Sports Outside the Beltway

Sebastian Vettel wins the Japanese Grand Prix

It is his 3rd win of the 2009 season. From AP-

Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel has won Formula One’s Japanese Grand Prix to revive his championship hopes.

Vettel finished ahead of Toyota’s Jarno Trulli and McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton in Sunday’s race at Suzuka.

Drivers’ championship leader Jenson Button of Brawn GP was eighth, a place below teammate Rubens Barrichello. Brawn GP needs just one point in the remaining two races to clinch the constructors’ championship.

In the drivers’ championship, Button’s lead over Barrichello was cut by one point to 14, with Vettel just two points further back.

The final two GP races of 2009 are Brazil in two weeks and Abu Dhabi on November 1st.

Like so many Formula One races, the order of finish was pretty much predetermined before hand. Pre-race penalties to Button and Barrichello dropped those drivers to well back on the grid and left them with little chance today.


Lewis Hamilton wins Singapore Grand Prix

It is his second win of the 2009 Formula One season. From AP-

McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton has won the Singapore Grand Prix and Brawn GP’s Jenson Button has extended his Formula One championship lead by one point.

Hamilton started from the pole on Sunday and protected his lead to finish 9.6 seconds ahead of Timo Glock. The German equaled Toyota’s best Formula One result by finishing second.

Fernando Alonso gave scandal-hit Renault a lift by finishing third for the French team’s first podium finish of the season.

By cheating at last year’s Singapore GP, Renault has brought at least a temporary case of bad karma upon itself. If the racing team’s fortunes don’t improve, will we begin to hear talk of the Singapore curse?


Renault won’t contest Singapore race fixing allegations

This scandal is barely getting attention in the American press(Newspapers or ESPN television). From ESPN-

Renault parted company with flamboyant Formula One team boss Flavio Briatore and his deputy Pat Symonds on Wednesday after accepting allegations that last year’s Singapore Grand Prix was fixed.

The two men were due to appear before the governing FIA in Paris on Monday to face charges, unprecedented even in a sport often mired in controversy, that the team ordered Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash deliberately to help Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso win.

Renault said in a statement it would not dispute the allegations.

“[Renault] also wishes to state that its managing director, Flavio Briatore, and its executive director of engineering, Pat Symonds, have left the team,” the team added.

Italian Briatore led the team to two Formula One constructors’ and drivers’ championships with Alonso in 2005 and 2006 after also winning titles with Benetton and Michael Schumacher in 1994 and 1995.

To maintain the integrity of their sport, Formula One will need to still come down on Renault. Renault admits they took actions to alter the outcome of a race. In other sports, people have gotten lifetime bans for such actions. If Formula One doesn’t want lose the confidence and trust of racing fans and its sponsors, they need to punish Renault very harshly.


Rubens Barrichello wins the Italian Grand Prix

The 2009 Formula One season continues to be unpredictable. From AP-

Rubens Barrichello picked up his second win in three races to lead Brawn GP to a 1-2 finish at the Italian Grand Prix that tightened the Formula One title fight.

Barrichello and teammate Jenson Button both used one-stop strategies to get the sweep at the Monza circuit on Sunday.

Former Ferrari driver Barrichello shaved two points off Button’s overall lead by getting within 14 points with four races remaining.

Lewis Hamilton of McLaren crashed on his final lap while running third. That allowed Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari to take the final podium spot.

Button remains the favorite for the driving title but he isn’t a lock. IMHO he will win, but narrowly.


Renault summoned by FIA to explain Singapore Grand Prix crash

Doesn’t it seem odd to be investigating an incident that happened almost one year ago? From AP-

Renault was summoned by Formula One’s governing body to a hearing into allegations that the team deliberately caused a crash to win a race last season.

The French team was called to appear before the World Motor Sport Council in Paris on Sept. 21, FIA said Friday.

The French team is accused of ordering former driver Nelson Piquet Jr. to crash during last year’s Singapore Grand Prix in order to deploy the safety car, which aided teammate Fernando Alonso. The Spanish driver went on to win the race.

Renault could be fined, banned or even excluded from the world championship if found guilty.


FIA started the investigation after the claim was made by Brazilian TV station Globo during Sunday’s Belgian GP.

You have to assume there is something to substantiate these claims. F1A wasted no time disciplining Rennault for an incident at the Hungarian Grand Prix last July.

Piquet Jr. was fired by Renault last month after 1 1/2 seasons with the team. The Brazilian driver complained about unequal treatment by team principal Flavio Briatore compared to his two-time world champion teammate.

Is a disgruntled Piquet the cause of this investigation? It will be interesting to follow this developing story


Kimi Raikkonen wins his 4th Belgian Grand Prix

It was the first win for the 2007 Grand Prix Champion since last year’s Spanish GP. From AP-

Kimi Raikkonen held off Force India driver Giancarlo Fisichella to win Formula One’s Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, the Ferrari driver’s fourth triumph at the high-speed track in the past five years.

The former world champion, who started sixth, immediately overtook pole sitter Fisichella after the safety car came in following accidents on the opening lap — including one involving overall F1 leader Jenson Button — and held for a 0.9-second victory.

“It’s a proper circuit, an old-style circuit,” said Raikkonen, who clinched Ferrari’s fifth win in seven races at the Spa-Francorchamps circuit. “It’s just been good to me.”

Championship contender Sebastian Vettel of Red Bull, who had retired with engine failures in the last two races, finished third to gain on Button.

