Getty Images

Hamilton pulls clear for Mercedes in final Abu Dhabi F1 practice

Leave a comment

Lewis Hamilton sent a warning shot out to his Formula 1 rivals in Abu Dhabi ahead of qualifying by pulling clear in final practice at the Yas Marina Circuit, heading up a one-two finish for Mercedes.

After eking clear of Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo in FP2 on Friday night, Hamilton was able to enjoy a greater buffer to the chasing pack in final practice on Saturday afternoon.

Hamilton recorded a best lap time of 1:37.627 to finish almost three-tenths of a second ahead of Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas, with Ferrari ending FP3 half a second off the pace.

Both Kimi Raikkonen and Sebastian Vettel failed to complete a qualifying simulation on the ultra-soft tire late in the session, leaving them third and fourth respectively.

Ricciardo led Red Bull’s charge in FP3, finishing fifth overall ahead of teammate Max Verstappen in P6. Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne were seventh and eighth for McLaren, with Carlos Sainz Jr. and Sergio Perez completing the top 10 for Renault and Force India respectively.

Final practice was briefly interrupted by a Virtual Safety Car period after a parasol stood at one of the marshal posts blew onto the track and sat on the apex of Turn 8.

Once recovered, the session was able to return to green with no major incidents following in the final 30 minutes.
Qualifying for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 8am ET on Saturday.

Could Scott Dixon someday break Foyt, Andretti wins and championships records?

IndyCar
1 Comment

With five races left in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season, Scott Dixon is in the driver’s seat to potentially earn a fifth career IndyCar championship.

After winning Sunday at Toronto, Dixon now has a 62-point edge over second-ranked and defending series champ Josef Newgarden and a 70-point lead over third-ranked Alexander Rossi.

The triumph north of the border was Dixon’s third there, as well as his 44th career IndyCar win, third-highest in IndyCar annals.

Add in the four IndyCar championships and those are stellar numbers indeed.

What makes things all the more amazing is Dixon has done all that in under 18 full seasons on the IndyCar circuit. Heck, he’s only 37 years old, too (although he turns 38 on July 22).

Dixon’s championships have come in 2003 (his first full season in IndyCar after two prior seasons in CART/Champ Car), 2008, 2013 and most recently in 2015.

The quiet, unassuming New Zealander has been one of the most successful drivers ever not just in IndyCar, but in all forms of motorsports.

When his name is mentioned, it’s typically included with the only two drivers who have more career wins than he does: A.J. Foyt (67 wins and seven championships, both records) and Mario Andretti (52 wins and four titles).

That’s a pretty lofty pair to be part of.

One might think that after all the success he’s had, Dixon could easily walk away from IndyCar and Chip Ganassi Racing and enjoy an early retirement.

But competing in and winning races isn’t really a job for Dixon. He enjoys what he’s doing so much that he easily could keep doing what he’s doing – and at a high level – for another seven or more years, at least.

So, can Dixon catch Mario and A.J.? The former would be easier than the latter, for sure.

Numerically, it’s possible – at least part of it:

* Dixon can easily be competitive into his mid-40s.

* He’s averaged three-plus wins every season since 2007 (37 wins from then through Sunday). That means if he can keep that average going, he could reach 24 more wins – to overtake Foyt – by 2026. Yes, that may be a stretch to even imagine, but if there’s any current driver who potentially could overtake Foyt, it’s Dixon.

* Dixon already has three wins this season, and with five more races still to go, he could easily win another one, two or maybe even three more in 2018 as he continues his road to the championship. And let’s not forget that with each additional win, that’s one win closer to overtaking Andretti and Foyt.

In his usual modest and humble manner, Dixon downplays not just talk comparing him with Andretti and Foyt, but also overtaking one or both.

“I think A.J. is pretty safe,” he said. “He’s a long ways ahead. … Eight (championships) is an infinity away. Takes a long time to get eight.”

But that doesn’t mean Dixon can’t keep working at approaching Foyt’s mark.

“I think for us, we take it race by race,” he said. “We’re in the business of winning races. If we’re not doing that, I won’t have a job for too long. That’s the focus for right now.”

If he wins the championship this year, he’ll pass Andretti’s championship mark. That would be one record down, three to go.

And if he can win nine more races over the next few seasons, he’ll pass Andretti’s 52 career wins, making it two records down and two more to go.

“Right now with 44 wins, next on the list is Mario I think at 52 or something,” Dixon said after Sunday’s win. “We’ll see how it goes. Right now, we’re just trying to get the job done for the team.”

And he’s doing a darn good job at that indeed – with likely even more success still to come.

Follow @JerryBonkowski