Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Team orders in spotlight again

Will Christian Horner regret not utilising team orders in Brazil? © Getty Images
Michael Spearman of The Sun, says that the �65,000 fine Ferrari received for breaching the team orders ban in Germany will seem like loose change if Fernando Alonso wins the drivers? title in Abu Dhabi.
?The extra seven points Alonso collected when Ferrari ordered Felipe Massa to move over for him in Germany earlier in the season are now looking even more crucial. ?And the �65,000 fine they picked up for ruthlessly breaking the rules will seem loose change if Alonso clinches the title in his first year with the Maranello team. ?Red Bull could have switched the result yesterday given their crushing dominance and still celebrated their first constructors' championship just five years after coming into the sport. ?That would also have given Webber an extra seven points, leaving him just one behind Alonso.?
The Guardian?s Paul Weaver says that if Fernando Alonso does take the drivers? title in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari owes a debt of gratitude to Red Bull for their decision not to employ team orders in Brazil.
?If Alonso does take the title next week it would not be inappropriate were he and Ferrari to send a few gallons of champagne to Red Bull's headquarters in Milton Keynes. ?While Red Bull should be heartily applauded for the championship they did win today their apparent acceptance that Ferrari might carry off the more glamorous prize continues to baffle Formula One and its globetrotting supporters. ?Their refusal to make life easy for Webber, who has led for much of the season and is still seven points ahead of Vettel, means that whatever happens in the desert next week Alonso, the only driver who was capable of taking the championship in the race today, only has to secure second place to guarantee his third world title.?
The Independent?s David Tremayne is also of the opinion that Red Bull may regret not using team orders in Brazil.
?Had Red Bull elected to adopt team orders and let Webber win ? something that the governing body allows when championships are at stake ? Webber would have left Brazil with 245 points ? just one point off the lead. For some that was confirmation of his suggestion that Vettel is the team's favoured driver ? which generated an angry call from team owner Dietrich Mateschitz in Austria and was much denied by team principal, Christian Horner. ?And it sets up a situation where, if the result is repeated next weekend, as is likely, Vettel and Webber will tie on 256, five behind Alonso.?
The Mirror?s Byron Young has put Lewis Hamilton?s fading title chances down to an inferior McLaren machine and he admits the 2008 World Champion now needs a miracle.
?Sebastian Vettel's victory sends the world title fight to a four-way showdown for the first time in the sport's history. ?Hamilton goes there as part of that story with a 24-point deficit to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, but with just 25 on offer in the final round in six days' time it would take more than a miracle. ?Driving an outclassed McLaren he slugged it out against superior machinery and stiff odds to finish fourth.?


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Tyre controversy unfolds at Spa

Tyres have been the major talking point behind the scenes at Spa today in the light of front blistering suffered by several of the teams who ran in Q3 and thus start in the top 10. The teams concerned – … Continue reading


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McLaren MP4-26 Launch pictures ( 4th of February)


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Webber form puts Vettel under pressure

Red Bull have never had it so good in Formula 1. They are leading both the drivers' and the constructors' championships for the first time.

Certainly Mark Webber, the championship leader, has never enjoyed such success in motorsport's pinnacle category.

And if you've read my colleague Andrew Benson's blog this week, you'll appreciate the reasons why the 33-year-old is in the form of his F1 life, winning from pole in both Spain and Monaco, two markedly different circuits with hugely contrasting demands.

But the manner of those victories - particularly in Monaco, where Webber never looked like being threatened by his pursuers - has set plenty of curious minds racing about the most recent performances of his Red Bull team-mate, Sebastian Vettel.

In their 18 months together at the team, Vettel had never previously suffered consecutive defeats at the hands of the experienced Australian.

On the two occasions last season when the 22-year-old German found himself dominated by his team-mate, he immediately struck back at the next event, either outqualifying him or winning the race, or in the case of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, doing both.

abvettel595.jpgRed Bull's Sebastian Vettel takes a break in practice for the Turkish GP. Photograph: Reuters

Over the first six races of 2010, Webber has performed better in qualifying against his team-mate than the whole of last year, when he was quicker on Saturdays just twice.

