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Monday, June 30, 2008

The "Great American Hope" report

Seems ex-Formula One driver Juan Pablo Montoya and (cough) F1 hopeful Kyle Busch had something of a dust up at Sunday’s race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Montoya, who said Busch hit him several times in the rain-shortened race, took an opportunity during a caution to spin the NASCAR points leader, and admitted to as much after the race.

All of which earned JPM a talking to from NASCAR officials, and saw him penalized two laps, relegating him to 32nd.

“He hit me under caution. He hit me under green and I retaliated,” Montoya said. “Did I go too far in retaliating? Yeah. I think they are giving me a penalty and it's okay for what I did.”

Busch, typically, seemed surprised anyone would take issue with his driving. Saying they barely touched on both occasions, he had no idea why Montoya spun him.

“I don't know what his beef is,” Busch said.

---

Another (cough-cough) F1 hopeful, Danica Patrick, is facing criticism for blocking on short tracks, SI.com reports.

Indy 500 champion Scott Dixon called Patrick “a menace” after the recent race at Iowa Speedway, and fellow competitor Ed Carpenter recently called her the “new Scott Sharp,” a driver infamous for his blocking tactics.

When pressed prior to the Richmond race last weekend, Dixon had no regrets for his criticism.

“No,” Dixon said. “Why would I?”

For his part, Carpenter thought better of his comment.

“I thought about it later. I feel really bad about it,” he said. “I really threw Scott Sharp under the bus.”

Patrick, unsurprisingly, was surprised by the latest round of criticism.

"They're both bad (comments)," Patrick said. "Anybody will agree with that. So, again, I don't know where the comments came from. I really don't. That's really all I can say."

---

Andretti Green Racing canned Bryan Herta and Christian Fittipaldi from it’s American Le Mans Series team, and will replace them with Franck Montagny on a permanent basis and (cough-cough-cough) F1 hopeful Marco Andretti at the Lime Rock race July 12.

No permanent teammate was named for Montagny, Autoweek.com surmises the Frenchman will be paired with several drivers over the remainder of the season.

F1 veteran Montagny was in the third place finishing Peugeot at Le Mans, and had been prepared to race in Champ Car before the merger, finishing second in the one-off Long Beach finale.

Andretti will also compete in the IndyCar Nashville race the evening of July 12.
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The rookie and the veteran: Two drivers talk F1

At 37, and looking forward to his 238th Grand Prix, David Coulthard has reached the autumn of his F1 driving years.

Thanks to Timo Glock, who booted Coulthard in the morning of the final day of testing last week at Silverstone, the Scot was able to sit down for a long interview with The Times ahead of his home race.

Coulthard talked on many subjects, including...

The next generation of F1 drivers:

“We can all learn from our mistakes, I suppose, but with some of them it’s going to be bloody expensive until they do.”

What a man with 18 seasons of F1 behind him can still learn in testing:

“I’m not sure whether people understand how sensitive to conditions these cars are.”

Buying Toro Rosso?

“Buying it wouldn’t be the scary thing but finding £100m a year to run it definitely would.”

How he is approaching the rest of 2008:

“What I’ve been trying to do in the first half of the season is no different to what I’ll be trying to do in the second.”

Lewis Hamilton:

“He hasn’t done anything I haven’t done already so there’s no jealousy. I admire success.”

And next week’s British Grand Prix:

“It isn’t easy, but then it never has been.”

Read the full interview at TimesOnline.

Sebastien Bourdais' waited a long time for his F1 opportunity, winning four Champ Car titles in the process.

This year he finally got his chance with Toro Rosso, but while teammate Sebestian Vettel has shined, Bourdais is still looking to make his mark.

ITV.com caught up with the Frenchman last week at Silverstone, where he opened up on a variety of topics...

The STR3:

“So far it’s just the beginning with the STR3 and we’re still investigating and trying to find solutions.”

The differences between his F1 and Champ Car teams:

“Here it’s like a polygamous relationship… There are just so many more people involved in the thinking process.”

His late entry into F1:

“I enjoyed my time in the States; it was a fantastic five years... I don’t think I would change anything.”

The future of his team:

“What happen will happen. I’m kind of a free man. If I get fired because of this or because of that then so be it.”

The future of the French Grand Prix:

“The whole situation needs a bit of time and I think that obviously opens the door for Magny-Cours to stay on the calendar for whatever time is needed.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

David vs. Goliath, Lewis vs. Media, and Massa vs. The Flu

Robert Kubica says BMW Sauber are going to have to up their game to hold on to second in the constructors’ championship.

It been a bit of Jekyll and Hyde for the Hinwil squad in recent weeks as Canada’s 1-2 was followed by French disappointment.

“In Magny-Cours our gap to Ferrari was the highest so far and this was emphasised by the fact that some other teams have instead closed the gap to us,” Kubica told the Official Formula One Web site. “It’s a signal that we need to take very seriously - and one we must react quickly to.”

The Pole said he thinks the next few races will prove to be a turning point in the championship. While he believes the team’s second place in the constructor’s race is well earned, he still feels like “a ‘David’ against lots of ‘Goliaths’.”

---

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton believes the media “will be back on my side” once his luck turns on the track.

Hamilton has been receiving a fair amount of criticism from the British media ahead of his home race after a pair of disappointing performances that have found him 10 points off the pace in fourth.

For his part, Hamilton said meeting the press right after he gets out of the car isn’t his favorite pastime.

“You've just done an hour and a half race and worked your backside off, and then they expect you to sit down and straightaway get out of the car and talk to people,” Hamilton told BBC Radio 5 Live. "Are you crazy? Damn man, I'm knackered! I need a drink! Sometimes I like to do that.”

---

Felipe Massa is dealing with a bout of the flu.

The Brazilian, who suffered from a stiff neck in last week’s French Grand Prix, drove the first two days of testing at Silverstone after picking up a bug before handing off to teammate Kimi Raikkonen.

Now the Ferrari ace says he needs time off.

“To be honest, I need to have some rest now,” Massa said on the team’s official Web site. “I picked up a cold bug and had to do two days of testing with some sort of influenza and now I am completely tired. I need to relax and concentrate on the next race.”
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Friday, June 27, 2008

Force India considering Honda power?

The latest rumor making its way around the F1 world is Force India is considering dropping current engine supplier Ferrari for Honda in 2009, with Takuma Sato part of the deal.

It is believed that Honda are still interested in supplying customer engines, and Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell reports that meetings between the two parties may have taken place in Montreal earlier this month.

One incentive for Force India is that the Japanese manufacturer is offering its KERS system for €10 million less than Ferrari in exchange for giving Sato a seat.

Ferrari power has never been cheap, it could be argued the prohibitive costs of Ferrari engines have broken more than one team in recent years, so swapping engine suppliers for a better financial package makes sense.

Additionally, Sato is a proven driver who seemed to mature into a team leader with Super Aguri.

Ferrari will never let a customer squad outshine the parent team. For an owner with the ambitions of Vijay Mallya, Honda power may be a better option for success.

Despite the Japanese manufacturer’s somewhat spotty record in recent years, Force India will still be saving money. Mallya may see an opportunity to emulate Frank Williams’ relationship with Toyota.

The deal would seem to fly in the face of earlier rumors Honda was interested in backing a Ken Anderson-led U.S. team effort.

Bernie warned Max

Bernie Ecclestone warned Max Mosley of a plot to remove him from office prior to the News of the World scandal.

Dean Attew, an intelligence consultant close to both Ecclestone and Mosley, told The Times he received information in January something was afoot, which he immediately relayed to Ecclestone. The Formula One ringmaster then passed the information along to Mosley, months before the scandal broke.

“In January this year I received a call from a friend, We had a meeting and I was approached and told there was an open budget to effectively go out and source material that would bring Max to his knees and, more importantly, remove him from office and discredit him publicly," Attew told The Times. "During the conversation I said to the guy, 'What's your budget?' and he said, 'It's an open budget,' and I said, 'OK, be specific here, are you after Max, are you after the FIA or are you after Bernie? They then went back and they came back a little while later and said, 'We are not going to pursue it for the time being.'”


Attew said he knew Ecclestone told Mosley because Mosley later talked to him about it. Prior to the scandal, the consultant said Ecclestone felt Mosley had nothing to hide.

“When I sat down with Bernie I said to him, 'Is there anything anyone is going to find out about Max?'” Attew said. “And Bernie said, 'Dean, you are not going to find anything because there's nothing there - he's Mr Boring in that sense.' Mosley had kept this a good secret," he said.

The fact the News of the World story broke proves Mosley did not take the threat seriously, Attew said.

