Seventeen down, just two to go. The 2014 Formula 1 season is quickly coming to a close, with just two-and-a-half weeks to go until our champion is crowned under the lights in Abu Dhabi.
We know with certainty that the title will not be decided in Brazil this weekend by virtue of the controversial double points rule. Lewis Hamilton may lead the way by 24 points, but Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg is still an ever-present threat, particularly with the reliability of the W05’s coming into question over the past few races.
Were Abu Dhabi not a double points round, Hamilton would most probably win his second title in Brazil this weekend. Having won the past five races, the Briton would ordinarily have needed to outscore Rosberg by just a single point to be champion. Alas, he will have to bide his time, knowing that a DNF in the final race in Abu Dhabi could hand his German teammate the title.
Brazil has a rich heritage in Formula 1, but the Interlagos circuit has undergone a few changes for this year’s as part of its redevelopment programme. The pit entry has been altered slightly, and a new paddock complex is set to be in place for the 2015 race.
With rain forecast, the site of many a classic grand prix could yet provide us with another race that will play a pivotal role in deciding the destination of this year’s world championship.
2014 Brazilian Grand Prix – Talking Points
Lewis, Nico and double points
Having the championship be decided by double points has been the fear for many in Formula 1 this season, but there is a possibility it might just happen. The very fact that Lewis Hamilton cannot win the title as he should be able to in Brazil this weekend will rile many, but Rosberg is less bothered – after all, it works in his favor.
In reality, this weekend’s race in Brazil is unlikely to have a huge bearing on the title in terms of mathematics unless Rosberg retires. The German driver needs to keep the pressure on Lewis right to the final round, but certainly appears to have lost the mojo that put him in control of the championship back in July.
Sauber’s three-into-two contract debacle
Sauber sprung a surprise on the entire F1 paddock in Austin by confirming that Marcus Ericsson would be racing for the team next year, and then did it again by announcing Felipe Nasr as his teammate. This left all four of its current drivers – Adrian Sutil, Esteban Gutierrez, Giedo van der Garde and Sergey Sirotkin – out in the cold for 2015.
However, Sutil does still have a contract with the team, meaning that he will have to be paid off. He has said that firm talks do need to be held so both the team and the driver can know what direction they are heading in, but for the time being, things seem to be pretty awkward at Sauber.
Massa’s homecoming will be sweeter than ever
As the only Brazilian driver on the grid, Felipe Massa has had the nation’s hopes of success in F1 resting on his shoulders for some time. Since his win at Interlagos in 2008 (the same day he lost the title by a single point) though, he hasn’t been in the frame for a big result, playing second fiddle to Fernando Alonso at Ferrari.
This year though, that has all changed. With Williams, Massa has been resurgent, enjoying a very successful season that has yielded one pole position and one podium. His tally would be a great deal higher had it not been for some bad luck, but in Brazil this weekend he can set his sights on a big result that would send the crowd wild.
Is Fernando any closer to a decision?
In Austin last weekend, Fernando Alonso spoke of his great and ambitious plans for 2015 which appear to have nothing to do with Ferrari. However, his definition of “ambitious” may be a great deal to this writer’s given that he looks likely to move to McLaren for 2015.
Paddock speculation suggests that the team is now growing tired of negotiations dragging out, with Alonso considering a one-year deal to tide him until a seat at Mercedes might (but probably won’t) become available. The Spaniard might do well to cut his losses and accept a move to a team that should be fighting back at the front next year.
Brazil marks two years of hurt for JB and McLaren
As my MotorSportsTalk colleague Tony DiZinno wrote yesterday, this weekend’s race in Brazil marks two years since the last victory for both Jenson Button and McLaren. Since then, the team has struggled to fight at the front of the field, enjoying another so-so year in 2014 that leaves it fifth in the constructors’ championship.
Although the team does appear to be on the cusp of a revival, Button will know that it could come after his time as he nears the exit after five seasons at Woking, most likely to make way for Alonso. A big result in Brazil would be a big boost for the team ahead of the final race in Abu Dhabi.
Brazilian Grand Prix – Facts and Figures
Track: Autodromo Jose Carlos Pace (Interlagos) Laps: 71 Corners: 15 Lap Record: Juan Pablo Montoya 1:11.473 (2004) Tire Compounds: Soft (Option); Medium (Prime) 2013 Winner: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 2013 Pole Position: Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull) 1:26.479 2013 Fastest Lap: Mark Webber (Red Bull) 1:15.436 DRS Zones: Main Straight (T15 to T1); T3 to T4
Brazilian Grand Prix – TV Times
Free Practice 1: NBC Sports Live Extra 11/7 7a ET Free Practice 2: NBCSN 11/7 11a ET Free Practice 3: NBC Sports Live Extra 11/8 8a ET Qualifying: CNBC 11/8 11am ET Race: CNBC 11/8 10:30am ET
For full broadcasting details for the Brazilian Grand Prix, click here.
INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.
It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.
“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.
From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.
They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.
Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.
Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.
“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.
“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.
“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”
There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.
“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.
“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”
Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.
“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.
“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.
“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.
“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.
“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”
“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.
“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”
Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.
“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.
“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.
“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.
“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”
Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.
“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”
Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.
Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.
“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.
“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”
Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).
Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.
Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.
Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.
“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.
“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.
“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”
Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.
“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.
“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”
“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”
Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.
“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.
“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”
When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.
Power’s Victory Lap was complete.
“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.