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BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX 2013: Nico Rosberg on pole as Lewis Hamilton starts ninth after penalty

Rosberg on pole for Bahrain Grand Prix as Hamilton starts ninth after grid penalty

PUBLISHED:

12:05 GMT, 20 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

17:17 GMT, 20 April 2013

Nico Rosberg will start from pole position for only the second time in his career at tomorrow's Bahrain Grand Prix.

The Mercedes driver will be joined on the front row by Sebastian Vettel with Fernando Alonso in third.

Hamilton, who was out-qualified by his team-mate Rosberg for the first time in his Mercedes career, starts in ninth after being handed a five-place grid drop.

Man in the middle: Nico Rosberg will start tomorrow's grand prix from the front of the pack ahead of Sebastian Vettel (right) and Fernando Alonso

Man in the middle: Nico Rosberg will start tomorrow's grand prix from the front of the pack ahead of Sebastian Vettel (right) and Fernando Alonso

Job done: Today's pole for Rosberg is only the second of his Formula One career

Job done: Today's pole for Rosberg is only the second of his Formula One career

The British driver will be joined on the
fifth row by former McLaren team-mate Jenson Button who failed to post a
competitive time in Q3 for the second successive race.

It is the first time since last year's race in China that Rosberg will lead away the field, and the first time this season he has out-qualified team-mate Hamilton.

Following Hamilton's pole in Shanghai, Rosberg handed Mercedes back-to-back poles for the first time since their return to the grid in 2010.

Hamilton cut a bitterly unhappy figure post race as he knows such an incident undoubtedly affects his early title hopes, with the Briton currently 12 points adrift of Red Bull's Vettel.

Asked for his thoughts on a potential rule change, Hamilton said: 'It doesn't really matter. The rules are the rules.

'I've got a penalty and I will have to suck it up and deal with it. I just got unlucky as I think it was some debris with the tyre.'

Red Bull's Mark Webber was fifth quickest, but like Hamilton, faces a penalty of three places after colliding with the Toro Rosso of Jean-Eric Vergne last weekend.

Blow: Lewis Hamilton was handed a five-place grid penalty after he was forced to change his gearbox

Blow: Lewis Hamilton was handed a five-place grid penalty after he was forced to change his gearbox

Head down: Hamilton (right) was out-qualified by Rosberg for the first time in his Mercedes career

Head down: Hamilton (right) was out-qualified by Rosberg for the first time in his Mercedes career

BAHRAIN GRAND PRIX QUALIFYING

1. Nico Rosberg (Mercedes)
2. Sebastian Vettel (Red Bull)
3. Fernando Alonso (Ferrari)
4. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes)*
5. Mark Webber (Red Bull)**
6. Felipe Massa (Ferrari)
7. Paul Di Resta (Force India)
8. Adrian Sutil (Force India)
9. Kimi Raikkonen (Lotus)
10. Jenson Button (McLaren)

* Lewis Hamilton handed five-place grid penalty
** Mark Webber handed three-place grid penalty

It means Felipe Massa will move up to fourth in his Ferrari, with the Force India's of Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil lining up fifth and sixth.

Then comes Webber, who actually only loses two places courtesy of Hamilton, followed by Kimi Raikkonen in his Lotus who moves from ninth to eighth.

In 11th and 12th, after dropping out in Q2 will be Romain Grosjean in his Lotus and McLaren's Sergio Perez, beaten by team-mates Raikkonen and Button respectively for the fourth straight race.

Toro Rosso's Daniel Ricciardo, who a week ago in China qualified seventh, will start 13th tomorrow, with team-mate Jean-Eric Vergne 16th.

Sandwiched in between the pair are Sauber's Nico Hulkenberg and the Williams of Valtteri Bottas.

Leading the way: Nico Rosberg sealed only the second pole position of his career on Saturday

Leading the way: Nico Rosberg sealed only the second pole position of his career on Saturday

In a remarkable twist at the end of
the opening 20-minute Q1 session, Pastor Maldonado dropped out after
setting the same time as Williams team-mate Bottas.

Posting
a lap of 1:34,125, as the Venezuelan's time came after that of the
Finn, it left Maldonado kicking his heels whilst Bottas took part in Q2.

