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Lewis Hamilton does it again

The question on all our minds yesterday was, could Lewis Hamilton make it first past the chequered flag at Indianapolis, despite his lack of experience, and the undoubtedly fierce challenge from Fernando Alonso?

This morning, the top of the Formula One drivers’ championship looks like this :

1 Lewis Hamilton GB 58
2 Fernando Alonso Spa 48
3 Felipe Massa Bra 39
4 Kimi Raikkonen Fin 32
5 Nick Heidfeld Ger 26
6 Giancarlo Fisichella Ita 13
7 Heikki Kovalainen Fin 12
7=Robert Kubica Pol 12
9 Alexander Wurz Aut 8

The ten point gap at the top will tell anyone who has been paying attention that Lewis Hamilton won his second Grand Prix back to back in North America yesterday.

Hamilton is only 22, driving in his first F1 season. Already he performs as if victory is inevitable, much as Ayrton Senna did in his pomp.

Hamilton started in pole position, scuffled with Alonso early on, but held his lead in the face of a determined challenge from his Spanish team mate.

After establishing a winning margin, he lost it, but then re-established it in alpha style. None of the other drivers on the grid knows what to do about him, not least twice Word Champ, Fernando Alonso.

Apart from his precocious talent, Hamilton’s greatest asset this season has been the reliability of his McLaren car, which has yet to let him down. Despite rumours of massive offers from Ferarri, he was right to stick with his current package, which has all the hallmarks of a runaway winning season.

The story of the US GP is neatly encapsulated in a passage from Daily Mail journalist, Jonathan McEvoy : “It was the beginning of lap 39 at the famous old Brickyard and Lewis Hamilton showed the world what he is made of. Fernando Alonso, pursuing the British rookie from second place, put his foot flat on the accelerator at 200mph and demanded of the young pretender: ‘Hold me off if you think you’re hard enough.’ The world champion wriggled level with the race leader. The wheels of their McLarens came within inches of touching and car-smattering implications. Hamilton stayed cool, pushed Alonso to the left and dived round the righthander fractionally in front. ”

The rest is yet more history for the cool dude that is Lewis Hamilton.

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Lewis Hamilton pole position in US GP

Lewis Hamilton has snatched pole position for the second week in succession.

Fernando Alonso at first dominated the United States Grand Prix practice and qualifying sessions until Hamilton made his late move with awesome ease.


Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren

Hamilton produced two flying laps at the death to take front spot on the grid for this afternoon’s race.

“I knew Fernando would go for it on his last lap and I’m surprised he didn’t go quicker,” said the young Hertfordshire driver after finishing 0.2sec ahead of the Spaniard.

“I really thought Fernando would get pole here. He has been quicker all weekend. My last two laps were spot-on, though — perfect. Getting my second pole was even better than last week and it’s great to see so many British flags.”

Alonso replied, “Being on top in practice makes me confident for the race. I have the pace. I still think I’m in a strong position.”

There was some confusion after Hamilton changed his Mercedes engine, but he will not suffer a grid penalty as it was fitted before final practice.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa will start third alongside team-mate Kimi Raikkonen.

David Coulthard is in 11th spot for Red Bull, two places ahead of Honda’s Jenson Button.

This circuit is not Alonso’s favourite track. The best he has come here is 5th. Nevertheless, his pace in practice suggests he will be hard to beat this time.

If anyone can do it, though, you’d back Lewis Hamilton, who is beginning to take on the same mantle of near-invincibilty once held by Ayton Senna — perhaps the greatest of them all.

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The Future of F1 in the States

Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis circuit, is scheduled to talk next Thursday about “The future of Formula One racing in the United States”. The Indy GP is guaranteed for 2007 but beyond that its continued existence is uncertain and the hope is that George will reveal his plans during his talk.