“It was very clear that Max had disregarded both the advice he had been given and had failed to realise his vulnerability at that stage,” Attew said. “The issue for me was his total disregard for genuine advice from individuals that he knew had his best interests at heart. When we saw what was in the News of the World, Bernie was as flabbergasted as I was.”


Raikkonen respects Hamilton, Kovalainen

Many may be writing off McLaren’s chances with the relatively inexperienced Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen, but one person who isn’t writing them off is world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

The Ferrari driver said he doesn’t believe the pairing’s youth is a detriment.

“I don't think so because there are a lot of people who know what they are doing. Sometimes you have a difficult car, sometimes you have a better one. That's normal,” Fox reports Raikkonen said.

Raikkonen said he expects a close battle with McLaren at Silverstone.

“McLaren are always strong here, and I'm expecting that next weekend. I think it's going to be quite close between us and them. I don't see the other teams being close enough for the win,” he said.
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hamilton makes his presence known on final day at Silverstone

Lewis Hamilton made a statement on day three at Silverstone, topping the sheets with a time of 1:19.170 one week ahead of his home grand prix.

The Briton took over where teammate Heikki Kovalainen left off yesterday, as McLaren look to recover from a couple of disappointing races that find the team adrift in third place in the constructors championship.

Timo Glock was a surprising second, despite contact with David Coulthard’s Red Bull in the morning. On the heels of Jarno Trulli’s French podium appearance, Toyota must be feeling good heading into the British Grand Prix.

Kimi Raikkonen was third for Ferrari, and Fernando Alonso was fourth for Renault. Alonso’s day was a bit rocky, with an engine failure in the morning and a spin in the afternoon.

Nick Heidfeld was fifth quickest for BMW Sauber, ahead of Kazuki Nakajima’s Williams. Adrian Sutil was seventh fastest for Force India, the latest team to sport a “shark fin” engine cover.

Rubens Barrichello (Honda), Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso), and David Coulthard rounded out the field.

The Scot saw limited running due to damage from his collision with Glock, which the German took responsibility for. Coulthard would later suffer an engine failure.

  1. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren, 1:19.170
  2. Timo Glock, Toyota, 1:19.815
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:20.321
  4. Fernando Alonso, Renault, 1:20.862
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:21.011
  6. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams, 1:21.059
  7. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:21.331
  8. Rubens Barrichello, Honda, 1:21.344
  9. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:21.432
  10. David Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:22.232

Sidepodcast is all over testing this week. Check out their in-depth coverage.

Take a lap of Le Mans in an Aston Martin

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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Max and Bernie war kicks up a notch

The FIA announced following the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on Wednesday it plans to work with the teams concerning how Formula One is run.

It is the latest round in a continuing battle between Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone over distribution of money and Bernie’s desire for the FIA to sign into a new Concorde Agreement.

Mosley is arguing the teams should receive more revenue, while Ecclestone has said the FIA is overstepping its bounds.

“The FIA will enter into a wide-ranging consultation with the Formula One teams to examine plans for improved efficiency, including new technical regulations for the Championship. This will also involve a review of the governance of Formula One,” The FIA said in a statement.

The FIA has also fired another shot across Bernie’s bow, announcing a plan to revive Formula 2 as a feeder series. The new series would be in direct competition with the Bernie Ecclestone/Flavio Briatore created GP2 series.

“The FIA will invite tenders for a new feeder series for Formula One. This championship, called Formula Two, would be launched in 2009 and used as an inexpensive platform to develop emerging driver talent for Formula One. It is hoped this can be achieved within a budget of around €200,000 a car per season,” the statement read.

The FIA also discussed the possibility of raising entrance fees to cover the costs it incurs in relation to the sport.

IMS still hopes to lure F1’s return

The FIA announced its provisional schedule Wednesday, but the 19 race calendar did not include a USGP, despite Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials’ hopes in the spring the race could be on the ’09 schedule.

But the speedway hasn’t lost hope about reaching a deal.

“Discussions will continue," The Canadian Press reports speedway spokesman Ron Green said. "We believe a return of Formula One to our calendar, especially during our centennial era, the period between 2009-2011, would be appropriate. But it must be on terms reasonable to all the groups.”

It isn’t unprecedented for a race not on the provisional schedule to be added before the calendar is finalized, but with the schedule already at 19 races, chances seem unlikely.

“We want to stress it's just a provisional schedule," Green said. "We continue to be interested in the return of the United States Grand Prix.”

Meanwhile, the speedway remains focused on that other open-wheeled series that is its mainstay, as Indy Racing League officials met with some 15 auto manufacturers and engine builders over a new rules package for 2011.

Autoweek reports preferences seemed to be for turbos, and V6s, V8s and V12s were discussed.

Brian Barnhart, the IRL's president of competition, said while he thinks there are limits to the number of manufacturers the typical Indy field can maintain, the series has no plans to place limits on participation.

Kovalainen plays Flying Finn in day two of testing

Heikki Kovalainen topped the sheets for the second day of testing at Silverstone, while Giancarlo Fisichella suffered a heavy crash in gusty conditions at the site of next week’s British Grand Prix.

Kovalainen posted a time of 1:20.015 for McLaren. Jarno Trulli was second quickest in the Toyota, followed by Nico Rosberg in the Williams and Renault’s Nelson Piquet.

Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber) and Sebastien Vettel (Toro Rosso) finished ahead of
yesterday’s leader, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who finished seventh. Mark Webber (Red Bull) and Jenson Button (Honda) were eighth and ninth.

Giancarlo Fisichella finished in 10th, his day ended with a shunt at Becketts. A gust of wind was blamed. The Italian was checked out in the hospital as a precaution, but was uninjured.

  1. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:20.015
  2. Trulli, Toyota, 1:20.391
  3. Rosberg, Williams, 1:20.624
  4. Piquet, Renault , 1:20.787
  5. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:20.795
  6. Kubica, BMW-Sauber, 1:20.982
  7. Massa, Ferrari, 1:21.069
  8. Webber, Red Bull, 1:21.170
  9. Button, Honda, 1:21.445
  10. Fisichella, Force India, 1:21.583
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FIA sets provisional '09 schedule, sans Indy

2009 FIA Formula One World Championship*

29 March Australia
5 April Malaysia
19 April Bahrain
10 May Spain
24 May Monaco
7 June Canada
21 June Great Britain
28 June France
12 July Germany
26 July Hungary
9 August Turkey
23 August Europe (Valencia)
6 September Italy
13 September Belgium
27 September Singapore
11 October Japan
18 October China
1 November Brazil
15 November Abu Dhabi

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bernie talks Max

"To suggest I would want to (destroy Max) is such a lot of bollocks, quite frankly -- it's not true."
-- Bernie Ecclestone as quoted by F1-Live.com

Bernie Ecclestone has denied he was behind the Mosley scandal.

Ecclestone, who has been critical of his longtime friend and business partner in the wake of the scandal, said he had no desire to destroy the FIA head, nor was the method used “his style,” according to The Telegraph newspaper.

At the same time, Ecclestone has warned Mosley to keep out of the sport’s business affairs.

F1-Live reports the FIA President is planning a counter-offensive at the World Motor Sport Council meeting in Paris on Wednesday against the threat of a breakaway series.

Mosley has refused to sign a new Concorde Agreement. It has been theorized he wants the commercial rights holder (Ecclestone and company) to give more money back to the teams.

In an interview with The Times newspaper, Ecclestone warned that under the agreement with the European Commission, the FIA has no right to dictate how monies are distributed.

"The money doesn't belong to Max, it doesn't belong to him to touch," Ecclestone said.

Meanwhile, Bernie may be in hot water for saying a few extra votes from Africa saved Max Mosley’s job, but the chief of motor sports in the UAE says he’s the man who saved Mosley.

“Yes, you are right,” Crash.net reports rally driver Mohammed Bin Sulayem told Gulf News. “I got him so many votes. Yes, I made the difference. I don't deny it.”

The Web site reports the UAE chief controlled no fewer than 41 of the 169 total votes cast.

“If anyone can convince me that he has done wrong to motorsport or during his tenure his decisions have hurt Formula 1 or rallying then we have a case,” he added, “but not over his personal and private affairs.”

Abu Dhabi, one of the seven UAE states, will host the region’s second race starting next year.

Massa quickest on day one at Silverstone

Tops in the driver’s championship table, and tops on the testing timesheets for Felipe Massa in day one of testing at the Silverstone circuit.

Massa set a time of 1:20.188 in the morning that could not be matched as Ferrari tested new aeros and mechanicals ahead of the British Grand Prix.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen was second on the day as he also tested new aero bits, and Robert Kubica third for BMW Sauber as the team try to recover from a disappointing weekend at Magny-Cours.

