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Friday, May 30, 2008

Raikkonen, retirement, blah blah blah...

Kimi Raikkonen is considering retirement at the end of his Ferrari contract, a move that would clear the way for Fernando Alonso to come to the Prancing Horse in 2010.

Well, that’s the rumor, anyway, if you believe German newspapers Rheinischen Post and TZ, who said the Finn told friends as much at a recent party, reports F1-Live.com.

The reports, filled with quotes from unnamed friends and citing “recent” events, say Raikkonen loves the driving, but hates the publicity.

Um, yeah. OK. Uh-huh.

Flav says Renault needs Nelsinho

Flavio Briatore said rumors that Nelson Piquet has a limited time to turn around his game are incorrect.

Recent reports have claimed Piquet has three races to show something, with Takuma Sato and Robert Doornbos among the drivers said to be waiting in the wings to replace him.

Flav has backed the Brazilian's talent, however, saying the French outfit “needs him,” according to Crash.net

Briatore’s comments seem to echo those of Pat Symonds on the team’s official podcast (reported here Wednesday).

Ghosn: Renault is in for the long haul

Renault president Carlos Ghosn, known for being something of a cost cutter, told Brad Spurgeon of the International Herald Tribune the company is committed to Formula One for the long term.

Spurgeon reports on his blog Ghosn said that it would be foolish for the company to pull out of the sport just as F1 was evolving in a direction it supports, and that additionally, the time to exit is not when the team is “at the bottom.”

That would seem to indicate Renault plan to stick around and see if the 2009 rules play into their favor, but in France commitment doesn’t always seem to have the same definition as it does in the rest of the world.

I would venture to say Fernando Alonso would not have jumped to McLaren if he had any confidence in Renault’s longevity in the sport, and I haven’t seen anything to convince me much has changed.

Rosberg fit for Montreal

Despite a hard shunt in the Monaco Grand Prix, Nico Rosberg wrote on the AT&T Williams F1 Web site he is fit and ready to race in Canada.

“First of all, let me say that I’m fine! My crash at the Swimming Pool chicane on lap 60 of the Monaco Grand Prix was a big one, but there’s no damage – not to me, anyway. After consulting the doctors on site I decided, as precaution, to go to the Princess Grace Hospital in Monaco. All the routine checks in the hospital showed that everything was perfectly fine, so I was released to go home rather quickly. After a couple days rest, I am currently preparing and training as normal for the Canadian Grand Prix.”

Rosberg said he is looking forward to racing in Canada, a track that may play to the team's strengths.

“Although the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is a completely different sort of track to Monaco, it should suit our car well. However, its long straights and fast chicanes provide us with a very different challenge. I’m really looking forward to the Canadian Grand Prix and let’s hope we can get a good result there.”

Read Rosberg’s full column here. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

Time is short for '09 Indy return


Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George has admitted there isn’t much time to secure a deal to bring F1 back to the speedway in 2009.

George told Autosport the race is a 50/50 proposition, but that the two sides had not spoken since February.

Unlike Formula One, which can wait several months before making a decision on its ‘09 calendar, the Indy chieftain said for planning purposes he would need to know soon if the race is on the schedule.

Bernie Ecclestone would have to make that decision in the next couple of months, George said.

While George is hopeful of bringing the race back to the speedway, he said it will not be possible without a title sponsor. IMS has hired a firm to explore possibilities for sponsorship.

It’s safe to say George wants the race, a fair percentage of F1-related auto manufactures and sponsors want a race in a primary market, and Bernie wants to stage a race where he can make money. It’s just a matter of all the pieces falling into place, but 2009 might be a bit optimistic.

22 clubs now aligned against Mosley

The number of clubs calling for Max Mosley’s resignation now stands at twenty two, but the embattled FIA head refuses to resign.

Pointing to the other clubs who “overwhelmingly” support him, Mosley said it would be wrong to ignore the majority and resign without submitting the question to the FIA as a whole, the BBC reports.

A vote of confidence will take place in Paris Tuesday.

The latest letter (if you're keeping track, this is from the 22 clubs) said Mosley’s refusal to step down put the FIA into a “critical situation.”

Mosley called that suggestion “nonsense.”

Silverstone one step closer to safety

Silverstone has received the permission of the Aylesbury Vale District Council to build its new pit and paddock complex, ITV reports.

The track, under fire from Bernie Ecclestone yet again and in danger of losing the British Grand Prix, sees the redevelopment as vital.

Work is set to begin this year. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

No compromise, says Mosley

Max Mosley has refused a compromise deal which would have him step down from leadership of the FIA in November in exchange for a positive vote on June 3rd, Autosport’s Jonathon Noble reports.

Mosley has been facing increasing pressure to step down, the latest from the FIA's Automobile Mobility and Tourism group. Now it has emerged FIA's deputy president Franco Lucchesi and Region 1 president Werner Kraus forwarded a compromise deal to the embattled FIA chief.

Various federation heads have expressed concern that nothing good can come from either outcome in June, and the effect on the FIA would be disastrous.

Lucchesi has distributed a letter, seen by autosport.com, reporting the duo offered the deal aimed at avoiding a rift as a result of the vote, but Mosley rejected the offer.

Obviously, Mosley believes he has the votes to remain in power, and is willing to put his own position ahead of any fracture certain to divide the governing body.

On a related front, Mosley has again sued the News of the World tabloid for violation of privacy and libel, in Paris, AFP reports.

Mosley’s lawyers claim since the newspaper is sold in France he has the grounds to sue in that country.

He is suing for unlimited damages. He has also sued the newspaper in Britain.

Elsewhere, Gerhard Berger is the latest to be connected to take over in a post-Max world.

The Toro Rosso co-owner and former driver has been mentioned as being more popular as a replacement than the oft mentioned Jean Todt, by two writers for The Times in its Australian sister publication, F1-Live reports.

And if Dietrich Mateschitz sticks to his plan to sell the Toro Rosso squad, he’d have some time on his hands.

Oddly, not mentioned among the leading candidates was Alain Prost...

Renault torn on its focus

Renault is facing something of a dilemma, should it spend its resources on trying to improve this year’s challenger, or should it turn it’s focus on to next year, with 2009’s impending rule changes?

"It is always difficult and the level of difficulty depends on two major factors - one is where you are sitting in the current championship, how threatened you are and what you can achieve,” said Pat Symonds on the team's official podcast. “There is nothing wrong with keeping the development going if it is all applicable to next year's car, unfortunately this time there is very little that is applicable to next year's car.”

While teams that have proven to be uncompetitive this year are free to focus on next season, Renault is finding that a little more difficult, and doesn’t have the luxury of bigger teams to focus on both projects at once.

"We are a big team but we are not big enough to handle two major projects and some of the people who are maybe struggling this year, for example Honda, are pushing a lot more effort into next year than we have been able to,” he added.

The team are still enthusiastic that developments made prior to the Spanish Grand Prix will pay off.

"All the things that were put in place to make the car better are still in place and still producing results, so in terms of performance I feel very confident,” he said. "But I am a little bit more concerned by the fact we are not finishing races for various reasons and that is where we have to concentrate as well."

Kubica focused on the many, not the one

Robert Kubica has had the better of teammate Nick Heidfeld this season, but simply beating his teammate is not his goal.

“That is not my outlook on racing," Kubica said in an interview with the BMW Sauber Web site. "My teammate is not my most important opponent. I don't concentrate so much on him. I know that some other drivers see this completely differently. I, personally, am not racing against my teammate, but against all 19 drivers. If I leave them all behind me, then I automatically leave my teammate behind me too.”

Kubica said there are many reasons for both the team’s and his own personal performance this season.

“Many factors have come together. If the set-up is not right then you automatically drive slower because you don't have the right grip, meaning you don't feel as secure - it is like a chain reaction,” The Pole said. “I had some very good races last year, but then there were technical problems and we didn't always have the perfect race strategy - that is all a completely different story this year.”

Mallya focusing on the positives

Force India chief Vijay Mallya said the team was “shattered” by the crash which ended Adrian Sutil’s dream run, but the the positives -- Sutil’s talent and the team’s strategy -- were the revelations of the weekend.

