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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bernie's back to backing Max

There may have been a time when Bernie Ecclestone was calling for Max Mosley’s head, but that ain’t the case now.

Seems the bad press Mosley was getting in the early summer has not had the negative effect the Formula 1 ringmaster feared.

“For a short period I said he should resign because I had so much pressure from the people to say he should resign,” sources report Ecclestone told BBC Radio Five Live's Sportsweek. “In a lot of ways, at the time, I wish he had done, but now I don't see this any different and don't see why he should. Max works and does the best he can for the sport, 100 per cent. All these people say they don't want to meet Max and they don't want to do this or that ... it is all going to disappear.”

Ecclestone claims despite all that has happened, his longtime relationship with the FIA maestro remains the same.

Mosley is scheduled to make a return to the paddock at the Italian Grand Prix.

“I will welcome him back,” Ecclestone said. “He should come back and he should just carry on like he always carries on.”

ADAC first to feel FIA fury?

Autosport’s Jonathon Noble reports the ADAC (Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club)/Deutscher Motor Sport Bund E.V. (DMSB)-controlled Nurburgring could face the axe as the FIA reviews who will be Germany’s motorsports authority.

ADAC was highly critical of Mosley in the wake of the News of the World scandal, saying it would withdraw from the FIA if the Briton remained in power.

Mosley won a vote of confidence from the FIA in June.

Autosport.com reports a letter to members confirms the FIA will hold an extraordinary meeting in October to discuss DMSB’s future as the nation’s national sporting authority.

The Web site speculates one possible outcome is the World Motor Sport Council could Hockenheim owner and rival club Automobil von Deutschland (AvD) to that position.

$4.7 billion

The economy may be struggling, but Formula 1’s revenues are not.

ITV reports a study of the sport’s finances shows revenues from all businesses within F1 will reach a record total of $4.7 billion this year.

For the first time, race hosting fees, including the new races in Valencia and Singapore, brought in more money than TV rights.

Team spending is up, due in part to the arrival of Force India, and team sponsorship has also increased, despite current economic trends and the loss of Super Aguri on the grid. 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, August 29, 2008

Hamilton tops final day at Monza

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton topped the charts for the final day of testing at Monza.

The Briton set a best time of 1:22.967 over 97 laps.

Kimi Raikkonen was second in the Ferrari, while Giancarlo Fisichella turned in a surprising third for Force India.

  1. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:22.967
  2. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:23.371
  3. Fisichella, Force India, 1:23.632
  4. Nakajima, Williams, 1:23.634
  5. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:23.737
  6. Alonso, Renault, 1:23.820
  7. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:23.865
  8. Glock, Toyota, 1:23.897
  9. Kubica, BMW-Sauber, 1:24.089
  10. Button, Honda, 1:24.321

No Alonso for Ferrari in ’09

Luca Cordero di Montezemolo has given his backing for current drivers Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen to remain at Ferrari next year.

“100% sure,” Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport and reports Montezemolo replied when asked if MassaRaikkonen were safe for next season. 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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Quick Nick quickest on day two at Monza

BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld claimed best time for the second day of testing at the Monza circuit.

The German set a best time of 1:22.621, finishing ahead of Nico Rosberg’s Williams and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen.

  1. Heidfeld, BMW-Sauber, 1:22.621
  2. Rosberg, Williams, 1:22.879
  3. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:23.341
  4. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:23.424
  5. Massa, Ferrari, 1:23.445
  6. Alonso, Renault, 1:23.606
  7. Sutil, Force India, 1:23.823
  8. Webber, Red Bull, 1:23.936
  9. Trulli, Toyota , 1:24.158
  10. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:24.311
  11. Barrichello, Honda, 1:24.695
  12. Button, Honda, 1:25.058
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Phil Hill 1927-2008

American Phil Hill, 1961 Formula One World Champion, has died. He was 81.

U.S.-born Hill and Mario Andretti hold the distiction of being the only Americans to win the world championship.

In addition to his Formula One title, he won both the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 12 Hours of Sebring three times. He was also the first man to lap the Nordschleife at the Nürburgring in less than nine minutes, and remarkably won the first and last races of his driving career.

In retirement, Hill collected and restored vintage cars, worked as a commentator for ABC’s Wide World of Sports, and was a contributing editor to Road & Track magazine.

He is survived by his wife, a son and two daughters. 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, August 27, 2008

Massa tops first day of Monza test

Days after his win in Valencia, Felipe Massa kept the fast laps coming, leading testing at Monza with a time of 1:23.428.

With the summer ban lifted, all 10 teams were in action on the high speed circuit. Most work concentrated on aero setup for next month’s Italian Grand Prix, as well as for Spa.

“The car’s feel is very important at Monza because you are trying to run with as little drag as possible so you do not have as much downforce as at other circuits,” said Jarno Trulli, who finished ninth on the day. “We had a delay at the beginning of the day but then we concentrated on brake work as well as trying the car with different levels of downforce and evaluating the Bridgestone tyre compounds that we will use in the Italian Grand Prix.”

The times were exceedingly close, with just over a second all that separated Massa from Renault’s Nelson Piquet at the bottom of the chart.

“It was a good day’s work and nice to complete so many laps,” Piquet said. “It’s the fastest circuit of the year and so we were trying out our low downforce package, which went well, although it always feels strange to drive with such little downforce on the car. The track was also quite green, which didn’t help, but I was happy with the set-up work we completed, even though we still have a lot to learn.”

Most teams are conducting a three-day test -- Ferrari had a head start, Andrea Bertolini running in the F2008 yesterday. Running continues tomorrow, with Fernando Alonso and Sebastien Bourdais among those joining the action.


Testing times
  1. Massa, Ferrari, 1:23.428
  2. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:23.439
  3. Rosberg, Williams, 1:23.461
  4. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:23.691
  5. Barrichello, Honda, 1:23.827
  6. Webber, Red Bull, 1:24.005
  7. Heidfeld, BMW, 1:24.075
  8. Liuzzi, Force India, 1:24.239
  9. Trulli, Toyota, 1:24.510
  10. Piquet, Renault, 1:24.540
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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Silly season update: So much centers on Bourdais

With a good portion of the seats filled for 2009, the focus is on Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais.

So, although the Frenchman was again outshone by his highly regarded teammate Sebastian Vettel, his top 10 in qualifying and 10th place finish in Valencia were just what the doctor ordered.

“Things are finally starting to come together and go in the right direction,” ITV reports Bourdais said in his column for French sports daily L’Equipe. “And as a result, the pleasure is finally coming back. I finally broke into Q3 and was able to battle with the quickest guys. It’s good for the confidence.”

The four-time Champ Car champion believes he has found the right combination to help him compensate for aspects of the STR3 which do not suit his driving style. But the question is, will that be enough to save him for 2009?

SpeedTV reports German magazine Auto Motor und Sport is claiming Toro Rosso will test both GP2 competitor and Red Bull test driver Sebastien Buemi and Takuma Sato in Jerez. Team co-owner Gerhard Berger is also known to be a big fan of Bruno Senna.

Berger is on the record as saying a rookie and a veteran is the right combination for his team. With Vettel moving to parent squad Red Bull, that would seem to solidify Bourdais’ position.

But the appearance of Sato’s name in connection with an STR test doesn’t bode well for the Frenchman. Sato is still hugely popular in Japan, a market Dietrich Mateschitz covets for his energy drink.

Bourdais’ manager Nicolas Todt, son of Jean, is cautiously optimistic.

“In Formula 1, whether it is your first or your tenth year, you always have something to prove and you are always judged on your most recent races,” Todt told French language publication RMC, according to crash.net. “Right now, Sebastien's future in Formula 1 is not yet assured, but I have a good feeling that he can stay at Toro Rosso.”
Much depends on how much influence Mateschitz has over driver choices at STR. It would be expected he’d be keen on getting one of his drivers in an open seat.

But Toro Rosso was openly critical of Red Bull drivers Scott Speed and Tonio Luizzi in the past, and Bourdais’ signing was in many ways a backlash against that driver pairing.

Kubica, Alonso on collision course?

With so few changes in driver lineups for 2008, this year’s silly season is looking more and more about who goes where in 2010.

The latest example: Robert Kubica is reported to have singed a one-year contract extension with BMW Sauber, according to Sky, who are predicting the Pole has eyes on a Ferrari seat in 2010.

Manny believe that is also the goal of Fernando Alonso, who is reportedly in talks with Honda on a one year deal, possibly replacing veteran Rubens Barrichello.

Setanta reports while the Brazilian accepts those discussions are taking place, he wants to continue to race for the Brackley-based outfit.

“I think the team is definitely talking to Fernando but that’s the question mark,” he is to have said. “I have never been so enthusiastic about my whole situation with the team. I left Ferrari because I didn’t have the freedom to do what I wanted to do. I have that at Honda but I still have not had the car to perform and I am waiting for that chance.

