After mediocre practice sessions at the Lusail circuit in Qatar, Lewis Hamilton got his Mercedes right for qualifying, taking pole. On Sunday, he parlayed that pole position into a wire-to-wire victory, cruising to an easy victory over championship rival Max Verstappen’s Red Bull and closing the point gap to eight. Unfortunately, Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas didn’t have pace in the race and eventually retired the car, scoring no points. This closed the constructors’ championship battle to just five points with Mercedes hanging onto the lead. Hamilton’s epic drive in Brazil, coupled with his easy victory in Qatar, compelled British oddsmakers to revise their predictions for the driving championship winner, giving the nod to Hamilton with a 61 percent chance of taking his eighth title and breaking Michael Schumacher’s last record. Hamilton surpassed the German’s pole and win tallies earlier this season, and now has amassed 102 of each.
There are only two races remaining in the Formula 1 season, Saudi Arabia on Dec. 3, and Abu Dhabi on Dec. 12. The Jeddah circuit in Saudi Arabia, like Qatar’s Lusail track, is new to Formula 1. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina circuit dates back to 2009 for F1 contests. Verstappen won there last season, his only victory at the track. Hamilton has scored five Yas Marina wins, including 2018 and 2019. Mercedes has won six of the last seven outings there. Unless either Hamilton or Verstappen has a disastrous finish in Saudi Arabia, the drivers’ title will come down to the last race of the season, the closest points battle in years.
NASCAR has announced its race format for 2022, bringing back practice and qualifying. For oval tracks, Cup drivers will be divided into two groups, separated by odd/even finishing positions in the previous race. The groups will qualify in the same groups with single car qualifying. Drivers will get one qualifying lap, except for Bristol, Dover, Martinsville, and Richmond where they will get two laps. The top five qualifiers in each group will transfer to the final round to run for pole. At Superspeedways the first qualifying round will include all cars making single-car laps with the top 10 advancing to the final round. On road courses practice will be 20 minutes each for two groups with each group then getting a 15-minute timed group qualifying session. The top five from each group will then get a final 10-minute timed session for pole. The Bristol dirt race will feature two 50-minute practice sessions and four qualifying races to determine the lineup for the main, based on a random draw. In addition to the Bristol dirt race, 50-minute practice sessions will be held at the Daytona 500, the first Atlanta round, WWT Raceway at Gateway, Nashville, and the Phoenix season finale. Formats are similar for both the Xfinity and Camping World Truck series.
If you didn’t make it over to Placerville Speedway last week, you missed some fast and furious USAC Midget racing, featuring two NASCAR champions and a local racer. In three nights of racing Kyle Larson finished sixth in the Thursday main, won on Friday, and took 18th on Saturday after a rollover. Chase Elliott in his first Midget outing missed the Thursday race, failed to make the Friday main and took 20th Saturday, starting with a provisional entry. His mentor Larson was pleased with Elliott’s progress through the weekend as he kept learning and getting faster. Local racer Tanner Thorson of Minden was 16th Thursday, 20th Friday, and 6th on Saturday. Thorson currently sits sixth in USAC season points.