Scarecrows adorn the entrance to a barren Korean International Circuit
Two leading Formula One journalists have expressed their surprise at Korea being named the best grand prix promoter of the season at the FIA’s annual prize gala in Monaco last Friday.
The Korean Grand Prix received the Race Promoters' Trophy despite the event taking place at an incomplete facility with few race fans in attendance and team members and media staying at disparagingly dubbed 'love hotels'.
"Korea. Korea? KOREA??!! I must have been somewhere else," said Times correspondent Kevin Eason on Twitter.
Daily Mirror journalist Byron Young added, "The Korean GP, complete with event and flight chaos, shoddy hotels and things I won't mention, won the race promotors’ trophy. Why?"
Emerson Fittipaldi in his heyday
In an interview in the Times, former world champion Emerson Fittipaldi’s outlined his five-point plan to enhance Formula One.
Cut costs “They spend a fortune in wind-tunnel testing alone. Reduce costs and the slowest teams would catch up and make it more even.”
Limit downforce “They need to reduce enormously the downforce in the cars, the only way to bring back overtaking. We need more mechanical grip so that you have longer braking areas, can set up the car coming out of a corner, get in the slipstream and then overtake.”
Close the pitlane “When the safety car goes out they should close the pitlane. Now it’s just a lottery.”
Lift ban on team orders “It is a very stupid rule. It’s why they are called teams, it’s why they have two cars. If a driver is leading in the championship, everything has to go in his favour. What is wrong with that? It’s so easy for teams to camouflage their orders anyway. All they need to do is tell one guy on the radio he has a problem with his brakes. They can bend the rules very easily. In the old days they would even swap cars, so why do we have this ban now?”
Retain traditional grands prix “These places are the soul of racing. The Americas are under-represented. We have Canada back, but there is no USA, no Argentina, no Mexico. We need to stay in the heartlands.”
One side of the Lotus naming dispute has been put forward on a new and in-depth webpage called www.saveteamlotus.com.
The basic background is that the Lotus Racing F1 team had its naming rights revoked for next season by Group Lotus and, in order to keep racing under the Lotus name, bought the Team Lotus brand off David Hunt, who had owned it since the original team’s last race in 1994. Group Lotus has now taken Lotus Racing to court to try and stop it using the historic name in Formula One next year.
The issue has been a source of constant confusion for many fans and the new webpage offers a breakdown of David Hunt’s and Team Lotus’ side of the argument.
Tom Cary says in his column in the Daily Telegraph that the man dubbed ‘Baby Schumi’ has plenty of time to match or even surpass his compatriot’s record haul of seven world titles after he cinched his first in the Abu Dhabi night.
“Here, after all, is a young man, already dubbed ‘Baby Schumi’ by Germany’s tabloid press, winning the first of what will presumably be multiple world championships, and all at the tender age of 23. Plenty of time yet to match Schumacher's incredible haul of seven world titles. And yet, their phenomenal ability to drive racing cars apart, there is little similarity between the two men.
“There are still lingering doubts over his racing ability but with such blistering qualifying pace he is nearly always leading from the front anyway. Vettel is set for multiple world championships. Just don’t call him Baby Schumi.”
The Guardian’s Paul Weaver says it was difficult to begrudge Vettel his moment of glory after he won the first of what will be many world titles. He also looks back at some of the season’s highlights.
“An amazing Formula One season produced its final twist here on Sunday when Sebastian Vettel, who had never led the title race, won his first world championship. It is difficult to begrudge him his glory, for he had more poles (10) than any other driver and shared the most wins (five) with Fernando Alonso. There will be red faces as well as red cars and overalls at Ferrari, though, for deciding to bring their man in when they did, only to see him re-emerge into heavy traffic.
“Among the highlights, and every race felt like a highlight after the bore-start in Bahrain, there was that wonderful beginning to his McLaren career by Jenson Button, who won two of his first four races, even though he couldn't keep up the pace, especially in qualifying.
“Hamilton once again drove his heart out, and outperformed a car that looked a little too ordinary at times. He was superb in Montreal. Then there was Webber, the Anglophile Aussie who was the favourite among most neutrals to win the title. There was that spectacular crash when he ran into the back of Heikki Kovalainen and the most famous of his four wins, at Silverstone, when he said to his team at the end of the race: 'Not bad for a No2 driver.'
“But in the end there was only one German who mattered. It was the remarkable Vettel. This will be the first of a clutch of championships for him.”
The Independent’s David Tremayne focuses on the plight of the other title contenders, writing it is easier to feel more sorry for one than the other.
“It was impossible not to feel for both Webber and Alonso. Yet while a frustrated Alonso gestured at Petrov after the race, the Australian, predictably, refused to complain about his pitstop timing.
