Roger Diez: Hamilton locks up Formula 1 title
The Turkish Grand Prix was one of the most bizarre Formula 1 races I’ve seen in my 50 years of following the sport. Lewis Hamilton couldn’t get his Mercedes’ tires up to temperature in qualifying but somehow he made a set of intermediate rain tires last for 52 laps in the race. He just kept getting better on a drying track, and took the win going away. The victory clinched his seventh drivers’ championship to go with Mercedes’ seventh consecutive constructors’ title. Lance Stroll surprised by leading handily from pole until he changed tires and dropped back. Stroll’s Racing Point teammate Sergio Perez finished a creditable second and Sebastian Vettel took his Ferrari to his first podium of the year in third. Both championships are now decided with three races to go in the season. Those of you who have been around for a while will remember when similar circumstances applied in NASCAR before they switched to a playoff model. Purists aren’t fond of the change, but it does keep things interesting until the final race.
The only other racing last weekend was the 12 Hours of Sebring for the IMSA Weathertech Sportscar series. The No. 77 Mazda won the battle, taking the checkered flag for the overall and DPi class wins. But the season championship went to the No. 7 Penske Acura DPi machine driven by Ricky Taylor, Alexander Rossi, and Helio Castroneves, finishing seven laps down in eighth place. The team took the title by one point over the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac DPi that finished seventh. Both championship contenders dealt with serious mechanical issues in the race but came back to finish. Amazingly enough it was the first major racing championship in his career for Castroneves, who is a three-time Indy 500 winner.
NASCAR held its awards show Wednesday evening in a 90-minute socially distanced television special. Canceling the traditional banquet was the final adjustment the series made to cope with the COVID pandemic. Congratulations to NASCAR Cup champion Chase Elliott, Xfinity title winner Austin Cindric, and Gander Trucks top dog Sheldon Creed. The show also featured a tribute to seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson and the presentation of the Bill France Award of Excellence to the now-retired star. Sunoco Rookies of the Year awards went to Cole Custer in the Cup Series, Harrison Burton in Xfinity, and Zane Smith in Gander Outdoor Trucks. Fans voted Most Popular drivers: Elliott in Cup, Justin Allgaier in the Xfinity series, and Harrison Burton in the Trucks.
NASCAR also tested the Next Gen car on Monday and Wednesday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Kurt Busch and Martin Truex Jr. drove the new car, now slated for a 2022 introduction. Monday’s test was on the “roval” combination oval and infield road course. Tuesday was spent converting the car from road course to oval configuration with Wednesday devoted to running on the 1.5 mile oval track. The test included running several different Goodyear tire compounds on the new 18-inch wheels to determine what compounds to use when the new car becomes the NASCAR standard.
Busch’s car had an ECR engine and was prepared by Richard Childress Racing. Truex’s machine was built by IMSA team Action Express and was Ford Performance powered. Both drivers were impressed by the car’s independent rear suspension, sequential shifter, and larger brakes. The term both drivers used after Monday’s test was “fun.” Busch said, “It accelerates quick, it stops quicker, it turns quicker, it’s nimble.”
Truex concurred. “It does everything a little bit better. A little bit easier to drive in general around the road course. It turns really well.” The next test for the new car is set for Dec. 15/16 at Daytona.