Button victorious, after shattering start at Spa

Whatever the hopes and dreams of the drivers at the front of the starting grid for the 2012 Belgian Grand Prix - from championship front-runners Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton to the likes of Kamui Kobayashi and Sergio Perez, two of the more unexpected occupants of the front two rows - many of them would rapidly end amid a cloud of carbon fibre shards and debris, just 60 metres off the start line 

As the lights went out, the initial attention was on front row man 
Kamui Kobayashi whose brakes were sending out an alarming amount of smoke into the air and seeming to be on the verge of catching fire. Maybe that put him off the start procedure, because he was slow to get away and was swallowed up by the field. Meanwhile Pastor Maldonado had the opposite problem from the third row of the grid, pulling off the most blatant jump start of recent times. 

All of that was quickly forgotten by what ensued. Starting from eighth position, 
Romain Grosjean tried pulling his Lotus right across the track to try squeezing Hamilton into conceding the position. Hamilton had little time to react and didn't deviate his line or his speed, but wheels touched and after that the accident which followed was a matter of pure physics as cars were flipped up and over one another at the entry to La Source. (See the Spa crash in ourspecial picture gallery.) 

By F1 terms it was a low-speed accident; but that didn't make the in-car footage from Fernando Alonso's car any less frightening as a Lotus car literally flew over no way and slid across the front of the 
Ferrari just inches away from Alonso's head. Alonso was slow to get out of the car and looked understandably a little shaken when he finally emerged, and a precautionary trip to the medical centre was deemed appropriate, but Alonso was soon back in his pit garage looking fortunately no worse for wear. 

Hamilton meanwhile had stalked his way back to pit lane carrying a piece of the debris from his own wrecked
McLaren car, but not before having words with Romain Grosjean - words unheard, but the body language making it clear that it was along the lines of "why don't you watch where you're going?" Also out of the car was Sauber's Sergio Perez, while there was further scary footage from his team mate's in-car camera although in Kobayashi's case he was somehow able to continue running despite obvious damage. 

As the safety car came out to allow the track workers to literally picked up the pieces, several cars needed to come onto pit lane for running repairs, checks and tyres: 
Kamui Kobayashi was lucky to be in any sort of state after being caught up in the thick of the accident, while Pastor Maldonado and Pedro de la Rosa were also in. 

The chaos of the start presented drivers who had fared poorly in qualifying on Saturday with the ideal opportunity to redeem themselves. While Button and 
Kimi Raikkonen led at the restart, third place went to Nico Hulkenberg who had started outside the top ten. Paul di Resta was up to fourth, but Michael Schumacher had jumped all the way up to fifth place ahead of the startling sight of the Toro Rosso duo of Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne in the top ten ahead of Bruno Senna, Mark Webber and Heikki Kovalainen. Even the formerly forlorn Nico Rosberg was back up to 13th with everything to play for. However, there would be no comeback for Maldonado who immediately pulled off at Les Combes with front wing damage after clashing with Marussia's Timo Glock at La Source. 

The jumbled running order indicated there would be a further shake-out to come after the race restarted on lap 5, but it went nothing like anyone was expecting. Raikkonen proved no match to Hulkenberg, one of the few cars to have started the race on the harder prime tyres; Raikkonen couldn't even hold on to third place in the face of an assertive move from Michael Schumacher on lap 12. 

Mark Webber demonstrated that the 
Red Bull was lacking in straight line speed at Spa, hitting the rev limiter as he tried to pass the Williams of Bruno Senna down the Kemmel Straight. Eventually Vettel caught up to the back of his team mate after dropping to 12th under the safety car, and put a seriously muscular move on the Australian through the Bus Stop to get ahead before Webber decided enough was enough and made a move onto pit lane. Vettel also pulled off assertive moves on Felipe Massa and later Bruno Senna at the Bus Stop in his determination to take advantage of the absence of many of his chief rivals for the 2012 championship. 