“A world championship seemed an inevitable part of Sebastian Vettel's future, but it came a little sooner than most expected, after his recent tribulations. You wouldn't bet against several more, and if that record-breaking streak continues, perhaps even Schumacher's achievements will be overshadowed.”
And the Mirror’s Byron Young elaborates further on the petulant behaviour of Fernando Alonso on his slowing down lap after his title dreams ended behind the Renault of Vitaly Petrov.
“Fernando Alonso was hurled into more controversy last night for a wild gesture at the former Lada racer who cost him the title. But the Spaniard brushed off accusations he gave Russian Vitaly Petrov the finger for ruining his title hopes by blocking him for 40 laps as they duelled over sixth place.
"The Ferrari ace was caught on television cruising alongside the Renault driver on the slowing down lap and gesticulating from the cockpit. Petrov was unrepentant: "What was I supposed to do? Just get out of his way, pull to the side? I don't think that is how we race. It was important for the team for me to get points."
Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel celebrate with Red Bull boss Christian Horner on the podium
Sections of the international media have questioned Red Bull's strategic approach to the world championship. After Sebastian Vettel won the Brazilian Grand Prix from the team's points leader Mark Webber at Interlagos, Der Spiegel noted: "Red Bull gives (Fernando) Alonso wings".
Not switching the places means that Spaniard Alonso can take his Ferrari to just second place this weekend in Abu Dhabi and be champion, whereas the alternative strategy would have set up Webber for a straight fight.
"It is not easy for Webber to drive in a team that considers him a burden to be up against Vettel," said La Gazzetta dello Sport.
Tuttosport noted that it seems "the Austrian team would be happier to lose than to see Webber beat Vettel".
"No team orders at Red Bull. Another own goal," headlined La Repubblica.
Joan Villadelprat wrote in his El Pais column: "Had Red Bull opted for Webber a few races ago, the Australian would probably now be champion."
Red Bull, however, is unrepentant. Team owner Dietrich Mateschitz told Salzburger Nachrichten newspaper that "second under proper conditions can often be more valuable than a first". But there is a feeling that the team is not simply giving up the fight for the drivers' title.
One columnist in Brazil's Globo wondered if Vettel's radio message in Abu Dhabi might sound something like 'So ... Mark is faster than you'.
"I'm always in favour of leaving the fight on the track with equal chances for both sides," said Rubens Barrichello. "But I wonder if they would do that if the situation was in reverse.
“Mark has done a great job this year and he has been told by his team what position he is in," said Lewis Hamilton. "Against adversity he has kept at it. I want to see Mark win."
Webber believes that, if a strategy is deployed, it will only be on the "last lap" of the season this weekend.
"Sebastian is part of a team," said Niki Lauda, who believes Webber should be backed fully by Red Bull. "If he does anything it should be helping Webber and not just on the last lap."
Webber is quoted by Bild newspaper: "It makes sense. Otherwise it would mean that Ferrari's team orders would have paid off for Fernando."
Red Bull team boss Christian Horner hints that sense will ultimately prevail. "We have already given too many presents to Fernando this year," he is quoted by Autosprint.
Will Christian Horner regret not utilising team orders in Brazil?
Michael Spearman of The Sun, says that the £65,000 fine Ferrari received for breaching the team orders ban in Germany will seem like loose change if Fernando Alonso wins the drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi.
“The extra seven points Alonso collected when Ferrari ordered Felipe Massa to move over for him in Germany earlier in the season are now looking even more crucial.
“And the £65,000 fine they picked up for ruthlessly breaking the rules will seem loose change if Alonso clinches the title in his first year with the Maranello team.
“Red Bull could have switched the result yesterday given their crushing dominance and still celebrated their first constructors' championship just five years after coming into the sport.
“That would also have given Webber an extra seven points, leaving him just one behind Alonso.”
The Guardian’s Paul Weaver says that if Fernando Alonso does take the drivers’ title in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari owes a debt of gratitude to Red Bull for their decision not to employ team orders in Brazil.
“If Alonso does take the title next week it would not be inappropriate were he and Ferrari to send a few gallons of champagne to Red Bull's headquarters in Milton Keynes.
“While Red Bull should be heartily applauded for the championship they did win today their apparent acceptance that Ferrari might carry off the more glamorous prize continues to baffle Formula One and its globetrotting supporters.
“Their refusal to make life easy for Webber, who has led for much of the season and is still seven points ahead of Vettel, means that whatever happens in the desert next week Alonso, the only driver who was capable of taking the championship in the race today, only has to secure second place to guarantee his third world title.”
The Independent’s David Tremayne is also of the opinion that Red Bull may regret not using team orders in Brazil.
“Had Red Bull elected to adopt team orders and let Webber win – something that the governing body allows when championships are at stake – Webber would have left Brazil with 245 points – just one point off the lead. For some that was confirmation of his suggestion that Vettel is the team's favoured driver – which generated an angry call from team owner Dietrich Mateschitz in Austria and was much denied by team principal, Christian Horner.
