Vettel takes it to the wire: Brazilian GP as it happened

Hello and welcome to forumula1.com’s live coverage of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

4.55pm (GMT) The big news here is that Nico Hulkenberg is on pole position, his first ever! How, or indeed if, the championship challengers will get past him is a source of great interest to the gathered fans at Interlagos.

Jenson Button was the unfortunate victim of an attempted carjacking last night, which cannot have been the best preparation for his race. He starts from 11th on the grid.

It really is high tension now as we wait for the cars to head off on their parade lap.

Christian Klien has an electronics problem, apparently, which means he starts from the pitlane. Adrian Sutil is the other man in a bit of a funk, being as he is in 22nd as a result of a dire qualifying performance and a five place grid penalty for crashing into Kamui Kobayashi in Korea.

4.58pm They’re off on the parade lap. Nico Hulkenberg is setting a not too shabby pace as he takes the field round. He was shown having to re-take some drivers, though, so maybe something slightly untoward happened to him in turns one or two.

Lap 1 And they’re off!! Sebastian Vettel gets a flyer and gets past Hulkenberg into Turn One…then Mark Webber also takes the Williams man. Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton are having a ding-dong battle for fourth.

Lap 2 And after managing to keep Alonso behind him despite the Spaniard’s great slipstream across the line, Hamilton then makes a mistake into turn four and lets him by. Michael Schumacher takes Button for ninth.

Lap 3 Alonso is harrying Hulkenberg, who is doing a better job of defending against the Ferrari than he did against the Red Bulls. Alonso is losing time to those Red Bulls out front. Lewis Hamilton is not a million miles of his back either.

Lap 5 Hulkenberg is defending brilliantly into turn one from Alonso. It’s now Vettel, Webber, Hulkenber, Alonso, Hamilton, Kubica, Rosberg, Barrichelllo, Massa, Schumacher, Button.

Lap 6 Hamilton wants blood here, and the better Hulkenberg blocks Alonso, the more chance he will have.

Lap 7 But it’s too late! Alonso’s by Hulkenberg into third.

Lap 8 Hamilton is now threatening the Williams. But he ‘s having difficulties, and Kubica is awaiting a mistake. “I have no grip,” says Hamilton. His tyres might be wearing from following cars.

Lap 9 Alonso in clear air is still a lot slower than the Red Bulls.

Lap 10 There is a bit of a gap, looks like about three seconds, between Vettel in first and Webber in second. They can dictate this race at the moment – all well in Milton Keynes.

Lap 11 Hamilton and Hulkenberg are really battling here. Hamilton comes up the inside at turn one, but the German holds it brilliantly and hangs the Englishman out to dry. Hamilton has to get past if he wants to keep his championship alive. But on raw pace, you’d have to say he’s out of the race already. The Red Bulls are flying.

Lap 12 Jenson Button pits.

Lap 13 Felipe Massa’s also in, as Hulkenberg and Hamilton are side by side once more, with Hamilton STILL unable to overtake.

Lap 14 Felipe Massa does a lap and then pits again! Maybe a wheel wasn’t on properly or something.

Lap 15 Hulkenberg and Kubica pit, leaving Hamilton on his own and up into fourth.

Lap 16 Jenson Button’s early stop has paid dividends. He is now ahead of Hulkenberg and Kubica, which has put him right in contention. He will, you’d have thought, be suffering from degradation in a bit though. We’ve just had a replay of Massa pitting the second time, and he was pointing at the right front as he drew up.

Lap 17 Hamilton is still moaning that he has no grip.

Lap 18 Button is not half bad here, really. He’s just taken Vitaly Petrov for position. He might well be fighting his team-mate in a bit, once Hamilton has pitted.

Lap 19 Fernando Alonso sets the fastest lap.

Lap 20 The front runners are yet to pit, which might be good for them long-term as their tyres will last longer. The Red Bulls are lapping the backmarkers now.

Lap 21 Hamilton pits, as does Schumacher. Hamilton emerges just ahead of Button, who has jumped Schumacher. “My tyres aren’t fantastic, but I’ll keep going,” radioes leader Sebastian Vettel.

