The Reuters global sports blog
The Nordschleife. Just the word sends shivers down the spine of even the best motor racing driver. Sir Jackie Stewart nicknamed the old track in western Germany the “Green Hell” and although it is extremely dangerous, they all loved racing it really.
Talks about exhilarating. I was lucky enough to be driven round the fearsome circuit by a specialist driver in a Mercedes two-seat sportscar ahead of this weekend’s German Grand Prix at the adjacent Nuerburgring.
It was wet, so we only went half pace but my heart was still beating faster than I can ever remember. Given the conditions, the driver did remarkably well and dealt admirably but a couple of inevitable skids on a track deemed too dangerous in 1976 to continue racing F1 there.
“If we hit that kerb, we’d fly straight into the wall,” he said twice as we topped 120 mph in places.
From the very first moment he arrived in Formula One as a curly-haired teenager, new world champion Sebastian Vettel was a young man in a hurry.
The 23-year-old Red Bull Driver, who became the youngest winner of the drivers’ championship with victory in Sunday’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, has set records from day one.
The 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.
Cynics 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.
Former champion Niki Lauda did not mince his words last year when he said that Formula One’s Singapore Grand Prix race-fixing scandal demanded the heaviest of punishments to restore credibility.
A Times headline called Brazilian Nelson Piquet’s deliberate crash at the 2008 race “the worst act of cheating in the history of sport.”
Mika Hakkinen has the air of a man who has seen it all before.
He stared death in the face when only an emergency trackside tracheotomy saved his life after a crash at the Australian Grand Prix.
He returned to Formula One to win the drivers’ title in 1998 and 1999. He enjoys homes in Monte Carlo, France and his native Finland.
The news has just come in from Paris, where Renault have been handed a suspended ban from Formula One, while their former boss Flavio Briatore has been banned from all F1 activities, including driver management, and ex-technical chief Pat Symonds is barred for five years.
So the immediate result of the inquiry into race-rigging at last year’s Singapore Grand Prix is that Renault can stay in the sport, provided they stay on their best behaviour for the next couple of years, even though the offence was described by the FIA as one of “unparalleled severity”.
A disappointing day for fans of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher, with news that the German has had to call off his proposed F1 comeback.
As the seven-times world champion said on his website:
“Yesterday evening, I had to inform Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo and Team Principal Stefano Domenicali that unfortunately I’m not able to step in for Felipe (Massa). I really tried everything to make that temporary comeback possible, however, much to my regret it didn’t work out. Unfortunately we did not manage to get a grip on the pain in the neck which occurred after the private F1-day in Mugello, even if medically or therapeutically we tried everything possible.
The Brawn GP, Toyota and Williams Formula One teams have been cleared by stewards to race in Sunday’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix after protests by three rival teams over the design of their rear diffusers were rejected.
Red Bull, Renault and Ferrari had lodged protests on grounds the rivals’ cars did not comply with technical regulations. The three will appeal the protest’s rejection.
Even in the often bizarre world of Formula One, this week’s points system controversy takes a bit of explaining.
Ultimately, inevitably it all comes down to politics.
The governing International Automobile Federation (FIA) wanted to show the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) who called the shots while the teams were determined to demonstrate their own new-found unity and leadership.