United States Grand Prix News and Notes

United States Grand Prix News and Notes

Alonso Not "Comfortable" at McLaren

Ever since Lewis Hamilton scored his first podium finish at the season opening Grand Prix of Australia, rumors began circulating that teammate Fernando Alonso was worried about his situation at the team.

On Tuesday, he gave credence to that buzz.

Speaking to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, the two-time defending World Champion insisted that "from the start I've never felt totally comfortable," since moving to Vodafone McLaren Mercedes from Renault at the beginning of 2007.

"He (Hamilton) is British and the team is British, and he's doing a great job and we know that all the support and help is going to him and I understood that from the beginning."

These comments come days after Hamilton captured his first career victory at the Canadian Grand Prix, a race where Alonso finished seventh and fell eight points behind in the World Championship standings behind his rookie teammate.

Even after expressing his current thoughts, Alonso feels he is in a good situation at McLaren.

"But I'm not complaining. I've won two races out of six and I've finished on the podium four times and I have those 40 points that will allow me to fight for the title in the end," said Alonso.

"I'm calm, I'm good, though I know there's a certain impatience to return to the top and dominate. But I'm second in the championship, I'm eight points behind. I would be worse if I were at Renault, or Honda or any other team.

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2007 United States Grand Prix - Preview

PREVIEW

After an action-packed week and a dramatic race at the Canadian Grand
Prix in Montreal, the Honda Racing F1 Team heads to North America on
Monday for the next round of the 2007 FIA Formula One World Championship
at the legendary Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

SHUHEI NAKAMOTO
- Senior Technical Director

"After a frustrating race in Canada, we are looking forward to
Indianapolis which presents a different set-up challenge with its mix of
high speed sections and twisting infield. The circuit also offers good
overtaking opportunities. We will be pushing as hard as possible to
achieve a better result."

JENSON BUTTON


"I really enjoy racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I had never
driven on a banked circuit before Formula One went to Indy so the last
corner of the F1 circuit configuration is really fun to drive. I know
the banking is not much compared to the IndyCar races but it feels
banked to us. The circuit is not such a high-speed circuit which I
generally prefer, but you can get some great racing as there are some
good overtaking opportunities. The key to getting a quick lap around the
Speedway is achieving a package which doesn't have too much aerodynamic
drag for the long straight. The place has a lot of history and the fans
are so passionate about their racing. We always have a lot of support
when F1 goes to Indy which makes for a great atmosphere over the race
weekend."

RUBENS BARRICHELLO

"The circuit at Indianapolis is quite unique and the venue usually puts
on a great show over the race weekend. Although the track is not
particularly challenging and actually very slow with the tight in-field
section, it is a lot of fun, particularly driving the first corner of
the oval banking flat out. It's always a good race for the fans because
you can overtake at Indianapolis. It's a long way from the grid down to
the first corner so that is a good opportunity or at the end of the back
straight."


INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY

No of Laps          73 laps
Circuit Length    4.192 km
Race Distance    306.016 km

Built in 1908, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the oldest motor
racing circuit still in use today. The original surface was made up of
over three million bricks giving the venue the nickname of the
Brickyard. The IMS has played host to Formula One since 2000 following
the construction of a brand new infield course. The 4.192 km circuit
uses part of the fabled Indianapolis oval with the remainder of the lap
snaking through the infield.

Tony George, head of the Speedway Corporation and a descendent of the
Hulman family that has steered the fortunes of the historic American
track, pulled out all the stops to create a world-class racing circuit
that could provide a permanent home for the United States Grand Prix. In
pursuit of that goal, he made radical changes to the original Speedway
by demolishing buildings, erecting a new pit complex and grandstands,
and building today's challenging road course.

Overtaking is much easier at Indianapolis than at most tracks, with
clear passing opportunities into turns one and eight, both second-gear
corners proceeded by long straights. The slowest part of the track is
the 40mph turn eight, the first part of an extremely tight S-bend, while
the fastest is turn thirteen. This is the first corner of the oval and
is taken flat-out at 185mph in an F1 car.

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Organizers looking to keep F1 in Indianapolis
June 13, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Indianapolis still wants the U.S. Grand Prix and Formula One drivers believe their series belongs in America.

Now it's up to Tony George and Bernie Ecclestone to keep it that way.

Speedway president Joie Chitwood told The Associated Press on Wednesday that George, whose family owns the track, plans to meet with the F1 boss meet this week in a bid to work out a long-term deal for the U.S. Grand Prix.

``The hope is, from the dialogue we'll have at the event, that we'll have a result whether it's here or not,'' Chitwood said. ``I think both parties would like to have some closure so we can let the fans know what's happening.''

Sunday's race will be the eighth on Indianapolis' 2.6-mile, 13-turn road course.

It's also the third straight year organizers have been peppered with questions about F1's future at the track.

The event was marred in 2005 when 14 of the 20 drivers pulled off the track just before the start over concerns about the safety of the Michelin tires used by seven teams. Afterward, George refused to wave the checkered flag or join Michael Schumacher in the winner's circle, and Chitwood later called it a setback for F1. Chitwood also remained silent when asked whether speedway officials would honor the final year on its original contract.

The F1 teams did come back, with the full European flavor Chitwood has come to appreciate.

But not without fallout.

Michelin, which is no longer with the series, refunded money to fans and bought 20,000 tickets to last year's race. Ecclestone caused more controversy last summer by suggesting it didn't matter whether F1 raced in America. Negotiations to extend the deal dragged into August before the two sides agreed to a one-year deal.

Chitwood wants a more permanent solution this time.

``I think uncertainty is tough for everybody and more importantly for the fans, from a business standpoint,'' he said. ``I think now is the time for discussion of a longer-term agreement.''