Maldonado
will start 17th ahead of Sauber's Esteban Gutierrez, with the Mexican
out-qualified by Hulkenberg for the fourth consecutive race, and failing
to make it into Q2 for the third time.

Slow start: Jenson Button creeped into the top 10 but didn't complete a lap in Q3 and will start tenth

Slow start: Jenson Button creeped into the top 10 but didn't complete a lap in Q3 and will start tenth

With
a five-place grid penalty to serve for the race after running into the
back of Sutil in Shanghai, Gutierrez will start at the back of the grid.

Caterham
and Marussia naturally share the bottom four places, with Charles Pic a
season's best of 19th since switching from the latter to the former for
this season.

Either side
of Caterham's Giedo van der Garde are Marussia duo Jules Bianchi and Max
Chilton, with the 21-year-old Briton setting the slowest time in
qualifying for the first time this year.

On track: Fernando Alonso

On track: Fernando Alonso

Rosberg admitted to being 'a little surprised' at starting from pole, but natually claiming to be 'really, really happy' with 'a fantastic result'.

The question is whether Rosberg has the pace to go on and take the chequered flag given Hamilton dropped back to third from pole in China, and whether the tyres will hold up under the conditions.

'Tomorrow is going to be a tough day given the degradation of the tyres,' added Rosberg.

'I want to really kick start my season given the first three races which have been tough for me so far.

In the lead: Vettel holds a three-point advantage over Alonso ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix

In the lead: Vettel holds a three-point advantage over Alonso ahead of the Bahrain Grand Prix

'It's difficult to say if we have enough to pace to win, but I will try, and I'm really looking forward to starting from first.'

Vettel was far from disappointed with second, especially after the time of Rosberg.

'Congratulations to Nico because it was a very strong lap,' said Vettel. 'When I crossed the line and I saw I was second I didn't know how much was missing from my lap.

'But then when I was told the gap to Nico it was clear, even with a perfect lap, he was unbeatable.'

Alonso declared himself 'very, very happy with third'.

It is the third successive race Alonso will start from third, adding: 'Normally we struggle a lot in qualifying, so this has put us in a strong position for the race.'

Meanwhile, Mercedes team principal Ross Brawn was irked by the Hamilton penalty.

Difficult weekend: McLaren driver Sergio Perez could manage only 12th in qualifying

Difficult weekend: McLaren driver Sergio Perez could manage only 12th in qualifying

He said: 'The difficulty we have in the future is where we get marginal cases where you have a problem, perhaps aggravated by the driver, and you don't get a gearbox failure as such, but it needs to be changed.

'Then you get into these long debates.

'But it is frustrating to get a penalty when there has been an outside influence. It's annoying.

'Fortunately it doesn't happen too often, but if it were to happen at a critical part of the season then it would be doubly frustrating, so it's worth looking at again.'

Pirelli motorsport director Paul Hembery was certainly dismissing any prospect one of his company's tyres lay behind Hamilton's woes.

Hembery said: 'The problem seen on Lewis' Mercedes during free practice was not the result of a structural tyre failure, but instead must have been down to a piece of debris on the track.'

It was one of those bitter-sweet afternoons for Mercedes in light of Rosberg helping them to back-to-back poles for the first time since their return to F1 three years ago, and after Hamilton led away the field a week ago in China.

With two DNFs in his first three races, Rosberg has so far suffered in contrast to Hamilton, but was smiling again after claiming what is only his second pole in his 132 races.

'This is great for me because the start (to the season) has really not gone to plan, with a lot of issues,' said Rosberg.

'I'm really hoping this is going to kickstart my season. It's the first time everything has really gone to plan. Up until now it has been great.

'To turn up with the pole position, which I have to admit is a bit of a surprise, I'm really, really happy with.

Off colour: Hamilton will start on the fifth row with former McLaren team-mate Button for company

Off colour: Hamilton will start on the fifth row with former McLaren team-mate Button for company

'I'm now looking forward to tomorrow when hopefully everything will go well, although I'm not sure we have what it takes to win the race.'

That is based on the fact this year's Mercedes, whilst quick over one lap, lacks the race pace of rivals Ferrari, Red Bull, and Lotus on occasion.

