Saturday, April 30, 2011

2011 Estoril 125cc Qualifying Practice Results: Clear Pole In Tricky Conditions

Results of qualifying for the 125cc class:

Race Details

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Sakon Yamamoto Alex Yoong Alex Zanardi Emilio Zapico Ricardo Zonta Renzo Zorzi Ricardo Zunino

Seat will get its own Q3-based crossover

New Seat crossover/SUV, which was previewed by the IBX concept in Geneva, will be built at Seat plant in Spain alongside Audi Q3


David Gilliland Tony Raines Bobby Labonte Terry Labonte Kevin Conway Joe Nemechek Jason Leffler

TELECON: The Chrome Horn treatment


Hermann Lang Claudio Langes Nicola Larini Oscar Larrauri Gerard Larrousse Jud Larson Niki Lauda†

Nieminen Notches Another

Round Five of the World Championship Series Road Racing (iWCSRR) paid a visit to the twisty and dusty turns of the Infineon Raceway, where Jesse Nieminen jumped his way to the front of the pack to claim his third victory of the season. The My3id Team sim-racer started from the second row of the grid in fourth position, and by the time the first round of pit-stops arrived, Nieminen was up to third position, after capitalising on an error by Ilkka Haapala. This is when the Finn launched his Williams-Toyota FW31 into the lead, as a hair-raisingly fast entry to pit lane and subsequent high-speed service brought him out alongside erstwhile leader Luca Masier and ahead of Greger Huttu, who’d over-shot his pit box. ?Everyone pitted on the same [...]


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Vettel's rivals given hope in Malaysia

There was a point, shortly before half distance, when the Malaysian Grand Prix appeared to be turning into a microcosm of exactly what the 2011 Formula 1 season was expected to be.

The eventual winner Sebastian Vettel was leading in his Red Bull, from Lewis Hamilton's McLaren and Fernando Alonso's Ferrari. Hamilton was closing on Vettel, Alonso was closing on Hamilton and, not far behind them, Jenson Button in the second McLaren was keeping pace.

Four great drivers in the three top teams were all in contention, and it looked for all the world like a continuation of the fights that made last year into an all-time classic.

In the end, that fantastic battle for the lead ebbed away, but the race still went some way towards cooling fears that Red Bull are going to walk away with this championship.

In the end, Vettel may have driven to another relatively comfortable victory, but just like in Australia two weeks ago the Red Bull was not obviously that much faster than a McLaren or, this time, a Ferrari in the race.

And, surprisingly, Vettel had nowhere near the advantage in qualifying that he had in Melbourne. The battle for pole position was genuinely close between him and Hamilton - despite Sepang being exactly the sort of track that should emphasise the Red Bull's aerodynamic excellence, even if the car has a power handicap down Sepang's long straights.

The world champion was hampered during the race by a faltering Kers system. It seems it was not working when he was coming under pressure from his pursuers, and came back again a little later, when he pulled away again, before the team decided to stop using it altogether once the challenge from Hamilton had faded.

It may be that Red Bull have not yet had to show their full hand in a race - or that for reasons related to the new Pirelli tyres they are not able to.

Either way, the McLarens and Ferraris were much closer than many feared heading into this race. After Australia, you could have been forgiven for thinking 2011 was going to develop as a repeat of Michael Schumacher's dominant years in 2002 and 2004. After Malaysia, the prospects for an exciting season look considerably stronger.

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The race ebbed and flowed throughout its duration, providing a fascinating and gripping spectacle.

Vettel's afternoon was made easier than it might have been by Nick Heidfeld's lightning start in the Renault, which catapulted the German veteran into second place ahead of Hamilton.

There was therefore no chance to see a direct comparison between Vettel and Hamilton in the early laps - and that allowed Vettel to quickly build an advantage that meant he was in control mode as early as the first of his three pit stops.

Mid-race, Hamilton was Vettel's main threat, but as he dropped back, losing grip from his Pirelli tyres faster than his rivals, Button came increasingly into the picture.

The 2009 world champion struggled in the early stages after making a mistake on set-up going into the race. But once that was rectified by adding more front downforce at his pit stops, Button edged ever forward, and as Hamilton fell back with tyre problems, the older McLaren man emerged in second place.

In the closing laps, Button made a go of closing on Vettel, only to effectively be told by his engineer to settle for second because the team did not know whether his tyres would last.

Had things worked out differently, Button may have been forced to spend those closing laps watching his mirrors for a challenge by Alonso. As it was, the Spaniard wrecked what was looking like a certain podium when he misjudged a passing attempt on Hamilton with 10 laps to go.