In an interview with F1-Live.com, the Indian said he he received many passionate messages from his team’s supporters, the clash was simply part of F1’s unpredictable nature.

Mallya went on to say he wants to see his team earn points, not be gifted points through “exceptional circumstances.”

Read the full Q&A here. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Prost urges Mosley and Ecclestone to reconcile

But former champ stands ready to fill FIA role if called

Formula One legend Alain Prost fears a war between Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone could be disastrous for Formula One.

Setanta reports Prost told The Gulf Times now is the time for Formula One’s power brokers to make the right decision for the sport.

Not that anyone asked, but Prost said he would consider a role in governing the sport in a post-Max world if so asked, F1-Live.com reports.

Citing multiple sources, the site said Prost qualified he would not want to fill the specific role held by Mosley.

Instead, he would like to see the position split into two parts, a sporting role, and a general motoring role.

Prost said were it done, he would be happy in the sporting role, being experienced in dealing with the FIA, the World Motorsport Council, and the Formula One Commission.

Perhaps Alain can put his valuable experience running his Formula One team -- dealing with work stoppages, negotiating engine deals and signing sponsors -- to good use in his envisioned role.

Ferrari shakes down the new A1GP challenger

Ferrari test driver Andrea Bertolini ran the new F2004-based A1GP car for the first time last weekend at Fiorano.

The car is based on the one Michael Schumacher used to win the championship in 2004, and will carry the “Powered by Ferrari” badge.

Ferrari and the A1 technical team said they were encouraged by the test, according to A1GP.com, and now plan to put the car through an extensive program at both Fiorano and Imola’s Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Alonso, Heidfeld calm after Monaco clash

Fernando Alonso and Nick Heidfeld both moved Monday to downplay their clash at the hotel hairpin in Monaco.

Alonso took full responsibility for the collision, saying in an interview with the AS newspaper desperation drove him to attempt a pass at an impossible place on a track where it is impossible to pass.

Alonso said it would be much worse for someone in the title hunt, like Kimi Raikkonen, but while it was a shame for him to lose out Sunday, his goal is to move on and score as many points as he can over the remainder of the season.

ITV reports Heidfeld recognized Alonso made a mistake which ruined his race, but it should be kept in perspective, saying under conditions like those faced in Monaco, mistakes are inevitable.

Heidfeld is much more concerned with keeping his high-flying teammate Robert Kubica withing his sights, and has vowed to work even harder with his engineers to turn his season around.

Nice to see F1 drivers acting like adults, for a change.

Coulthard to check out NASCAR

David Coulthard is using the filming of a Red Bull promotional video to check out the NASCAR series in Dover a week prior to the Canadian Grand Prix, grandprix.com reports.

DC said the video shoot offered a prime opportunity to view the sport up close and see what makes it so popular in the U.S.

Coulthard has often been rumored to be open to a move to the series when he is finished with F1, but the Scot warned against reading too much into his visit, saying he has no plans to move to NASCAR next year.

Doornbos signs ING promotional deal

F1-Live.com, citing Dutch publication Formule 1 Race Report, reports former Minardi and Red Bull driver Robert Doorbos, a casualty of the Champ Car/IndyCar merger, has signed a deal with Renault sposor ING as a demonstration driver.

Doornbos, also set to represent AC Milan in the Superleague Formula, may be behind the wheel of the Renault as early as Friday at Silverstone, according to motorsport-total.com.

The Dutchman’s management was quick to say that there is no link between the driver’s deal and the future of Nelson Piquet’s seat with the French team.

Doornbos is slated to make promotional appearances in Rotterdam and Moscow. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Glory for Hamilton, heartbreak for Sutil in the streets of Monaco

Despite smacking the barrier early in the race, Lewis Hamilton benefited from McLaren’s race strategy to win an event-filled, rain-washed Monaco Grand Prix.

"This has got to be the highlight of my career and I am sure it will continue to be the highlight for the rest of my life," Hamilton said. "I remember on the last few laps I was just thinking that Ayrton Senna won here a lot of times and to win here would be amazing. But I know anything can happen here and I have to just keep it out of the barriers."

Robert Kubica took second and Felipe Massa third.

"I think it is quite a lot of miracles that I finished the race," said Kubica. "It was a very hard race for me and I think second place was the maximum with our performance this weekend. I am very happy."

Twenty minutes before the race started the track was damp and rain drops were starting to fall, a precursor for what was to come as teams monitored the conditions and tried to make proper tire choices.

The indecision would hurt Kimi Raikkonen, whose tires were not fitted three minutes before the race as required by the regulations. The Finn would receive a drive through penalty.

The craziness kicked off on the formation lap as Heikki Kovalainen couldn’t get out of the box and dropped to the back.

When the lights went out, Felipe Massa led the field into the first corner, but Hamilton got the better of Kimi Raikkonen and slotted into second as the rain started to fall in earnest.

Further back Nico Rosberg made contact in the hairpin with Fernando Alonso, and Jenson Button ran into the back of Nick Heidfeld. Button would come in for his new nose on lap 2, and Rosberg would be in on lap 4.

David Coulthard was a big winner on the start, jumping up to 12th from 15th.

As the rain intensified, it claimed its first front runner, when Hamilton hit the barrier exiting the swimming pool. His right-rear tire down, the McLaren driver headed to the pits with Massa, Raikkonen and Kubica in front. While Hamilton was able to continue, it did not look good for him.

"Through turn 12, Tabac, there was a sort of river coming through and as I was catching Felipe I hit this river and just oversteered and just slid across into the barrier," Hamilton explained. "I couldn't believe it and I knew I had only just touched it and I had a rear puncture and fortunately I was able to tell the team quickly and they were able to react as quickly as possible and get out."

Next, DC’s shocking season continued as first Coulthard, and then Sebestien Bourdais, slid into the wall at the same spot at the casino, deploying the safety car.

Fernando Alonso, who had just clipped the wall as well, pitted and made the decision to continue on the extreme wet tire. He soon started making big progress as it was proving to be the better choice, first dusting off Mark Webber and then hounding Nick Heidfeld.

But disaster would strike as the Spaniard got ambitious at the hairpin and made contact with the German. Webber would also touch in the ensuing bottleneck, but while Alonso and Heidfeld would have to pit, the Red Bull driver was able to continue.

Massa lost his lead on lap 15 when his car slid off at St. Devote. Through shear luck he did not make contact with the wall, but he gave up the lead to Kubica.

"For sure, a lot of us had a little moment there. In a race like that it is so easy to have a small off through concentration or whatever," Massa said. "I just braked over the line and I couldn't stop the car because you have the line going out from the pits. I just braked a little bit over the line and I just couldn't stop the car."

As the rain stopped, track conditions slowly began to improve, and Massa and Kubica began to swap fastest laps. The race was fast approaching the window for two-stoppers, and Kubica was in by lap 26. He came back out in fourth, but quickly benefited when Raikkonnen strait-lined it into St Devote, hitting the tire barrier and forced to pit.

Kubica was not so lucky with Massa, the Brazilian pitted on lap 33 and beat the BMW driver out of the pits. Against the odds, Hamilton was now leading the race.

Hamilton pushed relentlessly to open the gap with Massa in hopes of retaining first place after his stop, and had built up a 23 second cushion as Massa ran into traffic on the tight streets.

A definite dry line was beginning to appear on the track, and those teams on the extreme tires were now caught out. But rain was predicted to make a return, so teams were finding it difficult to commit to a tire choice. First to make the move to dries was Alonso, and the pit lane began watching the Spaniard’s performance intently.

Next was teammate Nelson Piquet, and while Alonso struggled but persevered, Piquet was not so lucky, going off at St Devote and bringing his race to an end.

Mark Webber was the next to switch , then McLaren sent Kovalainen out on dries, and McLaren began to furiously study the data while preparing for Hamilton’s stop.

By lap 54, dry tire performance was no longer in question. The promised rain was not materializing. Hamilton pitted and came out with dry tires.