The pits: Hamilton had to settle for starting fifth on the grid in the grand prix

The pits: Hamilton had to settle for starting fifth on the grid in the grand prix

Alonso declared himself 'very, very happy with third'.

It is the third successive race Alonso will start from third, adding: 'Normally we struggle a lot in qualifying, so this has put us in a strong position for the race.'

A 17-year-old Argentine recreates Trevor Sinclair magic with a stunning bicycle kick

17-year-old Argentine recreates Sinclair magic with stunning bicycle kick

By
Thom Drake

PUBLISHED:

00:07 GMT, 19 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

00:51 GMT, 19 April 2013

As the most difficult art to master, and the most spectacular to witness, the overhead kick is a part of the game which can brings gasps of delight or sniggers of derision.

So when an Argentinian 17-year-old can pull this off in an international against bitter rivals Uruguay there must be something special about him.

Sebastian Driussi opened the scoring for Argentina under 17s in their 3-3 draw with a goal everyone present will remember.

Scroll down for video

Control: Driussi picks the ball up on his chest after a deep cross...

Control: Driussi picks the ball up on his chest after a deep cross…

Unbelievable: He then acrobatically connects with the ball as defenders stand off him

Unbelievable: He then acrobatically connects with the ball as defenders stand off him

Over the top: His shot then beats the keeper, who is left with absolutely no chance

Over the top: His shot then beats the keeper, who is left with absolutely no chance

The forward plays for River Plate, but brought back memories of Trevor Sinclair's wonder strike for QPR against Barnsley in the FA Cup.

Both goals were from outside the box, with Sinclair taking his first time from the cross, while Driussi controlled the ball and held off a defender before smashing it into the net over the keeper.

Could Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Ezequiel Lavezzi be welcoming a new talent into their midst

What a strike! Trevor Sinclair's stunning overhead kick against Barnsley in the 1997 FA Cup

What a strike! Trevor Sinclair's stunning overhead kick against Barnsley in the 1997 FA Cup

VIDEO Sebastian Driussi recreates Trevor Sinclair's overhead kick

VIDEO And how about the original….

Fernando Alonso wins Chinese Grand Prix, Kimi Raikkonen finishes second and Lewis Hamilton third

Alonso wins Chinese GP: Flying Fernando claims Ferrari victory as Hamilton finishes third in Shanghai

PUBLISHED:

08:41 GMT, 14 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

08:41 GMT, 14 April 2013

Fernando Alonso stormed home to win the Chinese Grand Prix on Sunday as British star Lewis Hamilton finished in third place.

The Spaniard started on the second row but soon passed pole-sitter Hamilton on his way to earning 25 World Championship points in Shanghai.

Mercedes' Hamilton fought bravely with Kimi Raikkonen for second place before eventually succumbing to the Lotus driver.

World champion Sebastian Vettel, meanwhile, finished fourth but his Red Bull team-mate Mark Webber was forced to retire midway through the race.

More to follow

On top: Fernando Alonso earned his first victory of the season as he came home to win the Chinese Grand Prix

On top: Fernando Alonso earned his first victory of the season as he came home to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Podium: Lewis Hamilton, who started on pole, was made to settle for third in his Mercedes

Podium: Lewis Hamilton, who started on pole, was made to settle for third in his Mercedes

All action: Hamilton led into the first corner but was soon reeled in and passed by both Ferraris

All action: Hamilton led into the first corner but was soon reeled in and passed by both Ferraris

Wayward wheel: Red Bull's Mark Webber was forced to retire after losing a rear tyre

Wayward wheel: Red Bull's Mark Webber was forced to retire after losing a rear tyre

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Kimi Raikkonen on Red Bull radar with Mark Webber"s future in balance after Sebastian Vettel row

Raikkonen on Red Bull radar as Webber's future hangs in balance after Vettel row

By
Simon Cass

PUBLISHED:

15:11 GMT, 2 April 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:14 GMT, 2 April 2013

Kimi Raikkonen is on Red Bull's shortlist to replace Mark Webber should the veteran Australian decide to retire at the end of the current Formula One campaign.

