Rosberg: “It’s only one very small step”

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Nico Rosberg has taken his 11th, and most crucial, pole of the Formula One season for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix season finale.

Rosberg ends the year with an 11-7 pole edge over Mercedes AMG Petronas teammate Lewis Hamilton, who leads Rosberg by 17 points entering tomorrow’s race (7 a.m. ET, NBCSN and NBC Sports Live Extra).

However, Rosberg once again was quick to downplay the achievement and shift the focus to tomorrow’s race, where the World Championship between the two will be decided.

“It was a great day again for sure,” Rosberg said during the TV unilaterals. “I’m thankful to the engineers and everything. They sorted out the car and I’m really happy with the setup.

“It was a good lap at the end. But of course it’s only one very small step. It’s about the championship, not pole position or anything. Valtteri (Bottas) said he got a perfect lap, but it would have been better if he got between us. Starting first is the best place to be.”

He had more to offer for the rest of the post-qualifying press conference, while Hamilton, who sat next to him, was in stark contrast with fewer words to say.

The stage is set for a dramatic conclusion, and of course much anticipation of the drivers’ run down to Turn 1. Rosberg, on the clean side of the track, should have the advantage.

Statistically speaking though, while Rosberg has had 10 prior poles this season, he’s only been able to convert three of them into victories. He did so at Monaco, Germany and last time out at Brazil.

“My mindset is I need to get the job done and continue on the form I had in Brazil in the race,” Rosberg admitted.

Rosberg is needing to be in full attack this weekend as he seeks his first championship; he’s done what he’s needed to do on Saturday to make it happen.

Porsche pulls GTLM cars from Mid-Ohio because of COVID-19 positives

Porsche Mid-Ohio COVID-19
David Rosenblum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Porsche will skip Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race with its two GTLM cars at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course after three positive COVID-19 tests were confirmed during the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

That resulted in Porsche choosing to pull out of the Nurburgring 24 Hour endurance race in Germany, electing to avoid sending any team members as a precautionary measure.

Porsche Motorsport announced Tuesday that its COVID-19 decision also would apply at Mid-Ohio to its No. 911 and No. 12 teams.

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Three of Porsche’s four IMSA GTLM drivers — Laurens Vanthoor, Frederic Makowiecki and Nick Tandy — also were racing in Le Mans. The trio has remained isolated in Europe and won’t be allowed to travel.

“Based on yesterday’s decision that no employee or racing driver of our Le Mans team will participate in the Nürburgring 24 Hours, we have today decided that this ruling will also apply to the upcoming IWSC race in Mid-Ohio,” Fritz Enzinger, vice president for Porsche Motorsport, said in a release. “This means that Laurens, Nick and Fred will not be traveling to the USA.

“This is very regrettable, but we would like to emphasize that in this case as well the health of all those concerned is the prime focus of the decisions we have taken.”

The decision also affects Earl Bamber, who teamed with Vanthoor to win the GTLM championship last year in the No. 912.

Porsche said its GTLM Porsche 911 RSR-19 entries will return for the Oct. 10 race at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval.

That will reduce the GTLM class to four cars — two Corvettes and two BMWs — this weekend at Mid-Ohio, in what could be somewhat of a 2021 preview. Porsche Motorsport announced earlier this year that it will leave IMSA after the 2020 season because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.