Massa would soon have to follow suit, giving second place back to Kubica. Massa said his strategy was compromised by a radio problem.

"I had a very difficult race as I lost the radio for 20 laps and I couldn't talk to my team, I was just looking to the board and it was not so easy to know what was going on in the race," Massa said.

In front, Hamilton had built an almost 40 second gap, but all that was about to change as Nico Rosberg suffered a huge shunt at the swimming pool, his car ping-ponging across the track, deploying the safety car and bunching up the field.

"I said it was going to be an eventful race. I hope Nico is okay," said Hamilton. "The team came over the radio and said he should be okay. For sure that looked like a big shunt."

As the field sorted itself out behind the safety car, it was becoming obvious the two-hour time limit would come into play.

Eleven minutes remained when it came in, and Hamilton led Kubica and Massa.

Meanwhile, the big surprise was Force India’s Adrian Sutil, who made his way up to fourth, the customer Ferrari leading Raikkonen. Would Monaco bring Vijay Mallya’s team its maiden points?

Sadly it wouldn’t, as on lap 68 the Finn would outbrake himself coming out of the tunnel and run into the back of the young German. Both cars would pit, but only Raikkonen would emerge, the Force India car too damaged to continue and Sutil was left gutted.

As time ran out, Lewis Hamilton had defied the odds and won on one of his favorite tracks. Kubica was second and Massa third.

"It was a shame that we made a little mistake on the strategy but it is good to be on the podium," Massa said. "The championship is long and I am happy with the result even though I expected the victory because we had a great car in the dry and a great strategy as maybe I was the last car to stop. I had a great car yesterday in qualifying and the race itself but unfortunately the strategy did not work."

Hamilton’s win makes him the first Englishman since Graham Hill in 1969 to win Monaco. The Briton has now won in the principality in F1, GP2 and F3.

"I have to say a big thank you to all of my team back home and over here. You did a fantastic job," said Hamilton. "And to all my fans - I know I have got a lot of fans here and also back home - I did it for all of you and especially my family who have been here supporting me all weekend and to my mum, lots of love Mum."

Mark Webber put in a strong performance to take fourth for Red Bull, with likely future teammate Sebastian Vettel taking fifth for Toro Rosso.

Rubens Barrichello took sixth, his first points since 2006. Kazuki Nakajima finished seventh and despite all that worked against him, Heikki Kovalainen finished eighth to round out the points paying positions.

Formula One returns to action for its only stop in North America in two weeks time at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal for the Canadian Grand Prix. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

BREAKING: DC to receive 5-place penalty

David Coulthard's strong qualifying will be for nothing as the Scot will receive a 5-place grid penalty as his heavy shunt at the end of the second session will result in a gearbox change.

The penalty has not been officially announced, but the veteran Red Bull driver told SpeedTV.com it will happen, and he will start 15th tomorrow.

The penalty might have been worse, but Red Bull was able to salvage the chassis. The team could not confirm the cause of the accident, but Coulthard does not believe he was necessarily at fault.

Coulthard also claims a sore head, which has gotten worse since the accident, SpeedTV.com reports, but has not sought medical treatment. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Ferrari 1-2 in Monaco qualifying

Felipe Massa edged his rivals to take pole in Monaco, and Kimi Raikkonen qualified second to lock up an all Ferrari front row, besting the Silver Arrows on a traditionally McLaren track.

No one was more surprised with Massa’s pole winning performance than the Brazilian himself.

“I still cannot believe that I am on pole. It is unbelievable. I was pushing very hard to learn how to drive here because it was the place where I struggled every time I came here,” Massa said. “On the first day I was still a little bit concerned on the second sector but then I managed to put everything together to learn some tricks in some corners and also having a great car. I still can't believe I am on pole.”

Monaco is a race traditionally won in qualifying, and with Ferrari 1-2 on the grid, the Italian team must be liking its chances.

Disappointed, especially after the two McLarens led the final practice prior to qualifying, third place Lewis Hamilton is counting on strategy to carry him through.

“I think we did a solid job. For sure we anticipated we would be a little bit quicker. I guess we were surprised by the Ferraris' pace. Both my laps were quite good. I was quite happy with the way the whole session went,” Hamilton commented. “There were no problems with traffic. We lost a little bit in the last sector but generally the car felt good and I felt I strung together two solid laps but the time just wasn't there. But still I am happy with the strategy we are on, so tomorrow we should see how we do.”

Hamilton’s McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen will line up next to him, and Robert Kubica kept his string of strong qualifying runs alive to take fifth.

Willliams’ Nico Rosberg, looking strong all week so far, put in a good performance to qualify sixth, and Fernando Alonso is seventh. Jarno Trulli slots in eighth spot, Mark Webber ninth.

Webber’s teammate, David Coulthard, was the final racer to qualify in the top 10, but did not participate in the session after wrecking his car coming out of the tunnel in the closing minutes of the second session.

Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Kazuki Nakajima, Nick Heidfeld, and Timo Glock all found themselves locked out of the final session. Particularly surprising was Heidfeld, who was again well out qualified by his teammate.

It was also disappointment for Giancarlo Fisichella, aiming for a point to celebrate his 200th grand prix, as he could not get the Force India car through the first session.

Other first session victims included teammate Adrian Sutil, the brand new STR3s of Sebs Bourdais and Vettel, and the beleaguered Nelson Piquet. It will not play well for the Renault driver to be out qualified 10 places by his teammate, whether he clipped the barrier or not.

There is a good chance of rain hitting tomorrow’s race, which could shuffle things up and make for a challenging race sans traction control.

“Tomorrow we will probably have really difficult conditions,” said Raikkonen. “so it is going to be good fun.”

Rain in Monaco has provided some amazing races in the past. Who could forget Olivier Panis storming through the field from 14th for Ligier to take his only career win, one of just four cars to finish? Massa, for one, relishes the challenge.

“For sure tomorrow will be another day and it will be very tough because we have a lot of possible problems in front of us,” Massa enthused. “The rain could come at any time and the race in Monaco is the most difficult one to keep on the track and with a good pace because you are very close to the wall all the time. Whatever comes into your mind maybe can be enough for retirement. I am looking forward to having a great day tomorrow and be clever in whatever condition we approach.”
Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Senna rules Monaco

Bruno Senna carried on the family tradition, winning the feature GP2 race and putting the Senna name back on top of the podium on the streets of Monaco.

Senna took the lead from pole sitter Pastor Maldonado going into St Devote and built up a nearly five second cushion before contact behind the front runners tightened up the field.

It was a tight battle to the end, but Senna nailed down the win 15 years after his legendary uncle topped the Monaco podium for the last time.

Hakkinen: Lewis must step up

Mika Hakkinen said last year’s performance makes Lewis Hamilton the leader at McLaren, and he now has to take responsibility and fill that role.

Setanta reports the Finn said with expectations high, Hamilton must put into use the lessons learned from Fernando Alonso and develop the car and get results.

The double world champion continued Hamilton clearly has the talent, but he must handle the pressure well or he may become prone to mistakes.

Jackie Stewart bets Mosley will stay in power

One of Max Mosley’s fiercest critics, triple Formula One world champion Jackie Stewart believes the embattled FIA head will win his vote of no confidence.

He believes in it enough he put $100 (50 pounds) on it, Reuters reports.

Commenting that for a Scotsman $100 is a lot of money, Mosley’s 'certified half-wit' said he would gladly pay it out if he loses, but that it would be wrong if he won.

Stewart said the fact Mosley’s presence has been deemed unacceptable to governments and race organizers is a sign the FIA president should step aside.

He also said the FIA chief, who has punished individuals and organizations in the past for bringing the sport into disrepute, should be held to the same high standard.

Finally...

Bernie Ecclestone’s promised letter to the club presidents has been released. Read the full text here. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Thursday, May 22, 2008

Marco Andretti fans the conspiracy theory

Marco Andretti, the latest of the American racing family’s dynasty to race in the Indy 500, says that his father’s brief race stint at McLaren in 1993 was “sabotaged” by the team.

