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Vettel Back on Top in Suzuka

October 10, 2010

Sebastian Vettel led from pole to take an important win in today’s Japanese Grand Prix to edge him closer to Mark Webber in the bid for the world championship, while first corner collisions saw the end to several drivers’ races, and Lewis Hamilton continued to have problems as after a troublesome weekend, his brand new gearbox lost third gear.

After qualifying was postponed to the morning of the race, Vettel and teammate Webber locked out the front row of the grid, and pretty much stayed where they were. At the start, Robert Kubica, who started third, split the Red Bulls, but after Vitaly Petrov and Nico Hulkenberg’s collision straight off the start, and Felipe Massa and Vitantonio Liuzzi’s coming together at the first corner, the safety car was deployed for five laps, and by lap three, Kubica had lost his right rear wheel, and he was forced to pull over at the hairpin.

The Red Bulls were then left in their own race, while a good start for Lewis meant he was able to make up for starting eighth after a five-place grid-drop penalty for changing his gearbox, and he was soon into fifth behind Fernando Alonso and teammate Jenson Button.

The safety car returned to the pits at the end of lap six, and Vettel was leading from Webber, Alonso, Button and Hamilton. By lap 23 Hamilton became the first of the front-runners to pit, and the McLaren team were hoping to get him out in clear air in order for him to put in some fast laps to get closer to Alonso and a potential podium, but when he exited the pits in seventh, he found himself behind Kamui Kobayashi and in dirty air. However, within a few laps he was able to get into the slipstream of the BMW Sauber, and he passed him down into turn one.

Button, who had taken a gamble on the harder compound tyre to start the race on, took the lead as the leaders pitted, but was unable to pull out enough of a gap to ensure he remained ahead of Hamilton after his stop. Hamilton had put in some fast laps to get ahead of his teammate, but he soon ran into difficulty, and after it became apparent he had lost third gear, he started slipping back into Button’s clutches, and had to hand over fourth.

On lap 49, after the two Mercedes drivers had spent some time fighting over sixth, Nico Rosberg crashed out into the wall at turn five, after what appeared to be a failure of his left rear wheel. With just five laps to go, it looked like the safety car would have to be deployed, but the marshals were able to remove the car from the side of the track, and in the meantime, Kobayashi gave us some on-track action as he made a move on Barrichello, and a lap later passed teammate Nick Heidfeld to take seventh position.

Vettel took his third win of the season, leading home Webber for a Red Bull one-two, with Alonso in third. Button took fourth, while Hamilton finished fifth to take his first points since the Belgian Grand Prix. Schumacher finished sixth, with Kobayashi in seventh, Heidfeld eighth, Barrichello ninth and Sebastien Buemi in tenth, the last of the points-scorers. Jaime Alguersuari, Heikki Kovalainen, Jarno Trulli, Timo Glock, Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto finished 11th to 16th, respectively, each having been lapped at least once. As well as Rosberg, Kubica, Hulkenberg, Massa, Petrov and Liuzzi’s retirements, Adrian Sutil also failed to finish the race, following engine failure, while Lucas di Grassi failed to start the race after crashing his Virgin on the way to the grid.

In the drivers’ standings, Webber edges even further ahead on 220 points, with Vettel and Alonso both on 206 points, and Hamilton and Button on 192 and 189 points each. 31 points now separate the top five. In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull are 45 points ahead of McLaren.

The next race is in Korea in two weeks time, with qualifying on Saturday 23rd October, and the race on Sunday 24th.

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Japanese Qualifying Postponed Following Torrential Rain

October 9, 2010

Qualifying for tomorrow’s Japanese Grand Prix has been postponed to race day, after heavy rain and standing water meant it was unsafe for the drivers to take to the track.

The drivers and teams waited patiently in their garages and on the pitwall, but Race Control confirmed it was too dangerous to let the session commence.

Qualifying will be live on BBC1 at 2am, with the race due to start at 7am tomorrow.

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Alonso Wins in Singapore and Edges Closer into the Title Fight

September 26, 2010

Fernando Alonso won today’s Singapore Grand Prix by 0.2 seconds to Sebastian Vettel, while championship leader Mark Webber finished third to retain his lead of the title, and Lewis Hamilton collided with his championship contender to see the end to his race.