Toyota tester Kamui Kobayashi was next, followed by Mark Webber in the Red Bull and Nico Rosberg for Williams.

Nelson Piquet (Renault), Jenson Button (Honda), Tonio Liuzzi (Force India) and Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) rounded out the field.

  1. Massa, Ferrari, 1:20.188
  2. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:20.477
  3. Kubica, BMW, 1:20.995
  4. Kobayashi, Toyota, 1:21.335
  5. Rosberg, Williams, 1:21.410
  6. Webber, Red Bull, 1:21.585
  7. Piquet, Renault, 1:21.797
  8. Button, Honda, 1:22.081
  9. Liuzzi, Force India, 1:22.251
  10. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:23.853
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Monday, June 23, 2008

IndyCar aiming to open up the shop?

An interesting array of manufacturers are set to sit down with IndyCar officials to discuss the future of power for the series.

Audi, BMW, Mazda, General Motors, Honda, Ilmor and Cosworth are expected to attend the roundtable session put together by former Ford technical chief Neil Ressler, SpeedTV.com’s Robin Miller reports.

“Maybe we'll be able to arrive at a consensus to move forward and be aligned with more than one manufacturer,” Speed reports Fred Nation, Indianapolis Motor Speedway executive vice president of communications, said.

Honda has been the sole engine supplier since 2006. GM, Nissan and Toyota have all participated at some point since the CART/IRL split. Illmor has long been involved in U.S. open wheel racing, as has Cosworth, which most recently powered Champ Car in its final years.

Enticing other engine manufacturers to join the series is a step in the right direction. In combination with more road and street courses, IndyCar can get back to developing the talent of potential F1 hopefuls, perhaps even the next decent American F1 driver. Let's hope they do something about those bathtubs they run around in at the same time.

Hamilton shows his stiff upper lip

Lewis Hamilton won’t give up the ship, despite two penalty-filled races which have seen him lose ground in the drivers championship.

Hamilton goes into his home race in desperate need of points to keep his challenge afloat.

“I absolutely 100 per cent aim on bouncing back there (Silverstone). Regardless of what's written in the papers I will go back to the workshop, push with the team, focus on the next race and hit 'em hard,” Fox reports the Briton said. “Racing is racing. I'm going to keep battling. I don't care how far I am behind. Kimi (Raikkonen) was 17 points behind with two races to go (last year) and he still won it. If I'm 20 points behind I don't care, I will still come back.”

Force India to get rad

Autosport reports Force India are set to test radical upgrades to the car ahead of the British Grand Prix.

Mike Gascoyne told autosport.com new bodywork, sidepods, diffuser, front wing, engine cover, front inerter damper and suspension modifications are to be tested on the VJM01.

Force India is the only active team on the grid yet to score points this season.

Donington in talks to replace Silverstone

Autoweek.com reports Bernie Ecclestone has confirmed that Donington Park could replace Silverstone as the home of the British Grand Prix in 2010 at the expiration of the current contract with the British Racing Drivers' Club.

“We're discussing the possibility of reaching an agreement with Donington [because] we're trying to save the British Grand Prix, and we want it to be staged at a venue which befits an event of its stature," Autoweek reports Ecclestone told The Times. "I've been in negotiations for a long time, and I don't know whether we're going to do a deal with [either] Donington or Silverstone. Donington have said they're going to build everything we want. Have they got the money? Only time will tell. But I think there's more chance of Donington having the money than the BRDC."

Think Bernie would relish the chance to tell the BRDC where to get off? Oh, yeah.

GPDA won’t strike at Silverstone

The Grand Prix Drivers Association has moved to deny reports in the media it could strike at the British Grand Prix in protest of the rising costs of superlicense fees.

In January, the FIA raised the fees €10,000 ($15,500) plus €2,000 ($3,100) for each World Championship point from €1,725 ($2,700) in 2007 plus €450 ($700) per point.

"We're quite surprised by all the news about going on strike [at Silverstone] and that sort of thing, because it isn't something that has come from any driver," Autoweek reports GPDA chairman Pedro de la Rosa said. "We've never discussed going on strike. It's just an ongoing issue with the superlicence fee that we're discussing with the FIA, and that's about it."

The blog roundup

In this new, occasional feature, a heads up on what’s making news on some of my favorite blogs:

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Massa takes lead in championship

Felipe Massa vaults to the lead in the drivers championship as Ferrari take a 1-2 finish in the French Grand Prix.

The Brazilian won ahead of teammate Kimi Raikkonen as the Finn experienced a broken exhaust, leading to a lack of pace.


“A great race, a fantastic result. The win came my way because Kimi had a problem with his car and at the pace he was running,” Massa said. “It would have been hard for me to beat him on the track. I would have been happy with second place but of course, the win makes me even happier.”

Raikkonen was clearly disappointed, but happy the team took full points for the race.


“Unfortunately, the right exhaust pipe broke just before half-distance and the engine lost a lot of power, especially on the straight after the slow corners,” he said. “After a few laps, the situation seemed better, but towards the end of the race, I ran the risk of stopping. This sort of thing can happen in racing and I have to try and look on the bright side: eight points are still a good amount and the one-two finish is a great result for the team.”

It was a race with surprisingly little attrition and just a spot of rain. When the lights went out, it was Raikkonen leading Massa.

Home team favorite Fernando Alonso was beaten off the line by Jarno Trulli and Robert Kubica. Also losing ground early were the Red Bulls.

On the flip side, and aggressive Lewis Hamilton was up three places to 10th and putting heavy pressure on his teammate, Heikki Kovalainen. By lap five he was by the Finn. Unfortunately, the stewards took a dim view to his cutting a chicane to get by Sebestien Vettel earlier in the race, and the Briton was handed a drive through penalty. He re-emerged in 13th behind Nick Heidfeld.

Not surprisingly, Alonso was first to come in for a pit stop on lap 15, it widely expected after qualifying the Spaniard was on a light fuel load.

It was a difficult weekend all around for Honda, Rubens Barrichello finishing 14th and Jenson Button's race coming to an end on lap 18.


“Going out of the race so early is a disappointing end to what has been a tough weekend for us. I got a good start and was alongside Bourdais. I thought he was going to turn in at turn one and close the door so I pulled in behind him and then unfortunately hit him in the rear as everything slowed down for the corner,” Button explained. “I could feel that there was something broken at the front of the car as there was an air coming in from the front, but the car was driveable and I was staying with the back of the pack so I continued. However the front wing must have been loose as a result of the impact, as it dislodged itself when I went over the kerbs in the last chicane and got stuck under the front of the car. We replaced the nose but the bargeboards had been pulled off and the car had become undriveable so I had to retire.”

The first round of pit stops saw Raikkonen come in on lap 21, handing the lead to Massa. Massa pitted on lap 23 and Raikkonen re-assumed the lead. With Trulli in third the Ferraris were building up a huge gap. It clearly looked as if the Flying Finn was on his way to a win.

But by lap 35 Massa started gaining ground on Raikkonen, and the world champion’s Ferrari was sounding a bit of a sour note. Four laps later, Massa overtook his teammate for the lead, Raikkonen’s Ferrari suffering from a broken exhaust the was flapping around and sapping the F2008 of power.

For Raikkonen it became a race of damage control, trying to bring the car home ahead of Trulli, who was suddenly gaining ground. Trulli, though, had his hands full with Kovalainen fighting hard for that final podium spot.

Massa made his second pitstop on lap 54, re-emerging in the lead. The Brazilian looked fairly safe with 12 laps to go, even as rain started to fall.


“It was very difficult over there because sometimes there were some drops and you could feel straight away that the track was not the same anymore, so I was always slowing even more than I needed because I had a very good gap, so I was not risking anything,” Massa said.

And Massa would not be denied as he took the top step of the podium and jumped into the lead in the drivers championship, and Raikkonen defended under trying circumstances to bring his balky Ferrari home in second.


“In one way we are still lucky to finish the race and get eight points as in the last couple of laps the car almost stopped a few times,: Raikkonen commented. “But luckily we went fast enough in the beginning to go away from the others and we had enough of a gap in the end but I expect a few more laps and we would not have finished second.”

But the happiest man on the day had to be Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, who held off a last gasp effort from Kovalainen to take third and deliver Toyota’s first podium since Australia 2006. The Italian dedicated the podium to the late Ove Andersson.

“What a great result and a great weekend by the whole team. We were pushing really hard because we wanted to dedicate this result to Ove Andersson, who has done so much for Toyota Motorsport. Today was a great race, hard and tough,” Trulli said.

Trulli relished the battle with Kovalainen, who finished fourth.