Todt backs move for permanent race numbers in F1

The newly re-elected Jean Todt says he supports moves to reinstate permanent race numbers in formula one.
In an earlier era, F1 fans became accustomed to associating a number with their favourite driver -- like Gilles Villeneuve's fabled 27, or the 'red 5' of Nigel Mansell.
But in more recent years, race numbers have simply been assigned by the FIA on the basis of teams' finishing positions in the constructors' world championship.
It emerged recently, however, that a push is on to bring back permanent race numbers, with the obvious exception being the '1' of the reigning world champion.
"I am very supportive of that," Frenchman Todt, the continuing FIA president, is quoted by France's L'Equipe.
"I think it would be nice if the drivers keep the same race number, with the exception of the world champion who always displays the number 1.
"When I watch a grand prix now, I cannot see the name or the number of the driver," he complained.
"I know they need the space on the cars for the sponsors, but I think that there are solutions -- for example we could put a number on the helmet."
Meanwhile, Todt admitted he is "a little concerned" ahead of the FIA's new electronically-powered Formula E championship.
"I am surprised about the interest and this is promising," he said, "and I look forward to going to the races in the major cities.
"But I'm also a little concerned because when expectations are too high there may be disappointment. So I am cautious.
"I think the Formula E drivers are well known and very talented, but if a team wants to bring a F1 driver for one or two races, why not?" added Todt.

Vettel's hat-trick takes points lead

Sebastian Vettel has moved to the head of the F1 standings after securing a dominant victory in Korea, heading aRed Bull Racing 1-2 and taking his third win in a row. 

The German had qualified on the front row of the grid alongside Webber but made a better start when the lights went out to take the lead into turn one. 

Although Webber attempted to come back at him on the long run down to turn three, Vettel was able to maintain his position at the front and would then remain out front for the remainder of the race, even when forced to ease off in the closing stages due to concerns about his tyres. 

It meant the defending champion led from start-to-finish for the second successive race and meant he has now overhauled 
Fernando Alonso for the championship lead with just four races now left to run. 

In a race that was far from being a classic, it would turn out to be a relatively straight-forward affair for the top three runners. Having failed to make the most of arguably his one and only chance to get back ahead of Vettel, Webber remained second all the way to the flag despite also suffering concerns about his tyres towards the end, while Alonso minimised his losses to Vettel by taking third. 

The Spaniard did close on Webber towards the end but in truth, he never had the pace to match the 
Red Bull duo out front and third was the best result he could have hoped for, although he has now slipped to six points behind Vettel in the standings. 

Alonso's closest challenger turned out to be Felipe Massa, who produced an impressive drive to more than match his team-mate. In the second half of the race, the Brazilian was able to close up on Alonso for the final podium position before a radio call from the team to maintain the gap saw him settle for fourth spot. 

Kimi Raikkonen was a lonely fifth for Lotus while sixth went the way of Nico Hulkenberg, with the German producing an impressive drive for Force India. He would produce a rare moment of excitement while dicing for position with 
Romain Grosjean and Lewis Hamilton – making the most of squabbling between the pair to take both in one fail swoop before racing away up the road. 

That left Grosjean in seventh, with the Frenchman at times appearing to be somewhat cautious in his approach given his recent run of incidents on track, with Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo providing 
Toro Rosso with reason to cheer as they both picked up points. 