The race got off to a slow start, with the top five contenders retaining their grid positions through the first lap, while contact between the midfield saw an early end to Vitantonio Liuzzi’s race, bringing out an early safety car by the start of lap three as Liuzzi’s car was removed from the track.

As the safety car spent three laps on track, Mark Webber was brought in by the Red Bull team for fresh tyres, and he was followed in by several other drivers further through the field. By the restart, Webber was down in 11th, and within a lap he was able to make a move on Timo Glock, who had made his way up to tenth following the stops of several other drivers. Next on Webber’s target list was Kamui Kobayashi and Michael Schumacher, and he passed Kobayashi on the next lap, on lap seven, and on lap 11 he passed Schumacher for eighth position.

As the harder compound tyre started to cost Webber up to two seconds per lap off the leaders’ pace, Alonso and Vettel were able to pull out their 28 second gap to Webber to ensure they maintained their positions after their stop, while the McLarens of Hamilton and Jenson Button started to struggle on the super-soft tyre, and by the time Hamilton pitted on lap 29, Webber was able to pass the Brit who had only made up a 20 second gap.

At the end of lap 29, Alonso and Vettel pitted from the lead, and Button came in from third. While the two leaders rejoined in the lead of the race, with a continuous gap of around three seconds still between them, Button was down in eighth behind Hamilton. Between the McLarens and the leaders, Nico Rosberg was next to pit on lap 31, while Schumacher, who had been in the wars with the midfield, pitted from 15th.

By lap 32, Kobayashi crashed out under the grandstands of turn 18, collecting an unsuspecting Bruno Senna, and forcing the safety car to come out. Robert Kubica and Rubens Barrichello pitted, leaving Alonso and Vettel leading Webber, Hamilton and Button behind the safety car.

At the restart, the backmarkers of the two Virgins, who were in the middle of the front five, were forced to get out of the way of Webber and Hamilton who were on a charge. The fact Webber’s harder compound tyres had taken the pressures of more laps than Hamilton’s and had worn more, meant that Hamilton was pushing as soon as he could. Getting into the Red Bull’s slipstream while passing the second backmarker of Lucas di Grassi, Hamilton edged past Webber on the run down to turn seven, but while they both fought for the line into the corner, they made contact, braking Hamilton’s rear suspension, and seeing the end to his second race in succession.

Webber was able to carry on, despite a vibration in his front-right tyre, a result of damage from the contact, but found himself defending against Button, who was trying his best to put the Red Bull under pressure from then on.

Meanwhile, Schumacher, and the returning Nick Heidfeld got into a scrap at the same corner a few laps later, seeing the end to Heidfeld’s race. Kubica then suffered a right-rear puncture and was forced to pit again, but by lap 52, he was on fire, passing Sebastien Buemi for 11th, Vitaly Petrov a lap later for 10th, and then Felipe Massa for ninth. By lap 55 he was passing Nico Hulkenberg for eighth, and on lap 56 he tried the same move as Hamilton did on Webber into turn seven on Adrian Sutil for seventh, and he was able to make it stick.

By the closing two laps of the race, di Grassi and Heikki Kovalainen were in a battle of their own, and after the two made contact, Kovalainen’s Lotus caught fire, and after choosing to not peel into the pits, he pulled over on the pit straight and had to put out his own fire, grabbing an extinguisher from one of the pitlane marshals.

As Alonso and Vettel charged past the burning Lotus to start their final lap, Vettel had managed to diminish the gap to the race leader, and as he tried to make a move on the Ferrari, he found all he could do was play the waiting game, hoping the Spaniard would make a mistake. But Alonso had it in the bag, and after leading all 61 laps, he crossed the finish line to take the win, after a long one hour and 58 minute race, just 0.2 seconds ahead of the Red Bull.

Webber passed the finish line in third, with Button fourth, the pair some 30 seconds behind the winner. Rosberg followed the McLaren home in fifth, with Barrichello in sixth, Kubica seventh, Sutil eighth, Hulkenberg ninth, and Massa, who started last and pitted at the end of the first lap, the last of the points-scorers, and the last of the cars not lapped, in tenth.

