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Sebastian Vettel wins at Monza as Hamilton loses appeal

Sebastian Vettel A near faultless performance in the Italian Grand Prix by 21-year-old German, Sebastian Vettel, made him the youngest race winner in Formula One history.

In very wet conditions, Vettel followed his debut pole position with a maiden race win after an astonishing weekend.

Behind him, Felipe Massa was sixth in his Ferrari, and drivers’ leader Lewis Hamilton seventh for McLaren, with the gap now just one point between them.

Heikki Kovalainen, in his McLaren-Mercedes, was second and Robert Kubica, driving a BMW Sauber, came third.

Over the team radio Vettel said, “I can’t believe it. I am lost for words. It is amazing.”

The weather caused chaos, as it did in qualifying. The race began behind the safety car. The race director announced that extreme wet tyres were compulsory because of the worsening conditions.

Lewis Hamilton, who started 15th on the grid, gained one place within seconds of the safety car pulling away as Sebastien Bourdais, starting from fourth, failed to get away.

It was Hamilton who led the way as he scythed his way past David Coulthard in the Red Bull, then Giancarlo Fisichella in his Force India before taking Raikkonen.

Amazingly, on lap 22 Hamilton was up to second and closing in on leader Vettel.

On a one-stop strategy, Hamilton remained on extreme wet tyres as more rain was forecast, but it was not heavy enough. He eventually had to change strategy and dropped back to seventh.

As forecast by Jackie Stewart, Hamilton lost his appeal against the 25-second penalty handed down by the stewards in Belgium and remains just a single point in front of his only realistic challenger this season, Felipe Massa.

Unlike last year, the Englishman looks faster than his rival and has the better package to drive.

Drivers’ Championship Table

1 Lewis Hamilton GB 78
2 Felipe Massa Bra 77
3 Robert Kubica Pol 64
4 Kimi Räikkönen Fin 57
5 Nick Heidfeld Ger 53
6 Heikki Kovalainen Fin 51
7 Fernando Alonso Spa 28
8 Jarno Trulli Ita 26
9 Sebastian Vettel Ger 23
10 Mark Webber Aus 20

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Coulthard Speaks Out

David Coulthard has been talking about the unreasonable attitude of the FIA towards F1 drivers’ opinions, although he specifically identifies Max Mosley as the main culprit. He refers to the Monza circuit where the GPDA (Grand Prix Drivers Association) expressed their concerns over safety at the track.

David

David Coulthard

“Instead of real answers we got a letter from Max saying we were speaking out of turn and that the terms of our superlicenses include a clause that says we aren’t allowed to speak out of turn or against the governing body, etc,” he said.

As I pointed out in my post, Formula One Shows the Way, the FIA seem to be deliberately ignoring any input from the drivers and have even referred to them as “self-appointed experts”. I cannot think of any other sport that is governed in as high-handed a manner as the FIA run F1.

Years ago, in the midst of the fuss over whether rugby should become a professional sport, I recall the then England rugby captain, Will Carling, getting into trouble for referring to the sport’s governing body as a bunch of old farts. But that is slightly different – as an old fart myself, I have no objection to others pointing out the fact but I do understand that some might feel their dignity deflated by such a term. The GPDA have hurled no insults and merely want their views to be known. When the FIA react by making it a part of the regulations that the drivers have no say in safety matters, I have to think that something is wrong.

Either the “old farts” running F1 have become so obsessed with their own importance that they cannot bear to hear any disagreement with their decisions or there is much more at stake than either we or the drivers understand. And, knowing how the FIA decide these things, I would have to guess that the second option means money. It might be interesting to find out just who will be making the wonderful new barriers touted by the FIA as such a significant breakthrough in safety.

So I sympathize with Coulthard’s mystification at the FIA’s attitude. As he says, it seems to go directly against all their claims to openness:

“The FIA recently commissioned a survey to find out what F1 fans think of the sport – and rightly so.

“I’m all for the fans expressing their views; I’m all for everyone involved in the sport expressing their views; why, then, must we drivers not express ours?”

But not that anything will be done, of course. Just as Will Carling was forced to eat humble pie all those years ago, so will David and the rest of the drivers be told to “Shut up and prepare for blast off.”

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Decisions from the FIA

The FIA has issued a press release detailing its plans for the future of F1. Much of the document is concerned with the intent to force greater fuel economy in racing, to spur research and development in this area, in fact.

