Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Saturday

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ABU DHABI – Just when Lewis Hamilton appeared to have got the better of Nico Rosberg and was set on the right track to claiming his second world championship in Abu Dhabi on Sunday, the German threw a spanner in the works by claiming a sensational pole position at Yas Marina today.

The first signs of a Rosberg revival came in the final free practice session when he managed to edge out Hamilton at the top of the timesheets, but with the Briton still failing to hook up a lap, he was the favorite to bag pole once the sun had gone done.

However, it wasn’t to be. Instead, the Briton made a number of minor errors once again, causing him to fall three-tenths of a second short at the flag, handing Rosberg an 11th pole position of the year – it’s a remarkable record for the German to boast.

The German headed into today on the back foot, but has emerged in as strong a position as he could have realistically wished for. He is on pole position with Hamilton P2 and a fast-starting pair of Williams cars just behind. Heading to Championship Sunday, the war is far from over.

Rounding up all of the news and action from the paddock today, here’s the notebook.

SESSION REPORTS

PADDOCK NEWS

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

Just when Nico Rosberg appeared to have lost his way in Abu Dhabi, he found it again on Saturday by bagging his 11th pole position of the season. Say what you want about who deserves this championship more or who has been the better driver, but on a Saturday, Nico has been in a class of his own.

The result means that, for the first time since 1969, one engine manufacturer has scored pole position for every race of the season. Mercedes’ works team has claimed 18 of the 19, with Williams – powered by the three-pointed star – picking up the remainder in Austria. Given that Ford’s achievement in 1969 came in an 11-race season, Mercedes’ is arguably the most impressive the sport has seen.

For Rosberg, today went as well as it could. He knows that the championship is out of his hands now, so all he can do is win the race in Abu Dhabi tomorrow. Starting on pole position is the best way to go about it, of course, and the pace of Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa on the second row of the grid will give Nico some confidence. Maybe someone can finish between himself and Lewis tomorrow?

If Lewis can keep his cool, then it is unlikely. In terms of race pace, Mercedes is still light years ahead of the field, but a poor start for Hamilton and a bit of frustration could give Nico a chance. Lewis must remember that all he has to do is finish second – he would like to win, but a second title is the most important prize on offer tomorrow.

Red Bull’s exclusion from qualifying was the big news on Saturday night, though, leaving the journalists with a very late night in the media centre. The stewards deemed the front wing on both Red Bull cars to be illegal, thus warranting their exclusion.

Red Bull pleaded its innocence, with the technical staff heading down to the stewards’ office with an armful of paperwork, only for their protests to be futile. The team did say in a statement that it felt “singled out”, yet the FIA had checked the other cars accordingly – it had been singled out because it had contravened the regulations. Quite simple, really.

The importance of tomorrow’s race cannot be underestimated. Not only will the world championship be decided, but it also marks the end of many eras in Formula 1. Seb will start his last race for Red Bull at the back, Fernando starts eighth after a very poor performance today, and Jenson Button may be starting his final grand prix from P6.

At the front though, we have the perfect scenario. One race to go, our championship protagonists side by side on the front row of the grid. It all comes down to this: the showdown at sundown; the desert duel; Nico versus Lewis.

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Be sure to join us for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix live on NBCSN and Live Extra from 7a ET tomorrow. It promises to be a thrilling race.

Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.