Webber could not hide his fury at losing out on victory in the Malaysian Grand Prix after team-mate Sebastian Vettel chose to ignore team orders to hold station in second place.

Vettel subsequently escaped sanction for his insubordination, a situation which appears to have backed up Webber's post-race claim that the triple world champion enjoys 'protection' at Red Bull.

In demand: Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen could race at Red Bull next season if Mark Webber leaves

In demand: Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen could race at Red Bull next season if Mark Webber leaves

In demand: Lotus driver Kimi Raikkonen could race at Red Bull next season if Mark Webber leaves

And should Webber decide he has had enough of playing second fiddle, then Red Bull's billionaire owner, Dietrich Mateschitz, admitted Raikkonen would be a strong candidate to partner Vettel next season

'Kimi is cool and fast and always a candidate,' said Mateschitz of the 2007 world champion who drives for Lotus and enjoys a close relationship with Vettel.

Civil war: Mark Webber's relationship with Sebastian Vettel is in tatters following the fall-out from Sepang

Civil war: Mark Webber's relationship with Sebastian Vettel is in tatters following the fall-out from Sepang

The same certainly cannot be said for Webber, but discussing the 36-year-old's future, Mateschitz appeared to suggest he would have the final say on whether he continued to drive for Red Bull.

'Whether he retires, only he will choose,' Mateschitz told Speed Week. 'Mark is definitely a candidate for 2014.'

Bernie Ecclestone says Sebastian Vettel was right to overtake Mark Webber in Malaysian Grand Prix

Vettel was right to pass team-mate Webber, says Ecclestone after Malaysia controversy

By
Sunni Upal

PUBLISHED:

18:46 GMT, 27 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

23:40 GMT, 27 March 2013

Formula one chief Bernie Ecclestone has backed three-time world champion Sebastian Vettel and said the German was right to ignore team orders and pass Mark Webber to win the Malaysian Grand Prix.

Webber led his Red Bull team-mate Vettel on Sunday before being told to turn his engine down, save his tyres and coast to victory in Sepang.

But world champion Vettel defied team orders and squeezed past Webber on the pit straight in the dying stages to win the race.

Tight: Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and squeezed past Mark Webber to win in Malaysia

Tight: Sebastian Vettel ignored team orders and squeezed past Mark Webber to win in Malaysia

Authority: Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone

Authority: Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone

Vettel later admitted he was wrong to
pass Webber, but Ecclestone disagreed and claimed that the German did
not undermine team principal Christian Horner by ignoring the radio
messages.

He told Sky Sports News:
'If I was Sebastian Vettel, having won three world championships with
the team, and somebody came on the radio to me and started giving me
instructions I’d probably do exactly the same as Kimi Raikkonen did when
he came back when they gave him some instructions the other day and say
“I know what I’m doing”.

'I don’t think he’s (Vettel) undermined
Christian’s authority at all because Christian knows exactly what should
have happened and didn’t happen.

'Put yourself in Christian’s
position. What should he now do Did he give orders in the first place
and if he did how could he then give more orders

'I think what you have to do is think
very carefully and I always say “show me a good loser and I’ll show you
a loser”. Sebastian is not a loser. Sebastian is a winner.'

Stare: The tension between Webber and Vettel on the podium was clear for all to see

Stare: The tension between Webber and Vettel on the podium was clear for all to see

Ecclestone also laughed off any suggestions that Red Bull would suspend Vettel from racing in the next grand prix in China.

He said: 'Leave Sebastian out No I
don’t think I’d give that any consideration! I’d say to Sebastian,
“Sebastian – just don’t make me look an idiot”.'

The Formula One boss does, however,
believe Vettel and Webber can race as team-mates again after speculation
that the Aussie was considering his future with the team.

Ecclestone said: 'Yes, of course they will, obviously they will. I don’t know about (beyond 2013).'

Tension: Webber refused to celebrate with his team-mate on the podium

Tension: Webber refused to celebrate with his team-mate on the podium

New footage of Webber cutting up Vettel in dangerous move AFTER the race. Watson says ban Vettel

Fresh footage shows fuming Webber cutting up Red Bull team-mate Vettel in dangerous move after Malaysia mayhem

By
Phil Duncan

PUBLISHED:

13:23 GMT, 25 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

15:34 GMT, 25 March 2013

Dramatic new footage has emerged revealing just how serious the feud is between Red Bull team-mates Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber after the Australian pulled a shockingly dangerous maneouvre after the Malaysian Grand Prix had finished.