None of this is to call into question Vettel's sublime talent.

How could you after his lightning start to the season, which would have earned him the outright championship lead by some margin if only he had been blessed by better reliability in the first two races in Bahrain and Australia?

Publicly, team officials express delight at the championship standings and the see-saw battle between their drivers.

Privately, however, they readily admit that this is the first major test of character for their young charger, tipped by F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone, no less, to succeed Jenson Button as world champion.

As one source put it: "It's going to be interesting to see how Seb responds. It's an important weekend for him."

Another just said simply: "It's going to be lively between our two drivers!"

In other words, is Webber merely enjoying a purple patch or has he made a significant leap in performance which will provide a sustained challenge to Vettel's aura of youthful impregnability?

Coming off second best to Webber in Spain was palatable because of the brake problem which almost wrecked the younger man's race completely.

Bringing the car to the finish so coolly when the team advised him to stop demonstrated impressive expertise.

But eyebrows were definitely raised when he found himself struggling to keep clear of Robert Kubica's Renault in Monaco while the other Red Bull was able to disappear into the distance at will, despite the intervention of the safety car no less than four times.

Vettel was not the only team member who could not believe he was suddenly 0.4secs slower than his team-mate where previously the gap had been hundredths of a second, usually in his favour.

Vettel claimed the RB6 had felt wrong all weekend, and a subsequent investigation found a crack on the monocoque and other assorted damage.

He has a different chassis this weekend - racily named "Randy Mandy" - yet in practice, albeit never a definitive guide to potential, he was again behind Webber - this time by 0.212secs.

Interestingly, I'm told that Webber's chassis has also suffered damage but there have been no calls from his side of the garage for a replacement. And why would there be when he's turned in such command performances?

As ever, it's a matter of confidence. Currently, Webber probably feels he could win on the moon.

Vettel, though, may feel the need to try a previous testing chassis as a personal vote of confidence that he is just the same, that it is the machinery that has not been up to scratch.

If he strikes gold in Turkey this weekend, that switch may prove crucial to his season, and his title ambitions.

If, however, Webber beats him again, making it three wins in a row, despite the chassis change, how much damage will that inflict on Vettel's mindset?

Remember, he is in good company over chassis issues.

Michael Schumacher has reverted to a previous Mercedes chassis after he believed he was losing crucial time with a damaged car in China. He was rewarded with a season's best showing at Barcelona first time out.

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There's another striking similarity with Vettel's F1 inspiration which might also offer another insight into Webber's improved form.

Both drivers have told a German colleague of mine that they lack grip, and by extension confidence, with the tyres, particularly at the front. Webber, meanwhile, has found the 2010 Red Bull far more to his liking, able to turn in to corners with maximum attack and traction.

It means that the in-house rivalry at Red Bull has become far more intense than many of us bargained for at the start of the season. And that can only make for a more exciting, more watchable championship shoot-out.

Rightly or wrongly, Vettel has been perceived as the unofficial number one driver at Red Bull: ruthless and clinical, belying the choirboy looks, where Webber is matey and approachable but, some believe, lacking a champion's killer instinct.

Very much a prot�g� of Helmut Marko who oversees Red Bull young drivers, Vettel has appeared to have the ability and the results to go with the team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's backing.

His strong finish as runner-up in the 2009 championship served to confirm the view that he would be the team's leading contender in 2010.

But just as Jenson Button and Nico Rosberg have confounded pre-season predictions that they would be forced to play second fiddle to their respective team-mates, Lewis Hamilton and Schumacher, so Webber looks to have found another gear to take the fight more closely to his team-mate.

Nobody is tougher on his own performances than Vettel himself. His self-analytical approach is recognised by the team as one of his great strengths.