Lap 22 The opening of the pitstop window very early by Jenson Button has made the true race order complicated to suss out. It’s Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Rosberg, Kobayashi who are leading but none of them has pitted. Hamilton, who is the first man to have pitted, sets a 1m19.6 which is quick, the fastest lap in fact.

Lap 24 Ferrari are out in the pitlane.

Lap 25 Alonso in. A quick, flawless stop, and he is out into clear air, ahead of Rosberg, cleverly. He is a net and an actual third.

Lap 26 Red Bull respond by bringing Vettel in. No mistakes by Red Bull, although momentarily the German has lost first to Webber.

Lap 27 Webber pits and is out into second behind Vettel. Normal service is resumed and everyone is asleep here.

Lap 27 Rosberg comes out ahead of his team mate.

Lap 28 Vettel sets a 1m15.969. Fastest lap, and very fast indeed. Reliability the only possibility of intrigue now, it would seem.

Lap 29 Button comes up behind Kobayashi, who hasn’t pitted yet. Echoes of last season! But he gets past him much more easily this time.

Lap 30 Ferrari tell Alonso that Red Bull’s pace is ”out of reach, we can’t touch them.” Given that it looks like an easy third and a hatful of points for championship leader Alonso, Martin Brundle has just raised the interesting possibility that Red Bull could make a call and support Webber now…it’s unlikely, but this result leaves Alonso better off. This could be the moment Red Bull lose the championship if they fail to make the call and get Webber by.

Lap 32 Will Webber attack Vettel? Can he? The gap is 2.4 seconds.

Lap 34 Rubens Barrichello’s Interlagos curse returns as he has a right front puncture. A pity, as the Williams have been quick here.

Lap 36 Robert Kubica is all over the back if Nico Hulkenberg for tenth. The order now is Vettel, Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Kobayashi, Rosberg, Sutil, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Kubica, Heidfeld, Alguersuari.

Lap 37 Rosberg is challenging Kamui Kobayashi now. “Is my F-duct working?” says Lewis. He is a moany misery guts this afternoon. The fact is that his McLaren is just not as quick as the Ferrari or the Red Bull, a difficult fact which has been hidden at recent races, perhaps.

Lap 39 Vettel was in traffic last lap and has lost two tenths to Webber. But Webber then gets stuck behind the same traffic – Senna – and loses even more time. He has to go and get his team-mate now, basically.

Lap 40 Rosberg gets past Kobayashi, who hasn’t generally offered much resistance to his tormentors today. Ted Kravitz, in the pitlane for the BBC, says it’s chronic understeer for the Japanese.

Lap 41 Vettel and Webber are in a lot of traffic now. More is to come.

Lap 42 Alonso, in third, is progressing serenely, not yet in the traffic.

Lap 43 Now Red Bull are racing each other, there is more chance, marginally, that they will suffer a mechanical failure. The gap is less than two seconds and the challenge is negotiating the backmarkers that litter Interlagos.

Lap 44 We lose Lucas di Grassi, the first retirement, would you believe. It hasn’t been stellar entertainment.

Lap 45 Martin Brundle says that although team order are banned, they could be used cannily at this stage of the season. But Red Bull have decided not to, which also means, says the BBC man, that they cannot tell Webber not to have a go.

Lap 47 The two leaders approach that big lot of traffic. Lucas di Grassi has not retired, he has rejoined. This is of no consequence to anyone.

Lap 48 What is of consequence is that it seems Webber is having more difficulty negotiating backmarkers than Vettel.

Lap 49 It is a big train of cars, everyone seems to be in the same place on track. It’s getting better…

Lap 50 Hamilton is inexplicably slow. “My tyres are not in good shape,” he gripes. Moan, moan, moan.

Lap 51 Liuzzi has crashed at turn one and there is a Safety Car out. Good for entertainment, this, although one might suspect Liuzzi isn’t too happy. Not many people understand why he has not yet been sacked.

Lap 52 Hamilton decides to pit for new tyres under the SC and will have to do some overtaking if he wants to finish where he was before.

