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Monday, November 30, 2009

FIA releases entry list

F1 Mar 2009


The FIA posted its official entry list: Of note, Manor is listed as Virgin Racing, no Jaime Alguersuari and, as of yet, no Sauber. 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 27, 2009

BMW nixes Qadbank, sells team to Sauber

BMW canceled its deal with Qadbank Investments and has reached an agreement to sell the F1 team back to founder Peter Sauber.

Though yet to be confirmed as the 13th entry on the grid for 2010, it appears likely it will be on the list when the FIA publishes its official entries at the end of the month.

MOTORSPORT/FORMEL 1: PRAESENTATION Heinz-Harald FRENTZEN bei SAUBER PETRONAS 2002


Sauber called it one of the worst days of his racing life when he could not reach a deal over the summer before the signing of the Concorde Agreement.

Interestingly, it was announced the Football League has reopened an investigation into Notts County football club, which is also owned by Qadbank Investments. There were rumbles in F1 circles concerning Qadbank Investments, but there is nothing to say that prompted BMW to reconsider.

"I am convinced that the new team has a very good future in F1, whose current transformation with new framework conditions will benefit the private teams," the BBC reports Sauber said. "It also means we can keep the Hinwil location and the majority of workplaces."

Canadian Grand Prix confirmed

It's official. The Canadian Grand Prix is back.

It is reported the five-year, $75-million deal revealed today includes $15 million in government money.

F1's return to North America is set for June 13 at the Gilles-Villeneuve circuit.

Sutil, Liuzzi confirmed

Force India has finalized its 2010 driver lineup, retaining both Adrian Sutil and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

"We are very pleased to retain the services of both Adrian and Tonio for another season," team owner Vijay Mallya said. "We have always maintained that consistency is key at this stage in the team's development and for the first time in many years we will have the continuity of not only the same drivers, but also the same engine and senior management."

Both drivers expressed optimism for the team's potential in 2010.

Sutil: "Next season I want to be in the points on a regular basis, maybe even challenging for the podium, and the team has exactly the same goals. We are going massively in the right direction so with our combined energies I'm confident we can achieve even more than last season."

Liuzzi: "I feel the five races I did in 2009 were a bit of a warm-up: get back racing, learn the car, get the feeling back. Now I've done that I feel ready to really push next season. We were pretty strong in the last part of the 2009 season so if we pick up where we stopped I think we could be in for a good year."

The team will test DTM's Paul di Resta and American JR Hildebrand in the beginning of December at Jerez, and will name a third driver in the coming weeks.

In other driver news…

Pedro de la Rosa, who has been linked to both Campos Meta and US F1, says he is still working toward a race seat in 2010, but is keeping his options open.

"I don't know what will happen after that. I don't know what team I will drive for or in what capacity," he is quoted by the EFE news agency. "I can happily stay at McLaren as a reserve driver, and I could do that while racing for another team, or just race for another team. I don't know, that's the answer."


Meanwhile, sources report Alex Wurz has ruled himself out of the Charlotte-based US F1 squad. And former Honda test driver Mike Conway looks set to run Mercedes GP at Jerez along with Japanese Formula 3 champion Marcus Ericsson.

Keep up with the F1 2010 - driver line-ups

Source: FOTA accepts Lotus and Manor

The Formula One Teams' Association (FOTA) has approved Lotus and Manor for membership, according to sources who spoke to Racer and AUTOSPORT magazines.

Campos Meta and Team US F1 have already been accepted into the organization.

VW looking to supply engines?

Volkswagen is seriously considering F1 as an engine supplier when rules change in 2012.

"If you're the world's largest manufacturer is natural that we're thinking about [Formula 1], but not before 2012," rep Hans-Joachim Stuck told AUTOSPORT. "We're looking for innovative things, and Formula 1 is the pinnacle of motorsport."

AUTOSPORT reports the company sees the direction engine rules are heading, especially the "world engine" option, as more attractive than team ownership. Stuck explained:

"Two years ago there was some talk that Volkswagen is going to buy the Red Bull F1 team, which we didn't need to buy. Why should we stick with one team if we can give our engines to more teams? If you buy Red Bull and Adrian Newey wants to go flying or fishing, the team is not successful any more. Look at BMW. They bought this multi-million dollar wind tunnel and a supercomputer and they now close the doors. Building an engine and providing it to a team is the best way."
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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Pair of Californians to get taste of F1

US F1 may be ruling out running Americans in its debut season, but a pair of youngsters are getting tests for other teams in early December.