For the championship, things have been shaken up. Webber remains at the top of the drivers’ standings on 202, with Alonso in second on 191, while Hamilton slips back into third on 182. Vettel and Button switch positions, with Vettel on 182 and Button on 177, 25 points – a win, off the leader.

In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull edge further ahead on 383, with McLaren on 359 and Ferrari on 316.

So with four races remaining has Hamilton thrown his chances away, and could Alonso come through to take his third crown, or is the title just Webber’s to lose?

The next race takes place in Japan, with qualifying on Saturday 9th October, and the race live on BBC1 at 1pm on Sunday 10th.

*Following the race, Sutil was issued a 20 second penalty for running off the track and gaining an advantage at turn seven on the first lap. The penalty puts him down in tenth.

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Alonso on Pole in Singapore, While Massa Fails to Set a Time

September 25, 2010

Fernando Alonso secured his second pole for Ferrari in succession in qualifying under the flood lights of the Marina Bay circuit, for tomorrow’s Singapore Grand Prix, while teammate Felipe Massa failed to even set a time in Q1 after he stopped out on track on his outlap with suspected engine problems.

Alonso posted his time early on in the first shoot-out in Q3, setting a time of 1:45.390, that no one could beat in the final push for pole. Even Sebastian Vettel, who was fastest in Q2, was unable to post a time fast enough to topple the Ferrari, and secure yet another pole for the Red Bull team, after he just clipped the barrier as he attempted to set the quickest time. Vettel settled for P2, one tenth of a second slower than Alonso, and another tenth faster than Lewis Hamilton, who will start third, alongside teammate Jenson Button, who joins him on the second row in fourth.

Championship leader, Mark Webber, will start fifth, after Button snatched fourth off him at the final hurdle. Rubens Barrichello will start sixth, with Nico Rosberg seventh, Robert Kubica eighth, Michael Schumacher ninth, and Kamui Kobayashi rounding out the top ten.

Dropping out in Q2 was Jaime Alguersuari in 11th and Nico Hulkenberg in 12th, who will start in 17th after he received a five-place grid-drop penalty for changing his gearbox. Vitaly Petrov, who qualified 13th will start 12, with Sebastien Buemi 13th, Nick Heidfeld, who replaces Pedro de la Rosa in the BMW Sauber, 14th, Adrian Sutil 15th, and Vitantonio Liuzzi 16th.

Q1 became qualifying to forget for Felipe Massa, after he stopped out on track on his outlap, failing to set a time. Stopping in an awkward spot, race control were forced to red flag the session as the marshals cleared the Ferrari from the track.

Timo Glock, Heikki Kovalainen, Lucas di Grassi and Jarno Trulli will start 18th to 21st respectively, while Christian Klien, who replaces Sakon Yamamoto in the HRT will start 22nd, ahead of his teammate Bruno Senna in 23rd, with Massa 24th.

As the season reaches its climax, F1’s only night race could be the turning point for the five drivers in the fight for the title. When it finishes, will there still be five drivers in the hunt for the championship? Or will Red Bull and McLaren be forced to back just one driver? We’ll soon find out.

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Alonso Wins Ferrari’s Home Grand Prix

September 12, 2010

Fernando Alonso won the Italian Grand Prix this afternoon, while Jenson Button kept him honest, and Lewis Hamilton saw the end to his race within six corners.

Alonso was forced to go defensive off the start after losing the lead to Button, who got a clean, strong getaway, and after trying to run Button wide into the first corner, he had to settle into second, ahead of his teammate Felipe Massa, who fancied his chances off the start as well. Hamilton got a good getaway, to pass Mark Webber for fourth, while the Australian slipped back, but while trying to dive up the inside of Massa into turn four, Hamilton made contact with the Ferrari, snapping his steering arm, before running off the road at turn six, the first Lesmo, due to the damage.

Button lead Alonso and Massa through the first lap, while Nico Rosberg made up three positions off the start to sit fourth, with Robert Kubica up to fifth, Nico Hulkenberg up to sixth, Sebastian Vettel down one to seventh, Michael Schumacher up four to eighth, Mark Webber down five to ninth, and Sebastien Buemi up in tenth.

