Latest F1 news in brief – Monday

  • Hamilton claims he can't see well through his mirrors

    Sorry Hamilton admits mirror visibility problem

  • Press, pundits – Vettel on track to F1 greatness
  • Red Bull's Marko promises 'proper' title party
  • Webber admits 'no choice' but Red Bull stay
  • Witness backs Ecclestone's blackmail claim – report
  • No more Mr. Nice Guy?
  • Toro Rosso fined €5,000 for loose wheel
  • Success means lower budgets for Red Bull – Mateschitz

Sorry Hamilton admits mirror visibility problem
(GMM) Lewis Hamilton pointed the blame towards his car's mirrors at Suzuka after yet another crash with Felipe Massa.

Unlike in Singapore two weeks ago, the Briton was not penalized by the stewards for the latest run-in with his 2008 world championship rival.

But this time, Hamilton – who was physically accosted by Massa after the recent night race – issued an apology.

"There was no bad intention towards Felipe; I’ve got the utmost respect for him, he's a fantastic driver and he was extremely quick today," he said.

Earlier this season, when contemplating the number of on-track incidents Hamilton has endured in 2011, David Coulthard revealed that he had spoken to the 26-year-old about visibility.

"I said (to Hamilton) 'You sit very low in car, do you get enough visibility?' He said 'Although I sit low the visibility is fine'.

"But I wonder if he's missing out in close-quarter racing by sitting so low," added Coulthard.

Similarly, Nigel Mansell revealed this week that when he was a steward at Spa, he interviewed Hamilton about his clash with Pastor Maldonado at the bus-stop chicane.

"I asked Lewis if he had seen Maldonado and he replied 'no'," the 1992 world champion told the Daily Mail. "For all the years I did the job, I had an idea where everyone was on the track around me.

"No one in his right mind deliberately drives into another car, so I wonder if some of his problems have been caused by a lack of visibility? He needs to show better peripheral awareness of where he is," added Mansell.

After his latest crash with Massa, Hamilton finally admitted that he does have a visibility problem.

"The only thing I have to say is that I can't see anything out of my mirrors," said the Briton. "They vibrate so much down the straight. I had no idea he (Massa) was there.

"Maybe that's something we've got to look into."

Brazilian Massa, however, was not interested in Hamilton's explanation or even his apology.

"For what he says, I don't care, just (I care about) what he did. I care about what the federation says and what the FIA does (about it)," said the Ferrari driver.

Press, pundits – Vettel on track to F1 greatness
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull could reign over a new era of dominance in formula one, the international press and paddock pundits said after Sunday's Japanese grand prix.

At Suzuka, despite needing only a single point to rule his last opponent out of contention for the 2011 title, Vettel ensured Jenson Button will not come within 14 points of his second consecutive world championship.

The young German did it by finishing third but Spain's El Mundo hailed a campaign that has been "too perfect" for the Red Bull driver.

Sir Jackie Stewart told the Daily Mail in Britain that he can't see why Vettel won't dominate for years to come.

"He is unquestionably the most mature 24-year-old racing driver I have seen," said the triple world champion.

Agreed Britain's Telegraph: "Vettel may rule for 10 years", with the Independent adding he "has hallmarks of a new Prost or Senna".

"Last season he was a sometimes callow 23-year-old," observed the Guardian. "This year he has appeared a 24-year-old veteran".

1996 Monaco grand prix winner Olivier Panis is quoted by Finland's Turun Sanomat: "He is one of few drivers who may have the opportunity to break Michael Schumacher's almost unbreakable records".

Agreed Virgin's Timo Glock: "If he keeps getting machines like this year, he could beat Michael", the German is quoted by Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

Vettel's achievement sees him join Schumacher and seven other fellow greats – including Fangio, Hakkinen and Alonso – who have managed back-to-back championships.

