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Friday, October 31, 2008

Take a lap of Brazil

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Massa holds early edge in Brazil

Well, the final weekend is upon us, with Massa needing something big to take the championship. The Brazilian kicked things off in fine form, gaining the upper hand on Lewis Hamilton in both of today’s practice sessions for the Brazilian Grand Prix.

It was a close fought thing in the first session, with Massa edging Hamilton by a hair.

But the second session was a different animal. Massa finished second to Fernando Alonso, while Hamilton finished down in ninth in damp conditions.

“We found a good set-up for the car, which seemed to be well balanced in both sessions,” Massa explained. “The track here offers a lot of grip and so, even with today's low temperatures, that was not a problem, especially given the tyres we have available to us here.”

The changing weather caught McLaren out, but Hamilton is confident he has the pace he needs for the rest of the weekend.

“Our car was blindingly quick this morning despite the cold weather, which made the track feel quite slippery,” Hamilton said. “This afternoon we focused on our race pace - but we were interrupted by the threat of rain and the changeable wind direction. I flat-spotted my tyres on a couple of runs, but I’m positive that the changes we’ve made will put us in a good position for tomorrow."

For Massa, the car’s performance was a big boost, especially after a Chinese Grand Prix where his pace was well off his rival.

“It might only be Friday, but it's important to get off to a good start on such an important weekend,” Massa said.

Hamilton holds a seven-point lead in the title race over Massa entering the season’s final race at Interlagos, the same lead he held last year before mistakes and mechanical issues handed the championship to Kimi Raikkonen.

Hamilton needs only to finish fifth to sew it up this season, but with McLaren also still in the constructors’ hunt, it will be aiming for victory on Sunday.

Massa is historically strong on his home circuit, and today’s performance was no exception.

“My aim? To be in front of everyone, both tomorrow and on Sunday. Then we can do the maths when it's over.” Massa said. “Racing at home, with the crowd on your side is a great motivation for me: it's a fantastic feeling, but difficult to put it into words.”

Cooler than normal temps and rain are in the forecast for race day, so it should be interesting to see how the teams prepare for the title decider.

The action continues with qualifying on Saturday.

First free practice:
  1. Massa, Ferrari, 1:12.305
  2. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:12.495
  3. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:12.507
  4. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:12.874
  5. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:12.925
  6. Alonso, Renault, 1:13.061
  7. Webber, Red Bull, 1:13.298
  8. Piquet, Renault, 1:13.378
  9. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:13.426
  10. Glock, Toyota, 1:13.466
  11. Trulli, Toyota, 1:13.600
  12. Rosberg, Williams, 1:13.621
  13. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:13.649
  14. Barrichello, Honda, 1:13.676
  15. Button, Honda, 1:13.766
  16. Nakajima, Williams, 1:13.806
  17. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:13.836
  18. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:13.861
  19. Sutil, Force India, 1:14.704
  20. Fisichella, Force India, 1:14.821

Second practice times:
  1. Alonso, Renault, 1:12.296
  2. Massa, Ferrari, 1:12.353
  3. Trulli, Toyota, 1:12.435
  4. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:12.600
  5. Webber, Red Bull, 1:12.650
  6. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:12.687
  7. Piquet, Renault, 1:12.703
  8. Rosberg, Williams, 1:12.761
  9. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:12.827
  10. Nakajima, Williams, 1:12.886
  11. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:12.896
  12. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:12.971
  13. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:13.038
  14. Glock, Toyota, 1:13.041
  15. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:13.213
  16. Barrichello, Honda, 1:13.221
  17. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:13.273
  18. Button, Honda, 1:13.341
  19. Sutil, Force India,1:13.428
  20. Fisichella, Force India, 1:13.691
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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Ferrari threatens to quit, FIA unfazed


Ferrari used the platform of its third quarter results to take a swipe at Max Mosley's and the FIA's standardized engine proposal.

At the heart of the statement is Ferrari's belief the sport hinges upon technological development.

“Whilst reiterating its wholehearted commitment to a substantial and needed reduction in costs in Formula One, starting with propulsion, the Ferrari Board of Directors expressed strong concerns regarding plans to standardise engines as it felt that such a move would detract from the entire raison of a sport with which Ferrari has been involved continuously since 1950, a raison d’etre based principally on competition and technological development,” an official statement read.

The team went so far as to say it could quit the sport if the standardized power unit were adopted.


“The Board of Directors expressed the opinion that should these key elements be diminished, it would have to re-evaluate, with its partners the viability of continuing its presence in the sport,” the team said.

The FIA fired back yesterday.


“It seems the Ferrari Board were misinformed. The FIA has offered the teams three options, one of which is the so-called standard engine, and another that the manufacturers should jointly guarantee to supply power trains to the independent teams for less than €5m per season,” the FIA responded.

Taking a swipe at Ferrari's reported profit, the FIA reiterated its argument -- costs must be cut to save the sport.


“The FIA is delighted by Ferrari's financial success and hopes this will be maintained. However a number of teams find themselves facing costs which greatly exceed income. This is not sustainable,” the ruling body continued.

Ferrari is not the first team to question its future in the sport if standardized engine go through. Rumors have circulated Toyota could opt for Le Mans in two years time if the proposal passes.


“Generally we are assuming we are here until at least 2012. The ambition is to win and continue the contribution, if you like, to Formula One. The issue is we don't want a standard engine,” Toyota president John Howett told autosport.com. “If it is forced through, then it (quitting) is not a decision we will take here, it will be taken by the board in Japan, but they want a degree of differentiation between teams.”

The FIA, however, says the ball firmly in the manufacturer's court. While not commenting on its already released “invitation to tender for a contract to supply engine and power transmission systems,” the ruling body made a threat of its own: Change or we'll change it for you.


“It is now for the manufacturers to agree one of the three FIA options or themselves produce concrete proposals to reduce costs to a sustainable level,” it said. “If neither happens, the FIA will take whatever measures prove necessary to preserve a credible world championship for both drivers and constructors.”
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Monday, October 27, 2008

Ecclestone wants scoring revamp

For the second year in a row, it comes down to the last race of the season to determine the world champion, with Felipe Massa trailing Lewis Hamilton by seven points.

That’s not enough for Bernie Ecclestone, however, who wants to once again tear apart the points system.

Ecclestone’s issue is Hamilton has driven defensively, rather than all out, on several occasions this season to bank points.

“The problem with next week's race is that Hamilton barely has to bother,” sources report Ecclestone told the Mail on Sunday. “I'd much rather he and Massa had to race to the finish to decide the title. It's all about the racing. There's not enough of it these days, and I want this to change. I'm not criticising Hamilton at all. He's played it smart, but the reality is he didn't try to win in Valencia or in Singapore and that's not right.”

Ecclestone’s solution? Medals instead of points. Gold, silver and bronze medals would be awarded to the drivers, while points would continue to be used for the Constructors championship. The Drivers’ championship would be decided on race victories.

Ecclestone will propose the system at next month's FIA World Council meeting.