21-year-old Indy Lights champion JR Hildebrand tries his hand in a Force India, joining DTM’s Paul di Resta at Jerez.

“As an American we don't necessarily have the culture of F1 but anything that's so impressive and cutting-edge demands respect. I hope I can do the car and myself justice.”

Meanwhile, highly rated teenager Alexander Rossi joins Esteban Gutierrez for ex-BMW Sauber as a reward for performances last season, despite BMW’s decision to leave the sport.

Mario Theissen explains:

“Depriving these junior drivers of the test we had promised them was not an option for us, even after the withdrawal of BMW from Formula One. BMW remains committed to motorsport and is keen to continue making a contribution to well-structured talent development.”

Learn more about the Young Americans:

Briatore goes to court

Flavio Briatore’s appeal against his lifetime ban from F1 begins today.

Disgraced Flavio Briatore faces possible exclusion from football after his Formula One ban
The Italian will likely not be present. It will be argued the procedures used in the original decision violated the FIA sporting code, as well as the laws of France.

Briatore is also seeking damages and an official publication of the ruling.

In addition to his F1 interests, Briatore’s role with Queens Park Rangers could be in jeopardy. Rules state an owner or director my not be “subject to a ban from involvement in the administration of a sport by a sports governing body.” 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 23, 2009

It’s official: Rosberg to Mercedes

Nico Rosberg has officially been announced as one of the drivers for the new Mercedes team.

While that much had been assumed when Rosberg announced he was leaving Williams in October, speculation has started to swirl over who his teammate will be.

Preview to the German F1 Grand Prix


It is thought Mercedes, despite its claims during negotiations with Jenson Button, are searching for an all-German lineup. Nick Heidfeld would seem to have the inside track.

But over the last few days another German’s name has been kicked about: Michael Schumacher. Due in no small part by his manager, Willi Weber, claiming he had met with Mercedes recently.

Comments by Brawn chief exec Nick Fry and Mercedes motorsport honcho Norbert Haug and reported by the BBC do little to calm the speculation.

Fry: “We are here today to talk about Nico and I think we should stick to that subject.”

Haug: “I fully understand that these speculations are ongoing as long as we do not announce who is driving the other car, but that's what we have to live with at the moment."

But Ross Brawn has moved to cool some of those rumors, telling the German Bild newspaper Schumacher to Mercedes was nothing more than a dream by members of the media.

Ex-BMW Sauber waits

Despite Toyota pullout from the sport, the team rescued from the ashes of BMW Sauber is still waiting for word whether it has a place on the grid in 2010, according to BMW motorsport director Mario Theissen.

“The situation has not changed. The team still does not have a grid slot. We expect to get one, but it is not done yet. Obviously the delay makes it difficult for negotiations with drivers and sponsors."

Should the team get the slot, it has been suggested Theissen could leave BMW to stay with the team, but he obviously will not make that decision until he knows there is a job.

“I will decide on it when the new team is safe and everything is sorted.”

Does US F1 have a driver?

Jose Maria Lopez says he has a drive with US F1 for 2010 if he can find the money.

The Argentine ex-Renault F1 test driver has spent the last few years driving the TC2000 sedan series in Argentina and had a few runs in the FIA GT Championship in 2008. Prior to that he ran Formula 3000 and GP2 between 2004 and 2006.

Lopez says he met with Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson in Charlotte in a statement on his Web site.

Williams and Head sell part of F1 team

Frank Williams and Patrick Head have sold a minority stake in the F1 team to an investment company led by Austrian Toto Wolff.

Ex-racer Wolff runs investment companies involved in a wide range of motor sports, including DTM and Rally, and co-owns a company with Mika Hakkinen that manages young drivers. 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 18, 2009

Button to McLaren; Raikkonen on sabbatical

Jenson Button has signed on to team up with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren while Kimi Raikkonen has decided to take the year off.


Jenson Button Celebrates Virgin Media's SpeedWeek50


World champion Button's decision to leave Brawn was widely expected since the announcement Mercedes had purchased the constructor's champion and was looking to install an all-German lineup.

In Hamilton, Button faces a stiff challenge to repeat in the driver's championship, but in the end, the lure of McLaren was too much for the Englishman.

"I've followed the McLaren team ever since I was a small boy, and it feels unbelievable to finally be a part of it," the BBC quotes Button. "When I visited the McLaren Technology Centre earlier this month, it wasn't simply the technical resources and the incredible standards of excellence that impressed me. No, I was equally struck by the ambition, the motivation and the winning spirit that flow through everybody there. And then there's the team's epic history: put it this way, the trophy cabinets seem to stretch for miles."

