THE MOTORSPORT LAP
Hamilton does it again as Kimi retires
Champion rakes in 73rd career win, while dream exit eludes Raikkonen
Five-times world champion Lewis Hamilton ended the 2019 Formula One season in style and a cloud of tyre smoke after a pole-to-flag victory in Abu Dhabi, his 11th win of the campaign.
Ferrari’s Sebastian Vettel finished second, and set the fastest lap time, with Red Bull’s Max Verstappen third.
“I am so happy right now,” said Hamilton after Hollywood actor Will Smith brought down the chequered flag at the floodlit Yas Marina circuit on the Mercedes driver’s 73rd career win.
The 33-year-old Hamilton, who has already been crowned season champion, boasts 51 wins out of 100 races in the V6 turbo hybrid era. His latest 408 points tally makes him the first driver to score more than 400 points in a single season.
The impressive Brit is 18 wins away from equalling Michael Schumacher’s record of 91 wins.
It was also two-times world champion Fernando Alonso’s last race. He finished 11th and with his final tally at 1,899. The trio of champions — Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso — created a spectacular cloud of smoke when they spun their cars at the end of their slowing-down lap, before stepping out for hugs and words of mutual respect.
Kimi Raikkonen retired from his last Formula One race with Ferrari, his car losing power and coasting to a halt on the main straight after just seven laps.
The 39-year-old Finn, the last driver to win a championship for Ferrari, in 2007, is headed in 2019 to Sauber, the team with which he started his F1 career.
Raikkonen still finished third in the championship and the retirement brought down the curtain on what has otherwise been a stand-out season for F1’s oldest current driver.
Raikkonen’s October win in Austin, Texas, ended a winless run of 113 races dating back to victory with Lotus in Australia in March 2013, and he has been on the podium 12 times in 21 races. — Reuters
Seven-times Nascar champion Jimmie Johnson and former F1 champion Fernando Alonso swapped company cars after Sunday’s season-ending Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix.
Johnson declared the V8-powered 2013 McLaren to be “mind-blowing” in braking and acceleration, but Alonso found Jimmy’s Chevrolet to be a blast from the past with its V8 engine and steel brakes.
“Literally on the first outing my helmet was trying to leave my head, and I was staring at the microphone in my helmet it was so high,” Johnson told ESPN. “I got my helmet more under control, and then it was really my eyes trying to find their way far enough ahead and far enough round the turns,” he said.
The fun swap came a day after Alonso’s last F1 race in Abu Dhabi. Both drivers said they were impressed by the other’s performance.
Alonso set a benchmark time of one minute 40.204 seconds in the F1 car and Johnson lapped in 1:40.462.
“I think he was really gaining time every run he was going out,” said Alonso.
World Rallycross visits Cape Town
Sweden’s Johan Kristoffersson capped a remarkable year by taking a record-breaking 11th victory of the 2018 World Rallycross (RX) season at Cape Town’s Killarney circuit at the weekend.
The Volkswagen Polo R driver, who had already won the championship, dominated the season-ending World RX round in its second visit to Cape Town. Thousands of local racing fans turned up to watch the powerful RX cars bump and barge their way through a mixed course of tarmac and dirt. The FIA World Rallycross Championship, presented by Monster Energy, was the only international motorsport event to take place in SA in 2019.
EKS Audi Sport’s Mattias Ekstrom started on the third row of the grid for the final in his Audi S1 and clinched second in the race, and secured second in the World RX Drivers’ Championship when his teammate Andreas Bakkerud retired from the semifinals. Team Peugeot Total’s Sebastien Loeb completed his third full World RX programme with another podium in his Peugeot 208 and finished ahead of teammate Kevin Hansen in the final.
Multiple former World Rally champion Loeb set the fastest time in Q1 on Saturday and finished on the podium for the seventh time in 2018.
Red Bull and Renault divorce
Red Bull and engine suppliers Renault have parted ways as one of Formula One’s most successful partnerships reached the end of the road in Abu Dhabi. The once-dominant partnership has been fraught in recent seasons, with Red Bull feeling let down in the V6 turbo hybrid era by a Renault engine that has lacked the power and reliability of rivals Mercedes and Ferrari.
Abiteboul and Horner have engaged in much verbal sparring, with Red Bull seeking but failing to find another engine partner before Honda became an option.
Red Bull will hope for better with Honda next season while Renault, who are taking Red Bull’s Australian driver Daniel Ricciardo with them, focus on their year-old factory team and clients McLaren.
Together Renault and Red Bull won 59 races with 160 podiums, 60 pole positions, 60 fastest laps and eight world championships — four of them drivers’ crowns with German Sebastian Vettel.
“In Red Bull, we found a partner who would challenge for more of everything,” said Abiteboul in a diplomatic Renault statement emphasising the positives.
“Together we achieved outstanding results and in time our record will be recognised on its own merits,” he said.
“We wish Red Bull all the best for its next step and look forward to continuing our rivalry on track in the coming seasons.”