Red Bull are in turmoil today after Vettel ignored their clear instruction not to challenge Webber at the climax of the race, and the German was forced to issue an apology for undermining the order which has left his colleague considering his Formula One future.

VIDEO: Scroll down to watch the astonishing footage

Chequered flag: Sebastian Vettel slows down after crossing the finishing line in Malaysia

Chequered flag: Sebastian Vettel slows down after crossing the finishing line in Malaysia

Who's that coming up Mark Webber's car zooms into the corner of the camera

Who's that coming up Mark Webber's car zooms into the corner of the camera

Dangerous: Webber steers into the path of Vettel at a furious pace as the German slows down

Dangerous: Webber steers into the path of Vettel at a furious pace as the German slows down

Best of enemies: Webber then speeds off into the distance leaving Red Bull red-faced

Best of enemies: Webber then speeds off into the distance leaving Red Bull red-faced

New footage reveals just how angry
Webber was in the aftermath of the race as he dangerously cuts across
Vettel at high speed to display his fury, only missing his team-mates
car by a matter of inches.

Former McLaren driver John Watson, a
winner of five grands prix, believes Red Bull must take immediate action
against their three-time world champion.

‘The question is, what are the team
going to do to sanction Sebastian Vettel And the only solution I would
find is suspending him for next grand prix,’ Watson told BBC Radio 4.

Dangerous: Mark Webber (left) swerved in front of Sebastien Vettel to show his anger

Dangerous: Mark Webber (left) swerved in front of Sebastien Vettel to show his anger

Punishment: Sebastian Vettel deserves a one-race ban, claims John Watson

Leading the way: Webber was ahead of Vettel until his team-mate's late surge

Leading the way: Webber was ahead of Vettel until his team-mate's late surge

VIDEO: Watch Webber's dangerous move

Out of options: Watson says a fine would do nothing and removing the points is not viable

Out of options: Watson says a fine would do nothing and removing the points is not viable

‘You can’t take the points away from
him and give them to Mark Webber, a fine would be irrelevant, so the
only purposeful way to bring him to book is to say “you will stand out
one race”.’

‘I know that if other drivers in other teams disobeyed a team order they would be suspended or even fired.’

Red Bull cancelled their victory photo
in the aftermath of yesterday’s controversy while it has been reported
that Webber needed to be persuaded to participate in the podium
ceremony.

Usurped: Mark Webber would have won the race had Vettel not disobeyed team orders

Usurped: Mark Webber would have won the race had Vettel not disobeyed team orders

Watson says Red Bull team principal Christian Horner must take action or risk his position being undermined by Vettel.

‘If Christian Horner doesn’t reassert his authority in the team – because he has been totally subjugated by Sebastian Vettel yesterday – then his position in the team is not exactly the role it is designed to be,’ added Watson.

‘The only conclusion I can reach is that Vettel should be suspended for the next grand prix.’

Luis Suarez could leave Liverpool for Champions League club this summer

Suarez warns Liverpool he would 'welcome' talks with Champions League clubs this summer

By
Charlie Skillen

PUBLISHED:

20:04 GMT, 20 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

20:28 GMT, 20 March 2013

Luis Suarez has warned Liverpool that he would consider any offers in the summer from clubs that can offer Champions League football.

German Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich and Italian giants Juventus head up the chase for Suarez, who has scored 29 goals in 40 appearances for Liverpool this season.

However, Brendan Rodgers' team have too often relied on Suarez's talents and lie in seventh place in the Barclays Premier League – in danger of missing out on European football altogether.

Club and country: Suarez (left) in Uruguay training under pressure from Liverpool teammate Sebastian Coates

Club and country: Suarez (left) in Uruguay training under pressure from Liverpool teammate Sebastian Coates

Shaping up: Suarez admitted he would consider a summer move to a club in the Champions League

Shaping up: Suarez admitted he would consider a summer move to a club in the Champions League

Table

Suarez is under contract at Anfield until 2017, but did not rule out the idea of a big-money move at the end of the season.