F1 schedules U.S. race in Texas same day as NASCAR

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Formula One and NASCAR will be racing deep in the heart of Texas on the same day next year.
The FIA, international motorsports' governing body, released its 2014 calendar Wednesday, placing the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin on Nov. 2. That's the same day as the NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth, a three-hour drive from Austin.
"It's a foolish move by Formula One," said Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway. "Our two NASCAR Sprint Cup races draw the two largest crowds in Texas sports. It isn't the smartest move to try to compete with that. I'm sure regardless of what they say publicly, the folks at the Austin track are pulling their hair out over this one. They don't have any say over their date."
Texas Motor Speedway says it has the capacity for up to 191,000 fans. Track officials did not immediately respond to requests for attendance figures for their 2013 Sprint Cup races and NASCAR does not provide them.
The U.S. Grand Prix had an announced a crowd of 113,162 for the Nov. 17 race, down slightly from the 117,429 at the inaugural race in 2012.
Circuit of the Americas Chairman Bobby Epstein called the date a "beautiful time of year to visit Austin" and downplayed competition between the races.
"Due to the large number of NASCAR events scheduled annually, there will occasionally be overlaps with events at Circuit of The Americas, and that will happen next year," Epstein said. "However, there are few similarities between a NASCAR race and the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix weekend we have developed. We see this as a great opportunity to draw sports fans from around the world to Texas and to proving again that Austin is the place to enjoy premium racing and entertainment."
The Nov. 2 date for the 2014 U.S. Grand Prix allows F1 to avoid a crush in Austin similar to this year when the race was held the same weekend as a University of Texas home football game. The provisional race calendar initially had the U.S. Grand Prix on Nov. 8, the same weekend Texas is scheduled to play West Virginia at home, which would have again stretched the city's ability to provide hotel space and transportation.
Texas Motor Speedway has already juggled the schedule for its April race weekend, moving its planned Sprint Cup race from the night of Saturday, April 5, to Sunday, April 6, to avoid a sporting conflict with the NCAA Final Four in nearby Arlington.
As expected, the F1 calendar dropped plans to race in Mexico City and New Jersey, leaving Texas and Montreal as the only North American stops on the international circuit. Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone had said last month he didn't expect either race to be on the 2014 calendar but hoped to have them in 2015.
Plans for the Grand Prix of America in New Jersey had it running on a 3.2-mile street circuit along the Hudson River with the New York City skyline as a backdrop. Race promoter Leo Hindery Jr. said he's working to restructure the financing in order to race by 2015.
Hindery called it a "huge undertaking" to plan the road course without tapping public money while also meeting the sport's timing demands.
Other developments on the 19-race F1 calendar include adding races in Austria (June 22) and Russia (Oct. 12) and dropping the race in South Korea.
The season will start in Australia on March 16 and will end in Abu Dhabi on Nov. 23 instead of the usual finale at Interlagos in Brazil.
Sebastian Vettel of Germany won his fourth consecutive world title last season.
2014 SCHEDULE
March 16: Australia (Melbourne)
March 30: Malaysia (Sepang)
April 6: Bahrain
April 20: China (Shanghai)
May 11: Spain (Barcelona)
May 25: Monaco
June 8: Canada (Montreal)
June 22: Austria (Spielberg)
July 6: Britain (Silverstone)
July 20: Germany (Hockenheim)
July 27: Hungary (Budapest)
Aug. 24: Belgium (Spa)
Sept. 7: Italy (Monza)
Sept. 21: Singapore
Oct. 5: Japan (Suzuka)
Oct. 12: Russia (Sochi)
Nov. 2: United States (Austin)
Nov. 9: Brazil (Interlagos)
Nov. 23: Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)

Money woes still plague Formula One racing

With black financial clouds hovering over several teams as Formula One settles in to its four-month off-season, 2014 may be a make-or-break year for a few outfits.
It’s no secret that several teams barely kept their financial wheels fastened in 2013 and many worry that a new V-6 turbo engine formula coming online next year, along with new energy recovery technology, will only increase costs and put more operations at risk.

Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, 1918 – 2013

Jean Todt re-elected as FIA President for a second four-year term




Jean Todt has been re-elected as President of the FIA for a second four-year term after running unopposed in Friday's Paris vote.
The Frenchman was ultimately unchallenged for the most powerful role in world motorsport after prospective presidential candidate David Ward withdrew from the race last month after failing to garner sufficient support in his bid for office.
With the result therefore a formality several weeks ago, Todt's re-election was officially ratified at the governing body's Annual General Assembly in the French capital on Friday morning.
Todt later announced an "ambitious" set of goals for his second term, which would be "built on the solid foundations that the reforms of the last four years have put in place".
Addressing the assembly, which comprises over 230 national motoring and sporting organisations worldwide, the 67-year-old said: "I want to let you know how much your warm support moved me and influenced my decision to run again. As a team we decided to put ourselves forward to continue the work of our first four years and introduce a new platform for our federation.
"We are aware of what we need to do for our organisation to take the next steps and we are determined to succeed, with your help."

