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Sunday, November 30, 2008

Hockenheim latest to ask for help

German Formula One Grand Prix: Race

Hockenheim says its participation in F1 can’t go on without serious financial help from the government and better terms from the sport.

"Without grants from the state (of Baden-Wuerttemberg) there will be no more Formula One in Hockenheim," Reuters reports circuit boss Karl-Josef Schmidt told Der Tagesspiegel.

Der Tagesspiegel reports the circuit lost 5.3 million euros (£4.8m) on this year's grand prix as German interest in the sport has waned since the 2006 retirement of seven-times world champion Michael Schumacher.

During the height of Michael-mania, Germany hosted two dates on the F1 calendar. In recent years the country’s one date has alternated between Hockenheim and the Nuerburgring.

The German Grand Prix is slated to return to Hockenheim in 2010, but Schmidt warns that without better terms from Formula 1, Germany is likely to drop off the calendar entirely, joining France and North America on the sidelines.

"Formula One will disappear not just from Hockenheim but from Germany as a whole," he said. "Then it will only be run in Arab countries."


The state is less than enthusiastic about getting involved, Reuters reports.

Meanwhile, if the British Grand Prix’s move to Donington actually does come off, organizers plan to have spectators only use public transportation to get to the circuit.

Roadway infrastructure and parking were some of Bernie Ecclestone’s pet peeves with Silverstone, and Donington has similar limitations. It now looks as if organizers has chosen a novel approach to those issues, with fans able to book transportation, tickets and accommodation in one package.

"This will be the first public transport Grand Prix. We are not bringing cars here," grandprix.com reports Simon Gillett, chief executive of Donington Ventures Leisure Ltd. said. "We are looking to use public transport from all the major conurbations, the airport and the Parkway station."
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

F1 news in brief – 11/29/08

F1 Nov 2008


Many changes in the regulations are being looked at as potential "shaker-uppers" for 2009, from Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) to slicks to aero changes.

Jenson Button is confident Honda can use those changes to their advantage, and challenge for race wins in 2009.

"I've already seen what is happening with the car for next year, and it looks very positive," Planet F1 quotes Button at last week's "Honda Racing Thanks Day." "It feels more like 2006, when I got three podiums and I won my first race. So it's all very positive, and I'm hoping to get some more wins next year."


---


Williams' Nico Rosberg is also hoping the shake-up works to his benefit, hinging his future on the team's fortunes.

"I am not asking for a World Championship-winning car, just a car that gives me the opportunity to finish in the points consistently - and a couple of podiums would be the icing on the cake," Fox quotes Rosberg. "The chances are there, for sure. Should '09 not turn out as I hope it will, then naturally I have to re-think my position for 2010."


---


McLaren’s engineering boss Paddy Lowe thinks KERS will shake things up on a race-by race basis.

"Certainly, the variation from circuit to circuit will be different," he told McLaren’s official website. "Also KERS will have more authority at some tracks than at others – so the pecking order from circuit to circuit may change a little bit."

Lowe also believes the nature of the system will result in continued development over the course of the year.

"There will definitely be constant development of the KERS device through the year," he said. "One thing to bear in mind is that the ultimate idealised performance benefit of KERS is capped – because it’s limited in power and energy. So assuming you’ve delivered to that cap, you’re looking more into the domains of doing it for less weight or doing it more efficiently or more reliably."


Why do I think it will still be Ferraris and McLarens up front?

A trio of drivers talk future

Fans of Fernando Alonso can rest assured their champion will not be leaving the sport without winning a third championship.

"I'm more or less convinced about not leaving F1 without becoming world champion again," F1 Live reports he told the Spanish radio network Cadena SER.


Alonso returns to Renault in 2009, but Satander's confirmation they are moving to Ferrari in 2010 has rekindle speculation the Spaniard will be moving to The Prancing Horse.

"A quick answer to that question would not be the right answer," he said.


---


While Honda continues to test young drivers, Rubens Barrichello has turned his attention to the empty seats at Toro Rosso.

The Brazilian maintains he is not ready for retirement.

"I am very proud of everything I have accomplished," he said on his Web site. "I am saying this because it seems like I still want to race because I have to prove myself, but this is not why I want to stay in F1. I want to keep going simply because I love it and I still have a lot of energy. I have a chance of going to two very competitive teams: Honda or Toro Rosso. This is what motivates me right now."


Motivated or not, Sebastien Buemi and Takuma Sato would seem to have the inside line on the Toro Rosso seats, especially in the wake of Dietrich Mateschitz's reacquisition of Gerhard Berger's half of the team.

And with Barrichello publicly reopening Austria 2002, one wonders how smooth things are with Ross Brawn at the moment.

---

Meanwhile, Giancarlo Fisichella is telling anyone who will listen his seat at Force India is safe.

"The line-up has been announced in China in October by Vijay, and I trust people who trust me," Fisichella told the official F1 website. "I originally signed a two-year contract which was reviewed in September to incorporate the McLaren deal. In a few words, the team offered me a better car and a different package."


Team owner Vijay Mallya confirmed his lineup before then end of the 2008 season. McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa's appearance earlier this month in Barcelona raised some eyebrows, however, and brought the futures of Fisichella and teammate Adrian Sutil into question.

Fisichella said he wasn't surprised.

"The only thing I know is that in September we were told that Pedro could test and we could not say before it was made official so I was not at all surprised," he added.


Loose ends

James Allen discusses a new star born at Ferrari.

F1 Fanatic
worries as Codemasters is barred from creating blog about their F1 game. 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, November 28, 2008

Berger explains why he sold

Belgian Formula One Grand Prix: Practice


Former Toro Rosso owner Gerhard Berger, who sold his half of the team back to Dietrich Mateschitz earlier this week, said his decision was influenced by the Red Bull owner's hope to sell the team.

Berger, in an interview the Tiroler newspaper, said he began thinking about selling when changes in the customer car rules spurred Mateschitz into talk about selling out. The former-F1 driver felt without financing the team would slip down the grid performance-wise.