“What can I say, but honestly the day that I feel that I am slower than my first race is the day I will call it off and stop. The conversations are there and I am talking to the team, I am talking to all the teams. I want to be racing.”

Davidson would test

F1-live reports former Super Best Friend Anthony Davidson was making the rounds in the paddock at the European Grand Prix in hope of landing a job.

The Briton has been working as a commentator since the demise of the Leafield squad, but is keen to remain in a Formula 1 car.

To that end, the 29-year-old told Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell “he would accept a place as a test driver.”

Davidson is highly regarded as a test driver, having filled that role over half a decade for Honda. 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, August 25, 2008

Valencia circuit leaves many wanting

Well, the Valencia weekend is in the books, and while drivers and team bosses like Timo Glock, Kimi Raikkonen, Mario Theissen and Flavio Briatore have all praised the brand new street circuit, it seems not everyone was enamored with it.

Whether it be the Red Bulletin humorously pointing out the less than ideal placement of advertising in relation to the transporters (see “Sign of the Times”), or reactions like these in the press:


For my money, the track was...ok. Twenty-five corners is not something to dismiss. But as far as an entertaining view? Well, we didn’t necessarily see the “old-world” charm some were trying to sell.

In fact, the only time I got the real feeling of being in a harbor setting was from the air. Suddenly, in this perspective, it all clicked, especially the use of the bridge. It’s a shame that didn’t translate on ground level.

Unfortunately, rather than a modern-day Monte Carlo, we got yet another sterile, interchangeable Tilke-like track. The kind where the only hint as to what country you are in is the architecture of the garage area, and in this case, because of the modern locale, we didn’t even get that.

Of course, one race doesn’t make a circuit’s personality. Perhaps the lack of passing was a one-off. We’ll see... but here’s hoping Singapore offers more of a spectacle than just F1 under the lights. 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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Massa and Sutil - Who’s to blame?

Felipe Massa steadfastly maintains Adrian Sutil should have given way when the pair were side by side in the pitlane.

“I think it wasn’t very clever from his side as even if he went out in front of me he needed to let me by,” Massa said in the post-race press conference. “It was a shame to fight with him in the pit lane as we were very close and I needed to back off and I lost a lot of time but fortunately the gap was enough.

“Because I stopped behind him in the pit stop and we leave together. When he was passing me by I was leaving the garage, so we were side-by-side. But I was the leader and he was lapping,” he continued.


For his part, Sutil downplayed the event.

“I didn't see him I was driving down the pit lane and suddenly the car was there and I had to go left to avoid him," Sutil said. "Obviously I tried to let him past as soon as I could after the pit lane. Everyone is in such a rush in the pits and we've seen cars side by side in the pits many time.” he is quoted on GPUpdate.net.

And in Sutil’s defense, he didn’t release Massa from the pit stall.

Regardless, it came as no surprise when the graphic popped up announcing an investigation was taking place, and once told no action would be taken during the race, chances were good Massa would not lose his victory.

Seems more than a few have taken issue with that decision, however, and ITV has responded by opening it up the reader comment.

Is it “another” example of pro-Ferrari bias? The precedent was there to penalize Massa in the race. Was a severe reprimand and 10,000 euro fine too little? Should it have cost him his race 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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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Massa wins in Valencia (confirmed)

Three weeks ago Felipe Massa dominated the Hungaroring only to have his Ferrari engine let go just laps from the end.

This week on the brand new Valencia street circuit, Massa put all that behind him, leading from pole and winning the European Grand Prix (after confirmation from the stewards following an investigation into his second pitstop -- more below).

“I think it is amazing after such a bad result we come here with a new track which was new for everybody and we did just such a fantastic job from preparing the car on Friday and Saturday morning and choosing the right tyres,” Massa said.

The win put Massa into second in the championship. Points leader Lewis Hamilton, who finished runner up, extended his points lead, however, as Massa’s teammate Kimi Raikkonen’s race ended in an engine failure.

“I cannot complain with second place. We have had quite a strong weekend. I have had a few problems health-wise but still pulled through and had a great team behind me who helped me,” Hamilton said. “It is a nice new circuit and I’ve come here and got some good points and the team have got some good points this weekend, so just overall it was a solid weekend for us.”

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica finished third, the Pole’s best finish since his win in Montreal in June.

“We finished third, quite a far way from the top two cars. I think the key for this podium was yesterday in qualifying,” Kubica said. “I was just three tenths off pole with three laps more fuel than Felipe. I think it was an amazing performance yesterday. I think today was our reality, our real pace is a bit far away but we will try to do our best.”

It was a beautiful day for a motor race, if a bit warm. The heat, combined with 25 corners, made it a sure bet brake temperatures were going to be a concern.

Massa led from the start, Hamilton falling short of mounting a challenge off the line. Kubica slotted in behind in third as the drivers got off to a relatively clean start.

“The start was just great. I have been doing great starts this season. I was also very happy to start on the pit side even if you have maybe one or two laps less in terms of fuel load in the car,” Massa said. “Here I think I was very keen to start on the clean side which is always very difficult to predict from qualifying. But we made it and I did a great start. I braked a little bit too early in the first corner looking how they were fighting behind and I managed to go in front.”

The only mishap came well back in the field, but it was a painful one for the home crowd, as Kazuki Nakajima got into the back of Fernando Alonso, dislodging the Spaniard's rear wing.

The blow would prove to be fatal, as the Renault was wheeled into the garage after barely turning a lap.

Up front, it was a repeat of Massa’s dominance in Hungary, as the Brazilian steadily built up a lead on Hamilton. The question would be when Massa would need to pit, and could Hamilton make the gap back up in clean air.

Massa would prove to be the first of the leaders to pit, and Hamilton went to work. As the Briton put in fliers, Massa emerged from his stop in an ideal location -- just ahead of Raikkonen.

The Finn had been pressuring countryman Heikki Kovalainen since the start of the race, so Massa appearing from the pit between the two did little for the reigning world champion’s chances to make up ground.

Hamilton has built something of a reputation lately for making up lost ground when his opponents pit first, but this time he fell short of the mark and emerged behind Raikkonen.

When the first round of stops were said and done, Massa was still in command, Hamilton was still chasing, and Kubica was ready to capitalize on any mistake.

Heat was definitely playing a role, Ferrari choosing to abandon it super secret wheel covers to aid brake cooling.

Most drivers were on a two-stop strategy. One of the notable exceptions was Timo Glock. The German, fresh off so much success in Hungary, found himself on the outside of Q3. Toyota made the choice to fill him up and he was steadily moving up the field.

The second round of stops saw Massa maintain his position over Hamilton, but it proved eventful for the Brazilian, as he was released from his pit box at almost the same instant Sutil was coming down the pitlane. The two drivers rode side by side before Massa gave way as the pitlane narrowed.

“I think it wasn’t very clever from his side as even if he went out in front of me he needed to let me by,” Massa said. “It was a shame to fight with him in the pit lane as we were very close and I needed to back off and I lost a lot of time but fortunately the gap was enough.”

It seemed an odd time to release Massa, and the stewards alerted there would be a post-race investigation. The result was a reprimand and a 10,000 euro fine.

It wasn’t the only adventure for the Ferrari pit crew, as just a couple of laps later Raikkonen tried to leave the box with the fuel hose still attached. One mechanic would leave on a stretcher.

But for all the unknowns, Valencia proved to be a track that wasn’t claiming many victims. Alonso’s early retirement being the only one until Adrian Sutil found the wall on lap 42.

The race claimed its third victim as Raikkonen’s woes continued when his engine gave way in a wall of smoke on lap 46.

Massa would take the checkered flag, Hamilton on pace in second. Kubica finished well behind in third, followed by Kovalainen.

With Raikkonen’s retirement it was Jarno Trulli in fifth and Sebastian Vettel in sixth, turning in a solid drive as the Ferrari-powered Toro Rosso’s seemed to have a definite advantage on their Renault-powered brethren.

Glock finished seventh and Nico Rosberg rounded out the points paying positions in eighth for Williams.

The result keeps both championships tight, with Hamilton maintaining a slight edge on his Ferrari rivals in the drivers championship. Even Kubica is withing a shout of the leaders, just 15 points adrift.

Meanwhile, McLaren keeps chipping away at Ferrari’s lead in the constructors championship, with BMW Sauber in third.

“He (Massa) was in front and it is pretty difficult to overtake here, so I thought ‘keep a certain gap and just try and maintain it,’” said Hamilton. “But towards the end I think he started to stretch it out a little bit. But it was good to know that we were a couple of laps heavier. That shows we have got the pace.”

