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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Hamilton says Massa crash 'deliberate'
  • Coulthard fit for China after Fuji crash
  • Alonso vows to help Massa win title
  • Major Williams backer in strife
  • 'All resources' focused on 2009 - Honda boss
  • Renault, Honda, Toyota to improve F1 engines
  • 2009 Canada GP rescue unlikely - Nick Fry
  • Kimi drops out of 2008 championship hunt

Hamilton says Massa crash 'deliberate'
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has accused his championship challenger Felipe Massa of deliberately colliding with him during Sunday's Japanese grand prix.

Ferrari's Massa, now lagging 5 points instead of 7 behind the McLaren driver, was penalized for tipping Briton Hamilton into a spin that dropped him to the rear of the field at Fuji Speedway.

"I did the corner normally and he came back very aggressively and hit me.  I think that was pretty much as deliberate as can be," Hamilton, 23, told reporters in a briefing some time after the end of the race.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis' reproaches against Brazilian Massa were more subtle, but the Mercedes chief Norbert Haug left the press in little doubt as to his suspicions.

Comparing Massa's penalty with that of Hamilton's botched first corner, the German said: "Lewis harmed nobody, but Felipe spun his direct championship rival and I doubt that is what the spectators want to see."

27-year-old Massa strongly denied that his move could be compared to the controversial title tactics of his mentor Michael Schumacher.

But he said even Hamilton's finger pointing will not hurt their amiable relationship.

"I will not do something to destroy something on purpose," Massa said.

In fact, Massa predicted that a few days of calm will alter his rival's perception of the incident.  It was obvious after the race that Hamilton was furious with the events.

Referring to the stewards' controversial decision to penalize his attack at the first corner, Hamilton admitted: "My personal disappointment will be with the start and the second will be with the way I'm treated.

"Everyone braked late and I just went a bit wider than everyone else and, for some reason, I got a penalty for that.  I can't honestly understand that."

Dennis adds: "The thing that really got to him was the penalty -- it really did.  He was bitterly complaining about it in the car."

Coulthard fit for China after Fuji crash
(GMM)  David Coulthard has brushed aside fears he might have to miss the penultimate race of his long formula one career.

The veteran Scot crashed heavily at the start of Sunday's Japanese grand prix when his Red Bull single seater sustained a suspension failure.

The 37-year-old was subsequently spotted taking off his racing boot and sock and inspecting a sore foot, mere days before the start of practice for the subsequent Chinese grand prix in Shanghai.

But Coulthard told reporters in Japan: "The impact was pretty hard, but I'm fine and I'll have no problem being ready for China."

Coulthard, whose fiancée Karen is pregnant with their first child, admits his decision to retire after next month's Brazilian grand prix flashed into his mind as he headed for the Fuji Speedway barrier.

"I thought to myself, 'Come on, don't hurt yourself now -- you've only a couple more races to do!'" Coulthard smiled.

Alonso vows to help Massa win title
(GMM)  Back to back grand prix winner Fernando Alonso has admitted he would assist the title challenge of Ferrari's Felipe Massa in the last two races of 2008.

After his disastrous tenure at McLaren last year, the Spaniard makes clear he is not barracking for the British team's Lewis Hamilton, who leads the points standings against Massa by 5 points.

In the official post-race press conference at Fuji Speedway, Alonso admitted he agreed with the stewards' decision to penalize Hamilton for his first corner incident.

The 27-year-old later told Italy's Sky: "I didn't know why he (Hamilton) had been penalized.  After last year, I want Ferrari to win.  I will help Massa if I can."

Despite backing Massa over Hamilton, however, Alonso admits he has not been overly impressed with either driver's championship campaign.

"They have thrown away many points," Spain's Diario AS newspaper quotes him as saying.

"After 16 races the leader has 84 points, but I had that many after 9 races in 2006," Alonso recalls.

Also unimpressed is the winner of multiple Champ Car titles Sebastien Bourdais, who lost his championship points at Fuji after stewards investigated his collision with Massa.

"He's fighting for the title and taking unnecessary risks like that, as he did with (overtaking) Webber as well.

"You've got everything to lose and nothing to gain.  It is a sign of arrogance," the Frenchman charged.

Major Williams backer in strife
(GMM)  After admitting mounting financial losses, the independent British F1 team Williams is now facing a fresh hit of bad news.

One of its major sponsors, the Royal Bank of Scotland, is a high profile casualty of the current global financial crisis, as the British government prepares to bail it out.

