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DATE News (chronologically)
03/20/07
f1
Australian Grand Prix postscript  INDIANAPOLIS - Rookie Lewis Hamilton qualified his Vodafone McLaren-Mercedes fourth, ran in second place for much of the Australian Grand Prix ahead of his teammate, double World Champion Fernando Alonso, led four laps and finished third.

Not a bad day in the cockpit for his first career Formula One start.

"It has been fantastic," Hamilton said. "To lead my first Grand Prix was a fantastic feeling. It was extremely tough. I had Fernando behind me for a long time, and it's pretty tough when you have the two-time World Champion behind you in your first race.

"But I must say the team has done a fantastic job, preseason, preparing the car, not only the team here but back at the factory they have been working day and night to get the car ready and it was great.

"It was a bit unfortunate at the second pit stop (to lose second position to Alonso). I think the stop went fine but back markers were pretty tough. But it was all a new experience for me and I thoroughly enjoyed it."

Hamilton's paternal grandparents immigrated to England from the Caribbean island of Grenada. He is the first driver of African-Caribbean heritage to race in F1.

Speed confident car will improve: Although the weekend did not go smoothly in the Australian Grand Prix season opener, American F1 driver Scott Speed is confident that his Scuderia Toro Rosso Ferrari is going to improve considerably in the coming races.

The car should be much more competitive by the time Speed arrives at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his home United States Grand Prix on June 17, Speed said.

"I'm optimistic about the year because I think it is going to be a great season for us," he said. "But the beginning of the year is going to be very tough for our team. We still have quite a bit of stuff to learn about our car.

"Out of everyone here, we are probably going to be the ones that progress the quickest at the beginning of the year. The difference from race one to race four for us is going to be a big one."

Speed and his teammate, Tonio Liuzzi, had limited running in the new STR2 Ferrari prior to the car making its race debut in Australia. Speed turned more laps during the race weekend than he had during preseason testing.

While Liuzzi finished 14th, Speed retired with a tire blowout.

The car, designed by the Adrian Newey, whose cars have won 100 Grand Prix races, has plenty of potential that the team still needs to unlock.

"It has been a struggle for us in particular because we got everything so late," Speed said, "and we are still having problems.

"It is such a huge difference for us, this car compared to last year's car. It is so much more complex, and all the guys are really still getting used to it. Like I said, it is going to be a slow start for us, but we have a car that has a lot of potential. As the season goes on, we are going to be getting closer and closer."

F1 rock & roll: Scott Speed gave Motley Crue rock star Tommy Lee a ride around the track in a Ferrari sports car and a tour of the Scuderia Toro Rosso pit garage.

"I showed him around," Speed said. "The most interesting thing for anybody seeing a F1 car is the steering wheel, because it is something that they can relate to. We show them all the buttons on it, and how much we have to do when we are driving."

A F1 steering wheel is a highly complex unit with numerous buttons and dials that control many of the car's functions. The steering wheel costs as much as a luxury road car.

Raikkonen back on top: Kimi Raikkonen's victory in Australia was his first with his new team, Ferrari. He went winless with McLaren-Mercedes in 2006. His last win came in September 2005 at the Belgian Grand Prix.

"Of course it is a special moment, with a new team, everything new and we can win in the first race, so it is ideal," he said after winning the 2007 season opener. "At least people will not ask, 'When you are going to win?'

"I am happy because it is a new season and to win straightaway is good, also. I am really happy with the team, and how things are going with the people and how the car is. So it could not be better than it is now."

Congratulations: Shortly after Raikkonen won, Ferrari Managing Director Jean Todt received two phone calls from Europe on his cell phone,

"I was very happy to get two telephone calls," Todt said, "the first from Michael (Schumacher) as I was going up to the podium, which I handed to Kimi, and the other from (Ferrari president) Luca di Montezemolo, who was jumping for joy as if this was our first win in a decade. And indeed that is the feeling for us all!"

Five-time United States Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher drove for Ferrari from 1996 through 2006.

Work to do: Like all the teams, reigning World Champion ING Renault seeks improvement after the Australian Grand Prix. Giancarlo Fisichella finished fifth, and his new teammate, Heikki Kovalainen, who replaced Fernando Alonso, was 10th in Australia.

"This afternoon showed us that we have a lot of work to do to be competitive again," Renault Managing Director Flavio Briatore said. "It wasn't a strong race for the team in any department. Giancarlo drove hard to defend his position at the end, and did a good job, while Heikki had a very tough start to his career. But we were expecting more at every level, and we need to work hard to find the performance."

New sponsors: The official name of the Spyker team is now Etihad Aldar Spyker. Etihad is an airline company, and Aldar is a property development company.

The SS United Group Oil & Gas Company is now a major sponsor of Super Aguri.

What's next: The F1 cars and equipment have been shipped to Kuala Lumpur for the Malaysian Grand Prix on April 8. Before the race, the teams will test March 27-29 at the track.

2007 USGP tickets: Reserved Race Day and three-day "Season Passes" for the 2007 United States Grand Prix, June 15-17, are on sale to all customers.

Ticket information can be found any time at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com or by calling the IMS Ticket Office at (800) 822-4639 or (317) 492-6700. Ticket Office hours are from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday-Friday.

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