Now it’s off to Spa in two weeks’ time as the series tackles one of the grand old tracks on the calendar. Massa remains focused on the work ahead as he continues his campaign for the championship at one of the Formula 1 fraternity’s favorite circuits.

“We still need to work very hard as today we had another problem with Kimi and another one in the garage but it is nice that our mechanic is fine,” Massa said. “We need to look forward, we have time to work and have so many important races in front of us. I am just so glad and happy especially after such a disaster in Hungary.”
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Saturday, August 23, 2008

Massa on pole in Valencia

Felipe Massa will start from pole in Sunday’s European Grand Prix through the streets of Valencia.

“For sure starting on pole here is very nice,” Massa said. “The track here is not very easy. The surface is slippery. I had a good lap and I was able to score the pole position. I think I have a good car for the race tomorrow which will be very difficult, but I will try to do my best.”

The Brazilian set a time of 1:38.989 in the final shootout to put his Ferrari on the front row. Points leader Lewis Hamilton will join him, slotting his McLaren in second.

“For sure, there is always a little bit of time somewhere but generally I am very happy. It is a good starting position for us for tomorrow and a great job done by the team,” Hamilton commented.

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen round out the top five.

After some rough qualifying sessions, it was good for Kubica to get back in the top three.

“After some unlucky races the pace of the car here in Valencia is not as bad as it was before but also we have a bit of a gap to Ferrari and McLaren. Qualifying went pretty smooth,” Kubica said.

It was expected things would shake up a bit after Friday’s practice sessions, with Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button finding themselves in the top three at the end of the day yesterday.

Indeed, today the results proved too good to be true, Alonso qualifying a season-worst 12th and Button eliminated in Q1.

“It was a really disappointing qualifying today, particularly as we have been quick all weekend," Button explained. “My first run on the prime tyres was good but we simply chose the wrong tyre for my final run in Q1. I had no grip with the option and it just wasn't very competitive for us. My final run was slower than my prime run, which shouldn't happen on a circuit which is improving all the time. I'm really disappointed as we have improved the car but today we didn't make the most of that.”

But the racy Sebastian Vettel’s Friday pace wasn’t imagined, as the German put his STR sixth on the grid. Teammate Sebastien Bourdais made it a celebratory day for the Faenza-based outfit, putting the second Toro Rosso 10th as both cars made it into Q3.

“It’s been a fantastic day for us. We made some changes to the set-up overnight and they all turned out to be positive," Vettel enthused. “The team worked hard to make the most of the data. We didn’t expect to do this well here but it’s a good thing to have both cars in Q3. Now we have to keep our feet on the ground, because there are a lot of laps ahead of us tomorrow. I’m looking forward to the race when I think we have a real chance to score points.”

Bracketed by the Toro Rossos are Jarno Trulli’s Toyota, BMW Sauber's Nick Heidfeld, and Nico Rosberg for Williams.

It had been hoped Force India’s new seamless-shift gearbox would give the team the boost it needed to get out of Q1, but the end of the first session found the backmarkers in a familiar spot: Eliminated.

Joining them were David Coulthard and the Hondas of Button and Rubens Barrichello, yet another in a string of disappointing results for the Brackley squad.

“It has been an incredibly frustrating day for us today. We were not able to find a balance on the car in practice this morning which affected our preparations for qualifying,” Barrichello said. “This afternoon I particularly struggled with rear locking which cost me a lot of time as I wasn't able to attack the lap. It's very disappointing to be starting the first race here from so far back on the grid.”

What became evident over the course of today’s qualifying sessions was just how close the times were. It wouldn’t take much of a mistake to find yourself on the outside looking in when the shootout began.

It was a lesson Alonso learned first hand as running wide in turn three bumped him from the top 10.

Kazuki Nakajima (Williams), Timo Glock (Toyota) Mark Webber (Red Bull), and Nelson Piquet (Renault) joined the hometown favorite on the sidelines after Q2.

Webber was particularly surprised to see the advantage supposed ‘B’ team STR had on the raw street circuit.

“Both Sebastians are obviously are driving very well here and they have set up their car a little differently, not massively,” Webber told ITV Sport’s Louise Goodman. “We know that they have a stronger engine – that is clear – but probably not by the amount that they are ahead of us. The engine is probably worth four-tenths or so but the rest is…we need to do a better job.”

Hamilton expects Ferrari to be difficult tomorrow.

“As he (Massa) said in sector one he destroyed everyone. They are going to be hard to beat tomorrow but we will push as hard as we can,” Hamilton said.

After his heartbreak in Hungary, Massa isn’t taking anything for granted.

“It is very nice to be here for the first time in Valencia and also after the problem we had in the last race and to be on the top,” The Brazilian said. “But for sure the race is tomorrow and we don’t know how it is going to be but it is always nice to start on pole position. We will try to do a great race.”

The action kicks off at 2pm local time Sunday.

The grid
  1. Massa, Ferrari, 1:38.989
  2. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:39.199
  3. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:39.392
  4. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:39.488
  5. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:39.937
  6. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:40.142
  7. Trulli, Toyota, 1:40.309
  8. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:40.631
  9. Rosberg, Williams, 1:40.721
  10. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:40.750
  11. Nakajima, Williams, 1:38.428
  12. Alonso, Renault, 1:38.435
  13. Glock, Toyota, 1:38.499
  14. Webber, Red Bull, 1:38.515
  15. Piquet, Renault, 1:38.744
  16. Button, Honda, 1:38.880
  17. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:39.235
  18. Fisichella, Force India, 1:39.268
  19. Barrichello, Honda, 1:39.811
  20. Sutil, Force India, 1:39.943
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Hobbs to be honored

Autoweek reports former driver and current SpeedTV commentator David Hobbs is to be honored at the 2009 Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance.

Hobbs drove Formula 1, Indy, NASCAR and sports cars in his driving career, and drove Le Mans 20 times, finishing on the podium on three occasions. He was the 1971 U.S. Formula 5000 champion and the 1983 Trans-Am champion.

He has been a part of SpeedTV's F1 coverage for several years.

Truly an honor, and finally, a compelling reason for me to post this...

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Raikkonen tops first day at Valencia

Kimi Raikkonen set fastest pace in day one of practice for the European Grand Prix at the brand new Valencia Street Circuit.

The world champion set his time in the closing seconds of the second session, but questions remain on the fresh, unknown track as Fernando Alonso pulled of a second in front of his home crowd and third went to Jenson Button in the Honda.

Raikkonen’s teammate Felipe Massa was fourth fastest, while Lewis Hamilton was fifth in the first of the McLarens.

It was Sebastian Vettel topping the charts in the first session for Toro Rosso, as drivers felt their way around the track. But as the track warmed up in the afternoon, and teams were pushing harder, times started to tumble.

Alonso left the day 10,000 euros lighter after being fined for cutting the pitlane entrance. David Coulthard also found himself penalized for speeding in the pitlane.

Overall, the circuit was well received by the F1 fraternity, drawing comparisons to American temporary street circuits from Raikkonen and Timo Glock. Alonso also had praise for the track, site of his second home race of the season.

“Well, the track I think is good,” he said. “It is not easy, quite challenging and also the last sector is quite nice to drive and you need to really concentrate to get the maximum there. We can say that it is not a normal street circuit, it is a little bit more than a street circuit.”

Team bosses Mario Theissen and Flavio Briatore had kind words for the new circuit.

“I walked the track yesterday and I can tell you it is even more challenging than to do it by car especially in the heat of lunchtime. I think they did a hell of a job,” Theissen said.

“We really need to congratulate the people of Valencia for the job they have done. I was here a few months ago and I never believed they would finish the circuit so quickly,” Briatore added. “It is an amazing job, really. The ambience is fantastic. This is another good circuit for Formula One with the boats in the harbour, the atmosphere. It is the right way to see Formula One go. I am very impressed with the job done by Valencia.”

Qualifying kicks off at 2pm local time Saturday.

A1 season delayed

A1GP announced it was postponing the start of its season after requesting a redesign of a suspension part that failed in testing, injuring test driver Patrick Friesacher.

“It was always going to be an optimistic programme but we were confident we could achieve it,” A1GP Chief Executive Officer, Pete da Silva, said. “This in no way reflects on the work undertaken by the technical team and our partners, as it was due to circumstances beyond their control. I also want to thank all our technical partners for their support during our intensive testing programme, and especially Ferrari for the supply of engines.

“We now have to concentrate on what we have ahead of us rather than behind,” he continued. “We still have some great announcements to make. In the near future we shall be able to announce our full race calendar, as well as some deals that will enhance the overall package we are presenting to our fans for Season Four.”

The first race now moves from Mugello on September 21 to Zandvoort on October 5. 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, August 21, 2008

Take a virtual lap of Valencia

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bridgestone marks 200th Grand Prix


The new street race at Valencia will be Bridgestone’s 200th race since its 1997 debut in Australia.