“I don't think points mean anything. I mean, David Coulthard has score more F1 points than another other British driver, but nobody really knows this because people look at race wins,” he continued. “I've managed to convince everyone that we should do away with the points and award medals instead. Everybody realises it's the right thing to do.”

Were that system in place this season, Massa and Hamilton would be tied at five victories apiece heading to Brazil. Winner would take all. Instead, things are a little more complicated:

Hamilton will be champion if:
  • he finishes fifth or higher, even if Massa wins the race.
  • he finishes seventh, and Massa does not win the race.
  • he finishes eighth, and Massa finishes third or lower.
  • he fails to score, and Massa does not finish either first or second.

Massa will be champion if:
  • he wins the race, and Hamilton is sixth or lower.
  • he finishes second, and Hamilton is either eighth or out of the points.

But the reality is what we have now, and Massa pretty much has to win to have a shot at the title. Yet, the Brazilian thinks the pressure is all on Hamilton.

“Yes it's true I have a tougher job than Lewis in terms of the points situation but my own objective for the weekend is much more straightforward than his,” Massa said. “I only have to focus on winning the race on Sunday afternoon... The only thing I’m thinking about is winning. After that, the matter is not in my hands.”

After watching the title slip away in Brazil last year, Hamilton is trying to keep things in perspective heading into this year’s finale.

“Obviously, my aim for Brazil is slightly different from the other grands prix: I don’t need to win the race, but that won’t stop me from going into the weekend looking to be as strong as possible,” Hamilton said. “That’s what I am hoping to achieve in Brazil - a straightforward weekend that allows me to just focus on my car and my driving.”

But there is still another title up in the are as we head to Brazil, Ferrari is clinging to an 11 point lead in the Constructors’ championship. So McLaren will be hoping for a 1-2 if it is to have a shot.

Ferrari only needs a third and eighth to wrap it up.

So, points or medals? On paper, it sounds like the Ecclestone system would be more exciting, but not if one driver dominates race wins over the course of the year ala Michael Schumacher. Still, if the argument is only race winners deserve to fight for the championship, this would be one way to do it. 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, October 25, 2008

Breaking down what's needed in Brazil


The 2008 F1 Title Fight - Hamilton vs Massa - The Math - Who needs what to win -- Check out an excellent breakdown on F1 Wolf Formula 1 Blog.
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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Canada makes pitch to save race

Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay and other government representatives met with Bernie Ecclestone today in an attempt to salvage the Canadian Grand Prix.

"We've had a constructive meeting,” Setanta quotes Tremblay after the meeting. “We have a better understanding of the issues. We still have a lot of work to do, to evaluate all the options, but it is still possible to hold the Grand Prix in Montreal in 2009 and in subsequent years.”

The race, included on the provisional calendar, was dropped without explanation by the FIA in the schedule released earlier this month.

It has since emerged that race organizers owe a large sum of money to Ecclestone's Formula One Management (FOM).

It is now believed the Quebec government is willing to pay those debts.

The removal of Canada from the 2009 schedule left North America without a race.

The 2009 provisional schedule released in the summer proposed a record 19 races, but sans Canada and with he French Motorsports Federation cancelling the 2009 French Grand Prix, the schedule is down to 17 events.

Schumacher rates Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton has been taking a beating from his fellow drivers as of late, but one who is impressed with him is seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.

"I really rate him very highly because I believe that what he has done in such a short time is incredible," Fox quotes Schumacher.

But Schumacher won't say if the Briton, who looks poised to take his first drivers crown, is better than ex-teammate Felipe Massa.

"I'm always a bit concerned if we talk about 'is he the best?', is he better than Massa or not," Schumacher explained. "You have to look at the circumstances, they are not always very clear to see from the outside I think."
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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Few open seats remain for '09


Fernando Alonso
Originally uploaded by ph-stop

With the 2008 F1 season speeding toward its conclusion, it is time to check in again with the results of this year's silly season.

Fact is, not much has happened. Most of next year's seats are set, the only questions revolving around just how many seats STR, Honda and Renault will have available.

Here's a rundown:

Ferrari: Kimi Raikkonen's new deal sees him team up with Felipe Massa through 2010.

McLaren: No change. Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen for a second season together.

BMW Sauber: Rumored to be on the move, Robert Kubica is instead remaining with BMW Sauber. He will again partner with Nick Heidfeld, who survived despite his teammate having the better of him most of the year and persistent rumors he would make way for Fernando Alonso.

Renault: Much continues to hinge on what Alonso decides to do. Rumor is if Renault is fourth or better in the constructors a clause kicks in that binds Alonso to Renault next season. That would seem to be set, but the Spaniard has been linked with just about everybody this season, including STR (unlikely) and Honda. Honda believes there is enough of a possibility it has not finalized its lineup, but a move from Renault for Alonso seems remote, and it is believed he will commit to the team for 2010, then move to Ferrari.

The second seat remains a mystery. Nelson Piquet has been shaky, and could make way for either Lucas di Grassi or Romain Grosjean.

Toyota: No change. Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli return.

Honda: Awaiting Alonso's decision. If he signs with Honda, it is believed Jenson Button would remain and Rubens Barrichello would be the odd man out. Should Alonso stay with Renault, Barrichello could still could be replaced by Bruno Senna. A wild rumor has Rubens heading to IndyCar, which he denies. Nelson Piquet's name has also been mentioned in connection with the team.

Williams: No change. Nico Rosberg returns for a fourth season. Toyota boy Kazuki Nakajima has been a pleasant surprise for the team this season and has earned an encore.

Red Bull: Mark Webber returns and Sebastian Vettel, who has been outstanding for Toro Rosso this year, replaces the retiring David Coulthard.

Force India: Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella will stay for 2009, Vijay Mallya maintaining India's current crop of drivers are still not ready.

Toro Rosso: The question remains, just how many seats are open at STR? Vettel's, obviously, but will the team keep Sebastien Bourdais, a man they wanted so badly just a couple of years ago? Things have been looking up for the Frenchman as of late, but did his earlier struggles both with the car and team poison his relationship with the prickly team, or has he done enough to be retained? Takuma Sato, Tonio Liuzzi, Sebastien Buemi and Bruno Senna all would jump at the opportunity to replace Bourdais, with Buemi considered a likely possibility due to his Red Bull ties.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

FIA, FOTA reach agreement to cut costs


The FIA and the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) issued a joint statement today claiming to have reached a cost-saving agreement for the 2009 and 2010 seasons.

“Today’s meeting in Geneva has produced significant cost savings for 2009 and 2010.

FOTA are working urgently on further proposals for 2010 and thereafter.”


Max Mosley met with FOTA today in Geneva looking to address the cost of competing in F1 in light of the current economic crisis.

No details were released on the agreement, but the BBC, citing unnamed officials of three F1 teams, said the cost of engines supplied to independents will be capped at $13.2m annually.

Additionally, those engines will last three race weekends instead of the current two.

Mosley has been pushing for a spec engine, and the FIA has opened “the tender process for the appointment of a third party supplier of engines and transmission systems to be used by competitors in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 FIA Formula One World Championship” as of last Friday.

No word on whether FOTA was able to table that issue.

