Vettel’s Mexico fightback not enough to keep title fight alive

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Sebastian Vettel’s odds were long for keeping the Formula 1 World Championship alive heading into Sunday’s Mexican Grand Prix, down 66 points to Lewis Hamilton and needing to finish first or second while hoping Hamilton finished outside the top-five to have any chance.

He got one of those two bullet points accomplished as Hamilton ended ninth, but the reason he did so was in part because of opening lap contact that changed the race and title fight on its head.

After losing the lead from pole off the line, into Turn 1, Vettel collided with both Hamilton and Max Verstappen on the opening lap. Vettel sustained front wing damage to his Scuderia Ferrari SF-17 in contact with Verstappen, then also had contact with Hamilton that left the Englishman with a puncture.

Both drivers pitted immediately thereafter, which dropped Vettel and Hamilton back to 16th and 19th respectively, forcing them both into a fightback the rest of the day.

Vettel made greater progress as he was back to the points by Lap 29 in the 71-lap race, then pitted under the Virtual Safety Car period which occurred once Brendon Hartley’s Renault-powered Toro Rosso had yet another Renault issue.

As Vettel got within striking distance of the top-scoring drivers, he was able to dispatch of Kevin Magnussen’s Haas, Sergio Perez’s Force India, Lance Stroll’s Williams (below) and finally Esteban Ocon’s Force India to get up to fourth.

But as Vettel was nearly a minute back of Valtteri Bottas in second, which is the minimum he needed to keep his remote title hopes alive, there was nothing else he could do the rest of the race.

A resigned Vettel ended fourth, the position that matched the number of titles Hamilton has equaled him on today.

Speaking to NBCSN post-race, Vettel had nothing but praise for Hamilton after their season-long battle.

“I’m down, obviously,” Vettel said. “It’s tough to cross the line and realize… you aren’t in the fight anymore. That sums it up. The rest isn’t that important.

“The most important thing today is it’s Lewis’ day. He’s been crowned World Champion. He was the better man. He did the better job.”

This result means Vettel and Hamilton have, combined, won eight of the last 10 World Championships over the 11 years they have been in the sport. Both drivers debuted in the 2007 season.

This year marks only the second time Vettel has lost a championship fight he’s actively been a part of (2009 to Jenson Button), and the first where he led the championship over the course of the season but didn’t bring home the title.

“I would have loved to go one up on him. But it’s his day. It’s his year. He deserves it,” he said.

“For us, we’re left with whatever’s left. Right now, it’s disappointment. Next year will be a different story. Right now isn’t about next year. In this moment you have to give credit to the best man. That’s him.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.