Button failed to finish in the points for the first time this season, and Rubens Barrichello moved within 16 points of his Brawn GP teammate after finishing seventh despite an oil leak with two laps to go. Barrichello’s car caught fire as he rolled into pit lane.

Button leads the drivers’ standings with 72 points, followed by Barrichello with 56 and Vettel with 53. Mark Webber of Red Bull, who finished ninth after a drive-through penalty, trails by 20.5 points.

Raikkonen is the sixth different F1 driver to win in 2009. I’m betting it hits double digits before the year is up.


Rubens Barrichello wins the European Grand Prix

Maybe Jenson Button won’t run away with the driving title after all. From AP-

Brawn GP’s Rubens Barrichello won the European Grand Prix on Sunday to claim his first Formula One victory in five years.

The 37-year-old Brazilian took advantage of a costly pit-stop error by Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren team to record a 10th career win — his first since the 2004 Chinese GP — and boost his championship hopes.

Hamilton finished second ahead of Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen after having started the Valencia street race from pole position.

Jenson Button finished seventh to have his championship lead cut to 18 points over teammate Barrichello. Red Bull’s Mark Webber finished ninth and is 20.5 points behind Button.

Luca Badoer, who is filling in for injured Ferrari driver Felipe Massa, finished 17th after starting last.

Hamilton, who also finished second at last year’s race, looked to be cruising to a second straight win after having taken the Hungarian GP. But McLaren’s mechanics fumbled when removing tire warmers during his final pit stop, which lasted 13.4 seconds, and the chance was gone.

Barrichello moved clear in front after his second stop and held on to win by 2.3 seconds.

The racing fortunes of Barricello haven’t been very good since he left Ferrari after the 2005 GP campaign. Barrichello will have to show more consistency before it will acknowledged he is among the top Grand Prix drivers again like he was between 2002-04.


BMW to withdraw from Formula One racing

Their racers are doing dismally this year. From AP-

BMW is pulling out of Formula One at the end of this season, the second car maker to leave the series within a year.

The German company announced the decision at a news conference Wednesday, saying it wanted to use its significant F1 budget in other areas. It will remain involved in auto racing.

Since entering F1 as a team by taking over the Sauber team ahead of the 2006 season — it had previously acted as an engine supplier — BMW had posted just one race win, at last year’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Touted as a championship contender for the 2009 season, BMW lagged well behind the pace of the leading teams.

“Of course, this was a difficult decision for us. But it’s a resolute step in view of our company’s strategic realignment,” BMW chairman Norbert Reithofer said at the news conference.

He said the Munich-based car maker would use the resources previously spent on the F1 team to advance “sustainability and environmental compatibility.”

Japanese automaker Honda withdrew from Formula One before the 2009 season began. The worldwide economic slowdown is causing the auto industry to re-think its sports ventures. The PGA Tour’s Buick Open which will be played this week, is liable to be the last edition of that fifty-one-year-old event. I expect we’ll be seeing more cutbacks in the next year at least.


F1 driver Felipe Massa’s skull fractured in freak accident

He underwent emergency surgery on Saturday. From AP-

Ferrari driver Felipe Massa underwent surgery on life-threatening skull injuries Saturday from a high-speed crash during Hungarian Grand Prix qualifying. He was in stable condition in the intensive care unit of a military hospital.

The accident happened when a loose part from another car hit Massa in the helmet, causing him to veer into a tire-lined barrier at about 120 mph. The front of his car was shredded, with both tires gone and the front nose open.

The 28-year-old Brazilian also sustained a concussion but was conscious when airlifted to AEK hospital, his team said.


Massa underwent surgery about an hour after arriving at the hospital. Hospital doctors subsequently said his condition was “serious, life threatening but stable” at a news conference, but ultimately ruled the Formula One driver was in “stable, satisfactory condition.”

Say a prayer for Massa.

Here’s a video of the crash.

A little over 30 years ago, F1 driver Tom Pryce was killed after he collided with a track marshall. These cars travel at high speed and any impact with items large or small can have fatal consequences for a driver.


Formula One teams announce breakaway series

Ed Hinton of ESPN compares this news to a Force Five Hurricane.

Eight Formula One teams began preparations for a rival series after failing to resolve their dispute with motor sport’s governing body over financial constraints on Friday.

Ferrari, which has participated since the first season in 1950, and current leader Brawn GP headed the list of Formula One Teams’ Association members to announce the split ahead of Sunday’s British Grand Prix.

FOTA, which also includes McLaren, Renault, Toyota, BMW Sauber, Red Bull Racing and Toro Rosso, said it would not compromise on the quality of the series by signing up unconditionally for the 2010 F1 season under the FIA’s plans for cost-cutting. The FIA’s deadline for entry was later Friday.

FOTA’s statement criticized the FIA’s “uncompromising” stance and attempts, along with the commercial rights holder Formula One Management, to divide its member teams.

As it stands, Williams and Force India will be the only current teams on the F1 starting grid next season while three new outfits — Campos Racing, Team US F1 and Manor F1 Team — are also due to enter.

FIA president Max Mosley was insistent on introducing a voluntary $60 million budget cap for teams to curtail a “financial arms race” in F1. Those that don’t agree to the cap would have more technical restrictions, something Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had called “fundamentally unfair.”

Ferrari’s part in this rebellion differentiates it from past affairs. So the threat of creating another racing series is certainly a serious one.

In the present economic climate, can another racing league be formed and started in a matter of months. Sports around the world are cutting back now. Color me skeptical for the moment. I think a compromise will be worked out.


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