Friday, October 23, 2015

Friday Five: Austin, Sepang, Surfers Paradise, Talladega, Catalunya

Two championships could be crowned this weekend on two different continents. Something could occur for the first time in over thirty years. A doubleheader will occur on the Gold Coast. Four drivers will have their title hopes will end in Alabama and World Rally is competing as we speak in Catalunya.

The 2015 World Drivers' Championship could be clinched at the 2015 United States Grand Prix. Lewis Hamilton holds a 66-point lead over Ferrari's Sebastian Vettel and a 73-point lead over his Mercedes teammate Nico Rosberg.

If Hamilton were to win his second consecutive United States Grand Prix and fourth all-time and Vettel to finish third or worse, Hamilton would clinch his third world title. If Hamilton finishes second and neither Vettel nor Rosberg win the race, the Brit would need Vettel to finish sixth or worse to clinch the title. If Hamilton finishes third, he would need Vettel to finish seventh or worse and Rosberg to finish behind him to clinch. If Hamilton finishes fourth, Vettel would have to finish ninth or worse and Rosberg would have to finish behind him. The worst Hamilton can finish and clinch is fifth and for that to happen he would need Vettel to finish tenth or worse and Rosberg to finish behind him.

As torrential rain storms threaten Austin this weekend, if the race does not reach 75% of the schedule about of laps (42 of 56) and half points are awarded, Hamilton would need to win the race and have Vettel finish seventh or worse to clinch the title.

Vettel will serve a ten-grid spot penalty as Ferrari has decided to change engines in both cars for the United States Grand Prix.

Hamilton could become the first driver to clinch the World Drivers' Championship in the United States since Keke Rosberg in 1982. The Finn and father to Hamilton's teammate clinched his lone title with a fifth in the final time Formula One ran the Caesars Palace Grand Prix. A British driver has never clinched the World Drivers' Championship in the United States. Hamilton could tie Jackie Stewart for most world championships by a British driver with three.

The penultimate round of the 2015 MotoGP season takes place in Malaysia. Eleven points separate the Yamaha teammates of Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi could clinch the title with a finish of third and Lorenzo finishing outside the points. If Rossi finished second, he would need Lorenzo to finish 11th or worse. If Rossi wins the race, Lorenzo would have to finish sixth or worse for the Italian to lock up his tenth world championship. Lorenzo owns the tiebreaker with six wins to Rossi's four, so Rossi needs to exit Malaysia with a 26-point lead to clinch the title.

Rossi is the all-time leader in Malaysian Grand Prix victories with seven and a record six in the premier class. Rossi has not won in Malaysia since 2010 and Honda has won the last three Malaysia races. The 2011 race was cancelled after the accident that took the life of Marco Simoncelli. Lorenzo has never won in Malaysia in the premier class and his lone Malaysian victory was in 2006 in 250cc.

Surfers Paradise
The final endurance round of the 2015 V8 Supercars Season is the Gold Coast 600.

Mark Winterbottom not only leads the V8SC championship but also leads the Endurance Cup with co-driver Steve Owen after winning at Sandown and finishing second at Bathurst. The Ford driver holds a 399-point lead over Bathurst winner Craig Lowndes. Lowndes is fourth in the Endurance Cup with co-driver Steven Richards. David Reynolds is 432 points behind Winterbottom and he and Dean Canto round out the top five in the Endurance Cup.

Chaz Mostert is fourth in the championship but will miss Gold Coast after breaking his left femur and left wrist in a qualifying accident at Bathurst. Mostert's co-driver Cameron Waters will be the lead driver and Russell Ingall will join Waters in the #6 Ford.

Fabian Coulthard rounds out the top five, 557 points behind Winterbottom and will have Luke Youlden as his co-driver. Garth Tander and Warren Luff are second in the Endurance Cup and Tander trails Winterbottom by 599 points. Shane Van Gisbergen is a further 92 points back and will have Jonathon Webb as his co-driver. Defending champion Jamie Whincup trails by 803 points and he and Paul Dumbrell have finished 15th and 18th in the first two Endurance Cup races. Scott McLaughlin and Rick Kelly round out the top ten in the championship and they will be joined by Alexandre Prémat and David Russell respectively.

James Courtney returns to V8SC competition after missing the last three rounds due to injury. He is 11th in the championship and Jack Perkins will be his co-driver. Tim Slade, Michael Caruso and Jason Bright and the final drivers mathematically eligible for the title. Their co-drivers will be Tony D'Alberto, Dean Fiore and Andrew Jones respectively.

The second round of The Chase comes to a close at Talladega and four more drivers will be eliminated.