The teams will meet again during the Brazilian Grand Prix to discuss testing for 2009, and the FIA and FOTA plan to meet after the race to discuss chassis rules from 2010, the BBC reports. 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, October 20, 2008

Mosley outlines cost-cutting plan

The FIA has made public its agenda for this week's meeting with the Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) in Geneva. See the official correspondence from Max Mosley to FOTA 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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Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hamilton closes in on title with China win

Lewis Hamilton moved one step closer to securing the 2008 world championship, winning the Chinese Grand Prix after a dominating Shanghai weekend.

“This is another step towards the championship and towards my dream and towards my team’s dream,” Hamilton said. “The team deserve it. We have worked very, very hard throughout the season and I think our approach to this race was right.”

Felipe Massa was second in his Ferrari after teammate Kimi Raikkonen handed him the position in the closing laps, but falls seven points back in the standings heading to his home race in Brazil.

Neither Ferrari was a match for Hamilton this day, and the Briton now must be looked on as the favorite to win the title.

“For us we were completely driving on the limit trying to reduce the gap but it was not possible,” Massa said. “I was trying to push as Kimi was trying to push to get closer to Lewis but it was not possible. So today unfortunately Lewis had the better car for the whole weekend.”

Robert Kubica found his title chase at an end, his sixth place finish an accomplishment considering where he started, but not good enough where it counted.

"After a very difficult qualifying I'm pleased with sixth,” Kubica said. “There is now one race left, and I shall try hard to defend my third place in the drivers' championship."

Hamilton’s brought Fernando Alonso’s two-race winning streak to a close, the Spaniard finishing best of the rest with a strong fourth.

"Fourth place is the best result that we could have hoped for today and so I am therefore extremely satisfied with my race. We had good pace, close to the Ferrari, which is another reason to be pleased,” Alonso said. “We have now won the battle for fourth place in the constructors' championship, which was our objective, and so we can approach the Brazilian Grand Prix with confidence and aim to make the most of this final race of the year."

Nick Heidfeld was fifth in the second BMW Sauber, inheriting the position when Heikki Kovalainen’s McLaren suffered a puncture. The Finn would later retire. Timo Glock finished seventh for Toyota, and Nelson Piquet took the final points-paying position in the second Renault.

Hamilton certainly looks to have exorcised the ghosts of both last week’s disaster at Fuji and last year’s mistake here in Shanghai, topping every session save one this weekend.

He then drove a flawless race, taking the first corner with ease and was never really under pressure from Raikkonen.

“I managed to get everything right on the formation lap. I was perfectly in my position and it was a great start, it was really probably one of the best we’ve had... I got into turn one quite clear, I took it easy the first few corners then I started to bridge the gap,” Hamilton explained. “Fortunately we were just very, very consistent and I think every lap was faster and very, very few errors throughout the whole run, therefore I was able to create a gap and from there it was pretty smooth sailing.”

Raikkonen chased Hamilton through the second round of stops, then handed the position to his teammate, helping Massa’s slim chances at the world championship.

“I know what the team expects and I know what we want which are results,” Raikkonen said. “It is racing and I have nothing to lose or win in a way. I am driving for the team, so it is a normal situation.”

Hamilton held a considerable gap over his rivals at the checkered flag. The result leaves him with a seven point margin going into Brazil, a place where Massa is always strong, but he only needs to finish fifth to lock up the championship.

The silver lining for Ferrari is the team extended its edge in the constructors race, earning 14 points to McLaren’s 10.

“I think for the Drivers’ Championship (the result) was not fantastic but for the Constructors’ it was very good,” Massa said. “It is always very important to fight for the Constructors’ and today we did a good job thinking of the Constructors’ Championship. I try on the Drivers’ but it was not possible today.”

After years of Michael Schumacher domination, and championships decided months before the end of the season, for the second year in a row the title will be decided in the final race. Hamilton is confident this time around he can deliver.

“I know going to Brazil will be a much better situation compared to last year and also we know that we will be a lot more competitive than we are here, so that is comforting,” Hamilton said. “We know that we have got to do a good job. It will be tough and these two (Massa ans Raikkonen) for sure will be pushing us hard but hopefully as a team we can pull through.”

A title-clinching victory for Massa in front of his home crowd would certainly result in pandemonium, but the odds would seem long. Of course, as teammate Raikkonen can attest, stranger things have happened. 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, October 18, 2008

Hamilton takes pole in China

Lewis Hamilton put himself in prime position for his title challenge, taking pole for the Chinese Grand Prix.
"I think coming from some positives from the previous race we came here very strong, very determined and with a good frame of mind and we have been very competitive all weekend," Hamilton said. "The practices have gone very well and the qualifying was one of our best. My first Q3 lap wasn’t so great but I managed to pull it together on the last lap and it was as close as I could get to a perfect lap."

Felipe Massa will start third for Ferrari, while Robert Kubica faces a tall order, sitting 11th on the grid.

"It is quite difficult to put everything together and it looks like the McLaren guys have got a little bit easier car to put a lap together," Massa explained. "We don’t know how it is going to be in the race. We had a similar result in the last race but then quite a very strong pace in the race. I hope to have a strong pace in the race and maybe try to see if we can improve our car a little bit, especially on the long stints."

Massa's teammate Kimi Raikkonen again finds himself on the front row, one week after he clashed with Hamilton at the start of the Japanese Grand Prix, the resurgent Fernando Alonso starts fourth.

But while Massa will have the help of his teammate, Hamilton looks to be on his own as the best Heikki Kovalainen could do was fifth.

Mark Webber was sixth, but took a 10-spot penalty for an engine change, and Nick Heidfeld was seventh before a penalty for impeding David Coulthard dropped him three places.

Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and Sebastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso) round out the top 10.

Heidfeld's penalty came for holding up David Coulthard, who found himself eliminated with the Nakajima, Button and the Force Indias in Q1. A tough result for the Scot in his second to last Grand Prix.
"I'm extremely disappointed with what Nick Heidfeld did at the end of Q1: he passed me on the inside into the last corner just as I was about to start my flying lap," Coulthard said. "It was very unlikely he was going to do a better lap on prime tyres and he was on the dirty side of the track, so he wouldn't have done a faster lap by squeezing through the inside at that point - and he came in before the end of that lap anyway. He would have known he was in the top 10 already, so for me it was very unsportsmanlike behaviour, as all he did was screw up my last flying lap - there wasn't any intention of him doing a quicker time."

Kubica's thin championship hopes got a lot longer as the Pole suffered his worst qualifying session of the season, never comfortable with his BMW Sauber, and joining Q2 eliminations Rosberg (Williams), Barrichello (Honda), Glock (Toyota) and Piquet (Renault).
"I was struggling with the balance of the car all weekend." Kubica explained. "We made some changes before qualifying, but they had a negative effect. The car was difficult to drive and I couldn't push as I wanted. I expect a tough race because now we are not allowed to change the set-up."