"Now we will see who is the youngest three time world champion," smiled Ferrari's Fernando Alonso.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has already delivered her official congratulations, while the Kolner Express quoted a Suzuka spectator called Norbert as saying: "I am not a double world champion, only his father".

Canada's French language La Presse had high praise for Vettel, insisting he is "largely responsible for Red Bull's dominance this season", with Reuters saying he has gone from "Crash Kid to Mr. Consistent".

And the team's Dr Helmut Marko warned: "As the whole team is staying together, I see no reason why we cannot be as successful next year."

According to father Norbert, young Vettel has not let his success and fame change him. "You need to be hard for formula one, but he's not a bastard".

Niki Lauda wrote in Bild newspaper: "His friendly facade is genuine, but behind the baby-face is a killer."

And among his future achievements could be his mentor's ultimate record.

Smiling Vettel told reporters at Suzuka: "Did you notice that Michael is the youngest seven time world champion — ever?!"

Red Bull's Marko promises 'proper' title party
(GMM) Sebastian Vettel's title party at Suzuka was a slightly muted affair.

It featured techno music but didn't compare to Abu Dhabi last year, when the Red Bull driver emerged as the surprise champion ahead of favorites Fernando Alonso and Mark Webber.

At Suzuka, the party had to play out with team members knowing they had to soon pack up and head off to South Korea, where practice kicks off in a few days.

On Monday, 24-year-old Vettel – only the ninth back-to-back world champion in F1 history – is already in Tokyo.

On Tuesday, he will travel to Yokohama for a sponsor appointment, before flying to Korea on Wednesday, according to the news agency DAPD.

"Don't worry," Dr Helmut Marko said at Suzuka late on Sunday. "Next we will get the constructors' title and then we will celebrate properly."

Webber admits 'no choice' but Red Bull stay
(GMM) Mark Webber has vowed to improve despite now sharing a team garage with F1's youngest ever double world champion.

Less than a year ago, the Australian arrived at the season finale as a favorite for the championship, amid rumors he might be snapped up by Ferrari.

But ten days into October of 2011, his teammate Sebastian Vettel is the back-to-back title winner.

"We have had some problems but, ultimately, the problem is that I have not been fast enough or consistent enough to fight for wins with Sebastian," admitted the 35-year-old.

Webber said he has struggled to adapt to the Pirelli tires and make good race starts but "It's true that I have struggled with Seb", he told the Spanish newspaper El Pais.

"He has not had any problems with the tires, with getting up and running at a good pace without destroying them. I have to improve," said Webber.

El Pais also reminded Webber that, last year amid the Silverstone front wing saga, he said that if he knew he was subordinate to his teammate, he would not sign a new deal.

"What has changed to make you sign for another season?" asked the newspaper.

Webber answered: "I re-signed because I had no choice."

But he denied that his single year deal is making him nervous, with drivers like Fernando Alonso and now Jenson Button locked into contracts for the long term.

"They are younger than me, but it doesn't worry me too much," insisted Webber. "You can sign for two or three years but I am sure that Jenson and Fernando have clauses to opt out if they don't have competitive cars."

And he insists he is not necessarily now Vettel's 'number 2'.

"Well, both this year and last year we started on equal terms but it ended well for Sebastian. This time I have just been fighting to win races.

"I have to be prepared because, maybe, he's not going to like the new car or is not comfortable with it," said Webber.

But he acknowledged that Vettel is likely to remain up to speed because the RB8 "is going to be very similar to what we have now".

Witness backs Ecclestone's blackmail claim – report
(GMM) A witness in the forthcoming trial of former F1 banker Gerhard Gribkowsky reportedly supports Bernie Ecclestone's claims.

The F1 chief executive insists he only paid millions to jailed Gribkowsky amid the sale of the sport's commercial rights some years ago because he was effectively blackmailed.

But Ecclestone, 80, has reportedly remained under investigation by the Munich prosecutors as some paddock regulars wonder how the indefatigable Briton could ever be blackmailed and for such a huge amount of money.