With his moveable rear wing not working, Alonso was forced to look for other places to pass Hamilton than the end of the pit straight. He had a great run on the McLaren out of Turn Three, but he got too close before pulling out to try for the inside into Turn Four and he clipped his front wing against his old rival's right rear tyre.

That meant a stop for a new front wing, and a finish behind team-mate Felipe Massa in sixth place, which he retained despite a 20-second penalty for hitting Hamilton. It was a costly mistake, but if Alonso did not sound too down in his post-race interview, that was almost certainly because Ferrari certainly did not go into the race expecting to be challenging a McLaren for a place on the podium.

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The team were utterly dejected on Friday, when Alonso was 1.5 seconds off the pace, and not much more optimistic after qualifying on Saturday. But in race conditions the Ferrari looked pretty competitive.

With a massive internal inquiry going on at Maranello about these confusing signals, and the promise of significant upgrades to come, one suspects Alonso may well be a major contender again.

The same is undoubtedly true of Hamilton, even if he did not look like he believed it himself after the race. Starting the day expecting to fight for victory, he finished seventh after struggling increasingly with tyre wear as the race developed. And that was before a 20-second penalty for weaving while defending from Alonso cost him another place.

Hamilton's penalty was not for the collision itself - it was for an incident two minutes earlier, which was when he was defending his position from Alonso down the pit straight the previous lap.

If you watch the video closely, Hamilton does slightly change the trajectory of his car a number of times as the two men are heading towards the first corner.

He is heading to his left, towards the outside of the track, then he goes right a touch, then back left again. They are not big moves, but they are moves. And the stewards decided he had crossed the line and broken the rule that forbids drivers from making more than one change of line to defend a position.

It was, it has to be said, a marginal decision but it should be pointed out that Hamilton has been in trouble for this sort of thing before - in last year's Malaysia race, as it happens. Then, he was given a warning flag for unsportsmanlike driving while defending from Renault's Vitaly Petrov - and received heavy criticism from fellow drivers in the aftermath of the race.

This incident was not as dramatic as that, but Hamilton has nevertheless become the first man to be punished under new rules this season that give race stewards broader powers in such situations.

Hamilton was dejected after the race, obviously frustrated, and appearing to blame the team for stopping him too early for tyres throughout the race.

But the late stop with four laps to go that dropped him down from fourth place was his own decision, according to team boss Martin Whitmarsh. The team felt he could have stayed out - although Whitmarsh was quick to add that the driver has to be trusted in such situations.

Before the season, there was talk that Hamilton's more exuberant style compared to Button could lead him into problems with this year's Pirelli tyres, which have been deliberately designed to degrade relatively quickly. Hamilton has been quick to reject such suggestions, but was this an example of that? And, if so, how much of an impact on Hamilton's hopes will it have this season?

That is just one of the questions to which the Chinese Grand Prix next weekend may provide more answers. Among the others, the merits of the moveable rear wing, or DRS as F1 rather unhelpfully officially calls it, will remain under the spotlight.

At times during Sunday's race in Malaysia, it appeared to be working exactly as planned - it was putting drivers in a position to try to pass, but they were still having to work for it. At others, it appeared to be making things a little too easy. It will doubtless continue to provide a talking point throughout the season.

More pressingly, for those pursuing Vettel, there is the urgent need to turn promise into concrete results.

After two races, Vettel's position in the championship already looks comfortable. Two consecutive victories, with different drivers alongside him on the podium, have put Vettel into a commanding 24-point lead in the championship - after two races, he is already nearly a win clear of his closest pursuer, Button.

Unlike last year, Vettel has made the most of the fastest car in the first two races of the season. Like last year, Red Bull have had problems - this time, with the Kers system - but the German has won both races anyway, whereas at this stage in 2010, he had only a fourth place to his name.

Strong as the Red Bull is, it has weaknesses and it appears as if it is beatable, as long as a rival gets everything right. But they need to start doing that soon, or the already large gap Vettel has built up in the championship will begin to look unbridgeable.


Raymond Sommer Vincenzo Sospiri Stephen South Mike Sparken Scott Speed Mike Spence Alan Stacey

Trulli trusts FIA on Monaco DRS call

Jarno Trulli is confident the FIA will do the right thing when it comes to deciding about the use of DRS at the Monaco Grand Prix - even though he believes keeping it on the cars for Monaco will be 'pointless'. AUTOSPORT revealed last week that Formula 1's governing body is considering not allowing drivers to use DRS at Monaco because of safety concerns. As well as there being minimal benefit from the moveable wing on the street circuit, drivers have expressed worries that it could be dangerous if they are forced to use it for a speed boost on tricky parts of the circuit ? like through the famous Tunnel


Maurice Trintignant Wolfgang von Trips Jarno Trulli Esteban Tuero Guy Tunmer Jack Turner Toni Ulmen

Toro Rosso to introduce Monaco upgrade

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JJ Lehto Lamberto Leoni Les Leston Pierre Levegh Bayliss Levrett Jackie Lewis Stuart LewisEvans

Silverstone lifted by new wing

Bernie Ecclestone will not be able to believe his eyes. For years, decades even, Formula 1's impresario has derided Silverstone, criticising one of the sport's most historic venues for being shabby and behind the times, at times effectively calling it a national disgrace.