Lap 53 This is playing into Vettel’s hands, because now there won’t be any traffic, and there is a two car cushion between him and Webber. Those two are a Williams and a Renault.

Lap 54 This is taking some time to clear. Mercedes are making the best of it, bringing Rosberg in twice after making a cock-up of putting the tyres on.

Lap 55 The Safety Car is to come in at the end of this lap.

Lap 56 They are racing. Webber hasn’t made the best of the restart. He seems to be further away after a few corners than he was before.

Lap 57 Maybe Lewis Hamilton, if he can negotiate a few cars, will be able to challenge Fernando Alonso. Alonso isn’t having a happy time with traffic himself. It’s a long shot at this moment, though.

Lap 58 Vettel sets the fastest lap again. It’s him from Webber, Alonso, Hamilton, Button, Rosberg, Schumacher, Hulkenberg, Kubica, Alguersuari.

Lap 60 Vettel is scampering away.

Lap 61 Massa and Buemi touch. Neither are damaged.

Lap 62 Mark Webber hasn’t quite given up, though. He sets the fastest lap. It’s looking less likely that Hamilton will be able to challenge Alonso. He’s four seconds off the Spaniard with seven laps left, and even with fresher tyres isn’t as quick.

Lap 64 Alonso, as if nicely to prove my point, sets the fastest lap. He’s catching Webber, would you believe.

Lap 66 Hamilton is trying his level best to stay on terms, but to my mind this race is the best evidence to date that he won’t win the world championship this year.

Lap 67 The gap between Webber in second and Alonso in third is stable now. “Alonso never gives up,” though, opines Brundle on the Beeb.

Lap 68 Red Bull tell Webber that he can push if he needs to, which suggests that he had been forced to conserve fuel.

Lap 70 Massa is having an eventful time of it, hitting Petrov into turn one. Meanwhile, Vettel starts his last lap.

Lap 71 SEBASTIAN VETTEL WINS THE BRAZILIAN GRAND PRIX

RED BULL ARE CONSTRUCTORS’ WORLD CHAMPIONS 2010

The drivers’ crown, though, is still not decided and it goes down the wire in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

A calm and collected performance from Sebastian Vettel, who is now closer to the lead of the championship. Mark Webber was of course second. The happiest man must be Fernando Alonso, though: his third place means he is sitting pretty.

Lewis Hamilton is now 24 points behind Alonso, which means he can still win the title, but it’s a long shot. Fourth place today was a battling result for the team who lacked pace compared to their main rivals. Jenson Button was fifth.

Mercedes pair Rosberg and Schumacher were sixth and seventh respectively, while pole hero Nico Hulkenberg was eighth and Robert Kubica was ninth. Kamui Kobayashi was a respectable tenth.

Here are the race results in full:

Pos Driver Team Time
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1h33:11.803
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault + 4.243
3. Alonso Ferrari + 6.807
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes + 14.634
5. Button McLaren-Mercedes + 15.593
6. Rosberg Mercedes + 35.300
7. Schumacher Mercedes + 43.400
8. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
9. Kubica Renault + 1 lap
10. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
11. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
12. Sutil Force India-Mercedes + 1 lap
13. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari + 1 lap
14. Massa Ferrari + 1 lap
15. Petrov Renault + 1 lap
16. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth + 1 lap
17. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari + 1 lap
18. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth + 2 laps
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth + 2 laps
21. Senna HRT-Cosworth + 2 laps
22. Klien HRT-Cosworth + 6 laps

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Hulkenberg on pole! Brazilian GP qualifying report

Nico Hulkenberg today profited from changeable conditions to take his first ever pole position for tomorrow’s Brazilian Grand Prix at Interlagos.

The Williams man, having been fast throughout all three sessions, opted to go onto dry tyres early in the top ten shoot-out, and stormed to pole position with a lap to spare on the drying Sao Paulo track.

Championship contenders Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber took second and third spots on the grid respectively, minimising damage to their title challenges in tricky conditions. Lewis Hamilton will start fourth tomorrow while championship leader Fernando Alonso is fifth on the grid for Ferrari.

