Abu Dhabi GP Paddock Notebook – Sunday

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ABU DHABI – The 2014 Formula 1 season came to a dramatic end in Abu Dhabi today as Lewis Hamilton clinched his second world championship, capitalizing on the demise of teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg.

After making a perfect start to seize the lead at the first corner, Hamilton moved into a stable but slim lead ahead of Rosberg, whose title hopes went up in smoke when the ERS system in his engine failed, breaking his Mercedes. He would eventually finish the race in 14th place.

Hamilton didn’t have it all his own way at the front, though, as Williams’ Felipe Massa ran him close in the dying stages of the race. Ultimately though, the Briton would clinch his second world title in perfect fashion – by winning the race.

It may not have been the epic tussle out on track that we wanted, but it was an exciting finish in Abu Dhabi all the same. Arguably, the right man won the title (even Nico said so), but one thing is for sure: there is going to be one incredible party in the city tonight.

Not only did the 2014 season come to an end today, but a number of important eras in Formula 1 did. This is a race that will be remembered for years to come, much like the opening round of the year in Melbourne.

And what’s more: double points did not matter one little bit in the title fight. Conspiracy theorists, you can relax.

So for one last time in 2014, here is the Paddock Notebook from Abu Dhabi.

RACE REPORT

PADDOCK NEWS

THOUGHTS FROM THE TRACK

What. A. Finale. No, it wasn’t the all-out fight between Lewis and Nico we so desperately wanted, but it was still a suitably dramatic and exciting end to a thrilling season. Abu Dhabi delivered a fine finish to the 2014 Formula 1 season today.

Firstly, huge congratulations to our new world champion, Lewis Hamilton. For the second time, the Briton is on top of the world, and few can say that he didn’t deserve to win it. Both he and Nico would have been worthy champions, but with 11 wins to his name, it is a convincing win. The margin of victory in the end is 67 points – an almighty win, really, given that Rosberg only finished 79 ahead of Ricciardo.

The stand-out statistic from Abu Dhabi is that Lewis Hamilton scored 193 of the possible 200 points in the final seven races of the year. It’s an unbelievable record that proves he got everything right just when it mattered.

We must send our commiserations to Nico Rosberg, though, who was a valiant championship contender in 2014. It’s gutting to see a title race ended by a technical failure, but that is the nature of motorsport. It was wonderful to see the two Mercedes drivers embrace following the race’s conclusion, with Nico congratulating Lewis on a great win and saying that the Briton deserved the title. Very gracious and humble, it has to be said, from Rosberg.

However, this does go down as a big opportunity missed for Rosberg. The last thing he will want to do is be remembered like Felipe Massa and Eddie Irvine as nearlymen for the title. He deserves another shot at being the best in the world, and 2015 should see him and Lewis fighting it out once again. If this year is anything to go by, it promises to be a thriller.

Williams enjoyed a very successful race in Abu Dhabi today, finishing second and third. Massa’s strategy was the right way to go, and although he didn’t win the race, he did come very close indeed. If the British team can make the same kind of progress over the winter as it did last year, 2015 could see the team achieve even bigger and better things.

Finishing third in the constructors’ championship is a remarkable result for Williams, especially as it was so far ahead of Ferrari in the final standings – over 100 points clear. The Prancing Horse’s season ended in disappointing fashion with Fernando Alonso finishing ninth in his final race for Ferrari ahead of Raikkonen in tenth. With just two podiums and no wins in 2014, this year will go down as one of the marque’s worst ever in F1. 2015 should provide bigger and better things with Sebastian Vettel leading the team’s charge, though.

Vettel himself was quiet today, finishing eighth after starting in the pits, and was upstaged once again by teammate Daniel Ricciardo. The Australian driver finished in fourth place on Sunday, capping off a quite incredible first year with the team.

The end to Sauber’s season was just the same as its beginning and middle: pointless (take whichever meaning you want). The Swiss team finishes the year P10 in the constructors with zero points behind Marussia, who didn’t even turn up to the final three races and actually doesn’t exist any more.

Finally, well done to Will Stevens for finishing the race in Abu Dhabi, even if he was a lap down in 17th place. The British driver’s F1 debut was a difficult one under the circumstances that Caterham were racing, so getting to the line was a good achievement.

***

Where did 2014 go? That’s all for now though. We’ll be bringing you more features and reaction from Abu Dhabi over the next few days on MotorSportsTalk, and be sure to keep an eye out for our season reviews over the coming weeks.

Finally, on behalf of Tony, Chris, Jerry and myself, thank you for all of your support across the course of the 2014 season. It has been a pleasure to report on such a thrilling year of grand prix racing.

111 days to go until the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

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

Helio Castroneves IMSA IndyCar
IMSA
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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.”