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F1 news in brief - Sunday
  • Hamilton struggling with ear infection at Suzuka
  • Suzuka in talks for new GP contract beyond 2011
  • Schumacher to base 2012 decision on form next year - brother
  • McLaren duo disagree over 2010 car influence
  • No further penalty for Hamilton after Williams protest
  • 'Bubble car' embarrasses Hamilton in drivers parade
  • Webber extends lead with three races to run
  • No team boss role for Schumacher in 2011 - Haug
  • McLaren hopes to avoid Korea penalty for Hamilton

Hamilton struggling with ear infection at Suzuka
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton's Suzuka struggle became even more obvious on Sunday, when it emerged the 2008 world champion is suffering an ear infection.

The McLaren driver had crashed in Friday practice at Suzuka, following two consecutive race-ending collisions.

He then learned on Saturday that he would have to move back five grid positions due to an unscheduled gearbox change, meaning that managing to qualify just behind the Red Bulls is good enough only for eighth.

"It doesn't appear to be slowing him down," BBC pundit Eddie Jordan said after learning about Hamilton's minor health issue.

But to make things even worse for Hamilton, the stewards are investigating Williams' claim that Nico Hulkenberg was held up on a flying lap by the Briton in qualifying.

"It's not been the best of weekends for us," admitted the 25-year-old Hamilton, revealing that the repaired rear wing parts rushed to Suzuka after his Friday crash were ultimately not used.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso benefits from the Hamilton demotion after qualifying just fifth, but he is still behind both Red Bulls and also the impressive Robert Kubica for the race start at 1500.

"We need to pressure Red Bull.  We know they are very quick but if we put some pressure maybe they make a mistake.  But so far they are very dominant this weekend," said the Spaniard.

Suzuka in talks for new GP contract beyond 2011
(GMM)  Organizers of the Japanese grand prix say they would like to continue to host the formula one race at Suzuka beyond the 2011 contract.

But with Honda, Super Aguri, Toyota and the popular Takuma Sato all departed, and Bridgestone supplying tires for the last season, Suzuka and Kamui Kobayashi and Sakon Yamamoto represent a fading Japanese involvement in the sport.

"It's under discussion, but we would like to continue," Itaru Yamada, motor sport managing director of the Honda-owned Mobilityland company, told Reuters on Sunday when asked about a new race contract for 2012.

Despite eager fans happily and patiently sitting under Saturday's torrential rain, the media report said there are 50,000 fewer spectators at Suzuka on Sunday compared with four years ago.

And Yamada said the event is currently only marginally profitable.

Schumacher to base 2012 decision on form next year - brother
(GMM)  Ralf Schumacher on Sunday indicated he thinks it is possible 2011 will be his older brother's last season in formula one.

Mercedes this weekend denied reports that 41-year-old Schumacher could be shown the door is he again fails to match the pace of his teammate Nico Rosberg next season.

Currently, the seven time world champion is contracted to the end of 2012.

Asked about his brother's full three-year commitment, former Williams and Toyota driver Ralf Schumacher, standing in this weekend for absent RTL commentator Niki Lauda, said: "You have to be realistic, and Michael is a realist.

"If he finds out next year that it is still not working, he will base his decision on that," added the German.

Another rumor flying about at Suzuka this weekend is that Felipe Massa could leave Ferrari at the end of the year, even though Sebastien Buemi laughed at wild Italian reports indicating he might be the replacement.

"I will have a Ferrari engine but not a Ferrari car," the Toro Rosso driver told BBC television.

And Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali also said it is "categorically wrong" that Massa, who failed to qualify inside the top ten on Sunday morning, is leaving the team.

McLaren duo disagree over 2010 car influence
(GMM)  McLaren's racing duo have disagreed about how the early development of the 2010 car impacted the pecking order at the British team this season.

Jenson Button, whose decision to switch to the Woking based team this year was made late, explained at Suzuka that he is expecting a better 2011 season.

"The fact is when I arrived in January the car was already built," said the reigning world champion, who qualified two tenths behind his teammate Lewis Hamilton on Sunday morning.

Button, 30, is also five points behind Hamilton in the drivers' standings, despite two consecutive race-ending crashes for the latter Briton.

He continued: "Next year I'll definitely be a stronger driver just through experience and having a bit more direction when it comes to development of the car."

But Hamilton denies that the gap between the pair is easily explained by his greater involvement in the development of the MP4-25.

He argues that Button had "just as much input as me" into the car, with the exception of early seat fittings and other minor influences.

"But he was as much a part of it from when he joined the team as I was," said Hamilton, 25.