“It was wheel-to-wheel like in go-kart, so it was a dream come true as obviously it is many years since I did such a nice fight. I would love to fight every race to fight like that,” Trulli said.


Canada winner Kubica slipped to second in the drivers standings as he brought the BMW Sauber home in fifth, while steady Mark Webber finished sixth for Red Bull.

“We didn't score as many points as we wanted to here in Magny-Cours. Over the whole weekend we tried to minimize the problems we had, and we knew the race would be decided on the first lap,” Kubica said. “In the end I have to say I am pretty happy. I finished fifth, only 2 seconds away from the podium. We now have to analyse what happened here and see how we can improve for the next race.”

The final surprise of the day saw Fernando Alonso get caught up in traffic on lap 69 and get taken by his embattled teammate Nelson Piquet as the Renaults finished seventh and eighth to round out the points paying positions.

“It’s the first time that everything has gone without any problems for me. The car and the team’s strategy worked well and I was able to score my first couple of points today. I am happy and I hope that we can continue like this for the rest of the season,” Piquet said.

As the championship heads to Silverstone in two weeks time, Massa is the first Brazilian to be leading the World Championship since Ayrton Senna. But he isn’t letting that go to his head.

“I am leading the championship and that's a nice feeling, but I am well aware it means nothing because I am aiming for the title and to do that, there is still a long way to go,” Massa said. “We have to continue working this way, race after race, right to the end of the championship.”
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

200th pole for Ferrari

It’ll be a Ferrari front row as the Scuderia notched it’s 200th pole at Magny-Cours, with Kimi Raikkonen taking the top honors and Felipe Massa in second.

“I am very happy with this result, not just for myself but above all for the team. It is a pleasure to have taken Ferrari's two hundredth pole even if, at the moment, I have only played a small part in the history of Scuderia,” Raikkonen said.

Massa also took pride in the team’s accomplishment.

“I am happy that the team recorded its two hundredth pole position today and it's an honour for me to have made a small contribution to this milestone," the Brazilian said.

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton qualified third, but will start from 13th on the grid due to his 10-place penalty for pitlane shenanigans in Montreal.

“While my grid penalty doesn't exactly hang over me, it doesn't help - but I'll take it on the chin,” Hamilton said. “Overtaking is going to be tough on Sunday but I'm confident we're going to be quick. And, as always, I'll be pushing as hard as I can to score as many points as possible for the team."

The Silver Arrows’ woes will be compounded as Heikki Kovalainen received a five-spot penalty for blocking, dropping him to 10th on the grid.

“Owing to the penalty I was given following the mix-up with two other cars, I will start 10th; not ideal, but it's perfectly possible to score points from there and that's what I intend to do," Kovalainen said.

Home team Renault’s Fernando Alonso starts third. Teammate Nelson Piquet, who continued Renault’s home soil resurgence by taking top time in the Saturday morning practice session, starts ninth.

It was a tough day for BMW Sauber, neither drivers seemingly able to get their cars to work on the track. Canadian winner Robert Kubica starts fifth on the rejiggered grid, while teammate Nick Heidfeld was a victim of Q2 and starts 11th.

"It looks like we are having a difficult weekend. After yesterday's free practice sessions I was expecting us to struggle,” Kubica explained. “The balance of the car is not how I want it to be and my car has a poor overall grip.”

It was an even tougher day for Honda, as Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button joined the Force Indias and Williams’ Kazuki Nakajima in the drop zone in Q1.

"A very disappointing qualifying session today. The car was well balanced and we are pretty much getting the maximum performance from it, however unfortunately our pace reflects where we are at this track, Button said. “Hopefully we can be more competitive in race trim but it's disappointing and unexpected as we thought that the car would perform better around this circuit."

Barrichello agreed.

"A pure lack of performance from the car today. Having achieved a good balance after practice, it's hard to accept the lack of pace, but we just have to try and do our best from here and see what the race will bring," the Brazilian concurred.

Williams’ Nico Rosberg also has his work cut out for him. Eliminated in Q2, his 10-place penalty puts him at the back of the grid. Sebs Bourdais and Vettel also missed out on the final session.

With the McLaren penalties, Toyota benefits almost as well as Renault, with Jarno Trulli starting from fourth and Timo Glock in eighth. The Toyotas are sporting black bands on the cars to honor the late Ove Anderrson.

"Clearly this is a particularly important weekend for us as we are remembering Ove Andersson and everything he has done for us,” Trulli said. “This is a good start and we want to dedicate everything we achieve this weekend to him."

Red Bull’s Mark Webber (sixth) and David Coulthard (seventh) round out the top ten.

With McLaren’s penalty and BMW Sauber’s struggles, Raikkonen is looking for a points.

“If I was not to win, I would obviously be a bit disappointed, but the most important thing is to finish and bring home the maximum number of points, because we really need them," he said.

The action kicks off Sunday at 2 pm local time. U.S. fans -- this is the second of four races to be aired on Fox -- 1 pm EDT on tape delay.

The Starting Grid

1. Raikkonen, Ferrari
2. Massa, Ferrari
3. Alonso, Renault
4. Trulli, Toyota
5. Kubica, BMW
6. Webber, Red Bull
7. Coulthard, Red Bull
8. Glock, Toyota
9. Piquet, Renault
10. Kovalainen, McLaren*
11. Heidfeld, BMW
12. Vettel, Toro Rosso
13. Hamilton, McLaren**
14. Bourdais, Toro Rosso
15. Nakajima, Williams
16. Button, Honda
17. Barrichello, Honda
18. Fisichella, Force India
19. Sutil, Force India
20. Rosberg, Williams**

* five-place penalty for blocking
** 10-place penalties for Montreal incident 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, June 20, 2008

Alonso soars, new safety car rules tested

Fernando Alonso gave Renault a boost at the team’s home race, topping the charts in the second session of practice at Magny-Cours.

Alonso set a lap time of 1:15.778, edging Ferrari’s Felipe Massa, who led the day with a 1:15.306 in the morning session.

Lewis Hamilton, who faces a 10-spot penalty this weekend following the pit lane shenanigans two weeks ago in Montreal, had the second fastest time in the first session, followed by teammate Heikki Kovalainen and Kimi Raikkonen.

Massa nailed the second-best time behind the surprising Alonso in the second session, followed by Raikkonen, Hamilton and Toro Rosso’s Sebestian Vettel.

Canada race winner Robert Kubica was fifth in the morning session and sixth in the afternoon.

French Grand Prix – Practice 1 results:

1. Massa, Ferrari , 1:15.306
2. Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes , 1:16.002
3. Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes , 1:16.055
4. Raikkonen, Ferrari , 1:16.073
5. Kubica, BMW Sauber , 1:16.377
6. Alonso, Renault , 1:16.400
7. Trulli, Toyota , 1:16.758
8. Vettel, Toro Rosso-Ferrari , 1:16.838
9. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber , 1:16.870
10. Glock, Toyota , 1:16.886

Practice 2 results:

1. Alonso, Renault , 1:15.778
2. Massa, Ferrari , 1:15.854
3. Raikkonen, Ferrari , 1:15.999
4. Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes , 1:16.232
5. Vettel, Toro Rosso-Ferrari , 1:16.298
6. Kubica, BMW Sauber , 1:16.317
7. Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes , 1:16.340
8. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber , 1:16.458
9. Piquet, Renault , 1:16.543
10. Coulthard, Red Bull-Renault , 1:16.572

New Safety Car rules tested

Much anticipated changes to safety car rules were tested after the afternoon session, and opinions from the drivers were mixed.

The new process uses the ECU to send a message to the driver, who has five seconds to press a button in response. A minimum lap time is calculated which the driver is required to monitor.

The aim is to avoid a situation where drivers can be penalized when the pitlane closes at safety car deployment.

The consensus seemed to be the new rules may be a step in the right direction, but the system still needs work.

Finally...

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Could Formula One drivers go on strike?

That’s one possibility, says Fernando Alonso, as drivers hit out on the rising cost of the super license.

Max Mosley jacked the price of a super license from 1,725 euros (£1,354) plus 456 euros (£357) per point last year to 10,000 euros (£7,858) plus 2,000 euros (£1,570) per point this season.

To put it into perspective, Lewis Hamilton and world champion Kimi Raikkonen would pay around £180,000 based on last season.

"It's a ridiculous amount," Renault's Fernando Alonso told BBC Radio 5 Live. "We should pay a reasonable price. It cannot change 1,000 percent in a year."

But a full fledged strike has found lukewarm support in the Grand Prix Driver's Association (GPDA).

"You can't threaten these guys [the FIA]. You just don't do it," BBC reports Red Bull driver Mark Webber, a GDPA director, said. "We all love the sport. We wouldn't go to Silverstone and say we can't roll...we strive to get here and we don't want to look like prima donnas. But the public need to understand how some of these things get decided.”