"I would have gladly continued with Toro Rosso, but I could not finance it by myself," sources report Berger said. "The conditions in order to make the next step are no longer there, and it has never been my style just to be here (in F1) for the sake of it."


Additionally, the Austrian said he believed the 2009 rules would not be good for the Faenza-based squad.

"The new rules leave no room for improvement for a small team as STR," Fox reports he said. "Also, Dietrich's interest will focus on Red Bull Racing, therefore the support for STR will become smaller and prevent the team from improving further from sixth.


Berger denied he sold the team because he was at odds with Mateschitz over the 2009 driver lineup.

"It has nothing to do with that," he said.


So, has the paddock seen the last of him? He left that door open.

"Don't worry, it is quite possible that I will reappear some day," onestopstrategy.com reports he told Auto Motor und Sport.
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Bernie: Medals next year

Bernie Ecclestone Announces Global Sponsorship Deal


Medals are going to happen.

That's the word from Bernie Ecclestone, who is keen on seeing a medal system replace the current points system used to determine the drivers' championship.

Ecclestone said he expects the FIA World Motorsport Council to ratify the change at its next meeting.

"It's going to happen," Autosport quotes Ecclestone. "All the teams are happy. The whole reason for this was that I was fed up with people talking about no overtaking. The reason there's no overtaking is nothing to do with the circuit or the people involved, it's to do with the drivers not needing to overtake.


Under Ecclestone's system, the driver with the most race wins would win the championship. The assumption is this will inspire drivers to 'go for gold' rather than play it safe in second for points.

"If you are in the lead and I'm second, I'm not going to take a chance and risk falling off the road or doing something silly to get two more points," he said. "If I need to do it to win a gold medal, because the most medals win the world championship, I'm going to do that. I will overtake you."


Were the medal system used last season, Felipe Massa would have won the championship.

One who has a less than enthusiastic opinion on the proposed system is Eddie Jordan, former team boss and current F1 pundit.

"I think it's a nonsense," Planet F1 reports he told BBC Radio Five Live. "He's tinkering with something that in my opinion he has lost the understanding of. He thinks people are only interested in winning the races. I'm sorry, but there's just not enough thought put into this. It should be put to one side and discussed by him and Max Mosley, and for Bernie Ecclestone to say it's coming with the full approval of all the teams, I simply don't believe it."


For more…

How 'medals' would change F1 history. 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, November 25, 2008

Red Bull buys out Berger

Italian Formula One Grand Prix: Race


Yesterday, Dietrich Mateschitz made some interesting comments concerning Toro Rosso's 2009 driver lineup.

Now, it seems the billionaire will have the final say, as Red Bull has bought out co-owner Gerhard Berger's half of the Faenza-based team.

"I'm very grateful to Gerhard for his enormous input," sources report Mateschitz said in an official statement. "Together we have made Toro Rosso a team which, from 2008 onwards, will regularly qualify for the top 10 and collect championship points. Red Bull will now run Toro Rosso alone on this basis."


Berger had owned half the team since 2006, when Mateschitz bought the Minardi squad from Paul Stoddart.

"I am very happy that I can support Didi (Mateschitz) - who has committed himself to Formula One with so much dedication - with the reorganisation of the team and in this process to make use of my knowledge so effectively," Berger said in the statement.


Often viewed as a satellite of Mateschitz's Red Bull outfit, the Ferrari-powered team upstaged the parent squad this year riding the performance of emerging talent Sebastian Vettel, scoring a win at the Italian Grand Prix, and outscoring Red Bull 39-29 in the constructors' race.

The future of the team seemed in question, however, with the rules changing to eliminate customer cars in 2010. Mateschitz said early in 2008 Red Bull was looking to sell its stake.

This would seem to be the exact opposite. Whether buying out Berger is a result of a relaxation of those rules in light of the economic crisis, or a precursor to a sale of the team to another investor, remains to be seen.

STR's money situation had come into question recently, with current driver Sebastien Bourdais saying the team wanted drivers who brought cash. What this turn of event means for the half-dozen names rumored to be in line for a drive is unknown.

The deal is subject to approval. If it is approved, Mateschitz would own two teams on the grid, which would seem to be at odds with the current state of affairs in Formula 1. 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, November 24, 2008

DC to become a busy man?

Brazilian Formula One Grand Prix: Previews


Recently retired F1 driver David Coulthard has officially been announced as a member of the BBC’s broadcast team for 2009.

Eddie Jordan was also revealed as part of a group which includes Jake Humphrey, Jonathan Legard, Martin Brundle, Ted Kravitz and Lee McKenzie.

It could well be the beginning of a busy year for the Scot, who became a father Friday when fiancee Karen Minier gave birth to a boy.

DC may find himself called into action in his consulting role with Red Bull, now that Mark Webber has been ruled out until at least Melbourne following his bike accident.

With the bulk of the work falling on the shoulders of Coulthard’s young replacement, Sebastian Vettel, Coulthard’s experience may be needed more than might have been expected heading into the winter testing season.

Teams are slated to get back on the track December 8 at Jerez. 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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China gets boost, France, not so much...

Chinese Formula One Grand Prix: Race


Officials are playing down speculation the Chinese Grand Prix may be dropped when its current contract runs out in 2010.

“I would say it's likely it will stay after 2010,” Leon Sun, of race organizer Juss Events, told Reuters. “Formula one has only been here for five years We think formula one is a very good product, a very good event for Shanghai city so at least from our company's point of view we want to continue promoting and building the event”

News emerged recently that organizers were assessing whether the race was economically viable, prompting Bernie Ecclestone to say he would want to find ways to help the event stay on the calendar, according to onestopstrategy.com.

But as the Chinese Grand Prix gets a boost, it seems it may be a few years before the French Grand Prix returns to the schedule.

Citing economic issues, the French motorsport federation withdrew its backing of the Magny-Cours race, leaving the country without a grand prix for 2009.

The event took another hit last week when Euro Disney and the Lagardere Sports group shelved a plan to move the race to the Val d'Europe circuit near Paris.

Ecclestone says the race will not return until the right location can be found.