RBS chief executive Sir Fred Goodwin, meanwhile, is set to step down.

The British bank is therefore expected to wind up its sports sponsorship programs in the near future.

A spokesman for RBS, which also sponsors European rugby, British golf, equestrian sports and tennis, would not comment on the future of those sponsorships.

Williams' RBS contract, scheduled to run until 2010, is estimated at about $14m per season.

'All resources' focused on 2009 - Honda boss
(GMM)  "Frustrated" Honda workers are now switching their focus to 2009 as the Japanese team fights to emerge from its competitive crisis.

The Brackley based squad has struggled through two consecutive seasons at the back of the grid.

But new team boss Ross Brawn turned Honda's attention to next season some time ago.  "All of our resources are going into 2009," he is quoted as saying by Motorsport Aktuell.

"It is natural for our workers to be frustrated with our situation.

"But on the other hand they can see what we are doing for next year -- and that is a source of new motivation," the Briton added.

Several aspects of the 2009 package are already beginning to show at grands prix in 2008.

The RA108 is now one of the quickest cars off the grid, and at Fuji the team began to tinker with next year's 'traffic lights' pitstop system.

Another welcome addition for 2009 would be Fernando Alonso, who is being openly wooed by Honda.

"The door is widely open for Fernando," chief executive Nick Fry told La Presse.  "We are waiting for him with a bouquet of flowers and champagne!" he grinned.

Asked if Honda has set a deadline for the Spaniard's decision, Fry smiled again: "The Thursday afternoon of Melbourne (2009)."

Renault, Honda, Toyota to improve F1 engines
(GMM)  Renault and Honda have confirmed they will be among the teams authorized to make performance improvements to their engines ahead of the 2009 season.

The FIA declared recently that some teams will be allowed to "equalize engine performance", following the emergence of a situation whereby some frozen-specification V8s have pulled ahead this year.

"We will have to present a project to the FIA with all the changes that we want to do, and they will have to approve them," Renault boss Flavio Briatore confirmed to the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

Honda's team CEO Nick Fry, meanwhile, explained that only some teams will get the green light to carry out work.

"For some, like McLaren, Ferrari and BMW, it is probably not necessary.  But yes, I can confirm that we (Honda) will be able to do it."

It is believed that Toyota is the other carmaker likely to be approved for engine performance improvements.

Briatore, who argues that Renault has fallen as much as 30 horse power behind in the engine freeze, explained: "It is obvious that we will not be able to change the concept of the engine, but we will be able to modify some internal components.

"This year we are the team that has improved its car the most.  With the improvement of our engine, in 2009 we will have a great single seater," the Italian vowed.

2009 Canada GP rescue unlikely - Nick Fry
(GMM)  There is not enough time to rescue the Canadian grand prix for 2009, according to Honda's team CEO Nick Fry.

A financial dispute with Bernie Ecclestone resulted in the Montreal race dropping off the calendar for next year.

The issue is now the subject of frenetic rescue efforts, not only by Canadian levels of government but in the F1 teams' alliance FOTA, for whom the key North American market is now entirely absent from the schedule.

Fry told the French language newspaper La Presse: "I do not think we will be able to save the 2009 race; there is not enough time.

"On the other hand we must find a solution for 2010 and the years beyond.  Within FOTA, we must make it a top priority to have at least two North American races on the calendar."

Kimi drops out of 2008 championship hunt
(GMM)  Sunday's Japanese grand prix hammered the final nail into the coffin of reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen's title defense.

The Finn's third place finish was his first podium appearance since June's Magny Cours round, but he nonetheless slipped an insurmountable 21 points behind the championship leader with just two races to go.

Also officially out of the running are BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld and leader Lewis Hamilton's McLaren teammate Heikki Kovalainen.

Singapore and Fuji winner Fernando Alonso, meanwhile, could go on to win the last two races of the season while Hamilton fails to finish, but would still fall 16 points short of a third drivers' title.

Joining Hamilton and Felipe Massa in with a mathematical chance of the title, however, is BMW's Robert Kubica, who collected 8 points at Fuji while his championship rivals faltered.

"We are still in the fight, so let's try," said the Pole, who openly acknowledges that his car is not a match for the two top teams despite his mere 12 point deficit to Hamilton.

"I think Kimi showed last year that everything is possible and I hope we can find a few tenths which will help me in the battle," the 23-year-old added.

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