1. Formula One season goes down to the wire with one race remaining
2. NASCAR Sprint Cup season goes down to the wire with two races remaining
Formula One: There are so many scenarios
Everybody keeps asking this question:
Will Sebastien Vettel move over next Sunday in Abu Dhabi and let Mark Webber past if Fernando Alonso is running third and the only way a Red Bull driver can win the world championship is if Webber finishes first?
(Answer: you betcha.)
But what if Alonso is out of the equation?
What if he fries one of those Ferrari motors, or makes a mistake and crashes out and doesn’t score any more points than the 246 he has now?
Well, ladies and gentleman, that’s when it gets really interesting because there is the very real possibility that, with Alonso out, and Vettel and Webber finishing one-two in the race next weekend, the Red Bull racers will finish the season tied in points with 256 apiece and the tie-breaker will be wins, which means Vettel could be world champion on the basis of five wins in 2010 as compared with Webber’s four.
Which explains why Red Bull has not instituted team orders at any time this season, including this weekend in Brazil.
However, it is unlikely that Alonso – who has been on the podium at every race going back to Belgium in August – will just up and evaporate so that’s when the subject of sacrifice has to be seriously considred.
While I subscribe to nearly everyone’s theory that Vettel is the favoured driver at Red Bull – despite everyone connected with that team denying it – I also happen to think he will be a fair man in the end.
As team principal Christian Horner said after the Grand Prix of Brazil yesterday – which was won by Vettel, with Webber second and Alonso third (full story here): "We won the constructor’s championship as a team and we will win the driver’s championship as a team. I will leave it up to the drivers – there will be no team orders – but I expect them both to do the right thing."
Translation: if the only way to win the championship is for Webber to win the final Grand Prix of the season at Abu Dhabi next Sunday, then he will win. If, on the other hand, Alonso is out of the picture, then may the best Red Bull driver win.
Yesterday’a Grand Prix was a good race for 20 laps. Then it was a relatively ho-hum affair afterward.
Defending title-holder Jenson Button was officially eliminated from the world championship, even though he finished fifth at Brazil. With only 25 points available to the winner in Abu Dhabi, the best Jenson can finish (if none of the four in front of him score anything next weekend) is fourth in the championship.
And Button’s McLaren teammate, Lewis Hamilton, who’s currently fourth and 24 points behind the leader, could likewise eke out the championship if he wins the race next week and everybody else is shut out.
Again, highly unlikely.
So Vettel, Webber and Alonso are the Big Three going to Arabia. Qualifying and the race can both be seen live on TSN next Saturday and Sunday mornings, respectively, at 7:55 a.m. Eastern.
I will be posting a preview podcast with Canadian F1 expert Gerald Donaldson – plus a transcript of same – on www.wheels.ca by noon next Friday.
– NASCAR won’t race again in Mexico because it’s too dangerous for the drivers and teams to go there. So why does Formula One insist on racing in Brazil?
World Champion Jenson Button, riding in a bullet-proof car being driven by a police officer specially trained for such emergencies, escaped a confrontation with criminals this weekend while returning to his hotel from the Interlagos circuit.
As bandits reportedly approached the car, one with a hand gun and another with a machine gun, the driver floored it and bounced off four or five other cars while making their escape.
Several mechanics from the Sauber team weren’t so lucky. Although not injured, they were forced to hand over all valuables and cash as well as their computers and other belongings before being allowed to continue living.
One of these times, F1 will find itself up the creek. Castro’s henchmen grabbed Juan Manuel Fangio just before the Cuban Grand Prix in 1958 and held him for several days before he talked them into letting him go but they did that for publicity more than anything else.
But the outlaws in Brazil are cutthroats. Who needs that place?
– Back in 1965, my jaw dropped when a vice-president of Canadian National Railways – an intelligent, politically connected and cultured gentleman – told me I was naive to believe that professional sport was on the level.
"Any time there’s big money involved," he said, "you can bet the fix is in somewhere."
I was young then, and thought he was crazy. Now I’m older and I’m not so sure.
For instance, it’s not the number of flags that get thrown during a pro football game that’s important, it’s when they’re thrown. So, following right along . . .
Giancarlo Fisichella was a journeyman F1 driver who’d always been the good soldier. Touted as a No. 1, he usually wound up No. 2. During the 2009 season, Luca Badoer was not performing well for Ferrari. Fisichella was doing his usual mediocre job for Force India but said out loud that he’d always wanted to drive for the mighty Italian Scuderia.
Out of the blue, he won the pole for the Belgian GP ("Fisichella stuns F1," said one headline) and went on to score the team’s first F1 points in the race. Within days, Badoer was out at Ferrari and Fisichella was in.
No Force India driver scored a pole before that; no Force India driver has scored a pole since.