As the Q1 session started this afternoon, the conditions on track were definitely best suited to the intermediate tyre. Sebastien Buemi led them out at the start, and the assembled, committed Brazilian fans were looking skyward – more rain was expected. This realisation triggered a flurry of cars. The possibility was that the quickest times would be set early on, of course, if it rained.

Mark Webber was the first of the men of note to set an early sighter, but it rapidly became clear that there could not be a benchmark time. Times were plummeting as the track dried and the threat of rain receded. Nico Hulkenberg, the hero of later, was already popping in quick times with his team mate Rubens Barrichello not far behind.

Force India, though, were having a nightmare. Vitantonio Liuzzi lost it momentarily coming out of Mergulho, and his team mate Adrian Sutil was the direct loser, having to get out of the throttle as Liuzzi rejoined the track. Jenson Button was another man struggling to put a competitive time together. With nine minutes of the first session remaining, he was languishing in eighth.

Up at the front, Red Bull were making the running. Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber were swapping fastest times at will, it seemed, almost as comfortable in the changing conditions as they had been in the dry practice sessions.

As the session drew to a close, Bruno Senna was desperately trying to close the gap to his team mate Christian Klien, who seems to have a better way with the HRT than does the nephew of the local legend Ayrton. Senna spun, although he kept going, and would ultimately end up last on the grid.

While the world watched the two Force Indias struggle to avoid the drop zone and each other, Fernando Alonso quietly set the quickest time, giving himself a small psychological advantage going into Q2. At the other end, out went Sutil, Glock, Trulli, Kovalainen, Di Grassi, Klien and Senna in that order.

All eyes were still on the heavens as Q2 started, but the rain still held off. Again the STRs led the field out, and again it was their stablemates Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel who set the agenda. A brief cameo from Rubens Barrichello gave a hint of the latent pace of the Williams, as the local hero popped in a 1m19.3s with ten minutes left.

The second session was evaporating rapidly and it quickly crystallised into a battle royale between two big guns – Felipe Massa in the Ferrari and Jenson Button in the McLaren. But this was not for provisional pole – it was to avoid the second drop. Both had had unspectacular weekends up to this point, and with three minutes to go, they were stuck down in 14th and 11th respectively. After a couple more efforts Massa was ultimately the victor. His top ten position, you thought, might render him more useful from a championship perspective to his team mate than Button would to his. Button could only manage 11th.

Behind the Englishman, whose championship challenge is surely over, lay Kamui Kobayashi, Nico Rosberg, Jaime Alguersuari, Sebastian Buemi, Nick Heidfeld and Vitantonio Liuzzi.

The third session was to be all about how quick the track would dry. It was rapidly becoming a case of when, and not if, dry tyres would be required. But ‘banker’ laps were a wise idea before that on the inters that had served everyone so well up to this point. Fernando Alonso, first out, was experimenting to see how much his Bridgestones would wear. Lewis Hamilton, meanwhile, was setting quick times on his own inters. As the call to change came, it was Hamilton who was top of the timesheets on a 1m17.212.

It was just prior to this point that Williams had made an astute call. Patrick Head on the pitwall, responding to information given him by Rubens Barrichello in particular, had decided that dries were now the best option. Hulkenberg was the beneficiary because of track position. As the world focused on the championship runners diving into the pits to change their rubber, Hulkenberg was already out, exploring the track, testing where it was grippy and where it was not.

And the last corner was where it was treacherous. Robert Kubica was the first to fall foul on his dry rubber, taking a trip across the grass, and before you knew it Mark Webber had also outbraked himself there. No damage done for the Australian, but his fans must have had their hearts in their mouths.

There was a minute remaining at this point and Hulkenberg was lighting up the sector times. His first blinding lap time was a 1m16.373, which, although competitive, would surely be beaten as the track came to the drivers. Hamilton was looking as good on the dries as he had done on the inters, rushing over the line with a time a good tenth quicker than Hulkenberg’s.