Webber is targeting Bernie Ecclestone as a sympathetic ear as the GDPA have been unsuccessful in setting up a meeting with Mosley.

Bernie couldn’t be part of breakaway series

Bernie Ecclestone said if the teams break away from the FIA, he and Formula One Management (FOM) could not be part of it.

F1-Live reports the F1 chief said FOM is bound to the FIA by long-term lease of the sport's commercial rights.

In the absence of a new Concorde Agreement the teams are free to form their own, non-FIA sanctioned series.

Finally...

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Traditional races face uncertain future

Despite talk that Melbourne had secured the future of the Australian Grand Prix through 2015, it now looks as if there is a fly in the ointment.

Sky reports the mayor of the City of Port Philip said residents have had enough of the noise, inconvenience and expense of hosting the race.

"Why should they have to suffer the noise and the inconvenience of a car race in a park, for a race whose public price tag blew out to 41.3million (£19.94m) last year?" Sky reports Councillor Janet Cribbes said. "The race does not benefit Victoria as a whole. It simply doesn't stack up on economic, social or environmental grounds."

While half a world away, with this year’s race at Magny-Cours again looking as if it may be the last, French former world champion Alain Prost has said it is a mistake for Formula One to abandon its traditional venues.

Bernie Ecclestone has been pushing for the French race to move to Paris, but chances of that happening before 2010 are slim, meaning there may not be a French Grand Prix on the 2009 calendar.

"In the end it's the economy that decides - Bernie Ecclestone and the manufacturers - but what we absolutely have to keep is the historic Grands Prix in Europe.” Setanta reports Prost said. "France is a historic country in that sense, with its constructors, engineers and drivers. So we must keep a grand prix, although whether it be in Magny-Cours or around Paris is another discussion.”

Rumors from around the Web...

In case you thought on the heels of another Le Mans victory, Audi might have reconsidered it's F1 future:

"F1 is still not an issue for us," F1-Live reports the Volkswagen-owned marque's chairman Rupert Stadler told the German news agency SID.

Meanwhile, crash.net reports Ultimate Motorsport have confirmed it is in talks to purchase Dietrich Mateschitz’s stake in Toro Rosso.

And grandprix.com discusses rumors Honda is interested in starting up another satellite team. 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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Silly Season futurecast #1

We’re seven races into the 2008 Formula One season. Which means, of course, it’s time to focus on 2009, doesn’t it?

Yes, it’s the time of the season where otherwise “objective” motorsports journalists start repeating every rumor they hear as to who’s going where and who is getting the boot.

Welcome to SpeedRead’s first silly season report.

First stop is Enstone, where you might have heard a certain Spanish double world champion has a contract through 2009.

Or maybe he’s going to Ferrari.

Or BMW Sauber.

Fernando Alonso, when put on the spot by reporters, said he doesn’t know if he will be staying with struggling Renault after this season. But don’t hold your breath waiting for Alonso to make an announcement.

"After the summer it will be necessary to make a decision and to see where we go," Setanta reports the Spaniard ace said.

In the meantime, Alonso has told the team, he knows it is doing its best, and it must continue its efforts to improve the car, as points are within reach.

He also pointed out Renault missed a great opportunity in Montreal. No comment from Alonso on who threw those points away.

Next stop, Hinwil.

You may remember the aforementioned Alonso, Robert Kubica’s cards partner, was mentioned as a possible replacement for Nick Heidfeld a week or so ago.

The Pole said at the time he would welcome his friend at BMW Sauber, they get on well, etc. etc.

And I’m sure Alonso would welcome Kubica as a teammate, too, as long as he was a second slower and wore that big #2 on his hat Rubens Barrichello had at Ferrari.

But let’s not get all chummy quite yet, boys, because Fox reports talk is swirling Nico Rosberg will be occupying Heidfeld’s seat in 2009.

Nevermind, the Montreal race winner says it does not matter who sits in the second seat.

"For me it doesn't change anything if it's Nick or Nico: my teammate is just one of 19 other drivers who I must beat," Fox reports Kubica saying. "Regarding contracts, that is not my job, it is taken care of by someone else."

Final stop for this report: Fantasyland

Crash.net reports Jacques Villeneuve, fresh off not winning Le Mans, and recently booted from his NASCAR ride for lack of sponsorship, still covets an F1 ride.

Villeneuve last drove in F1 two years ago, when BMW Sauber used an “injury” to sub Robert Kubica into the car. The 37-year-old left rather than take part in what he viewed as a shootout to get his seat back.

Seems the Canadian hasn’t let go of his F1 dream.

“I have never given up hope of re-entering F1. I have driven in some other series, but that was only because there were no vacant seats in F1,” Villeneuve told Italian magazine Autosprint.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Ecclestone hints breakaway still on the table

Bernie Ecclestone said the lack of a new Concorde Agreement and unease with FIA President Max Mosley could lead to a breakaway series.

While Ecclestone had previously played down the threat of teams forming their own championship, he told the Times that without the Concorde Agreement binding the teams, Formula One Management and the FIA together, the teams are free agents and “can do what they like.”

The Formula One ringmaster, who recently sent a letter to the FIA’s member clubs downplaying the possibility of a split, said the teams have been uncomfortable by their lack of power and influence without the Concorde Agreement.

“What the FIA doesn’t have, which is the most important thing for them, is an agreement with the teams which they would have with a Concorde Agreement,” Ecclestone said. “The teams can do what they like. At the moment what we are trying to do, to keep sponsors happy, is say we can’t break away, but it could well be that that will happen. There is no agreement between the teams and the FIA. There is a commercial agreement that has been signed by the teams and FOM [Ecclestone’s company], so the teams can do what they like.”

The Concorde Agreement has governed the sport for over 25 years. Ecclestone has been pushing for a new agreement, but Mosley has been resisting it.

In a letter last month, Mosley wrote:

"A new Concorde Agreement would give the Formula One teams a greater say in the rule-making process, including various rights of veto. Because of its influence over the teams (which comes mainly from its ability to offer favours in and around the paddock), the CRH sees a Concorde Agreement as another way to exercise control over the sport. Again, however, I do not believe we should concede. The sport and the commercial interests should be kept separate. The teams and the CRH should be consulted and listened to at all stages, but it must be the FIA, not the CRH or the teams, which decides the regulations. My refusal to concede on this has led to a difficult situation and compounds the problems with the CRH over the 100 year agreement."
In the absence of a Concorde Agreement, there are no checks on Mosley’s power. Mosley has also disbanded the F1 Commission, which in the past determined the F1 rules approved by the FIA World Council.

A "difficult situation" for all. 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, June 15, 2008

The 24 hours of...F1?

Audi held off a strong Peugeot challenge to take its eighth win in nine years at the Circuit de la Sarthe, as F1’s veterans put on a strong showing in the world’s premier endurance event.

The Audi Sport North America car driven by Tom Kristenson, Rinaldo Capello, and Allan McNish took advantage of rain in the middle of the night to get past a faster Peugeot squad and win the LMP1 class.

Peugeot Sport’s Marc Gene, Nicolas Minassian and Jacques Villeneuve had built up a lead in the early part of the race, but the rain proved while the Peugeot 908s had the advantage in dry conditions, Audi’s R10 TDIs had it in the wet.

As the circuit dried in the morning hours, Peugeot closed the gap, but a gamble on tires and the return of rain in the final hour helped Audi take the overall win.

The second place Peugeot finished on the lead lap, oh so close for Villeneuve, the 1995 Indianapolis 500 and 1997 Formula One Champion who was aiming for his racing “Triple Crown.”

The Peugeot of Franck Montagny, Ricardo Zonta and Christian Klien finished third, two laps down.

The LMP2 class went to the Porsche RS Spyder of Jeroen Bleekemolen, Peter van Merksteijn and Jos Verstappen, while GT1 went to the Aston Martin of David Brabham, Darren Turner and Antonio Garcia. It was the second year in a row Aston Martin held off Corvette Racing, the race winner and the lead ‘Vette finishing on the same lap.

Mika Salo, Jaime Melo and Gimmi Bruni in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 430 Berlinetta GT took the GT2 win. 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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Remembering the USGP - 2000-2007

video
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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Remembering the USGP - 2007


In recent years, this is the week on the calendar I would be making my annual trek to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for my home grand prix. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the lack of a US date on the calendar is a wrong that must be righted. All week, I will post some visual memories of my home race.