While the generally accepted explanation for Michael Andretti’s aborted F1 career was a lack of commitment, son Marco told the Associated Press McLaren was more interested in moving him out of the way so as to promote the promising young Mika Hakkinen.

Andretti claimed not only did his father receive an inferior car to teammate Ayrton Senna, they would also fiddle with the electronics to make the car more difficult to drive.

Only intervention by Senna himself allowed for Michael Andretti’s strong performance in his final race at Monza, his third place podium a result of Senna insisting they have equal cars.

Michael would not rehash the issue when asked, only commenting it wasn’t a great experience.

Still, Marco, who tested a Honda in 2006, isn’t turned off of Formula One. He would make the move if he could win, but he believes many would like to see him fail, too.

Like Graham Rahal, Marco Andretti believes he’d also be satisfied spending his entire career in the U.S. now that Champ Car and IndyCar have unified.

Silverstone under threat (again)

Fresh off striking Magny-Cours off the calendar, Bernie Ecclestone expressed doubt the British Racing Driver’s Club (BRDC) can raise the standards at Silverstone to keep it on the calendar in 2010.

Ecclestone told the Daily Telegraph the BRDC knows the terms that must be met to keep the race, but he wouldn’t lay money on them being met.

600th Grand Prix for Williams

The Monaco Grand Prix marks the 600th Formula One race for Williams.

Williams' debut was the 1969 Spanish Grand Prix with a Brabham BT26 driven by Piers Courage.

Two weeks later the pair netted a second in Monaco.

Williams has gone on to win a total of 113 races, seven driver’s championships and nine constructors' championships.

Rossi regrets not switching to F1

Bike star Valentino Rossi admitted to “some regrets” he didn’t switch to Formula One, and says he still has curiosity as to what he might have accomplished.

The last time he drove an F1 car was a test for Ferrari in 2006, when he was within reach of Michael Schumacher, but elected to remain in MotoGP.

More recently he has dabbled in rallying, but Crash.net reports the Italian told Affari Italiani he still has more to accomplish in MotoGP.

He is expected to renew his Yamaha deal in the near future.

Ferrari, McLaren top practice sessions

Kimi Raikkonen took the first session in Monaco Thursday, setting a best lap of 1:15.948 .

Lewis Hamilton was second and Heikki Kovalainen third. Felipe Massa and Nico Rosberg rounded out the top five.

Hamilton answered in the second session, topping the sheets with a best lap of 1:15.140.

Rosberg continued to impress, improving on his morning performance to nail down P2. Raikkonen and Massa were third and fourth, with Kovalainen completing the top five.

First session victims included Jarno Trulli, who made contact with the wall, and Nick Heidfeld and David Coulthard struggled with mechanical problems.

Meanwhile, both Renaults had issues at St. Devote in the second session, Nelson Piquet’s day coming to an end when he lost his wing. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bernie warns: Don't declare war

Formula One ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone has responded to Max Mosley’s extraordinary letter to the FIA, warning his friend and business associate not to go to war with him over control of the sport.

Mosley’s letter last week to the presidents of the FIA’s member clubs alleged a power struggle exists for control of Formula One between the FIA and the “Formula One Commercial Rights Holder (CRH).”

While it never mentions Ecclestone by name, that entity is Ecclestone.

Mosley writes in the letter that a renegotiation is taking place over the 100-year commercial agreement, signed in 2000, between the FIA and the CRH, with the CRH asking to “take over Formula One completely.”

The FIA head says to relieve him of his duties will severely weaken the FIA’s position in the negotiations.

Ecclestone dismissed the allegations to The Times, saying the vote is about what the News of the World reported and if Mosley is fit to head the FIA, not the Concorde Agreement.

Ecclestone said he does not know why Mosley would allege an F1 power struggle exists, and he hopes the letter isn’t a “declaration of war,” warning if it is his organization would be forced to defend itself.

He believes that wasn’t Mosley’s aim, Ecclestone continued, adding he and CVC Capital Partners, the commercial rights holder, intend to follow up with a letter of their own to the club presidents.

Rahal won’t race for a backmarker

Much has been made about Americans coming to Formula One, but the one that might have the best combination of talent and pedigree -- Graham Rahal -- said he would not be interested in such a move if it wasn’t with a top team.

Rahal had previously expressed interest in an F1 move, but that interest seems to have waned.

Rahal told the Indianapolis Star that racing with one of the top teams would be “cool,” but there would be “nothing cool about running for 15th every weekend.”

Rahal made the statement this week while preparing for the Indy 500. The young star has impressed with his road racing skills, first in Champ Car and now the unified U.S-based open-wheel series. He also has experience in A1.

His win on the streets of St. Petersburg made him the youngest winner in a major open-wheel race in the States. The son of Bobby Rahal said with IndyCar and Champ Car now united, he could be satisfied remaining in the U.S. for the rest of his career. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Flavio Briatore: Father figure

F1-Live reports Fernando Alonso said just that in an interview with Italian magazine Grazia, saying he owed his career to the Renault team principal.

The Spaniard also said he considers himself a normal person away from the track, valuing time with family and friends, relaxing, and playing sports in his down time.

Alonso said he struggled with the initial shock of celebrity, but he has adopted methods to cope with it.

Heidfeld in danger of losing his seat?

That is the opinion of former Formula 1 racer Hans-Joachim Stuck, if his fellow German cannot up his game and out qualify teammate Robert Kubica.

Setanta, quoting the German Web site spox.com, said Stuck believes Heidfeld’s lack of superstar status will eventually cost him his BMW Sauber drive. This, despite the fact he trails his teammate by only four points in the championship.

Stuck even goes so far as to speculate BMW Sauber head Dr. Mario Theissen has held “secret” talks with such “superstars” already.

Fisi prepares for his 200th

Giancarlo Fisichella would like to mark his 200th race by scoring Force India’s first points of the season.

ITV reports the Italian said eighth place -- one point -- is his target.

Force India’s technical guru Mike Gascoyne believes Monaco offers an opportunity to do just that, saying he was pleased with the results of last week’s runs at Paul Ricard, where the team tested a special aero package for the streets of Monte Carlo.

Fisichella will be the ninth driver to reach his 200th race. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Montoya: Busch beware

Former F1 and current NASCAR driver Juan Pablo Montoya has warned Kyle Busch not to get too excited about the possibility of an F1 run, F1-Live.com reports.

Pointing out the difference between a demonstration and a full-blown test, Montoya recalled the months of training he put in prior to his first F1 test. At the time, he was racing F3000.

The Colombian said he had special equipment attached to his bed to strengthen his neck. Although he got to the point where he could actually move the bed with his neck, he still found more than five laps impossible.

JPM also made reference to the publicity event in 2003 where he and Jeff Gordon swapped rides in Indianapolis. Montoya said he had to convince Williams not to detune the car for Gordon.

Gordon impressed with his demonstration runs, Montoya said, but it was by no means a real F1 test.

Montoya said it would be impossible for a driver to immediately make the leap from the oval-based series to a “proper” test.

DC: Webber’s comments a negotiation tactic

Mark Webber was quoted at the Turkish Grand Prix as being “massively keen” on staying with the Red Bull squad.

David Coulthard used his ITV column to call his teammate’s comments a “positioning tactic” to either spur on talks with the team, or alert the rest of the paddock that he is available.

“When you think about it logically, you do your private negotiations in private and then when you’ve reached an agreement you make an announcement. You don’t normally say, ‘Er, I’m about to enter negotiations…’”

Coulthard said he isn’t interested in making negotiations over his own future public.

“As far as my own situation goes, I will keep my own counsel until I have a firm deal to announce.”

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner has been pleased with Webber’s performance so far this season, ITV reports, saying the Australian is “in the form of his life.”

Horner added he was happy to see Coulthard’s luck change in Istanbul, noting he needs both drivers to score points if Red Bull are to be the fourth best in the championship.

Read DC's column here.

Renault and Red Bull have passed Toyota, Trulli says

Jarno Trulli feels Renault and Red Bull have made a significant step forward, erasing Toyota’s early season edge.

In an interview with SpeedTV.com, the Italian said it is an example of just how tight things are in the midfield this season.

