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Honda pulls out of Formula One

Monte Carlo The shock news that Honda is to pull its team out of Formula One is still reverberating around the sport of motor racing.

Honda’s F1 executives, Ross Brawn and Nick Fry, are seeking new owners for the British-based team before the 700 workers receive their redundancy notices. Honda has just announced it will give the management up to three months to find a buyer.

Meanwhile motor racing’s ruling body, FIA, will host an annual dinner in Monaco on Friday to discuss the crisis and, almost as an afterthought it seems, Lewis Hamilton will be presented with his first World Drivers’ Championship regalia.

McLaren co-owner Ron Dennis said: “We know we have to reduce our costs to cater for the inevitable downturn in income that is coming in 2010 and 2011. We predict that our turnover will drop to as low as £175 million a year. Our budget comes from the advertising budgets of the companies that support us, and inevitably advertising budgets get slashed or, at least are significantly trimmed in times of economic strife.”

FIA president Max Mosley said: “The FIA would join with FOTA (Formula One Teams Association) in seeking to persuade FOM (Formula One Management) to divide the prize money so that up to 12 teams are guaranteed at least $50 million (£34 million) each. This would ensure a full grid with a strong possibility that new teams will enter the championship, filling vacancies.”

The developing economic depression will not leave many unscathed, including the wealthiest of operators.

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Lewis Hamilton World Champion at last

The headlines say it all: “Can Hamilton become new Muhammad Ali?”, “Can Hamilton be as good as Schumacher?” Both in the upmarket Times.

Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton wins Formula One World Championship

Then it’s back down to earth with a bump: “Cheers and boos for Lewis Hamilton, Britain’s new Formula One champion.” The Times again.

What about a totally positive headline? “A relaxed, funny and balanced champion. Ed Gorman wonders how anyone could dislike Lewis.” Er… also The Times.

Any naysayers here? “He is on top of the world but ‘aloof’ Hamilton is still struggling to win over large sections of the sporting public.” You’ve guessed it: The Times, and all on the same day.

Lewis Hamilton, the youngest Formula One world champion ever, certainly seems to have an image problem. His fellow drivers all but accuse him of being a danger to their lives. Spanish F1 fans spit racist remarks on websites and trackside.

And, yet, Hamilton is set to earn more money than any other sportsman in history — and that includes Tiger Woods.

The race itself was a classic. Hamilton went in seven points ahead, and had to finish at least in fifth place if Felipe Massa won.

Massa was in pole position, while Hamilton was fourth on the grid, his horizons closing in on him.

The Brazilian duly went on to win on his home track. However, disaster struck for Lewis Hamilton when he was relegated to sixth position near the end and all seemed lost.

The Brit stuck to his guns, though, and didn’t give up. On the very last bend he attempted a stabbing overtaking move and finished fifth.

The Ferrari team were already celebrating their man’s victory when the news of Hamilton’s heroics hit them.

The rest is history.

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Lewis Hamilton wins in China

Lewis Hamilton in China Lewis Hamilton won the penultimate Grand Prix of the season with a comfortable run from pole.

With his only possible rival, Felip Massa, second, he inched his lead to seven points with only the finale at Massa’s home track in Brazil to come.

This was a much more sensible performance by Hamilton, obviously playing it by percentage advantage now, instead of the wild and woolly driving we’ve become used to in previous outings.

In Brazil, he needs to maintain this attitude. A rush of blood to the head and a collision with another opponent leaving Massa to glide to a win or podium finish, would be more than Hamilton fans could bear.

We shall see.

Earlier
Lewis Hamilton secured pole position in today’s qualifying for tomorrow’s Chinese Grand Prix, the penultimate of the season.

His only rival for the title, Felipe Massa, was third. Hamilton needs to beat him by six points to win the championship in Shanghai. A trip to Massa’s home territory, Brazil, for the final showdown would possibly be a spinetingler too far for the edgy Englishman.

After a disappointing first lap Hamilton’s second was immaculate as he lapped in 1m 36.203s. He led outgoing world champion, Ferrari’s Kimi Räikkönen for pole position by 0.342s.

“I came here in a good frame of mind,” Hamilton said. “And we’ve been competitive all weekend. I lost a lot of time on my first qualifying run, following a big oversteer moment at turn eight, but my second felt almost perfect.”

If Hamilton succeeds, it will be 50 years to the day since Mike Hawthorn became Britain’s first world champion by taking second place in the 1958 Moroccan Grand Prix in Casablanca.

How they will start on the grid:

1 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) McLaren 1min 36.303secs
2 Kimi Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:36.645
3 Felipe Massa (Bra) Ferrari 1:36.889
4 Fernando Alonso (Spa) Renault 1:36.927
5 Heikki Kovalainen (Fin) McLaren 1:36.930
6 Mark Webber (Aus) Red Bull 1:37.083
7 Nick Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:37.201
8 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:37.685
9 Jarno Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:37.934
10 Sebastien Bourdais (Fra) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:38.885
11 Nelson Piquet Jr. (Bra) Renault 1:35.722
12 Robert Kubica (Pol) BMW Sauber 1:35.814
13 Timo Glock (Ger) Toyota 1:35.937
14 Rubens Barrichello (Bra) Honda 1:36.079
15 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Williams 1:36.210
16 David Coulthard (Gbr) Red Bull 1:36.731
17 Kazuki Nakajima (Jpn) Williams 1:36.863
18 Jenson Button (Gbr) Honda 1:37.053
19 Adrian Sutil (Ger) Force India 1:37.730
20 Giancarlo Fisichella (Ita) Force India 1:37.739

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Massa in pole position in Singapore

Felipe Massa is in pole position for tomorrow’s Grand Prix in Singapore. He registered a scintillating lap to pip arch-rival Lewis Hamilton for front-row on the grid.

Felipe Massa
Felipe Massa in pole for Singapore Grand Prix

The race will be the first to be held at night under floodlights, allowing it to be shown live during the afternoon in Britain and Europe. Hamilton starts second on the grid after dominating practice on Friday.

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