'I am very happy at Liverpool but you never know in football,' Suarez said ahead of his international side's World Cup qualifier with Paraguay, as reported in the Liverpool Echo.

'If another team comes around with more prospects of competing in international club competition games, which is willing to have me, they are welcome.

Disappointing: Suarez played in Liverpool's 3-1 defeat by struggling Southampton on Saturday

Disappointing: Suarez played in Liverpool's 3-1 defeat by struggling Southampton on Saturday

'We would talk to the club, we would see if I want to go, if I don’t want to go.'

However, Suarez also recognised Liverpool's strengths, including manager Brendan Rodgers' footballing philosophy, which he hopes to see propel the club further next year.

Rodgers won plaudits for his Swansea side's passing style last season, and has attempted to implement the same structure at Anfield.

Philosophy: Manager Brendan Rodgers has tried to implement his possession-based style at Liverpool

Philosophy: Manager Brendan Rodgers has tried to implement his possession-based style at Liverpool

'A player’s ambition is always there, the ambition of wanting to play in elite teams is always there,' said Suarez.

'I’m in a world-class team, an elite team like Liverpool.

'We have to realise we have a new manager who is imposing a philosophy and a way of playing that the players are adapting to as best we can.

'We hope that it will bear fruit next year.'

Mark Webber told he has Red Bull future if he performs well

We'll keep renewing Webber's deal if he's still producing the goods, claim Red Bull

By
Ian Parkes, Press Association

PUBLISHED:

19:18 GMT, 12 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

19:45 GMT, 12 March 2013

Mark Webber has been assured of his place at Red Bull providing he continues to deliver for the team.

Not for the first time going into a new Formula One season, Webber is apparently facing the end of the road.

As a driver operating on a rolling one-year contract with Red Bull, and with the Australian turning 37 in August, there are many who doubt how long he can continue in the sport.

Keep it up: Mark Webber must perform well if he is to secure a new deal

Keep it up: Mark Webber must perform well if he is to secure a new deal

For his part, Webber has made it clear he still has the motivation to become a champion and firmly believes he has the support of the team to help him achieve such a goal.

Despite that, the speculation will always persist about Webber, in particular given the fact his team-mate Sebastian Vettel has won the world title for the last three years.

But team principal Christian Horner said: 'The last three years have apparently been Mark's last.

'Yet he has been retained by the team because of what he has done in the car, and again the same rules apply this year.

Retained: Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner (left) says Webber knows what he needs to do

Retained: Red Bull Team Principal Christian Horner (left) says Webber knows what he needs to do

'We want the strongest pairing and Mark has contributed significantly to our constructors' world championships over the last three years, and even came close to winning his own title in 2010.

'Mark has been employed by the team to do the best job he can and he knows what's expected of him.

'There are an awful lot of drivers who would like to be sat in a Red Bull car but Mark is there on merit, and while he delivers for the team he will have that place.'

Chit chat: Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson with Webber

Chit chat: Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson with Webber

It was Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko who fuelled the debate about Webber earlier this year by questioning his mental strength and his consistency.

Marko suggested Webber can be unbeatable for a couple of races, but is unable to maintain such form over a year.

Asked whether Webber has it within him to deliver on a more regular basis, Horner added: “The difficulty for Mark is he is constantly judged against a young man in the other car who has achieved so much.

'What Seb's done in 101 races, with 26 victories, being a three-time world champion, youngest points scorer, pole winner, race winner, is remarkable.

Judged: Some say Webber can produce good short term results but cannot hold his form over the season

Judged: Some say Webber can produce good short term results but cannot hold his form over the season

'Mark's being constantly measured against a driver that is, in my view, the best of a generation and that makes it harder for him.

'But at the same time Mark measures the opportunity of being measured against the best.

'He has also demonstrated on his day he can be unbeatable and he does just need to string a campaign together, with 19 of those performances.

'He's improved as he's matured. Last year he drove very well, and if he can get off to a good start and build up some momentum this season that will be important for his campaign.

'Above all, if we didn't think he could still do it then we wouldn't have taken him for another year with the team.'

