F1: Jury Out On Vettel Rivals' Title Chances Photo:
Mike Stevens | Jul, 27 2011 | 0 Comments

According to the Tuscan newspaper Il Tirreno, the Nurburgring last Sunday proved that "The world championship is not over."

France's L'Equipe agreed that, with the championship leader Sebastian Vettel uncharacteristically off the front row and podium, Germany was a "cold shower" for the Red Bull driver.

Lewis Hamilton surprised himself with victory in a McLaren well-suited to the unseasonably cold conditions, but he remains 82 points behind Vettel with just nine races to run.

And the Briton expects the 23-year-old to bounce back.

"This was a small glitch over a long period. I have no doubts he (Vettel) will have some interesting comments made about him but he will be back, no doubt," said Hamilton.

Ferrari's Fernando Alonso has scored more points than any other rival in the past three Grands Prix, but he too is cautious about rating his chances of chasing down the leader.

"We need some help from Red Bull," said the Spaniard. "If they keep finishing the races, even third or fourth, it's enough for them."

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh agrees that Vettel's chasers need to keep the pressure on because the world champion "made a couple of mistakes" in Germany.

But he, as well as his Ferrari counterpart Stefano Domenicali, stop short of being confident.

"I don't think we can say that this victory shows we are on a roll," said Whitmarsh, whilet Domenicali noted: "I don't forget that last year in Hungary we were one second off the pace of Red Bull."

One theory on the recent change in form is that, with Jenson Button's 2009 feats in mind, Vettel has calculated that a low-risk strategy will still deliver him the title.

It's also possible that he and Red Bull have begun to struggle.

"I tend to think Seb is young enough to absorb the hit of last weekend and not tighten up, but we shall see," wrote David Coulthard in his telegraph column.

Another former McLaren driver John Watson insists that Vettel is far enough ahead to relax.

"The only thing that can have a bearing would be something that would stop Vettel from competing in the next three or four races and that's very unlikely," he told the Guardian.



Axe reports made Nurburgring win sweet - Whitmarsh

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted Sunday's victory was extra sweet off the back of reports his job was on the line.

Before Lewis Hamilton won in Germany, the team had a disappointing and mistake-strewn home race at Silverstone, prompting Whitmarsh to give an unusual six-minute monologue to the international press.

Tom Cary wrote in the Telegraph that "if a football manager had done likewise, it would have been the last press conference he gave for that club".

But Whitmarsh insists that although he didn't pay "too much attention" to the speculation, Hamilton's win at the Nurburgring tasted particularly sweet.

"If I said it didn't I'd be lying," he said.

He added that journalists had misunderstood him "being honest about where we are and what we have got to do" prior to the Nurburgring.

"I was very honest at Silverstone and said that things were not going well and some interpreted it to be my job in danger," Whitmarsh is quoted by the Spanish El Pais newspaper.

"I don't think anyone in the paddock who is minimally intelligent really believed that was so. When you're at the head of one of the strongest teams you do have a lot of pressure on you.

"But the pressure I put on myself is much stronger than the garbage that's in the press," he added.



Red Bull to expand in motoring beyond F1

Red Bull is set to expand its motoring foray beyond the championship winning F1 team.

Autocar reports that the Austrian energy drink company will use its recent F1 team sponsorship with Nissan's luxury division Infiniti to expand beyond the sport.

Team boss Christian Horner is quoted as confirming Red Bull wants to use its "expertise outside F1".

"Red Bull used to be known only as an energy drink company, but now it is recognised as an engineering team. It's a natural evolution for us to get involved in road car engineering," he said.

The first step will reportedly be a co-developed sports adaptation of an existing Infiniti car.



Force India to announce 2012 line-up in December

Force India will wait until long after the 2011 season before finalising its driver line-up for next year.

Team owner and boss Vijay Mallya is openly keen to hang onto impressive Scottish rookie Paul di Resta, while also having long-term driver Adrian Sutil on the books along with significant Medion sponsorship.

And in the wings is Nico Hulkenberg, the team's current Friday and reserve driver whose F1 career began promisingly with Williams in 2010.

"It is way too early," said Mallya when asked by F1's official website about the 2012 Force India lineup.

"I will announce my driver lineup around December 15th. Not before that. I want all my guys to focus on the job at hand and not start speculating about their future."



Heidfeld not fulfilling leadership role - Boullier

Speculation that Nick Heidfeld might lose his Renault race seat is heating up.

Already this week, the German sources Bild and Auto Motor und Sport have wondered whether Heidfeld having to give up his Friday practice seat in Hungary is a sign he has lost the support of team boss Eric Boullier.

On Monday we quoted Boullier as having told France's Eurosport at the Nurburgring that he has been "clearly disappointed" with the performance of the German veteran so far in 2011.

"We rely more on Vitaly (Petrov) for performance, with Nick more suitable for the development of the car," said the Frenchman.

More of that interview has now emerged at the sports.fr website, with Boullier saying of Heidfeld: "He has not provided the leadership we wanted. He hasn't taken hold of the team."

Speculation is now sure to fire up about Heidfeld being replaced in the near future by either Brazilian Senna or the Boullier-managed Romain Grosjean.

According to broadcaster James Allen's blog, the latter Frenchman could resume his abortive F1 career as soon as he wraps up the GP2 championship.

"He wasn't ready in 2009 and those seven races alongside Alonso did him a lot of harm," Boullier said at the Nurburgring. "He's proved in GP2 this year that he's a very good driver and he deserves a chance."


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