NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Lewis Hamilton Ends Season Starting First

Lewis Hamilton scored his first pole position since the German Grand Prix when he took the top spot in qualifying Saturday (Nov 30) for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.  The pole extends Hamilton’s gaudy total to 88, now 20 poles ahead of second-place Michael Schumacher.  

Valtteri Bottas (more on him later) took the second spot on the grid but will fall back to last because of engine and power plant replacements.  That means that Max Verstappen, who qualified third, will be slated to start second. Verstappen’s performance has come as no surprise, especially as Ferrari has lost just an iota of their blistering pace they displayed after the summer break.  

The Prancing Horse teammates, Charles Leclerc and Sebastian Vettel, took the next two spots in qualifying, respectively.  Their cars never looked like they had much of a chance at the pole, giving a mediocre performance. That the two will start alongside each other should make for good theater as the two collided at the last race, showcasing the tense relationship the drivers have with each other.  Mattia Binotto has attempted to put a positive spin on the situation, claiming that he’s lucky to have such good drivers, but it does not take a magnifying glass to see that relations are strained at the team right now.  

Alex Albon continued to hold down what has become his normal position, slotting in at sixth.  Since moving up to Red Bull from Toro Rosso, the Brit-Thai driver has consistently placed within spots four through seven, indicating that he’s steady and just in reach of tapping the leaders.  Had Hamilton not ruined Albon’s Brazilian GP, Albon would have claimed his first podium at the previous race.  

Lando Norris, who looked like he might not make it out of Q2, drove through to Q3 and earned the seventh, position.  Coming in right behind Norris is Renault’s Daniel Ricciardo, who eked the most he could from his car and is positioned in front of the second McLaren of Carlos Sainz, who earned his first career podium at the last race.  Nico Hulkenberg, driving his last race for Renault posted the tenth-best time.  

Odds & Sods

– Valtteri Bottas is a peculiar story this weekend.  He faced a grid drop penalty for switching out his power unit, only to then change his engine again to ensure that no matter how fast he laid down a time in qualifying that he would be starting from the back – two times over. With is points position secure such a starting spot is no big deal and should actually provide an element of entertainment as he drives from the back.  

To add an element to his weekend, Bottas made a strange move in free practice 2 when he dove into a corner with Romain Grosjean and failed to clear the French driver.  Grosjean turned into the corner as he usually would and right into the side of Bottas. The two spun out and send debris all over the track.  

The move did not appear to be egregious but it also looked unwarranted.  Bottas escaped with a reprimand but the move brings more questions about where his head may be than about his driving ability.

The reason for making such a statement is that Bottas recently addressed the public regarding the breakup of his marriage to Emilia Pikkarainen.  The toll of his F1 career strained and finally broke the relationship between the two and highlights the difficulty these drivers in maintaining any kind of normal life.  That Pikkarainen is also an Olympic swimmer surely meant that her schedule could be difficult as well and made her less able to travel to away races.  

– This race marks the end for both Robert Kubica and Nico Hulkenberg who will be replaced by Nicholas Latifi and Esteban Ocon, respectively.  Thanks and godspeed to the aforementioned drivers.

POS # DRIVER CAR Q1 Q2 Q3
1 44 Lewis Hamilton MERCEDES 1:35.851 1:35.634 1:34.779
2 77 Valtteri Bottas MERCEDES 1:36.200 1:35.674 1:34.973
3 33 Max Verstappen RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:36.390 1:36.275 1:35.139
4 16 Charles Leclerc FERRARI 1:36.478 1:35.543 1:35.219
5 5 Sebastian Vettel FERRARI 1:36.963 1:35.786 1:35.339
6 23 Alexander Albon RED BULL RACING HONDA 1:36.102 1:36.718 1:35.682
7 4 Lando Norris MCLAREN RENAULT 1:37.545 1:36.764 1:36.436
8 3 Daniel Ricciardo RENAULT 1:37.106 1:36.785 1:36.456
9 55 Carlos Sainz MCLAREN RENAULT 1:37.358 1:36.308 1:36.459
10 27 Nico Hulkenberg RENAULT 1:37.506 1:36.859 1:36.710
11 11 Sergio Perez RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:36.961 1:37.055
12 10 Pierre Gasly SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:37.198 1:37.089
13 18 Lance Stroll RACING POINT BWT MERCEDES 1:37.528 1:37.103
14 26 Daniil Kvyat SCUDERIA TORO ROSSO HONDA 1:37.683 1:37.141
15 20 Kevin Magnussen HAAS FERRARI 1:37.710 1:37.254
16 8 Romain Grosjean HAAS FERRARI 1:38.051
17 99 Antonio Giovinazzi ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:38.114
18 7 Kimi Räikkönen ALFA ROMEO RACING FERRARI 1:38.383
19 63 George Russell WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:38.717
20 88 Robert Kubica WILLIAMS MERCEDES 1:39.236

 

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