But Hamilton was the real story. The Briton has faced criticism this week over his driving style, but has said he will do his talking on the track. He appears to have done just that, pole never in doubt as he topped all three sessions.
"It is great, you know. I have got a huge amount of support from back home and across the world. Especially from my team and my family as well," Hamilton said. "My family are here which is so important to me. I really have to thank the team, they have done a fantastic job coming off not such a great weekend in Fuji. Just thanks to those guys for staying so strong and doing a solid job this weekend. Hopefully we can continue with it tomorrow. We definitely will give it our best shot."

The race kicks off 15:00 local time.

How Hamilton can win the title (thanks to the BBC)

  • Hamilton wins, with Massa lower than fourth
  • Hamilton is second, with Massa lower than sixth
  • Hamilton is third, with Massa out of the points, and Kubica does not win

The grid

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

* = demoted three places for impeding
** = demoted 10 places for engine change

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Take a virtual lap of Shanghai + Insights



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Hamilton draws first blood in Shanghai

Lewis Hamilton struck first in Friday practice for the Chinese Grand Prix, setting the day's fastest time of 1:35.630 in the first session to best Felipe Massa.

Hamilton, who is coming under increasing criticism for his driving, also topped the second session, with his Ferrari rival down in sixth.

Robert Kubica, the final remaining title contender, was fifth in the morning and 12th in the afternoon session.

Winner of the last two races, Fernando Alonso took yet another shot across the bow, putting his Renault second in the second session. He also to another swipe at Hamilton.


"Last year, when the championship was at this stage, everyone said they wanted either me or Kimi to win," the double world champion reportedly told Spanish broadcaster Telecinco "This year, all the drivers want Massa to be champion. So I think it is not my problem, it is Hamilton's."


Hamilton needs to gain six points on his rivals to put the championship out of reach. The Briton was exuding confidence after his first day on the Shanghai circuit.


"From the moment we hit the track this morning, the car felt well balanced and positive," he enthused. "No matter what we changed on the car, it just kept getting better and better and the grip and balance kept improving. This is the best possible way to kick off any weekend and has given me extra confidence for the next few days: I feel in a very good place right now."


While the first day times weren't in line with his primary rival's, Massa, too, likes his chances.


"We did a good job and I think we will be competitive at the track," he said. "The performance level improved bit by bit as the track got more grip. In the first session, the car was a bit twitchy but then, especially in the second part of the afternoon session, its handling improved. I think we are working in the right direction in terms of car set-up. My aim for the weekend? Obviously I'll be trying to win or at least to get as many points as possible."


Less positive was Kubica, however, who believes much remains to be done if he is to stay in the title hunt.


"We tried all kinds of different things, but I'm not happy yet with the balance of the car, and the overall level of grip is poor," he said. "We have to analyse the data carefully to make the right changes for tomorrow. There is still a lot of work to be done."


Hot on the heels of his error-filled Japanese Grand Prix, all eyes will be on how Hamilton handles his return to Shanghai, site of his championship altering trip into the gravel last season.

Qualifying for the penultimate race kicks off Saturday at 14:00 local time.

First practice:

  1. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:35.630
  2. Massa, Ferrari, 1:36.020
  3. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:36.052
  4. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:36.103
  5. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:36.507
  6. Alonso, Renault, 1:36.661
  7. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:37.040
  8. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:37.070
  9. Piquet, Renault, 1:37.180
  10. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:37.278
  11. Webber, Red Bull, 1:37.491
  12. Button, Honda, 1:37.619
  13. Nakajima, Williams, 1:37.630
  14. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:37.638
  15. Rosberg, Williams, 1:37.638
  16. Glock, Toyota, 1:37.664
  17. Barrichello, Honda, 1:37.827
  18. Trulli, Toyota, 1:38.219
  19. Sutil, Force India, 1:38.285
  20. Fisichella, Force India, 1:38.479
Second practice:

  1. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:35.750
  2. Alonso, Renault, 1:36.024
  3. Piquet, Renault 1:36.094
  4. Trulli, Toyota, 1:36.159
  5. Webber, Red Bull, 1:36.375
  6. Massa, Ferrari, 1:36.480
  7. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:36.529
  8. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:36.542
  9. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:36.553
  10. Rosberg, Williams, 1:36.556
  11. Glock, Toyota, 1:36.615
  12. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:36.775
  13. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:36.797
  14. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:36.808
  15. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:36.925
  16. Nakajima, Williams, 1:36.975
  17. Fisichella, Force India, 1:37.473
  18. Sutil, Force India, 1:37.617
  19. Button, Honda, 1:37.800
  20. Barrichello, Honda 1:37.904
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Thursday, October 16, 2008

French Grand Prix cancelled


Pits
Originally uploaded by thijsbekkema

The 2009 F1 schedule took another hit as the French Motorsports Federation (FFSA) withdrew financing and cancelled next season's French Grand Prix.

Those who have already purchased tickets for the June 28,2009 race will be reimbursed.

"For economic reasons, the FFSA has decided to cancel the (2009) French Grand Prix," the BBC quotes the FFSA in a statement. "The FFSA would like to thank all those clients who have supported the event in the last few years."

Host track Magny-Cours has long been on the outs with Bernie Ecclestone, who favors a move closer to Paris. Next year's race looked to be the last at the track after the F1 ringmaster relented and the race was included on the provisional schedule.

In the modern era (post-1950) only 1955 has seen a championship without a date in France.

Along with the elimination of Canada from the schedule, this puts the 2009 championship calendar at 17 race dates. This is down from a record 19 on the provisional calendar released earlier this year.

The FSSA is said to be looking into several possibilities for the future, including building a track closer to the city.
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Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FIA going to extremes to avoid financial crunch?

The FIA is proposing radical cost-cutting measures for F1 ahead of next week's meeting in Geneva, hoping to stave off the financial crisis hitting the world economy.

Reuters got a hold of a letter sent to the 10 teams outlining a five-year plan to address the "unsustainable" costs of F1.


"Even before current global financial problems, teams were spending far more than their incomes," Reuters quotes from the letter. "As a result, the independent teams are now dependent on the goodwill of rich individuals, while the manufacturers' teams depend on massive hand-outs from their parent companies. There is now a real danger that in some cases these subsidies will cease. This could result in a reduction in the number of competitors, adding to the two team vacancies we already have and reducing the grid to an unacceptable level."


Already this year Super Aguri folded and Prodrive's effort abandoned. Williams, it was revealed earlier this month, is operating at a loss. But it is feared even the big guys, like Toyota, will soon feel the pinch.
The FIA's aim is to bring spending in line with the revenues provided by the commercial rights holder.

FIA Proposals
  • Standardised engines, with current engine makers free to build their own to the same design
  • Alternatively, spec engines from one manufacturer
  • A third, Formula One Teams Association (FOTA) alternative, proposes a standardized powertrain (engine and gearbox) for independent teams priced at less than 5 million euros ($6.83 million) along with a testing and assistance package

plus,

  • Common chassis parts, including standard suspension and wheels and other expensive parts which don't add to the "spectacle"
  • By 2013 a "modern high-technology" powertrain -- a more compact engine and more energy recovery systems
The FIA is due to meet FOTA in China after the Chinese Grand Prix, where it is believed the teams' association will propose it's own measures, including possibly a ban on refuelling, shorter races and testing restrictions, but it is believed the FIA would rather make changes to less visable elements.