In that time, Bridgestone became the sport’s lone supplier following Goodyear’s exit from the top flight, then saw off a Michelin challenge this decade to again become the single supplier.

In Valencia’s new challenge the company sees a parallel with 1997.

“When we entered Formula One in 1997 all of the circuits were new to us with F1 cars so it is fitting that we should celebrate our 200th race with a new track,” said Hirohide Hamashima, Director of Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development. “Valencia is a city we spend a lot of time in when we are testing at the permanent race circuit so to be able to race along the streets of the port will be particularly special for us.”


The company used extensive testing to determine the compounds it will bring to Spain, settling on the soft and super soft options.

“As with any street course we expect the grip levels from the circuit to improve over the course of the weekend,” he continued. “In Valencia in August we should see quite high temperatures so teams will have to be vigilant with their tyre management. As we have not raced here previously this should be a learning process for everyone involved, and strategy decisions over the race weekend will be interesting.”
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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Blog roundup

Time for a roundup on what’s making news on some of the best F1 blogs...
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Monday, August 18, 2008

Sato for STR in ’09?


Andrew Gilbert-Scott, manager for Takuma Sato, says Formula One remains the goal for the Japanese driver, out of a race drive since the demise of Super Aguri.

“Formula 1 is all we are thinking about," Gilbert-Scott told GPWeek. “It is true to say that we have had interest and some good offers from teams in other championships, but Formula 1 is what we are concentrating on. It's where Takuma deserves to be, and naturally we are talking to a number of people about 2009.”

To that end it his emerged Sato turned down offers from America and endurance racing.

Opportunities are few this year, with many teams looking to maintain current driver lineups. One place with at least one open seat, however, is Toro Rosso, with Sebastian Vettel’s promotion to parent Red Bull and Sebastien Bourdais on thin ice.

STR bigwigs Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger have expressed their desire in the past to team up a veteran with a youngster. Should Bourdais not be retained for 2009, STR might be interested in an experienced driver like Sato to team up with a Sebastian Buemi, Bruno Senna or Karun Chandhok.

Much would depend on Dietrich Mateschitz, of course, and if the Red Bull chief would want a driver from the Red Bull stable in the STR lineup. A benefit for Sato, besides his experience, would be his marketability in Japan, a market Mateschitz covets.

The other question would be if Sato would bring with him Honda engines. With the demise of Super Aguri, Honda did make noise about wanting to supply engines to another team.

Ferrari engines aren’t cheap. An experienced driver, marketable in Japan, bringing a discounted engine to a cash-strapped team, might be the combination that puts Sato in Bourdais’s seat in 2009.

Photo: http://www.saf1.co.jp

Alonso looks forward to second home race

Just a few years ago F1 didn’t even have a nationwide television contract is Spain. The annual Spanish Grand Prix was a brief distraction from the world of two-wheeled excitement. Now, thanks in no small part to double world champion Fernando Alonso, Spain has two races on the calendar.

That’s a fact the Spaniard has not lost site of, and Alonso is eager to show what he can do on the new street circuit in Valencia this weekend.

“I’m very happy to be driving at home for a second time; it’s always a special feeling to race in front of my countrymen and I’m really looking forward to it,” he said, ITV reports.

Alonso is coming off of a fourth in Hungary, as Renault, after a difficult start, has started to show a bit of progress.

“We’re certainly continuing to improve, which is very encouraging,” Alonso said. “We were on the pace in Hungary, the car felt good and we showed we are still moving forward and that we will fight hard to finish in fourth place in the championship.”

Alonso is hopeful the new street circuit might provide Renault with an opportunity to pull a surprise.

“As a new circuit, I think it gives the drivers a chance to show what they can do, but I am not under any illusions as I expect all the drivers to be quick,” he said. “Whatever happens, I will give my maximum for this second grand prix in Spain.”

Another win for Glock

Timo Glock quickly took the lead after starting 10th of 11 drivers to win the Toyota Race of Legends at the Rolex Monterey Historic Races at Laguna Seca over a field of veteran drivers and one very happy charity auction winner.

Jean-Pierre Jarier took the early lead from F1 and Indy vet Eddie Cheever, but thought better of giving the high-flying Glock too much trouble.

“I was the leader until Timo came up to me…very hard way of driving, sideways and all. I preferred to let him go,” he told SpeedTV.com.

For his part, Glock was excited to have the opportunity to race against some of the legends of motorsport and do a little for charity.

“When I drove behind [Jarier] I could see he knew what he was doing and was really quick on the steering wheel,” said Glock. “I just had some tricks to catch him up and pull away a bit. It’s just so much fun with these guys. It’s just good fun.”

Glock won a purse of $25,000, which goes to the Children’s Hospital of Frankfurt.

And speaking of charity, it was the chance of a lifetime for vintage racer Bruce Canepa, who won the chance to take part in the race by being highest bidder in a charitable auction. He finished seventh of 11, but it was a rough ride to get there.

“I think I’m ready for Baja now,” he told competitor Danny Sullivan, a veteran of the famous off-road race.

Johnny Herbert, Derek Bell, Patrick Tambay, John Watson, Alan Jones, Alain de Cadenet were the other participants. 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, August 17, 2008

Karthikeyan still linked with Force India

Narain Karthikeyan, Formula One’s first Indian driver, has come up again in relation to a Force India race seat for 2009.

When countryman Vijay Mallya purchased Spyker last season, Karthikeyan’s name was naturally linked to the team due to his nationality and experience.

However, while the team tested Vitantonio Liuzzi, Christian Klien, Giancarlo Fisichella, Ralf Schumacher, Franck Montagny, Giedo van der Garde and Roldan Rodriguez over the winter, Karthikeyan wasn’t included.

Mallya eventually settled on Giancarlo Fisichella and Spyker holdover Adrian Sutil, saying the current crop of Indian drivers were not qualified for the pinnacle of motorsport.

“I had to choose the drivers very carefully, because the team also needs to learn.” team owner was quoted by Crash.net in January. “The engineering team needs to benefit from the input of the drivers; it's not as if we have an engineering team that knows it all so we can just put an inexperienced driver in the car and say ‘good luck'. We had to choose drivers to fit the purpose, and no Indian driver fits the bill.”

Yet, due to a comment Mallya made earlier in the year, saying and Indian would “certainly” be included in the 2009 Force India lineup, Karthikeyan’s name continues to be linked to the team.

The Indian driver has declined to comment on his prospects.

“In Indian owning an F1 team is no ordinary feat. Vijay Mallya has done a great job. And only he can answer the question,” he told Newsindpress on Sunday.

His chances of a 2009 drive with Force India would seem remote, Mallya recently hinting he will be keeping the current lineup next season.

Additionally, Mallya’s relationship with GP2’s Karun Chandhok would seem to make the Red Bull-backed youngster the Indian frontrunner.

Labeled “The fastest Indian in the world,” Karthikeyan debuted with Jordan in 2005. His most recent F1 experience was as a test driver for Williams.

He also turned down an IndyCar drive with Red Bull Cheever Racing in 2005, and competes with the Team India A1GP entry, winning in China in 2007.

Photo of Narain Karthikeyan from narainracing.com 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, August 16, 2008

A look at Valencia

Take a lap of the Valencia street circuit in this onboard from the recent F3 race...

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Piquet on pins and needles

If Nelson Piquet was hopeful he had convinced his Renault bosses to keep him in the team, it looks like he’ll have to wait a little bit longer.

F1-Live.com reports that’s the claim of German magazine Auto Motor und Sport, which says the Brazilian will have to wait until September to hear the verdict.

According to the report, Piquet’s management team agreed to extend the deadline on his option for 2009.

Piquet’s ride depends on Fernando Alonso. Apparently, Renault are high enough on test driver Romain Grosjean they want to give him a race seat next year.

Should the double world champion jump ship, Grosjean would replace him. If he stays, it is believed Grosjean would replace Piquet in the second car.

Raikkonen: “I am still the same guy”

It seems like everyone assumes Kimi Raikkonen’s focus is on his retirement, but the reigning world champion begs to differ.

“I am still the same guy,” SpeedTV.com reports he told Germany's Bild newspaper. “If I am in a race, then I want to win it. It is never great fun to be fifth or sixth -- even third place doesn't feel so great to me any more. I only want to win."

The Finn let it be known those who think he has lost his motivation have miscalculated.

“Of course I want more. Whoever thinks I am content or tired are completely wrong,” he said. “If we do not get both championship titles at the end of the season, then we will be disappointed.”

