welcome to week 41 – three races this weekend. F1 is in Mexico City; NASCAR is at the short track in Martinsville, Virginia, for the first of the three races in the Eliminator round that will decide the four drivers who will vie for the Cup in the final race; WEC has their penultimate race of their season in Shanghai, China. Picks can be made at: http://www.roadracetracks.com/motorracinggame.shtml.
Scores from week 40:
F1 Circuit of the Americas, WRC Spain, Moto GP Malaysia, NASCAR Talladega:
Still three rounds to go in F1, but victory at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas by Lewis Hamilton was enough to secure him the World Championship title. It wasn’t a slam-dunk for Hamilton though, with the lead swapping a number of times, primarily between Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, and Daniel Ricciardo. The final decisive move came late in the race when Rosberg ran wide while in the lead, and essentially gifted the lead and eventually the win to Hamilton. Rosberg held on to second, less than a second ahead of the Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel. Ricciardo eventually got side-swiped by Nico Hilkenberg, which required a virtual safety car, and left Ricciardo down in 10th at the end of the race. Valtteri Botas had suspension issues and could not complete more than 5 laps, leaving him classified in 19th.
WRC was in Catalunya, Spain, for a mixed surface event. There were a number of different leaders and front-runners early on, including Robert Kubica who had the lead for a while, Ott Tanak who won a number of early stages, Jari-Matti Latvala, and of course Sebastien Ogier. But a slew of spins, crashes, and mechanical problems eventually sorted the top four as Ogier, Latvala, Andreas Mikkelsen, and Dani Sordo, with Ogier having a healthy lead of almost a minute over Latvala. But Mikkelsen wasn’t done and got ahead of Latvala for second and held a slim 1.6s advantage going into the final stage. Latvala was the third-to-last driver down that stage and set a blistering pace – 3.5s faster than Kris Meeke who had set the benchmark to that point. Next was Mikkelsen who went even faster, enabling him to hold on to second – at least that’s what he thought. Then while being interviewed at the finish line, the news came in that Ogier had crashed 4km from the end, and Mikkelsen had won his first WRC event in 64 tries. Ogier’s demise promoted Latvala into second, and Dani Sordo into third.
Dani Pedrosa won the Moto GP event in Malaysia over Jorge Lorenzo. But all the news was about Valentino Rossi, who finished third, and Marc Marquez. They were in a tight battle for third place early in the race, and after a series of back-and-forth passes between them, Rossi got to the inside of Marquez and then ran into him, causing him to crash and finish classified in 22nd. The race stewards investigated and handed Rossi a severe penalty for the final race of the year in Valencia – he is to start from the back of the field. With only 7 points between Rossi and Lorenzo in the championship, Rossi must finish no worse than on Lorenzo’s rear-tire to claim the title, and that now looks like a tall order. Back to Sepang, and Bradley Smith had a great race, coming from ninth on the grid to finish fourth behind Rossi. In fifth was Cal Crutchlow, and sixth Danilo Petrucci. The next two had a very close finish, with Aleix Espargaro seventh, just 0.146s ahead of Maverick Vinales. Our other pick, Andrea Iannone, had mechanical problems and retired, classified in 24th.
In NASCAR four more drivers were eliminated from the Chase leaving eight. Joey Logano won the Talladega event, sweeping the Contender round and leaving the other 11 to scramble for the 7 remaining spots on points. For Matt Kenseth and Dale Earnhardt Jr., their misfortunes in the earlier two races of the round meant they had to win at Talladega to advance. Dale almost did, finishing alongside, but just behind Logano when the race was called due to a pile-up just as the last lap started. Kenseth had no chance, being caught up in that final wreck, and hence finishing a lowly 26th. Ryan Newman was on the bubble going into this event, and a 12th place finish was not good enough to keep him from being eliminated. Denny Hamlin looked secure in the top third of the Chase order going into Talladega, but the seemingly silly problem of a flapping roof vent that couldn’t be secured, meant multiple trips to the pits, and he ended up 4 laps down in 37th place, and out of the Chase. So the eight drivers left in the Chase are: Joey Logano, Carl Edwards, Jeff Gordon, Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski, Martin Truex Jr., Kevin Harvick, and Kyle Busch.
Congratulations to Sebastian and his eighth win of the year. Clearly the key picks were Mikkelsen in WRC and Pedrosa in Moto GP. No changes in the standings…