No longer.

The full scale of the track's ambition to upgrade itself into a cutting edge 21st century facility to rival any on the grand prix calendar became clear on Monday, when Silverstone's managing director Richard Phillips gave a tour of the spectacular new pit complex. It was something of a culture shock.

While Ecclestone's criticisms of Silverstone were always exaggerated for effect, it is fair to say that in certain ways the circuit was a touch outmoded. Inevitably, perhaps, for a place that has grown organically over the years from its initial role as a World War II airfield, it has long felt a little cobbled together and rough around the edges.


The Silverstone Wing towers over the Northamptonshire track (Photo: Getty)

But the new pit complex, while still a building site, changes all that. Designed by the same architects as the London 2012 Olympic Stadium, the massive new structure bears comparison with those at some of the state-funded new generation of tracks in places such as Bahrain and China.

There may be no gleaming white hotel lit up with multicoloured LEDs such as in Abu Dhabi, but Silverstone's new 'Wing' is impressive nonetheless.

Whether you deem it attractive will be a personal opinion. Its angular roof, with an upturned 'blade' at one end, was intended to evoke a sensation of movement and speed, although the building reminded me a little of an aircraft carrier. But imposing it certainly is.

Three stories high and 390m long, it has cost �27m - a tiny fraction of the money poured into places such as Shanghai and Abu Dhabi, which have a dual role of also being monuments to their governments' global ambition.

There is no shortage of ambition at Silverstone, but it is a more modest one - to keep the British Grand Prix and host it in a facility of which F1 can be proud.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner joined the media on the tour, and was undoubtedly impressed, even if as a member of the British Racing Drivers' Club which owns Silverstone he was hardly unbiased.

"It's fantastic," he said. "It puts Silverstone right up with the best in the world. It's quite staggering, the scale of what's been built here.

"It gives the circuit a whole new scale and dimension. Silverstone has come in for criticism compared to rivals, certainly in some of the emerging markets, and this is phenomenal.

"It's great for British motorsport. It makes Silverstone a first-class facility. There have never been any question marks about the track itself. It is one of the last remaining serious challenges - Silverstone, Spa and Suzuka are the type of circuits the drivers revel in. And with the facilities now in place it makes it comparable with any other circuit in the world."

The redevelopment of the track followed negotiations with Ecclestone that led 18 months ago to a 17-year contract that should keep the grand prix at Silverstone until 2027.

Replacing the ageing old pit building was a non-negotiable part of the deal from Ecclestone's point of view. But Silverstone argued that it needed a long-term contract, previously unavailable, to give it the stability and security to commit to such a mammoth project. The 17-year deal complete with commitment to rebuild the facility was the result.

The first stage was a new track layout, which made its debut at last year's British Grand Prix. This new building, complete with new pit lane and paddock, is the final step, although a new visitor centre is also planned in the future.


Christian Horner and Silverstone managing director Richard Phillips praised the new developments

It needed to be impressive - but it also needed to be cost-effective. Silverstone does not have the luxury of open-ended government finance to fund its development and, as Phillips put it, the new building must "pay for itself".

Much emphasis was put on the number of kitchens, and the building's ability to host up to 4,000 guests for hospitality events, the income from which is needed to balance the books in the face of the �300m Silverstone needs to find to fund the full duration of the F1 contract.

On Monday, the place was very much unfinished. Huge areas of what will be grass were churned up mud. Hard hats were required to go into the building. The pit lane was still being built. But already it is possible to see what a spectacular venue it could become.

Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into it.

The new pits are between Club and Abbey corners, at the other end of the track from the old pits. The architects have used the contours of the land to create an interesting situation where the pit-lane entry is above the level of the track, but the exit is below it, in a fashion not dissimilar to Abu Dhabi, but without the tunnel.

Team personnel will walk to the pit wall from the garages down paths between areas of lawn in what for some will be an echo of the old Silverstone 'village green' F1 paddock, which was replaced by a characterless asphalt one in the mid-1990s.

For spectators, there will be a new viewing area towards the end of the lap, complete with giant TV screens, which Phillips hopes will become Silverstone's version of 'Henman Hill' at Wimbledon.

And the redevelopment will have an intriguing impact on the racing.