Lewis Hamilton has played down former team-mate Jenson Button"s title chances

Forget Button, Alonso is the one I really have to beat: Hamilton sets his sights on driving back to the top with Mercedes

000005DC-773_634x344.jpg” width=”634″ height=”344″ alt=”The edge: Damon Hill believes Fernando Alonso will win the title ahead of Sebastian Vettel” class=”blkBorder” />

The edge: Damon Hill believes Fernando Alonso will win the title ahead of Sebastian Vettel

WHAT'S NEW THE TYRES

Pirelli have been instructed to supply tyres that will degrade faster. The subtle changes are designed to make them harder to manage by drivers, leading to more pit-stops and greater excitement. During winter testing the paddock was bewildered by the rate of tyre wear and this threatens to be significant in the early races. Speed may have to be sacrificed so tyres last longer.

To witness his victory in atrocious conditions in the final race of last season in Brazil — his 15th victory — was to see the baton being passed from Hamilton to Button inside the team.

‘It’s the right place for me to be for the long term,’ said Button, 33. ‘Some people have left because they feel there is another challenge or something missing from their position.

‘There is still so much to achieve here. When we had the launch of our 2013 car, it was amazing to see cars representing 50 years of McLaren brought out; to look at the team’s history and the championships won. We really are a spectacular team.

‘I want to add to that history; not just this year, but for the coming years.’ Button is at his most dangerous in Melbourne, having won three of the past four Australian Grands Prix, although where McLaren’s performance is in relation to Red Bull, Ferrari, Lotus, or, for that matter, Mercedes is a mystery — 12 days of inconclusive winter testing offered fluctuating evidence of the pecking order we can expect Down Under.

‘It’s been an extremely hard-to-read winter,’ said Button. ‘Varying fuel loads and levels of tyre degradation mean it’s hard to predict accurately who will arrive in Australia with the best-sorted car. But I love the place.’

Danger: Vettel is chasing his fourth World Championship

Danger: Vettel is chasing his fourth World Championship

WHAT'S NEW THE CIRCUITS

Bernie Ecclestone had hoped for a new race in New Jersey this year to replace Valencia in June but that hit money problems. There is a vacant date, which the underwhelming circuit in Turkey had hoped to fill. And if Portugal and Austria don’t get it, Europe’s weakening status in Formula One will be confirmed with just seven races this season — the fewest since 1963.

Hamilton has not taken a backward glance since he took the gamble last autumn of tying his future to Mercedes in exchange for a three-year contract worth 60million, with the freedom for his management company, XIX Entertainment, to broaden his commercial portfolio.

‘It needs to be made clear that it was more lucrative [in salary] to stay with McLaren,’ insisted Hamilton.

His motivation in moving from McLaren, where he could expect to challenge for the championship this season, is governed by an ambition to replicate what Michael Schumacher achieved, year after year, with Ferrari and what Vettel is accomplishing with his dominance at Red Bull. At McLaren, the hall of fame is inhabited by the ghost of Ayrton Senna.

At 28, Hamilton is arriving at his peak years with 21 victories already in a career that has never lacked controversy on the track, or off it. Perhaps he has never driven better than last year. ‘You want to be the one,’ he told a small gathering at the BRDC Clubhouse at Silverstone.

No 4: Max Chilton becomes the fourth British driver in F1

No 4: Max Chilton becomes the fourth British driver in F1

WHAT'S NEW THE DRIVERS

Max Chilton joins Lewis Hamilton (now with Mercedes on a 60million deal), Jenson Button and Paul di Resta as the fourth British driver in the championship after being fast-tracked by Marussia.

Chilton, 21, benefits from having AON insurance vice-chairman Grahame Chilton as his father. He is worth 93m and owns the Carlin Motorsport team, where Chilton raced in GP2.

An F1 seat for this season reportedly costs 1.8m but Chilton denies he is a spoilt rich kid. ‘No team are going to let you behind the wheel if you’re not up to it,’ he says. Even so, Pastor Maldonado contributes 29m to the williams team budget through sponsorship from Venezuela’s state oil company, and Williams’ newest driver, 21-year-old Valtteri Bottas, from Finland, found the budget to secure the seat from Bruno Senna.