Raikkonen currently lies second in 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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Thursday, August 14, 2008

Speed OK with F1 legacy


Scott Speed always dreamed of driving in F1, and for a brief period, he achieved his goal. One might think plying his trade in the lowly ARCA series, a developmental rung for NASCAR, would find the California native regretting his pursuit of that dream. Think again.

“Formula One was always my dream, always way above NASCAR,” Speed told USA Today. “In my mind, I have accomplished what I'm going to in my life. This is a personal challenge. If I don't make it, I wouldn't feel any worse than if I did, honestly.”

Speed, whose tenure at Toro Rosso famously busted up with an altercation with Team Principal Franz Tost after spinning off in the wet at the Nurburgring, has a realistic view of his accomplishments in the top level of motorsport.

“I did absolutely nothing in F1, but I'm 1,000 percent satisfied,” Speed says. “It's like going to college of the world. I never went to college, but I know a lot because I had the opportunity to live in Europe and travel the world.”

Despite being the final nail in the coffin of Red Bull’s search for the next American Formula One driver, Speed maintains a close relationship with Red Bull founder Dietrich Mateschitz, who gave him his opportunity in stock car racing.

Speed has now won four races in ARCA. His original deal has since been expanded to include trucks and testing with the Cup team. In May, Speed also won in the truck series.

Jay Frye, general manager of NASCAR's Red Bull Racing Team, said Speed had exceeded expectations and is in line for a Cup race in large part because he is a quick learner.

Interestingly, it often seemed his inability to cope with the atmosphere at Toro Rosso, along with the need for coaching to hone his talents, which helped lead to his departure from F1.

Many chalk that up to arrogance, and it is a criticism which continues to follow him in the States. According to USA Today, he played down the quality of the IndyCar series as “not a challenge” and still considers himself “as good as” every other F1 driver. Speed and company are deny that.

“I don't have an ego," Speed said. “And everyone that knows me here realizes it. I know I'm not the best (NASCAR) driver. I probably never will be, because I didn't grow up racing this stuff. I care a lot about it, but I keep it in perspective. We're entertaining fans.”

In his defense, Toro Rosso seems hardly the place to develop a career in F1, as Sebastien Bourdais is finding out in painful fashion.

There is an odd tone in Speed’s answers these days, as if accomplishing his goal and losing it so quickly has left him drifting. So what does the future hold for the “angry young American,” who apart from having fun seems to have little motivation.

“I have no goal,” he said. “I'm going to go into this sport as long as I can keep going forward. If I'm not learning anymore, I won't sit in Cup and make money. No way. I'll go do something else. After everything is done, going to truck and racing, I could easily do and be happy with my life."

Michael Andretti to be inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America

Michael Andretti, the former F1 driver, IndyCar star and current team owner, is among seven inductees to the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America.

Father Mario will made the introduction.

“It's a very proud moment," said Andretti, “Those are the things I never thought about when I was competing. I guess when you get to the end of your driving career and are recognized for what you've done it's a pretty proud moment. And to be in there with my father, who is the greatest of all time, and who will be introducing me it will be a very special night.”

Sports car champion and former F1 driver Richie Ginther was also be inducted. 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, August 13, 2008

Stuck on Alonso

Hans-Joachim Stuck’s at it again. After recently weighing in on how much better Timo Glock is for Toyota than Ralf Schumacher, the German ex-F1 driver has turned his sights on Nick Heidfeld.

It’s the VW racing head’s opinion BMW Sauber should replace Quick Nick with double world champion Fernando Alonso, and sign the Spaniard into a long term contract.

“It's nothing against Nick, but unlike Kubica he is not a driver who can win a World Championship," F1-Live reports Stuck told Sport Bild. “If you can secure an Alonso for the long term, then you must.”

Force India to go seamless (again)

Force India is set to bring back its new seamless shift-gearbox in Valencia.

The team tested the gearbox during Friday practice at Hungary, but did not use it in the race.

“We tested our new seamless-shift gearbox and we are very happy with the results,” Vijay Mallya told the official F1 website. "We did not use it in Budapest, but we will introduce it at the European Grand Prix in Valencia - and as far as I am concerned that's it for the development for 2008 and all the focus from now on will be to develop a really competitive car for 2009”

Force India is the last in Formula One to go to a seamless-shift gearbox.

Renault’s aerodynamicist Dino Toso dies

Renault director of aerodynamics Dino Toso lost his battle with cancer Wednesday. He was 39.

The Italian continued to work through his treatment, finally leaving the team just this June. He had been with Renault since 2000, and was instrumental in the team’s 2005 and 2006 championships. Prior to that he worked for Jordan and for BMW’s GT program.

“It is with great sadness that the ING Renault F1 Team confirms that former Director of Aerodynamics, Dino Toso, lost his battle with illness this morning and passed away peacefully at his home,” the team said in a statement.

“Dino was instrumental in building one of the sport's most successful aerodynamics departments, which helped the Renault F1 team win double drivers’ and constructors’ titles in 2005 and 2006.

“His contribution to the team, both through his results and his courage in the face of illness, are an inspiration. He will be missed enormously and the immediate thoughts of the whole team are with his family.”
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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Teams active during "break"

It’s called the summer break, and for the support staff which makes F1 work, it is, but that doesn’t mean teams aren’t finding ways to keep active during the break.

Taking advantage of the rules which allow limited running not in excess of 50kms, Renault, Force India and McLaren have all been in action.

SpeedTV.com, quoting the Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard, said Renault has been testing a new braking system at Kemble Airport with two of its cars.

Force India and McLaren were making a racket at the airport last week, as well, enough to spark complaints from local residents.

“I have written to the airfield letting them know how many complaints we got this week and last week," the newspaper quoted environmental health officer Ray Brassington, SpeedTV.com reports.

A1, Superleague gearing up

While F1 is on break, other open-wheel series are gearing up for a new season, with the new Superleague Formula heading to Donington Park for what the series is calling the first of two “pre-season friendlies.”

For those of you fresh to this thing all that footy lingo is because the formula teams are sponsored by football clubs. Yep, “The Beautiful Race - Football at 300km/h,” they call it.

The season kicks off at Donington August 30. Teams have a chance to test on the 21st and 28th their V12-powered machines in preparation.

A three-day test at Vallelunga in Italy last week saw the Galatasaray (Turkey) team on top with Alesandro Pier Guidi at the wheel.

After the Donington Park opener, the series visits the Nurburgring, Zolder, Estoril, Vallelunga and Jerez, wrapping up in November.

AC Milan, Al-Ain FC, Anderlecht, AS Roma, Beijing Guoan FC, Borussia, Dortmund, Corinthians, FC Basel, FC Porto, Flamengo, Olympiacos, PSV Eindhoven, Rangers FC, Sevilla FC, and Tottenham Hotspur join Galatasaray on the grid.

Meanwhile, A1GP, the “World Cup of Motorsport,” is also getting ready for a new season, with things set to kick off in about 40 days at Mugello, Italy.

The big news, of course, is the series is now “Powered by Ferrari,” with a new car based on the successful F2004.

But there are new rules in store, as well. This year there will be a mandatory pit stop in the sprint race.

“We never stop looking for ways of improving the action on the track,” explained A1GP chairman Tony Teixeira. “The two pit stops in the Feature Race have proved to be the really high pressure points of the events. We felt an additional one would not only add another variable into the Sprint Race mix, but also give the crews another opportunity to display their team work.”

The series has also tweaked the qualifying format, reducing the qualifying sessions to 10 minutes from 15 in an attempt to turn up the tension. Minor changes have been made to the practice sessions and the Sprint Race has been extended to 24 minutes, but will now only reward points to the top eight. The Feature Race still rewards the top 10.

Teams will wold a pre-season testing session at the increasingly busy Donington Park on the 9th and 11th September.

Italy, Netherlands, Indonesia, Malaysia, China, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico, Portugal and the UK are on the schedule 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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Monday, August 11, 2008

Silly season not so silly this year...

Typically by the summer break silly season is in full swing, providing a little entertainment during the three week gap between races.

A couple of years ago it was JPM’s surprise announcement he was going to race with the good ol’ boys. Late year it was the Alonso/Hamilton rift.

This year, things are relatively peaceful. How peaceful? McLaren has already confirmed Hamilton and Kovalainen for ’09.

Elsewhere, much continues to hinge on what Fernando Alonso decides to do next season, but with three more seats confirmed over the past couple of days, opportunities will be slim for those hoping to break into the sport next year.

Here’s a take on who winds up where (and who isn’t going anywhere) in 2009.

Ferrari:

Things may well be in motion at Ferrari, who often use the home race at Monza to announce the next season’s lineup. Rumors persist that Alonso is set to join the Scuderia, most likely in 2010, but all that depends on Kimi Raikkonen’s much rumored retirement.