Trulli said Toyota needs to build a quicker car, nevertheless, he said he is driving better than ever and his level of commitment has not wavered.

A former winner in Monaco, Trulli said this year’s race will be difficult and unpredictable, due largely to the absence of traction control.

Schumacher on...and off...bikes again

Marcel Niederhausen... er... make that Michael Schumacher, is racing motorcycles again.

The seven-time world champion, racing under a pseudonym, competed in two races at Oschersleben in the IDM Superbike series.

Schumacher finished 28th in the first race, but crashed out of the second. He was running 21st at the time.

The race was a one-off, he said. There is no word on if -- or when -- he might make another two-wheeled appearance. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Only Max can save F1?

Only Max Mosley can save the sport from falling into the clutches of Bernie Ecclestone’s Formula One Group.

That is the claim of the FIA head in a letter to club presidents -- an impassioned plea by Mosley to avoid a vote of no confidence as the June 3rd special meeting approaches.

Mosley claims that plans are already in the works to take over the FIA’s responsibilities over sporting regulations should he be voted out of office.

He said the absence of leadership while the process to replace him stretches on leaves FIA control of the sport at risk. His eventual replacement might even sympathise with Formula One, he added.

Mosley claims the sex scandal was, in fact, broken to undermine his position in current negotiations over the FIA’s role in the sport.

In a related story, a member of MI5 resigned after it emerged his wife was one of the prostitutes in the video. The Sunday Telegraph newspaper went so far as to say it was the officer’s wife who tipped of News of the World tabloid.

MI5 denied involvement.

Read the full text of the Mosley letter here.

Hakkinen escapes fire

39-year-old Former World Champion Mika Hakkinen was forced to flee his French villa as fire swept through while he slept, multiple sources are reporting.

The fire was traced to an electrical fault in a cabinet used to display his trophies. The trophies may have been lost.

Hakkinen and two women, one possibly his girlfriend, were hospitalized but discharged.

It was previously reported the Finn and his wife were divorcing in February.

Sir Frank regrets BMW split

Frank Williams has admitted to regrets that his team split with engine partner BMW at the end of 2005, in an interview with F1 Racing.

The partnership netted 10 wins, but no championships, before the two organizations split; Williams carried on with customer engines while BMW purchased the Sauber outfit.

Williams said in the face of BMW Sauber’s emergence as a title challenger, he did harbor some regrets over the split with engine manufacturer.

It was a difficult relationship, Williams continued, punctuated by a lack of ability to communicate, but the engines were good and the engineers hard workers.

But Williams had nothing but praise for current engine suppliers Toyota, saying the Japanese manufacturer’s involvement solidified his team’s future, explaining his team would remain in the sport so long as it could put a competitive engine in the car. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

NASCAR star looking at F1

Current NASCAR points leader Kyle Busch has his sights set on an F1 test, SpeedTV.com reports.

Busch, who drives a Toyota in the American stock car series, gave the Japanese manufacturer its first series win earlier this year.

The 23-year-old made his comments from North Carolina, where his team is preparing for this weekend’s NASCAR all-star race at the Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

It wasn’t clear if he is chasing a demonstration or a full-blown test, but Busch said he hopes to be in the car in either November or December.

Busch has been participating in three NASCAR series this season, the Sprint Cup, Nationwide Series and the Craftsman Truck Series.

Busch said he could be interested in a race opportunity if he could stand the physical strain of an F1 car, but added the racing in F1 wasn’t exciting to him because the aerodynamic characteristics of the cars limit passing.

Juan Pablo Montoya, of course, went in the other direction, establishing himself as a rising star on the predominantly oval-based NASCAR series. He has since been joined by several open-wheel stars, including Sam Hornish, Dario Franchitti and Jacques Villeneuve, to varying degrees of success.

The recent history of Americans in Formula One has been a bit underwhelming, Michael Andretti’s aborted season with McLaren in 1993 and Scott Speed’s firing in 2007 the most recent examples. Busch hasn’t made many friends this year in NASCAR, one wonders how well another brash American would fit into the F1 paddock.

Toro Rosso’s new car will result in grid penalty for Vettel

The introduction of the new Toro Rosso at next weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix will have a bit of a negative effect on Sebastian Vettel, who will suffer a five-place grid penalty, as the STR3 requires a brand new gear box.

The 2008 rules require gearboxes to last four races, so the introduction of the new car and it’s gearbox will incur the punishment.

Teammate Sebastien Bourdais is immune as the Frenchman did not complete the last race.

Such a penalty on the notoriously difficult street circuit, with limited to nonexistent passing opportunities, could be disastrous for the German. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Friday, May 16, 2008

Kubica to enjoy the open road

Robert Kubica plans to pick up his Lorenzo Bandini Trophy in style, doing what no driver has done before: Drive his F1 car from Faenza to Brisighella on the open road, ITV reports.

The award recognizes off-track achievements, is presented by the people of Brisighella, and honors the late Italian driver.

Receiving the award surprised Kubica, who did think he did anything special to deserve it.

Kubica called the planned run over public roads “the icing on the cake.”

Trulli fastest in the rain at Paul Ricard

Jarno Trulli headed the timesheets as rain hit the final day of testing at Paul Ricard.

Trulli set a time of 1:31.260 as teams ran a longer, faster configuration of the test track in preparation for the Canadian Grand Prix slated for the first weekend in June.

Nelson Piquet set the second fastest time with a 1:31.634, and Pedro de la Rosa was third with a time of 1:32.143.

Sebastian Vettel was fourth in the STR3, Felipe Massa fifth and Nick Heidfeld sixth.

Red Bull ran test driver Sebastien Buemi, who came in seventh ahead of Giancarlo Fisichella in the Force India, Jenson Button in the Honda and Adrian Sutil in the second Force India.

Williams test runner Nico Hulkenberg rounded out the field.

Mosley to attend Monaco, but in an unofficial capacity

Max Mosley will appear at his first race since the sex scandal broke when he visits the Monaco Grand Prix.

He will not represent the FIA, however. That duty will be performed by Marco Piccinini, his deputy.

Piccinini will act sn the FIA representative in all meetings with the royal family of Monaco and at the official galas surrounding the weekend.

Diamonds, diamonds, diamonds

It seems Formula One just can’t get enough of diamonds and Monte Carlo.

Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen will sport diamond-encrusted helmets next weekend as part of McLaren’s sponsorship deal with Steinmetz.

The helmets will feature both the Steinmetz logo and the drivers’ signatures shaped in diamonds on each side.

Where goes Sato?

Rumors are beginning to swirl as to where Takuma Sato may end up, with French magazine AutoHebdo reporting he could play into a shootout to replace struggling Nelson Piquet at Renault.

It was also suggested the Japanese could return to Honda in 2009 in place of 37-year-old Rubens Barrichello.

And finally…

As you may have heard, there is something so disturbing surrounding the sport at the moment that so far I have refused to comment on it. Well, I tried to restrain myself, but I can’t help it. Steel yourself, and then press play…

Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Mika: Lack of championship spurs DC on

Mika Hakkinen believes one of the reasons David Coulthard continues racing is the lack of a world championship.

In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, the former McLaren star expressed surprise some drivers stay in the sport so long, citing his former teammate as an example.

Coulthard is 37.

Hakkinen said he thinks DC is motivated by the fact he hasn't won a world championship, saying he too would likely have remained in the sport under similar conditions.

Hakkinen retired in 2001 having won the world championship twice. He was still in his early 30s.

The Finn told the Gazette he ruled out a return a couple of years later because he felt he had nothing left to prove.

Privateers unnecessary, says Fry

It may come as a bit of a shock, but Nick Fry doesn't think the sport needs privateers.

In an interview with Autosport, the Honda Racing CEO said he feels the sport should focus on luring more manufacturers, rather than "not-very-well funded" privateers.

Fry specifically cited Volkswagen and Audi as examples of the kind of companies Formula One should be after.

BMW's Mario Theissen and Red Bull's Christian Horner, however, do not agree with Fry's view, saying cost control should be the target.

