Playing for pride
Lewis Hamilton may have wrapped up the title in Mexico City, but with two races left you can bet that none of the guys at the front will be taking their foot off the gas whatsoever. Many of his rivals, and indeed Hamilton himself, still have points to prove.
Top of this list is Sebastian Vettel. The German’s title bid was derailed by a series of mechanical issues (as well as a few first-lap incidents) in the second half of the year, and to see the title slip away when you’re sitting in a car you know can take the fight to Mercedes must have been particularly galling.
For this reason, and due to the increased pressure on the team after losing the title in such a disastrous fashion, you can bet Vettel, now with nothing to lose, will be on maximum attack this weekend.
Also falling into this category are the Red Bull drivers. A late-season development surge has seen the Milton Keynes outfit hit the front more regularly as the season has come to a close, and has seen Max Verstappen win two of the last four races. The young Dutchman will be itching to continue this good run, and Daniel Ricciardo will also be eager to get in on the action having endured a difficult few races with retirements in Austin and Mexico.
The title may be over, but there’s still plenty of pride to play for!
Massa’s final home race (again)
Since F1 left Mexico, Brazilian veteran Felipe Massa has announced that he will retire from Formula 1 at the end of the season. I know what you’re thinking, we’ve seen all this before, and you’re right! This time though it will be for good. Unlike last year when Massa was called back to replace Mercedes-bound Bottas, there are a string of suitors looking at his seat for 2018, and now he has taken himself out of consideration for it.
It’s been a privilege to watch Felipe race over the years, and I know I am not alone in saying that I will miss seeing him on the grid in the future. One of F1’s true nice guys, it will be an emotional send off (again!) from his home fans this weekend in Brazil, so make sure you don’t miss it.
As the season draws to a close, many of the driver battles up and down the grid are really beginning to hot up, especially between some teammates.
At the sharp end of the grid the battle for second place is still very much on. Ferrari and Vettel’s recent errors have allowed Valtteri Bottas to close to within 15 points of Sebastian, so this is a real opportunity for the Finn to show that he isn’t just a backup driver for Hamilton and take the initiative. Similarly, poor recent showings from Daniel Ricciardo have allowed Kimi Raikkonen to close to within 14 points of the Aussie, and presents the grid’s other Finn to show what he is capable of, especially now that the shackles of a title fight have been removed.
Further back at Force India, Sergio Perez sits just 9 points ahead of Esteban Ocon, and with recent results starting to turn against the Mexican it’s looking like it could be a very close run thing between the two ‘pink panthers’ before the end of the season. It will certainly be an interesting scenario/conversation with the pit wall if Perez comes across Ocon following another car once again on Sunday.
The situation is similar at Williams, except that Lance Stroll has now overhauled Felipe Massa in the standings after a fine sixth place in Mexico. This isn’t something that I think Massa will want to end his career with, and he will be going all out, especially this weekend in his final home race, to show the skills that have made him a firm fan favourite during his time on the grid,
As with the drivers’ standings, things are coming to a head in the constructors’ championship as well. The top four (Mercedes, Ferrari, Red Bull, and Force India) are confirmed, but there is still lots to play for further back.
Covered by 29 points are Williams, Toro Rosso, Renault, and Haas in a battle for fifth place, and it’s here that I think we will see a lot of movement. Williams will be hard to catch by any of these teams, but I think Renault are the real dark horses in this group, and are the ones that I think can rise to the top of it if they can get their act together.
Renault’s last few races, despite acquiring an excellent new driver, have been abysmal from a reliability points of view, but you get the impression that a strong double points finish is just around the corner. Both drivers are acutely aware of the importance of finishing the season strongly (in fact Sainz wouldn’t be there now if Renault weren’t aware of it too), and will give their all for the cause, assuming the team can keep the cars running this week.
Unfortunately Toro Rosso look the most likely to lose out in this group. With their star driver gone and two rookies in the car learning the ropes for the rest of the season, it’s hard to see where the points will come from over the last two races. If they are not careful they could find themselves losing out to Haas, who despite not having the best car recently, have still shown themselves capable of delivering the occasional double points finish,
Norris to McLaren for 2018
McLaren announced yesterday that Lando Norris will be the team’s reserve driver for the 2018 season. The reigning European Formula Three champion impressed the team at the in-season Hungaroring test earlier in the summer, and so has been given the nod to provide backup to regular drivers Fernando Alonso and Stoffel Vandoorne.
“The last 12 months have been an incredible journey for me,” said Norris. “I’ve enjoyed every single minute and this is just an amazing way to bring the year to an end.”
“I’m really looking forward to helping the team, starting next week with the tyre test at Interlagos, and I will work harder than ever to learn and develop across the next year. I have two excellent teachers in Fernando and Stoffel, and I will do my best to help with the team’s efforts to get back to the front.”
Norris is still working on his drive for next season as he hopes to contest the Formula Two championship. Surely with more McLaren backing now behind him this should be a slightly easier task.
Brazilian GP TV times
Friday 10th Nov:
FP1: 10:00-11:30 local / 12:00-13:30 UK
FP2: 14:00-15:30 local / 16:00-17:30 UK
Saturday 11th Nov
FP3: 11:00-12:00 local / 13:00-14:00 UK
Qualifying: 14:00-15:00 local / 16:00-17:00 UK
Sunday 12th Nov
Race: 14:00 local / 16:00 UK
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