Of course, the FIA makes no mention of the enormous cost of developing energy recovery systems and high tech engines, nor the fact that creating a spec engine would directly effect the "spectacle."
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Of penalties and petulance

Surprise, surprise, Lewis Hamilton has determined Felipe Massa deliberately collided with him in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.

The two title rivals came together on lap two when Massa ran over the curb in an attempt to overtake the McLaren. Massa spun Hamilton, sending him to the back of the field.

The Ferrari driver received a drive-through penalty for his aggressiveness.

“He outbraked me, so I didn't get past him on the way in," Sky quotes Hamilton. “I did the corner normally, and he came back very aggressively and hit me. I think that was pretty much as deliberate as can be.”


It wasn’t the only controversy surrounding the Brazilian Sunday. Sebastien Bourdais’ post-race 25-second penalty for a collision with Massa on lap 51, which boosted the Ferrari man to seventh place, has drawn the ire of the paddock.

Opinion generally placed blame for the incident on Massa, and now Crash.net reports the stewards’ decision came against the advice of race director Charlie Whiting, who recommended prior to the race cars exiting the pitlane had the right of way.

It has also been questioned why no punishment came during the race when the incident occurred with 16 laps remaining.

All of this comes on the heels of Lewis Hamilton’s penalty for a similar transgression at Spa, and criticism for delays in handing out penalties in Singapore for fueling when the pitlane was clearly closed.

Massa, for his part, defended his scrap with Hamilton and blamed Bourdais for their coming together.

“I think the duel...with Hamilton was hard but fair, and the drive-through really penalised my race,” he said. "As for the incident with Bourdais, I think there's little to say – I had already entered the turn and he hit me from behind, spinning me round.”


With two to go and Hamilton sporting a five point lead, Massa may need an ally or two as he tries to win the championship.

Fernando Alonso says if he has the opportunity, he’s the man.

“Yes, no doubt, if I can help, I will help Massa," Sky reports Alonso told the AS newspaper.


Well, we didn’t think he’d be helping Hamilton, did we?

Meanwhile, BMW Sauber has pledged its support for Robert Kubica, who remains in contention after pulling down second yesterday.

“As long as there is theoretically still a chance to win the world championship, then we will not sleep,” Autosport quotes technical director Willy Rampf. “We'll try and do what's possible in this short space of time. I can't say we expected to be so close to the leading teams at two races before the end of the season. It's overall very nice.”
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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Alonso takes second straight as Hamilton, Massa falter

Fernando Alonso made it back-to-back wins at the Japanese Grand Prix Sunday, while title rivals Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa made a hash of things in a race filled with drama at Fuji.

“I cannot believe it right now but obviously back to back wins is a very nice feeling and the team did a great job to improve the car,” Alonso said. “We are now maybe just behind Ferrari and McLaren and this is completely amazing.”

Hamilton got off to a poor start, beaten by Massa’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen off the line, before straightlining the first corner along with half the field and forcing the Finn off in the process.

“I got a pretty good start and got into the first place but then braking into the first corner I was trying to turn in and there was first one McLaren and then a second and I think they both hit me and I had nowhere to go,” Raikkonen explained.

BMW Sauber’s Robert Kubica, who played it safe, ducked through into the lead with Alonso in tow, while Hamilton found himself down in sixth, pressuring Massa.

“I decided to go on the inside, I braked really too late and if someone had managed to take the apex I would have for sure hit him but suddenly everybody was straight,” said Kubica. “I locked the front wheel quite a lot but managed to stay on the track, I think I was the only one who did really. Okay, I didn’t take the apex but I was still on the track and managed to pull out first after corner one.”

By lap two, Hamilton made his move, edging ahead of Massa at the hairpin. Unfazed, the Brazilian punted the McLaren man to the back of the field.

Massa would be penalized for his aggressiveness, assessed a drive-through penalty, but there would be no advantage for Hamilton as he too was penalized for forcing Raikkonen off the road at the first corner.

“At the start, I got away well and had passed Alonso and Kovalainen,” said Massa. “Then Hamilton braked over the limit and I found myself sandwiched between one car on the inside and one on the outside and all I could do was brake and stay behind. I think the duel that followed with Hamilton was hard but fair and the drive-through really penalized my race.”

It is all frightfully reminiscent of last season. Young Lewis gave a lot of lip service to being a changed man this year, but the proof needs to be shown on the track. All he had to do was be patient and collect the points available. Instead, he forced the situation and showed the same amateurish behavior which cost him the title in 2007.

He would finish 12th and out of the points, his lead in the championship cut to five.

“Obviously, I’m not happy after a result like today’s - but I’m already getting over it and tomorrow will be another day,” said Hamilton. “There are positives to take from today; I’ve only lost two points to Felipe in the drivers’ championship, so it’s definitely not over. Now I’ll forget today ever happened and move forward; we’ve got two more races to go and my target is still to win both of them."

Massa finished eighth, and was promoted to seventh when Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais was penalised 25 seconds for colliding with him on lap 51.

Massa is not Hamilton's only worry. With his second today, BMW Sauber's Kubica is back in the thick of things, 12 points off the lead.

Kubica led the first stint but couldn’t pull off enough of a gap to the pursuing Alonso, who took the lead when the Pole made his first stop.

“I was not really able to pull away, Fernando was keeping the gap and I was trying everything,” said Kubica. “After the first pit stop he was in front of me.”

Renault short-fueled the Spaniard at his own request to get him out ahead of Kubica. It was then up to Alonso to take advantage.

In the glory years, Renault proved they could do more with less. Less staff, and less budget than the big boys. With the right driver behind the wheel, one who can get more out of a car than perhaps it should be capable of, Renault succeeds.

Alonso is probably the only driver since Schumacher who can do that, and he was game, building an insurmountable 25-second lead over Kubica.

“I asked the team if we can manage to exit the pits in front of Robert because I wanted some free air in the second stint, so they had to give me less fuel to do that but the problem is you need to open a gap in the second stint. Sometimes you can do it, sometimes you can’t but today the car was perfect and I was able to do it,” Alonso explained.

Instead of fighting for the lead, the BMW Sauber man found himself trying to hold off Raikkonen over the closing laps. It was a close thing, but he managed to preserve his edge over the Finn’s damaged Ferrari, and the world champion was content to take third place points.

“I had a graining problem which influenced the last sector where I was very slow and in low speed corners he was pulling much better traction out of low speed corners and then the last stint it was a great battle with Kimi for three or four laps when I again had very big problems with the graining but then the tyres cleaned out. I managed to pull a comfortable gap of two seconds and that’s it,” Kubica said.

On a day when neither McLaren finished in the points, Heikki Kovalainen’s race ending in retirement, Raikkonen’s six points, plus two from Massa, put the Scuderia back on top in the constructors championship.

Nelson Piquet iced the cake for Renault by finishing fourth, besting their closest rival in Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, who finished fifth, giving the French concern a 16 point edge in the constructors for fourth.