The Red Bulls got a poor start compared to the Ferraris and the McLarens, but after Hamilton’s early elimination from the race, it didn’t seem too bad for Webber, who was guaranteed to regain the lead of the championship as long as he finished eighth or higher.

By lap six, he passed Schumacher for that eighth position, and while Schumacher tried to squeeze back past him, Webber was able to keep hold of the position.

Button maintained the lead, with Alonso maintaining the pressure for the majority of the race, as Button seemed to be struggling with pace after having lost a piece of his rear wing end-plate following first corner contact with Alonso. As Button and the Ferrari’s led the rest of the pack, Vettel started suffering with engine problems on lap 21, losing seventh to Webber, and falling back into the clutches of Schumacher. Luckily for Vettel, it seemed to be just electrical problems with his engine, and the problem ended up solving itself, and he was able to make up time in the remainder of the race.

The pitstops came later in the race, and on lap 34, Kubica became the first of the front-runners to pit. Rosberg and Webber were next on lap 36, with Webber dropping behind Kubica as he rejoined the track. On lap 37, Button pitted from the lead, followed shortly by Hulkenberg, who rejoined the track ahead of Kubica. Webber was then making moves on the squabbling pair, managing to make a move round the outside of Kubica stick into turn four on the same lap.

Alonso was next to pit from the lead, which he had been gifted by Button, who after his stop was in third. Alonso’s stop was smooth and having made a few tenths on his inlap, he was able to stay ahead of Button as he rejoined the circuit. Massa was next to pit on lap 39, and he rejoined in third.

As the race headed into its final ten laps, Vettel was the only driver of the front-runners who was yet to pit. Alonso led, from Button and Massa, who was just ahead of the recovering Vettel. Rosberg was fifth, ahead of Hulkenberg, Webber and Kubica. As speculation grew over when Vettel would pit, and where indeed he would rejoin the track, Webber was able to pass Hulkenberg, who he had been squabbling with for the majority of the race.

Vettel finally pitted at the start of the final lap, and was able to maintain fourth after pulling out a comfortable lead over Rosberg, while Alonso was busy heading for the chequered flag, with Button between him and his Ferrari teammate.

Alonso’s win pulls him closer to the title, while Mark Webber took advantage of a handful of points and Hamilton’s retirement to regain the lead of the championship on 187 points, with Hamilton on 182 and Alonso third on 166. Button’s second place means he holds onto fourth in the standings on 165 points, while Vettel slips to fifth on 163, with just 24 points and a win separating the top five drivers as the season heads into the final five, long-haul races of the season.

Red Bull maintain their lead in the championship on 350 points, while McLaren slip back by a further two points on 347. Ferrari’s first and third places see them on 290 constructors’ world championship points.

The next race will be in Singapore in two weeks, with qualifying on Saturday 25th September, and the race live on BBC1 at 1pm on Sunday 26th.

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Alonso on Pole on Ferrari Home Soil

September 11, 2010

Fernando Alonso took his first ever Ferrari pole position on Ferrari home soil in qualifying for the Italian Grand Prix in Monza this afternoon.

Jenson Button will start alongside the Ferrari in second, in the F-duct-sporting McLaren, while teammate Lewis Hamilton, who will be running less downforce and no F-duct, will start fifth.

Alonso didn’t let the media-hype surrounding Wednesday’s World Motor Sport Council meeting over Ferrari’s team orders in Germany get the better off him, and he set the pace early on in Q3, setting a time of 1:21.962 – a time that no one could beat. Button came close, but wasn’t close enough, while Alonso’s teammate, Felipe Massa, couldn’t do better than third. The Red Bulls, for the first time this season, seemed off the pace, with Mark Webber managing to steal P4 from Hamilton at the last possible second, and Sebastian Vettel the slowest of the leading teams in sixth.

In Q1, once the top teams had set their fastest times, with Massa setting the pace, it was a battle of the new teams for the remainder of the session, to try and be the quickest of the knock-outs in the first round. Vitantonio Liuzzi lost out early on, with electrical problems with his Force India, forcing him to bow out. Lotus were the fastest of the new teams, with Jarno Trulli in 18th, Heikki Kovalainen 19th, with Luizzi eliminated early on and forced down to 20th. Timo Glock and Lucas di Grassi set the 21st and 22nd fastest times for Virgin, with Bruno Senna and Sakon Yamamoto 23rd and 24th. Due to a five-place grid-drop penalty for changing his gearbox, Glock will start from 24th, elevating di Grassi, Senna and Yamamoto.