Der Spiegel news magazine, however, will report on Monday that a female former colleague provided Gribkowsky with a document showing Ecclestone's links with Bambino, his offshore family trust.

Ecclestone, to appear as a witness at the trial, had claimed in July that Gribkowsky "threatened that he was going to say that I was running it (the trust)".

"He was shaking me down and I didn't want to take a risk," he added.

Spiegel claims Ecclestone's explanation is backed by the female witness who told investigators that she showed Gribkowsky the offending document in 2004.

"I was scared," the report quotes Ecclestone as telling investigators, who have reportedly not found the document. Gribkowsky denies its existence.

Vettel takes Hamilton to the grass at the start
Red Bull Photo

No More Mr. Nice Guy?
“So that’s the way we’re racing now, is it?" Race victor Jenson Button’s remark to newly crowned world champion Sebastian Vettel as they toweled down before appearing on the podium after the Japanese Grand Prix was revealing. Not least because Vettel, in a career in which he has become regarded as ‘Mr. Nice Guy’, has never been guilty of cynical gamesmanship against his rivals.

Certainly, he crashed into Webber behind the Safety Car in Japan back in 2007, but that was a lapse rather than a deliberately pushy maneuver. And he came together with Webber in Turkey last year, but everyone blamed that one on the Australian. However, though it was cleared by the stewards, Vettel’s move against Button, when he forced the Briton onto the grass at the start in Suzuka, was as uncompromising as Michael Schumacher at his peak. And there I was thinking that Seb’s professed admiration for his older countryman was simply PR speak!

Don’t get me wrong, I know that Formula One isn’t for sissies, and I would have expected the Suzuka panel – with hard-nosed Aussie world champion Alan Jones on its strength – to clear Vettel of any technical infringement. But I would somehow also have expected Seb to have given the faster starting Button more room in that run down to the first corner. In the end there was no harm done as far as Button was concerned, thanks to quick evasive action and a cool head that allowed him to rebuild his race and come through to win.

What it goes to show of course is that you don’t become a winner, or a world champion, without a measure of arrogant bloody-mindedness. After all, despite the appreciation expressed to the team, only one person wins the race, only one person becomes world champion. And that means you have to know you’re the best and have the resolve to crush the opposition. Without that, you could never be a winner.

Though Vettel was already all but mathematically assured of the title before Suzuka, he obviously wanted to drive the message home with a decisive victory in the clincher. And one sensed a tinge of disappointment in his expression and body language as he mounted the podium and faced the Press after his third-place finish in Japan. Sure, he was world champion for the second year in a row, the youngest driver to have achieved the double. But the anthem being played on the podium was for Jenson Button, and the largest ‘jug’ was his. A slightly bitter pill to swallow, that, even though you’ve just been crowned 'king of the world' Cars in Action

Toro Rosso fined €5,000 for loose wheel
Toro Rosso has been fined €5,000 (£4,300) by FIA race stewards at Suzuka after Sébastien Buemi’s right-front wheel was not properly attached at his sole pit-stop.

The incident in question happened 21 minutes into the race, with Buemi becoming the only retirement when the aforementioned wheel came off his car in The Esses.

Stewards, including 1980 World Champion Alan Jones, labeled the moment an ‘unsafe release from pit-stop, due to error by mechanic’.

Success means lower budgets for Red Bull – Mateschitz
(GMM) Success is helping Red Bull to lower its formula one team budget, owner Dietrich Mateschitz revealed on Monday.

The Austrian billionaire was speaking the day after Sebastian Vettel celebrated his second consecutive drivers' title by singing 'My Way' and 'Yellow Submarine' in the form of Japanese karaoke.

Mateschitz said the young German is making F1 cheaper for his energy drink company.

"Already this year we had a lower net budget than last year," he told the Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten.

"Now, with our even greater success, the additional rewards, more sponsors, in 2012 budget will be lower still," added Mateschitz.

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