Left field

The Reuters global sports blog

Don’t write off the old continent just yet

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By Alan Baldwin

Speaking about the Formula One calendar and the continuing expansion to east and west, the sport’s commercial supremo Bernie Ecclestone declared this month that Europe was “finished“.

“It will be a good place for tourism but little else,” he told Spanish Sports daily Marca. “Europe is a thing of the past.”

With the financial pages full of Europe’s woes and the rise of the fast-moving BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) bloc, the 81-year-old was not just being his usual deliberately provocative self.

Formula One has always followed the money and there is still plenty of that sloshing around in the Middle East and Asia.

Helping to pay your way in F1

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MOTOR-RACING/Indian Narain Karthikeyan’s return to Formula One, along with Renault’s retention of Russian Vitaly Petrov and the imminent arrival of Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado and Mexican Sergio Perez, has put the issue of the so-called ‘pay driver’ — a man whose place on the grid is rightly or wrongly considered as much down to the amount of sponsorship he brings as talent behind the wheel — firmly back in the spotlight.

There are those who bemoan the situation, lamenting the lack of opportunities for the talented but hard-up aspirant, but that is not a new phenomenon even if it was more muted in the era of manufacturer dominance.

The F1 title race, in old money

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GERMANY/McLaren’s Formula One champions Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton have both sought solace in the scoring system after recent setbacks.

But in fact, if they did the maths they might feel a little bit sore. Applying the 2009 points to the 2010 results so far, the title battle would actually be even tighter.

Team orders? That will be $100,000

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Any Formula One team wishing to manipulate the outcome of a race in favour of one or other of their drivers at least now knows the going rate after this week’s hearing in Paris into the recent Ferrari furore.

Team orders? That will be $100,000 — at least until the end of the season, after which there may well be no charge at all.

Remembering Bruce McLaren

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Ferrari made much of their 800th Formula One grand prix in Turkey last Sunday, throwing a party in Istanbul and racing with the number 800 on their cars’ engine covers.

It was just a shame their performance on the track was nothing to shout about.

Over at McLaren, a more poignant milestone was being marked more discretely — one fittingly capped by Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button finishing one-two in the race while the sport’s only Antipodean driver, Mark Webber, joined them on the podium.

F1 is not all glamour

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MOTOR-RACING-PRIX/Who said Formula One was all glamour, parties and champagne?

Mark Webber provided a different insight on Wednesday as he sat in the Red Bull hospitality unit — the usual description of motorhome hardly applies to a floating palace moored to the Monaco harbourside — and described how his evening had panned out after winning the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona last weekend.

The Aussie hero had just taken the third win of his career, dominating the race from pole and beating the rest of the field into submission. So how did he celebrate? A night on the town perhaps? Not a bit of it.

Who do you think you are? Lewis Hamilton?

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MOTOR-RACING-PRIX/An irresistible story from Melbourne, where Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton was stopped by the police for “over-exuberant” driving on the road.

Hamilton was fastest in practice for the Australian Grand Prix on Friday and apparently struggled to make the adjustment to his road car. Here’s the story from Ian Ransom in Melbourne and Alan Baldwin in London:

Who do you think you are? Jenson Button?

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Muscles acheing, and body sagging under the lingering effects of jet-lag, I wiped away beads of sweat and warily contemplated our newly-arrived karting opponents.

They looked like proper Formula One drivers.

A British media v Lewis Hamilton/Jenson Button “challenge” could only be a mismatch, even if one of our more souped-up members did bring his own race suit and helmet to the party.

Schumacher faces up to his past

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SPORT-MOTOR/MERCEDESThe late Peter Ustinov, a comic connoisseur of national stereotypes in his 1958 spoof commentary for an imaginary Grand Prix of Gibraltar, might have enjoyed Monday’s Mercedes team launch in Stuttgart.

As Michael Schumacher observed, referring to his new employers’ prospects for the season ahead, all the ingredients were there.

Odd Germans and lucky underpants

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MOTOR RACING/SCHUMACHERCynics may observe that Michael Schumacher’s desire to be the odd man out in Formula One has the added bonus of always putting the German ahead of his team mate in the pecking order, even if only on paper.

What Schumacher wants, Schumacher generally gets and it comes as no shock that the new Mercedes (formerly Brawn GP) team run by his old Ferrari technical director Ross Brawn immediately granted the seven times world champion’s wish and give him the number three on his car, ahead of Nico Rosberg’s number four.

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