Lewis Hamilton has been promised an ultra-exclusive sports car if he wins both the Drivers and the Manufacturers Championships in 2008.
According to British newspaper The Sun, McLaren boss Ron Dennis has promised his young driver the keys to a McLaren F1 LM one of the world s rarest supercars if he wins both championships. The bright orange sports car is currently kept at McLaren F1 s Surrey headquarters.
Despite a disappointing Malaysian Grand Prix which saw him finishing in fifth place, Hamilton still leads the drivers championship, three points clear of current world champion Kimi Raikkonen.
Hamilton has explained that owning a McLaren F1 has been a dream of his since he was little. “The LM has always been my ultimate dream car since I first saw it when I was 13,â€ he explained. “When I first went to McLaren it was there and I fell in love with it. There are only five LMs in existence and the normal ones the GTR are worth around £1 million so the LM must be double that.â€
Dennis joked that at least he had some time to save up the money for the car. “If Lewis can win two titles, the car is his,â€ he confirmed. “Fortunately our deal gives me a bit of time to save up!â€
The LM spec McLaren was originally produced to mark the McLaren F1 GTR s win at Le Mans 24 Hour in 1995. The car features a V12 engine which powers the car from 0-60 mph in a staggering 2.69 seconds.
The driver has an unusual driving position, sitting in the centre of the carbon-fibre car, with passenger seats either side.
It looks like another country is looking to grab a Formula 1 race deal. Qatar has announced it will be modifying it s Losail MotoGP track to cater for F1 cars.
“We are planning a massive upgrade of the Losail circuit to make it possible to host Formula One races when the time comes,â€ motorcycling president Nasser Khalifa al-Attiyah explained to the Gulf Times newspaper.
“Shortly we will be inviting tenders for the job, and once we decide on whom to award the contract, work will start.â€
It is unlikely that Qatar will be given an F1 race to host in the new future a whole host of new countries are appearing on the F1 calendar, and there are strong challenges from countries such as India. With Bahrain already on the Formula One calendar, and Abu Dhabi making it s F1 debut next season, it looks unlikely that Qatar will be hosting a Formula One race any time soon.
Al-Attiyah remains positive about the project, despite the poor prospects. “You cannot say what is going to happen in the future,â€ he explained. “F1 teams can use the track for testing which will put Qatar on the map and also help us earn good revenue.â€
Despite two spectacular accidents in the first two race weekends of the season, Red Bull driver David Coulthard has said he has faith in the design on the RB4 and has no fears about it s safety.
Coulthard has so far suffered from two suspension issues this season at the opening race of the season in Australia, a minor clash with Felipe Massa saw the suspension break on the car, forcing the Scot to retire. In Malaysia last weekend, he hit a kerb during practice, causing his suspension to shatter.
The incidents worried the sport s governing body and an investigation was launched. Subsequently, the Red Bull team were given the all-clear to race. Coulthard is publicly supportive of the car and team, and has said he is not worried about the design.
“The suspension saw twice the normal loads it would see at the fastest corner,â€ he explained. “Although it looked fairly spectacular and many were wondering why it fell to pieces, you never see those loads unless you hit something keep things within their design parameters and they will operate normally. Take them outside, and you tend to get catastrophic failures.
“I ve got no confidence problems I think it s a racing driver thing. We are confident, competitive or stupid enough to think it will never happen to us. The Toyota fell to pieces fairly spectacularly after it had it s incident in Melbourne, so carbon does tend to disintegrate.
“Look at Kubica s incident in Canada it was remarkable he emerged without any serious injury. But I remind you his feet were hanging out the front of his car and had he had a secondary impact with the concrete wall, he would probably have broken his ankles.
“I remember Johnny Herbert s accident back at Brands Hatch in 1988. There s a large element of luck in any accident and there is no question that the cars are considerably stronger than they were several years ago.â€
Michael Schumacher will be one of a five-man team who will become the management committee for the Motor Sport Safety Development Fund. A statement released by the FIA revealed that over the next five years, the fund will be utilised to concentrate on safety issues for the drivers, officials and facilities.
One of the committee s first tasks will be to help distribute the $60 million fine collected from McLaren punishment for their involvement in the 2007 espionage saga.
The remaining four members of the committee are FIA president Max Mosley, former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt, Mercedes motor sport director Norbert Haug, and Nick Craw, president of the Automobile Competition Committee for the United States (representing National Sporting Associations).
According to Swiss magazine Motorsport Aktuell, a storm may be brewing at Force India s factory in England.
Despite selling off his team a few years back, Eddie Jordan still owns the land surrounding the current Force India factory and it is rumoured that Jordan has been trying to sell the land to the Force India team. The land itself provides access to the factory and Jordan is said to be keen to reach a deal with the team.
However, the current owners, Vijay Mallya and the Mol family, have so far refused to buy the land and this has reportedly led to drastic action by Jordan over the weekend.
According to Motorsport Aktuell, whilst the Force India team were away in Malaysia preparing for last weekend s race, the Irishman ordered a load of concrete to be dumped on the access road leading to the factory, blocking off all access.
Malaysian Grand Prix officials have always been interested in the night race option, but did not want to commit to any plans until they had seen how successful this season s race was, and until they had talked to a few more people regarding the idea.
Last weekend s Malaysian Grand Prix was a success with more than 179,000 people attending the track over the three days. Officials have now confirmed that they are looking to turn the race into a night race, and are hoping that they can push the idea through as early as the 2009.
Talking to the New Strait Times newspaper, general manager Datuk Azmi Murad said, “After 10 successful years, we need a new challenge and this is the challenge we are looking for. Efforts will now be focused towards this. We will be starting to work on the night race and if all goes to plan, it will be next year.â€
A spokesperson for the Ferrari F1 team has confirmed that Felipe Massa s spin during the Malaysian Grand Prix was not caused by a technical problem.