Additionally, it was reported McLaren's offer was twice what Brawn/Mercedes were offering.

Nico Rosberg and Nick Heidfeld look likely for Mercedes' 2010 lineup.

Kimi Raikkonen had been in negotiations to join his old team, but talks broke down over salary, which prompted the Finn to announce he will take the year off.

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Race


"They couldn't afford him," manager David Robertson said, according to the BBC. "It wasn't in his interests to race for what they were offering so he's going to go rallying instead."

When asked how he will deal with the change, Robertson said the former world champion took it in stride.

"He's one of those guys who moves on quickly - he just said 'now we concentrate on rallying'.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Glock signs up with Manor

Newbies Manor Grand Prix have signed Toyota refuge Timo Glock to a two year deal, with an option for a third.

The BBC reports he will likely partner with Lucas di Grassi, while rumors still suggest Manor will run as Virgin F1 in its 2010 debut.

F1 Grand Prix of Belgium - Qualifying


“It might seem like a brave step,” Glock said on his Web site. “But there are many good reasons to join this team. For me as a driver, for example, it was important that I was assured I would be involved in the development of the team and the car. The car is being designed by Nick Wirth. That was another argument in the team’s favour as far as I was concerned. Nick Wirth has a lot of race car design experience and a very good reputation. You only need to look at the Acura ARX-02a to see what he and his team can do. That prototype was immediately successful in the American Le Mans Series despite not spending a single hour in a wind tunnel. It is a sensational car!”

Glock missed the last three races of the 2009 season due to injury, but has shown spurts of promise in his F1 career.

“It has always been my recommendation that we have at least one driver with experience of the 2009 cars to help our development programme,” Wirth is quoted by the BBC. “But to get a driver that has not only achieved podium finishes in 2009 but has such proven talent and the potential to take us forward for many years is very exciting... We just can't wait to get Timo into the new car once track testing begins next year.”

Button watch

Jenson Button looks a step closer to moving to McLaren, as talks between the Woking team and Kimi Raikkonen have broken down over salary demands, according to a report by AUTOSPORT.

Sources told the publication Button will likely commit to the team in the next few days. Don't miss the top stories of the day, subscribe to the SpeedRead Web newspaper now! -- Email SpeedRead -- Learn more about author C.D. Six

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Monday, November 16, 2009

It's official: Mercedes buys into Brawn

Putting to rest weeks of speculation, auto giant Mercedes has bought a major stake in Brawn GP.


BEL: Cars On Display At The International Show


The team will now be known as Mercedes Grand Prix and sport the Silver Arrows livery. Otherwise, officials say they won’t be wholesale changes at the team, Ross Brawn will remain at the helm.

What that means for the future of Jenson Button with the squad should be determined in the next few days. The team is still negotiating with the World Champion, but his asking price has yet to be met.

The team are thought to already have Nico Rosberg on the books, and rumors say Nick Heidfeld or Timo Glock are possibilities to join him.

Indeed, according to the BBC, Norbert Haug said the team was in talks with Heidfeld.

Mercedes was quick to shoot down rumors it is looking for a German-only lineup, however.

"We are talking (with Button) and that's why we cannot announce the driver line-up," Haug said. "We have to accept that speculation takes place, but that's the name of the game. This will be an international team - Mercedes-Benz is a global player. We definitely do not want to have a pure German team. It's an international team and we want to have the best drivers in the car."

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Race


Button has been considering his options. He met with McLaren Friday, touring the team’s Woking facility, and looks to have the inside track to pair up with Lewis Hamilton next season.

He isn’t the only candidate, with Kimi Raikkonen’s name being kicked around as well. But is is believed Button is the preferred choice, with McLaren ready to offer double what Brawn had put on the table for the Englishman, according to reports.

Button wants to have a car capable of bringing him a championship, but one has to wonder should McLaren have that car next year, why the advantage wouldn’t be for Hamilton?

The other big question? What of McLaren’s future plans?

McLaren will not be left high and dry. Mercedes renewed the team’s engine deal for at least six more years.

McLaren will repurchase Mercedes’ 40 percent share incrementally through 2011.

The team will remain Vodafone McLaren Mercedes, with the Germans providing a free engine supply and sponsorship.

Ron Dennis said the new agreement will bring the team independence, calling it a win-win for all involved.