"So he has only missed out on a couple of months really.  And he wouldn't have wanted to drive last year's car.

"This is a completely new one.  It is not like this year's is an evolution of last year's," he insisted.

No further penalty for Hamilton after Williams protest
(GMM)  FIA stewards at Suzuka have rejected Williams' protest that was lodged after Sunday morning qualifying.

The British team argued that Nico Hulkenberg, who qualified ninth for the Japanese grand prix, was blocked on a flying lap by Lewis Hamilton.

"I don't understand why he backed off into me because there wasn't a car in front of him," said German Hulkenberg.

It is believed the difficulty with Williams' protest was that both Hulkenberg and Hamilton were on fast laps at the time of the incident.

Another interesting developing story at Suzuka two hours before the race is a rain shower on the radar, currently scheduled to hit the circuit during the event at 1500.

'Bubble car' embarrasses Hamilton in drivers parade
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton's bad weekend at Suzuka went from pain to plain embarrassment an hour before the Japanese grand prix.

Surrounded by his Red Bull rivals perched in stately Rolls Royces, and Fernando Alonso in a classic Ferrari, Hamilton's tour of the circuit for the drivers' parade generated more laughs than adulation from the fans.

The McLaren driver shared with his chauffeur a tiny 1950s Messerschmitt KR175, better known as a three-wheeled 'bubble car'.

It is powered by a 173cc engine, steered with bicycle handlebars and fired up with a pull-rope.

Luckily, the 25-year-old world champion of 2008 also saw the funny side, taking a picture of the 'bubble car' with his mobile phone once the agonizing lap was over.

Webber extends lead with three races to run
(GMM)  Mark Webber finished second in Sunday's Japanese grand prix but still moved another step towards winning the 2010 world championship.

At Suzuka, the Australian finished a second behind his Red Bull teammate - the pole sitter and winner Sebastian Vettel - but because Fernando Alonso finished third, Webber extends his lead to 14 points with just three races left to run.

That handy points margin for Webber is over both Ferrari's Alonso and Vettel, who are level-pegging on 206 points.

"The last two races were a little bit difficult for us but we came here with quite some confidence," said the delighted Vettel, who also won from pole in 2009.

"This track is kind of made for us."

Lewis Hamilton drops from third in the championship to fourth, after a nightmare weekend topped off by another gearbox problem that caused him to lose pace and voluntarily yield fourth place in the race to his teammate Jenson Button.

Briton Hamilton is now 28 points behind and faces another five-place grid drop in Korea if his gearbox needs to be replaced again.

Button in the sister car is a further three points adrift, but team boss Martin Whitmarsh is not giving up.

"We're still pushing hard.  Anything can happen, it's that close a championship," said the McLaren chief on BBC television.

No team boss role for Schumacher in 2011 - Haug
(GMM)  Mercedes has categorically ruled out suggestions a move into team management could be an elegant way for Michael Schumacher to return to racing retirement at the end of 2010.

Before the seven time world champion finished a credible sixth at Suzuka on Sunday, Mercedes' competition chief Norbert Haug was asked if there was any truth to the latest rumors.

"There is more credibility in Norbert Haug becoming an F1 driver than in Michael Schumacher becoming sporting director of Mercedes," Haug told BBC Sport.

Earlier in Japan, Haug dismissed rumors that 2011 could be Schumacher's last at the wheel of a Mercedes because the German marque had issued an ultimatum.

"I have no complaints and no regrets that we're going to achieve our target," said the German.

"We are sticking together and, for me, Michael is as good as he ever was and probably even better," added Haug.

McLaren hopes to avoid Korea penalty for Hamilton
(GMM)  McLaren is confident it can avoid Lewis Hamilton receiving a grid penalty for the forthcoming Korean grand prix.

The Briton moved five places down the Suzuka grid due to an unscheduled gearbox change before qualifying, and he finished the Japanese race without third gear that further dented his fading championship hopes.

"I didn't think the car would make it -- it was making a lot of strange noises," said Hamilton, who finished in fifth place.

"The championship doesn't look great at the moment," admitted the 25-year-old, who is now 28 points behind Mark Webber's lead.

Initial analysis of the latest gearbox problem by the team in the Suzuka garage is a dog-ring failure.

Said team boss Martin Whitmarsh: "We're confident it can be resolved for Korea without incurring a five-place grid penalty.

"For the final three races, we've got to make sure we have 100 per cent reliability.

"We'll keep on pushing and developing this car.  There's no reason why we can't be fighting for the championship in Abu Dhabi," he insisted.

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