Moving the pits means Copse will no longer be the first corner, but does create the enticing prospect of a full field of cars streaming together into the brilliant new flat-out Abbey right-hand kink, which last season immediately entered the track's list of great corners.

On the old layout, after Copse, the cars veered through high-speed bends at Becketts and Stowe and did not reach an overtaking point until Vale - more than halfway around the lap. Now, a quick left-hander, which is barely a corner, is quickly followed by the slow Loop hairpin, by which point the field will still be bunched together. As Horner put it, with raised eyebrows belying the understatement, it should be "fairly exciting".

And that seems a pretty fair summation of the future for Silverstone. Frustrated by short-term contracts and the constant threat of the race being taken away, this much-needed new development has been a long time coming. But now it's here, it seems the track can look forward to many successful years of Formula 1.

"It takes a lot to impress Bernie," Horner said, "but I think he will be pleased with what he sees here. He's given it a bit of flak in recent years and if that is what has provoked this, it's been well worth it."


Michael May Timmy Mayer Francois Mazet Gastón Mazzacane Kenneth McAlpine Perry McCarthy Ernie McCoy

Shedden puts Honda on pole again

Gordon Shedden gave Honda its third consecutive British Touring Car pole position by topping Thruxton qualifying this afternoon. Eurotech Racing's Andrew Jordan had been quickest in the first part of the session, with aggressive kerb attacking in his Vauxhall Vectra resulting in a 1m17.066s


Jimmy Reece Ray Reed Alan Rees Clay Regazzoni Carlos Reutemann Lance Reventlow Peter Revson

2011 NNS BUBBA burger 250 Final Practice Session Speeds

Denny Hamlin - Photo Credit: Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCARIt was Denny Hamlin with a lap speed of 123.740 mph, showing the fastest way around Richmond International Raceway during the only practice session being held for the NNS BUBBA burger 250. Hamlin (who won the 4th Annual Denny Hamlin Short Track Showdown Thursday night at...more»


Jimmy Bryan Clemar Bucci Ronnie Bucknum Ivor Bueb Sebastien Buemi Luiz Bueno Ian Burgess

Electonic Flag Displays


Bill Cantrell Ivan Capelli Piero Carini Duane Carter Eugenio Castellotti Johnny Cecotto Andrea de Cesaris

Kia earnings up 91% to $890 million in Q1

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Automaker earnings have been mostly impressive so far, and Kia is no different. Reuters reports that the Korean automaker has posted earnings of $890 million for the first quarter of 2011, up 91 percent compared to the $466 million profit from Q1 2010. Overall revenue for the quarter was $10 billion, up 37 percent year over year. Kia's healthy earnings come as sales rose 30 percent to 619,089 units. The automaker fared especially well in South Korea, China and the United States, where new models like the Optima and Sportage have really taken off.

Kia's profit surge comes one day after Hyundai announced earnings of $1.7 billion. Hyundai shares are up 44 percent on the year, while Kia shares are up 16 percent.

[Source: Reuters | Image: Drew Phillips/AOL]

Kia earnings up 91% to $890 million in Q1 originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 29 Apr 2011 13:32:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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BMW Z2 roadster could debut in 2014 - report

German car magazine Auto Bild says BMW is working on the model and offers up a few choice details.


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Monster Energy Kawasaki's Casey Currie Embarks on the 1,400-Mile Rip to the Tip Adventure Through Baja

Monster Energy Kawasaki Irvine, Calif. (April 28, 2011) Monster Energy Kawasaki's Casey Currie saddled up his KX?450F this morning and ventured across the U.S. border into Tecate, Mexico to begin the 1,400-mile, eight-day adventure to the tip of the Baja...


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Electonic Flag Displays


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Double-file restarts still worry IndyCar drivers


John Surtees Andy Sutcliffe Adrian Sutil Len Sutton Aguri Suzuki Toshio Suzuki Jacques Swaters

Should the Bahrain Grand Prix be held in 2011? | Debates and polls

Would it be right for F1 to hold a race in Bahrain? Cast your vote here.


Dollar General Toyota Denny Hamlin Z Line Toyota Clint Bowyer Zaxby s Chevrolet Paul Menard Richmond Menards Ford

Crunch time in Singapore for title contenders

The point-scoring started in Singapore well before a wheel had even turned around the Marina Bay circuit.

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner picked out Ferrari as their biggest threat.

Jenson Button wondered aloud if Mark Webber's experience would count against him because he'd be thinking too much about 2010 being his last title chance.

Fernando Alonso thought that a team-mate's help wasn't necessarily an advantage in the face of his rivals' two-pronged challenge.