Todt's manifesto set out a plan based on 'four pillars': improving the FIA's governance and administration; motor sport development (particularly at grassroots level); mobility; and road safety and sustainable development.
He added: "Our common goal, our common ambition, is for the FIA and its global network to become ever stronger, more united and more respected around the world.
"We understand and appreciate the responsibilities you have given us. In the four years to come, we will be committed to work on these goals, to serve the FIA, to defend your interests, and to promote our sport and mobility for the motorist. Together, we are going to go further and bring the FIA to a higher level."
He was also congratulated by Ward, who stood against him because he feels Todt's attempts to improve the FIA's governance have been insufficient.
The Briton, who resigned his role as head of the FIA Foundation in August in order to run for the presidency, has also questioned the election procedure.
In particular, he campaigned against the use of 'support letters', in which member clubs pledged allegiance to Todt but Ward said lessened the chance any opponent might have of gaining backing.
After more than a decade of record-breaking success as Ferrari's Team Principal, Todt was long-time FIA chief Max Mosley's preferred successor and was first elected President in 2009 after comfortably winning the vote of the governing body's members ahead of former World Rally champion Ari Vatanen.

GP3 season to include record nine races as 2014 calendar expands


The GP3 Series has revealed an expanded nine-round calendar for 2014, with the rising lights of the junior category to join F1's stars in tackling Austria and Russia.
Since being established in 2010 the GP3 campaign, which serves as the feeder category to senior sibling GP2, has run to eight race weekends and while last year's stand-alone event in Valencia has been dropped, two new additions of the Red Bull Ring and Sochi take the calendar up to a record nine.
All rounds will run as support events to the corresponding weekend's F1 event, with the campaign to as usual to coincide with the opening GP of the European season in Spain on May 9-11 and again finish at November's Abu Dhabi GP.

In addition to the races, the 2014 field will also get the chance to prepare for the season via three two-day tests at Estoril, Jerez and Barcelona respectively starting from the end of March.
2014 GP3 calendar
May 9-11 - Barcelona, Spain
June 20-22 - Spielberg, Austria
July 4-6 - Silverstone, Great Britain
July 18-20 - Hockenheim, Germany
July 25-27 - Budapest, Hungary
August 22-24 - Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
September 5-7 - Monza, Italy
October 10-12 - Sochi, Russia
November 21-23 - Yas Marina, United Arab Emirates

2014 GP3 pre-season tests
March 27-28 - Estoril, Portugal
April 10-11 - Jerez, Spain
April 16-17 - Barcelona, Spain

GP2 Series organisers have announced an 11-round calendar for 2014


Organisers of the GP2 Series have revealed their 2014 calendar, which once again consists of 11 rounds in total, all support events of the Formula 1 World Championship.
Eight rounds will be held in Europe with three overseas events to complete the calendar, including Sochi in Russia.
The tenth season of the GP2 Series will open in Sakhir on April 4th-6th alongside the F1 Grand Prix. The first European stop is in Barcelona on May 9th-11th before going to Monte Carlo two weeks later.
After a three-week break, the action will resume on June 20th-22nd in Spielberg which will mark the first time the Series will race in Austria.
Silverstone is next on July 4th-6th followed by Hockenheim two weeks later, with Budapest back-to-back at the end of July.
After the summer break, the Series will recommence in Spa-Francorchamps on August 22nd- 24th followed by the Italian round in Monza two weeks later.
There will be another break as GP2 makes its way to Russia for the first time in its history on October 10th-12th. Finally, the season will be wrapped up for the second year in a row in Yas Marina.