Raikkonen heads day 2

Kimi Raikkonen and Ferrari edged McLaren to top the charts for day two of testing at Paul Ricard.

It was the second and last day of testing on a tight configuration mimicking the conditions teams will face in Monaco. Day three testing will take place on a long, fast configuration aimed at preparing teams for Montreal.

Raikkonen set a fast time of 1:05.381, putting him just ahead of fellow Finn Heikki Kovalainen's 1:05.471.

Robert Kubica was third once again with a 1:05.905.

David Coulthard picked up where teammate Mark Webber left off yesterday, placing fourth. Monaco may be an ideal track for Red Bull and its new-found pace.

Jenson Button was fifth, and Sebastian Bourdais's second taste of the new STR3 went much better than last time, the Frenchman taking sixth.

Jarno Trulli, Nelson Piquet, Kazuki Nakajima, Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella rounded out the field. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Hamilton fastest at Paul Ricard

Lewis Hamilton topped the timesheets in day one of testing at a Monaco-configured Paul Ricard, as teams focused on preparations for the unique Monte Carlo street circuit.

Hamilton set a fastest time of 1:05.600 over 84 laps Wednesday.

Kimi Raikkonen nailed the second fastest time in the session, setting a 1:06.098, and despite a mid-day engine change, Robert Kubica was third for BMW Sauber with a time of 1:06.177. Mark Webber was fourth.

Sebastian Vettel was fifth in the brand new STR3, the German giving the car it’s long-awaited shakedown, postponed after teammate Sebestien Bourdais’ shunt in Barcelona.

Nico Rosberg was sixth, as his Williams was the latest to sprout a fin on its engine cover. No word on whether it will make it into race configuration.

Honda test driver Alex Wurz was seventh, Timo Glock eighth for Toyota, Force India test driver Tonio Liuzzi was ninth, and Renault test driver Lucas di Grassi rounded out the field in tenth.

Drivers took the opportunity to test both tire options they will have in the principality, as well a run high downforce aero configurations and mechanicals.

Testing continues tomorrow at the French test track, with the test scheduled for three days. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Ralf: Expert on number twos


Former F1 driver Ralf “Not-the-seven-time-world-champion” Schumacher, believes Ferrari has already put all its eggs in Kimi Raikkonen’s basket, despite Felipe Massa’s recent form.

Speaking to German newspaper Bild, the now DTM driver pointed out regardless what the Italian team professes, Ferrari has a long history of playing favorites, and now is no different.

In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, however, McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen believes it would be a mistake not to keep an eye on the Brazilian’s challenge, saying to do otherwise would be “stupid.”

Renault on the YouTubes

Next time you get that between-race-weekend need for seeing Fernando Alonso looking glum about the performance of his R28, you can tune in to Renault’s brand new YouTube channel.

Renault has launched the channel to gain wider exposure for the squad. Fifteen videos are already available, and as always, the user will find all the functionality one would expect from YouTube.

Renault isn’t first (sound familiar?), the French team follows Ferrari into the world of YouTube.

Hamilton pleads not to be given preferential treatment

Heading into the Monaco Grand Prix with a 14-point lead on his teammate, Lewis Hamilton has asked McLaren to maintain equality between its two drivers.

Hamilton was perhaps thinking of the rift which developed with Fernando Alonso during his rookie season when he -- Lewis -- was asked to back off and support the then world champion’s title run in the streets of Monte Carlo.

The Briton said if he can’t win the race, he prefers Heikki Kovalainen does, according to Sky.

Young Lewis exhibiting the "maturity" of his...er...year, I suppose. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Teams wrong to object to customer cars


Honda Racing boss Ross Brawn says those who voted down customer cars put their own interests ahead of the sport.

The allowance for teams to buy chassis from existing constructors, championed by Max Mosley, was objected to by the independent teams.

The subsequent reversal of the customer car allowance for 2009 helped lead to the end of the Super Aguri squad, resulted in Prodrive abandoning its own F1 effort, which would have used McLaren customer cars, and ultimately will lead to the sale of the Toro Rosso team.

Brawn said in an interview with ITV that the independents were motivated by self preservation. Earlier in the weekend, he commented that current economics in the sport mean only manufacturers will be able to compete, according to ITV.

Hamilton: My best race ever!

Lewis Hamilton believes Turkey was his best race yet.

The BBC reports the Briton feels his second last weekend in Istanbul proves McLaren have closed the gap on Ferrari as the series heads for Monaco, his favorite race on the calendar.

Don’t overlook BMW Sauber, Renault

As for the Prancing Horse, team boss Stefano Domenicali thinks it would be shortsighted to overlook BMW Sauber and Renault in Monte Carlo.

The Italian said the unique nature of the tight, twisty track allows for other teams to take bold strategies, so the challenge isn’t limited to McLaren, according to ITV.

Quick Nick “annoyed” by quicker Kubica

Nick Heidfeld has denied claims he is under pressure from his BMW Sauber bosses despite Robert Kubica outperforming him so far this season.

The German said he finds it annoying, but not worrying, and he can up his game and beat his Polish teammate, according to an interview with German news agency SID.

Magny-Cours again on the outs

Bernie Ecclestone says this year's French Grand Prix is it for the Magny-Cours circuit.

Long a target for axing by the F1 head, Ecclestone said this year’s race is the last time the sport will put up with the remote location and shortcomings of the track.

In an interview with French sports daily L'Equipe, Ecclestone said he covets a race on the streets of Paris.

Istanbul faces fire in stray dog incident

Charlie Whiting and the FIA are not happy with race organizers in Istanbul after two stray dogs made their way onto the track during Sunday’s GP2 race, F1-Live reports.

One dog was struck by Bruno Senna's car, ending the Brazilian's race. The second resulted in a safety car period. Both incidents are a violation of the sporting regulations, and the FIA is investigating, according to a statement by Whiting. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

Massa the man in Turkey again

Felipe Massa took his third consecutive win in Turkey on a crisp but clear day at Istanbul Park.

The Brazilian didn’t put a foot wrong as he led from pole, and held off a three stop strategy from Lewis Hamilton to continue his mastery of the Turkish circuit.

"It is just fantastic. Today was a very difficult race actually and Lewis was pushing me hard a lot for the whole race," Massa said. "Then when I did my pit-stop he was there straight away, so I thought maybe he had put less fuel in or something. I then realised and my team told me straight away he was on three stops."

Kimi Raikkonen was third, despite suffering wing damage from a first corner contact with Heikki Kovalainen. Kovalainen’s race would be ruined as he picked up a puncture, and he would battle all day to finish a distant out of the points.

"I didn't have a very good start. I got to the side of him on the braking. Then I got a little bit squeezed on the inside and I tried to slow down and get behind him, but he just turned in a little bit. The unfortunate thing for both of us is that I broke the front wing and he had a puncture," Raikkonen said.

The BMW Saubers of Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld took fourth and fifth respectively, Fernando Alonso sixth, Mark Webber seventh, and Nico Rosberg rounded out the points paying positions in eighth.

When the lights went out, it was obvious the dirty side of the track was at a disadvantage. Massa, Hamilton and Kubica led the field as Alonso rocketed up to fifth.

Kovalainen came in immediately to replace his tire, but despite the damage sustained by Raikkonen’s car, the Ferrari driver was able to stay out behind Alonso.

"We chose to use the front wing for the whole race because it takes too long to change it and it wasn't too bad," Raikkonen said. "The weekend was a little bit difficult but at least we got some good points and we need to get a better weekend at the next race."

Meanwhile, further back, Giancarlo Fisichella ran over the back of Kazuki Nakajima, ending the Italian’s race. Nakajima was also soon to retire, as he had lost his rear wing and the damage was too extensive to repair.

The accident briefly brought out the safety car, but it was in by lap two and we were off.

By lap three Raikkonen had dusted off Alonso, the Spaniard looking like he was standing still as the Finn went by. Massa was well entrenched in the lead, with Hamilton in hot pursuit.

It was rumored Hamilton was on a light load, and he did not disappoint, being the first to pit on lap 16. He rejoined in sixth after a very short stop, it becoming evident he was on a three stop strategy. The Briton said it was Bridgestone's call.