Fernando Alonso was not done, yet, though. His next time was sub 1m16s, but it now looked as though whoever was last over the line would take pole. Hulkenberg was to be that man, but he didn’t know it yet, so went and set a time almost half a second quicker than Alonso. It was a 1m15.462. Hamilton went second to that, but the Red Bulls were arriving, and knocked him off that perch in rapid succession. At this point, time was out and everyone had done their level best. Except for Nico Hulkenberg. For good measure, and to emphasise the dominance of today’s performance, he then went and smashed his previous time by very nearly a second.

Hulkenberg had taken pole in majestic fashion. His performance was exemplary, but he also had his team and his team mate to thank. Conjecture has been growing over the future of this driving line-up at the Williams team, but surely this performance recommends it for at least another season.

It is, though, unlikely that Hulkenberg will win the race tomorrow. His mere presence at the front throws a spanner in the works as regards the denouement of the championship. How determined will the rookie be to maintain his lead? Or, if Vettel gets by him, how tricky will Hulkenberg be for Webber to negotiate? It is fascinating stuff.

Roll on, the Brazilian Grand Prix!

Pos Driver Team Q1 Q2 Q3
1. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:20.050 1:19.144 1:14.470
2. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:19.160 1:18.691 1:15.519
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:19.025 1:18.516 1:15.637
4. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.931 1:18.921 1:15.747
5. Alonso Ferrari 1:18.987 1:19.010 1:15.989
6. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:19.799 1:18.925 1:16.203
7. Kubica Renault 1:19.249 1:18.877 1:16.552
8. Schumacher Mercedes 1:19.879 1:18.923 1:16.925
9. Massa Ferrari 1:19.778 1:19.200 1:17.101
10. Petrov Renault 1:20.189 1:19.153 1:17.656
11. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.905 1:19.288
12. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:19.741 1:19.385
13. Rosberg Mercedes 1:20.153 1:19.486
14. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.158 1:19.581
15. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.096 1:19.847
16. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1:20.174 1:19.899
17. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:20.592 1:20.357
18. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:20.830
19. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:22.130
20. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:22.250
21. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:22.378
22. di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth 1:22.810
23. Klien HRT-Cosworth 1:23.083
24. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:23.796

Vettel tops first practice at Interlagos

Sebastian Vettel this afternoon topped the timesheets in the opening practice session for this Sunday’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

The German led his title rivals Mark Webber and Lewis Hamilton, but the chasing Fernando Alonso could only manage 13th quickest.

Final championship contender Jenson Button was fourth fastest, with Robert Kubica sixth.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:12.328 23
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:12.810 + 0.482 27
3. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:12.845 + 0.517 24
4. Button McLaren-Mercedes 1:13.267 + 0.939 23
5. Kubica Renault 1:13.370 + 1.042 23
6. Rosberg Mercedes 1:13.516 + 1.188 25
7. Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1:13.546 + 1.218 25
8. Schumacher Mercedes 1:13.643 + 1.315 24
9. Sutil Force India-Mercedes 1:13.918 + 1.590 25
10. Heidfeld Sauber-Ferrari 1:14.000 + 1.672 22
11. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari 1:14.004 + 1.676 23
12. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth 1:14.155 + 1.827 28
13. Alonso Ferrari 1:14.246 + 1.918 20
14. Massa Ferrari 1:14.267 + 1.939 25
15. Petrov Renault 1:14.370 + 2.042 23
16. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes 1:14.487 + 2.159 25
17. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:14.618 + 2.290 29
18. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:14.734 + 2.406 28
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth 1:15.603 + 3.275 24
20. Glock Virgin-Cosworth 1:15.860 + 3.532 20
21. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth 1:16.057 + 3.729 25
22. d’Ambrosio Virgin-Cosworth 1:16.707 + 4.379 27
23. Klien HRT-Cosworth 1:16.839 + 4.511 18
24. Senna HRT-Cosworth 1:17.360 + 5.032 29

Red Bull internecine strife continues as the championship hots up

Ah, Red Bull are at it again. Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel are at each other’s throats once more, and a wheel is yet to be turned in anger at Interlagos.

This is, of course, the latest war of words that has erupted between the pair. No one should really be surprised – they are competing for the greatest prize in motorsport, and it will presumably also come to blows on track.