I guess these things just happen.
Nico Hulkenberg has been driving for Williams and doing a good – albeit not particularly spectacular – job. His position in the team is in jeopardy, though, because Williams is set to lose several sponsors at the end of this season and may have to take a paying driver for 2011, which means Hulkenberg would be out of a job.
A lot has been said by Williams about Hulkenberg in the last couple of weeks. A lot.
Saturday at Brazil he won the pole for the Brazilian GP.
"Shocker!" read one headline in the world motorsport press. "Hulkenberg shockingly wins pole," said another.
I guess these things just happen.
– Hulkenberg was no match for Vettel when the lights went out (they were one-two on the front row) and, although it took him a couple of laps, Webber made relatively short work of getting past the young German too.
But Alonso had difficulty getting past Hamilton (they started fifth and fourth, respectively) and then he had a horrible time getting past Hulkenberg. After he finally did, the race was essentially over.
– Red Bull won the F1 constructor’s championship only 19 months after the team’s first race win. They’ve come a long way in a short time.
NASCAR: Everybody can be replaced
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like this before in a big-league auto race.
No, not the shoving match between Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton (although I don’t think I’ve ever seen Jeff Gordon so angry).
And no, not the unsportsmanlike penalty handed to Kyle Busch (although that was several years and about 100 races too late, to my way of thinking).
It was, however, the mid-race dismissal of a championship pit crew when the crew chief, Chad Knaus, decided they weren’t performing up to the level he expected. They were replaced by the pit crew that normally services Jeff Gordon, who were available after Gordon’s car was knocked out of the race (resulting in the altercation mentioned briefly above).
All this happened at the AAA Texas 500, which was won by new NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Denny Hamlin, with Matt Kenseth second and Mark Martin third (full story here).
Four-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson, who finished ninth in the race, is now second in points, 33 behind Hamlin. Kevin Harvick, who finished sixth in the race, remains in third place in the standings, 59 points in arrears.
All other Chase for the Championship drivers have been eliminated from the title chase with two races remaining – next Sunday at Phoenix and the following weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida.
Knauss was apparently unhappy with the performance put in by Johnson’s over-the-wall gang during two early pit stops in the race. When Johnson’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon tangled with Burton during a yellow-flag period, and both cars were wrecked too badly to continue racing, Knaus ordered the Gordon crew to take over pit stop duty from Johnson’s.
Now, this sort of hard-nosed decision can work two ways: it can fire up Johnson’s crew to do better next time, or they may collectively go into a funk because, after all, Johnson and Knaus won four championships because of their wonderful work.
Knaus could also make the switch permanent. It’s happened before, but usually in the off-season, when the crew of one car on a multi-car team has been moved to another car. It’s unusual, to say the least, during the season.
But the reason Johnson and Knaus have won four consecutive championships is because they are tough guys who are ready to make tough decisions. That’s why they’re winners.
– When Brad Keselowski won the Nationwide Series championship on Saturday (Carl Edwards won the race; Kyle Busch accused him of jumping the last restart and then stomped out of the post-race press conference), it marked the first NASCAR championship won by Roger Penske.
The Captain has won so many Indy car titles and Indy 500s that it’s hard to keep count. But this, believe it or not, was the first one in NASCAR and Roger was pleased as punch.
"We’re halfway there," he said, meaning he’s got his sights set on a Sprint Cup championship before he’s done.
– Kyle Busch won the Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night at Texas and was all smiles afterward, wearing that big goofy cowboy hat and all. He’s close to winning the owner’s title in that series.
– When Ellliot Sadler won the pole for the Texas race, he became the 18th Cup driver to score one this season.
– Late last week, a guy sent me the following info. It seems that Texas Motor Speedway’s Eddie Gossage has been at it again:
Trained monkeys will sell race programs at Texas
Trained monkeys will sell race programs at Texas
"Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage is enlisting the help of Miki and Rocky, trained capuchin monkeys, to sell the race programs throughout the AAA Texas 500 NASCAR triple-header race weekend.
"The monkeys will make their first public appearance Friday, Nov. 5, from 2:30-4 p.m. CT at the infield Hot Rod Café. They will return and be stationed on the concourse at Gate 4 on Saturday, Nov. 6, from 9:30-11:30 a.m. prior to the start of the Nationwide Series O'Reilly Auto Parts Challenge and Sunday, Nov. 7, from Noon-2 p.m. before the start of the Sprint Cup Series AAA Texas 500.
"Fans cannot miss the capuchin monkeys, as they will be decked out in their Texas Motor Speedway "No Limits" attire.
"Miki and Rocky will be accompanied by trained handlers as they distribute programs and collect money."
I read that info and wondered about the symbolism:
Does Eddie Gossage think NASCAR is made up of a bunch of trained monkeys?