Cham­pion look­ing to re­tain crown

John Floyd re­ports on F1’s clos­ing races and changes for the WRC Mini team

Business Day - Motor News - - MOTOR NEWS -

REIGN­ING F1 cham­pion Se­bas­tian Vet­tel took the lead for the driv­ers ti­tle fol­low­ing a fault­less drive from start to fin­ish in the Korean Grand Prix. Vet­tel had been pipped at the post in qual­i­fy­ing by his Red Bull team-mate Mark Web­ber, but made a good start and was never chal­lenged throughout the 55-lap race.

McLaren was the team to suf­fer most when Jen­son But­ton was elim­i­nated within sec­onds of the start as the Sauber of Kobayashi sliced through the pack, out braked him­self and re­moved the McLaren’s right front wheel and sus­pen­sion. Hamil­ton had a rea­son­able start but was slowed with a rear anti-roll bar prob­lem, manag­ing to just hang on to tenth place and one point.

It was the Fer­raris of Fer­nando Alonso and Felipe Massa that took up the chal­lenge and chased the Red Bulls, but were un­able to match the per­for­mance of ei­ther Vet­tel or Web­ber’s car. Fin­ish­ing in third and fourth meant that the team move into sec­ond place in the con­struc­tor’s cham­pi­onship, but Vet­tel’s vic­tory gives the Ger­man a six-point lead with just four races left this sea­son.

The drive of the day and the best over­tak­ing move has to go to Force In­dia’s Nico Hulken­berg. His move, which saw him dis­pense with Hamil­ton and the Lo­tus of Ro­main Gros­jean, was one of the best we have seen for a while.

Still on the F1 front, Sauber have an­nounced that CEO Mon­isha Kal­tenborn has been ap­pointed as team prin­ci­pal with im­me­di­ate ef­fect, re­plac­ing team owner Peter Sauber. Kal­tenborn joined the team in 2000 as head of the le­gal depart­ment. She was made CEO in Jan­uary this year and was handed a third of the com­pany shares last year. Sauber him­self, who turns 70 next year, was re­ported as say­ing: “We de­cided a long time ago that Mon­isha would take over from me, but we left the tim­ing open.”

The new team prin­ci­pal said: “Nat­u­rally I’m very aware of the ma­jor re­spon­si­bil­ity I have for Peter Sauber’s rac­ing team. He founded the team over 40 years ago, and in the spring it will be 20 years since the team lined up for its de­but For­mula One grand prix. We are the fourth old­est team in For­mula One. To build up a project like this and keep it alive in a dif­fi­cult en­vi­ron­ment is a tremen­dous achieve­ment. I have set my sights high and am com­mit­ted to tak­ing the team for­ward as Peter Sauber would want and lead­ing it on to suc­cess.” Sauber will re­main as pres­i­dent of the Swiss based Sauber Group.

For rally fans the an­nounce­ment by the BMW-owned Mini brand that they will no longer com­pete as a works team in the WRC came as no sur­prise. The Mini team for the 2012 sea­son had com­peted un­der the Mo­tor­sport Italia-run WRC Team Mini Por­tu­gal ban­ner, and the fu­ture of this team re­mains un­de­cided.

Mini will work with British based Pro­drive to de­velop the 1.6l tur­bocharged engine, al­though fund­ing for this work will be with­drawn at the end of this year. Hav­ing al­most achieved the re­quired ho­molo­ga­tion for the WRC Mini, Pro­drive will pro­duce the Mini John Cooper Works in both WRC and S2000 guise for pri­va­teer teams to com­pete in fu­ture.

Richard Tay­lor, busi­ness de­vel­op­ment di­rec­tor at Pro­drive, said: “We have been de­vel­op­ing our own plans for 2013 WRC par­tic­i­pa­tion with the Mini John Cooper Works and will an­nounce next sea­son’s Pro­drive WRC Team en­try and driver de­tails in due course. We have a num­ber of fur­ther en­hance­ments to engine, chas­sis and trans­mis­sion sched­uled for in­tro­duc­tion in the first quar­ter of 2013 and look for­ward to mak­ing these avail­able to our many rally part­ners who al­ready op­er­ate Mini JCW cars around the world.”

Good news for Mini fans and maybe, with newly crowned cham­pion Se­bas­tian Loeb an­nounc­ing that he is back­ing off next sea­son, we will see a Mini team on the top step of the podium ahead of the nine times WRC king, but some­how I have my doubts.

With the likes of Volk­swa­gen and Hyundai join­ing the field it is go­ing to be a very ex­cit­ing fu­ture for WRC.

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