Welcome to FOX SPORTS’ live coverage of Friday’s action from Supercars Darwin Triple Crown.
Reigning champion and championship leader Scott McLaughlin heads into Darwin as the favourite to become the first man to win the elusive Triple Crown, which has evaded everyone else since its inception in 2009.
In order to win the Triple Crown, a driver must win both races and the Top 10 Shootout but given nine drivers have won the last 11 races at Hidden Valley, it has become a near-impossible weekend to predict.
Six times world champion Lewis Hamilton laid hands on the Formula One winners’ trophy as his late team boss Niki Lauda was voted personality of the year at the governing FIA’s awards gala.
Austrian Lauda, a triple world champion and one of the all-time greats as well as the Mercedes team’s non-executive chairman, died in May aged 70 after a lung transplant the previous August.
The award was the result of a vote by permanently accredited media from the International Automobile Federation’s various championships. There was also recognition of late race director Charlie Whiting, who died before the season-opening race in Australia, and French F2 driver Anthoine Hubert, who died at the Belgian Grand Prix weekend in July.
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Hamilton was last to receive his prize but the trophy has become a familiar object, handed to another driver only once in the past six years – his now- retired teammate Nico Rosberg winning in 2016.
Appearing on stage in a zip-fronted sky blue suit at the black tie event in the Carrousel du Louvre, the 34-year-old said it had been the best season of his life but hoped for even better in 2020.
The Briton had earlier told reporters, however, that he was no fan of such events.
“I could happily be on holiday right now and it could be shipped to me. I’m not working my year for the actual trophy as such,” he said.
Hamilton said that nonetheless he enjoyed seeing others celebrate their successes and was inspired by the clips of their achievements. Hamilton can equal Michael Schumacher’s record seven championships next year, and looks set to surpass the great German’s milestone 91 wins, but said he had never been focused on such statistics.
“Every year is a blank slate, every season,” said Hamilton.
“I use 44 on my car, I never use number one. I feel like every season number one is there up for grabs for everyone.”
Hamilton’s Finnish teammate Valtteri Bottas, who drove his Mercedes on stage before stepping out to collect the second place driver’s trophy, might feel encouraged by those words.
Red Bull’s British-born Thai driver Alexander Albon was named rookie of the year, while Dutch teammate Max Verstappen, third in the championship with three race wins, took the action of the year for an overtake on Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc.
The best promoter’s award went to the Mexican Grand Prix for the fifth year in a row.
The 40-year-old Italian, a nine times world champion with seven of those coming in the top MotoGP class, will drive a 2017 Mercedes while Hamilton gets to ride Rossi’s Yamaha.
Rossi has driven a Formula One car before, several times with Ferrari between 2004 and 2010 when there was speculation he could switch from two wheels to four.
Four times 500cc world champion John Surtees remains the only man to win the Formula One title (in 1964) as well as top motorcycling honours.
Hamilton is also a keen motorcycle rider, riding to some European tracks and testing a Yamaha superbike but never a MotoGP machine.
“I’m super excited about it,” the 34-year-old told reporters last month.
“Just being on the same track at the same time as Valentino is going to be very, very surreal, and a real honour, because he’s such an icon in the sport, and he’s done so much. It’ll be cool to see him in my car as well.”
Dutch F1 commentator Olav Mol has taken aim at Daniel Ricciardo, calling him a “clown” and criticising him for failing to deliver in his first season with Renault.
The Aussie finished ninth in the drivers’ standings this year after quitting Red Bull at the end of 2018 as Renault failed in its bid to establish itself as the leader of the midfield pack behind Mercedes, Ferrari and Ricciardo’s former team.
Renault was fifth in the constructors’ championship, a healthy 54 points behind McLaren, and narrowly held off a challenge from Toro Rosso, who was six points behind the French outfit in sixth.
While the Enstone-based team was never going to challenge the sport’s Big Three — a fact of life Ricciardo accepted before switching sides this season — the start of the year in particular was littered with mechanical issues and the overall package wasn’t as competitive as hoped.
Ricciardo never made it onto the podium and Mol said the 30-year-old, despite not having the same resources as some of his rivals, still underperformed in the yellow and black.
“Wanting to be the clown of the paddock is not good enough,” Mol told Dutch publication Formule 1. “He has not improved.
“Ricciardo is incredibly nice, but on the job? In Brazil (where Ricciardo started 11th on the grid and finished sixth) he came from the back to the front, otherwise I have not seen enough ‘real Ricciardo moments’. And I have not seen him make Renault better.
“Other than his breakthrough in the Brazilian GP, he hasn’t shown much throughout the season.
“He should be less cheerful and hit the table with his fists more often.”
While 2019 didn’t go to plan, Ricciardo is hopeful there are sunnier times ahead for Renault. After he crossed the line 11th in the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Ricciardo offered a message of support to the team watching on from the garage.
“Thank you guys. I really mean it but we will get better next year, a lot better. I really think we will. So let’s get it,” he said over the team radio.
He firmly believes Renault has the ingredients to make meaningful strides forward next year and at least make good on its pre-season goal of being the midfield leader.
“Putting it bluntly I’m not really a speech maker. I know I like to talk a lot but I’m not gonna say, ‘We’ll do better next year boys’ if I really don’t think we will,” Ricciardo told Motorsport.com recently.
“I’m not just going to massage their shoulders and tell them what they want to hear.”
Ricciardo is confident he can elevate his performance and is feeling good about improvements made to the car that will benefit him and incoming teammate Esteban Ocon, who is replacing Nico Hulkenberg.
“Even in myself I know I’ll get better, so that’s one variable that I know is going to change for the better. So even that alone will improve,” Ricciardo said.
“But there are a lot of other things. Speaking with the aero guys, the philosophy of how we’ve designed the car, and especially the front of the car this year, I think they’re pretty confident that that was maybe not the best way to go, looking at some other teams, in order to develop the car.
“We have a bit in hand and we certainly have the resources and the budget to do so. So, yeah, it’s optimism.”