Following Trulli were the STRs of Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel, the Frenchman beating his highly-regarded teammate. But for the former Champ Car ace, we are once again reminded if it wasn’t for bad luck he’d have no at all, as he was handed a 25-second penalty post race for the incident with Massa on lap 51.

It seemed a bit of a harsh penalty, as Massa really shut the door on Bourdais as the Toro Rosso driver left the pit exit and collision seemed unavoidable. Bourdais was demoted to twelfth.

Massa recovered from the incident to pass Red Bull’s Mark Webber to finish eighth. Both drivers were bumped up a spot with the penalty, so the Australian earned the final point.

All in all, given the performance of both Massa and Hamilton today, one wonders if either of these guys wants to win this thing. And, just like last year with Raikkonen, a steady, constant driver is waiting in the wings to take advantage and pounce, this year in the form of Kubica.

Massa and Hamilton have just a few says to get their heads screwed on straight as the championship moves to Shanghai for next week’s Chinese Grand Prix.

Until then, it’s another few days for Alonso to savor, and unlike Singapore, you can’t say he was gifted this race by a safety car situation.

“We understood the problems at the beginning of the season and we concentrated on working on those areas of the car and now the results are coming with improvements in the season, so I am very happy and very proud of my team to have the key to improve all the problems we had,” said Alonso. “A great job from everybody in the factory and this is the result, these wins are for everybody.”
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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hamilton on pole at Fuji

With three races to go in the championship, Lewis Hamilton couldn’t ask to be in much better a position, taking pole at Fuji, with rival Felipe Massa well back in fifth.

“We have been able to outpace the Ferraris which is great for us and I think a really strong showing from me and from Heikki, so hopefully tomorrow we can push forward with the strategy we have and really challenge for the front,” Hamilton said.

Massa had been fast in the previous two sessions, but his Ferrari lost pace in the final session.

“A shame. Today I was the quickest man on track but at the wrong moment. In Q3, I never had the right amount of grip from both sets of tyres that I used,” Massa explained.

Teammate Kimi Raikkonen put aside his recent string of lackluster qualifying sessions to take second, just ahead of Heikki Kovalainen’s
McLaren.

“It has not been easy lately in the races but we have done a lot of work and finally we have got a little result out of it, so it is good to be here and it is a good place to start with tomorrow,” Raikkonen said.

The third driver standing between Massa and Hamilton is Singapore winner Fernando Alonso who achieved a strong fourth.

“We can be happy with fourth place, which is a good result and the work we did yesterday certainly paid us back today,” Alonso said. “I think we can realistically aim for a top five finish.”

BMW Sauber's Robert Kubica was sixth ahead of the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock. The STR boys rounded out the top 10, Sebastian Vettel edging Sebastien Bourdais.

Rain overnight left the drivers with a green track. Toyota owns the track, and the home team provided plenty to cheer about with both drivers in the top 10 and Glock topping Q1.

“We've done quite a good job overall this weekend preparing for qualifying and the race,” Trulli enthused. “In Q2 I was fourth and Timo was fifth so it shows that the Toyotas are going well... Now we must go for a strong result for everyone here in front of our own fans and we must fight really hard until the end tomorrow.”

Honda, on the other hand, couldn’t muster anything new at its home race, both cars eliminated in Q1. Joining them were the two Force Indias.

Nick Heidfeld, recently given a vote of confidence by BMW Sauber for improved performance, was a surprise elimination in the first session.

“Now we know it was the wrong decision to stay on the harder tyre compound for the second outing in Q1,” Heidfeld explained. “After my initial run on the first set of those tyres, I knew I could improve on the Prime tyres, so we took the risk and put on another set. I actually did improve, I was about half a second quicker, but still it wasn't enough and I missed Q2 by one tenth of a second. Robert just made it.”

Once again the Toro Rossos had the better of their Red Bull stablemates, David Coulthard and Mark Webber both missing the final shootout, the Scot in 11th and Webber in 13th. Splitting them are Renault’s Nelson Piquet.

Kazuki Nakajima could do no better than 14th in the Williams at his home race, but he did manage to pip teammate Nico Rosberg.

“After a strong run in the practice sessions that was a difficult qualifying, but we did do our best. I don’t think that this afternoon’s conditions suited the car that much...” Nakajima said.

Things seem to be playing into Hamilton’s favor as the shadows grow long on this season. But it is important to note the Briton won here last year, only to squander the championship to Raikkonen, who trailed by 17 points at the time.

“I just try to take every race as it comes and I am definitely, compared to last year, looking at the championship and what I need to do to win it. It is obviously within my grasp but we as a team have to put a really strong effort in to continue with the momentum we have,” Hamilton said. “For me, I am approaching every race exactly as I have throughout the season. I don’t think I need to change anything, just keep the car on the road and try and bring it home and score some good points.”

That would be a tall proposition this year for the Finn, who has yet to be mathematically eliminated, but serves to highlight this year’s title is far from decided.

“I don’t have much to lose. For sure we want to try to win both championships but it is not going to be easy against McLaren,” Raikkonen said. “But I will do the best job I can tomorrow and hopefully we can fight for the win and if we can get it, that would be nice. But I don’t look to the championship that much now. I just try and go and win some races and finish with a nice three last races of the season. That would be good.”

The grid
  1. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:18.404
  2. Raikkonen, Ferrari, 1:18.644
  3. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:18.821
  4. Alonso, Renault, 1:18.852
  5. Massa, Ferrari, 1:18.874
  6. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:18.979
  7. Trulli, Toyota, 1:19.026
  8. Glock, Toyota, 1:19.118
  9. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:19.638
  10. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:20.167
  11. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:18.187
  12. Piquet, Renault, 1:18.274
  13. Webber, Red Bull, 1:18.354
  14. Nakajima, Williams, 1:18.594
  15. Rosberg, Williams, 1:18.672
  16. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:18.835
  17. Barrichello, Honda, 1:18.882
  18. Button, Honda, 1:19.100
  19. Sutil, Force India, 1:19.163
  20. Fisichella, Force India, 1:19.910
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Friday, October 10, 2008

Take a virtual lap of Fuji

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Glock, Toyota tops on Friday

Timo Glock was fastest in Friday practice with a time of 1:18.383, set in the second session for home team Toyota.

The German was running a fresh V8, the team using its 'joker' option to swap out his car’s power plant at no penalty.

Glock edged out Fernando Alonso, who set a 1:18.426, hot on the heels of his night victory in Singapore.

Tital rivals Lewis Hamilton and Felipe Massa were third and fourth in the afternoon session, echoing their 1-2 finish in the first session

Hamilton led the morning in his McLaren, setting a 1:18.910, topping Massa’s 1:19.063 in the Ferrari.

McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen was third with a 1:19.279.

A gap of approximately two seconds covered the field in both sessions, run in prime conditions, a far cry from the monsoon that hit the Fuji race last season.

As always, it is hard to say if Glock’s and Alonso’s performances are indicative of what their cars can do on this track, the true test will be in qualifying tomorrow, but we can be fairly certain Hamilton and Massa are well matched.