Read more

By the numbers

Brawn and chief executive Nick Fry will retain a 24.9% share. The remaining 75.1% will be split between Mercedes, which will own 45.1% and Aabar Investments, which will own 30%.

---

In other news...

Lotus signs driver, won’t reveal who

Lotus F1 has confirmed it has signed a driver for next season, but has not said who.

Team principal Tony Fernandes made the announcement via Twitter.

“One Malaysia Formula One team aka Lotus has signed its first driver, Public announcement soon. The dream continues.”

Jarno Trulli has been rumored, unless he decides to go NASCAR. The team is also thought to be high on Japanese rookie Kamui Kobayashi.

It would be the second driver signed by one of the newbies, with Campos already having inked a deal with Bruno Senna.

Flav calls FIA hearing a “sham”

Flavio Briatore has accused the FIA of holding secret negotiations before his hearing in September which banned him from the sport.

“The FIA neglects to mention that, according to declarations by one of its own vice-presidents to the media, the world council's decision was rather the outcome of secret negotiations on the eve of the sham hearing.”

The Guardian reports the Italian is seeking €1m in damages.

His appeal will be heard November 24 in Paris.

The FIA, which deplored leaks around the case last week, refused further comment pending the appeal.

Bulgaria out, Czech Republic in?

While Bulgaria appears to have scrapped plans to host a grand prix, the Czech Republic has joined the list of nations looking to get on the calendar.

Plans call for a Prague street circuit. Hermann Tilke is already involved, which would seem to be a good sign. DTM in 2012 is the current target, with plans to lure F1.

"F1 is the ambition," local promoter Toni Charouz told AUTOSPORT. "If we put on a good show with the DTM, then maybe we can have a grand prix, but we've got nothing on paper yet."
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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Court rejects team selection claims

N.Technology's case against the FIA regarding team selection for the 2010 season has been rejected by a French court.

N.Technology was one of the teams passed over for one of the three new slots on the grid, and argued there were irregularities in the process. Often noted -- all the new entries chose to use Cosworth power.

Campos Meta, US F1 and Manor Grand Prix were selected, with Lotus also gaining entry after BMW Sauber missed the Concorde Agreement deadline (by that time, N.Technology withdrawn its application).

The official verdict will be made public later this week.

Buemi stays at STR

Sebastien Buemi will get a second season at Toro Rosso.

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Qualifying


A team spokesman confirmed to the BBC the Swiss driver has been signed for 2010 after Buemi himself revealed the deal Sunday.

"We have re-signed Buemi for next season, but we have not yet signed Jaime."


Buemi notched eight points for 16th in the championship.

"I had some contact with other teams because of my good results at the end of the season," Buemi told Swiss television. "Toyota could have been a possibility because they had not yet hired any drivers. That was not the only one, and anyway I was always talking with Red Bull. Finally I signed with Toro Rosso for 2010."


Alguersuari is expected to be retained, if quotes by team boss Franz Tost are to be believed.

"Dietrich Mateschitz bought this team to give young drivers a chance, and this is our philosophy," Tost is quoted by the BBC. "We have to stick to this philosophy, and I'm quite confident that from the middle of next year onwards we will have a good driver line-up, because then Alguersuari will know all the tracks, and Buemi is increasing his performance already. The last few races were quite good. Alguersuari is also improving his performance, and so far I'm quite optimistic about the future."


NASCAR and F1

Jarno Trulli has a test coming up with Michael Waltrip Racing.

The Italian says the test is just for fun, but the team is taking the test seriously. Steve Hallam, ex-McLaren and director of competition for the NASCAR squad, believes Trulli or Mika Salo could very easily be successful in the series, comparing them to Juan Pablo Montoya.

Montoya is currently running sixth in the Chase for the Cup, his best season since moving to the series.

Trulli will run November 16-17 at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida. 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 7, 2009

Force India, Lotus and Mike Gascoyne

Force India is keeping a watchful eye over the development of fledgling Lotus' 2010 car after seeing photographs of the team's wind tunnel model.


F1 Grand Prix of China - Qualifying


Two things the teams have in common? Former wind tunnel Aerolab and Mike Gascoyne.

The team believes Lotus has copied the front wing it used at the beginning of the season, and that the model was fitted with tires bearing handwriting belonging to employees of the Indian squad, AUTOSPORT reports.

Gascoyne defended the development process, subcontracted to Fondtech.

"Some of the staff had been working on different projects. And whereas you cannot copy anything or take anyone else's IP, you can use your expertise - and you will base that on what you know and what directions you know have been happening. That is what has happened."


