Cham­pion six in Melbourne

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - Front Page -

ARECORD six World For­mula One Cham­pi­onship win­ners will be on the grid at Melbourne’s Al­bert Park cir­cuit to­mor­row for the Aus­tralian Grand Prix.

Reign­ing cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel along with fel­low Ger­man Michael Schu­macher, Bri­tain’s Jensen But­ton and Lewis Hamil­ton, Spa­niard Fer­nando Alonso and Kimi Raikko­nen (re­turn­ing to F1 af­ter driv­ing in the WRC) are all com­pet­ing.

For the first time there will not be an Ital­ian driver on the grid. How­ever, in yet an­other first, two Aus­tralian driv­ers will be rac­ing.

Mark Web­ber (pic­tured) and F1 rookie Daniel Ric­cia­rdo will both be striv­ing for vic­tory to­mor­row in front of a parochial home crowd.

Un­for­tu­nately, in re­al­ity it is un­likely that ei­ther will win. Web­ber’s best fin­ish at the AGP is fifth.

“Any driver wants to win their home race. Any home race vic­tory is spe­cial,” the for­mer Can­berra Raiders ball boy said.

“I am not go­ing to Melbourne to make the num­bers up. I am go­ing there to get a good re­sult and that means that we are lead­ing at the end,”

Red Bull team prin­ci­pal Chris­tian Horner is op­ti­mistic Web­ber will be in form.

“I think Mark has had a good win­ter. I think he has a good pre-sea­son and I think he goes to Melbourne with a spring in his step, which wasn’t the case last year. He is in a good frame of mind and hope­fully he can have a strong sea­son,” Horner said.

In con­trast, I be­lieve Ric­cia­rdo will be happy just to fin­ish. He will no doubt be try­ing to em­u­late Web­ber’s fifth-place per­for­mance in his maiden AGP, his equal high­est plac­ing in the event.

Web­ber’s Red Bull Re­nault team­mate and cur­rent F1 World Cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel won his sec­ond con­sec­u­tive world crown and the AGP last year and is pre-race favourite.

FU­TURE OF AUSSIE GP IN DOUBT

HOW­EVER, the fu­ture of the Aus­tralian F1 GP is un­der a cloud with F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone say­ing that the AGP does not suit the huge North­ern Hemi­sphere TV au­di­ence and he wants it to be­come a night race. The event is also un­pop­u­lar with many Vic­to­ri­ans who ques­tion whether its ben­e­fits jus­tify its an­nual $50 mil­lion cost. Ecclestone has said he will hon­our the cur­rent con­tract, which ex­pires in 2015. How­ever this writer be­lieves it will not be re­newed.

FOURTH FASTEST IN INDY SWITCH

FOR­MER F1 jour­ney­man Rubens Barichello, who holds a record 322 F1 starts, has shown his skill ex­tends to Indy rac­ing. He recorded the fourth-fastest time in prac­tice last week prior to next week­end’s open­ing round of the Indy Rac­ing League Cham­pi­onship.

Barichello was only 0.5 of a sec­ond be­hind Scott Dixon’s fastest time and only 0.1 of a sec­ond be­hind cur­rent IRL Cham­pion Dario Fran­chitti. His fel­low KV Rac­ing team­mate and good friend Tony Kanaan said: “He’s go­ing to be right in the thick of things from the very first race.”

Queens­land’s Will Power, who was run­ner-up in the cham­pi­onship in 2010 and last year, is look­ing to go one bet­ter in 2012.

SU­PER­CAR CON­TRACTS RE­NEWED

WHILE they will not be rac­ing for cham­pi­onship points, V8 Su­per­cars are on the Aus­tralian GP pro­gram, with 888 Team Vo­da­phone an­nounc­ing the re­newal of driver and car con­tracts. Reign­ing cham­pion Jamie Whin­cup and his run­ner-up team­mate Craig Lown­des have both signed three-year con­tracts with Roland Dane, owner/man­ager of 888 Rac­ing.

Dane has also re­newed his con­tract with Holden for a fur­ther three years.

Whin­cup’s sign­ing quashes ru­mours he was con­sid­er­ing rac­ing over­seas, pos­si­bly in NAS­CAR. He has had great suc­cess with 888, record­ing 56 wins,

DRIV­ING TIP

It is good to see po­lice de­tect­ing driv­ers us­ing mo­bile phones, ipods and other po­ten­tially fa­tal ac­tiv­i­ties when be­hind the wheel. Con­cen­tra­tion is one of the key re­quire­ments to avoid crashes, with driv­ing be­ing a “100 per cent” con­cen­tra­tion ac­tiv­ity. Driv­ers need to con­cen­trate at a very high level and not in­dulge in other po­ten­tially fa­tal ac­tiv­i­ties so as to

stay alive be­hind the wheel. three V8 Su­per­car cham­pi­onships and three Bathurst 1000 vic­to­ries.

A de­lighted Whin­cup said: “It feels great know­ing I am set­tled long term in an en­vi­ron­ment that I am happy with and that has the en­thu­si­asm to set the bench­mark.” How­ever, fol­low­ing its one-two fin­ish in Ade­laide, Ford Per­for­mance Rac­ing has thrown down the gaunt­let to 888, say­ing: “Watch out, we’re com­ing to get you.” Bring it on!

IN THE CAFÉ

THE Speed­cafe An­nual 2011, Australia’s only mo­tor rac­ing sea­son re­view book, is now avail­able. The sev­enth edi­tion of The An­nual con­tains race re­ports, ex­ten­sive re­sults and in­ter­views from Aus­tralian and in­ter­na­tional mo­tor­sport cat­e­gories. This is the largestever edi­tion of The An­nual, con­tain­ing 248 full-colour pages (rrp $29.95). V8 Su­per­cars cov­er­age has been sig­nif­i­cantly in­creased since past edi­tions, as well as more on F1, NAS­CAR and Mo­togp. All na­tional-level Aus­tralian mo­tor­sport is cov­ered as well as speed­way, drag rac­ing, kart­ing and bikes.

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