“And it sets up a situation where, if the result is repeated next weekend, as is likely, Vettel and Webber will tie on 256, five behind Alonso.”
The Mirror’s Byron Young has put Lewis Hamilton’s fading title chances down to an inferior McLaren machine and he admits the 2008 World Champion now needs a miracle.
“Sebastian Vettel's victory sends the world title fight to a four-way showdown for the first time in the sport's history.
“Hamilton goes there as part of that story with a 24-point deficit to Ferrari's Fernando Alonso, but with just 25 on offer in the final round in six days' time it would take more than a miracle.
“Driving an outclassed McLaren he slugged it out against superior machinery and stiff odds to finish fourth.”
Brazil’s F1 fever may have overstepped the mark after a local prosecutor threatened Felipe Massa with a six-year jail term if he “defrauds” the sporting public by letting Ferrari team-mate Fernando Alonso past at Sunday’s grand prix.
The story, reported by a local paper and picked up by the Daily Telegraph, is the latest of several anti-Massa reports to emerge from his home country since the team orders controversy at the German Grand Prix earlier this year. The Daily Telegraph's Tom Cary reckons that Massa simply isn't living up to his home crowd's high expectations.
“A public raised on a diet of Emerson Fittipaldi, Nelson Piquet and Ayrton Senna were simply appalled and saddened in equal measure by Massa’s apparent lack of ambition.”
Fernando Alonso is the new favourite for the title
Fernando Alonso is the new favourite to win the Formula One drivers’ title, said David Coulthard in his column for The Telegraph.
“He is the man with the momentum and, on the same basis that I backed Mark Webber to win the title before Korea, is now my favourite to claim the world title in Abu Dhabi on Nov 14.
“When the cars are so evenly-matched you have to back the man in possession. Especially when that man is a two-time world champion and arguably the finest driver of his generation.”
The Mirror’s Byron Young drew comparisons between Alonso and seven-time world champion Michael Schumacher as the Spaniard bids to become the sport’s youngest ever triple world champion.
“Like Schumacher, Alonso accepts no opposition within his team. Ultimately he fell out with McLaren over their refusal in 2007 to bring Lewis Hamilton to heel.
“He returned to Renault on condition he was No.1, only to be at the centre of the Singapore cheat scandal - engineered to hand him victory.
“The Spaniard has always denied involvement but at the German GP in July he was brazen enough to radio Ferrari to rein in team-mate Felipe Massa so he could start the winning streak that has taken him to the brink of history.”
In an exclusive interview with the Guardian as his 80th birthday approaches, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone speak out about a variety of subjects, from the future of the sport to Margaret Thatcher, Hitler, Saddam Hussein, democracy, football and what continues to drive him.
The way I feel at the moment, why stop? I do it because I enjoy it. And yesterday is gone. I don't care what happened yesterday. What else would I do? People retire to die.
I don't get any individual pleasure because we don't win races or titles in this job. I'm like most business people. You look back at the end of the year and you see what you've achieved by working out how much money the company has made. That's it.
Is it now a three-way battle for the title?
Fernando Alonso is still the driver in the best position to win the drivers’ title according to the Daily Telegraph’s Tom Cary.
“Focus and concentration will be of paramount importance and there is none stronger in this regard than Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.”The Guardian’s Oliver Owen thinks that it is Mark Webber’s title to lose now, and that this may be the Australian’s last realistic chance of winning the title.
“He has driven beautifully. Monaco and Silverstone spring to mind. He has been an uncompromising racer, not giving Vettel or Lewis Hamilton an inch in Turkey and Singapore respectively. Most importantly, he has largely avoided the bouts of brain fade that can wreck a season – his on-track hooning in Melbourne when racing Hamilton being the only exception. But there is a feeling that for Webber it is now or never, that a chance of a tilt at the title may never come again. He is certainly driving as if that is the case and that has been his strength.”
According to The Mirror’s Byron Young, both McLaren drivers are now out of the title hunt after their fourth and fifth place finishes in Suzuka.
“McLaren's title hopes died yesterday in a weekend from Hell at Suzuka. Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton finished fourth and fifth in a Japanese Grand Prix they had to win to have the remotest chance of keeping their title bid alive."
The Sun’s Michael Spearman was of the same opinion, saying “Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button's title hopes were in tatters after a shocker in Japan.”
- Journalists shocked at Korea award
- Five ways to improve F1
- Campaign launched to save Team Lotus
- Vettel set for titles aplenty
- Red Bull under the spotlight
- Team orders in spotlight again
- Massa threatened with jail over team orders
- Alonso the new favourite
- Bernie Ecclestone - No plans to put the brakes on
- McLaren drivers out of title race