Joey Logano is the only driver to have won in round two and therefore is the only driver locked into the semifinal round. Denny Hamlin is second in points and trails Logano by 13 markers. Kurt Busch is third, a further five points behind Logano. Carl Edwards is a point behind his former Roush Racing teammate and the defending champion Kevin Harvick rounds out the top five with him, Jeff Gordon and Brad Keselowski all tied on 3071 points. Martin Truex, Jr. is in the final position to advance to round three on 3070 points.

Kyle Busch is ninth, six points behind his 2004 NASCAR Busch Series championship rival. Ryan Newman is two points behind the Gibbs driver. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. is 31 points behind Truex, Jr. and Matt Kenseth trails the New Jerseyan by 35 points.

Gordon and Earnhardt, Jr. lead all Chase drivers with six career victories at Talladega but Gordon has not won at the track since 2007. Earnhardt, Jr. won this year's spring race. Keselowski is the only other Chase driver with multiple victories at the track as the Michigan-native has three. Hamlin, Harvick, Kyle Busch and Kenseth each have one victory at the track.

Six of the previous 11 Talladega Chase races have featured a green-white-checkered finish. NASCAR has changed the rule that only one attempt will be made for a green flag finish at Talladega instead of three.

The penultimate round of the 2015 World Rally Championship is taking place in Catalunya. Sébastien Ogier clinched the title two rounds ago in Australia. The Frenchman failed to finish in the points in his home rally earlier this month but did pick up three points for winning the Power Stage. Ogier's Volkswagen teammate Jari-Matti Latvala is second in the championship, 78 points back with the third Volkswagen driver, Andreas Mikkelsen in third, trailing Ogier by 112 points.

Citroën driver Mads Østberg is fourth with 98 points and Hyundai's Thierry Neuville rounds out the top five, 12 points behind Østberg. Rally Argentina winner Kris Meeke is three points behind Neuville with fellow British driver Elfyn Evans two points behind Meeke.

New Zealander Hayden Paddon has 66 pints and is in eighth, three points ahead of Ott Tänak. Dani Sordo rounds out the top ten, as the Spaniard is a point behind the Estonian Tänak.

Through four stages of Rally Catalunya, Robert Kubica leads and has one stage win. The Polish driver is 3.2 seconds ahead of Østberg. Paddon is 6.5 seconds behind Kubica with Tänak a further four-tenths back. Sordo rounds out the top five, 9.7 seconds back. Ogier trails Kubica by 10.2 seconds in sixth with Latvala in seventh, 15.1 seconds back. Mikkelsen is four-tenths behind his Finnish teammate with Neuville two-tenths behind Mikkelsen. Meeke rounds out the top ten, 18.4 seconds behind Kubica.

1. Over or Under: 7.5 position difference from Sebastian Vettel's starting position to his finishing position?
2. Over or Under: 3.5 Ducatis in the top ten at Sepang?
3. Over or Under: 6.5 average finish for Jamie Whincup and Paul Dumbrell at Surfers Paradise?
4. Over or Under: 1.5 red flag periods at Talladega?
5. Over or Under: 16.5 stage victories for Volkswagen drivers in Catalunya?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Neither race at Hockenheim was won from pole position.
2. Over: 37 laps separate the winner at Estoril and the final classified car.
3. Under: Italian bikes score three podiums at Qatar.
4. Under: The margin of victory between Marc Márquez and Jorge Lorenzo was 0.249 seconds.
5. Under: Only two Honda finished in the points at Sportsland SUGO

1. Lewis Hamilton clinches the World Drivers' Championship.
2. Valentino Rossi finishes ahead of Jorge Lorenzo.
3. Someone scores their first career victory at Surfers Paradise.
4. At least one former Cup champion is eliminated at Talladega.
5. The winner of the Power Stage is not the winner of Rally Catalunya

Last Week's Predictions
1. At least one race winner at Hockenheim also ends up with fastest lap of the race (Correct. Timo Scheider won race one and scored fastest lap in that race).
2. At least four British drivers are victorious across the four classes at Estoril (Wrong. Only two Brits won. Michael Simpson in LMP3 and Andy Priaulx in GTE).
3. British riders sweep the weekend in Qatar (Wrong. Spaniard Jordi Torres won race one).
4. Only one factory Yamaha rider finishes on the podium at Phillip Island (Correct. Valentino Rossi finished fourth).
5. At least three drivers are eligible for the Super Formula championships after Sportsland SUGO (Correct. Four drivers are eligible).
Overall: 3/5 Running Tally: 18/35