It all started yesterday when Webber was engaged in a press conference with assembled hacks. Pressed on the issue of favouritism within the team, Webber hinted strongly that Vettel’s youth meant the ’emotion’ lay with him.

“Of course when young, new chargers come onto the block, that’s where the emotion is. That’s the way it is,” he is quoted as saying by Autosport.

The suggestion that the team prefer Vettel, and particularly the German’s closeness to the team’s hierarchy, clearly rankles with Webber, although he did go on to say that he did not blame anyone for this state of affairs.

“Which is absolutely fine, because I’ve had a great opportunity and a great car to go and do some great things this year, and I have done that. I’ve got favourites in life. I’ve got people I like to be with. That’s how it is. It’s human nature.”

It was then Vettel’s turn to reply, using the same affected, somewhat weary tone he has employed occasionally this year to describe Webber’s outbursts. It is an effective tactic to use from Vettel, as it implies paranoia on his team-mate’s part.

“Obviously there have been a lot of things being said already. I don’t know what he’s said now,” said Vettel. “Everyone has his own opinion, but for me we both have the same chance every weekend to do well.

“The team supplies us with a very good car and that’s ultimately the situation that you want to be in – having a car where you can win races and fight for podiums.”

Vettel’s trailing his team mate in the standings is perhaps due to mechanical fallibility, and his loss of power during the Italian Grand Prix was viewed suspiciously by some of the German’s fans. Vettel made sure to add that despite his mechanical problems, he did not believe there was any kind of underhand behaviour in the team.

“I think I had lots of ups and downs this year. If something broke, then it tended to break on my car,” he said. “But do I think there is any conspiracy in the air? No, it’s the last thing I think about.”

Meanwhile, embattled team principal Christian Horner must be sick of pouring oil on troubled waters. He was visibly unimpressed by the latest round of hostilities.

“I think the members of the team would be greatly hurt to see that Mark has said that, if he has said that, and I can only think it’s been taken out of context because he has a great deal of support within the team, within Austria and with Dietrich Mateschitz, who has ultimately provided the opportunity that is there now,” said Horner.

“The team have provided a great car and we’re determined to finish the season on a high.”

Horner went on to reiterate, for the umpteenth time, his personal and professional commitment to the policy of driver equality.

“We’ve got two great drivers, we’re in a unique situation where we’ve got two drivers competing for the championship. It would’ve been wrong from the team’s point of view to back one driver over the other.”

The question is ultimately whose side fans and outsiders choose to believe. The evidence in front of our eyes was that Vettel was preferred at Silverstone, with the new front wing, although the defence was that he was leading Webber in the standings at the time.

Stretching belief further, though, is Horner and Helmut Marko’s response to the Turkish Grand Prix incident, where the two drivers came together on track. As has been documented before, their somewhat blinkered approach seemed to be to defend Vettel where practically no defence could credibly be proposed. Marko’s embrace of Vettel after his retirement in Korea also pointed to the depth of relationship the young German has with the powers-that-be within the team.

So if we believe our eyes, and Mark Webber, where does that leave his championship challenge and the future? His title aspirations will probably not be affected – it is unlikely that Red Bull management would make a call which lost him the world championship, for example, or that they would give him inferior machinery. Besides that, there are myriad other factors at work which might decide the outcome.

But the future is a different kettle of fish. Whatever the truth of the whole matter, Webber is palpably unhappy in the team, and you get the distinct impression that the other main players are starting to tire of having to defend themselves. Although the Australian is contracted for at least another year at the team, it is somehow difficult to envisage him staying after all that has happened. Were he not to win the title this year, what’s more, the general sentiment would be that he had missed his best chance.

So where does Mark Webber turn? The answer to his predicament is deceptively simple. He straps himself into that RB6 that he (and he alone) has made the best of this season. He forgets about the politics and the future. And he goes for it. If he wins, what glory awaits. The triumphant underdog, fighting not only the other drivers, but age and his own team. Folk would be reminded of Nigel Mansell’s beating Nelson Piquet in 1987, despite suspicions that Piquet had been preferred.

