F1 Preview: 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

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When the checkered flag falls at the end of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday, and fireworks light up the night sky above Yas Marina, there will be a mix of emotions up and down the Formula 1 paddock.

For either Nico Rosberg or Lewis Hamilton, there will be sheer elation; a level of jubilance neither has previously experienced, such would be the importance of winning the title to either driver.

For the likes of Felipe Massa and Jenson Button, in what looks to be the final F1 start for both drivers (albeit unconfirmed for Button), there will be sadness, pride and gratitude.

But the overwhelming feeling will be relief. At 21 races, the 2016 season has been the longest in F1 history, testing the paddock to its limits. It has been one of the most testing campaigns as well, particularly with an overhaul of the technical regulations on the cards for 2017, forcing teams to split development.

We are, however, guaranteed a championship showdown that will be memorable. Rosberg arrives in Abu Dhabi as the strong favorite, needing just a podium finish to secure a maiden world championship. Hamilton, meanwhile, enters the finale off the back of three hugely convincing victories that have ramped up the pressure on his teammate.

The cliches have already been exhausted: it’s the duel in the desert, it’s the showdown at sundown… etc. We’ve heard it all before. But can Abu Dhabi give the 2016 season one final twist in the tail on Sunday?

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Talking Points

The end is in sight for Rosberg

Nico Rosberg’s run to the 2016 title has been an odd one. He has nine victories to his name (as does Hamilton) and has only had a couple of bad races, yet his end to the year has been far from convincing. After his victory in Japan, all he needed to do was stay on the podium through the final four races; after three, that is exactly what he’s done.

Rounding out the season without winning would be a bit of a quiet note upon which to see out a championship, but will Nico care? He has taken the opportunities as they have come. The chance to emulate his father, Keke, who won the world title in 1982, is one that he will relish.

The biggest worry for him will probably be reliability. Rosberg was in Hamilton’s position back in 2014, facing improbable odds to win the title, yet there were reduced to nil when the ERS system on his car failed. It was a dud end to the championship fight.

Hamilton has had all the bad luck through 2016. Is Nico due a dose in Abu Dhabi?

Hamilton in all-out-attack mode

Lewis Hamilton may not be crowned world champion for a fourth time on Sunday, but if he can capture a 10th victory of the year, he would surely be remembered as the strongest runner-up in F1 history.

Sure, the luck hasn’t been there this year. But that’s racing. And after his mid-season digs and his questions for Mercedes in Malaysia, Hamilton appears to have settled into a relaxed mode through the final run of races. His victory in Brazil was, from the outside, one of the most impressive of his F1 career. Hamilton himself said that it was pretty easy…

Capping off the year with another victory would only further the questions about who deserved the title more. The Yas Marina Circuit is a track that Hamilton likes, having won here in 2011 and 2014, the latter securing him the championship. He should go strong here.

Start line tactics will obviously be a consideration – the idea of pushing Rosberg wide and dropping him down the order must have entered Hamilton’s head – but in reality, Hamilton knows that if he is to win the title on Sunday, he needs the luck that has eluded him all year long.

Verstappen, Ricciardo look to play spoilers

Max Verstappen won praise from all corners of the paddock with his wet-weather escapades in Brazil, drawing comparisons to Ayrton Senna at the 1984 Monaco Grand Prix, or Michael Schumacher in Spain in 1996.

But now the Dutchman and Red Bull teammate Daniel Ricciardo will be looking to play the role of party pooper for Rosberg in Abu Dhabi. Rosberg may only need a top-three finish, but stick the two Red Bulls between him and Hamilton – just as they finished at Hockenheim earlier this year – and the title is lost by a single point. Ouch.

Red Bull has been growing in strength through the closing part of the season, and look well-placed to mount a challenge for both championships next year. Getting in the mix up front on Sunday may prevent what some fear could be a rather anti-climactic end to the season.

Massa, Button gear up to say goodbye

Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will mark the end of an era in modern-day Formula 1 as Felipe Massa and Jenson Button gear up to make what will likely be their final starts in the sport.

Massa announced in September that he would be retiring at the end of the season, while Button is stepping back from his McLaren seat for 2017. Although the Briton has an option on an F1 drive with McLaren for 2018, most expect this to go unused unless Fernando Alonso decides to call it quits.

Button has been in every F1 race this millennium, while Massa’s career stretches back to 2002. Both have enjoyed the long, storied careers drivers dream of having. To see them off in Abu Dhabi on Sunday will be an emotional moment for the entire paddock.