Alonso set the fastest time in Q2, while Adrian Sutil, Michael Schumacher, Kamui Kobayashi, Sebastien Buemi, Vitaly Petrov, Jaime Alguersuari and Pedro de la Rosa were eliminated in 11th down to 17th, respectively.

In the end, it was Alonso who was unbeatable, and for just the second time this season, Red Bull won’t start from pole, in fact, they won’t be on the front row at all. Elsewhere in the top ten shoot-out, Nico Rosberg will start seventh, Nico Hulkenberg 8th, Robert Kubica ninth, and Rubens Barrichello will round out the top ten in tenth.

The race is live on BBC1 at 1pm tomorrow.

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Hamilton Takes Win in Incident-Filled Belgian Grand Prix

August 29, 2010

Lewis Hamilton was all smiles this afternoon after he took an early lead and a seemingly easy win in Spa, while three of his title challengers failed to score following an incident-filled race.

Pole-sitter, Mark Webber got bogged down at the start, allowing second-placed starter, Hamilton, to shoot off into the lead. Robert Kubica found himself up to second, with Jenson Button up to third. Sebastian Vettel retained fourth, with Felipe Massa and Adrian Sutil up a place each to fifth and sixth, while Webber slipped back to seventh.

The rain started to fall, and by the end of the lap the drivers were struggling to make it round the Bus Stop chicane. Fernando Alonso, who made it up to eighth on the first lap, after starting tenth, was sent spinning after Rubens Barrichello was caught out under braking in the wet, and collected the Ferrari. The incident caused several other drivers to run wide through the chicane to avoid getting caught up in the collision, and it saw the end of Barrichello’s race, his 300th of his career. Alonso was able to get going again, heading into the pits for an early stop and a change to intermediate tyres.

Vettel made a move on Button into turn one on the second lap, but the McLaren driver was able to use his straightline speed advantage through Eau Rouge to keep the Red Bull at bay. Kubica found himself running wide on the exit of Eau Rouge, allowing the McLaren to take second. Vettel fancied his chances, but nearly lost control of his Red Bull as he was forced to take to the grass along the straight down to turn five, allowing Kubica to retain third. Webber was then making moves, and having passed Sutil, made a move on Massa for fifth into turn eight.

By lap three, the safety car had been deployed, and at the restart a lap later, Hamilton was forced to go defensive after running wide into turn one. Button saw his chances, but Hamilton wasn’t going to let him past.

As the track started to dry out, Alonso who had opted for intermediate tyres during his early pitstop, was forced to pit for fresh slicks on lap five, and it became apparent his gamble hadn’t paid off, as the track became considerably drier. By the end of the lap Hamilton was leading, from Button and Vettel, who had managed to pass Kubica at the restart, with Webber in fifth, Massa, Sutil, Nico Hulkenberg, Vitantonio Liuzzi and Nico Rosberg in sixth to tenth, respectively, and Vitaly Petrov and Michael Schumacher, who after starting from 23rd and 21st, had made their way up to 11th and 12th.

On lap 11, Petrov was piling the pressure on Rosberg, and after a good tow down the long straight from Eau Rouge, he was able to make a move stick through Les Combes, at turn five. Rosberg went defensive and ended up running wide, leaving Schumacher room to try and squeeze through. The pair made contact, causing Rosberg to lose a piece of his front-left end plate, as well as P10 and P11.

As Hamilton pulled out a comfortable lead from teammate Button at a rate of around eight tenths of a second in the middle sector alone on each lap, the reigning champion was finding himself under pressure from Vettel, with the latter unable to make a move due to the raw pace of the McLaren in a straight line. Vettel seemed to have no answer, but on lap 17 he found himself a lot closer to Button heading down towards the Bus Stop chicane, and he fancied his chances. The move was set to be disasterous, and Vettel found himself weaving around Button, and appeared to lose control, causing his wing to go head first into the side of the McLaren, seeing the end to Jenson’s race. Vettel was able to find his way back to the pits, cutting across the track from the runoff area at the Bus Stop, for a new nose and a set of fresh tyres. After coming back out in 12th, Vettel then found himself under investigation by the stewards for causing a collision. On lap 20, he passed Liuzzi for 11th, only to have the Force India snatch it back, and as he tried to find a way around, he was issued with a drive through, which he came in to serve at the end of the lap.

