SATURDAY AFTERNOON UPDATE:
Robert Wickens of Guelph and Toronto won the World Series by Renault race today at Barcelona, giving him a nine-point lead over teammate Jean Eric Vergne of France going into the last race of the Formula Renault 3.5 season on Sunday.
Wickens led Vergne across the line by 20 seconds.
Speaking about his fifth victory of the season, the 22-year-old Canadian said: “My goal going into the weekend was to win on Saturday and I’m happy I was able to achieve that. The whole weekend so far has gone to plan; we started off strong and after I got the pole position I was confident that if I could hold the lead I would be in good shape.
F1 ROBBING FANS, VIEWERS BY NOT INSISTING TEAMS MAKE QUALIFYING EFFORT
Sebastien Vettel won the pole Saturday for Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix while Canadian F1 hope Robert Wickens won the pole for the first race of the World Series by Renault finale at Barcelona.
Oh, and Greg Biffle won the pole for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Kansas Sunday.
Vettel won his 12th pole of the season, beating Button by 0.009 seconds. It was up to the Englishman to beat the German driver’s time at the last second but he just missed as the clock timing the session ran out.
Vettel will win his second consecutive world championship of drivers in the Japanese race Sunday by one of two ways: scoring one point or Button failing to win the race.
Lewis Hamilton will start third in the second McLaren-Mercedes, with Ferrari drivers Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso fourth and fifth. Vettel’s Red Bull-Renault teammate Mark Webber will go off sixth.
Michael Schumacher (Mercedes), Vitaly Petrov (Renault), Bruno Senna (ditto) and Kamui Kobayashi (Sauber-Ferrari) round out the top ten.
Nico Rosberg driving the second Mercedes suffered a hydraulic problem and never got out to qualify, so will start 23rd, a spot in front of Antonio Luizzi, who crashed his HRT-Cosworth in practice.
The last four drivers in the top ten didn’t leave the garage in final qualifying. They and their teams should all be fined thousands of dollars for that stunt, which is now happening at all the Grands Prix.
Drivers of cars other than the top three teams – Ferrari, Red Bull and McLaren – know they probably don’t have a chance of improving their positions so they don’t even try. This is allegedly to save wear and tear on the cars, the tires in particular, and the drivers.
But it’s F1 arrogance and nothing else.
Those people are always talking about "the show" and what they can do to improve it for the paying and the viewing public. So every two or three or four years, organizers have to make a change in the qualifying procedure to ensure that everybody gives it a good shot.
But then somebody finds a loophole and the show suffers.
Michael Schumacher and his team, for instance, might not be aware of this but people pay serious money to go and watch him give everything he’s got and when he doesn’t he’s cheating those people.
And he, and the team, are also taking a gamble that nothing will happen to the guys who usually wind up in the top six. What if Vettel and Alonso, say, had both crashed before setting a final time in the final 10 minutes of the last knockout session? That might have put Schuey up to fifth on the grid - or even further - and rewarded him, his team and his fans.
This nonsense also happened earlier in qualifying. The Toro Rosso team of Sebastien Buemi and Jaime Alguersuari had been in the top ten throughout practice. Then, after surviving the first knockout session, they each made one flying lap in the second session and never went out again. Thus, they are going off 15th and 16th.
Once again, the powers-that-be have to go to work to ensure that the participants play the game the way it was intended. Each qualifying session is supposed to be populated by the cars that are eligible and they are supposed to give their all.
The last 10 minutes of qualifying, in particular, are supposed to have 10 cars and drivers on track, no fewer. Maybe a $100,000 fine apiece might get their attention. And a change to the regulations making effort mandatory.
In Barcelona, meantime, two red flags created a very uncertain qualifying scenario for Carlin Motorsports teammates Wickens, of Guelph and Toronto, and his teammate, Jean Eric Vergne of France, who are the only two drivers remaining who can win the Formula 3.5 Series championship.
Wickens leads Vergne by two points and it will all come down to the races later Saturday and again Sunday.
Wickens responded to the challenge of qualifying and is on pole for the first race while Vergne will have to start ninth.
It’s a good start to the weekend for the 22-year-old Canadian, who has yet to win a major championship in Europe. He was second two years ago in Formula 2 and was second last year in GP3 which is close, but no cigar.
If he wants to make it to F1, Wickens has to win this championship.
In Kansas, Biffle will start on the front row for Roush-Fenway Racing, beside teammate Carl Edwards. Matt Kenseth and Kyle Busch are on row two.
And Greg Murphy is on pole for the famous Australian Bathurst 1000 race, which can be seen at 7 o’clock tonight on Speed Channel.