While a farewell victory or podium may be out of reach, let’s hope both drivers can produce a big display to say goodbye with a decent haul of points.

What else is up for grabs?

While all eyes will be on Rosberg and Hamilton in the fight for the drivers’ championship, there are a few more battles to watch out for in Abu Dhabi this weekend:

  • Sebastian Vettel, Max Verstappen and Kimi Raikkonen will fight it out for fourth place in the drivers’ standings. 19 points separate the trio heading into the final race, with Verstappen making big inroads after his masterclass in Brazil.
  • Force India can secures its best-ever constructors’ championship finish this Sunday by holding on to fourth place. The team leads Williams by 27 points in the race for P4.
  • Manor will push to reclaim P10 in the constructors’ from Sauber, having dropping behind in Brazil after Felipe Nasr’s charge to ninth.

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – Facts and Figures

Track: Yas Marina Circuit
Corners: 21
Lap Record: Sebastian Vettel 1:40.279 (2009)
Tire Compounds: Soft/Super-Soft/Ultra-Soft
2015 Winner: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2015 Pole Position: Nico Rosberg (Mercedes) 1:40.237
2015 Fastest Lap: Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:44.517
DRS Zones: T21 to T1; T7 to T8

2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – TV Times

Free Practice 1: NBC Sports app 4am ET 11/25
Free Practice 2: NBCSN 8am ET 11/25
Free Practice 3: NBC Sports app 5am ET 11/26
Qualifying: NBCSN 8am ET 11/26
Race: NBCSN 7am ET 11/27

Jett Lawrence wins Hangtown Pro Motocross, remains perfect in 450s

Lawrence Hangtown Motocross
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Jett Lawrence remains perfect in the Pro Motocross series after recording another perfect round at Hangtown in Rancho Cordova, California. In his second start on a 450, Lawrence won his second National with his fourth consecutive moto win. It is getting increasingly difficult to find the right superlatives to describe the exploits on the reigning 250 West Supercross champion.

“The track was so brutal out there,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Jason Thomas. “The bike handles amazing even when it’s not too friendly. You had to be really patient; you couldn’t take too much. I didn’t eat enough before that second moto. I kind of lost energy halfway through, but luckily I could use technique and balance and just keep that flow going.”

Lawrence leaves Hangtown with an 18-point advantage over Ferrandis in the 450 Motocross standings, but perhaps more importantly, he climbed to 19th in the SuperMotocross standings and should he stay there, he has an automatic invitation to the Main events in the SMX Championship.

“On this track, you just have to manage,” Lawrence continued. “If you try to take too much and not respect the track, it will bite you very quickly. It was humbling on the first few laps. I got kicked on the cutout at the start of the third section, the tabletop going to the left. I had to get my focus because the boys were coming.”

Still in his first few races since returning from a concussion suffered at Houston in the Supercross series, Dylan Ferrandis finished second with results of third in Moto 1 and second in Moto 2. While Ferrandis was happy with the result, he remains hopeful that he will contend for victory shortly.

“The first moto was very hard for my physically, Ferrandis said. “I got arm pump and when you get arm pump your body gets tired. But I’m very happy because we made a big change for the second moto. We tried stuff every session today and in the last moto the bike was much better, but unfortunately I wasn’t sure what I could do with this bike because the track was very hard and difficult to pass.”

RESULTS: How they finished in the 450 Overall at Hangtown

With the rash of injuries at the end of the Supercross season, the podium was filled with heartwarming stories. Cooper Webb returned to action last week in Pala and failed to make the podium. He is steadily improving with a third-place finish in Hangtown. after finishing with a 4-2.

“It’s incredible what seven days can do,” Webb said. “Last week I felt like I was going to get lapped in the second moto. This week, I could see the leader. It was nice. I fought hard, learned how to suffer again there and that felt nice.

Moto 2 wasn’t pretty for Lawrence. On several occasions in the opening laps, he nearly high sided as he rode the front wheel through the ruts. The reward was worth the risk. By the halfway point, Lawrence had 4.5-second lead over Webb, who was embroiled in a tight three-rider battle for second with his teammate Aaron Plessinger pressuring him and Ferrandis ready to take advantage if those made contact.

It took 20 minutes for Plessinger to get around Webb and once he did, he trailed Lawrence by four seconds. But then, with three minutes remaining, Plessinger crashed and had difficulty restarting the bike, handing second back to Webb who has seven seconds behind Lawrence. Plessinger fell to fourth with results of third and sixth.