Lewis Hamilton said Alonso was his main threat. And Sebastian Vettel was happy to be cast as the outsider in Formula 1's most thrilling championship battle in years, 24 points behind his Red Bull team-mate in fifth with five races remaining.

All good fun to prepare us for Singapore's night-time spectacular. But all five contenders know, like the rest of us, that this event in Singapore could become a turning point in the season.

This race will be the first indicator of the teams' relative performance since the FIA's new load tests on the front wings and the front part of the floor (known as the 'bib') were introduced to combat alleged flexing beyond the regulations.

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Highlights from second practice at Singapore

Red Bull and Ferrari had faced claims - which they strenuously refuted - from McLaren and Mercedes that they were gaining a downforce advantage from 'flexi-bodywork'.

After the two 'low-downforce' tracks in Belgium and Italy, where Red Bull were beaten, Singapore is a high-downforce layout.

That makes it more like Hungary, where Red Bull were 1.2 seconds faster than the Ferraris and 1.7 seconds better than the McLarens.

So Formula 1 is now looking for answers to some key questions.

How much, if at all, has Red Bull's performance been compromised by the new tests?

How much ground have Ferrari and McLaren made up on the grid's pace-setters?

And how much closer will the competition be than the eye-popping advantage Webber and Vettel enjoyed in Budapest?

Significantly the top five in the championship were the fastest five on the track after practice. As the stakes have risen, so has the intensity among the contenders.

Despite the tricky conditions in Friday practice, where the track was never properly dry after an afternoon rainstorm, Red Bull were again the headline act, "crazy quick" in both sessions, according to Button.

On both light and heavy fuel loads, they set the pace - suggesting the new load tests have made little, if any, difference to Red Bull's pace, just as Red Bull had always insisted would be the case.

Vettel's one-second advantage over the field in the second session was misleading, though.

Alonso was on his first hot lap on the faster softer tyre in the drier second session when he overshot a corner and the engine cut out.

The Spaniard had set the fastest time in the first sector and was about to split the two Red Bulls by the line.

Alonso is confident that he will be leading the challenge to them in qualifying and the race.

"We're close to Red Bull. They're about a couple of 10ths of a second in front, but hopefully we can fight with them," he said.

That said, Webber, in particular, has appeared like a man on a mission all week. I understand he's determined to prove a point this weekend to silence Red Bull's critics who insist the team's been bending the rules over the design of the RB6, most recently the controversy over front wings and floor.

Reading Hamilton's comments on Thursday would only have stoked the Australian's fire.

"They were gaining from two particular parts and that had to be changed," said the 2008 champion.

"We didn't have that advantage because we were playing to the rules and hopefully it's now closer."

Red Bull have another new front wing here and further modifications to the floor, including a revised 'bib'.

They've also done work on their starts, which have cost Webber crucial places in the last two races. They claim they've resolved the problem but only when the lights go out on Sunday will they know for certain.

McLaren believe they can be much more competitive than in Hungary, described by one engineer on Thursday as "a massive wake-up call".

I'm told the car is "vastly different" to Budapest as a result of their constant pace of development.

They tested their striking new front wing, with an extra curved element, and other aerodynamic developments.

Initial analysis was positive but the greater concern is their performance on the softer tyre, with which both Red Bull and Ferrari found much greater consistency.

By contrast, both McLaren drivers saw the performance drop away alarmingly - not encouraging for qualifying, which looks set to be a straight contest between Red Bull and Ferrari.

McLaren may have to make do with row three if Alonso's team-mate Felipe Massa gets the best out of his Ferrari as well.

As ever this season, McLaren remain more optimistic about the race, when they hope their F-duct-inspired straight-line speed will count on the straights.

They're encouraged by the shorter corners here, which they feel will suit their car more than Hungary's opening sequence, for example, which Red Bull just lapped up.

In Singapore, as Jenson Button put it, the corners are "point and squirt" - like Canada, where he and Hamilton finished first and second. So brake, get in and get out as quickly as possible.

To do that successfully, you need good braking stability and traction - both areas where Ferrari excel.

Alonso proved that in Montreal and clearly in the last race at Monza.

Remember, also, how he dominated the first two sessions of practice around the streets of Monaco - until his crash in Saturday practice wrecked his challenge. But he still finished sixth in the race from the back of the grid.

Alonso was on the podium, too, in Hungary.

Ferrari have brought a new front wing and a modified floor, and if they find the balance as effectively as they did in Monza - where I'm told that Alonso's experience was crucial in pointing the way - the 2005 and 2006 champion looks set to keep himself firmly in the hunt in 2010.

The great uncertainty is the weather. Six hours after Friday's rain, when qualifying would have been starting had it been Saturday, parts of the track were like black ice.

Button reported that water was coming up through the asphalt in second practice and he couldn't see if the surface was wet or dry under the lights.

