Scott Speed will enter this year’s Red Bull Global Rallycross finale as the hunter rather than the hunted compared to his Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammate Tanner Foust.
A year ago, Speed held the edge going into the 2015 finale at Las Vegas. Rain and nightmarish conditions greeted Red Bull GRC’s field of contenders, but Speed emerged on top for his first professional championship, and the first for the Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross team.
Now, Speed has a 13-point deficit to overcome as he looks to retain his crown. But he’s headed to a perfect site to do it – in Los Angeles last year, Speed won both races of the doubleheader.
This weekend marks Rounds 10 and 11 of the season, Red Bull GRC Los Angeles Presented by Honda (3 p.m. ET, NBC) and Speed, who has three wins this year to Foust’s four, will seek an encore of his 2015 performance and capture the title back.
Even though he’s keen to beat Foust, Speed has spoken highly of the mutual respect the two of them have had for each other throughout their stint as teammates.
“We have enough mutual respect to race each other clean,” Speed told NBC Sports. “Three years now, we’ve never really run into each other… or at least not intentionally! So that goes a long way. Clean weekends, less failures, and it’s nice.”
Speed finished off the podium last race out in Seattle and that cost him the points lead after his midseason run of three consecutive race wins at MCAS New River, Washington, D.C. and Atlantic City.
“We’ve had the short end of the luck stick recently but it’s turning around right now,” Speed said after the Atlantic City win. “We’ll look forward to continue to rattle off the pole positions, and having clean qualifyings, because that hurt us in the beginning of the year.
“Even Phoenix the start of season was a disaster. We were lucky to qualify second when we did. We broke in one of the finals. Ending fifth or sixth, we were lucky to finish with a broken car. Lots of little gremlins at start of year but knock on wood, it’s been clean since then.”
Speed has spoken highly about racing in Los Angeles and looks forward to the opportunity to deliver there.
“We’ve been strong all year and as long as we stay clean in LA, I’m confident that the team can grab some more great results to wrap up the season,” Speed said.
“It’s always exciting to come out to LA and I’m looking forward to putting on a great show for some passionate rallycross fans.”
The German Grand Prix continues its biennial presence on the Formula 1 calendar – it’s hosted F1 events in even numbered years since 2014 – as Formula 1 returns to the Hockenheimring this weekend.
The German fans will undoubtedly be joyful in Sebastian Vettel entering his home race in the championship lead, by nine points over Lewis Hamilton. Yet, somewhat surprisingly, Vettel despite being one of the most successful and decorated drivers of his generation, Vettel has won in Germany only once (2013, at the Nurburgring) and he has never won at Hockenheim.
Conversely, Hamilton has won in Germany three times, including twice at Hockenheim (2008 and 2016).
As such, Vettel will hope to add to his points lead over Hamilton with a win on home soil, though Hamilton may be equally as motivated after watching Vettel his own home race at Silverstone two weeks ago.
Nevertheless, their 2018 championship duel will most certainly continue to be closely fought.
Talking points ahead of the German Grand Prix are below.
A Different World in 2018 vs. 2016
The Formula 1 landscape looked completely different back in 2016, the last time Formula 1 visited the Hockenheimring. Bernie Ecclestone was still the chief executive of Formula 1.
Nico Rosberg was partnering Lewis Hamilton in the Mercedes team, and was on his way to a driver’s championship that year.
Vettel and teammate Kimi Raikkonen were in the midst of a slump as Ferrari went winless in 2016.
The world was still getting to know a then 18-year-old Max Verstappen, the young Dutchman having won the Spanish Grand Prix in May that year.
And the cars looked completely different, with skinnier and taller rear wings and taller rear tires highlighting the appearance differences.
In 2018, Vettel and Ferrari might be the strongest combination. Rosberg is long from Mercedes, and Valtteri Bottas is doing his best to shine in the wake of Hamilton’s enormous shadow.
Verstappen is still a rising star, though he has come under fire at times for overly aggressive driving and his Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo has garnered more headlines this year, with a pair of race wins alongside his status as an F1 free agent after 2018.
In short, the Formula 1 landscape is hardly recognizable from what it was back in 2016. And even though Hamilton won that year, followed by Ricciardo and Verstappen in second and third, very little will carry over from that race two years ago.
Hamilton, Mercedes Look to Take Back Momentum from Vettel, Ferrari
The seesaw championship fight has tilted back in the favor of Ferrari, with Vettel leading Hamilton after finishes of third and first in Austria and England. Hamilton, meanwhile, DNF’ed in Austria and came home second in England after spinning on Lap 1.
Hamilton trails by nine points, but this is hardly an unfamiliar position for Hamilton in 2018 – he started the year trailing Vettel until he took the championship lead for the first time after the Azerbaijan Grand Prix.
Both teams have had multiple swings of momentum this year – Vettel won the opening two races before finishes of eighth in China (he spun after contact with Verstappen) and a pair of fourth place efforts in Azerbaijan and Spain before getting two more wins in Canada and England.
Hamilton, meanwhile stumbled out of the gates somewhat with finishes of second and third before taking a fortuitous win in Azerbaijan and two dominant wins in Spain and France before the misfortune in Austria.
All told the ebb and flow of the 2018 season seems to change with every race, and while Vettel now leads Hamilton again, things could change this weekend.
Raikkonen Trying to Fend off Ricciardo, Bottas
Kimi Raikkonen is somewhat of a forgotten man this Formula 1 season, but he does rank third in the championship at the moment, 10 points ahead of Ricciardo and 12 points ahead of Bottas.
However, both Ricciardo and Bottas are likely thought to have had better seasons – Ricciardo has the aforementioned wins (at China and Monaco) and the only thing that has kept Bottas from the top step of the podium is a string of horrendous luck.
However, Raikkonen, to his credit, has picked up the pieces whenever others around him have faltered, and he has six podium finishes through 10 races.
However, in order to fully silence any critics, and maybe even keep his Ferrari drive, Raikkonen would do well to get a win in 2018.
The driver challenging Raikkonen’s position within Ferrari is Sauber’s Charles Leclerc. The Ferrari junior driver has five points finishes, and that could have been six if not for a pit stop error at Silverstone that caused him to leave his pit stall with a loose wheel – it forced him to retire. Leclerc’s star is on the rise, and he could shine again in Germany.
Nico Hulkenberg is the “other” German driver on the grid. And though he has a 24 Hours of Le Mans win to his name, he is yet to finish on the podium in an F1 race. The Renault package may not be a podium threat in usual circumstances, but if he stays clean and others falter, he could sneak in there…and doing so in his home race would make that overdue podium even sweeter.
After a pair of eighth place finishes, Fernando Alonso has helped McLaren at least stop the bleeding after a dismal stretch of races from Monaco through France in which the team scored zero points. However, the team still has a long way to go, and Germany could be another weekend of struggles.