Once again Hamilton enters the last three races with a slim lead and looking to seal the deal. Can he avoid the mistakes of last year? The test begins tomorrow at 14:00 local time.

First session

  1. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:18.910
  2. Massa, Ferrari, 1:19.063
  3. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:19.279
  4. Räikkönen, Ferrari, 1:19.399
  5. Alonso, Renault, 1:19.473
  6. Piquet, Renault, 1:19.743
  7. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:20.121
  8. Kubica, BMW Sauber 1:20.160
  9. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:20.182
  10. Nakajima, Williams, 1:20.217
  11. Sutil, Force India, 1:20.288
  12. Rosberg, Williams, 1:20.350
  13. Webber, Red Bull, 1:20.620
  14. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber 1:20.628
  15. Trulli, Toyota, 1:20.657
  16. Barrichello, Honda, 1:20.753
  17. Button, Honda, 1:20.769
  18. Glock, Toyota, 1:20.823
  19. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:20.905
  20. Fisichella, Force India, 1:21.014

Second session

  1. Glock, Toyota, 1:18.383
  2. Alonso, Renault, 1:18.426
  3. Hamilton, McLaren, 1:18.463
  4. Massa, Ferrari, 1:18.491
  5. Räikkönen, Ferrari, 1:18.725
  6. Webber, Red Bull, 1:18.734
  7. Nakajima, Williams, 1:18.734
  8. Vettel, Toro Rosso, 1:18.761
  9. Kovalainen, McLaren, 1:18.803
  10. Trulli, Toyota, 1:18.863
  11. Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:18.865
  12. Piquet, Renault, 1:18.888
  13. Rosberg, Williams, 1:18.981
  14. Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:19.040
  15. Barrichello, Honda, 1:19.258
  16. Sutil Force, India, 1:19.287
  17. Coulthard, Red Bull, 1:19.327
  18. Fisichella, Force India, 1:19.482
  19. Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:19.894
  20. Button, Honda, 1:19.999
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Teams unhappy with North America snub

Disappointment was on the minds of team principals Nick Fry (Honda), John Howett (Toyota), and Mario Theissen (BMW Sauber) at Friday’s pre-race press conference.

Disappointment that the series will skip North America entirely next season following word the FIA nixed Canada from the 2009 schedule.

The three principals, all representing automakers with serious stakes in the U.S. and Canadian markets, made their thoughts known when questioned from the floor.

“Obviously we are not happy about not being in North America,” Theissen said. “The US is the most important and biggest car market for BMW and I think for the industry as a whole. It has always been difficult to set foot into the US but Canada has always been a very strong Formula One supporter and the race in Montreal.

“I have seen the race in Montreal as an operational base to get a second race up and running in the US, and so we would, rather than drop the Canada race, use it or expand the operations in North America to have a Canadian plus at least one US race,” he continued “Montreal is one of the most popular venues on the F1 calendar.”
Howett agreed, explaining the newly formed FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) hoped to address gaining F1 a foothold in the especially tricky U.S. market in the next two years.

“Canada? We are sad because it’s a great race, we like to go there,” he said. “I think one of the targets of FOTA is to actually ask the commercial rights holder to really establish a strong foothold in North America, particularly the US, with a race which showcases Formula One well, and is, if you like, economically beneficial to Formula One as a whole.”
Fry echoed Howett’s remarks, noting the significant investment Honda has in North America.

“We are hugely disappointed – it’s difficult to emphasize by how much,” Fry said. “Honda is very successful in Canada, we make cars there, the local company there is hugely enthusiastic about Formula One. We have large numbers of guests from America and from Canada. We sponsor the event, we would like to see it back on the calendar as soon as possible and I support John’s comments that I think it will be a major topic of conversation among the teams at the next meeting of the teams.”
The Honda principal also shed some light on what made the Canada race vulnerable.

“As soon as we were down to one race on the continent, things inevitably were going to get difficult because the costs of transportation and appearing just once across the other side of the Atlantic were huge and I think really we need to look at how we’re not just going to get back Canada but how we get back to America, potentially more than once, as it is such an important market,” he said.
It should prove interesting to see how much pull FOTA has. Teams have often spoken about the need for multiple events in North America, but the attitude of F1’s power brokers tends to be less than enthusiastic. 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, October 8, 2008

Mosely fears for future of sport

FIA president Max Mosley predicts hard times for Formula One in today’s economic climate, warning problems could set in as early as 2010 unless radical cost-cutting measures are introduced.

“It has become apparent, long before the current difficulties, that Formula One was unsustainable," Mosley told the BBC. “It really is a very serious situation. If we can't get this done for 2010, we will be in serious difficulty.”

Highlighting the plight of the privateer, Mosley easily sees a point where the grid gets so small the racing isn’t credible.

“It depends at the moment on millionaires - billionaires, we don't have millionaires now - subsidising it, people like Vijay Mallya of Kingfisher (Force India) or Dietrich Mateschitz of Red Bull (Racing),” he said. “Without them, those teams wouldn't be there.”
But he also sees a time when the investment is no longer worthwhile for the manufacturers.

“The days when they could just toss out the 100, 200, 400m euros a year, which is what Formula One costs those big companies, I think they are finished,” he said.
One place he believes costs can be cut are on drivetrains.

“If you can believe this, the engine and gearbox together for an independent team is upwards of 30m euros a year,” he said. “That could be done for probably 5 percent of that cost without the person in the grandstand noticing any difference at all. Even those big spenders, if they are given the opportunity to save 100 or 200m euros a year will do so.”
Canada taken by surprise

Organizers of the Canadian Grand Prix only learned their race was dropped from the schedule by reading it in the media.

"The organisers of the Canadian Grand Prix have learned through the media of the Canadian Grand Prix's removal from the 2009 Formula One championship calendar," Setanta quotes from an official statement. "Consequently, no comments will be issued before speaking with the interested parties, Formula One Management [FOM] and the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile [FIA]."

Ferrari turn off the lights

Ferrari will go back to a standard lollipop system for pitstops at Sunday’s Japanese Grand Prix.

This follows more than one failure of the light system Ferrari had been using this season, the most recent at the Singapore Grand Prix, where Felipe Massa’s race was ruined when he was given the green light with the fuel hose still attached.

"We need to stay calm so we've decided to go back to the old system," Stefano Domenicali is quoted in La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Ferrari’s light system is designed to operate automatically, but has a manual setting as well. The Scuderia decided to use the manual setting in Singapore because of the high amount of pit traffic due to the safety car.

Massa was leading the race when he pitted, but the operator pressed the button too soon and Massa left the box with the fuel hose, knocking down two mechanics in the process. When all was said and done, Massa was touring at the back of the field. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Canada axed from '09 schedule

The Canadian Grand Prix has been left off the revised 2009 schedule, leaving the series with 18 races next season.

The development means the World Championship will completely bypass North America next season.

No reason was given for the decision.

This year's race was marred with problems with the tarmac. The Circuit Gilles Villeneuve has also come under criticism for its age and lack of facilities, still, it was a popular venue for sponsors and teams alike.

