High stakes battles for lower places in constructors’ championship

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The championship trophies may have been decided for another year but there are three big battles further down the rankings to keep an eye on in the final two races.

Mercedes vs Ferrari vs Lotus

2. Mercedes 334
3. Ferrari 323 (-11)
4. Lotus 297 (-37)

No one wants to be runner-up in Formula One but the financial reward that comes with it is not to be sniffed at. Particularly for Lotus, who are scrapping with these names despite having half the budget of the likes of Ferrari.

That would make a higher finishing position especially valuable for Lotus who, as last weekend showed, are in need of the funds at the moment. What makes the situation delicate from their point of view is that one of their drivers engaged in the task of trying to take points off Ferrari will be driving for that team next year: Kimi Raikkonen.

Mercedes have edged away from this contest in the last two races but Ferrari expect to be more competitive from now on, particularly in Brazil, where they have tended to go well.

McLaren vs Force India vs Sauber

5. McLaren 95
6. Force India 77 (-18)
7. Sauber 45 (-50)

Two races ago it seemed a foregone conclusion Sauber would overhaul Force India and an outside chance they could catch McLaren. The latter prospect has diminished due to Sauber’s two consecutive no-scores as Nico Hulkenberg has suffered various misfortunes and Esteban Gutierrez has failed to replicate his Suzuka form.

Instead Force India might just pinch fifth in the championship off McLaren.

Marussia vs Caterham

10. Marussia 0 (Best result: 13th)
11. Caterham 0 (Best result: 14th)

Marussia have been ahead of Caterham all season long, mostly thanks to Jules Bianchi’s 13th place in Malaysia. But as they discovered last year, when Caterham turned the tables on them in Brazil, it’s not over until the last lap of the last race.

The prize money gap between the unrewarded 11th place and the top ten earners is believed to be an eight-figure sum, a considerable reward for the smallest teams on the grid.

Danica says goodbye: ‘Definitely not a great ending’ but ‘I’m for sure grateful’

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INDIANAPOLIS – Danica Patrick’s final racing news conference didn’t but at least she didn’t lose her sense of humor about it.

“Is that like the Oscars when they close the show out?” Patrick joked when her opening address was drowned out by the midrace broadcast of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 in the media center. “Take my mic away. I’ll leave. I promise. I don’t really want to be here because I’m pretty sad, but all right. I guess I’ll stop there.”

That was about as lighthearted as it got, though, for the most accomplished female driver in racing history after the final start of her career. That naturally made for some reflection, too.

“I will say that I’m for sure very grateful for everybody,” she said. “It still was a lot of great moments this month. A lot of great moments this year.”

Patrick was the first woman to lead both the Indianapolis 500 (in her 2005 debut) and the Daytona 500 (in 2013 when she also was the first female to qualify on pole position in NACAR history).

But she couldn’t bookend that with similarly memorable finishes. After crashing out of her final two Cup races in the November 2017 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and the 2018 Daytona 500, Indy concluded the same way.

“Definitely not a great ending,” she said. “But I kind of said before I came here that it could be a complete disaster, as in not in the ballpark at all. And look silly, then people may remember that. And if I win, people will remember that.

“Probably anything in between might just be a little part of the big story. So I kind of feel like that’s how it is. I’m appreciative for all the fans, for GoDaddy, for Ed Carpenter Racing, for IndyCar. Today was a tough day. A little bit of it was OK. A lot of it was just a typical drive.”

Beforehand, Patrick seemed relaxed while smiling and laughing outside her car with a tight circle of close friends and family that included her parents and boyfriend Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers quarterback.

“For sure, I was definitely nervous,” she said about her first Indy 500 start in seven years. “I found myself most of the time on the grid being confused what part of prerace we were in. I was like, ‘I remember this,’ and ‘Where are the Taps?’ and ‘When is the anthem?’ but I had all my people around me, so I was in good spirits.”

And with that, she bid adieu.

“Thank you guys,” she said. “Thank you for everything. I’ll miss you. Most of the time. Maybe you’ll miss me just a little. Thanks, guys.”