The moment that Dietrich Mateschitz and his Red Bull Formula One racing team signed its new deal to keep Renault supplying engines for his two-car outfit, the fix was in for Sebastian Vettel to win the F-1 world driving championship.
It played out beautifully Sunday in the desert kingdom of Abu Dhabi where Vettel drove a masterful race to win the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
But without Renault driver Vitaly Petrov holding up Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso for more than half the race, there is no championship.
The road to the top step of the podium became simple for Red Bull because — with the Renault contract — Vettel had, in effect, three teammates who could block Alonso at Abu Dhabi.
It ended up that it didn’t matter that his Red Bull teammate Mark Webber blew qualifying, putting him behind the Ferrari and no help to Vettel, because there was Petrov and Robert Kubica to pick up the slack.
In Vettel’s defence, however, it’s not like he came into the final race of the season without the credentials to win a championship. His five wins and 10 pole positions this season were tops in both categories.
It was only his poor finishes in Australia, Turkey, Britain, Belgium and Korea that kept him from claiming the championship before Abu Dhabi.
But as much as Vettel’s dominance in the desert meant to his crown, it was Ferrari’s horrible race strategy that boosted the German to the top of the leader board.
By pitting to stay out in front of Webber early in the race Ferrari seemed to forget about three other drivers — Petrov, Kubica and Nico Rosberg — who Alonso would have had to pass to finish fourth and claim a third title.
Gas to go
Jimmie Johnson took a giant step toward completing his drive for five NASCAR Sprint Cup championships with his fifth-place performance in the Kobalt Tools 500 at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday.
And he did it because his No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet got better gas mileage than his chief rival Denny Hamlin, who finished 12th in the No. 11 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota and third-place Kevin Harvick who finished sixth in the No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.
Johnson, who started the race 33 points behind Hamlin, will go into the season finale at Homestead Miami Speedway just 15 points back.
He also showed that he doesn’t have any quit at a time when Hamlin’s crew chief Mike Ford was trash talking the No. 48 team.
That may be the biggest boost the team got out of Sunday’s race.
Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher’s comeback season in F-1 ended much the way it started, with young teammate Nico Rosberg outracing the German icon. Only this time Rosberg’s pass of his Mercedes teammate caused Schumacher to bobble and resulted in a spectacular crash on the first lap ... How does Joe Gibbs keep getting away with portraying himself as NASCAR’s holier-than-thou owner and at the same time rule over the most profane and undisciplined outfit in the series? ... Edmonton’s Daryl Harr finished 10th Saturday in the 3 Amigos Tequila NASCAR K&N Series race at Phoenix. Andrew Ranger, of Roxton Pond, Que., was 20th. ... Another second-generation racer is making noise in the world of karting: Michael Goodyear, the son of Scott Goodyear, has won the Kart Racers of America 100cc Yamaha Junior Class championship trophy this season. Last season the younger Goodyear competed in the Yamaha Sportsman category, winning the WKA Manufacturers Cup national event at New Castle Motorsport Park in New Castle, Ind. His dad passes on that Michael has won 28 race events over the past three seasons. His next event will be at Daytona International Speedway in December.=