“I've always thought it was the right spot for us, that it was the new location that suited the French Grand Prix,” Fox reports Ecclestone said. “I think it is quite sure (that there will be no race in 2010). We went to Magny-Cours for the wrong reasons, for political reasons. Let's try and avoid a repeat. What we want is to find for sure the right spot because the French GP has to be long-lasting.”
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Buemi gets Dietrich’s vote, Bourdais says it comes down to money

Formula One Testing In Barcelona


Toro Rosso may be remaining silent about its driver lineup for 2009, but not-so-silent partner Dietrich Mateschitz says Sebastien Buemi stands a pretty good chance of being there.

Quite a few drivers remain in the fold for STR, including Takuma Sato and incumbent Sebastien Bourdais, who took part in testing last week.

Toro Rosso has at least one seat to fill, with Sebestian Vettel’s move to Red Bull, and Mateschitz is convinced Swiss Red Bull product Buemi is a leading candidate.

“One will very likely be Buemi,” Mateschitz told autosport.com. “The line-up will be confirmed before the last test in December.”

No word on the subject from co-owner Gerhard Berger, however.

Bourdais says it all comes down to money, revealing his three-year contract may not be enough to save his job.

“In the end it does not matter whether you have a three-year deal or not - there is always a line in the contract which says that if they are not happy with you they can get rid of you,” the Frenchman said in an interview with Formula1.com. “The fact is that there is no such thing as a sure deal in racing, whether it is Formula One or any other series. As long as it works it's good for everyone and then it is all rosy, but if it doesn't work out as expected, then ciao!”

Bourdais believes the evaluation process will take some time, with additional drivers in the mix than those who tested last week in Spain.

“There have been three drivers in Barcelona, but Rubens (Barrichello) is on the list and Bruno (Senna) as well - if he doesn't get picked up by Honda - so anybody who has got talent and money today is a potential candidate,” he said.


Meanwhile, Bourdais says he doesn’t have a back-up plan.

“I have no idea,” he said. “As far as I am concerned right now my priority is to stay here, but at some point I will have to make up my mind and take a potentially very difficult decision. In the meantime it is scary because I don't know what I'll be doing next year.”
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Grosjean too young, mistake prone

Italian Formula One Grand Prix: Previews


Romain Grosjean looks set for another year in GP2 after Renault boss Flavio Briatore said the Frenchman is too young to move up to Formula 1 this season.

Grosjean looked to be a possibility to partner with Fernando Alonso in 2009 before Renault announced it was sticking with Nelson Piquet for the second seat.

Piquet’s place in the team was precarious following an inconsistent debut season, and Briatore’s decision not to go with another unproven young talent may have been a case of “I’m not falling for that one again.”

Still, Briatore believes it is best for a team to groom its own talent.

“If you want to win with somebody really good, you need to bring up your own drivers in-house, like we did with Fernando, and McLaren with Hamilton,” GMM reports he said.


Beijing Guoan takes Superleague title

Beijing Guoan have won the inaugural Superleague Formula championship in Jerez Sunday.

“It’s very good to be the first Superleague champion and I am very very happy,” Setanta reports driver Davide Rigon said. “I hope that someone from Formula 1 can help me, watch me and hopefully I can try and test for Formula 1 now.”


The Superleague Formula features spec cars badged to represent some of the world’s biggest football clubs. Ex-F1 drivers Robert Doornbos and Antonio Pizzonia were among this year’s competitors. 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, November 22, 2008

F1 roundup 11/22/08

Mark Webber Challenge

Webber breaks leg, will miss winter tests

Mark Webber will miss winter testing after breaking his leg in a collision with a car during his charity event, the Mark Webber Pure Tasmania Challenge.

Webber underwent surgery for the leg, but sources report that was the extent of significant injuries, far better than earlier reports of multiple broken bones.

Webber will also miss the Race of Champions, where he was to pair with bike star Troy Bayliss for Team Australia, but Red Bull believes the driver will be fit for the 2009 season opener in Melbourne.

"While it looks like he's out of the winter testing programme, we fully expect Mark to make the starting grid in Melbourne next March," the team said. "Everyone at Red Bull Racing would like to add their best wishes to Mark and hope for his speedy recovery."


Again with the Qualifying format?

The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) will be discussing qualifying at its December 4 meeting.

"The new idea to be looked at consists of all cars jumping onto the track at the same time and with the same amount of fuel, with the slowest driver being eliminated after each lap.After 14 laps, the six fastest drivers would then fight for pole position, fitting new tyres but still using the same amount of fuel," Autosport reports.

There is also talk of awarding a point for pole position, as well as prize money.

If a new format is agreed upon, the next step will be submission for FIA approval.

Fisi not worried about '09 seat

Force India's Giancarlo Fisichella has joined teammate Adrian Sutil, saying he is confident of his place for 2009, despite speculation the team's new deal with McLaren may alter the driver lineup.

"I am not anxious," Update F1 reports Fisichella told La Gazzetta dello Sport. "I do not think that there will be problems for me. I have a signed contract and Vijay Mallya announced that the drivers for 2009 will be Adrian Sutil and myself."

It's official: Slavica files for divorce

A spokeswoman for Slavica Ecclestone confirmed the wife of the F1 ringmaster has filed for divorce.

The announcement kicks off a feeding frenzy of speculation of just how much of Bernie Ecclestone's estimated £2bn. fortune may be at stake.

Rossi test concludes

Deteriorating weather brought a premature end to Valentino Rossi's Ferrari test at Mugello.

"The test went quite well," Rossi said. "Unfortunately I could just go out for a couple of laps on a dry track in the morning, but we also tried it on the wet track… The car is fantastic and all in all it was a good test. I want to thank the guys from the Team and obviously Luca di Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali, who were really committed over the last two days. I felt like a real Formula One driver!"
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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rossi still looks good in red

Valentino Rossi (ITA V. Rossi, Test, Mugello 2008


Valentino Rossi once again proved to be quick behind the wheel of a Ferrari in a special session at the famed Mugello circuit, a gift from the team for winning his eighth motorcycling title.