The new points system means any one of the top eight could leave Istanbul Park on Sunday as championship leader.

And after throwing away his pole position advantage here last year, and losing out so comprehensively over the last two races, few on the grid have more reason to get it right than Sebastian Vettel.


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Luminaries gather to honour Button

At the Hungaroring

Once the intense competition of qualifying was over in Hungary, the Formula 1 fraternity put aside their rivalries for an unusual social occasion.

Luminaries from the top to the bottom of the paddock had crammed into McLaren's buzzing motorhome on Saturday evening to celebrate Jenson Button's 200th Grand Prix.

It was a fascinating scene for the F1 voyeur. Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali stood chatting to Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug with a friendly arm around his shoulder. Team Lotus driver Jarno Trulli perched on a stool under the towering presence of Silver Arrows team boss Ross Brawn as Sauber's Sergio Perez mingled with the Virgin Racing drivers.

Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso nearly stole the show when the former McLaren arch-rivals warmly embraced each other, suggesting the particularly bitter cold war between the 2007 team-mates was well and truly thawing.

But the evening had been arranged by McLaren to mark Button's career and each of the 31-year-old's previous team bosses - with the exception of exiled Renault boss Flavio Briatore and BAR-Honda chief Dave Richards - spoke enthusiastically about the Somerset-born racer.

Button's F1 career began in 2000 when he beat Brazilian Bruno Junqueira in a shoot-out for a Williams race seat.

Sir Frank Williams had a unique take on the then 20-year-old, recalling: "In those days he was devastatingly good-looking and was always being pursued.

Fernando Alonso, Lewis Hamilton, Pedro de la Rosa, Jenson Button, Timo Glock, Jerome d'Ambrosio, Paul di Resta (hidden), Sergio Perez and Felipe Massa at Jenson Button's 200th grand prix celebration

F1 drivers celebrate Jenson Button's 200th grand prix with the McLaren driver. Photo: McLaren

"He is a top, top guy. I really think that. He knew exactly how to get to the top and was completely unstoppable."

After two seasons with the Benetton team, which was re-branded Renault, Button lost his drive to Alonso and joined BAR, which then morphed into Honda.

The Japanese team helped the Englishman win his first race at the 113th attempt in 2006 in the only wet race - so far - to be held at the Hungaroring.

Shortly afterwards Brawn joined Honda, and under the former Ferrari technical guru Button went on to claim the world title in 2009 with the renamed Brawn Grand Prix team.

Brawn toasted his former charge, saying: "Jenson has got some essential qualities; speed, honesty, integrity and professionalism. Eventually he put all those things together in 2009.

"The greatest compliment I can pay him is I'm really sad he's not driving for us still."

Luckily, Michael Schumacher - who just happened to win a record seven world titles with Brawn - and his Mercedes team-mate Nico Rosberg weren't around to weigh the implications of that remark.

It was left to Martin Whitmarsh, Button's chief at McLaren for the last two seasons, to fill in the gaps in the Englishman's career.

"Grand prix wins 10, pole positions seven, podiums 35, fastest laps four, number of points 650..." Whitmarsh began before Button tried to boost his statistics saying: "Why can't you make some of this up?"

Whitmarsh continued: "What [the list] doesn't say is; a great world champion and a fantastic ambassador to F1 - and the son of a smurf." The latter - and lesser-known fact - was a humorous reference to Dad John Button's nickname 'Papa Smurf'.

Finally, Button took centre stage, surveyed the room of F1 faces, friends, media and McLaren staff before choosing his words carefully.

"Wow! 200," he had begun. "Somebody actually asked me the other day what does 200 mean to you and first of all I thought they were talking about the number of PR days I've done this year.

"For a racing driver, the number normally doesn't mean so much but it makes you think back to the good times you've had - and the bad times.

"Winning the world championship was a big thing for me but winning grands prix and fighting it out with the best, I'm very lucky to be in that position.

