As Hamilton’s march continues, Rosberg is in disarray

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It’s quite rare for a driver to win four races in a row. It’s even rarer for a driver to do it twice in the same season. In fact, it’s so rare that Lewis Hamilton became the first driver in F1 history to manage it yesterday in Russia.

Having claimed nine race wins this year, Hamilton is not only squeezing the life out of Nico Rosberg’s championship hopes, but he is also arguably making his teammate a rather forgettable title protagonist.

If Lewis can round out the last three races to win seven on the bounce, his victory margin of at least 45 points will look convincing, even if we have had to go to the final round of the season.

As uninspiring as the race in Sochi was, Hamilton took an important win on his march to the drivers’ championship. It was an easy event for most of the drivers, with Kevin Magnussen comparing it to a “chilled out Sunday drive”. Hamilton went wire-to-wire and seemed very relaxed throughout. There was no mad rush as we saw in Singapore – he took the race by the throat, and with it, the championship.

Rosberg’s race was much the opposite, though. As he tried to find a way through at turn two, Nico locked up his front tires, sending a wave of smoke over the oncoming pack. He did move into the lead after cutting the corner, but fairly gave the position back before ducking into the pits for a fresh set of tires. Making them last 52 laps was a remarkable achievement, and no man worked harder than the German on Sunday, but he still came up short.

It marks Rosberg’s sixth straight defeat, four of which have come at the hands of Hamilton. He has now won less than half of the races that his teammate has (9-4 to Hamilton), and, arguably, hasn’t had the measure of his teammate very often this season, if at all. The only time Rosberg has won when they have both started on the front row came in Monaco.

Consider this: without double points in Abu Dhabi, Hamilton would need to outscore Rosberg by just eight points in the next two races to be champion.

Rosberg has certainly enjoyed the best season of his Formula 1 career in 2014, there is no denying that. He has more pole positions than Hamilton, and his wins in Germany and Austria were particularly impressive.

Until recently, I still firmly believed that Nico would win the world championship, my thinking being that although Lewis is the quicker driver, Nico would make fewer mistakes. Yet his recent form has been marked by a number of errors, with the most recent one coming on Sunday in Russia. As a result, Hamilton has the title in the palm of his hand.

The big turning point came at Spa when Rosberg and Hamilton made contact on the second lap of the race, forcing the Briton out of the race with a puncture. By finishing second, Rosberg extended his championship lead to 29 points, yet the events following the race dealt a serious blow to his title hopes.

When Hamilton revealed to the media after the race in Belgium that Nico had “basically said he did it on purpose”, the psychological battle was won. Ever since, Rosberg hasn’t looked the same. His mistakes could be taken as proof of this.

Maybe it’s the experience of a title battle. Hamilton has one victory to his name from 2008, and was also in the running for titles in 2007 and 2010. For Rosberg, 2014 is the first chance to win a championship. He lacks the experience Hamilton has in this regard.

The mathematical advantage may be the one that counts at the end of the season, but it can be a byproduct of the psychological one. Lewis has both now, thus making him the overwhelming favorite for the championship.

Three races to go and 100 points to play for. It’s been a great season, but the championship may not be as close as we thought it would be come the checkered flag in Abu Dhabi.

Helio Castroneves ‘hustling’ for IndyCar, IMSA rides; talking with four to five teams

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
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As his season gathers steam, Helio Castroneves said his prospects for finding new rides for 2021 in IMSA and IndyCar also are gaining momentum.

The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner said Monday he is optimistic about landing in either or perhaps a combination of both series when Team Penske and Acura end their DPi partnership after this season.

“A lot of people I spoke with, four to five teams, are interested,” Castroneves said. “Whether it’s doing Indy 500 only, whether it’s pushing to do full time or do the sports cars as well. It’s been a very nice conversation.

LOOKING AHEADTeam Penske drivers seeking new rides for 2021

“I have a lot of respect for all the teams that have been talking, and I feel the same feedback. We just have to wait for their (sponsor) connections, and I’m also looking for some connections on my side as well, so hopefully we’ll be able to put this together and get something very soon.”

Given two decades of success with Penske in IndyCar and IMSA, Castroneves’ resume hardly needs burnishing. But the Brazilian has combined with co-driver Ricky Taylor in the No. 7 Acura DPi to win the past two overall victories at Road America and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

But Castroneves, who doesn’t have a manager, said he has been working the phones hard rather than wait for the strong results to bring in the calls.

“At this point, I feel like I’m the one who needs to be talking to them because people need to know I want to continue racing and understand my desire,” Castroneves, 45, said. “There is opportunity, no question, in both (IndyCar and IMSA), which I’m really happy about it. However, because of the COVID-19, a lot of things sometimes have to be a little delayed. But I’m excited. Whatever the opportunity and whatever destiny guides me, whether IndyCar or sports cars, trust me I’ll be as happy as it could be and doing my 100 percent like I always did.

“It’s like politics, you need to be out there, good news or bad news. People have to make notice of your presence. I’m hustling. I want to continue to keep it going. Hopefully, we’ll have good news very soon.”

The news has been all good lately on track for Castroneves and Taylor, who hope to continue their run Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The No. 6 duo has surged to sixth in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship standings, 10 points out of the lead with four races remaining. After thinking there was “no hope” to be competitive after opening the season with three consecutive poor finishes, Taylor now sees an opportunity for a happy ending.

“With the program going away, Helio has won all the big races and given so much back to the team and left such a mark, he’s really part of Penske history,” Taylor said. “For me, it’s been an opportunity of a lifetime to be a part of it. I’d like to leave my little mark as well. Helio has won everything except for a championship.

“Obviously, we’ve won races already together, but we can win a championship now. I think if both of us can do that together and both win our first championship for ‘The Captain,’ that would be an absolute dream come true, and we can tie a bow on it and be happy.”