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Latest F1 news in brief
  • 'Silly' decision cost Hamilton title - Ecclestone
  • McLaren figures reject 'wrong button' claims
  • Haug rejects Briatore criticism
  • Rodriguez rejects pay-driver label
  • Now Montezemolo attacks Bernie, FIA
  • 'Don't try' to woo Rosberg, Williams tells Dennis
  • McLaren appeal 'a catastrophe' - Lauda
  • Brazil debut was Nakajima 'test' - Wurz
  • Klien not staying as Honda tester
  • President says Ferrari drivers secure
  • Schu denies Alonso, Kimi, made him quit

'Silly' decision cost Hamilton title - Ecclestone
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone says Ron Dennis is to blame for handing the 2007 drivers' championship to Kimi Raikkonen in last Sunday's Brazilian finale.

The F1 chief executive, who made no secret of his desire that Lewis Hamilton should beat the Ferrari driver or Fernando Alonso to the title, said McLaren committed a "silly" strategy error that cost rookie Hamilton the sport's biggest prize.

"Ron gave Raikkonen the championship," Ecclestone said, referring to the decision to change Hamilton's strategy to a three-stopper after his gearbox went into neutral.

Bernie, 76, told the Mirror newspaper: "He made no time on the road and lost 25 seconds making the stop.  If he had only lost 15 seconds he would have been fourth.

"(Now) Raikkonen is champion.  I just hopes he starts talking more."

McLaren boss Dennis argued in a team-generated interview this week that switching Hamilton's strategy gained him between 10-15 seconds compared with the two-stoppers.

But triple world champion Niki Lauda agrees with Ecclestone.

"A two-stop strategy could have bought him up to fifth place.  We need to look at times.  There are 20 seconds missing.  If this is the case McLaren screwed up," the Austrian veteran said.

McLaren figures reject 'wrong button' claims
(GMM)  McLaren figures have vehemently denied claims that Lewis Hamilton's finger trouble cost the British rookie the 2007 title in Brazil last Sunday.

The Canadian newspaper La Presse reportedly quoted 22-year-old Hamilton this week as admitting that he pressed a button on his steering wheel during the Interlagos race that selected neutral and left him without power for half a minute.

Spanish sports newspaper Marca told a similar story on Thursday, claiming that the button Hamilton pushed was colored yellow and activated the pit lane speed limiter.

On-board replays of the incident depict Hamilton, 22, pressing a green button with his left thumb, which according to photographs is marked 'N' (for neutral).

In Thursday's edition of Bild-Zeitung, however, Mercedes-Benz competition director Norbert Haug denies the claims.

"No, it was not Lewis' mistake.  At the moment we suspect a problem of a (gearbox) control valve."

A McLaren spokeswoman elaborated: "It was due to a default in the gearbox that selected neutral for a period of time.

"It was not as a result of Lewis pressing an incorrect button on his steering wheel," she added.

McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh explained: "It would appear that the barrels that change gear went out of control - and out of control of the driver - and that's probably hydraulic."

Even Hamilton contradicted the reports.

He told Bild: "That is total rubbish!"

Haug rejects Briatore criticism
(GMM)  Norbert Haug has rejected claims that McLaren should have benched Fernando Alonso for the final races of 2007.

Renault boss Flavio Briatore earlier this week said the tension between teammates Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso was a devastating factor as the battle against Ferrari reached its climax in Brazil last Sunday.

"They should have put a reserve in Alonso's place and Hamilton would have won without any problem," the Italian told Antenna 3 television.

Haug, who is competition director for McLaren's engine partner Mercedes-Benz, responded: "I did not see that comment, but we believe we acted correctly.

"Lewis' problem in the final races was not Fernando."

The German also rejected Alain Prost's claim that McLaren should have nominated a clear 'number one' driver in 2007.

Haug told the Bild-Zeitung newspaper on Thursday: "Our problem was not the equality of the drivers, but a problem in China and a gearbox problem last Sunday."

The German admitted, however, that McLaren chiefs are currently "discussing internally" the appearance of the 2008 driver lineup, amid intense rumors that Alonso is set to leave the team.

Rodriguez rejects pay-driver label
(GMM)  Roldan Rodriguez has denied reports that he is promising up to $15m in personal sponsorship for a Force India seat in 2008.

The Spanish GP2 driver has signed a contract to be with the Silverstone based outfit next year but is apparently still in competition with several other contenders for the ride alongside Adrian Sutil.

But in the Spanish press, he contradicted claims that he is only a frontrunner because of his hefty backing.

"There is a 80 per cent chance that I will be their race driver next year," 22-year-old Rodriguez said, "especially if I keep doing a good job with the test driving.

"It depends on that, not the money," he added.

Rodriguez's next appearance for the team formerly known as Spyker will be at Circuit de Catalunya in mid November.

Now Montezemolo attacks Bernie, FIA
(GMM)  After lambasting McLaren, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has broadened his post-championship attack.

Despite Kimi Raikkonen's drivers' title victory last Sunday, Montezemolo used the occasion to denounce McLaren for this year's espionage affair and censure Lewis Hamilton for having not always "behaved exemplarily" in his rookie season.

The Italian is now quoted as scolding F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone for having publicly favored Hamilton as his preferred champion of 2007.

"I've read what Bernie Ecclestone had to say about Lewis Hamilton's skin color and that it would be even better if he was a Muslim," Montezemolo said.

"Bernie would be better off talking about how the dishonorable decision taken by the FIA was humiliating for everyone, starting with him."

Montezemolo also cynically denounced the World Motor Sport Council for earlier this year declaring McLaren's car as illegal but allowing Hamilton and Fernando Alonso to continue fighting for the title.