"It's not over yet. I'm hoping for many, many more. Martin..?"


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IndyCar close to confirming China

IndyCar is close to confirming the addition of a race in China to its 2012 schedule. The series has been in talks about a Chinese event for some time, and president of IndyCar's commercial division Terry Angstadt said that a deal for a race in the eastern port city of Qingdao, which hosted the sailing events for the 2008 Olympics, was on the verge of being finalised.


John Cordts David Coulthard Piers Courage Chris Craft Jim Crawford Ray Crawford Alberto Crespo

My Belgian Grand Prix preview

We're having one of the best Formula 1 seasons ever and the final eight races promise to be really exciting, with Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari closely matched. Watch my preview to this weekend's Belgian Grand Prix and the rest of the season.

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Lamborghini uses raw carbon fiber cloth to make handbags

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Lamborghini carbon fiber bags

Lamborghini is serious about carbon fiber. More than simply using the material, the Italian sportscar manufacturer has developed new types of it. The question is, what to do with it once it's developed?

Well, they make supercars out of the stuff, for starters. But that's not the end of the story. Lamborghini also has partnerships with such companies as Boeing and Callaway to use its carbon fiber in applications as varied as airplanes and golf clubs. And now Sant'Agata has found another application: handbags.

While plenty of companies are making all sorts of stuff out of finished, hardened and glossy carbon fiber sheets, Lamborghini claims to be the first to use the unfinished weave to produce this line of fashion accessories. The collection includes a soft travel duffel, a messenger bag and an envelope-style satchel. Each is made primarily out of the raw carbon fiber and fitted with hand-stitched leather, galvanized brass hardware and cotton lining, all put together by hand.

The items will be available through Lamborghini dealers worldwide and through its online store, but don't expect to have any cash left over to stash inside the bags: prices range from $1,200 up to $2,100. Take a closer look in the high-res image gallery and follow the jump for the full press release.

Continue reading Lamborghini uses raw carbon fiber cloth to make handbags

Lamborghini uses raw carbon fiber cloth to make handbags originally appeared on Autoblog on Wed, 31 Aug 2011 07:59:00 EST. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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2011 MotoGP Championship Standings After Round 12, Indianapolis, USA

Championship standings for round , 2011

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Coletti to miss rest of season

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MotoGP: Mistakes Cost Several Riders at the Indianapolis GP

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Terol dominates on way to Indy win

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Hummer H1 by Cam-Shaft

It’s been over a year since the last Hummer rolled out of GM’s production facility, but Cam-Shaft was able to snag one of the remaining off-road monsters for a little virtual makeover. The premium wrapping team in Steinbach were hired by the owner of this H1 to turn the vehicle into a rolling tribute to Call of Duty, a popular first-person and third-person shooter video game series.

This special Hummer H1 was created with the help of co-operation and joint efforts which discussed the project thoroughly before coming up with various sketches (some accepted, some rejected). The final goal was to create a perfect combination illustrating their love for cars and video games.

The H1 was then transformed with a matte black vinyl wrap and various "Call of Duty" logos and inscriptions, as well as other minor styling modifications. In the end, they added a special set of games logo and other styling details and a special set of giant wheels and offroad tires to complete the menacing look.

Hummer H1 by Cam-Shaft originally appeared on on Tuesday, 30 August 2011 10:00 EST.

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Chris_Gascoine tops predictions in Belgium | Predictions Championship

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Thompson leaves challenging Okayama weekend with another podium finish

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Felipe Massa - classic F1

Ferrari's Felipe Massa is the latest driver to choose his five all-time favourite grands prix for BBC Sport's classic Formula 1 series. The idea of this series is to whet your appetites for the race coming up. And, for better or worse, the Brazilian will always be linked with the Hungarian Grand Prix.

Massa produced one of his best performances at the Hungaroring in 2008. An intense battle with Lewis Hamilton ended when the Englishman's McLaren suffered a puncture, seemingly handing victory to Massa. But, with only three laps to go, the engine in his Ferrari failed. The points from that win would have made the Brazilian world champion that year, rather than Hamilton.