For most of its run at Indianapolis, the USGP drew throngs of Colombians to cheer for their hero, Juan Pablo Montoya. But the U.S. is also Ferrari country, and Tifosi make the stands an ocean of red. In 2007, it even drew the Pope of Modena.
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Nelsinho in front??!!

Nelson Piquet topped the charts in the final day of testing at Barcelona.

The Renault driver will be hoping this result is a sign that things are about to turn around in his difficult rookie season.

The Brazilian nailed a time of 1:20.076 on the way to completing 112 laps. McLaren’s Pedro de la Rosa was second, and Luca Badoer third for Ferrari in the final test leading up to the French Grand Prix.

Mark Webber was fourth for Red Bull, Toyota’s Timo Glock fifth and Nick Heidfeld sixth in the BMW Sauber, as a morning drizzle gave way to dry conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Rubens Barrichello (Honda), Nico Hulkenberg (Williams) and Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso) rounded out the field. Force India did not take part.

1. Piquet, Renault, 1:20.076
2. De la Rosa, McLaren, 1:20.402
3. Badoer, Ferrari, 1:20.680
4. Webber, Red Bull, 1:21.037
5. Glock, Toyota, 1:21.158
6. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:21.295
7. Barrichello, Honda, 1:21.672
8. Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:21.674
9. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:21.880

Albert Park agreement done?

Various Australian newspapers are claiming a verbal agreement has been made to keep the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne through 2015, Grandprix.com reports.

Melbourne's Sunday Herald Sun says a senior government source claims an announcement is forthcoming and the deal will be signed shortly.

Bernie Ecclestone had been pressing for a night race so as to better compliment the European TV schedule, but according to the source the deal calls for a compromise start time of 5 pm.

Peugeot leading at Le Mans...

...but Audi is in hot pursuit at the halfway point. No 24 hour coverage? Check out the latest live timing from the official Web site.

And you can listen live on Radio Le Mans. 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, June 13, 2008

Remembering the USGP - Hall of Fame Museum



In recent years, this is the week on the calendar I would be making my annual trek to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for my home grand prix. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the lack of a US date on the calendar is a wrong that must be righted. All week, I will post some visual memories of my home race.

There are a lot of things to do at the speedway on a race weekend, but one of the most interesting is the speedway museum. While the 500 is the main focus, it isn't all Indy cars. The museum covers more than a century of motorsport. If you are in the Indianapolis area, hopefully for the 2009 USGP, the Hall of Fame Museum, open 364 days a year, should not be missed. $3 gains you admission.



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The refreshing outlook of Sébastien Bourdais

There has been a lot of noise as of late from the American racing community regarding the conditions that would have to be met to lure an American driver to F1.

It seems most young American drivers are perfectly happy spending their careers running around ovals in exotic locales like Wisconsin and Iowa.

Contrast that with Frenchman Sébastien Bourdais.

Perhaps the most dominant driver of the decade in American open wheel racing, Bourdais finally got his coveted chance to compete in F1 this season. But the long dominant Champ Car star isn't with one of the big three, rather Gerhard Berger's Toro Rosso squad.

He has failed to finish four of seven races in 2008. At one point, he was within spitting distance of a fourth place finish when his engine failed. His best finish was seventh in the season opener in Melbourne.

Far cry from the four consecutive Champ Car titles he captured prior to his move to F1. Yet Bourdais has been waiting for his F1 chance for years, missing out on an Arrows drive when the team went bankrupt, and on a chance to join Renault when the team opted for Franck Montagny in a shootout.

Crash.net reports Bourdais is focused on enjoying his long-awaited opportunity in Formula One, the Frenchman saying it isn’t about the position, it’s about doing the job to the best of his ability.

If the car is only capable of achieving 15th, and he can bring it home in twelfth, he continued, the result can be more satisfying than winning in a car which is expected to win.

American racing series have produced far more Michael Andrettis and Alex Zanardis, drivers who dominated the U.S. scene but fell flat on the world stage, than Juan Pablo Montoyas, who achieved success.

What a refreshing breath of fresh air when compared to a Marco Andretti or a Graham Rahal, who may have the ability to compete in F1, but would pass up the chance because they would rather race in front in IndyCar than take a risk and put in some time earning their F1 wings.

It’s Badoer again

Ferrari’s Luca Badoer topped the sheets for the second straight day of testing in Barcelona.

Badoer set a time of 1:21.013 as the team prepared for next weekend's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours.

Pedro de la Rosa was second for McLaren, and Toyota’s Timo Glock was third, hot on the heels of his fourth place finish in Montreal.

Nico Rosberg was fourth for Williams, followed by the Red Bull of David Coulthard in fifth and BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica in sixth.

Rubens Barrichello (Honda), Nelson Piquet (Renault) and Sébastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) rounded out the field.

1. Badoer, Ferrari, 1:21.013
2. De la Rosa, McLaren, 1:21.374
3. Glock, Toyota, 1:21.573
4. Rosberg, Williams,1:21.614
5. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:21.668
6. Kubica, BMW Sauber,1:21.761
7. Barrichello, Honda, 1:21.950
8. Piquet, Renault, 1:22.037
9. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:22.395 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, June 12, 2008

Remembering the USGP - 2006


In recent years, this is the week on the calendar I would be making my annual trek to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for my home grand prix. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the lack of a US date on the calendar is a wrong that must be righted. All week, I will post some visual memories of my home race.

The USGP at Indianapolis has always been a Ferrari race. The United States is Ferrari's biggest market, and the team dominated most of the races held there.

The crowd, often the largest on the F1 calendar, steadily builds over the course of the weekend. By race day, the Tifosi arrive from all over the world in force. Much of the speedway is staffed on race weekend by local volunteers, who, like the yellow-shirted gentleman above, often shake their heads in amazement at the colorful crowd F1 draws.


This group of fans got what they paid for, as Michael Schumacher won his final USGP, after a third of the field was taken out in separate accidents at the first two corners.
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Ferrari tops testing, and Davidson’s back

Ferrari's topped the sheets as Luca Badoer led the opening day of testing at the Circuit deCatalunya in Barcelona with a time of 1:22.043.

Robert Kubica, David Coulthard, Red Bull test driver Sebastien Buemi, and McLaren test driver Gary Paffett were second through fifth as teams prepared for the French Grand Prix.

With Alex Wurz in France preparing for Le Mans, Honda testing duties fell to Anthony Davidson, late of Super Aguri. The Briton notched the sixth fastest time.

Nico Hulkenberg was seventh for Williams, Romain Grosjean for Renault
and Kamui Kobayashi rounded out the top eight in the Toyota.

Testing continues Friday, with Timo Glock replacing Kobayashi, Nelson Piquet in for Grosjean, Nico Rosberg replacing Hulkenberg and Pedro de la Rosa taking over for Paffett, Crash.net reports.

1. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:22.412
2. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:22.682
3. David Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:22.724
4. Sebastian Buemi, Red Bull, 1:22.764
5. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:22.938
6. Anthony Davidson, Honda, 1:23.208
7. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:23.619
8. Romain Grosjean, Renault, 1:23.899
9. Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota, 1:24.442

Letters, we get letters...

Bernie Ecclestone has fired off a letter to the FIA clubs in an effort to calm fears about a breakaway series.

In the letter, Ecclestone insists the teams simply want a new Concorde Agreement with the commercial rights holder and the FIA.

FIA President Max Mosley has resisted signing a new agreement.

German newspaper Die Welt claims that Ecclestone and the teams have secretly issued the FIA a a June 16th ultimatum, F1-Live.com reports.

Le Mans: Peugeot maintains pole

Stéphane Sarrazin held on to pole, and Peugeot kept the top three slots for the 24 Hours of Le Mans in the final qualifying session at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Two of the three Audis line up behind the French squad, while the third starts seventh.
Jos Verstappen took pole in LMP2 for the Van Merksteijn Motorsport team, followed by Team Essex, both teams in Porsche RS Spyders. The Barazi Epsilon entry was third.

Once again a Corvette is on pole in GT1, to be driven by Johnny O'Connell, Jan Magnusson and Ron Fellows. But this year it is a Saleen which took second. The second Corvette and two Aston Martins round out the top five.

And it was Porsche taking the top two positions in GT2, the No.76 Team Performance-Matmut entry besting the No.77 Team Felbermayr-Proton. The No.96 Virgo Motorsport Ferrari was third.

The 24 Hours of Le Mans kicks off Saturday at 3pm local time. 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, June 11, 2008

Remembering the USGP - 2003

In recent years, this is the week on the calendar I would be making my annual trek to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for my home grand prix. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the lack of a US date on the calendar is a wrong that must be righted. All week, I will post some visual memories of my home race.