All five title contenders know what it takes to win at street circuits because all of them have done it.

They also know that one false move this weekend could mean the end of the road for their challenge.

In the wall or in the points - we're about to find out.


No wonder Christian Horner felt Red Bull underperformed in qualifying - Alonso has been handed the perfect platform to try to 'break' Red Bull in the opening stint.

The Ferrari has shown impressive pace on long and short runs in Singapore and Alonso's experience of these sort of pressure races could be significant.

And with Webber at the back of the championship contenders, behind both McLarens on the grid, Red Bull could be in for a testing afternoon.

Hamilton will be a danger to Vettel at the start, where the first few corners on what is expected to be a damp track will be critical.

Overtaking opportunities will be at a premium but there's always the chance of a safety car on a street circuit so the intensity of this race within a title race should be immense.


Erik Comas Franco Comotti George Connor George Constantine John Cordts David Coulthard Piers Courage

Safety in Numbers: Charting Traffic-Safety and Fatality Data ? Feature

Traffic deaths are at an all-time low?our timeline shows how they got there. For drivers, passengers, cyclists, and pedestrians, 2009 was a very good year: Motor-vehicle-related fatalities fell to an all-time low in America, with only 1.13 deaths per 100 million vehicle miles traveled (VMT). In total, deaths fell to 33,808, the lowest number since [...]


Peter Monteverdi Robin MontgomerieCharrington Juan Pablo Montoya Gianni Morbidelli Roberto Moreno Dave Morgan Silvio Moser

Podcast: Chinese Grand Prix Review

Check out the latest Formula1Fancast podcast analysing the Chinese and looking ahead to the next race in Turkey at the start of next month.

Click here to listen to Manish Patel and Paul Hadsley give their thoughts on one of the most entertaining

Joe Fry Hiroshi Fushida Beppe Gabbiani Bertrand Gachot Patrick Gaillard Divina Galica Nanni Galli

One tiny little point?

The newspapers this morning are filled with stories of how Bernie Ecclestone is going to give Bahrain more time to make a decision about its Formula 1 race. This is all well and good (or not, if you do not think much of the Bahrain government), but it overlooks one rather important fact: it is [...]


Andrea Montermini Peter Monteverdi Robin MontgomerieCharrington Juan Pablo Montoya Gianni Morbidelli Roberto Moreno Dave Morgan

Lotus F1 row takes new twist

A new twist in the long-running row over the use of the Lotus name in Formula 1 has emerged with the announcement that the owners of Team Lotus have bought niche sportscar manufacturer Caterham.

Tony Fernandes and his partners see Caterham, which makes replicas of the old Lotus Seven two-seater open-top sportscar, as a company with historic links and "synergies" with Team Lotus that allows them to realise their ambition of diversifying into making road cars.

Their original plan was to do that with Group Lotus, the company that markets Lotus sportscars, but as Fernandes puts it: "That obviously didn't turn out very well."

What the Malaysian businessman, and owner of budget airline Air Asia, is referring to is the increasingly bitter dispute between him and Group Lotus that has ended up in the High Court.

When Fernandes and his partners first set up what was then called the Lotus Racing F1 team last year, it was with the blessing of Group Lotus, which licensed them the name. But in the course of 2010 Group Lotus's new chairman Dany Bahar decided he wanted to go his own way in F1.

He terminated Fernandes' licence, and switched instead to a sponsorship deal with the Renault team. Fernandes, seeing this coming, bought the rights to the historic Team Lotus name as a fall-back.

Both issues - the termination of the licence and the ownership of the Team Lotus name - are wrapped up in a court case that was heard last month, with a verdict expected early in May.

Fernandes is widely expected to win the rights to continue to use Team Lotus. He bought it legitimately from its previous owner, David Hunt, brother of the late world champion James, and Group Lotus has always acted in the past as if it knew it did not own the name.

Nevertheless, buying Caterham does provide Fernandes with an interesting fall-back option should the court case go against him. Now he owns his own car company, he could re-name the F1 team after it should he want to.

Lotus F1 cars and the Caterham Seven

Team Lotus owner Tony Fernandes now has Caterham in his business portfolio

For now, though, he says that is not an option. Fernandes told BBC Sport that he is "absolutely not" going to change the name of Team Lotus. Although he does add: "Obviously we have to wait for the verdict to see exactly what has been decided. But we see a very natural link between Team Lotus and Caterham, and they can be synergistic and promote each other, and there is some DNA between the two anyway. It's not like we've bought a brand that has no association with Team Lotus at all. It's just the opposite."

The Caterham name will, though, soon appear on the Team Lotus F1 cars - although exactly when and how has yet to be decided - and the company will eventually contribute to the Lotus budget as a sponsor.