The following year, Massa suffered a terrible freak accident in qualifying for the same race. He was hit on the head by an errant spring from the car of his friend, Brawn driver Rubens Barrichello, and taken to hospital in, what doctors called, a "life-threatening but stable condition". Amazingly, he made a full recovery, returning to Ferrari for the start of the 2010 season.

Massa, like many Brazilians of his generation, grew up idolising the late Ayrton Senna, so it comes as no surprise that three of his five choices feature the former world champion. The other two reflect key moments in Massa's own career.

Massa's choices are as follows, in chronological order:

The 1991 Brazilian Grand Prix

It was a quite brilliant drive from Senna, who was recording his first victory in his home race. He held off the faster Williams of Riccardo Patrese despite spending a significant portion of the grand prix struggling with no fourth gear. He also lost the third and fifth gears in the final two laps.

After taking the chequered flag, Senna had to be lifted from his car, exhausted and in agony. When he finally did make it on to the rostrum, his face contorted by a mixture of pain and unadulterated joy, he sent fans - and the country that loved him - wild.

The 1992 Monaco Grand Prix

This was the race in which Senna brought to an end Nigel Mansell's dominant start to the season, although the Briton would go on to claim the championship.

At Monaco, like the five races before it, Mansell and the ground-breaking Williams-Renault FW14B were controlling the race before a late pit stop caused by a loose wheel nut put him behind Senna. Mansell tried everything to pass in the closing laps but was beaten by Senna's guile and experience in the tight confines of the track.

The 1993 European Grand Prix

The one race that has come to epitomise Senna - and therefore the inevitable choice by any driver who is a Senna fan.

The race at a wet Donington Park has passed into F1 folklore. A quite brilliant first lap lifted Senna from fifth at the first corner to first by the last - and he proceeded to drive at a higher level to the rest of the field on his way to one of the greatest of his 41 wins.

The 2006 Turkish Grand Prix

This was Massa's first F1 victory, an impressive and dominant performance from the front after taking pole position ahead of Ferrari team-mate Michael Schumacher.

Dig below the surface, though, and it was not quite as impressive or dominant as it looked. This race is often held up as evidence that Massa was occasionally fast enough to get on terms with Schumacher, who was in the final year of his first F1 career.

That's what it looked like from the outside. But Schumacher would have beaten Massa to pole, despite a higher fuel load, had he not made a mistake on his qualifying lap.

In the race, too, Schumacher was on target to win until the advent of the safety car meant Ferrari had to 'stack' their drivers in the pits. The German rejoined behind Renault's Fernando Alonso and failed to get past the Spaniard for the rest of the race.

The 2006 Brazilian Grand Prix

Massa has chosen this because it was his first win at home - and it was a victory that was as dominant as it looked. He took a comfortable pole and never looked like losing the race, winning by 18 seconds from Alonso, who claimed his second consecutive title.

The action was all behind them - and it centred on Schumacher, for whom this was the last race before retirement. The German, whose faint hopes of winning the title ended when he suffered an early puncture, fought back from 18th to fourth to end what turned out to be his first F1 career in style.

Highlights of the race, not broadcast since the day itself, are embedded below. Beneath them are links to short highlights of last year's Hungarian Grand Prix.

In order to see this content you need to have both Javascript enabled and Flash installed. Visit BBC Webwise for full instructions. If you're reading via RSS, you'll need to visit the blog to access this content.



The classic grands prix will be available on the BBC red button in the UK as follows:

Satellite and cable viewers will be able to watch them from 1500 on Wednesday 27 July until 0850 on Friday 29 July.

On Freeview, they will be shown from 2200 on Wednesday 27 July until 0600 on Thursday 28 July, from 2110 on Thursday until 0245 on Friday 29 July and again from 0435 until 0600 on Friday.


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