And last but not least, his bargaining power with Red Bull would be greatly increased. He could go to Dietrich Mateschitz’s door and say, ‘Mr Mateschitz, I’ve just won you the world title. If you want me to stay you have to cast-iron guarantee me parity at the very least!’ And who’s to bet that the Red Bull magnate wouldn’t agree…

Button will try to win in Brazil – Whitmarsh

McLaren team principal has said that Jenson Button arrives in Brazil intending to win the world championship.

The Englishman lies furthest adrift in his quest to retain his title, and looks likely to fall out of contention before the final race in Abu Dhabi.

But his boss said that he would be going for broke nonetheless.

“I think the right thing for a racing driver is to go there and win and I’d be disappointed if Jenson wasn’t going there trying to win,” Whitmarsh told BBC Sport.

“I think the championship for Jenson in particular is tough but if he was telling me that he has given up I would be deeply disappointed.

“So I think the right target is for him to get his car in front of all of our competitors.”

Whitmarsh did suggest that the position of the team might change during the race, however.

“We’ll see what the situation is during the race,” he suggested.

China and India subject to change as FIA announce 2011 calendar

The FIA have announced a provisional calendar for the 2011 season – with existing venue China and new event India subject to homologation.

The season will kick off in Bahrain on 13 March, and end on 27 November in Brazil.

But question marks remain over the China event, which has suffered from a lack of attendance in recent years, and the Indian circuit, which is yet to be completed.

2011 Formula 1 calendar
13/03 Bahrain
27/03 Australia
10/04 Malaysia
17/04 China*
08/05 Turkey
22/05 Spain
29/05 Monaco
12/06 Canada
26/06 Europe
10/07 Great Britain
24/07 Germany
31/07 Hungary
28/08 Belgium
11/09 Italy
25/09 Singapore
09/10 Japan
16/10 Korea
30/10 India*
13/11 Abu Dhabi
27/11 Brazil

*Subject to the homologation of the circuit.

Former F1 Drivers call for Red Bull to back Mark Webber in Brazil

Former three-time World Champion Niki Lauda believes Red Bull must throw all their support behind Webber if they want to walk away with the World Driver’s Championship this year. “Red Bull needs to establish the team hierarchy now. If they don’t get behind Mark Webber, they may have to go without the title,” said the Austrian to the Daily Telegraph.

Niki Lauda’s only concern is that the spectators do not feel cheated by such an occurrence. Lauda was disgusted with Ferrari for their use of team orders at the German Grand Prix, and publicly slammed the Italian outfit, via the media because of this.

Jos Verstappen, a Dutch driver who supported Schumacher on his way to the 1994 World Driver’s Championship, also shares a similar viewpoint to Lauda. “Purely mathematically, [Vettel] has a chance to be champion,” he said. “But as a team they really have to put everything behind Webber. He has a better chance of winning the title.”

Verstappen’s observation is that Red Bull would prefer Vettel to win over Webber when he stated, “Of course it’s a difficult position for Red Bull, as the whole world knows who they would prefer to be in the best position. It’s unfortunate for Vettel, but with his engine failure in Korea his championship did literally go up in smoke.”

After the Korean Grand Prix, Gerhard Berger, another Austrian and former Formula One Driver insists that Red Bull’s moral is different. “Some of the teams, like Williams or McLaren, operate as a business. In this way it makes sense for them to have a team strategy in order to maximise their championship position,” he told Austrian television Servus TV.

“But Red Bull has a different approach using Formula One as a sporting platform to boost its product. And from the sporting approach, the best man wins.”

He continues, citing his apparent close relationship with the Red Bull team owner Austrian billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz. “Forget grey areas we’re thinking of morality.

“If I know Dietrich Mateschitz, there is no question about the approach. And I think the fans will be grateful; it’s sport. It’s not sport however if all year you’re just making tactical moves.”

The man himself Mateschitz whom many people believe would prefer Vettel winning the World Championship over, went on record before the Korean Grand Prix to state this was not the case. “There will be no team order from our side. The driver who makes the least mistakes and is faster should, or will, win,” he said. “If we win the drivers’ title we would be happy for both in the same way because each one would deserve it.”