Assuming he retains the rights to Team Lotus, that still leaves Fernandes in the sticky position of providing free promotion to a company with which he is in dispute and has no links.

Unsurprisingly, he did not want to get into that on the day of his big announcement, but he could not resist a little snipe or two at Bahar.

Fernandes says he sees Caterham as very much following the legacy of the late Lotus founder Colin Chapman. "In some ways," he says, "we have reunited the Chapman history. Lotus is all about lightweight, more is less. That is all the terminology we like, and it fits with F1. We feel there is a huge opportunity for Caterham in a market no one is really looking at right now."

By that, he means lightweight, affordable sportscars that are within reach of ordinary people. This was Chapman's approach, and one which, Fernandes says, "certain people have abandoned". That is a reference to Bahar's plans to take Lotus upmarket and challenge Porsche and Ferrari with his mooted five new Lotus models by 2015.

So far, the dispute between the two Lotuses has not reached the race tracks of F1.

Team Lotus started this season with chief technical officer Mike Gascoyne setting ambitious targets of catching Renault by the end of the season, but that looks out of reach for now - Renault have started the season strongly enough to set their own difficult goal, of beating Ferrari to third place in the constructors' championship.

But Team Lotus have also started the season well. The car has had reliability problems, but it also has underlying pace, and in the last race in China they beat established teams for the first time since entering F1 at the beginning of last year, with Heikki Kovalainen finishing ahead of a Sauber and a Williams.

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Kovalainen's performance is a clear indicator that Lotus's more realistic target, of scoring points and mixing it with the established teams, is achievable.

Fernandes himself has his feet firmly on the ground. "You build things properly and with the right structure and things will fall into place," he says. "My target this year was to maintain 10th, and hopefully sneak a few points along the way. That is still my target.

"It is beginning to feel more realistic now, but one can't build a challenging F1 team in two years. We are competing against guys who have been there for 30 years but obviously the team smell big steps of improvement. They smell points.

"I never want to kill confidence, I encourage it, but I am also a realist and we are competing against nine guys who have been doing it for years and are very good at it.

"But if you'd asked me do I think at Turkey (the next race on 8 May) you'd be where you are, I wouldn't have believed it.

"We've got a good package and good people, we have put all the infrastructure in place.

"We're working on a new wind tunnel; that's the last piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and I think if you put all the pieces of the puzzle together then the results will come in good time."


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Classic F1 2011 - Sebastien Buemi

Sebastien Buemi, who has enjoyed a promising start to the new season with the Toro Rosso team, takes his turn in the hot seat in our new-look classic Formula 1 series.

For those unfamiliar with the format, BBC Sport has asked all the F1 drivers for their five favourite grands prix. Those choices will then be serialised before every race this season in order to whet your appetites for the action ahead. Highlights will be shown on this website and the red button on BBC television in the UK.

The first two drivers to reveal their top-five picks were world champion Sebastian Vettel and countryman Michael Schumacher.

Buemi - a 22-year-old Swiss - is next. He may not be as famous as Vettel or Schumacher but he has come up with some interesting choices.

Unlike Vettel and Schumacher before him, Buemi has, for the most part, picked races that he does not feature in - perhaps because he is in only his third season in F1.

Nor has he chosen the incident for which he is perhaps most famous for - the crash during practice for last year's Chinese GP when both wheels came off his car simultaneously.

What he has done is pick four iconic races from F1's recent history, plus an event that resonates particularly with him:

1) The 1989 Japanese Grand Prix, the first of two infamous collisions in title-deciding races at Suzuka between arch-rivals Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost.

This one was at the chicane - Prost turned in on McLaren team-mate Senna when the Brazilian tried to overtake him and the two collided. The Frenchman was out of the race, but Senna rejoined and went on to win, before being controversially disqualified, handing the title to Prost.

2) The 1990 Japanese Grand Prix, the second of two infamous collisions between Prost and Senna at Suzuka. This time, the two men only reached the first corner.

Senna, after being beaten away from pole position by Prost's Ferrari, was determined the Frenchman would not make the corner and barged into the back of his car at 160mph. The incident took both drivers out of the race and left Senna as champion.

3) The 1998 Belgian Grand Prix, a dramatic race from start-to finish, including what Buemi describes as "the biggest pile-up ever" on lap one.

The race is actually infamous for two incidents - the 13-car pile-up at the start that Buemi is referring to and Michael Schumacher's retirement after he had run his Ferrari into the back of David Coulthard's McLaren in appalling visibility.

The Scot was trying to let Schumacher lap him but the German, who could not see very well in the spray, did not realise his rival had slowed down and made contact. Given he was in a title fight with Coulthard's team-mate Mika Hakkinen, Schumacher sensed a conspiracy and charged down the pit lane to remonstrate with Coulthard. The two men had to be physically separated.