His time of 1:22.5 was just about a half second slower than Ferrari regulars Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen, and a time set by test driver Luca Badoer on the same day.

He was four seconds off the lap record, set by Rubens "Captain Slow" Barrichello (apologies to James May) in 2004.

The bike champion's future looks increasingly like it will be on four wheels. The Italian finished second at the invitational Rally of Monza last week (Le Mans ace Rinaldo Capello won the event), and he has said he is considering Rallying when he is finished on bikes.

Rossi was looking serious for a move to Formula 1 after tests with Ferrari in 2005 and 2006, and reckons had he made the move, he would have been successful.

"The times we did in Fiorano, here and in Valencia have been analysed and with some good hard work and lots of effort I could become a good Formula One driver," Rossi told news services. "It's difficult to say whether or not I would win, but the potential is definitely there."

Rossi will continue running on Friday. 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, November 19, 2008

Day 3: It's Vettel again

Formula One Testing In Barcelona


Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel once again ruled the roost on the final day of testing in Barcelona.

The German set a time of 1:19.295, besting Sebs Bourdais and Buemi, who were second and third for Toro Rosso.

Summing up the other open seats, Honda hopeful Bruno Senna was once again behind the wheel, while at the bottom of the charts, Giancarlo Fisichella led Pedro de la Rosa in the Force Indias.

Unofficial times:

  1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:19.295
  2. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:19.839
  3. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:20.154
  4. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:21.140
  5. Jenson Button, Honda, 1:21.387
  6. Christian Klien, BMW Sauber, 1:21.534
  7. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:21.592
  8. Bruno Senna, Honda, 1:21.676
  9. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 1:22.148
  10. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:22.410
  11. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:22.866
  12. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India, 1:23.086
  13. Pedro de la Rosa, Force India, 1:23.103

Taking the fun out of F1?

Rumor is the Red Bulletin is to close down…

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Vettel fastest on day two

Day two of action from Barcelona saw Sebastian Vettel vault to the top of the sheets for Red Bull, his 1:19.751 bumping his old team, Toro Rosso.

Takuma Sato again led the trio of STR representatives in second, with incumbent Sebastien Bourdais just off his pace in his attempt to keep his seat for 2009 in third, and young Sebastien Buemi in fourth.

Among the mix of veterans, test driver, and hopeful young talent was Pedro de la Rosa, in 16th for Force India. Just a byproduct of the new agreement with McLaren? Adrian Sutil's management insists the German is safe, while teammate Giancarlo Fisichella's camp has remained intriguingly silent.

Oh, and count BMW test driver Christian Klien among those who don't like what the new regulations have dome to the design of the car, at least in this hybrid version…

"To me, for the moment, it's the worst Formula One car I have ever seen. It just doesn't fit together," he told Autosport. "But we will get used to it. There will be a lot of modifications until the first race in March."


Unofficial times:
  1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull, 1:19.751
  2. Takuma Sato, Toro Rosso, 1:20.017
  3. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso, 1:20.034
  4. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:20.223
  5. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:21.340
  6. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:21.521
  7. Nico Rosberg, Williams, 1:21.525
  8. Jenson Button, Honda, 1:21.770
  9. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:22.073
  10. Lucas di Grassi, Honda, 1:22.283
  11. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 1:22.348
  12. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:22.425
  13. Marc Gene, Ferrari, 1:22.772
  14. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber, 1:22.945
  15. Giedo van der Garde, Renault, 1:23.250
  16. Pedro de la Rosa, Force India, 1:23.499
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Monday, November 17, 2008

Goodbye 2008, hello 2009!

Formula 1 kicked off the winter season Monday with the first day of a three-day session in Barcelona.

Little can be made of times at this point, but Takuma Sato topped the charts in his extended audition with STR. He was followed by another Toro Rosso, in the hands of Sebastian Buemi, in what may likely be the 2009 lineup for the Faenza-based squad.

Seventeen runners participated in the test, which was held in cool, dry conditions at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Other drivers looking for possible 2009 rides were Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi for Honda, who finished 15th and 17th respectively.

“The first day of my first Formula One test has been just as big a moment as I
expected it to be,” Senna said.

Meanwhile, Rally ace Sebastian got a taste of the RB4, finishing eighth.

“I don’t think I’d like to take this much horsepower into the forests!” ITV reports Loeb joked.

Testing takes on an added urgency this year, as teams attempt to adjust to the radical new 2009 aero specs in what many see as an opportunity to level the grid.

Check out photos, including a couple of early 2009 wing designs (and slicks!), at the BBC Web site.

Unofficial times:
  1. Takuma Sato, Toro Rosso, 1:20.763
  2. Sebastian Buemi, Toro Rosso, 1:21.071
  3. Alexander Wurz, Honda, 1:21.198
  4. Pedro de la Rosa, McLaren, 1:21.417
  5. Gary Paffett, McLaren, 1:21.956
  6. Luca Badoer, Ferrari, 1:23.264
  7. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber, 1:22.341
  8. Sebastian Loeb, Red Bull, 1:22.503
  9. Nelson Piquet, Renault, 1:22.560
  10. Christian Klien, BMW Sauber, 1:22.883
  11. Nico Hulkenberg, Williams, 1:23.467
  12. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India, 1:23.794
  13. Adrian Sutil, Force India, 1:23.832
  14. Marc Gene, Ferrari, 1:24.177
  15. Bruno Senna, Honda, 1:24.343
  16. Giedo van der Garde, Renault, 1:24.908
  17. Lucas di Grassi, Honda, 1:25.512
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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Canada throws in the towel

Montreal has given up its attempt to reinstate the Canadian Grand Prix on the 2009 schedule.

The two sides were unable to reach a financial arrangement to save the race, ITV reporting Bernie Ecclestone was asking for a guarantee of CND$175m over five years.

The government was only willing to go $110m.

“Despite our endeavours and those of the business community, the unreasonable demands of Formula 1 exceeded the taxpayer's ability to pay,” Montreal's mayor Gerald Tremblay said in a statement.

Quebec economic development minister Raymond Bachand made it clear where he places the blame for the loss of the race.

