Formula 1 is down to the final two races of the season, and the battle for both the drivers’ and constructors’ championships are the tightest in years. This weekend will see yet another new track, the street course at Jedda in Saudi Arabia. Unlike many street courses with 90 degree corners, this one is laid out with speed in mind with lots of high-speed sweepers. The course is 3.836 miles long with 27 turns, three DRS zones, and lap speeds expected in excess of 155 mph. Or as Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas described it, “extreme.”
So which team and driver vying for the championship does the track favor? Well, according to Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff, the W12 car is performing at its best all season. Lewis Hamilton’s amazing drive through the field in Brazil and his dominating performance in Qatar bear out this assessment. Rival Red Bull driver Max Verstappen is ahead in the standings by eight points and could clinch the title Sunday if Hamilton has a bad day. Either way, it portends to be an epic contest between 36-year-old seven-time champion Hamilton and 24-year-old Verstappen, who has yet to win his first title in F1. Hamilton was fastest in both Friday free practice sessions with Verstappen second in FP1 but dropping to fourth in FP2, almost two-tenths adrift of Hamilton’s fast time. Hamilton’s teammate Bottas was third in FP1 and second in FP2. The second session was stopped with three minutes to go when Ferrari driver Charles Leclerc crashed heavily at 150 mph, severely damaging his car. Qualifying airs at 9 a.m. Saturday on ESPNEWS with the race on ESPN2 at 9:25 p.m.
Last week Formula 1 lost a legend with the passing of Sir Frank Williams at age 79. Williams founded the team that bears his name and functioned as team principal for 50 years. He actively managed it for 43 years until turning over day-to-day operations to daughter Claire in 2013. Dorilton Capital, an investment firm, bought the team at the end of the 2020 season. Although the team has been a backmarker for the last few years, during Sir Frank’s tenure Williams scored nine constructors’ championships and seven drivers’ championships from 1980 to 1997. Williams drivers who won the World Driving Championship for Williams included such luminaries as Keke Rosberg, Nigel Mansell, Alain Prost, Damon Hill, Jacques Villeneuve, and Alan Jones. Williams cars made 781 Formula 1 starts and scored 114 wins, 128 poles, 313 podiums, and 133 fastest laps, an enviable record. Sir Frank accomplished much of this from a wheelchair after suffering a spinal cord injury in 1986. Perhaps Williams’ current Team Principal Jost Capito summed it up best, saying “Sir Frank was a legend and icon of our sport. His passing marks the end of an era for our team and for the sport of Formula 1. He was one of a kind and a true pioneer.” Godspeed, Sir Frank Williams.
And in NASCAR news, long-time Camping World Trucks team owner Maury Gallagher has purchased the majority interest in Richard Petty Motorsports. It marks the end of participation in the sport by a name that has been around since NASCAR’s inception in 1949. The sale includes the two RPM charters for use in 2022. It is unclear whether the new GMS team will retain driver Erik Jones or bring in their own driver.
Finally, if you want to see Kyle Larson crowned champion the NASCAR awards banquet airs Saturday at 4 p.m. on NBCSN.