Adam Cianciarulo rounded out the top five with a 5-4.

Last week Hunter Lawrence won the overall with a 3-1. He repeated that feat in Hangtown in an exact replica of his Fox Raceway results last week. In Moto 1, Lawrence got off to a slow start and lost 10 seconds in the opening laps. Forced to overcome a sixth-place position in the race at the end of Lap 1, he once again caught the riders ahead of him when the field hit heavy traffic. For the second week, scored another 3-1 for the Hangtown National win.

“The start was crucial’ I knew I had to go,” Lawrence told NBC Sports’ Jason Thomas. “They laid a lot of water down, so I didn’t want to be behind any longer than [I was]. First hot one of the year, was a bit of a wakeup call, so I’m happy to get out of here safe and healthy.”

Lawrence’s third-place finish in Moto 1 featured a fierce battle for final spot on the podium when he caught Spain’s Guillem Farres and France’s Tom Vialle. With Lawrence hailing from Australia, the international nature of the sport was highlighted.

Lawrence left Hangtown with a 10-point advantage over Haiden Deegan in the Pro Motocross championship battle.

Click here for 250 overall results

Justin Cooper finished second in both motos to finish second overall. Hangtown represented a huge improvement from Fox Raceway where he finished fifth overall with a 5-4 finish in the two motos. Cooper pressured Haiden Deegan in the second half of Moto 1 and he earned the holeshot in the second moto and stayed within three seconds of Lawrence in that race.

“He was following me a little bit, checking out my lines, seeing where he was better,” Cooper said. “It’s disappointing to give up the lead like that but it was way better than last weekend. I will definitely take two seconds. I want to be on the top of the step. I feel like I get close to the top step but I never get it done. That’s building up the frustration – the fire. I really want to get one of these wins, so it’s time to start digging.”

Haiden Deegan earned the first holeshot of his career in Moto 1 and rode away from the field, building a four-second lead in the opening laps. Cooper trimmed the lead at the halfway point and for a while it leveled off at two seconds. Then Cooper made another charge with three to go and closed to within a second. Deegan was biding his time, however.

“I was saving a little. I knew at the end Justin was going to try and put a charge on. I let him get up close and then sent it super hard at the end to break him a little at the end.”

Deegan’s first moto win comes in only his fourth National and he remains perfect in regard to podiums this year.

“This was a dream since I was a little kid, to win,” Deegan said. “And in my fourth race, it’s gnarly. I was just sending it. I was getting a little tired at the end becasue I left my mouth open the whole time. It’s unreal; I’m so hyped. I wanted to win bad and I proved it to you guys.”

Chaos erupted in turn 1 in Moto 2 Jeremy Martin went and another rider ran over his arm. Michael Mosiman crashed further down the track on that same lap. Both riders were helped off course by the Alpinestars Medical team.

2023 Motocross Race Recaps

Fox Raceway: Jett Lawrence wins in first 450 start

2023 Supercross Race Recaps

Salt Lake City: Chase Sexton ends the season with win
Denver: Chase Sexton wins, takes points’ lead with Eli Tomac injury
Nashville: Chase Sexton keeps hope alive; Cooper Webb out
New Jersey: Justin Barcia wins muddy race; first in two years
Atlanta: Chase Sexton is back in the championship picture
Glendale: Eli Tomac wins 51st, breaks tie with James Stewart
Seattle: Eli Tomac wins and ties Webb for first
Detroit: Chase Sexton inherits win after Aaron Plessinger falls
Indianapolis: Ken Roczen gets first win in more than a year
Daytona: Eli Tomac extends Daytona record with seventh win
Arlington: Cooper Webb wins for second time, closes to two of Tomac
Oakland: Eli Tomac ties Ricky Carmichael with 48 wins
Tampa: Cooper Webb gets first 2023 win
Houston: Eli Tomac bounces back from A2 crash to win third race of 2023
Anaheim 2: Triple Crown produces new winners Chase Sexton, Levi Kitchen
San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Eli Tomac wins opener for the first time

More SuperMotocross coverage

Chase Sexton is out for Hangtown
Enzo Lopes re-signs with Club MX for 2024
Record Supercross attendance reported in 2023
SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Pala
Results and points after Pala
Jett Lawrence wins Pala in his first MX start
450 Champion Chase Sexton takes back what he gave away
250 West Supercross champion Jett Lawrence ends dream career
250 East Supercross champion Hunter Lawrence overcomes doubt and injury