My guess is Raikkonen will see out his contract, and not retire. Should that be the case, and Alonso move to Ferrari early, Felipe Massa might be the odd man out. This seems suspect, in my opinion, Alonso still has a year on his contract with Renault, and Massa is popular within the team.

If Raikkonen retires, Alonso joins Massa at Ferrari in 2009.

Raikkonen/Massa

McLaren:

Lewis Hamilton has a long term contract and there is no doubt he stays at McLaren. Hungarian Grand Prix winner Heikki Kovalainen was confirmed for 2009 prior to his debut win.

Hamilton/Kovalainen

BMW Sauber:

Nick Heidfeld has had a difficult season and teammate Robert Kubica has had the best of him for most of it. As BMW cements its place as one of the top three, the team will want a top driver to extract the most from the car. To that end, Heidfeld remains unconfirmed for 2009, although it would have to be a trade up for the team to make a change.

Kubica, however, has established himself as one of the top young talents in the game, and interest in him is high. Little has come out of Hinwil concerning Kubica in ’09, but it is thought BMW Sauber hold an option on the Pole for next year.

Kubica/Heidfeld?

Toyota:

Toyota has been coming on strong as of late, with Timo Glock shining in Hungary. Trulli remains a fast driver and while anything was better than Ralf, Glock might be the real deal. Both are contracted for 2009.

Trulli/Glock

Red Bull:

Mark Webber still is proving to be one of the quickest drivers never to get into a front line car, once again besting his teammate, for the past two years the highly experienced David Coulthard. Webber signed a new contract to stay at the team.

Coulthard is retiring, and Red Bull turned within, promoting another driver who has whipped his teammate this year, Sebastien Vettel. Vettel scored points in his debut last season, filling in for the injured Kubica at BMW Sauber, then finished the season at STR when Scott Speed was fired.

Vettel has consistently challenged for the top 10 this year for what is basically a B team - this guy looks to have a bright future, or will he be Webber fodder?

Webber/Vettel

Renault:

The big question mark. Alonso is under contract, but does he jump ship after a season in which Renault couldn’t deliver a winning car? Most think he’s Ferrari property in 2010. Does he head over early in place of Massa or a retiring Kimi Raikkonen, or does he spend a season pocketing Honda money?

Meanwhile, teammate Nelson Piquet Jr has been roundly disappointing, seldom qualifying well and mistake-prone in races. Second at Hockenheim was the lone bright spot. His only option would be Renault, but do they want him? He’ll have to earn it Valencia on. Flavio Briatore has dumped drivers with better results.

I’ll go out on a limb and say Alonso will be back. Piquet is out if someone better can be had. Test drivers Lucas di Grassi and Romain Grosjean are also in the frame.

Alonso/???

Williams:

Nico Rosberg has been a consistent performer for Williams and Sir Frank rates him. He has caught the attention of McLaren in the past, but with things set at McLaren Rosberg will be staying with Williams, and confirmed that himself.

Teammate Kaz Nakajima may be the price for Toyota engines, but his performance makes him an easy pill to swallow and he is well liked within the team, garnering the praise of the hard to please Patrick Head.

Rosberg/Nakajima

Honda:

It has been a difficult season for Honda, but the team have said it is the car and not the drivers on several occasions.

The experienced Rubens Barrichello says he is still motivated and has ex-Ferrari boss Ross Brawn in his corner. Jenson Button has a long standing relationship with Honda and the team. New regs in 2009 will shake things up, and with Brawn on board things should improve.

Much depends on Alonso, and some predict this deal is already done. If he comes over, it would seem to make more sense for Barrichello to make way for him.

As I said, my guess is Alonso stays at Renault, and thus no change at Honda.

Button/Barrichello

Toro Rosso:

Vettel is moving on to Red Bull. Champ Car ace Sebatien Bourdais made a splashy debut with points in Melbourne and has been disappointing since, never coming to terms with the new car. He is yet to be confirmed and much depends on these final races. His one advantage, does STR want to replace both drivers two years in a row.

Karun Chandhok and Bruno Senna have both been rumored to move up to Toro Rosso in 2009. Honestly, how do you predict these guys?

???/???

Force India :

F1’s newest team has learned first hand it’s tough at this level, but Vijay Mallya is still enthusiastic, and predicts good things to come. It would seem obvious that Indian Karun Chandhok, performing well in GP2, would be on Mallya’s list for 2009, but Mallya has hinted the Giancarlo Fisichella/Adrian Sutil combination will be kept.

Fisichella/Sutil 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, August 10, 2008

Roundy-rounder Speed wins again

Former STR driver Scott Speed won his fourth ARCA RE/MAX race of the season, edging Jeremy Clements on the final lap at Nashville to extend his series lead.

Speed ran in third for much of the race, when a race-long battle between Sean Caisse and Justin Allgaier came to a head on a restart. Allgaier spun, and while Caisse continued, Speed put immediate pressure on him and eventually took the lead with three to go.

“Honestly, the 01 (Caisse) and the 16 (Allgaier) were battling so hard that I was willing to settle for third,” said Speed. “But when the opportunity presented itself I took it-just played out the race and waited to lead until the end. Those are the only laps you need to lead anyways.”

A final caution as Speed took the white flag resulted in a one-lap sprint for the checkered due to the series’ green flag finish rule.

Speed, still backed by Red Bull, drives a Toyota for Eddie Sharp Racing. The American currently leads the NASCAR feeder series after 13 races.

“I am in this for the experience," said Speed, “The points would be nice but at the end of the day I honestly don't think that winning the ARCA Championship will make or break my career.”

Go to the ARCA site for a shot of Franz Tost’s favorite driver giving us a bit of “guitar face.”

Schumi in endurance bike action

Michael Schumacher is at the motorbikes again, taking part in the Oschersleben Eight Hours endurance race.

Despite a fall in qualifying for the race, the seven-time F1 champion posted good times on the Honda CBR1000 he shared with riders Martin Bauer and Matthias von Hammerstein.

But problems hit the team early in the race, Eurosport reports, and it was forced to pull the plug on its entry in the sixth hour. 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, August 9, 2008

The great KERS debate

A lot of teams are worried about the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) for 2009, from technical issues such as those suffered by Red Bull and BMW Sauber, to cost.

Some, believed to be about two-thirds of the teams, have even attempted to delay their introduction.

That move was blocked by manufacturers BMW and Honda, and surprisingly, privateer Williams.

The presence of Williams in that group particularly irks Renault boss Flavio Briatore.

“BMW should be warned after having that accident, and Frank I do not understand. We have calculated that developing and running the system will cost €700,000 per race,” the Flav is quoted on f1technical.net. “If Frank tells me that his development costs only 2 million, than I can only laugh. Does he really think he can do the job with two million against manufacturers, who spend ten times as much?”

But the Williams team seems satisfied it can absorb that cost. Williams CEO Adam Parr said that his team does not see the development of the technology as a financial burden.

“The only change in ’09 that effects the costing is KERS,” CEO Adam Parr told Formula1.com. “I don’t mind saying that our budget for KERS is 10 per cent of our budget for aerodynamics and composite parts, so it’s not a huge amount of money and we see it as a fantastic investment into the future of the sport.”

Unless a unanimous agreement can be reached, introduction of KERS will go forward as scheduled next season. BMW Sauber’s Mario Theissen understands why some teams may be hesitant to introduce KERS.

“Yes, I can understand them. There are reasons that have to be considered. On the one hand is the safety aspect and it goes without saying that we will not run KERS unless we are sure that those problems have been solved - and I am very confident that this will be the case,“ Theissen told Formula1.com.

“On the other hand there are financial aspects. And here I can understand the viewpoint of the independent teams, as for them KERS means an additional financial burden,” he continued. “But I would not consider this to be an argument for manufacturer teams because the development would continue even if we postponed KERS for one year. A technical development has never got cheaper by postponing it.”

Red Bull’s Christian Horner discussed the financial pinch development of KERs is putting on the smaller teams.

“Obviously it has no relevance to Red Bull’s business...For us, KERS is part of the regulations so it is something that we will do. It is extremely costly and as we are an independent team we don’t have the resources to develop like a manufacturer has,” Horner told Formula1.com.

But that isn’t his only fear. “It could become a big performance differentiator next year and it would be a shame, now that we have come so close, to see it all go due to the KERS system.”

Honda is believed to be well advanced in it’s KERS development, ITV reports, and obviously BMW Sauber are track testing a version of their own system, as the recent pitlane incident would seem to prove. So, the question is, why is a limited budget privateer like Williams so unconcerned about the cost?

Perhaps someone is picking up part of the bill? Or perhaps the other explanation - ITV reports Williams are developing a flywheel rather than a super-capacitor battery, which should be cheaper. Could that be it?