"The reason we went with a three stopper was due to Bridgestone being concerned as they thought the tyre was going to fail like it did last year," Hamilton said. "Therefore, they made us do a three stop as it was the safest route to go."

Massa was in by lap 19, leaving Raikkonen temporarily in the lead. The Brazilian made it out ahead of Hamilton.

Raikkonen pitted on lap 21 and rejoined ahead of Kubica. After the first round of stops, it was Massa leading from Hamilton, and Raikkonen ahead of Kubica.

The lighter-fueled Hamilton was soon all over the back of Massa, and on lap 24 it paid off, the Briton putting together a marvelous pass to take the lead. But Ferrari knew Hamilton was on a three-stopper at this point, and letting Hamilton by made strategic sense for the Prancing Horse.

"I was trying to go a little bit on the inside but then I saw him going almost on the gravel, so I didn't risk going more to the left as it would not have been fair and maybe we were going to crash," said Massa. "I tried to brake a bit late but he was inside, knowing where I was braking, so it was much easier to try. Then when he tried I saw him on my inside and I said 'okay go' and we will see at the next stop how it is going to be. It was just fine and I was talking with my engineer and he told me the gap should definitely have been okay."

Sebastien Bourdais beached his car on lap 26, and would be the final retirement of the race. The Frenchman later said something broke on the back of the car.

Hamilton pitted early as expected, stopping on lap 33 from the lead, and would rejoin in third. Meanwhile, Hamilton’s teammate was struggling in the back, trying to maximize his result. On lap 35, Kovalainen and Timo Glock swapped places twice before the Finn made it stick. A lap later, he had taken Nelson Piquet and Jenson Button.

On lap 41 Massa was in for his second stop, the Ferrari also switching to the hard compound as required. Kubica was also in, and switched to the soft tire. Massa came out in third, Kubica fifth.

Raikkonen was again in the lead, with Hamilton pursuing. The Finn was in on lap 44 for fuel and hard tires, leaving Hamilton temporarily in front, but the McLaren driver was in on the next lap taking on the soft compound - tires were continuing to be one of the keys to today's race.

Hamilton beat Raikkonen in the pit stops to take second, but how would he perform on tires he hadn’t got a grip on all weekend?

With 10 to go, it was Massa, Hamilton, Raikkonen, Kubica, Heidfeld, Alonso, Webber and Rosberg looking at the points paying positions.

Raikkonen was still pushing Hamilton hard with five to go, but it soon became obvious that only a desperate move would get him past the McLaren driver. Raikkonen instead chose to consolidate his position and take the points.

And that was how it would stay as Massa won his third straight Turkish Grand Prix, Hamilton and Raikkonen in tow. The two BMW Saubers picked up some vital points to maintain its second in the constructors championship.

"Like I said we had a difficult weekend but I am still happy being in third place and we didn't lose too many points," Raikkonen said. "It is early season and we still have good points, so we will see what we can do in the next few races. The next two races last year were very difficult for us so we need to see how strong we can be and hopefully we can challenge for wins and go from there."

Points were also tallied for Renault as Alonso finished sixth. Red Bull just missed out on a double points finish as Mark Webber took seventh and David Coulthard ninth, and Williams found themselves back in the points with Nico Rosberg picking up eighth.

Jarno Trulli finished tenth, Button eleventh. Kovalainen managed twelfth after his unscheduled pit stop, a disappointing end to a weekend which showed such promise. Glock was 13th.

Rubens Barrichello finished 14th in his record 257th race, rounding out a difficult day for both Japanese manufacturers. Piquet, Adrian Sutil and Sebastian Vettel (yes, Vettel!) were the remaining race finishers.

Kimi Raikkonen maintains a seven point edge on Massa and Hamilton, tied for second, in the drivers championship. Ferrari extends its lead to 19 over BMW Sauber, with McLaren third in the constructors.

The teams return to action in two weeks time with the crown jewel of them all, the Monaco Grand Prix. Massa summed up what he looks to achieve in the pricipality.

"Having a good weekend would be definitely a good result, even being on the podium as you always want to score as many points as possible," he said. "We know Monte Carlo is a track which can be very tricky especially without traction control. But I am looking forward to being very strong there as well."
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Saturday, May 10, 2008

3 for 4: Massa on pole in Turkey

Felipe Massa continued his mastery of Turkey, taking his third pole in four years Saturday.

“For sure, I think I put together a very good lap. I couldn’t put together a good lap in Q2. I was a bit on the traffic and I was disturbed a little bit. But then in Q3 I managed to warm up the tyres in the right direction and also not be behind somebody,” said Massa. “I even passed Fernando Alonso on the out lap just to be sure that I could have got a clean lap. I have to say I put two very good laps together. On the first lap it was a very good try and on the second lap I just improved a little bit, but it was enough to be on pole. I am just so happy coming the third time here and for the third time being on pole position. It would be fantastic to repeat that tomorrow.”

It wasn’t all Ferrari, however, as Heikki Kovalainen will start next to the Brazilian. Kovalainen’s second was yet another feather the Finn's cap following his crash in Spain, and he was obviously pleased.


“It has been a roller-coaster the last couple of weeks. Obviously I had a big accident in Spain, but I was very lucky to survive without any injuries and my recovery has been fantastic. I have got to say many thanks to the medical people in Spain and then when I got back to Finland I did some medical check-ups there and I did some training as well,” Kovalainen said. “Coming here I knew that I would pass the medical because I felt 100 per cent. This week already yesterday I felt very happy with my car and I have been feeling confident all the time. The second lap in Q3 was nice and clean, so it is a pleasure to start from the front row and we should have a god race tomorrow.”

Cool, overcast conditions graced the circuit as Giancarlo Fisichella started proceedings. The Italian couldn’t improve his position and will be starting from the back of the grid following Friday’s three-place penalty for running the red light in the pitlane.

Adrian Sutil, Sebestien Bourdais, Nelson Piquet and Kaz Nakajima were the other losers at the close of the first session, the rule change to qualiying meaning only five cars would be eliminated. Williams and Renault must be less than pleased with the early exits for Piquet and Nakajima.

Ferrari, McLaren and BMW Sauber were all on the pace going into Q2, and the teams would continue to swap fast times between them.

Meanwhile, David Coulthard continued to shine, repeating some of the performance which he revealed in Friday’s second practice session. Given the Scot’s woeful qualifying as of late, it must have been a relief to many in the Red Bull camp – especially DC.

The close of Q2 found Nico Rosberg, Rubens Barrichello, Jenson Button, Sebastian Vettel and Timo Glock on the outside looking in. Disappointing especially for Glock, who had shown speed in the previous session.

The final session saw both Massa and Kovalainen take Hamilton in the closing moments when the Briton chose the harder of the tire options. Hamilton will have to take solace in the fact that he placed above Raikkonen, but it was obvious he was not happy.


“It was a tough qualifying session for me. Obviously at the beginning I had a fantastic lap in Q1,” Hamilton said. “ In Q2 I struggled a little bit on the option tyre and therefore I opted for the prime tyre as I thought perhaps it would be a more consistent tyre especially through the lap. I guess I made the wrong decision.”

Robert Kubica was fifth, but the BMW Sauber looks like it might have a tough time holding onto the silvers and reds tomorrow. Mark Webber qualified an encouraging sixth, as Red Bull put both cars in the top 10 with Coulthard slotting in in tenth.

Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli and Nick Heidfeld took seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively.

Clear, breezy and cool is predicted tomorrow for the race at Istanbul Park as Massa tries to extend his streak.


“I am looking forward to tomorrow definitely to try and have the best race possible,” he said. “For sure it won’t be easy as we know our competitors are quite strong and quite close and the race will be not so easy, so let’s try to do everything right and also put all the tyres on at the right moment and use the car in the right direction as well.”
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Friday, May 9, 2008

Turkey: Ferrari leads in practice

Felipe Massa took the morning session, and teammate Kimi Raikkonen overtook gearbox issues to top the afternoon sheets, as Ferrari and McLaren battled for supremacy in Friday practice for the Turkish Grand Prix.

