Nico Rosberg has never looked weaker in this F1 title fight

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Nico Rosberg has seen his fortunes take a dramatic turn for the worse over the past four months. After winning the German Grand Prix at Hockenheim in July, he seemed to be on top of the world and well in the fight for his maiden F1 world championship. Since then though, he has grown increasingly weak, and is now staring down the barrel of a huge defeat to Lewis Hamilton at the top of the standings.

Rosberg’s win at Hockenheim capped off something of a perfect 10-day period. In that time, he had got married, seen Germany win the FIFA World Cup, signed a new long-term deal with Mercedes and scored pole position on home soil. By winning his home race, he had increased his championship lead to 14 points and appeared to have Hamilton under the thumb.

Yet Lewis has since found his feet after a difficult run of bad luck. Ever since the Belgian Grand Prix that saw the two drivers clash out on track, Hamilton has been in fine fettle, with Rosberg left reeling. He may have 10 second-place finishes in 2014, but Lewis has 10 wins – that’s a 70 point difference just there.

Let’s see how attentive you have been this season. Two questions:

1. When has Lewis Hamilton fought back and passed Nico Rosberg for a race win this season?

2. When has Nico Rosberg fought back and passed Lewis Hamilton for a race win this season?

Starting with question one, the answer is on three occasions: Italy, Japan and Austin. At each of those events, Hamilton was left with a task of catching Rosberg, and he managed it. In Bahrain, he started from second place on the grid before eventually beating Rosberg at the finish, and he also managed to beat the German driver to third place in Hungary despite starting from the pit lane.

The point is that Lewis has fought his way back into races many times this season. Even when Rosberg won in Germany, Lewis had charged from P20 to the podium. They have been performances worthy of a world champion.

Now to question two. The answer? Never. Not once has Rosberg fought his way past Hamilton for a race win this season. For three of his four wins, Nico has started ahead of Lewis, with the fourth coming in Australia when the Briton retired in the early stages of the race.

But has Rosberg had the opportunity to do exactly that? Yes. In fact, he has squandered nine chances to pass or re-pass Hamilton and take a race win or big result this year – Malaysia, Bahrain, China, Spain, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Russia and Austin. It is not the makings of a champion, that is for sure.

As the season has wore on, Rosberg has been made to look all the more average. Although the margins between Hamilton and himself are by no means great at the checkered flag, they are still enough. When Lewis has been presented the chance to outpace and beat Nico, he has done it. Rosberg simply hasn’t.

So with two races to go in the 2014 F1 season, Nico needs to change that. His hopes appear to be precariously pinned on Lewis hitting trouble in Abu Dhabi and retiring from the race, allowing the German driver to claim a controversial double points victory. It would be an incredibly hollow way to win a championship, and would spark outrage in the F1 community. However, it seems to be his best chance.

If Rosberg suffers yet another defeat in Brazil next weekend, he will trail Hamilton by at least 31 points heading to Abu Dhabi. That means Lewis could afford to finish third in the final race with Nico winning and still win the title. In fact, Lewis can finish second in both races and will be champion by three points, assuming Rosberg wins at Interlagos and Yas Marina.

Of course, that isn’t Lewis’ style. He’ll be gunning to finish the season with seven straight wins. Should he do so, his winning margin at the end of the year would be at least 47 points, making it look like a very comfortable win indeed – and in reality, it has been quite comfortable for Lewis in recent weeks.

Nico Rosberg must turn it around now, although it may already be too late as his fire for the 2014 drivers’ championship begins to fizzle out.

Helio Castroneves will replace ailing Oliver Askew for IndyCar at IMS

Helio Castroneves replacing Askew
James Black/IndyCar
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Helio Castroneves will return to the NTT IndyCar Series next weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, replacing Arrow McLaren SP driver Oliver Askew in the No. 7 Dallara- Chevrolet.

The team announced in a Thursday release that Askew wasn’t cleared by the IndyCar medical team after reporting “a balance and coordination issue” after the Sept. 12-13 race weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer reported that Askew has been experiencing the concussion-like symptoms since his Aug. 23 wreck in the Indy 500.

Askew was placed in IndyCar’s Return to Racing Protocol. The rookie has endured an up-and-down season, suffering another hard crash at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the July 4 race on the road course. He also finished third and sixth on back-to-back races at Iowa Speedway in July.

“This was an incredibly tough call but I have to follow the advice of the INDYCAR Medical Team and my doctors,” Askew said in the release. “My priority right now is focusing on my health. Despite not being in the car, I will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Harvest GP, giving whatever insight and support to Arrow McLaren SP that I can.”

Castroneves will be driving this weekend at Mid-Ohio for Team Penske in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The three-time Indianapolis 500 winner has said he actively is seeking a ride for the 2021 season in IndyCar or IMSA with the demise of Penske’s DPi program as Acura switches to new teams next year.

Here’s the release from Arrow McLaren SP:

Arrow McLaren SP driver Oliver Askew will withdraw from the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix, after being declared not fit to drive by the INDYCAR Medical Team.

Following the INDYCAR race at Mid-Ohio, Oliver reported a balance and coordination issue, which triggered an examination from the INDYCAR Medical Team. As a result, Oliver is not medically cleared to race and is subject to INDYCAR’s Return to Racing Protocol.

“This was an incredibly tough call but I have to follow the advice of the INDYCAR Medical Team and my doctors. My priority right now is focusing on my health,” Askew said. “Despite not being in the car, I will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Harvest GP, giving whatever insight and support to Arrow McLaren SP that I can.”

Askew will be replaced in the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet by Helio Castroneves for the upcoming doubleheader Harvest GP at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

“The welfare of Oliver, our team members and fellow competitors is paramount,” said Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt.

“We therefore support Oliver and the decision of INDYCAR. Withdrawing to focus on his health and recovery is the right thing to do.”

Helio will join Pato O’Ward, driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, to complete the team’s driver lineup in Indianapolis.

“First and foremost, we wish Oliver the best and that he is able to take time to recover,” said Helio. “I look forward to getting back on track and helping to build on the great progress that Arrow McLaren SP has made this year.”