Istanbul

The drive to limit the amount the teams can spend on development continues, with the engine freeze brought forward to cover 2007 as well as 2008. But more time has been given (to 2009) for the FIA to develop new rules on aerodynamic advances. Interestingly, it is specified that 18 races will be held in 2007, whereas only 17 are listed in the FIA’s calendar. This must surely give renewed hope to the Imola officials that their circuit will be used next year.

Essentially, the document tells us nothing new; it merely confirms previous suggestions and makes them official. Another and more recent press release is a bit more controversial, however.

The FIA has ruled in the matter of the politicizing of the awards ceremony at the Turkish Grand Prix. The decision is brief enough to quote in its entirety:

WORLD MOTOR SPORT COUNCIL
2006 TURKISH GRAND PRIX – PODIUM CEREMONY
19.09.2006

The World Motor Sport Council has found against the National Sporting Authority of Turkey (TOSFED) and the Organisers of the Turkish Grand Prix (MSO) on all counts.

The organisations have been fined a combined total of $5 million.

That’s a huge fine to you or me but, to TOSFED and MSO, it must amount to chickenfeed, especially as they were in danger of losing their race completely. Remembering how Jerez lost its right to hold Grands Prix in 1997, I cannot help but feel that the FIA is demonstrating massive inconsistency here. Here’s what the Wikipedia has to say on the subject of the Jerez ban:

The track itself was banned from hosting FIA-sanctioned racing again after an incident where the mayor of the town disrupted the podium ceremonies. The people chosen to present the trophies were dependent on the race order, with Daimler-Benz chairman Jurgen Schrempp only willing to make a presentation to a McLaren-Mercedes driver. As the McLarens of Häkkinen and Coulthard passed Villeneuve’s Williams on the last lap, this would have meant he could present either the trophy for first or second position or the winning constructor trophy. There was some confusion due to the late changes in position and whilst the Mayor and the president of the region presented trophies, Schrempp did nothing. FIA president Max Mosely later announced “The disruption caused embarrassment and inconvenience to those presenting the trophies and therefore, no further rounds of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship will be held at the Jerez circuit.”

Embarrassment and inconvenience, hey? What, no misuse of the award ceremony for political purposes? It seems to me that it may be a case of one rule for the rich and another for the poor.

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Yet More on the “Blocking” Controversy

Yes, I’m nearly as sick of the subject as you are but some things need to be pointed out since nobody else seems to be mentioning them. Hopefully, this will be my last post on the matter.

It seems that the FIA is moving to clarify the rules regarding blocking in qualifying. SPEEDtv.com reports that the FIA released this statement yesterday:

“Complaints that a driver has been impeded during qualifying will no longer be referred to the stewards of the meeting. Only in cases where it appears to race control that there has been a clear and deliberate attempt to impede another driver will the stewards be asked to intervene.

“We now feel it is pointless for the stewards to engage in long and painstaking enquiries if competitors ignore clear scientific evidence and instead abuse the regulator.”

The first paragraph looks like an admission that the rule was incorrectly applied against Alonso. If the stewards did not make a glaring error, why is it necessary to clarify the rule at all? In effect, the FIA is admitting that the whole thing was absurd and that something needs to be done about rules that are open to abuse.

To then turn on Renault in a pointed remark about competitors ignoring “clear scientific evidence” is mere bad temper. Renault had every right to protest against such an awful decision and to make their views known. Had they kept quiet, as the FIA is clearly suggesting, nothing would have been done to alter the rule; the FIA can’t have it both ways.

Max Mosley

Max Mosley

FIA President, Max Mosley has attempted to justify the actions of the stewards by saying that “blocking in fact did take place as the Ferrari driver lost time through the long right-handed Parabolica turn” (F1 Racing-live.com). This is the biggest load of baloney I’ve heard in a long time. So Massa lost some time in the Parabolica? Where is the proof that this was caused by Alonso, who was over a hundred yards ahead of him at the time? For all we know, Massa may have slowed for other reasons entirely.

Presumably, Mosley means that the Ferrari’s aerodynamics were affected by the turbulent air created by the Renault – but welcome to F1 qualifying, Max; this happens time and again to every driver and they accept that it’s part of sharing the track with other cars. Plenty of drivers were much closer to the car ahead on their hot lap than Massa ever was but they didn’t see a need to complain to the stewards.

The plain fact is that the Monza stewards made a decision grounded entirely upon their favoring of Ferrari and we all know it. The FIA is engaged in a rearguard action to save its reputation but, let’s face it, that reputation was blown long ago and this latest incident merely serves to confirm what we have suspected for years.

Okay, I’ll shut up now.

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