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Vettel is F1 World Champ for third time

Sebastian Vettel

Sebastian Vettel is the youngest-ever Formula One triple-champion after finishing sixth the rain-interrupted Brazilian Grand Prix.

It was a curious season with seven different winners in the first seven races. For a time Lewis Hamilton shone and threatened to take the title, before announcing his departure from the McLaren team next season to go to the less than scintillating Mercedes outfit.

Sebastian Vettel only broke clear of the championship pack late in September with his win in Singapore.

In the end Vettel took Spain’s Fernando Alonso by three points, after an early crash and a long, brilliant drive through the pack to pip Alonso who also had trouble in the wet conditions.

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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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Honda’s Nick Fry on BMW Sauber

Here’s a strange little news item from F1 Racing-live: Honda’s Nick Fry has apparently criticized BMW Sauber for the way they intend to use their third driver, Sebastian Vettel, in 2007. He thinks that having Vettel drive the cars during practice will annoy both contracted race drivers as they lose valuable time on the circuit.

Nick

Nick Fry

He may have a point. But why would he bother to say so? If a close competitor is making a tactical error, surely it would be best to grin and keep quiet? Admittedly, Nick “expressed delight” that BMW should make such an error but it makes no sense that he should announce it to the world, thereby giving his rivals the opportunity to realize and fix their mistake, if that’s what it is.

It reminds me of Flavio Briatore’s outburst against McLaren earlier this year. That made no sense at the time unless it was viewed purely as a chance to grab some attention during a quiet week for F1. Perhaps Nick Fry has subscribed to the Briatore school of public relations and the belief that any publicity is good publicity.

It seems a waste of words to me, however. In view of the fact that I have suggested Honda as a good bet for the championship next year, I find it slightly worrying that their team manager should indulge in such pointless statements. Shouldn’t he be far too busy preparing for next season to be worrying about what BMW Sauber are up to?

Maybe I’m just old fashioned but I like the quieter style of Ron Dennis. You don’t see him courting publicity or criticizing the way others run their teams – he lets them make their mistakes and gets on with his own business. Did you see any response from him to Flavio’s critique of his motorhome, for instance?

Of course, Nick Fry’s words were probably spoken in an unguarded moment and some journalist, desperate for some news in the off season, has run with them. And yes, I’m getting a post out of them too. But at least I didn’t headline it “Honda Slams BMW!”

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BMW and Young Drivers

At the Friday Press Conference for the Shanghai Grand Prix, some of the team managers were in the spotlight. Amongst these was Mario Theissen of BMW Sauber and he gave some interesting insights into BMW’s policy on selecting young drivers.

Theissen

BMW Sauber’s Mario Theissen

Q: Mario, we’ve seen you use young drivers this year to remarkable effect: obviously Robert Kubica but also latterly Sebastian Vettel as well. What is BMW’s policy regarding young drivers? You have a staircase of talent with Formula BMW, tell us your policy.

Mario THEISSEN: Well, the general policy with our entire Formula One project is to groom the team in-house rather than take on people from the outside. Obviously, if you want to ramp up (your personnel) by 150 people in one and a half years you have to take on people from the outside, but wherever possible, we take young people on the engineering side as well as on the driving side and develop them on our own. On the drivers’ side, there is a particular resource with Formula BMW. Guys go there at the age of 15 or 16 so we have quite a close relationship, get a very good idea of what they are capable of, and then we have them on our screen as they go up through the other formulae, so I think it’s quite a successful approach to watch young drivers and to evaluate them. That led us to taking on Sebastian Vettel which certainly is extraordinary for a 19-year old guy. Generally, I’m not proposing to take on younger and younger drivers into Formula One but in the case of Sebastian, we thought he’s there, he’s ready to take the job and apparently he’s proved that. If you are successful doing so, I think it’s the best approach you can take. You have to be careful to pick the right guys.

It is true that, in both Robert Kubica and Sebastian Vettel, BMW seem to have chosen two exceptionally talented new drivers. Remembering that Michael Schumacher first came to fame through the Mercedes program for young drivers in the sportscar formula, the wisdom of F1 constructors being involved in lesser formulae is apparent.

This is just a part of my increasing respect for BMW’s efforts in F1. They look like a team that is going places. Their professionalism and design strength is very apparent, they have set realistic goals (and do not become over-excited when they exceed those goals) and their car is the best-looking on the grid (well, it’s important to me – why do you think I supported Minardi from very early on?).

Much of this must be due to Theissen’s organizational skills. I particularly like his realism in admitting quite openly that one of their two podium finishes this year had a lot of luck involved. He is being cautious about the team’s chances in China, too, pointing out that it is a very different type of track from Monza, where they did so well. It’s such a sensible attitude – if they do particularly well, he can give a sly wink as if to say, “Well, you didn’t expect me to tell you we had something special awaiting, did you?” And, if the cars finish out of the points, he can always say that he told us so.

Elsewhere, Friday practice in Shanghai proved very little, as usual. The test drivers were quick, Alex Wurz (Williams) and Sebastian Vettel battling it out for quickest time. Ferrari look to be in a strong position with Renault holding their cards close to their chests. We shall see the true position tomorrow in the qualifying sessions.

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