“We cannot meet Mr Ecclestone's unworkable demands. Unless he eases his requirements and adopts a different approach, there will be no Grand Prix in Montreal in 2009,” he said.

But if Mr. Bachand or anyone else is waiting for Ecclestone to give up the reins, it looks to be a long wait, with the Formula 1 ringmaster telling the Gulf News last week he has no plans to retire.

“Never, never, never,” he said, “The first day I won't be going into work is the day they will be lowering me into my grave. And that won't be for a long time to come. I feel as fit as a fiddle.”
Plus...

Lewis Hamilton may be Britain’s champion, but he’s not necessarily the champion of the British people, as Edward Gorman’s TimesOnline blog reveals.

Seems the people have spoken and Fernando is the best driver of the season, prompting Formula 1 Blog.com to ask, can Britain learn to love Hamilton? 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, November 15, 2008

Musical chairs, anyone?

Seven time world champion Michael Schumacher has a ride if he wants one – on two wheels.

That's the word from Honda European racing chief Carlo Fiorani.


“Michael is convinced that the German championship would suit him best at the moment,” Fiorani told Gazzetta dello Sport. “We would give him all possible support. For now he has not asked us to race in the 2009 world championship. But if he wants to, there would be a bike for him. All he has to do is ask.”
Schumacher, who competed in several low-level races last season, maintains bikes are just a hobby.


“There was nothing more for me to learn about cars. Here, it is a continual discovery and I’m really excited by this,” he said.

In fact, it seems Schumacher is content in his retirement, revealing he turned down replacing Jean Todt at Ferrari, a job that eventually went to Stefano Domenicali.


“I had a possibility to do what Jean Todt was doing, to become director of Ferrari for the racing part, Fox quotes him as saying. “And when I saw how much passion and dedication that he put into his job - similar to what I did in my job - but he simply was just sitting in Maranello, day by day, even on weekends, late into night - I said: 'Do I need this? Simply not. Simply not.'”
Meanwhile, bike champion Valentino Rossi will again be at the wheel of a Ferrari next week.


“I can’t wait. I asked for it as a reward for the title, but I’m very curious to see how the car has changed since I last drove it,” he told Gazzetta dello Sport.

Rossi, of course, had been linked with the Scuderia in 2006, but now it looks as if rallying might be his next career.


“I like rallies a lot and so, given that I can, in winter I take the opportunity to gain experience by taking part in at least two races: this one at Monza and, if possible, one that’s valid for the World Championship,” he explained.

How serious is he?


“I think it is possible when I finish with bikes,” he is quoted by the Guardian. “I have another two years -- after that we will see.”

And from rallying we move back to… Formula 1, as rally champ Sebastien Loeb got used to Red Bull's RB4 ahead of his Barcelona test next week.

Rainy conditions at Silverstone kept Loeb from doing too much behind the wheel.


“It was a great experience for me, but without traction control in low temperature and in these conditions it was difficult so I had to react very quickly when the car went sideways,” ITV reports he said. “But I was happy with the feeling I had with the car.”
One driver who won't be swapping seats, however, is ex-Williams and McLaren driver Juan Pablo Montoya.

Toro Rosso revealed this week it pursued the NASCAR driver for 2009, but JPM turned the team down.


“Unfortunately he no longer wants to be in Formula 1,” team principal Franz Tost is quoted by German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

Montoya's Chip Ganassi Racing team announced this week it was merging with Dale Earnhardt, Inc. to form Earnhardt Ganassi Racing. The Colombian's future appeared safe, however, in the planned four team operation.
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Friday, November 14, 2008

More money concerns for Bernie?

As the world financial crisis continues to take its toll, China appears to be the latest event questioning its future in Formula 1.

Organizers are quoted by news agency AFP as considering whether to commit to the sport beyond the conclusion of the event's current contract in 2010.


"We're doing the assessment,” director of the city’s Administration of Sports, Qiu Weichang, said. “By next year we should be able to give you an answer.”

China has already dropped its MotoGP event.

Poor attendance and escalating costs have taken the shine off of an event which was heralded just a few years ago. Organizers also seem to be cool on Bernie Ecclestone's push for night racing.


“In Singapore... holding the event at night is a good way to attract tourists to a small country,” he said. “I think Singapore is hosting this event in their own unique way but we have our own situation.”

France, citing finances, has already cancelled its date.

Meanwhile, organizers in Montreal continue to try to get back on the schedule after being unceremoniously dropped last month.

But Montreal mayor Gerald Tremblay said the city needs an answer “very soon.”


“We need to know if we're going to have a Grand Prix in 2009,” he told the Montreal Gazzette. “We're trying to find a proposal that will meet with the approval of Bernie Ecclestone and his board of directors. He's not interested in where the money's going to come from, he just wants to get the money to which he thinks he's entitled.”

All this comes as wild and crazy rumors sweep the gossip front, with British newspaper the Daily Mail reporting Ecclestone may be facing a divorce from wife Slavica.

A newspaper columnist reports Slavica has moved out and consulted a divorce lawyer, but Ecclestone has dismissed rumors of a split, blaming noise from renovations at a neighboring property as the reason his wife moved to an apartment.

While this sort of sordid news is something typically to be avoided, it may bear watching as it is believed a vast portion of Ecclestone's money is held in offshore trusts in Slavica's name.
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Monday, November 10, 2008

Is Force India now a B team?

Force India announced its expected deal with McLaren-Mercedes for gearboxes, hydraulic systems and engines.

The five year agreement, which includes technical support from McLaren, and the team’s kinetic engine recovery system (KERS), fall short of a full customer car arrangement.

“These new resources and developments will provide an enormous boost to our technical armoury and, as a result, we have high hopes of making good progress in 2009 and beyond,” Sky reports team owner Vijay Mallya said.

The team used Ferrari power in its debut season, but Mallya made the decision to break that deal, a move that was accompanied by a split with team principal Colin Kolles and technical head Mike Gascoyne.

Of course, this begs the question, is Force India now a B-team? No, says McLaren-Mercedes CEO Martin Whitmarsh.

