Pic of the Day


The photo is from this weekend in Suzuka, Japan. The Japanese Gran Prix. It rained.

These two cars are driven by teammates who also happen to hold the top two positions in the world championship with four races left in the season. At that moment they were separated by a hair, a couple of points.

The driver on the left is Nico Rossberg. Catching him on the right in Lewis Hamilton. Competing with each other for the world championship truly is more important than team victories. Mercedes would not like it to be that way – but, it is and cannot be any different.

In the rain, slowing from perhaps 200mph to take this turn around 60 mph, braking in the rain, Lewis Hamilton is about to pass Nico Rossberg on the outside of the curve they are entering and go on to win the race.

Understand all of that in Shuji Kajiyama’s photograph.

Sebastian Vettel is youngest-ever Formula One world champion

Vettel carrying his race trophy back to the changing room
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Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel is the new Formula One world champion after winning the title-deciding race in Abu Dhabi on Sunday. The German produced a peerless drive from pole position to take the checkered flag ahead of the McLaren pair of Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso, who led the championship standings going into the final race of the season, could only manage seventh place to see his title hopes ruined.

The 23-year-old Vettel is the youngest-ever world champion in motorsport’s premier class, claiming his fifth victory of the year to take the lead in the standings for the first time in a topsy-turvy season…

“I’m a bit speechless. I don’t know what you are supposed to say in this moment,” Vettel told the official post-race press conference.

It has been an incredibly tough season, physically and mentally especially. But we have always believed in myself, my car, the team…”

Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The victory left Vettel on top of the standings with 256 points, just four clear of Alonso. Webber finished the season on 242 points with 2008 champion Hamilton on 240.

Red Bull had already clinched the constructors’ title after the penultimate race in Brazil, but a solid display from McLaren left them in second place ahead of Ferrari.

Bravo, Vettel. I’m still a McLaren fan; but, Sebastian Vettel has been knocking at the door for a while, now. His talent couldn’t help but bring him to the top.

Mercedes + Schumacher + Brawn together in F1

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Seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher is to return to Formula One next season to drive for Mercedes.

The 40-year-old German, who retired in 2006, has agreed a three-year contract with the possibility for a further extension according to his agent Sabine Kehm and will be on the grid for the curtain-opening Bahrain Grand Prix on March 14.

Schumacher, who was unveiled at the team’s factory in Brackley, will join compatriot Nico Rosberg at the former Brawn GP team, who were taken over by Mercedes at the end of last season having won the constructors’ and drivers world championships.

“After a three-year break, I have all the energy again that I was lacking,” Schumacher told reporters via a teleconference call.

Schumacher, who won five of his world titles with Ferrari, attempted to make a comeback for the Italian team last year in place of the injured Felipe Massa, but a neck injury sustained in a motorcycle race thwarted his return…

“Over the summer it was too soon after the accident. Now everything has healed,” said Schumacher, who will have his first practice session with his new team on February 1.

I have decided to return to Formula One. Mercedes GP and I agreed on teaming up for the coming seasons. And to be honest, I’m already super excited by the prospect to be back in a F1 cockpit,” he added on his official Web site.

“I don’t want to deny at all that the idea of a German F1 team extremely tempts me. I guess every German driver would feel this way. And of course it plays a major role that I again can work together with Ross at Mercedes GP. Above all, however, my old hunger for racing is back — I realized that my old passion was returning. Suddenly I was on fire again,” he added.

Though I always seemed to be supporting someone else – like Mika Hakkinen – a certain level of insanity is required to deny that Schumi is the greatest driver of recent generations.

To see him driving for the Silver Arrows of Mercedes – back together with Ross Brawn as team principal – is an amazing opportunity. He is one of those consummate skills who just may be capable of beating everyone else in the world, the oldest driver in every race.

Silver Arrows return to Formula One

German car giant Mercedes has bought the Brawn Formula 1 team in a move that is likely to see Jenson Button join McLaren as Lewis Hamilton’s team-mate.

Mercedes will buy 75% of Brawn in partnership with an Abu Dhabi investment company but will continue as McLaren’s engine partner until 2015. Brawn, who won both world titles in their debut season in 2009, will be rebranded as Mercedes Grand Prix.

Nico Rosberg will be their lead driver, with Nick Heidfeld his likely partner. Fellow German Timo Glock, who drove for Toyota last season, is also a possibility.

“We are talking (with Button) and that’s why we cannot announce the driver line-up,” said Norbert Haug on Monday. “We have to accept that speculation takes place, but that’s the name of the game.”

But he added: “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.”

RTFA for all the silly season gossip. It’s the time of the year for drivers to play musical chairs. We get the added benefit of new players in terms of new teams + new money scattered here and there.

Renault agree with Ferrari and threaten to quit Formula One

Hey, at least QPR is in the top half of the table…

Renault have today joined forces with Ferrari by confirming their intention to withdraw from the 2010 formula one world championship unless recently-adopted regulations are revised. The motor sport’s world governing body, the FIA, and its president Max Mosley, now face critical talks with all the teams if they are to save the sport.

The Renault president, Bernard Rey, said: “We remain committed to the sport, however we cannot be involved in a championship operating with different sets of rules, and if such rules are put into effect, we will be forced to pull out at the end of this season.”