With Canada joining the USGP on the sidelines, it appears Formula One has decided there is no market for its product in the United States and Canada.

That would seem to be a misguided opinion, to say the least.

Revised 2009 calendar
March 29, Australia
April 5, Malaysia
April 19, Bahrain
May 10, Spain
May 24, Monaco
June 7, Turkey
June 21, Great Britain
June 28, France
July 12, Germany
July 26, Hungary
August 23, Europe (Valencia)
August 30, Belgium
September 13, Italy
September 27, Singapore
October 11, Japan
October 18, China
November 1, Brazil
November 15, Abu Dhabi 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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Oh, the Japanity!


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Monday, October 6, 2008

Bernie: Send in the clowns

“Of course, when you race on a track that would work better as a circus rink or something along those lines, anything can happen, because the real show was put on yesterday by the safety car,” he said. “This is humiliating for the F1 world. During the next few weeks, I would like discuss this with all the other teams.”
- Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, quoted by La Gazzetta dello Sport.

It took some time, but Bernie Ecclestone has finally responded to Luca di Montezemolo’s criticism of what happened in Singapore, and it was vintage Bernie.

“If the Ferrari president is right about the Singapore Grand Prix being a circus, then we have to be grateful to him for providing the clowns,” Fox Sports quotes the F1 Ringmaster. “After the weekend Ferrari had, their president should have shut up and kept his head down.”

Not content to leave it at that, Ecclestone pontificated on who was responsible for Felipe Massa’s loss. Not surprisingly, he didn’t blame the safety car.

“If Massa loses the World Championship, he will know the team were responsible. He would have destroyed everybody in Singapore if he had kept going.”


And on Ferrari’s pitstop gadgetry?

“If I wanted to be a smart-arse, I'd have devised a system so that the light goes green to release the driver at the same time as the coupling hose comes off the car. If it's a matter of turning a switch, which I am led to believe is how it works, then why not stick with the ‘lollipop’ man of old? Why do you want to have some other piece of technology that can go wrong? It's over the top.”
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Saturday, October 4, 2008

F1 News roundup

Here’s a bit of what’s making news around F1 and in the motorsports world this weekend.

Williams to retain drivers

Williams will stick with Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima next season, as well as current test driver Nico Hulkenberg.

The announcement ends speculation Rosberg, who finished second in Singapore, would be snapped up by BMW Sauber, or another front-line team.

Mallya to join the QPR party

The Daily Mail reports Force India owner Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher brand is set to agree on a five-year $35 million shirt sponsorship deal with Queens Park Rangers, the football team owned by Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore

An announcement is expected next week.

Decision on Donington by end of year

Autosport reports the local government is likely to reach a decision by the end of the year whether to grant approval for Donington Park's redevelopment plan.

Part of that wait is for an environmental impact study.

The redevelopments are vital if that track is to fulfill its obligations to host the British Grand Prix in 2010. The local council seems supportive of having the event in its district.

“The prospect of Formula One at Donington Park is something really exciting for the district as a whole. We will though be making sure that the environmental impact of proposed development at the site is properly considered,” John Bridges, a cabinet member, is quoted.

Heidfeld has Seoul

BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld became the first F1 driver to drive in Seoul, South Korea.

The German took five runs up and down a closed strip in the city in front of 20,000 fans.

Heidfeld will make another stop in the country Sunday, before heading to Fuji.

South Korea is oft mentioned as a target for a future race.

Castroneves pleads not guilty to tax evasion

Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves pleaded not guilty to tax evasion Friday.

He is charged of using offshore accounts to dodge taxes on $5 million earned between 1999 and 2004.

Castroneves was indicted Thursday on charges of conspiracy and six counts of tax evasion, each of which carries a maximum five-year prison sentence.

The driver is out on $10 million bail, but terms of his release restrict him from travel outside the U.S., meaning he will likely miss the IndyCar season ender in Australia, a non-points-paying race.

Andretti Green Racing to field A1GP effort

Andretti Green Racing announced it is entering the “world cup of motorsport,” fielding an A1GP team this season.

“We are very proud to be representing the United States on the level and competitive playing field that is provided by A1GP,” said team co-owner, Michael Andretti. “Andretti Green has been fortunate to enjoy a reasonable amount of success in just six seasons of operation and we’re looking forward to joining the world stage of A1GP.”

The team’s driver lineup will be announced at the season opener at Zandvoort. It has been speculated Andretti is planning on using the series to get road racing experience for his IndyCar drivers, including son Marco and Danica Patrick.

There is no word on what this will does to Rick Weidinger’s original U.S. effort, which finally started to achieve success last season with Jonathan Summerton after several seasons of lackluster performance.

Have your say…

Make your voice heard in the ING F1 Racing Magazine Global Fan Survey 2008. Results will be released in December. 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, October 1, 2008

Malaysia says no to the lights

Hot on the heels of Singapore's successful first night race, F1 Ringmaster Bernie Ecclestone is eager for other Far East races to follow suit.

But organizers in Malaysia have said no, instead settling on a late afternoon compromise.

Ecclestone hopes to make the Eastern Rim races more profitable for television by staging them at convenient times for European viewers, but Malaysia has balked at the cost of lighting up the circuit, instead following Australia's lead by starting later.

"It will still be daylight and about 7pm when the new race finishes and for fans in Europe and Britain, it would be about 10am," Sepang chairman Datuk Mokhzani Mahathir is quoted by the Malaysian Star. "We are not going to lose out. The
lighting costs quite a bit and this is an effort to keep the cost of F1 in Malaysia down, and Bernie has agreed."

Australian GP chief executive Drew Ward has hinted Singapore's success could result in a rethink of the event's stance on night racing, but not before the current contract expires in 2015.

It is also believed the Japanese Grand Prix is Ecclestone's next target for night racing.

Win a cool million

One of the first proposals of the Formula One Teams Association is to scrap Friday practice for a $1m "show race" to bolster interest in Friday's action, sources report.

Sounds like Vince McMahon's XFL. And Luca thinks Singapore was a circus?

Russia starts construction on F1 standard circuit

F1-Live reports stories coming out of Russia have Hans Geist hard at work on a $215m Hermann Tilke designed track outside of Moscow, in the town of Volokolamsk.

Geist was in charge of the F1 projects in Austria and Bahrain.

The course is aiming to open in 2010, with hopes of getting MotoGP and DTM events.

Kimi is fastest

Proving there is more to winning than speed, Kimi Raikkonen is the fastest man in F1.

Raikkonen set his tenth fastest lap in Singapore, tying the record he shares with Michael Schumacher.

This statistic is at odds with his qualifying performance, however, as Crash.net points out.

Top ten average qualifying positions
in 2008 up to and including
Singapore Grand Prix:
  1. Felipe Massa 2.8
  2. Lewis Hamilton 3.2
  3. Heikki Kovalainen 3.8
  4. Kimi Raikkonen 4.8
  5. Robert Kubica 5.2
  6. Fernando Alonso 7.6
  7. Jarno Trulli 8.2
  8. Mark Webber 8.6
  9. Nick Heidfeld 8.7
  10. Timo Glock 10.9
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