Indy

Aftermath of the accident that caused the controversy – Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota is hauled from the scene

Much of the doubt surrounding the Grand Prix centers on the events of 2005, when only six cars participated after the Michelin teams withdrew following tire failures on the banked curve. Yet this seems very unfair when it is remembered that the problem was between the tire company and the FIA and it was not caused by the circuit owners. Had the FIA been more flexible in its dealing with the situation, the race would have proceeded as normal. Several solutions, all quite workable, were proposed by Michelin but the FIA rejected them all, insisting that the cars should run on the circuit as it was, even though it was clear that safety was compromised by the likelihood of tire failures. Their own suggestion, that the Michelin-shod cars should slow down for the banked corner, would have made the race as much of a farce as ultimately resulted.

I suppose that it could be said that the banked curve itself was the problem and remains so; it is true that it is the only such corner on the F1 circuits. But in previous years there have been no tire failures and 2005 was a case of Michelin getting their calculations wrong, surely an incentive for tire manufacturers not to repeat the mistake. Now that Bridgestone is the sole tire supplier to F1, any future problems with the corner will be shared by all teams (including Ferrari) and a suitable compromise could be worked out without difficulty.

It should also be considered that F1 is trying to expand its following in the US. If the sport is to run scared of one banked corner, it loses all credibility with Americans, since they are used to so much of their motor sports being held on banked ovals. It becomes important to the future of F1 in America that Tony George decide to continue with the GP, therefore, and he is definitely the man we want to hear from on the subject. All eyes on this coming Thursday.

Apparently there are several F1 teams that would like another GP in the States and I heartily approve of this suggestion. Ideally, such a GP would be held in the west since the east is already catered for and two possibilities spring to mind immediately. Please, Mr Ecclestone, could F1 go back to Long Beach? It is a wonderful street circuit and there were some great races there.

Or, failing that, what about Laguna Seca? Okay, it would need some work done to get it up to F1 safety standards but imagine the cars going through the Corkscrew. If anything will increase the fanbase in America, that would! And it was used for a demonstration run by the Toyota in 2006 so we know it’s possible…

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F1 on Television in America

All Headline News has an article detailing an agreement that Speed Channel and Fox Sports will share broadcasting of F1 races starting from 2009. Fox gets the United States, Canadian, British and French Grands Prix, while Speed retains the rights to televise the rest, most of them live. Both channels will feature the broadcast team of Bob Varsha, David Hobbs, Steve Matchett and Peter Windsor.

Kolles

Colin Kolles, Managing Director of the Spyker MF1 team

So it seems there is still confidence in the future of F1 in America, amongst TV executives, at least. There are several blithe assumptions included in the agreement, however, the main one being that the races doled out to Fox will still be in existence two years from now.

With Bernie Ecclestone broaching the subject of the British and French GPs alternating year by year, I wouldn’t care to put money on both races being available for broadcast in 2009. A lot can happen in F1 in that time and some races will have to disappear to make way for new ones like the Indian Grand Prix. Then there is Indianapolis. It’s assured for 2007 but beyond that, who knows?

The point is that F1 has become a sport in which nothing can be guaranteed for more than a year, sometimes even less. Circuits come and go, seemingly at Bernie’s whim, and the FIA re-define the rules as they go along. I don’t envy the TV execs who had to sign up for a contract that looks as far ahead as 2009.

Inside F1, the rumbles regarding customer cars continue. Leading the charge against Super Aguri’s and Toro Rosso’s plans for next year is Colin Kolles of the Spyker team. Of course, Aguri and Rosso deny that their cars will be bought in from their respective parent teams but the suspicion remains even so.

Now would be a good time for the FIA to step in and define clearly what consitutes a bought-in chassis and what defines an independently-built one. From the excuses, explanations and accusations floating around, it seems that the line between one and the other is very vague. And it would be best to have the whole business sorted out before the new season starts, rather than have the usual mid-season bans and dramas.

For once, this is a situation where the FIA should settle the argument before it gets steam up.

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