There is therefore no place for either Malaysia or Singapore, which were both on the calendar in 2012 and 2013.
2014 GP2 Series Calendar
11-12-13 March Yas Marina, UAE Test
19-20-21 March Sakhir, Bahrain Test

04-06 April Sakhir, Bahrain
09-11 May Barcelona, Spain
22-24 May Monte Carlo, Monaco
20-22 June Spielberg, Austria
04-06 July Silverstone, Great-Britain
18-20 July Hockenheim, Germany
25-27 July Budapest, Hungary
22-24 August Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium
05-07 September Monza, Italy
10-12 October Sochi, Russia
21-23 November Yas Marina, UAE

2014 F1 calendar to feature 19 races as New Jersey, Korea and Mexico fail to make cut




The Formula 1 season will stay at 19 races for 2014 after New Jersey, Mexico and South Korea as expected all failed to make the final calendar cut.
All three grands prix had been included on a provisional calendar issued by the FIA in September which proposed a record 22 races but they had all had dropped off a subsequent draft list circulated among the teams at the final rounds of the season.
The definitive 19-race schedule, the same number as this year, was duly confirmed on Wednesday as the World Motor Sport Council met during the FIA's Annual General Assembly week of events in Paris.
While the prospective Grand Prix of America in New Jersey, having already been postponed by one year, and a return to Mexico were always considered unlikely given the state of both venues' preparations, South Korea's failure to feature on the definitive list after four years is likely owing to financial difficulties at the little-used and remote Yeongam circuit.
The failure of New Jersey to make the cut for the second successive year will inevitably raise questions over whether the event at Port Imperial will ever see the light of day. However, organisers reacted swiftly to the confirmation of the 2014 schedule by stating that they were working on "restructured financial arrangements" with Bernie Ecclestone and looked forward to hosting a "first-class inaugural Grand Prix of America in 2015".
"There is great demand for a race in New Jersey and I have no doubt we'll be racing at Port Imperial in 2015," Ecclestone, F1's commercial supremo, said in a joint statement with race organisers.
"New races can take many years to get started, but there is significant momentum and we are close to realizing a New York City F1 race."
While India had already decided to sit out 2014, the expected return of Austria, at the revamped Red Bull Ring, and the long-awaited arrival of Russia at a new venue at Sochi's Winter Olympic Park are the two new additions on next season's schedule.
The season as unusual will kick off with the Australian GP, on March 16, but for the first time since 2007 the Melbourne event will not run back-to-back with Malaysia, which will instead be held a week ahead of the Bahrain GP on March 30.
This change comes despite teams expressing concerns about the logistical sense of a two-week break between the season's opening two flyaway events.
One significant change to the provisional calendar, however, is that Abu Dhabi and not Brazil will stage the season finale on November 23, the third time the Yas Marina circuit has been given the honour.
And after being moved forward to June for 2013, the British GP at Silverstone returns to a more traditional July 6 slot. The calendar features four back-to-back race weekends.
One of these is Japan and the inaugural race in Russia in October - the governing body having switched the provisional dates, presumably to minimise the risk of any logistical problems at the new venue.

2014 F1 calendar


March 16 - Australia (Melbourne)
March 30 - Malaysia (Sepang)
April 6 - Bahrain (Sakhir)
April 20 - China (Shanghai)
May 11 - Spain (Barcelona)
May 25 - Monaco
June 8 - Canada (Montreal)
June 22 - Austria (Red Bull Ring)
July 6 - Britain (Silverstone)
July 20 - Germany (Hockenheim)
July 27 - Hungary (Budapest)
August 24 - Belgium (Spa-Francorchamps)
September 7 - Italy (Monza)
September 21 - Singapore
October 5 - Japan (Suzuka)
October 12 - Russia (Sochi)
November 2 - United States (Austin)
November 9 - Brazil (Interlagos)
November 23 - Abu Dhabi (Yas Marina)