A BMW Sauber mechanic gets a shock from the car's KERS system



DTM team owner wouldn’t do F1 without manufacturer’s support

Hans-Juergen Abt, Managing Director of German racing company Abt Sportsline, admits to having an interest to expanding beyond DTM in the future, but told DTM-Magazin he couldn’t do F1 without involvement of a manufacturer.

“One should never say never,” F1-Live reports he told the magazine. “In fact I have looked at it in detail. But you have to keep your feet on the ground. If Volkswagen say they are coming into F1, then I would probably ask them (about collaborating), but at the moment that is not relevant."

Mexico aims to get back on the schedule

The rumor is Bernie Ecclestone wants to add two more races to the 2010 schedule, at least in the eyes of Mexican racing official Jose Abed, and he wants Mexico wants to be one of those events.

“Those changes will be made by 2010 and, if it happens, (Mexico will) have to work hard to have a proper track,” F1-Live reports he told Sportsya. “Even so, we must wait for Bernie Ecclestone's decision to include Mexico."

Puebla, Cancun and Tijuana are the three most likely locations, Abed told the publication. He also believes he has the proper government backing to get the event off the ground.

“We are able to do it, because the authorities are willing to make the relevant investments and everyone has a chance. We just have to afford it since a Formula One track is worth more than $50 million,” he said.
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Friday, August 8, 2008

Coulthard advocates refueling ban


David Coulthard used the forum of his weekly ITV column to make a case against refueling in F1.

“Refuelling detracts from the racing by turning the grand prix into a series of low-fuel sprints between pit stops,” said the soon-to-retire Coulthard.

The topic came up after a series of refueling fires at last week’s Hungarian Grand Prix, attributed to the hot weather.

“The spate of fuel fires in Hungary were all extinguished quickly and no one was hurt, but they did serve to remind us how potentially volatile pit stops are,” Coulthard said.

Fuel stops were brought back into the sport in 1994, the same year DC made his driving debut, partially to make the sport more exciting. But the Scot feels it has had the opposite effect.

“In the days (pre-1994) when you carried your entire race fuel load on board the car, there was a much bigger role for the driver in managing the tyres and brakes,” he said. “You could even opt to run non-stop if you could make the tyres go the distance, while someone else might pit twice.

“And because the car’s weight changed so much more in the course of the race, there were more fluctuations in performance and handling characteristics, which in turn created more overtaking opportunities,” the Red Bull driver explained.

DC lamented the predictability of the sport, something he believes banning refueling will address.

“These days, in dry conditions, you very rarely see anyone win from further back than the second row of the grid, because race pace largely mirrors qualifying pace – which is not surprising when the conditions are so similar,” he said. “So if we need to spice up the racing, in my view one of the best ways of doing that would be to ban refueling.”

And Coulthard may have found the perfect way to sell it to the suddenly “Green” Max Mosley -- environmental protection.

“It could also chime in nicely with the desire for F1 to pursue a ‘green’ agenda, in that the FIA could give every team a fixed and publicly known amount of fuel for the race distance and they would have a clear incentive to be as fuel-efficient as possible,” he said.

Senna in the hunt for STR

Many have speculated Bruno Senna is a shoe-in for the open seat at Toro Rosso for 2009, but co-owner Gerhard Berger has played down the possibility.

F1-Live reports Berger told Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report:

“I am still not convinced. Bruno Senna is good enough for Formula One, but the same applies also to Roman Grosjean and Sebastien Buemi. But so far, none of those three have totally convinced me. You could say that I don't yet see a new Vettel."

There is hope for the nephew of late three-time Formula One world champion Ayrton, however.

“I'm willing to give him a test, but currently there are no concrete discussions about this," Berger said.

Ford offers Raikkonen rally test

Kimi Raikkonen recently said when he hangs up his F1 helmet he’d like to look into rallying.

“At some time I want to try rallying. That interests me; asphalt, gravel and ice,” Fox reports the Finn said.

Ford team principal Malcolm Wilson has gone on the record as willing to offer the reigning world champion a test.

“I'd offer him a test. It'd be a great opportunity for us,” Wilson said. “We can do it because we've got the forest (stages) on our doorstep.”

Wilson would welcome F1-class drivers with open arms.

"I'm really pleased guys that are in Formula One would like to be driving a world rally car. One or two of them would like to be driving a world rally car rather than an F1 car if the same sort of rewards were there.”

Interestingly, the Ford man hinted Raikkonen isn’t the only driver with an interest in WRC.

“Sadly we're not in that position but I'm sure that at some point the three drivers we're talking about would end up behind the wheel of a rally car,” he said.
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Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Glock is better than a Ralf

Timo Glock is already garnering favorable comparisons with other German Formula One drivers.

Shame Ralf Schumacher doesn’t fare so well in the assessment.

It’s safe to say former Grand Prix driver Hans-Joachim Stuck believes Toyota traded up when it replaced the pricey Ralf with the GP2 champion.

“In once sentence: Timo's strengths were Ralf's weaknesses," F1-Live reports Stuck told Cologne newspaper Express.

Glock is fresh off a podium performance in Hungary, while Schumacher is now plying his trade in DTM. Stuck chalks it up to a better work ethic.

“Timo is a substantially harder and more consistent worker," the German explained. "It's not just between Friday to Sunday; he lives, thinks and dreams F1, as his bosses such as Dieter Gas tell me,” Stuck said. “He is fully integrated with the team, communicating with everyone - even in his spare time. He has chosen to live in Cologne , to be near the team.”

And that isn’t the only difference Stuck sees between them.

“Their nature? Timo is a chirpy, eloquent type. Ralf could also be eloquent, but also moody at times. And (Timo) has good management. If Ralf had taken some well-intentioned advice, he might not be where he is today.”
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Legendary designer Pininfarina dies in road accident

Chassis company head Andrea Pininfarina, often a collaborator of Ferrari, was killed in a road accident when his Vespa collided with an automobile near Turin. He was 51.

His family firm, started by his grandfather in 1930, was heavily involved in Ferrari designs since the 1950s, as well as Fiat, Alfa Romeo and Ford. He took over as general manager in 1988.

“Italy has lost one of its symbols of industry,” The Daily Mail quotes Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. “He was part of a dynasty that made the phrase Made in Italy known throughout the world.”

He recently stepped down from a position under Ferrari Chairman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo.

“With Andrea Pininfarina I have lost a great friend and outstanding business partner,” di Montezemolo. “Together we shared years of work and successes with the Ferrari cars he designed. He was a man of great humanity and in this moment of deep sorrow my heart goes out to his parents, his wife, children, brothers and all his collaborators at Pininfarina.”

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Dennis expects a close battle

Well, Ferrari’s performance in Hungary didn’t impress Ron Dennis, but come the end of the season, he expects it will be a close title fight between McLaren and the Scuderia.

“I don't think they were particularly (good). Massa had a good race but Kimi wasn't particularly strong,” Dennis was quoted in multiple outlets. “Really the outcome of the first corner was that people could see Massa in the lead and who was in second place.”

If not for Lewis Hamilton’s untimely puncture, the McLaren boss said the team was in position to overtake Massa.

“We switched into fuel strategy mode, to make sure that we stopped second to him in order that we could do a long second stint and overtake him at the final stop,” he explained. “The slightly flat spotted tyre and the puncture put paid to that strategy but I think that Lewis had the pace to win.”

The McLaren/Ferrari rivalry is a long standing tradition, and one Dennis doesn’t take lightly..

“Confidence is a weakness, you've just got to take every race as it is,” he warned. “I don't think there's any doubt that we're in for a very competitive World Championship and it's going to be a close race between ourselves and Ferrari.”

BMW Sauber not ready to give up on 2008

In the eyes of BMW Sauber’s Mario Theissen, third may be best the team can do this year, but he isn’t ready to pull the plug on development of its 2008 challenger just yet.

After a Hungarian Grand Prix weekend which yielded a single point for Robert Kubica’s drive to eighth, and saw the team drop to third in the constructors race, the BMW Sauber chief isn’t ready to rule out a return to form.

“Based on the performance and points yield of the Budapest weekend, you’d say certainly not,” he told the official Formula 1 Web site. “But naturally we will not twiddle our thumbs, as we still have developments in the pipeline – aerodynamic as well as mechanical. And we will definitely not stop the development of the F1.08 because of one unsatisfying result.”

Theissen was surprised by the team’s lack of race pace, and finding out why is a priority.

“Our performance on Friday was reasonable, the performance on Saturday in qualifying was good to very good, but our performance in the race was completely different,” Theissen explained. “It looked like we weren’t there, that the race went on without us. At no point did Robert (Kubica) or Nick (Heidfeld) come close to the lap times they did in qualifying. And I have to admit that I don’t know the reason yet.

