What to watch for: IndyCar at Sonoma

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SLIPPERY SONOMA

Getting a grip on the situation will be very tough to do for the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers in today’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Throughout the weekend, we’ve heard that the tires have a very short window of optimal performance before they fall off. There’s also Mother Nature to think about, as the California winds can toss sand and dirt on the track, making the driving experience even more hairy.

LUCKY SEVEN

Last year’s modifications to Sonoma’s IndyCar course included tightening up Turn 7, which comes after a short burst down the track’s dragstrip. It’s probably the best of the passing zones that opened up with the modifications, which also affected Turn 9 and Turn 11, the last corner on the course. Having a good run off the Carousel and onto the strip will be critical to making passes in Turn 7 work, but it can be done.

MAKE THE MOST OF IT

Scott Dixon finished one spot behind Helio Castroneves three weeks ago at Mid-Ohio, missing out on an opportunity to cut further into the latter’s championship lead at a place where he’d won four previous times. But with he and Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Dario Franchitti running as strong as they have this weekend in Sonoma, Dixon has another chance to narrow his 31-point gap to the Brazilian.

DON’T HOLD BACK

As I mentioned earlier this weekend, Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti may be still in the championship but must make up significant ground on Castroneves and Dixon this afternoon. It’s time for these two to be as aggressive as they can get away with.

IZOD IndyCar Series – GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma
Starting Grid

Row 1
10-Dario Franchitti
9-Scott Dixon

Row 2
12-Will Power
1-Ryan Hunter-Reay

Row 3
3-Helio Castroneves
83-Charlie Kimball

Row 4
19-Justin Wilson
15-Graham Rahal

Row 5
27-James Hinchcliffe
77-Simon Pagenaud

Row 6
25-Marco Andretti
7-Sebastien Bourdais

Row 7
14-Takuma Sato
55-Tristan Vautier (rookie)

Row 8
5-E.J. Viso
11-Tony Kanaan

Row 9
67-Josef Newgarden
98-J.R. Hildebrand

Row 10
16-James Jakes
6-Sebastian Saavedra

Row 11
4-Ryan Briscoe
78-Simona de Silvestro

Row 12
20-Ed Carpenter
97-Lucas Luhr (rookie)

Row 13
*18-James Davison (rookie)

Drivers in italics will start on the alternate Firestone tires
*18-Davison has been penalized for an unapproved engine change; he qualified 21st on Saturday.

Lewis Hamilton comes home to Mercedes factory after fourth title

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On Monday, the Formula 1 schedule finally allowed teams to be in Europe before heading to Abu Dhabi for this weekend’s season finale.

And as such, that provided a window for now four-time World Champion Lewis Hamilton to return to the Mercedes AMG Petronas factories in Brackley and Brixworth to be celebrated for taking the driver’s title, as Hamilton an Valtteri Bottas delivered Mercedes its fourth straight constructor’s title.

Hamilton was at Brixworth, the home ofΒ Mercedes-AMG High Performance Powertrains (HPP) and its highly successful Mercedes-Benz Power Units first before heading to Brackley, where he was welcomed with a “guard of honor” as the entire team came out to greet him.

The champion was overwhelmed at the response and the welcome.

“This a very emotional day. I was not expecting this, thanks everyone for the warm welcome,” he said. “Today is something that I will never forget, turning up at the front gate of the factory and seeing everyone out on the street to welcome me – I’m blown away.

“This has been an incredible year, it’s been an incredible journey together. There’s a huge amount of respect and appreciation I have for everyone. I’ve been in the sport for a long time now, but to see the work ethic in Brixworth and Brackley really inspires me. Every time I come around, I see everyone operating at 100%, which encourages me to bring my best performance.

“Thank you all for helping me achieve my dreams, it would not have been possible without you. This is the best championship year, because we’ve been fighting another team and because we’ve had the difficulties and challenges we’ve had – that just makes it so much greater.”

A social roundup of images and videos are below, all via Hamilton and the Mercedes team on social media.