The 2003 race was again won by Michael Schumacher, he would dominate the track during his career, and this win effectively sewed up the championship for him. Kimi Raikkonen remained in mathematical contention, but Juan Pablo Montoya was eliminated from the drivers championship after he received a penalty for an incident with Rubens Barrichello.

This is a photo from the first pit walkabout, and that is the famous "yard of bricks." Fans at this race were treated to something usually reserved for the prawn sandwich crowd, close up views of work in the garages, and maybe, just maybe, a glimpse of one of their heroes. 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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A day of records at Le Mans

Peugeot stunned Audi in the first day of qualifying for the Le Mans 24 hour race, storming to the front at the Circuit de la Sarthe in Le Mans as Stephane Sarrazin set a record with a lap of 3:18.513 (153.578 mph).

The three diesel-powered Peugeot 908s topped the sheets, while Audi's three R10 TDIs were third through sixth. Allan McNish led the best of the Audis with a time of 3:24.105 (149.370 mph).

Audi said it was focusing on race pace and not overall speed, the official race Web site reports.

In LMP2 Porsche’s Sascha Maassen was fastest with a time of 3:33.441 (142.836 mph) in the Team Essex Porsche RS Spyder, another record on a day of shattered records.

Corvette Racing's two C6.Rs were 1-2 in GT1, while in GT2, Jörg Bergmeister set the provisional pole time with a class record time of 4:00.106 (126.974 mph) in a Porsche 911 GT3 RSR.

Nearly 45,000 fans came out to view the action. With talk of rain for tomorrow’s second day of qualifying, those fans may have seen the laps that count today.

See all the times and keep up on all the news at the official Web site. 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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Ove Andersson dies in vintage rally accident

Former Toyota team principal Ove Andersson was killed Wednesday in a head-on collision during a classic rally, grandprix.com reports. He was 70.

The Swede was taking part in the Milligan Vintage Trial in South Africa.

Andersson was a highly successful rally driver in the early 1970s and established his own team, Andersson Motorsport, which would ultimately become Toyota Team Europe. The organization would go on to cement the Japanese automaker's motorsport involvement on the European stage.

Toyota's racing successes, first in rallying, and later at Le Mans, were spearheaded by Andersson.

When Toyota set it's sights on Formula One, it was Andersson the automaker turned to to lead the effort. The team debuted on 2002 with drivers Allan McNish and Mika Salo, and Andersson as team principal.

Andersson relinquished that role in 2003, but in retirement still served as a consultant for Toyota Motorsports. 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, June 10, 2008

Remembering the USGP - 2005

In recent years, this is the week on the calendar I would be preparing for my annual trek to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for my home grand prix. There is plenty of blame to go around, but the lack of a US date on the calendar is a wrong that must be righted. All week, I will post some visual memories of my home race.

The 2005 race will forever be remembered for what wasn't on the track -- 14 Michelin shod cars. It was a shame, for the USGP by this time had matured and developed a personality of its own, but in many ways this was the beginning of the end. The memory of water bottles thrown on the track and the chorus of boos will not be forgotten, especially by the Indianapolis media, which had never been very welcoming to begin with. This photo is from the Thursday pit walk, and these Montoya fans capture the excitement of the crowd as they get to see the garages up close, a day before the cars hit the track for the first time. 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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Toro Rosso sale closer than thought?

British Formula Three organization Ultimate Motorsport told autosport.com they are in negotiations to purchase the Toro Rosso squad.

Saying Formula One has always been its target, team principal Barry Walsh said he could reveal little while the negotiations continue.

The team is backed by Angolan state oil company Sonangol, Reuters reports.

Walsh said if everything fell into place he hoped to be on the grid by 2009.

Dietrich Mateschitz said earlier this year he planned to sell his stake in the Ferrari-powered squad he co-owns with Gerhard Berger due to changes in Formula One regulations planned for 2010.

Independent ownership of the team would be a benefit for Formula One, but recent F1 dabblers Midland, Spyker and Weigl Group prove it is easy to find people with interest, not necessarily well financed or committed to the long haul.

Alonso ponders Renault’s development focus

Fernando Alonso said if Renault don’t improve by the British Grand Prix, the team should abandon development of this year’s car and focus on 2009, Sky reports.

Renault and Alonso have been suffering through a disappointing season, with a fourth in Australia and a front row in Spain among the few highlights.

Despite looking more competitive in recent races, Renault sit seventh in the championship. Among the teams the French squad trails are customer squad Red Bull.

Alonso said planned developments for France and Britain should be evaluated, but if the team shows no improvement, it might be time to shift attention to next season.

With seven races down and fast approaching the midpoint of the season, the time might be now.

Danica to get her F1 test

IndyCar’s Danica Patrick, fresh off her two-month-old victory, will get her wish for an F1 test.

Crash.net reports Honda has confirmed she will get a chance behind the wheel of a F1 car, Honda CEO Nick Fry telling Austrian newspaper Kronen Zeitung the test will most likely take place in November.

Patrick currently sits sixth in the IndyCar championship, behind Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Tony Kanaan and Ryan Briscoe, who are not currently receiving F1 tests.

Well, at least the folks at Top Gear are pacified.

Finally...

Read ex-racer and pundit Sam Posey’s touching tribute to the late sportscaster Jim McKay 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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Monday, June 9, 2008

Kubica shines, others whine

Robert Kubica continues to bask in the glow of his first Formula One victory, a day after winning the Canadian Grand Prix.

Kubica said the victory proves BMW Sauber is one of the big boys, although he is well aware of the help he received from Lewis Hamilton’s pitlane error, Sky reports.

Still, you cannot deny the facts, and Kubica sits at the top of the world drivers championship table, and BMW Sauber lies just three points behind leading constructor Ferrari.

Citing those statistics, and his team’s ability to challenge for race wins, Kubica said the Hinwil-based squad must now be considered in the same breath as Ferrari and McLaren.

Those thoughts were echoed by teammate Nick Heidfeld when questioned from the floor during yesterday’s post race press conference. The German also denied he had team orders to let Kubica by after the Pole came out of his first pitstop behind him.

Kubica quickly got past Heidfeld, but Quick Nick chalked that up to different strategies, and not to a specific order from the pit wall.

He added while he was happy for Kubica, he was disappointed to miss out on his career-best chance for a victory, Sky reports.

Spanish newspaper El Pais is more interested in Kubica’s next teammate, asking the race winner if he would welcome Fernando Alonso in the squad.

Kubica and Alonso are friends, often socializing together during race weekends, and the Polish star said he would enjoy working with Alonso, F1-Live reports.

Kubica said the Spanish double world champion is a straight talker who doesn't get caught up in marketing and promotion.

Heidfeld holds a contract with BMW Sauber for 2009, but as we all know, F1 contracts tend to be “flexible.”

Kubica said if Alonso were to join him at the team sometime in the future the pair would “have a lot of fun.”

He also told the Spanish newspaper he doesn’t see himself as a team leader, but rather sees his job is to focus on winning races.

Despite the teams landmark victory, technical director Willy Rampf remains grounded, telling Eurosport/AFP it was much too soon to talk about the world championship.

Rampf said while proud of the victory, he is mindful the team benefited from the pitlane incident, saying he believes Ferrari and McLaren are still ahead in overall performance.

Kubica is the first driver to lead the world championship not to drive with McLaren, Ferrari or Renault since the late '90s. The Pole will have the chance to further take advantage of one of his closest rivals in France, as Lewis Hamilton will be facing a ten place grid penalty.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis told Fox the collision which eliminated his young star was “just one of those things,” and the team accepted the penalty from the stewards.

Dennis said he was focused on the positives - the team was quick all weekend and should be able to maintain that pace for the rest of the season.

Ferrari team director Stefano Domenicali agreed the penalty was deserved, telling Gazzetta dello Sport Raikkonen was in a good position for victory.

Lost in the excitement surrounding the pitlane incident was the Ferrari had leapfrogged Hamilton during the pitstop.

The Ferrari chief also lamented the fueling problem which hurt Felipe Massa's race, but said the Brazilian fought well to earn fifth.

With disappointing results in both Canada and Monaco, Domenicali said Ferrari must now respond, and focus on returning to its winning ways. 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, June 8, 2008

Breaking: Rosberg, Hamilton penalized

The official Formula One Web site reports Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg will each receive 10 place penalties in France for their roles in the pit lane collision at 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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Kubica takes maiden victory

One year ago, Robert Kubica suffered a horrendous crash at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Today, He won the 2008 Canadian Grand Prix in his return to the track, and with it took the lead in the world championship.