“What we certainly will look into is the equation of car, set-up, tyres and track conditions, he continued. “If you look at Robert’s qualifying time he should have been able to fight at the front but in reality, in certain phases of the race, he was the slowest car on the track. What happened in the race was completely unexpected.”

Williams not selling

Sir Frank Williams is one of the last privateers, and he has no plans to change that anytime soon.

“In the next few years we will not sell,” Williams reportedly told sport.net.

A drop in performance since the team’s split from BMW, and a lack of known successors for Williams and co-owner Patrick Head, have led to an almost constant speculation the duo will eventually sell up.

But unlike compatriot Ron Dennis, Williams insists “We would sell no more than shares, the name Williams is staying in Formula One.”

Williams rules out son Jonathon as a successor, however, saying he is “to nice for Formula One.”

Klien would rather test

Christian Klien said he would rather remain at BMW Sauber as a test driver, considering the options available to him.

With Force India’s Giancarlo Fisichella increasingly under a microscope, and teammate Adrian Sutil no sure thing either, an race drive may well be available for 2009.

Klien was involved in the winter shootout for the Indian team’s second seat, and as an experienced F1 driver, would likely be of interest to Vijay Mallya’s squad.

But while Klien would relish a return to F1, the prospect of joining a backmarker does not excite him.

“As it is I would rather test for BMW-Sauber than race with them (Force India),” crash.net reports Klien told motorline.cc. “Of course, a lot of good people are with Force India, but with their car, you can basically only show your talent when it rains.”

When pressed by crash.net, the Austrian also ruled out GP2 and IndyCar.

“I'm still only 25 and I obviously hope a lot to be back again,” he told crash.net, when asked about his continuing F1 aspirations. “On the other hand, Le Mans was a great experience for me as well.”

Bourdais’ struggles continue

Sebastien Bourdais’ F1 woes continued last weekend in Hungary, as the four-time Champ Car champion’s points drought continued.

The Frenchman hasn’t been in the points since the season opener in Melbourne.

“There have been two sides to this weekend: it got off to a good start and then I had some problems in qualifying. The race also started quite well, as I had a good pace,” he said. “Then it all went to hell at the first pit stop, as the guys had to use the fire extinguisher and I got a lot of foam on my visor.”

Adding to the gremlins which have plagued him, Bourdais continues to have trouble coming to grips with the new car.

“I do not feel very good with this car,” crash.net reports he told French language publication RMC. “There is no technical solution – it is a characteristic of the car that does not fit with me at all. The problem is that, of the four drivers, I am the only one complaining [about the issue], and at Toro Rosso it is not for us to talk about the [car's] development.”

We’ve all seen how quickly Toro Rosso can turn on a driver. Even discounting Scott Speed, Bourdais must be mindful of Tonio Liuzzi’s fall from grace. In light of recent comments by Team Principal Franz Tost, the atmosphere in Faenza must be thick. 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, August 5, 2008

Has Raikkonen lost 'the desire?' Don't bet on it

Kimi Raikkonen has had a couple of difficult races, that much is for certain. But if you believe the press, you can stick a fork in the 28-year-old world champion, ’cause he’s done.

A quick look at the facts. Raikkonen hasn’t won a race since Barcelona in April. That’s a span of seven races. In that span he has scored 28 points.

What cost him points? He came together with Adrian Sutil in Monaco and finished ninth, he was eliminated by Lewis Hamilton in Canada (no fault of his own).

He was the victim of a poor team decision at Silverstone, yet still finished fourth. He finished third in Turkey, and was second in France.

The worst you could say is he has had two poor qualifying sessions in a row, resulting in a sixth in Germany and a third in Hungary.

On could argue he should have been closer to Felipe Massa at Hungaroring when the Brazilian’s engine failed, but he was pressuring Glock at the time, only backing off when it became necessary for him to be conservative.

Now, let’s take a glance at the 2008 season. First it was Massa who was about to get canned before saving his bacon (again) in Bahrain. Then it was Lewis Hamilton who couldn’t put a foot right. And Hungary race winner Heikki Kovalainen was fighting for a job just a few weeks ago, if you believe what you read.

So how bad has it been for Raikkonen? Isn’t he second in the championship?

  1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren) 62
  2. Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) 57
  3. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) 54

Not bad, right? But not enough for the Italian media, in this case, sports newspaper Tuttosport.

“He seems a pale imitation of the driver of the past,” crash.net quotes the newspaper. “This Raikkonen is not the driver that Ferrari needs. He needs to ask himself whether he really still has the desire.”

Well, does he “still have the desire?” Or is he thinking about retirement?

“I never said anything like that,” he said, according to crash.net. “Somebody made it up.”

What the Finn does say is he must improve his qualifying performance. He has been outqualified by Massa 7-4 this season.

"We have the speed in the race, but if I can't get qualifying right we are going to end up at every race in the situation I've faced in the last two races,” Fox reports Raikkonen said. “We need to sort it out and get back to the front so we can fight for the wins, otherwise we are just following people, and when you do that you can't use the speed.”

If Damon Hill were a betting man, he’d bet on Raikkonen.

“Ferrari’s pace is the real danger,” ITV reports he said. “We’re getting to Ferrari territory at the races from now on. If you had asked me before the race in Hungary who I would put money on, I would have said Lewis, but I have to say I would want my bet back now. Ferrari look strong and so, as an outside bet, I would put my money on Raikkonen.”

He could have said Massa. He didn’t. He thinks Raikkonen. He doesn’t say why, but I’ll take a guess.

Raikkonen is a consistent driver. With the exceptions of Monaco (his own fault) and Canada (not his fault), he scores points. Every race. Massa does not.

The points system, as it exists in Formula One, rewards consistency. Raikkonen’s finds him second in the championship. Questioning the value of consistency? What if Massa hadn’t thrown away points in the beginning of the season? Who would be leading this thing?

Could his title defense fail? Sure. But even if he can’t turn around his recent woes, all he needs to do is keep the championship within reach. Let's not lose sight of of how he became world champion in the first place.

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Monday, August 4, 2008

Dennis's Alonso response a lesson in RonSpeak

Perhaps you remember this exchange from Thursday’s Hungarian Grand Prix pre-race press conference:

Q: (Ian Parkes - The Press Association) Fernando, this race last year was a difficult one for you personally. How much happier do you feel personally even though you are not in a championship winning car?

FA: Much happier this year for sure. Last year again it is true that I had a possibility to fight for the championship and it was okay. I knew that this year it was not possible any more. But if I was racing for McLaren now at this moment maybe I would be in the same position as I am now without the possibility to win. So at least I am happy to be with Renault with the full support of the team and knowing that everybody is working night and day to give me the best car possible. One day we will be seventh, one day we will be fifth and hopefully one day we will be on the podium and everybody on the podium will be there with some excitement.

Well Ron Dennis has fired back, and that response, reported by several outlets, was classic RonSpeak.

"Firstly, when the contract with Fernando was terminated there were pre-conditions which determined the behaviour of both parties post-termination," he said. "We have no intention of breaching that agreement. His opinion is his opinion - I'm not going to voice my opinion about anything that Fernando has done or said.”

So, of course, Ron is not going to criticize, right? I mean, that's what he said.

"What I would say is you can't see any strings leading to Heikki's shoulders and he's an honest guy. He will more than convince anyone who talks to him that this is a team absolutely committed to equality. It always has been and it always will be.”

Um... ok... that’s not really critical, Heikki is happy with his role in the team and that contract extension was just signed, so he’s a company guy. And Ron is just talking about Heikki. No criticism here.

"People will point to the last grand prix [at Hockenheim] and say it's absolutely obvious there were team orders in that event because it was clear that Heikki moved over and let Lewis past. The essential fact was that throughout that race Lewis was nearly seven-tenths of a second faster than Heikki and he knew that, he was told that. He was not told to let Lewis past."

Hmm... not really an answer. After all, it may be company policy to let the faster car by. Then no one has to get on the radio and say “let Lewis past,” incurring the wrath of the FIA and all things good.

And imagine if you don’t have the better car on a regular basis? I think Fernando was also referring to equal equipment. Wait, wait, you argue, maybe Lewis is just better at setting up a car. Well ...

But, hold on, this story was all about Ron not breaching the agreement and criticizing Fernado, right? So far so good.

"But when you're in a team and you know your team-mate has the opportunity to win the race and you don't, if you have the right values that are not lodged solely and exclusively in your own motives and your own objectives and your own selfishness, then you take a decision which is to allow the driver past and allow him a chance to win the race, which is what he did."

Woah! WOAH! Where'd that come from? I’m guessing because we only implied a name we didn’t get all tit-for-tat there. Riiiiiiiiiight.

"You can go back through the entire history of McLaren and talk to any driver who's driven for us and you will not find anyone, save for one, who will not verify this team always runs on the basis of equality and always will."

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