Hamilton charges to Abu Dhabi F1 pole, Rosberg to start title-decider second

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Lewis Hamilton gave his chances of claiming a fourth Formula 1 world championship on Sunday a boost by capturing pole position for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Hamilton enters the final race of the season trailing Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg by 12 points in the drivers’ standings, the latter requiring a top-three finish to clinch a maiden world title.

Hamilton enjoyed the early edge on Rosberg in Q1, going over a second faster than his title rival with his first flying lap after the German got a snap of oversteer coming out of Turn 9 to leave him P5 ahead of Q2.

Rosberg looked set to beat Hamilton’s time in Q2 after outpacing the Briton through the opening two sectors, only to run slightly wide heading under the Viceroy Hotel, costing him a tenth to Hamilton.

Hamilton continued to enjoy his advantage through their first runs in Q3, recording the fastest lap of the weekend to go three-tenths of a second clear of Rosberg and leave the German in need of a mighty final effort if he were to take pole.

Although Rosberg was able to find the time and beat Hamilton’s existing benchmark, Hamilton went faster still to record a lap of 1:38.755 and score his 12th pole position of the season.

Rosberg was left to settle for second, meaning the two title rivals will be side-by-side for the start of the showdown at Yas Marina.

Red Bull, meanwhile, laid the early foundations to play championship spoiler on Sunday by getting both Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo through to Q3 on super-soft tires, giving the team more strategy options for Sunday’s race.

Ricciardo was able to qualify third in Q3, finishing half a second off Rosberg, but an error from Verstappen on his final lap left him sixth on the grid.

Kimi Raikkonen qualified fourth for Ferrari ahead of teammate Sebastian Vettel in P5, giving the Finn a season victory in head-to-head qualifying, the score finishing at 11-10. Nico Hulkenberg and Sergio Perez qualified seventh and eighth for Force India ahead of Fernando Alonso in ninth.

Felipe Massa secured a top-10 grid slot for his final grand prix, ending Q3 in 10th place, while Williams teammate Valtteri Bottas narrowly lost out at the end of Q2, leaving the Finn 11th on the grid for Sunday.

Jenson Button will start what looks set to be his last F1 race from 12th on the grid, with a late improvement in Q2 not enough to get him a top-10 position.

Haas’ final qualifying session of its rookie year ended with a failure routine result as Esteban Gutierrez and Romain Grosjean qualified P13 and P14 respectively, the latter having struggled with his tires throughout Q2.

Jolyon Palmer continued his impressive recent form by qualifying 15th for Renault, with Pascal Wehrlein also providing an upset in P16 as he took Manor through to Q2 for the fifth time in 2016.

Toro Rosso’s troublesome weekend continued in Q1 as both Daniil Kvyat and Carlos Sainz Jr. fell at the first hurdle. Kvyat will start 17th on Sunday, while Sainz ailed to a lowly P21, 2.9 seconds off Hamilton at the front.

Kevin Magnussen was another surprise drop-out in Q1, finishing 18th after late laps from teammate Palmer and Wehrlein shuffled him back. Felipe Nasr opted an early final run, leaving him 19th ahead of Manor’s Esteban Ocon, while Sauber teammate Marcus Ericsson qualified last.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 7am ET on Sunday.

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”