"I've already thought about competing in the next championship with a 8 liter engine -- the team would be disqualified, but the driver would still win," he defiantly mocked.

He compared the concept of a McLaren driver winning this year's title to a "jockey who races with a doped horse".

'Don't try' to woo Rosberg, Williams tells Dennis
(GMM)  Sir Frank Williams has advised his McLaren counterpart Ron Dennis against even trying to put Nico Rosberg in a Mercedes-powered single seater for 2008.

"Ron Dennis does not even have to try," the Grove based team's co-owner and principal told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

"Nico is not for sale."

Williams' latest comments follow Mercedes competition director Norbert Haug's revelation that McLaren chiefs are now knuckling down to determine the team's 2008 driver lineup for 2008.

The openly uncomfortable Fernando Alonso has an ongoing contract, but Haug told Bild-Zeitung on Thursday that the team is currently "discussing internally" the driver question.

And the German told RTL in Brazil last weekend: "Nico is a very impressive driver, who has in the last two years at Williams learned an awful lot."

Rosberg, meanwhile, was not entertaining the McLaren rumors at Interlagos.  "I am happy where I am," the 22-year-old insisted.

"Here I have the opportunity to grow with a great team."

He finished a career best fourth last Sunday, and commented: "I am super happy with how this season has ended.

"Our goal for next year must be to move even closer to BMW."

McLaren appeal 'a catastrophe' - Lauda
(GMM)  Niki Lauda has added to the criticism of McLaren's decision to appeal the outcome of the 2007 world championship.

The triple world champion, who formerly drove for Ron Dennis' Woking based team, said trying to get three cars kicked out for fuel irregularities so that Lewis Hamilton can win the title by default was "abstruse" at best and possibly sour grapes.

"This is a catastrophe at the end of a chaotic year," the veteran Austrian told Thursday's edition of the daily Frankfurter Rundschau.

Lauda's criticism follows a similar reproach from the German newspaper Bild-Zeitung earlier this week.

"If McLaren succeed, they will deserve only one title: Worst Losers, 2007," Europe's most widely-circulated daily wrote.

Brazil debut was Nakajima 'test' - Wurz
(GMM)  Kazuki Nakajima's formula one race debut at Interlagos last Sunday may indeed have been an evaluation for a full time seat in 2008.

When it was announced that the Japanese rookie would replace Williams' retiring Alex Wurz in Brazil, the Grove based team insisted that his debut was not "an evaluation exercise for a race seat in 2008".

"You cannot assess a driver's capability on the basis of one race but this is an ideal opportunity to develop Kazuki's experience," Sir Frank Williams said.

Nakajima, 22, has also recently been linked with Ralf Schumacher's Toyota seat for next year.

An insider told Sport Bild last month: "With the successes of Hamilton with McLaren, the youth principle has now drawn the attention of Japan.  And Kazuki is young and Japanese."

Now, while denying that he was compelled to vacate his Williams seat in an interview with motorline.cc, Wurz has suggested that officials saw Nakajima's debut as an opportunity to "test" his readiness for a full time formula one drive.

The Austrian said his Williams bosses "mentioned that my race cockpit in Brazil will be used to test Kazuki for 2008".

Klien not staying as Honda tester
(GMM)  Christian Klien says he has little interest in returning to Honda next year as test driver.

The Austrian 24-year-old filled the role this season, but he tells the news agency APA that he only accepted the job as a stepping stone back to the formula one grid.

"The race seats are occupied (at Honda) so to spend another year as test driver brings me nothing," Klien, who debuted for Jaguar in 2004 and raced for Red Bull in 2005 and 2006, said.

He said he never considered the Honda role as a "permanent solution".

"One year is enough testing," Klien added.  "I want to race again."

He said there are still some opportunities on the 2008 grid up for grabs.

"But first we have to wait and see what Fernando Alonso does," Klien explained.  "It does not look too bad, but we are still two or three weeks away."

Klien tested for Spyker at Spa-Francorchamps in July.

President says Ferrari drivers secure
(GMM)  Luca di Montezemolo has given short shrift to speculation that Ferrari's driver lineup for 2008 might not be secure.

Newly crowned Kimi Raikkonen and his teammate Felipe Massa are firmly under contract, but it was nevertheless rumored that Fernando Alonso might switch from McLaren for next season.

Ferrari president Montezemolo gave new impetus to the Alonso rumors this week when he called the Spaniard a "class act".

But the Italian is now quoted as saying: "With all the respect that I have for the others I wouldn't swap my drivers for anyone."

Montezemolo praised Raikkonen as the ideal replacement for Michael Schumacher, and also has fond words for the Finn's Brazilian teammate.

"(Massa) had more pole positions than anyone else, he is strong and loyal and it's not insignificant that I personally took the decision to renew his contract up to 2010," the Italian insisted.

Schu denies Alonso, Kimi, made him quit
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher has denied that the ascendency of F1's new generation pushed him into retirement at the end of 2006.

The seven time world champion told a Spanish magazine earlier this year: "I always said that the day a younger driver went past me would tell me that the moment had arrived to leave."

It has also been claimed that the German, 38, was not prepared to go head-to-head this year with Ferrari's new signing, Kimi Raikkonen.

As he prepares to receive the Prince of Asturias award in Fernando Alonso's hometown of Oviedo on Friday, Schumacher was asked if the Spaniard motivated his decision to stop.

"My decision had nothing to do with Fernando.  Not at all.  Nor had it to do with Kimi.  It was all inside me.  The circle was closed," he insists.

Alonso, who arrived in Spain on Thursday, agrees.

"Michael stopped because different things motivate him now -- such as his family," he said.

"Anyway, he probably had already decided to retire before the start of the (2006) season."

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