Friday, November 25, 2016

Friday Four: Another Persian Night

The final weekend of November sees four championships wrap up their 2016 seasons and all will take place in the Persian Gulf, most of the races occurring under the lights. Three championships will be decided and a theme of the weekend is battle between teammates for top honors.

Formula One
The 21st and final round of the longest Formula One season takes place at Yas Marina Circuit in Abu Dhabi. The Mercedes teammates enter with Nico Rosberg looking for his first title and to join his father Keke among the few drivers to win the World Drivers' Championship. Lewis Hamilton looks to ascend to another atmosphere with his fourth championship.

Rosberg has 367 points from 20 races with Hamilton sitting on 355 points. Rosberg clinches the title with a podium finish. The teammates cannot finish tied on points if Hamilton wins the race. If Hamilton finishes second and Rosberg finishes seventh, Hamilton would win on tiebreaker based on third-place finishes. Each driver would have nine victories and four runner-up finishes while Hamilton would have four third-place finishes to Rosberg's two. The only other possibility for a tie would be Hamilton finishing fourth and Rosberg finishing outside the points and Rosberg would win on that tiebreaker with four runner-up finishes to Hamilton's three.

Rosberg won last year's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix with Hamilton finishing second. Hamilton has won at Yas Marina twice, in 2011 and 2014 with the latter clinching him his second world title. Rosberg has started on pole position the last two years at Yas Marina. Hamilton has started on pole position twice at Yas Marina but he has retired from both of those races. Hamilton has finished ahead of his teammate in the world championship in eight of his previous nine seasons. The lone exception was 2011 where Jenson Button finished second and Hamilton finished fifth.

Daniel Ricciardo is locked to finish third in the championship but the battle is for fourth with Sebastian Vettel five points ahead of Ricciardo's Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen. Kimi Räikkönen could finish ahead of Verstappen but he is 14 points behind the Dutchman. Sergio Pérez is seventh in the championship on 97 points, 12 ahead of Valterri Bottas. Nico Hülkenberg sits in ninth on 66 points. Fernando Alonso rounds out the top ten on 55 points.

Felipe Massa heads to his final Formula One race sitting 11th in the championship on 51 points. This will be 252nd grand prix entry and he will be trying to start his 250th grand prix. Five points behind Massa is Carlos Sainz, Jr., who has finished sixth in two of the last three races. Romain Grosjean sits on 29 points and is four points ahead of Daniil Kyvat.

Jenson Button heads to his final grand prix before take a sabbatical from Formula One in 2017. This will be Button's 308th grand prix entry and he will attempt to make his 305th start. Button will tie Michael Schumacher for second all-time in entries but will be one behind the German in the starts column. Kevin Magnussen has seven points. Felipe Nasr sits on two points after a ninth-place finish at his home race in Brazil finally got Sauber on the scoreboard. Jolyon Palmer, Pascal Wehrlein and McLaren-reserve Stoffel Vandoorne are tied on one point. Esteban Gutiérrez, Marcus Ericsson and Esteban Ocon all have one final shot to get points this season.

The 2016 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be held at 8:00 a.m. ET on Sunday November 27th.

Three drivers could leave Yas Marina as GP2 champion.

Prema Racing teammates Antonio Giovinazzi and Pierre Gasly are 1-2 in the championship with the Italian holding a seven-points advantage with 197 points to 190 points after a victory and fourth-place finished at Sepang while Gasly finished outside the points in the first race that weekend and finished third in the sprint race. Giovinazzi has won three of the last six races and has four podium finishes in that time frame while Gasly has a victory, a second and a third in the last six races.

Giovinazzi started the season with five finishes outside the points in the first seven races but the two races he did score were at Baku where he won both races. Gasly started the season with four finishes outside the points in the first seven races but had two runner-up finishes and a third-place finish.

Russian Time's Raffaele Marciello trails his fellow Italian by 39 points. He has not won a race this season but has two runner-up finishes and four third-place finishes. For Marciello to win this title, he will have to win a race. The most points he could score without a victory is 38 points.

ART Grand Prix's Sergey Sirotkin sits fourth in the championship with 135 points and won twice this year. Racing Engineering's Jordan King and Norman Nato are tied on 122 points and each driver has won twice. Trident Racing's Luca Ghiotto is coming off his first career GP2 victory and has 111 points and he is four points ahead of MP Motorsport Oliver Rowland. DAMS Alex Lynn has 105 points and has two victories. Campos Racing's Mitch Evans rounds out the top ten with 89 points and has won once.

Race one for GP2 will be at 9:40 a.m. ET on Saturday November 26th with the final race of 2016 scheduled for 5:20 a.m. on Sunday November 27th.