Since the spin, Ferrari s technical team have been over the F2008 with a fine-tooth comb to see if they could find any technical problems with the car. When questioned by German magazine Sport Bild over whether any problems were found, a spokesperson said, “No the car is OK.â€
The apparent confirmation that the spin was caused by driver error the second such error in two weeks leaves big question marks as to how secure the Brazilian s race-seat is at Ferrari, with strong rumours that Vettel or Alonso may move to Ferrari for 2009.
Team boss Stefano Domenicali is publicly supporting his driver and is confident that Massa can turn his luck around at the next race in Bahrain. “We must not over dramatise,â€ Domenicali said. “Felipe has all the qualities and capabilities to do well.â€
Felipe Massa s poor start to the season has fuelled rumours that the Brazilian driver will not be with the scarlet-clad Ferrari team for much longer. Massa has failed to finish either race of the 2008 season and has left him with 0 points in the championship, 14 points behind current drivers championship leader Lewis Hamilton.
Despite the lack of clarity over what caused the accident in Sepang, Massa is keen not to take responsibility. “I don t know what happened I just lost the car completely,â€ he explained. “There was strange behaviour on the rear so I don t know.â€ However many believe that the problem lies with the driver rather than the car, and Ferrari have yet to confirm the source of the Sepang spin. Because Massa had a similar incident in Australia, some now believe that the Brazilian is struggling to adapt to a car without traction control.
Thanks to his dual retirement, there are now strong rumours that despite the Brazilian having an ongoing contract with Ferrari, it is likely that another driver possible Sebastien Vettel or even Fernando Alonso will be driving for Ferrari in 2009.
Fernando Alonso has said that it is logical that people are talking about team transfers, and although it is too early to speculate, has not ruled himself out of the running.
“It is too early to talk about team transfers,â€ he said to Spanish newspaper Diario AS. “However Massa has had two poor races with errors therefore it is logical that some people are talking about Vettel and me.
“I have always wanted to be in the best car in the field. I am driving for Renault now because I won in 2005 and 2006 and I want to win again if not this year, then next. It is clear already that Ferrari has one of the best cars.â€
Former Ferrari CEO Jean Todt has said that he was not pleased to hear of Schumacher s two-wheeled racing debut last week.
The German driver took to two wheels last week in a semi-professional race in Hungary, finishing in third place behind two professional riders. Many were impressed with his form Schumacher qualified on pole position but chose to start the race from the rear of the field.
Talking to Swiss magazine Motorsport Aktuell Todt said, “It is Michael s life so he makes his own decisions. But do I agree with them? Absolutely not – everybody knows how dangerous motorbike racing can be.
“But I am not stupid it it was not in Michael s nature to take risks, he would not have had the kind of career that he has had. Some things I like, some I do not. This one, I don t.â€
The rain held off, the sun shone, and so did Kimi. Scuderia supremacy was the order of the day in Malaysia with Kimi Raikkonen romping home to victory after nailing team-mate Massa his only real threat at the pit-stops.
The Finn dominated the race with serene lethality, unopposed by the McLaren duo who received grid-penalties for their blocking antics in qualifying. Pole-sitter Felipe Massa, the only other obstacle, was quickly despatched by Raikkonen at the first-round of refuelling a blistering in-lap a second quicker than the rest of the rabble pulling the trigger on the Brazilian s hopes. Not that it mattered, a second consecutive un-forced error from Massa finished both his race, and if rumours are to be believed his future with Ferrari too.
Elsewhere: Kovalainen lead the McLaren challenge after a bodged pit-stop ruined Hamilton s chances; BMW and Toyota impress with second and fourth place finishes from Kubica and Trulli; Renault are out-foxed by engine-customer s Red Bull; Williams and Toro Rosso flounder; and Honda take a step forward with Button finishing tenth.
Two points of interest that didn t make it into the mainstream post-race news agenda:
Fresh from their podium triumph a week ago in Melbourne, Williams were crushed to see Rosberg s FW30 languish down in the lower ranks for most of the weekend. A tangle with Toyota s Timo Glock cost Rosberg his front wing on the opening lap. Astonishingly though, the young German elected not to pit on the same lap that the incident occurred instead negotiating the long 5.54km circuit for an extra lap before seeking repair.
By the end of the third lap the 22-year-old was over a minute adrift of Anthony Davidson in twentieth and some fifty seconds behind his team-mate, Kazuki Nakajima, in fifteenth.
What followed was a demonstration of why Rosberg is a future world champion. Champions, it is said, all share a same quality, a stubborn refusal to settle for anything other than first. We saw that mentality in Melbourne last week with Raikkonen happy to throw his Ferrari off the track in pursuit of Hamilton.
Under slightly different circumstances, Nico Rosberg decided to give it everything despite his first-lap woes. The young German callously hurled his FW30 around the Sepang circuit putting a string of blistering laps together. The former GP2 champ skyrocketed up to an impressive fourteenth place surpassing both Super Aguris, Force India s Giancarlo Fissichella, and most significantly of all, his team-mate.
Nothing wrong with the FW30 s race pace there then, and not the disaster for Williams that it initially appeared.
No, not his second career podium, which he himself has admitted was not particularly satisfying, but the Finn s qualifying assault. Proving that he is fully deserved of the second McLaren seat, Kovalainen blitzed the 5.54km Herman-Tilke designed Sepang circuit to pip team-mate Hamilton by just under a tenth of a second. Given that Hamilton peeled off-into the pits a couple of laps earlier that Kovalainen, it is safe to assume that the Finn was heavier than his rival in Q3 making his lap time even more special/interesting.