“This isn't a takeover by McLaren,” he told Reuters.

Yet comments reported by F1-Live paint a picture of what this partnership may entail.

“There's nothing off-bounds in this partnership,” Whitmarsh said. “We will make proposals and recommendations that we think are enhancing the prospect of good performance from this team. I suspect he (Mallya) has some staggering business commitments outside of Formula One and he would expect us, as specialists and professionals in this field, to be making all of the recommendations that are necessary to ensure that we go forward.”

As part of the deal, McLaren's former operations director, Simon Roberts, will be Force India's chief operations officer.

And while Mallya has gone on record saying he wants to retain Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella for 2009, he does not rule out McLaren having input on his drivers.

“They (McLaren) will recommend what they believe to be in the best interests of my team and I have to decide. And I would be hard pressed to ignore their advice,” he told Reuters.
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Friday, November 7, 2008

Big changes at Force India

Colin Kolles and Mike Gascoyne are out at Force India, and the team has also parted ways with Ferrari as it reshuffles in the wake of its first full season in F1.




“I would like to thank Colin Kolles for his tireless efforts in keeping such a small team alive and to Mike Gascoyne for bringing his wealth of technical expertise. Both have played an instrumental part in making the team what it is today,” Owner Vijay Mallya said in a team statement.
A new engine deal, expected to be announced next week, is at the root of the managerial changes. Mallya allegedly made the decision to go with engines and gearboxes from McLaren-Mercedes earlier this year without consulting upper management, Adam Cooper reports on SpeedTV.com.

Mallya assumes the team principal position, with key roles in a streamlined operation to be announced Monday.

“Force India is my most difficult project to date and it has become clear that it requires more direct input from my side and greater performance accountability. We have come a long way this season, but we need more and that requires some radical reorganization of the management structure to ensure the maximum productivity.”

The team terminated it Ferrari contract a year early, and it is not known if the Scuderia will receive a compensation package. 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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STR, Honda to test drivers

With the season at a close, it's already time to turn to testing, with teams not only making plans for their '09 challengers, but also evaluating talent.

Bike star Valentino Rossi will make another appearance in a Ferrari, while five-times World Rally Champion Sébastien Loeb will test a Red Bull later this month. While neither is a true test for an F1 seat, Honda and Toro Rosso are still looking to solidify their driver lineups, and both teams will be looking at drivers in upcoming tests.

Honda has announced it's driver-to-be-named joining Bruno Senna is Renault third driver Lucas Di Grassi, who will test in Barcelona later this month.


“We are delighted to provide Lucas with a test with the Honda Racing F1 Team later this month... We look forward to seeing Lucas in action and will take a keen interest in how he performs,” said team principal Ross Brawn.
Di Grassi, a veteran of GP2 and a Renault driver since 2004, was thought to be a possibility to replace Nelson Piquet before he was retained for 2009.


“I am very excited to have the opportunity of testing with the Honda Racing F1 Team in Barcelona and look forward to proving myself to the team,” Di Grassi said.
Both Honda's drivers are out of contract. It is though Jenson Button will be back, but Rubens Barrichello's seat may be vulnerable.

Meanwhile, Toro Rosso has recalled veteran Takuma Sato for another test later this month, autosport.com's Jonathan Noble reports.

With Red Bull product Sebastien Buemi looking to be a lock to make the team, STR has said it is looking for a veteran for the second seat.

Sato would not only bring that experience, but his marketability in Japan, a market Red Bull covets, helps his cause.

Incumbent Sebastien Bourdais will be hoping he has done enough to retain his seat, however, and Barrichello, by far the most experienced driver in F1, has also entered the mix.

Finally, Red Bull takes note of the outpouring of good wishes for David Coulthard as he moves on to the next phase of his life.
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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

FIA revises schedule, tweaks rules

The FIA released a number of decisions from its Nov. 5 meeting, changing some of the rules concerning stewarding and extending engine-life requirements to three races. The body also altered the 2009 schedule, shuffling some races. France was officially dropped. No change for Canada...

Read the full release here.
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Renault confirms Alonso, Piquet for 2009

The ING Renault F1 Team confirmed it will retain both Fernando Alonso and Nelson Piquet for the 2009 season, with the Spaniard signing a two-year contract extension keeping him at Enstone through 2010.


“We are happy to confirm both Fernando and Nelson for next season,” said Flavio Briatore. “This gives the ING Renault F1 Team one of the most exciting driver pairings with the perfect blend of youth and experience.”

For much of the season, Alonso's future with the squad was in doubt. As the team struggled, rumors swirled that the double world champion, who had returned to the team following a turbulent season at McLaren, was set to move.

Nearly everyone in the paddock had been mentioned in connection with Alonso at some point. As Renault's performance improved, however, and Alonso recorded back-to-back wins in Singapore and Japan, staying at the team seemed more likely.

In fact it is rumored his contract bound him to the team once it claimed fourth in the championship.

Now, by signing an extension, it would seem Alonso has definatively put those rumors to bed.


“Fernando’s commitment for the next two seasons confirms the faith he has in the team and we are delighted to continue working with him,” Briatore said. “He has been a big asset throughout this difficult season andhis leadership and talent, matched with the team’s hard work and determination, have paid off with our recent performances, which have placed the ING Renault F1 Team back among the top competitors of Formula 1.”

Alonso said Renault was always his first choice.


“It’s a very close-knit team with a competitive and winning mentality, and also a relaxed and warm attitude, whichsuits me perfectly,” he explained. “In the past we have won championships together, as well as going through tough moments, but we are now determined to show that we can repeat that success together in the coming seasons.”

Piquet struggled tremendously this year, and many thought he could be replaced by one of Renault's young testing talents, Lucas Di Grassi or Romain Grosjean, but for the moment it appears his job is safe.


“Obviously I am delighted to have the opportunity to race for the ING Renault F1 Team for a second year,” he said. “Although I have had a tough year, I have learned a lot from my rookie season and I will aim to put that experience to good use next season. I want to thank the team for their support this year and for the trust they have shown in me for the future.”

