Mike Stevens | May 26, 2011

Michael Schumacher has denied blocking Lewis Hamilton in Spain last weekend to help his friend, countryman and championship leader Sebastian Vettel win the Barcelona race.

British media said McLaren's Hamilton alleged the seven-. time world champion blocked him after letting Vettel, his regular teammate for the end-of-season Race of Champions event, easily pass while being lapped.

"I won't speak to him (Schumacher) about it," said Hamilton. "I don't want to waste my time or my breath."

Responded Schumacher: "That certainly must have been a misunderstanding. I try to get out of the way for anybody.

"It's true that Sebastian and I are friends," he told the German news agency SID, "but on the track, I'm not for or against anybody."

Agreed a McLaren spokesman: "There is no conspiracy."

(GMM)

 

Sponsors still support struggling Schumacher

Michael Schumacher's high-paying sponsors are reportedly holding firm despite his disappointing comeback form.

Triple world champion Sir Jackie Stewart told Auto Motor und Sport that, despite his record 91 wins and seven titles, the 42-year-old German "has damaged his reputation" since returning to Formula One last year.

As he began his comeback, the German signed Swiss sponsors including Jet Set, Navyboot and Audemars Piguet, and F1 sponsorship expert Zak Brown estimates Schumacher commanded "a fee of about $1 million" for the personal endorsements.

"With every race he doesn't finish or score a point, his brand equity is being progressively eroded," sports business strategy professor Simon Chadwick told the Bloomberg news agency.

Swiss watch maker Audemars Piguet, however, is standing firm with Schumacher, explaining that it was "first and foremost the man and his overall career" that prompted the decision to sponsor him.

Shoe brand Navyboot's chief executive, meanwhile, said he is "very sure that he (Schumacher) will be back on the winning track" soon.

Swiss sportswear label Jet Set declined to comment.

Brown, whose company Just Marketing has negotiated many high profile F1 sponsorships, insists Schumacher is still delivering value of money for his backers.

"It's not like he's coming 18th in races," he said.

(GMM)

 

Brawn not expecting passing in Monaco

Unlike the other races so far in 2011, Monaco will not be packed with overtaking manoeuvres, according to Ross Brawn.

The combination of the new 'DRS' rear wing system and Pirelli's high-degrading tyres has caused an abundance of passing this year, even in Barcelona last weekend, the scene of usually processional Grands Prix.

But Monte Carlo will be a track too far for F1's new formula, Brawn suspects.

"The finish line straight is too short," said the Briton, alluding to the 380 metre 'DRS' zone that can be used by chasing drivers in the race.

"With our strategic planning we do not think overtaking will be much easier than before," Brawn told Auto Motor und Sport.

"Even a driver two or three seconds faster struggles to overtake," he said.

Brawn therefore thinks qualifying will, as ever, be arguably the most important day in Monaco this weekend.

"Track position is probably the decisive factor," he agreed. "So grid position will be more important than at any other track."

There are, however, some unknown factors -- including the possibly extreme degradation of Pirelli's so far unraced super-soft tyres, and the influence on a barrier-lined street circuit of the rubber 'marbles' seen so far in 2011.

"I'm not worried at all," insisted the tyre supplier's Paul Hembery to Auto Motor und Sport.

(GMM)

 

Driver tension gone because Vettel faster - Lauda

There is little tension in the Red Bull driver line-up this year because Sebastian Vettel has the clear upper hand.

That is the belief of outspoken former triple world champion Niki Lauda, who predicts that Mark Webber will also struggle to keep up with his teammate in Monaco this weekend.

"No. Vettel is simply faster than Webber," the great Austrian told Cologne tabloid Express when asked if the high conflict between the pair seen in 2010 might soon return.

Australian Webber appeared to get his campaign back on track last weekend with pole in Barcelona, but German Vettel ultimately won his fourth race of the season.

"We will see that again in Monaco, so again there will be no discussion or tension. I would bet already that he (Vettel) will be three tenths faster," said Lauda.

He also commented on the decision by Ferrari and Fernando Alonso to extend the Spaniard's contract through 2016.

"I don't understand it," said Lauda. "I always did two year contracts, which was a mutual actual on both sides to promote competition. With a long contract, you lose that."

"I am sure that with Ferrari this is a combination of Alonso and the sponsorship of the bank Santander, but if I was Ferrari I wouldn't have done it for so long," he said.

(GMM)

 

Ferrari laughs at Red Bull's spying charge

Ferrari has laughed off reports it could be in the middle of a new spying scandal.

After the Spanish Grand Prix, Helmut Marko accused the famous Italian team of secretly listening in on Red Bull's race strategies.

"We have noticed that Ferrari is doing some kind of espionage," the Austrian said.

"We called Mark (Webber) into the box relatively late, and yet they (Ferrari) managed to get Alonso in as well. They had been able to respond to us."

It is believed Marko's suspicions hardened when Red Bull issued fake commands for its drivers to pit in Barcelona, and Ferrari still moved to respond.

"We can only laugh at that," Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni is quoted as saying by German-language sport1.de.

"It is clear that everybody observes everybody else," he added.

(GMM)

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