Heikki Kovalainen put his Barcelona crash behind him and set the second fastest time in the morning practice session, while Lewis Hamilton split the Ferraris in the afternoon.

Behind the leaders was a mish-mash of mid-tier teams, with no cream rising to the top.

Title challengers BMW Sauber seemed to make steady progress in both sessions, but there is still a gap for Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld to close if they are to challenge the frontrunners.

David Coulthard pulled off a surprising fourth in the afternoon while teammate Mark Webber found himself in the wall, bringing out a brief red flag.

In what might have been the oddest decision of the day, race organizers chose to hit the racing line with track-cleaning fluid just prior to the first session, and it was 40 minutes before the first lap time would be recorded.

Alonso: Safety should be for everyone

Echoing beliefs held by many of us, Fernando Alonso said he is at a loss to understand the lack of interest shown by several of the sport's top drivers in the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA).

Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa all do not participate in the organization, it has emerged in recent weeks.

Alonso said in an interview with autosport.com he recognizes it is each driver’s decision to participate, but he has trouble understanding why drivers wouldn’t be interested in taking part in an organization dedicated to their own safety. Amen.

Alonso’s opinion echos similar remarks made by Jarno Trulli earlier in the week.

Brawn defends Fry

Ross Brawn believes suggestions Honda could have done more to help save Super Aguri are misguided.

During the Friday press conference, the Honda boss also rejected the opinion Nick Fry had played too big a role in the Japanese team’s departure.

Fry had been openly critical of the Weigl Group bid, and reportedly had a hand in getting the team barred from the Istanbul paddock.

Aguri Suzuki has been critical of Fry’s role in the proceedings. In contrast, Brawn said the Briton had done more than most to find a solution after the Magma deal fell through.

Perhaps what irked Suzuki were not Fry’s actions as a representative of Honda, but rather his pontification in the media.

Button plans to stay with Honda

Jenson Button said he plans to remain with Honda in 2009 in an interview with the official F1 Web site.

Button’s contract runs out at the end of the season, but the Englishman says he is happy where he is.

Nick Fry was previously quoted in Australia saying the two sides were working on a deal.

Given his history with contracts, perhaps we are seeing an older, wiser Jenson Button.

A woman in F1?

In the wake of Danica Patrick’s IndyCar win in Japan, several of Formula One’s team bosses said Friday they would welcome a woman in the sport is she were competitive.

The question was raised in the Friday press conference, which included Toyota’s John Howett, Honda’s Ross Brawn, and Mercedes’ Norbert Haug.

Howett said the win proves what an extremely talented woman can accomplish in motor racing, and that the possibility was there for such a woman to compete in F1, as teams are primarily focused on performance and results.

Brawn agreed, saying it would be great for the sport so long as she were competitive.

Haug also said he saw no reason a woman couldn’t be successful in Formula One, and that Indy and DTM have proven that.

Three women currently race in IndyCar -- Patrick, Sarah Fisher and Milka Duno. Katherine Legge formerly ran in the Champ Car series, and currently runs in DTM.

Haug was also quick to point out McLaren put Fisher in a car in 2002. However, in fairness, that was in the form of a promotional opportunity for Tag Heuer, and she did not drive in anger.

Patrick said recently she turned down a similar opportunity, and would only want a proper test. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Kovalainen gets green light for Turkey

Heikki Kovalainen has passed his mandatory fitness test and has received the OK to race in this weekend’s Turkish Grand Prix.

The Finn suffered a severe shunt into a tire wall at approximately 150 mph less than two weeks ago in Barcelona. He says has no memory of the accident, caused by a wheel rim failure.

It took several minutes to get him out of his car, and he left the track strapped into a stretcher, yet Kovalainen walked away with only bruises and a "slight" headache.

After spending several days resting in Spain, he travelled to his native Finland to train with McLaren teammate Lewis Hamilton.

He will use the spare car in this weekend’s race.

Qualifying change

Two less cars on the grid means a qualifing rule change for this week’s race.

Only five cars will be eliminated in each of the first two qualifying sessions. Ten cars will continue to take part in the final 10-minute session.

Ecclestone looks at the positives

Bernie Ecclestone told PA Sport the loss of Super Aguri has had a positive effect on the paddock: More room.

While the formula allows a maximum of 12 teams, and contractually Ecclestone must have 20 cars on the grid to satisfy promoters, the F1 ringmaster said he much prefers 10 teams.

Ecclestone said it is easier to accommodate growing motorhomes, hospitality suites and equipment with one less team in the championship.

The loss of Super Aguri has signalled for many the end of an era in Formula One, as privateer teams lose out to manufacturers and corporations with deep pockets.

When asked whether he considered helping the struggling squad, as he did in the past with Minardi, Ecclestone said $100m was too rich for him.

Ecclestone went on to express doubt the team’s administrators will find a buyer interested in taking over the team as an ongoing concern in today’s economy.

Still, should a potential buyer be found, Ecclestone would welcome another team despite his preference for 10 teams, telling PA Sport Formula One is not a “closed shop.” Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Kimi keeping it simple: Win

World champion Kimi Raikkonen is certain the competition has ramped up its efforts going into the Turkish Grand Prix.

But the Finn has a simple response to that challenge: Keep winning.

"I bet that our competitors have done their homework very carefully to beat us in Turkey," Raikkonen said on his Web site column. "But there is no reason to worry about that as I believe Ferrari will go fast there as well.

“I won’t change my approach. It’s far too early in the season to think about anything other than taking the maximum amount of points at every Grand Prix,” the Finn continued. “I want to win as many races as possible. I must confess that I really like this part of the season. We just go for it every time. Only winning matters.”

Raikkonen’s Ferrari will not run the "hole" nose in Turkey, however.

According to Sky, team manager Luca Baldisserri confirms the team will run a car similar in specification to the Barcelona model, but that the slotted nose will be saved for high downforce circuits and is not necessary in Istanbul.

Hamilton: I’m not Superman

Lewis Hamilton has faced his share of criticism after a couple of difficult races, but the British sophomore has defended his ability to win the world championship.

In an interview with the Sun, Hamilton called the misfortunes which have plagued him so far this season a part of life. He also reminded his critics he wasn’t Superman, and that even at 90+ years old, Nelson Mandela is apt to make a mistake.

Hamilton believes the McLaren is fast enough, and he is capable of finding those coveted extra tenths.

257

Rubens Barrichello is set to take part in the 257th grand prix of the his 16-year career this weekend, edging Riccardo Patrese to become the most experienced driver in F1.

The Brazilian’s Honda will feature special livery and he will sport a commemorative helmet design in this weekend race.

Super Aguri enters administration

A day after announcing it was ceasing racing operations, the Super Aguri Formula One Team has entered into administration.

Administrators PKF, who played a similar role with both Prost and Arrows, said it was looking to sell the team’s assets to someone interested in entering Formula One or another motorsport operation, Reuters reports. The organization said it has already fielded interest. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Suzuki blasts Fry

The end of Super Aguri’s Formula One effort leaves the grid with just 20 cars, but Aguri Suzuki didn’t leave the without letting Honda Racing Chief Nick Fry know how he felt about his role in bringing about the end of his squad.

Fry has had much to say about Super Aguri’s future over recent days, and it has been previously reported Fry was the one who impounded Super Aguri’s cars in Brackley last week.

Allegedly, Fry was also responsible for telling Bernie Ecclestone the Leafield squad would not be participating in Turkey, even while Suzuki was working on a rescue deal with the Weigl Group.

The end result was the team getting locked out of the paddock.

At the Tokyo press conference announcing the end of the team’s race operations, Suzuki questioned Fry’s role in recent affairs, pointing out Super Aguri’s backers were Honda, not Fry’s Honda Racing team.

Suzuki also expressed disenchanted with Formula One, saying he had little interest in “dipping his hand” into the “piranha club” again any time soon.

For its part, Honda expressed disappointment Suzuki’s dream had come to an end, however, it accepted it was inevitable. It has been reported Super Aguri is indebted to Honda to the tune of $100m. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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