Kimi Raikkonen to miss rest of F1 season for surgery

PARIS (AP) — Having threatened to skip the last two races of the Formula One season because of a pay dispute, former world champion Kimi Raikkonen will now miss them anyway because of back surgery. Lotus said in a statement Sunday he is out for next week's United States Grand Prix and the season-ending Brazilian GP at the end of this month. His replacement will be announced in "due course." The 34-year-old Raikkonen has had back pain in recent months and almost missed the Singapore GP in September when the problem flared again. His Lotus career, in effect, is over because he will drive for Ferrari next year. One possibility for Lotus is to promote third driver Davide Valsecchi, although the 26-year-old Italian has no F1 experience, or to hand reserve driver Jerome d'Ambrosio the seat. The 27-year-old Belgian has 20 Grand Prix starts and was drafted into Romain Grosjean's car for last year's Italian GP after the Frenchman was banned for a race. At last weekend's Abu Dhabi GP, Raikkonen criticized the team for not paying his salary this season and threatened to pull out of the final two races of the season in protest. He had to be persuaded to race in Abu Dhabi but skipped his media obligations on the Thursday before the race. He pulled out of the race on the first lap because of suspension damage after a minor collision. He then got in a van and drove away, refusing to answer any post-race questions. The weekend before, tensions surfaced within the team. Raikkonen was upset when he was ordered by the team's trackside operations director, Alan Permane, not to hold up Grosjean during the Indian GP.

Felipe Massa leaves Ferrari for Williams in 2014

LONDON (AP) — Felipe Massa has replaced Pastor Maldonado at Williams and will race for the Formula One team for the 2014 season after eight years at Ferrari. The 32-year-old Massa will partner with Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas next season, following in the footsteps of Brazilian drivers Ayrton Senna and Rubens Barrichello who both drove for the British team. "I'm glad to be signing with another icon of the sport following my time at Ferrari," Massa said in a statement after agreeing to a multi-year deal. Terms and length of the contract were not released by Williams.

The F1 race arrives in Austin with high expectations and big fanfare

AUSTIN – This city better known for live music and BBQ will put on a show this weekend of global glitz and speed as Formula One returns for the second season at its only U.S. track. More than 200,000 visitors are expected to descend on the city and file into the Circuit of the Americas track, where some of the world's fastest and costliest cars will compete in the 18th race of the Formula One season. Besides the race, the University of Texas Longhorns football team will host rival Oklahoma State University on Saturday, creating one of the busiest sports weekend in city history. Formula One organizers and sponsors are eagerly waiting to see if the only U.S. track on the Formula One circuit could replicate the crowds that came out for its inaugural race last year, when 265,000 people attended throughout the weekend, including 117,000 for the Sunday race. There's a lot riding on the event, from the $450 million in private investments it took to create the 3.4-mile state-of-the-art track and facility to the future of the sport's popularity in the USA. Last year was the first time Formula One hosted a U.S. race since 2007, when it was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "Formula One has been like a gypsy in this country," said Mario Andretti, who won 12 F1 races and, in 1978, became only the second American to ever win a world championship. "The stability Austin will provide in this venue to increase its popularity in the United States and around the world is immense."

Bahrain F1 Circuit Runs Tests To Prepare For Night Grand Prix Next Season

Bahrain circuit officials tested a new floodlight system last weekend as part of their "plans to turn their 10th-anniversary Formula One Grand Prix into a night race next year," according to THE NATIONAL. Bahrain Int'l Circuit CEO Salman Bin Isa Al Khalifa said, "I believe that there can be no better way for us to mark our 10th anniversary in F1 by demonstrating our long-term commitment to the sport through this significant investment." Singapore currently hosts F1's "only full-night race," with the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix a "day-to-night event, with the sun setting during the race." Bahrain's race would "start after sunset." The race is "scheduled for April 6 on the provisional F1 calendar, with the official calendar" set to be announced by motorsports governing body FIA on Friday (THE NATIONAL, 11/29). REUTERS reported the "track floodlighting for the F1 race will involve 495 lighting poles, ranging in height" from 10-45m, and be "suitable for high definition TV broadcasting"