"It is fantastic to win my first race for BMW Sauber which I joined from the beginning. We have grown up together and thanks to the team for providing a good car and we managed to do a first and second. Maybe the pace is still not the best but at this race we were right there," Kubica said. "The first stint I couldn’t match Lewis’ pace as we had some pressure problems but afterwards we changed the pressure and the car felt very good. But it was a fantastic race and fantastic for me, for my country and for the fans. Thanks to them for cheering for me in Canada."

Teammate Nick Heidfeld completed the historic 1-2 for BMW Sauber, and veteran David Coulthard took third for Red Bull in an eventful race at Île Notre-Dame.

"Obviously I am very happy with second position. I am very happy for Robert and for the team - our first-ever one-two. It was a good race for me and a good result in the situation I am in at the moment," Heidfeld said.

But while Kubica’s and BMW’s maiden victory will be talked about in the two weeks leading up to the French Grand Prix, it will be the shocking events in the pitlane, which eliminated Lewis Hamilton and Kimi Raikkonen, that will have people buzzing.

It all began on lap 15 when Force India’s Adrian Sutil pulled over to a stop on a portion of the track beyond the reach of the cranes. The safety car was soon deployed and the field stacked up waiting for the pit lane to open.

The pits opened on lap 19 and half the field poured in, including race leaders Hamilton, Kubica and Raikkonen.

Raikkonen and Kubica were first to leave their pit stalls and were stopped side by side at the end of the pitlane waiting for the green light when Hamilton slid into Raikkonen at speed, ending both driver’s races.

"As I exited the box, I saw two cars jostling for position ahead of me in the pit lane. Obviously, I didn't want to get involved in their tussle, and was trying not to do so, and then all of a sudden they stopped," Hamilton said. "And by the time they'd come to a halt, it was too late for me to avoid them. It's just unfortunate when stuff like this happens, but I have no argument with the stewards."

Raikkonen was obviously disappointed.

"There's not much I can say. My race was ruined by Hamilton's mistake. Obviously, anyone can make mistakes, as I did two weeks ago in Monaco," Raikkonen said. "But it's one thing to make a mistake at two hundred (miles) per hour but another to hit a car stopped at a red light. I am not angry because that doesn't achieve anything and does not change my result! I am unhappy, because I had a great chance of winning."

Nico Rosberg was also caught up in the ruckus. Though he would continue, the front wing was damaged and would need replacement, ruining a promising weekend.

The event will be investigated after the race.

It was a surprisingly calm day, however, at a circuit known for its safety car periods. Officials spent the night resurfacing the areas of the track which had caused so much trouble in qualifying, but track degradation would be a factor in the race.

All runners made it through the first corner, with Hamilton in the lead and Kubica defending well to keep second out of Raikkonen's hands.

"I started on the dirty side of the track and Kimi Raikkonen was nearly able to pass me, but I just managed to keep him behind," Kubica said.

Rosberg also made a good start, getting past Fernando Alonso for fourth, and Rubens Barrichello and Kazuki Nakajima were also winners when the lights when out. Timo Glock, on the other hand, lost several places and dropped to 14th.

Renault’s Nelson Piquet immediately started moving throught the field, first taking Glock and then squeezing past Jarno Trulli for 13th. It looked as if Piquet was a man on the move before the safety car made it’s appearance.

The safety car was in on lap 21, and the field was significantly shuffled. Nick Heidfeld led, with Barrichello and Nakajima behind him. But the first nine runners had yet to stop, and with tenth place Kubica leading the group who had already pitted, suddenly it became clear the Pole might never have a better opportunity for victory.

On lap 29, Nick Heidfeld pitted, having built up a significant lead on his teammate, and indeed, he came out ahead of Kubica. But Heidfeld, now fueled until the end of the race, couldn’t keep the position and the Pole was past him on lap 31.

"I was lucky that I was quite long on my first stint strategy, so I could build a nice gap and even got out ahead of Robert for the second stint," Heidfeld said. "Then at this stage we decided to convert me to a one stopper with soft tyres which I think was the right choice. But on the soft tyres I struggled. I had seen that yesterday in qualifying and that didn’t make it easy."

While Alonso hounded Heidfeld, Kubica went to work building up his lead. He would need to stop again before the end of the race, so he would need something close to a 20 second gap to come out ahead of his German teammate.

An odd list of drivers would earn P1 in the shuffled procession, including Barrichello, Coulthard, Trulli and Glock, but as they pitted, each would rejoin behind Kubica, Heidfeld and Alonso.

Kubica needed each of those slower drivers to make their pit stops and clear out the traffic holding him up. When the last, Glock, came in on lap 42, Kubica’s crew alerted the Pole he had 10 laps to build up his gap.

Heidfeld continued to have his hands full with Alonso, who repeatedly tried to pass him in the hairpin. In the wake of their clash at the hotel hairpin two weeks ago in Monaco, one has to wonder, what is it with these guys and hairpins?

But Alonso’s challenge would come to an end on lap 44 when the Spaniard lost it at turn seven and went into the wall. With Piquet’s retirement on lap 41, Renault was left with disappointment for a weekend which had promised much.

Williams, also competitive all weekend, was left pointless as well when Kazuki Nakajima rear-ended one of the Hondas and got his wing trapped under the front wheels. With no steering, the Japanese driver straightlined it into a wall near the pit entrance.

Back up front, Kubica was now putting the clean air to good use, building an almost 25 second gap in his 10 lap window. His 7.5 second stop on lap 49 saw him emerge well ahead of Heidfeld, and now it was simply a matter of avoiding mistakes and surviving the last 20 laps on the slippery track.

"The last car went into the pits, I think it was Timo Glock, and then I had eight laps to make 16 or 17 second margin to come back after my pit stop in front of Nick," Kubica said. "That was my seven laps of qualifying. I never struggled so much and I was pushing very hard as I knew I had to make around a 21 second gap and I managed to do 24, so it was a great race."

For others, it was a scramble for the remaining points paying positions, and Massa, in particular, was looking to maximize his result. Siezing an opportunity when McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen passed Barrichello, the Ferrari driver got both drivers in one shot.

Barrichello’s woes continued as soon both Toyotas had made their was past the Honda.

"I'm pleased with the two points today, particularly as we thought our chances of a points finish were slim when we started the weekend," said Barrichello. "Unfortunately when we switched to the option tyre after my one and only stop and with a heavy fuel load, I was really struggling with a lack of grip. I went off the track on the marbles and lost a couple of positions at turns three and four, which is a shame."

With 10 to go, it was Kubica leading Heidfeld and Coulthard cruising in the top three spots, nut well behind the Scot, the battle was fierce as the Toyotas tried to hold off Massa, and Kovalainen and Rosberg pressured Vettel for an eighth place which must have seemed unreal for the Toro Rosso driver considering he had missed qualifying and started from the pitlane.

Massa was now a man on a mission, first getting Barrichello on lap 62, and then after pressuring Trulli, got past by taking advantage of a Timo Glock mistake which forced the Italian to lift.

"I am happy to have brought home four points at the end of a very difficult race run on a track surface that was in really poor condition," said Massa. "Once I found myself at the back, I tried to climb back up again, but in the end, when I was behind Glock, I could not get past him and also I didn't want to run the risk of ending up off the track after all the trouble I'd been to to get that far."

At the flag it was Kubica earning BMW Sauber’s first win, and teammate Heidfeld made it a 1-2. David Coulthard finally opened his 2008 account with a third place finish.

"I think it is my 62nd podium and I am as delighted to be there as I was in 1994 when I had my first podium. Canada is where I scored my first points in 1994," Coulthard said. "I am in a reflective mood in my career as obviously 15 seasons is a long time for anyone, especially after such an ugly start to the season. It is great to see the younger guys enjoying their first victories. I am very happy for Robert and for BMW. I think they are deserved winners of this grand prix."

Massa would run out of laps before he could get fourth from Glock, but finished a well-earned fifth. Trulli was sixth as both Toyotas finished in the points. Barrichello hung on for seventh and Vettel finished eighth.

Kubica vaults to the lead in the driver’s championship, with Hamilton and Massa tied for second and defending world champion Raikkonen just behind them.

"It has been an incredible year but also a struggling year. Last year I was struggling a lot and I am happy I managed to fix some issues which were not working properly last season. I am doing pretty well this season," said Kubica. "I think this shows how much I was struggling last year. I am very happy being in Canada where I had a big shunt last season. It is something amazing now. The goal was to win a grand prix this season and we have done it. We are leading the Drivers’ championship, so I hope the team will give me 100 per cent support to try and maybe defend it until the last race."

In the constructors championship, BMW Sauber closes to within three points of Ferrari, and has opened up a 17 point gap on McLaren.

The circus moves back to Europe for the French Grand Prix in two weeks time at Magny Cours for round eight of the championship.
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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