Chilton will be joined at Marussia by Frenchman Jules Bianchi after the team’s first choice, Luiz Riaza, failed to deliver promised funding.

Giedo van der Garde (Caterham) and Esteban Gutierrez (Sauber) have also paid for their seats, Which means five of the 22 drivers next week will be making their Formula One debut.
Susie Wolff, wife of McLaren shareholder and Mercedes director Toto Wolff, is McLaren’s development driver, the second woman recently in F1 after Marussia’s Maria de Villota, who lost an eye in a test drive last year.

‘I was the one for a short period of time, as the youngest world champion, then I was toppled by Vettel. Fernando had his success. I expect myself to win.

'I expect myself to excel. Ultimately, I want to achieve greatness. I want to prove my abilities year after year. Michael is seen as an all-time great, Seb is, too. I want to be seen as great as well.’

In winter testing, Hamilton and Nico Rosberg have shown that Mercedes have made a startling improvement in performance after winning just one grand prix in the past three years.

‘I’m 100 per cent confident and happy with the decision that I made — and keeping myself out of trouble!’ said Hamilton.

‘The more time I spend at the factory the more excited I become. It’s just a beautiful place to be and I’m happier with the environment I’m in. I don’t have anything negative to say about McLaren — I was lucky to be given the opportunity by the team to get into Formula One.

‘Had I stayed I was guaranteed to be competitive.

'Yet I’m not looking to get one over McLaren. I know that I have gone to a team who have been unable to compete with the car I had last year — at some races, there was a deficit in qualifying of 1.9sec from Mercedes to McLaren — but we all have a hunger to change. I think Mercedes will impress this year.’

Hamilton will be driven to prove that he was correct to free himself from McLaren, where the management structure made him feel claustrophobic, to fulfil a search for ultimate greatness.

But with a nudge to his growing maturity, Hamilton said: ‘When I look at it sensibly, I realise I have quite a lot of time left.’

Barcelona lose to Real Sociedad after Gerard Pique red card

Barcelona stunned as Liga leaders unbeaten record unravels in Sociedad after Pique sees red

By
William Griffiths

PUBLISHED:

23:50 GMT, 19 January 2013

|

UPDATED:

01:17 GMT, 20 January 2013

Real Sociedad hit back from two goals down to end Barcelona's unbeaten Primera Division record in stunning fashion at the Anoeta this evening.

All looked to be going to plan for Tito Vilanova's visitors when Lionel Messi and Pedro Rodriguez put them 2-0 up within 25 minutes.

Not used to this: Barcelona kick-off during their 3-2 defeat to Real Sociedad

Not used to this: Barcelona kick-off during their 3-2 defeat to Real Sociedad

No you don't: Sociedad's goalkeeper takes the ball away from Lionel Messi

No you don't: Sociedad's goalkeeper takes the ball away from Lionel Messi

Get off the pitch: Gerard Pique (background) was dismissed by the referee

Get off the pitch: Gerard Pique (background) was dismissed by the referee

But Gonzalo Castro's brilliant strike gave Sociedad hope before half-time and then, after Barca had lost centre-back Gerard Pique to a red card, Castro's curling effort was deflected into his own net by Barca substitute Javier Mascherano.

That sent the home fans wild, but it got even better in stoppage time when Imanol Agirretxe poked Carlos Martinez's cross from the right past Victor Valdes to clinch a dramatic 3-2 win.

Best in the world Sociedad didn't care about Messi's reputation as they turned over the favourites

Best in the world Sociedad didn't care about Messi's reputation as they turned over the favourites

It started off so well: Barcelona went 2-0 up with goals from Messi and Pedro

It started off so well: Barcelona went 2-0 up with goals from Messi and Pedro

Barca had headed to San Sebastian having dropped only two points in La Liga this season – in October's 2-2 Clasico draw with Real Madrid at the Nou Camp.

Second-placed Atletico Madrid could move within eight points of the leaders if they beat Levante on Sunday, while third-spotted champions Real Madrid can get within 15 points if they overcome Valencia at the Mestalla.

Eyes on the ball: Tito Vilanova could do nothing as his side lost their unbeaten record

Eyes on the ball: Tito Vilanova could do nothing as his side lost their unbeaten record