Vettel boasts awesome speed he has been on pole position an astonishing 9 times, compared to Webber’s 4. However, Vettel has only won three Grand Prix’s this season partly due to his own hot-headedness, such as in Turkey and Belgium. At the Hungarian Grand Prix he looked set to win, but made a mistake behind the safety car. His engine has failed twice while he was in the lead, at Bahrain and Korea. It is unfortunately a combination of rotten luck and inexperience. But one could argue that he clearly should have the championship wrapped up by now. Almost every race he has looked set to win, but yet he finds himself in the position where now sits fourth in the championship.

Webber, has won 4 races, and when he’s not winning he lurks either on the podium or just off it. In fact, his accident at Korea was arguably his first mistake of the season. But his poor starts, slight lack of pace, and generally conservative approach would beg one to ask is he a reliable option to win the championship?

This is all to be decided upon by the man in the hot seat, Team Principal Christian Horner. Rumours have it his job is on the line…

HRT looking forward to a stronger 2011

Team Principal Colin Kolles believes the HRT-Cosworth have “made a huge step forward” in producing a technically stronger car for the 2011 Formula One Season, because of a new technical partnership with WilliamsF1. Williams, who also are running with Cosworth Engines this year, will supply gearboxes to the HRT Team from the 2011 Season.

Said Alex Burns, Williams CEO, of the agreement: “Our gearbox technology has consistently proven itself as both competitive and reliable, and hence this agreement will be a positive development for both organizations.”

Kolles added, “This technical partnership is a significant step forward for Hispania Racing HRT F1 Team to improve its performance. We are very happy to do this with an engineering company and race team like Williams F1 which has an impressive track record and astonishing heritage.”

Just a few days earlier SPEED and Auto Motor und Sport reported the Spanish outfit had bought Toyota’s former Formula One team, including “the expertise, equipment and facilities” of Toyota’s Cologne-based team. It was for this reason, according to some, that Toyota only released its 2009-spec car to the new sole tyre supplier to F1 for 2011, Pirelli.

Whilst there have also been rumors that HRT are behind in payments to Cosworth, spectators can be assured that HRT appear committed to Grand Prix Racing in 2011.

Red Bull have to back Webber – Lauda

Austrian legend Niki Lauda has said that Red Bull need to back Mark Webber if they want to win the drivers’ world championship this season.

The three-time champion told the Daily Telegraph that the Anglo-Austrian squad risk missing out on the title unless they decide that one of their drivers should be preferred.

“Red Bull needs to establish the team hierarchy now,” he said.

“If they don’t get behind Mark Webber, they may have to go without the title.”

Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has reiterated in recent days his commitment to driver equality, even if that means losing the title. Seasoned onlookers have also pointed out that even if the team were to back one of their men, they might end up looking foolish anyway.

Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso can rely on the support of his team-mate Felipe Massa, while Jenson Button is widely expected to fall out of contention for the title this weekend in Brazil.

Domenicali: Brazil won’t decide the championship

Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali has said that next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix is unlikely to decide the drivers’ championship.

Domenicali’s star driver Fernando Alonso leads the standings as the teams and drivers travel to Sao Paulo, and indeed can take the title mathematically, but the Italian refused to make any bold claims about Alonso’s chances.

“It [Brazil] is unlikely to decide the outcome, but it will be a very important race. If one were to lose valuable points here it would make Abu Dhabi a bigger call,” Domenicali is quoted as saying by Autosport.

“The approach the team will adopt in these final weeks of the championship will be the right one, keeping in mind the strengths of our rivals, Red Bull and McLaren. We have seen how complicated the races have been throughout the season, which means we have to be very careful.

“As far as the F10 is concerned, there will be a few small updates on the aerodynamic front, but nothing really significant, because the difference will come from reliability, from finishing the races without losing points and having the right mindset.

“However, I think the F10 can be competitive in Brazil and that, for better or for worse, the relative strengths are those we have seen in the last few races. We can expect to find that Red Bull is again very strong, while McLaren could have some more updates to be quicker still and we will be in the fight.”