On lap 22, Sutil became the first of the front runners to pit for the harder compound tyre, rejoining the track in eighth. Webber stopped a lap later and rejoined in fourth, leaving Renault with no choice but to pit Kubica to try and keep him ahead of the Red Bull. The move worked and Kubica maintained second, while Massa, who pitted on the same lap, on lap 24, rejoined back in fourth, with Webber back in third. Hamilton came in next on lap 25 and maintained his lead.

As Hamilton rejoined the track, Sutil passed Schumacher, who was yet to pit, for fifth. By lap 27, Vettel, who was up to 12th, found himself in another scrap, clipping the front wing of Liuzzi, as he made a pass into the Bus Stop chicane. The Force India was forced to pit, but Vettel continued, only to find himself with a puncture later in the lap, and he had to limp back to the pits for more tyres, only to find himself in 20th upon rejoining the track.

The rain made its return on lap 35, and the mid field pitted for new tyres, the majority opting for the extreme wet tyres as opposed to the intermediates, in fear that the rain would worsen. As the pitlane filled up with cars coming in to make their stops, Alonso and Vettel very nearly made contact as the exited their pitboxes. On lap 36, as the rain indeed started to get heavier, Hamilton’s superb run was nearly ruined, as he failed to slow his McLaren down going into turn eight, and he very nearly found himself in the wall. Luckily, he was able to get out of the gravel and back on the road, and into the pits in the lead at the end of the lap. Kubica and Webber  joined him in coming into the pits, and while Hamilton was able to retain the lead after a successful switch to intermediates, Kubica overshot his pitbox, gifting second to Webber.

On lap 38, Vettel pitted for the fifth time for another set of full wet tyres, after his rear tyres from the previous set were shredded. As it became apparent it wasn’t wet enough for full wets, Alonso found himself in a spin and out of the race between turns seven and eight, as he hit the grass. The safety car was deployed while the marshals removed the Ferrari, which was halfway across the track, and returned to the pits at the end of lap 40. Hamilton tentatively led the pack through turn one at the restart, and he kept his cool from there for the remaining four laps, to take the win, with Webber second, Kubica third, and Massa, Sutil, Rosberg, Schumacher, Kobayashi, Petrov and Alguersuari in fourth to tenth, respectively.

Following the race, Alguersuari was then penalised for cutting the Bus Stop chicane at the restart after locking his wheel. He gained a position from Pedro de la Rosa for doing so, and having failed to give it back, the stewards demoted him of the position, gifting the last points-paying position to Liuzzi.

Hamilton’s victory puts him back in the lead of the drivers’ championship on 182 points, with Webber second on 179. Vettel’s scraps left him down in 15th as he crossed the line, and a failure to score leaves him 31 points off the lead in the race for the title, on 151 points. Failure to finish the race on both Button and Alonso’s parts, gives Hamilton and Webber the advantage, as the pair now sit further down the standings on 147 and 141, respectively. Massa’s fourth place finish puts him on 109 points, with Kubica on 104.

In the constructors’ standings, Red Bull remain in the lead on 330 points, while McLaren are hot on their heels on 329. Ferrari trail further behind on 250.

As ever, the changeable conditions of Spa have left a lot to be talked about, particularly in the Red Bull camp, as Vettel proved the pressure is starting to get to him after finding himself amongst the majority of incidents the race had to offer. Hamilton however, bounded onto the podium with a grin on his face after scoring his third victory of the season.

While Hamilton and Webber extend their lead to Vettel, Button and Alonso, it’s still a five-horse race as F1 heads into the final six rounds of the 2010 season. There are still a maximum of 150 points left up for grabs, but the pair will leave Spa with a spring in their step, knowing they stand a good chance of winning the title if things stay as they are.

The next race takes place in Italy, for the final round of the European leg of the season, in two weeks time, with qualifying on Saturday 11th September, and the race live on BBC1 at 1pm on Sunday 12th.