Honda was thought to be making a run at Alonso, but just because the Spaniard is out of the running, it does not mean incumbants Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are out of the woods. Honda is testing Bruno Senna later this month, as well as another, yet-to-be named driver.

With Honda chief Nick Fry backing Button in an interview with the BBC, it would seem Rubens would be the odd man out if someone is to be replaced.

Toro Rosso has also yet to confirm its lineup, with Sebastian Vettel moving to parent team Red Bull and the future of Sebastien Bourdais in doubt.
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Hamilton the next Tiger? Everyone has an opinon on the new champ

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone believes newly-crowned champion Lewis Hamilton deserves more praise from his detractors after his narrow victory in the world drivers championship Sunday.


“Hamilton is a young man doing his best and I get upset with people who say he is an arrogant bastard and all this nonsense,” Ecclestone told The Times newspaper. “Lewis has achieved an awful lot and it would be bloody difficult for any of us to be the same as him. And yet there are so many people out there that want him to lose, so he has to make sure he delivers.”


Ecclestone has been critical of past champions for not doing enough for the sport, but in Lewis Hamilton, the F1 ringmaster sees possibilities to grow the sport.


“Things will open up commercially, but probably more for himself, although through that a lot of people who might not watch grand prix racing on television will switch on to see him. There could be a Tiger Woods effect,” he told the Daily Express.


Groomed by Ron Dennis from a young age, McLaren seems set to reap the benefits of the young driver's success for years to come.


“I want to see my career through with this team,” ITV reports Hamilton said. “So that's my plan.”


Eddie Irvine thinks that would be a mistake, and Hamilton should be looking to move to Ferrari.

“Okay, so he may win a couple more with McLaren and he's loyal to Ron Dennis but he's got to move to Ferrari at some point,” Irvine said in his column for Virgin Media. “Having been there, I've seen what it's like and it's a different situation to being with any other team. He'll go there as a superstar already and ultimately I feel that's where he's got to go.”


Whatever the future holds for Hamilton, rest assured, he is Irv the Swerve's type of champion.


“What Lewis has achieved in only his second season is great for Formula 1 and he is, to me, the first normal F1 champion in a long time,” he opined. “You look at Schumacher and Alonso who were super boring out of the car. Lewis can talk, he looks good, he has a pop star girlfriend so he has a real appeal to the masses and that's great for Formula 1.”


That same “super boring” Schumacher had kind words for the new champion on his official Web site.


“What a finale. I am still overwhelmed from the race yesterday,” Schumacher enthused. “I have never seen anything like this, not as a racer and not as a spectator - you can probably only say it was fate. I congratulate Lewis Hamilton and I am sending very warm greetings to Felipe and all our guys in Brasil.”


But he also praised Felipe Massa, whom he helped mold, and warned Hamilton against complacency.


“Felipe can leave that race with his head up, as with this performance he surely has convinced all the people who still had doubts about his driving skills,” he said. “He will for sure attack again next year.”


Massa, for his part, says Hamilton deserved the title, and wants to sit down with the new champion and his father.

“I want to meet Hamilton and his father to tell them they deserved the title,” autosport.com reports Massa told Italian newspaper Gazetta dello Sport. “I re-watched the race on TV: for Lewis that last lap was a drama, he was locking the wheels everywhere as he was trying to recover. Glock didn't let himself be overtaken on purpose.”


Meanwhile, Luca di Montezemolo has again shot down the latest round of reports Fernando Alonso is going to make a surprise jump to Ferrari for 2009.


“I do not want to show a lack of respect to Alonso or anyone else,” SpeedTV reports he told La Repubblica newspaper, “But we already have two drivers. We are staying with what we have already confirmed for next year. Everything else is fictional and I hope these stories stop. We have also confirmed our two testers, Badoer and Gene. A team that wins does not change. And we did win.”


The Ferrari chief sees a return to the Raikkonen of old in the cards.



“I expect him now to return to the extraordinary performance of last year and the start of this season,” he reportedly told Italian newspaper, La Stampa. “Raikkonen (departing) has never been discussed: his points have been valuable for the constructors' title. The Ferrari couple is the strongest in the championship: we are not changing.”
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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Massa wins Brazil, Hamilton takes championship in thriller

Ferrari nails down constructors' title

It came down to the very last corner, but Lewis Hamilton got the fifth place he needed to become the youngest champion in Formula One history Sunday at an eventful race in Brazil.

“I didn’t know, I was shouting – ‘do I have it? do I have it?’ As I came into turn 1 they told me – I was ecstatic, just ecstatic,” Hamilton said.

Felipe Massa won the race in front of his home support, and for one brief, shining moment thought he might have captured the championship as well.

But Hamilton, who dropped to sixth after coming in for wet tires as a rain shower hit in the race’s final laps, overhauled Timo Glock, who had gambled on sticking with dries.

“We did everything to perfection and we almost managed to pull it off,” said Massa. “Then, as I crossed the line, (race engineer) Rob (Smedley) told me that Hamilton had finished fifth and therefore he took the title by one point. Sport is like this and one has to accept that. Congratulations to Lewis: whoever gets the most points deserves the title.”

Fernando Alonso was second for Renault, another top-notch performance for the resurgent two-times world champion and the French manufacturer, and Kimi Raikkonen third for Ferrari.

Toro Rosso’s Sebastian Vettel was once again the focus of attention as he passed Hamilton in the rain and fought to keep the McLaren man behind him. Until Glock faded, it seemed the young German would keep Hamilton’s Brazil curse alive. Vettel finished fourth.

“I wasn’t sure where I was after the final pit stop for rain tyres, I was definitely not aware that I might be influencing the world championship,” Vettel said. “It was hard to know who was a backmarker or not and as it got darker and darker it was even difficult to know who the cars in front of you were.”

But this year, there would be no final race failure to put the championship in the bag, and the one point margin would be in Hamilton’s favor.

After a rain shower delayed the start of the race and threw pre-race strategies out the window, Massa dominated the race from pole. But for much of the day, it looked as if Hamilton would finish within the fifth or better margin he need to win the title.