Aerolab denied it has passed along information, and claims instead Force India is trying to draw attention away from the company's suit against Vijay Mallya's concern.

"These rumours are designed only to tarnish the company's reputation and professionalism and to divert attention away from the facts. The truth is that Aerolab is suing Force India for not fulfilling its obligations."


Renault: Go/no-go announcement by the end of the year

Renault's Carlos Ghosn told the F1 world it will have to wait for a decision on whether the French team will stay in the sport, Reuters reports.

"You will have to be patient."


Three courses of action seem to be on the table: Stay in as a manufacturer team, scale back to being an engine supplier, or pull out completely.

When Toyota pulled out at the beginning of the week, the FIA made noise about "clarifying" the team's obligations to the sport after signing the Concorde Agreement last summer. It may be Renault is waiting to see how that works out before announcing a decision.

Williams expects good things with Cosworth

Despite Cosworth's having been away from the sport since 2006, Williams technical director Sam Michael told AUTOSPORT he believes the team will have a competitive engine in 2010.

"Cosworth has got two big hurdles. Fuel consumption is critical with no refuelling, and their target for the winter is to improve that. The other is reliability. Everyone has accumulated three years of running on their engines while Cosworth has been out and gained thousands of kilometres of knowledge."


Alonso in Maranello

Fernando Alonso met with mechanics, Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo in his first visit to Ferrari HQ this week.

Alonso will be cleared to test with the team when the winter test ban expires. In the meantime, after checking in on the 2010 car's development in the wind tunnel and having a seat fitting, the Spaniard drove Fiorano in a 458 Italia sportscar. 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 4, 2009

Toyota leaves F1

Concerns over Toyota's commitment to Formula 1 were answered today as the company announced its immediate withdraw from the sport.

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Race


"TMC (Toyota Motor Corporation), which had viewed its participation in F1 as contributing to the prosperity of automotive culture, remained dedicated to competing at the pinnacle of motor sports even in the face of the abrupt economic changes that started last year," the team said in a statement. "However, when considering TMC's motorsports actitives next year and beyond from a comprehensive mid-term viewpoint reflecting the current severe economic realities, TMC decided to withdraw from F1"


While the company had been rumored to be on the bubble for some time, the decision still had an element of surprise about it. Much of that may be due to the team signing the Concorde Agreement, tying it to the sport through 2012.

This would seem to assure BMW Sauber's buyers of a place on the 2010 grid. Whether that will be a 26-car grid remains to be seen. AUTOSPORT reports Renault is discussing its F1 future today as well.

Kolles officially out at Force India

Colin Kolles has severed ties with Force India, AUTOSPORT reports.

The veteran of Midland and Spyker was replaced as team principal by owner Vijay Mallya last year, but had been serving in a director position.

The team thanked Kolles in a statement.

Silly season

While Toyota's exit changes things a bit, grandprix.com has an interesting analysis of Who goes where in 2010? 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 3, 2009

Williams confirms 2010 drivers

As promised, Williams named its 2010 lineup Monday, with Rubens Barrichello joining from Brawn GP and test driver Nico Hulkenberg making the step up from GP2, where he is the reigning champion.


Nico Hulkenberg , Test Driver Williams F1 Team during testing in Spain


F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Previews


The duo replace Nico Rosberg, likely to take Barrichello's slot at Brawn, and Kazumi Nakajima, destination unknown.

Rosberg made it known before the finale he was departing, Nakajima's departure seemed certain after Williams announced it was dropping Toyota power for Cosworth. Nakajima has a close relationship with Toyota.

"Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima remain our drivers until the end of 2009 and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their contribution to the team," Williams said on the team Web site. "Nico and Kazuki have represented AT&T Williams and our partners with dedication, discipline and skill and we wish them every success with their future endeavours."


Ross Brawn had kind words for Barrichello in a message on the Brawn GP Web site, who made a strong run for the championship this season and logged his 300th race as an F1 driver during his four-year stint with the team.

"We are very pleased for Rubens that he will be driving in Formula One once again next year… 2009 was a very special season for Brawn GP and I am extremely proud of the spirit in which our drivers Rubens and Jenson fought for the Drivers Championship… We wish Rubens the very best with his new team and thank him for his contribution to Brawn GP this year."


New rubber for 2011

Bridegstone announced Monday it is withdrawing from F1 when its current contract runs out at the end of 2010.