The Renault team boss, Flavio Briatore, added: “Our aim is to reduce costs while maintaining the high standards that make formula one one of the most prestigious brands on the market. We want to achieve this in a co-ordinated manner with the regulatory and commercial bodies, and we refuse to accept unilateral governance handed out by the FIA. If the decisions announced by the World Council on the 29th of April 2009 are not revised, we have no choice but to withdraw from the FIA formula one world championship at the end of 2009.”

If Mosley and Bernie don’t get their act together, I presume the manufacturers will pull together their own series of circuits and racing schedule – and that’s that.

Most lifetime gearheads like me will follow the talent – not the bureaucrats.

Ferrari issue ultimatum to the FIA and F1

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Ferrari have threatened to quit Formula 1 at the end of the season if the sport continues with plans to introduce an optional ÂŁ40m budget cap from 2010. “If the regulations for 2010 will not change, then Ferrari does not intend to enter cars in the next Formula 1 world championship,” read the statement.

Ferrari fear the evolution of a two-tier championship, between those teams who adopt the cap and those who do not.

“Fear the evolution”? How about diluting the concept of the most demanding motorsport in the world into an “A” league and a “B” league?

The teams will discuss the plans with FIA chief Max Mosley in the next week. But motorsport’s governing body, the FIA, has so far refused to be drawn into a public discussion about Ferrari’s threat.

Ferrari insist their announcement is not simply posturing or a political move. “The board consider that if this is the regulatory framework for F1 in the future, then the reasons underlying Ferrari’s uninterrupted participation in the world championship over the last 60 years – the only constructor to have taken part ever since its inception in 1950 – would come to a close.”

Though I haven’t been a Ferrari fanboy in a long time – cripes! I haven’t been any kind of “boy” in a long, long time – losing the prancing horse would be sufficient for my own unnoticed departure.

Too bad, really. This has been turning into one of the most interesting seasons since I followed battles between Ascari and Fangio. But, if Mosley can’t screw up the sport entirely on his own – he can always ask Bernie for advice.

Button – Barrichello – Brawn dominate the Spanish GP – UPDATED

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Jenson Button’s superb season continued as he grabbed his fourth 2009 race win out of five at a tactical Spanish Grand Prix which Brawn GP totally dominated.

Team-mate Rubens Barrichello got past pole-sitter Button with a great start – but a strategy change benefited the Englishman, who pushed him into second.

Subtle complicity here. If a suggestion from Ross Brawn can ever be considered subtle.

Now, a day after the race, I think the details on lap times make it clear there were no team orders.

Red Bull’s Mark Webber was third ahead of team-mate Sebastian Vettel, who passed Felipe Massa’s Ferrari late on.

McLaren’s world champion Lewis Hamilton finished outside the points in ninth.

Massa ran third for much of the race, holding up Vettel’s faster Red Bull, but the Brazilian lost the place to Webber at the second pit stops thanks to clever strategy from Red Bull.

Massa then slipped down to sixth behind Vettel and Renault’s Fernando Alonso in the closing laps when the Brazilian was forced to go into fuel-saving mode when a problem at his pit stop meant not enough fuel was put into his car.

BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld and Williams’s Nico Rosberg finished seventh and eighth in the final points positions.

With a win that never looked in doubt after he had built up more than 11 seconds between his car and the rest of the field half-way through the race, Button has further stretched his lead at the top of the drivers’ championship and now sits 14 points ahead of Barrichello…

The sixth race of the season takes place on the street circuit of Monaco in two weeks’ time on 24 May.

Monaco – so difficult, so important to the history of motorsport, a feather in the cap of any driver good enough – and fortunate enough – to win there. There will be a TV breakfast party at our home. 🙂

Button, Barrichello and Brawn head the grid in Australia

Jensen Button during practice in Australia. Yup, slicks are back.
Daylife/Reuters Pictures

Britain’s Jenson Button claimed pole position for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne — leading a sweep of the front row for Formula One new boys Brawn GP. Button edged out teammate Rubens Barrichello of Brazil by three hundredths of a second to claim the fourth pole of his career…

But Saturday’s qualifying provided little cheer for reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton, who will have to start from 18th in the grid. Hamilton struggled to the 15th best time but was relegated to the very rear of the grid because the gearbox in his McLaren had to be changed.

He later gained a partial reprieve as the Toyotas of Timo Glock and Jarno Trulli were penalized for a technical infringement with the rear wings of their cars…

Like McLaren, Ferrari were also off the pace with Felipe Massa qualifying seventh best and Kimi Raikkonen in ninth, although both will move up a place after the punishment meted out to Toyota by race stewards.

It is the first time in 38 races that neither a Ferrari or McLaren is on the front row for a grand prix.

Sebastian Vettel will start from third on the grid on his debut for Red Bull, with Robert Kubica also performing superbly for BMW Sauber — the Pole joining the promising young German on the second row…

Button will be aiming for the second victory of his 154 grand prix career in a remarkable reversal of fortunes for the former Honda team whose future looked bleak when the Japanese car manufacturer pulled out of the sport late last year blaming the global economic downturn. But a management buyout led by technical guru Ross Brawn rescued the team and secured drives for Button and Barrichello.

Exciting as all hell. Even though I’m a McLaren and Hamilton fan, it’s a gas to see Ross Brawn pull off a season start like this one.