Like GP2, three drivers are fighting for the championship in the GP3 finale.

ART Grand Prix drivers Charles Leclerc and Alexander Albon are 1-2 in the championship with the Monegasque leading the Thai driver by 29 points. Leclerc has won three times but not since the feature race at Spa-Francorchamps six races ago. Albon has four victories but Leclerc has an average finish of 2.875 in feature races to Albon's 4.5. Trident Racing's Antonio Fuoco trails Leclerc by 45 points and the only way he can win the championship is by winning the feature race, finish in the top two of the sprint race and score all the bonus points for pole position and fastest laps and Leclerc scores fewer than three points. The fewest points Leclerc has scored in a race weekend this year is 16 points.

Arden International drivers Jake Dennis and Jack Aitken are fourth and fifth in the championship on 121 points and 119 points respectively. Dennis has won two of the last five races while Aitken has finished on the podium in four of the last five. ART Grand Prix's Nyck de Vries has 108 points and he won the sprint race at Monza three races ago. Koiranen GP's Matt Parry sits on 82 points, nine ahead of ART Grand Prix's Nirei Fukuzumi. DAMS Jakes Hughes and Jenzer Motorsport Arjan Maini round out the top ten on 69 points and 50 points respectively.

American Santino Ferrucci sits 12th in the championship on 34 points driving for DAMS and is 14 points behind Ralph Boschung, who will not compete this weekend. Ferrucci's best finish this season was third in the sprint race at Spa-Francorchamps but has only scored in five of 16 races and has not finished in the points in the last four races.

GP3 will race at 3:25 a.m. ET on Saturday November 26th and at 4:00 a.m. ET on Sunday November 27th.

World Touring Car Championship
José María López has already locked up the World Touring Car Championship but the final round of the 2016 season from the Losail International Circuit marks the final round of his WTCC career as he will focus on Formula E and joins Toyota's FIA WEC program. The Argentine driver has won three consecutive championships and has won 29 of 69 starts, leaving him second all-time in WTCC in victories behind only his Citroën teammate Yvan Muller's 48 victories.

Muller is second in the championship on 235 points but has only one victory this season. He is 31 points ahead of Honda's Tiago Monteiro, who has won twice this season. Honda's Norbert Michelisz is fourth in the championship on 190 points, ten ahead of another Honda driver in Robert Huff. Mehdi Bennani is four points behind Huff with Lada's Nicky Catsburg five points behind the Moroccan. Tom Chilton has 145 points and is in eighth with Gabriele Tarquini and Tom Coronel rounding out the top ten on 116 point and 109 points respectively.

The final races of the WTCC will take place at 1:20 p.m. ET and 2:35 p.m. ET on Friday November 25th.

1. Over or Under: 6.5 cars within a minute of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix winner?
2. Over or Under: 5.5 retirements during the GP2 weekend?
3. Over or Under: 4.5 points scored by Santino Ferrucci?
4. Over or Under: 399.5 points being José María López's final total for the 2016 season?

Last Week's Over/Unders
1. Under: Three laps separated the GTE-Pro winning #95 Aston Martin and the GTE-Am winning #88 Abu Dhabi-Proton Racing Porsche.
2. Under: There were seven cautions in the Cup race at Homestead.
3. Under: Only two championship ineligible drivers finished in the top five of the Xfinity Series race.
4. Over: GMS Racing led 76 laps in the Truck race and Kyle Larson led all 76 laps.
5. Over: Hyundai drivers scored 40 points in Rally Australia.

1. One of the top six in the championship retire from the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
2. At least one GP2 race features two drivers from the same country on the podium.
3. Charles Leclerc wins one of the GP3 races this weekend.
4. Citroën puts two cars on the podium in each race from Qatar.

Last Week's Predictions 
1. All point leaders entering Bahrain leave Bahrain as champions (Correct. The #2 Porsche, #95 Aston Martin and #83 AF Corse Ferrari all left as champions).
2. We get our seventh different winner in the last seven Homestead Cup races (Correct. Jimmie Johnson won at Homestead for the first time in his career).
3. There is caution in the final ten laps of the Xfinity Series race (Correct. The final caution came with ten laps to go).
4. Two of the four Truck championship eligible drivers finish outside the top five (Correct. Actually, three finished outside the top five; Matt Crafton in seventh, Christopher Bell in eighth and Timothy Peters in ninth).
5. Jari-Matti Latvala gets his first podium finish since Rally Finland (Wrong. Latvala finished ninth in his final rally with Volkswagen).
Last Week: 4/5 Overall: 25/45