"Over the years, the company has benefited directly from its involvement in Formula One racing. The lessons learned through Bridgestone’s successful participation have translated into innovations that can be applied to the design and manufacture of high performance tyres," the company says in a statement on its Web site. "In addition, its collaboration with F1 has contributed to increased brand awareness and the recognition of Bridgestone as a leader in the global tyre industry. Having achieved these goals, Bridgestone is now poised to take its technological and brand building efforts to the next level."


The company has been involved in the sport since 1997.

Trulli wants GPDA guidelines for stewards

Jarno Trulli is calling for the Grand Prix Drivers' Association to set guidelines for stewards to follow when judging incidents.

This follows the Italian's continued criticism of Adrian Sutil following their first-lap clash at Interlagos.

Recent comments from Nico Rosberg questioning the lack of penalties regarding aggressive driving by other drivers in Brazil have added fuel to Trulli's fire.

"I think we have to generally talk about safety inside the GPDA, that was the feeling of lots of drivers," ITV-F1 quotes the veteran. "For me, the accident is over, and I don't have any problem with anyone. I think we really have to stick together and talk, and maybe give the FIA some guidelines in order to judge us better."


Trulli stressed his motivation wasn't the incident with Sutil, or their exchange of words in last week's press conference.

"At the moment it seems like people tend to concentrate only on my accident because of what has been said, but I didn't come here to fight. It was only after I'd cooled down, I just tried to reflect and see if what happened was wrong or right, and to understand the anatomy of the accident. I think if you're a mature driver, you can talk with someone else and be cool, and without using bad words, but clearly that was not the case."
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Vettel triumphant as sun sets on 2009 season

Sebastian Vettel won the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Sunday ahead of teammate Mark Webber, nailing down second place in the drivers championship in the final race of the 2009 season.

F1 Grand Prix of Abu Dhabi - Race


Getting by a dominating Lewis Hamilton in the first round of stops, Vettel cruised to victory as twilight turned to night at the Yas Marina Circuit.

Hamilton had led from the start, but after losing the lead to Vettel, he was forced to retire with a brake problem, an oddly fitting end to a disappointing season for the Briton.

That put Webber into second, and the Australian held off a charging Jenson Button in the closing laps of the race to secure second on the podium. The newly-crowned world champion was third.

Final races of the season are filled with farewells. Rubens Barrichello, likely in his last race for Brawn, finished fourth. Nick Heidfeld was fifth in the final race for this version of BMW Sauber, perhaps ever.

But it is also a time for drivers to stake claims to race seats, and that is what impressive rookie Kamui Kobayashi did by claiming his first points for Toyota, taking sixth ahead of veteran Jarno Trulli (who is likely on his way out).

Toro Rosso’s Sebastien Buemi took the final point.

Retirements were few, only Jaime Alguersuari joining Hamilton. A gearbox was blamed, but one had to wonder if mistakenly stopping at sister squad Red Bull’s pit box for refueling may have resulted in the young Spaniard running dry.

So, with the last race of the season in the books, McLaren takes third in the constructors championship, while Heidfeld’s points vaulted BMW Sauber ahead of Williams for sixth. In the drivers, behind Button and Vettel, Barrichello holds on to third and Mark Webber finished the season fourth.

Major changes are in store for next year. New teams on the expanded grid, BMW Sauber’s future uncertain, Alonso’s Ferrari debut, refueling out the window, and the abandonment of KERS just a few of the wild cards. It should make things plenty interesting in the months leading up to the 2010 season opener March 14th in Bahrain.

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix - 55 laps
  1. Sebastian Vettel, Red Bull-Renault
  2. Mark Webber, Red Bull-Renault
  3. Jenson Button, Brawn-Mercedes
  4. Rubens Barrichello, Brawn-Mercedes
  5. Nick Heidfeld, BMW Sauber
  6. Kamui Kobayashi, Toyota
  7. Jarno Trulli, Toyota
  8. Sebastien Buemi, Toro Rosso-Ferrari
  9. Nico Rosberg, Williams-Toyota
  10. Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber
  11. Heikki Kovalainen, McLaren-Mercedes
  12. Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari
  13. Kazuki Nakajima, Williams-Toyota
  14. Fernando Alonso, Renault
  15. Vitantonio Liuzzi, Force India-Mercedes
  16. Giancarlo Fisichella, Ferrari, 1 lap
  17. Adrian Sutil, Force India-Mercedes, 1 lap
  18. Romain Grosjean, Renault, 1 lap
  • Lewis Hamilton, McLaren-Mercedes, 20 laps, Brakes
  • Jaime Alguersuari, Toro Rosso-Ferrari, 18 laps, Gearbox

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