Welcome to week 42 – two races this weekend. NASCAR goes to the Intermediate track of Texas Motor Speedway for the second of the three races in the Eliminator round that will decide the four drivers who will vie for the Cup in the final race; and the WEC is in China for their penultimate race of the season. Picks can be made at: http://www.roadracetracks.com/motorracinggame.shtml.
Scores from week 41:
F1 Mexico, WRC Wales, Moto GP Malaysia, NASCAR Martinsville:
Lewis Hamilton started on pole at the F1 GP in Mexico and never looked threatened on his way to an 8.3s victory over his Mercedes teammate, Nico Rosberg. Hamilton did take a short-cut through turn 2 at the start, and for me it looked to give him a distance advantage, but no one else seemed to think so, and nothing more challenged Hamilton in the race. Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel were the other two leaders at various points in the race, but only because Hamilton pitted before them. Max Verstappen tried to challenge Rosberg for second, but was too aggressive for his own good, passing Rosberg but then immediately losing the position with Rosberg’s over-under crossing pass. After that Verstappen found himself under pressure from Vettel. Overly aggressive defense of his position eventually led the stewards to give Verstappen a 5 second penalty, which dropped him to fifth behind Vettel who took the final podium position, and Daniel Ricciardo in fourth. But then there was a big gap back to sixth place which became Kimi Raikkonen’s when he got past Nico Hulkenberg late in the race.
Leading up to WRC Rally Wales, it looked like it might have offered dry conditions. But when the event started it was back to the expected muddy and foggy stages. That gave the advantage to Sebastian Ogier starting first, and he duly made the most of it, leading from start to finish and winning the event. Ott Tanak started further down the order, but his D-Mack tires were expected to perform well in the muddy conditions, and indeed he was Ogier’s only serious rival all rally long. But Ogier is World Champion for a reason, and kept Tanak at bay. Tanak’s second place finish was the best of his career, and well deserved. The two Hyundais of Thierry Neuville and Haddon Paddon were the best of the rest, finishing third and fourth, but well behind Ogier and Tanak. Chris Meeke simply couldn’t find the speed in the Welsh forests, and on Saturday when he used up his two spare tires early, with no tire changes permitted all day, he had to drive cautiously. So at the end he was 40s back from Paddon, in fifth place. Dani Sordo was almost a minute and a half further back from Meeke in sixth place. Jari-Matti Latvala lost a lot of time with a broken drive shaft on Friday, and fought hard to climb back up to a seventh-place finish. A broken drive shaft plagued all three Volkswagens, with Andrea Mikkelsen suffering early on Friday, which lost him so much time, 12th was the best he could do. Ogier’s car suffered the same fate, but it was at the end of the last stage on Friday, so he lucked out, and it made no difference to the times or the positions.
Moto GP was in Sepang in Malaysia and the race started with a tight fight between six riders. Swapping the lead many times were pole setter Andrea Dovizioso, Andrea Iannone, and Valentino Rossi, with Marc Marquez, Cal Cruthlow, and Jorge Lorenzo snapping at their heels. Then it all changed over the course of two laps when Crutchlow crashed, then Marquez crashed, then Iannone crashed. That left Dovizioso and Rossi out front pulling away from Lorenzo. With five laps to go Rossi ran wide at turn one and let Dovizioso into the lead. With his tires going away, there was nothing more Rossi could do, and he had to concede the win to Dovizioso. Lorenzo was well clear in third to take the final podium position, with the two former open class team riders of Hector Barbera and Loriz Baz taking fourth and fifth. Maverick Vinales did not enjoy the rain soaked event, and could do no better than a sixth-place finish. Marquez did get back on his bike after his crash, and so managed to salvage an 11th place finish.
NASCAR was at the short track in Martinsville, but unusually there were not a lot of cautions. In fact, a green-flag stretch of more than 130 laps had drivers in the pits under green-flag conditions when a yellow came out. As usual in these kinds of situations, there was mass confusion, and it took NASCAR 29 laps to sort out the field and restart the race. When it did restart, there were only 10 drivers on the lead lap. Five of those ten were Chase contenders, so they start the Eliminator round with good opening race results. Especially for Jimmie Johnson who took the victory and guaranteed his position in the final four at Homestead in three weeks. The other top Chase finishers were Denny Hamlin who finished 3rd, Matt Kenseth 4th, Kyle Busch 5th, and Joey Logano 9th. The three drivers who now have a lot to do in the next two races include Kevin Harvick who finished 20th, Kurt Busch who finished 22nd, and worse of all, Carl Edwards who dropped 76 laps after a heavy crash and with a 37th place finish will probably need to win one of the remaining two races to stay in the Chase.
Congratulations to Sebastian and his twentieth win of the year. Picking Vettel in F1 and Lorenzo in Moto GP were the prominent picks making a difference. No changes in positions in the standings …