Then the rain returned, forcing a tire change from both Massa and Hamilton. The Ferrari had enough of a gap to re-emerge in the lead, but Hamilton found himself teetering on the brink in fifth as Toyota surprised the field by staying on the dry rubber.

Hamilton lost the position on the final lap to Vettel, and there was nothing he could do about it.

“I was trying my hardest to get to Vettel but he was just as quick as me – if not quicker,” Hamilton said.

As Massa crossed the line and took the checkered, it suddenly looked as if his slim hopes at the championship were about to come good.

But it was heartbreak instead for Massa as Glock could not maintain pace in the rain-soaked conditions.

“I was on dry tyres at the end of the race when it was raining quite badly and it was just impossible on the last lap,” Glock explained. “I was fighting as hard as I could but it was so difficult to just keep the car on the track and I lost positions right at the end of the lap.”

There was some small consolation for the team, however, as Ferrari’s first and third secured the constructors' title. Massa had nothing but praise for the effort of his team.

“I am very proud of the whole team and how much support they have given me during this fantastic season,” Massa said. “Now we must be happy with what have done, namely bringing home the constructors' title which I know is so important for the team. It was a season of highs and lows and we have learned a lot, from the good moments and from our mistakes.”

Nor was the support of his fans lost on the Brazilian.

“I can leave Interlagos with my head held high because once again I have won in front of my home crowd and because this is an unforgettable day,” he said.

It was a difficult day for fellow Brazilians Nelson Piquet and Rubens Barrichello, Piquet retiring on the first lap and Barrichello finishing in 15th. Both driver’s futures are in doubt.

“It's really frustrating not to complete my home Grand Prix because a lot of things happened in the race and we could probably have taken advantage of them,” commented Piquet.

David Coulthard's final race ended with disappointment as he was punted in the first corner by Nico Rosberg’s Williams.

“I’m pretty gutted, it’s not how I wanted to end my career,” Coulthard said. “I was going to do some donuts for the crowd, which is something you normally get fined for, but it didn’t work out. I can’t complain though, I’ve had a good career, so thank you to everyone who has supported me.”

For a long time, Coulthard was Britain’s best hope for a champion. Today the country, home to so much of what is Formula 1, has a new champion, and it was his day.

“I am speechless, I am struggling to say anything,” he gushed. “I’m just thankful and proud of the team and everyone around me. I am so thankful I could return the favour. It is the dream, this is the dream. This is the dream for other kids and other families. Thank you.”
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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Massa on pole, Hamilton fourth in Brazil

Felipe Massa put himself in the best position possible to capitalize on his slim chances at the championship, taking pole for his home race in Brazil.

The best points leader Lewis Hamilton could do was fourth.

“It will be a tough afternoon but I'm comfortable with the fuel strategy we chose; the guys in front are probably on a different strategy,” said. Hamilton. “But we're in a good position to finish in the same place as we are today - and that's got to be our aim. We don't need to do anything spectacular.”

Massa set a time of 1:12.368, besting Hamilton’s time by close to half a second.

“We have 71 laps tomorrow which is pretty long but it is always better to start at the front.” Massa said. “I think we have a good car and we proved Friday and this morning that our car is very competitive around here and we showed it also in qualifying, especially in Q3, so it is always a good start to be in front.”

Jarno Trulli’s Toyota in second, and Massa’s Ferrari teammate Kimi Raikkonen in third, sit between Hamilton and his rival.

Trulli’s performance was the surprise of the weekend so far, giving Toyota it’s best qualifying in years.

“Even before coming here I knew that this was one of those tracks, technical and difficult, where I could be very strong and my car could be very competitive, so I have been preparing for this grand prix and have been waiting for it and now here I am,” said Trulli. “I am really, really happy for the Toyota team and for everybody, as it just shows the progress the team has made during this season.”

For Massa to have a chance at the title, he must finish first or second, but all Hamilton needs to do is finish fifth to sew it up.

Massa made an early statement, easily topping the first session. Hamilton topped Q2, but couldn’t best Massa when it counted in Q3.

“Congratulations to Felipe for achieving pole position in front of his home crowd - he did a great job today,” said Hamilton.

Heikki Kovalainen is fifth in the second McLaren. The Woking outfit will have some work cut out for it if the team is to overhaul Ferrari in the constructor’s race.

Massa supporter Fernando Alonso is in sixth, so Hamilton will want to get off to a good start.

Sebastian Vettel picked up seventh in his last race for Toro Rosso. The man he will replace, the retiring David Coulthard, starts 14th for Red Bull.

Home favorite Rubens Barrichello, his future uncertain, is 15th in the Honda.

But all eyes will be on a new favorite son, as Felipe Massa tries to snatch the championship from the clutches of Hamilton and join the ranks of Brazil’s F1 elite.

“It is so nice to be here and making the third pole position in a row in Brazil in front of these fantastic people which have 100 per cent emotion about motor racing and that’s great for us,” Massa gushed. “To come here and see that we have so many people who love what we are doing. I think it is difficult to describe in a single word our feeling especially my feeling being Brazilian in front of my people but also racing for a fantastic team which is very emotional as well and which is working very hard. I have a fantastic family and fantastic friends around me and I think that is really a dream come true.”

A season full of questions will be answered in just a few short hours. The lights go out on the final race of the 2008 campaign at 15:00 local time.

The Grid:
  1. Felipe Massa, Ferrari
  2. Jarno Trulli, Toyota
  3. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
  4. Lewis Hamilton, McLaren
  5. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren
  6. Fernando Alonso, Renault
  7. Sebastian Vettel, Toro Rosso
  8. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
  9. Sebastien Bourdais, Toro Rosso
  10. Timo Glock, Toyota
  11. Nelson Piquet, Renault
  12. Mark Webber, Red Bull
  13. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
  14. David Coulthard, Red Bull
  15. Rubens Barrichello, Honda
  16. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams
  17. Jenson Button, Honda
  18. Nico Rosberg, Williams
  19. Giancarlo Fisichella, Force India
  20. Adrian Sutil, Force India
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