The incident left Damon Hill in the lead ahead of Jordan team-mate Ralf Schumacher. After team boss Eddie Jordan instructed Schumacher not to try to race Hill, the two finished one-two for Jordan's first F1 win.

4) The 2008 Brazilian Grand Prix - famous for the nail-biting climax to the world championship, which hung in the balance until the final corner of the final lap.

With Ferrari's Felipe Massa driving to a dominant victory, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton needed to finish fifth to win the title. But the race did not go well for the Briton, who started the last lap in sixth, having lost fifth place to Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel.

In the Ferrari pit, team personnel - including Massa's father - celebrated as their man crossed the line. But then came a dramatic late twist. With rain falling increasingly hard, Hamilton, who was on wet tyres, closed inexorably on the Toyota of Timo Glock, who was struggling on untreaded dry tyres. Hamilton eventually passed the German as they accelerated out of Juncao corner on to the start-finish straight for the final time, prompting delirium at McLaren and despair at Ferrari.

5) The 2009 Chinese Grand Prix, which Buemi has picked for two reasons. Firstly, it was Red Bull's first win, with Vettel leading home team-mate Mark Webber.

Secondly, Buemi, who had made his debut in Australia just two races previously, scored points for the second time in his short career. He had finished seventh on his debut in a race marked by very high attrition. In China, he drove superbly to finish eighth on merit, ahead of Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Robert Kubica and Giancarlo Fisichella.

We have chosen one race to highlight by embedding it in this blog - and we have opted for the 2009 Chinese race. Long highlights are below, with links to shorter highlights underneath. There are also links to long and short highlights of Jenson Button's brilliant victory in last year's Chinese Grand Prix. This year's Chinese race is Sunday, of course.

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We are also making available the full BBC 'Grand Prix' highlights programme from one of Buemi's other choices - the 1989 Japanese GP. The programme is being broadcast for the first time since the evening of the race 22 years ago - and you can watch it here.

The classic races will be shown on the red button on BBC digital television in the UK from 1400 BST on Wednesday, 13 April until 0830 BST on Saturday, 16 April.

On Freeview, they will be available from 0415-0545 BST and 1915-2315 BST on Thursday, 14 April and 0040-0255 BST and 0435-0655 BST on Friday, 15 April.


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War and Peace

Nico Brandt may have won the battle at Infineon Raceway, but Ryan Field won the war. Field took the overall IZOD IndyCar Series ? Road title with 651 points, on the strength of six wins and seven poles in seven starts. So strong were his performances in the first four weeks of the season, that he needn?t have bothered to participate in the final two online races of the season at Watkins Glen and Infineon. Field?s decision not to participate opened up the winner?s circle for some other sim racers to take victories, as nine drivers took the 10 official races held. Ken Leach was the only multiple winner on the week, tying for fourth in points for the week with 126. Brandt was the big winner on the week, [...]


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Friday, April 29, 2011

Best Babes in Formula One (F1) Grand Prix: Pictures, Photos

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Ford Racing, 2011 NSCS Crown Royal 400 Post-Qualifying Recaps

Ford RacingCARL EDWARDS ? No. 99 Scotts eZ Seed Ford (Qualified 8th) ?That was a good lap. I think we will be okay and that will be a good starting spot. A couple hundredths would have made a big difference, but that was a good safe lap. We have to go back and look hard...more»


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Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon trailer lands on the web

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Optimus Prime in Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon
Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon trailer - Click above to watch video after the jump

Summer is right around the corner, and that means theaters will soon be packed with the kind of action-slathered goodness that theater-goers crave. King of explosions Michael Bay has released the latest theatrical trailer for his new boomfest, Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon. Judging by the short clip, the whole crew is in for another sequel-baiting adventure. Bumblebee returns as the world's most fearsome Chevrolet Camaro and Optimus Prime seems to have received a crash course in badassery since the last time we saw him grace the silver screen.

For reasons that remain unclear, the Prime has yet to punt Shia Labeouf into another galaxy, so fans can look forward to enduring him throughout the span of the film. Labeouf's new co-star Rosie Huntington-Whitley seems to do a smart enough job of looking equal parts damsel and distressed. The film hits theaters on May 1, so you don't have long to wait before you can sink your teeth into the action. Hit the jump to check out the trailer for yourself.

[Source: YouTube]

Continue reading Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon trailer lands on the web

Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon trailer lands on the web originally appeared on Autoblog on Fri, 29 Apr 2011 11:31:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Brian Steals the Show at Chicagoland

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Count It: First and Second Avenue Redesigns Are a Success

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