One complication may be Chitwood's pursuit of a motorcycle race. He has been talking to the MotoGP series, which he likens to F1 because of its technology, and the World Super Bike circuit, which Chitwood said is more like NASCAR and IndyCar because of its engine restrictions.

Chitwood's preference would be to have motorcycles on the track by the summer of 2008, but that could be tricky if the track continues to host three major races between late May and late July. Indianapolis is the world's only venue to hold races for the F1, IndyCar and NASCAR series.

``We'd have to talk with city officials and see what weekends are open, that sort of thing,'' Chitwood said. ``We'd have to see what makes sense, but that's so far down the road right now.''

Instead, Chitwood wants to focus on keeping F1 at Indy.

Two German drivers, Ralf Schumacher and Nick Heidfeld, both said Wednesday the series needs to compete on a U.S. course.

``I think it's important for F1 because it's labeled as the world championship,'' said Heidfeld, who finished second in Montreal last week. ``America is a big country and has a lot of history with auto racing, so I think it is important to race here.''

Although Ralf Schumacher, brother of the five-time U.S. Grand Prix champ, has struggled at Indianapolis and is no fan of the track, he believes an American race could expand F1's fan base.

``Hopefully, it will catch on here,'' he said.

Chitwood would not say how many tickets the track has sold for Sunday's race, citing the speedway's long-standing policy of not announcing attendance figures. But he said he was pleased with this year's sales and believes they will increase if fans know what to expect.

That's why the coming talks between George and Ecclestone are so important.

``We don't want to continue doing one-year contracts,'' Chitwood said. ``I can tell you that Tony and Bernie had a phone conversation last week and they plan to have one here this week. We're hoping to discuss the future of the event, but nothing's been resolved yet.''

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Race Preview: Indianapolis

About the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

History: Developed from the vision of one of the founders, Carl G. Fisher, Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 as an automobile testing ground to support the area's growing automotive industry. The first competitive event to take place at the facility was actually a gas-filled balloon race June 5, 1909. Motorized racing wasn't far behind. The first land-based vehicle race was a motorcycle event Aug. 14, 1909 and the first automobile race at the Speedway took place five days later. Formula One came to the Speedway in 2000 after a 2.605-mile road circuit incorporating part of the world-famous oval was built.

Track Length: 2.605 miles/4.192 kilometers
Race Distance: 73 Laps
Number of Turns: 13 (9 right, 4 left)
Seating Capacity: Approx. 250,000 spectators
Number of Grand Prix’s Hosted: 7
Fastest Lap: Rubens Barrichello set by 1:10.399 in 2004
2006 Polesitter: Michael Schumacher
2006 Podium: Michael Schumacher (winner), Felipe Massa (2nd), Giancarlo Fisichella (3rd)


What happened in 2006?

On a day that saw a multi car accident on lap 1, a slew of retirements throughout and side-by-side action around the track, Michael Schumacher proved once again that it doesn’t matter how many drivers take the green flag at the United States Grand Prix – he is the dominant force at Indianapolis Motor Speedway – winning the event for the fifth time in seven seasons.

Noteworthy

The United States Grand Prix has taken place at seven different tracks, Sebring, Riverside, Watkins Glen, Long Beach, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix before relocating to Indianapolis in 2000 after a gap from the calendar of nine years.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the oldest motor racing circuit still in use today.

For the Indianapolis 500, cars race on the oval in a counter-clockwise direction. Formula One, on the other hand, runs clockwise and uses only part of the oval. This particular section forms a 1,860-metre full-throttle stint which contrasts with the twisty infield section of the circuit specially built for the debut appearance of Formula One in 2000.

Overtaking is much easier at Indianapolis than at most tracks, with clear passing opportunities into turns one and eight, both second-gear corners proceeded by long straights. The slowest part of the track is the 40mph turn eight, the first part of an extremely tight S-bend, while the fastest is turn thirteen. This is the first corner of the oval and is taken flat-out at 185mph in an F1 car.

What they are Saying

"It still hasn’t really sunk in that I have won my first race, it was an amazing weekend for me and it is fantastic that we are racing again already this weekend. The Motor Speedway is another tough circuit on the cars, I hope we are as competitive, but until we get out on the circuit on Friday we can’t really predict how it is going to go. I am really excited to be racing at Indianapolis. It is such a legendary venue, you can’t escape the history here and I am looking forward to experiencing the atmosphere for the first time. The track has the unique characteristic of the banking, but from what I hear it doesn’t have a massive impact on the cars, but it will be pretty cool! To be going into race seven of the Championship in the position I am in is amazing; however it is still early days. This will be my seventh race and I am very much still learning. There are 11 more this season including Indy and that is a long way to go with a lot of hard work ahead. I have enjoyed the season so far, but am aware racing isn’t predicable and anything could happen at the next race."
--Lewis Hamilton, driver of the No. 2 MP4-22 for Vodafone McLaren Mercedes

"I would really like to win in Indianapolis. The last three races have not been what I expected. We will do our best to get back to the level of the first three races. I really want to win, because that would help us a lot. It’s difficult to say what we expect from IMS. I enjoy the circuit, and it has always been a good circuit for Ferrari. There is a very long straight, where you need to have a good speed, but at the same moment the infield section is very tight and there are some corners you have to take with the smallest gears. Fortunately, you are able to overtake at the end of the straight."
--Kimi Raikkonen, driver of the No. 6 F2007 for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro

"The circuit at Indianapolis is quite unique and the venue usually puts on a great show over the race weekend, which makes it a lot of fun for everyone. Although the track is not particularly challenging and actually very slow with the tight in-field section, it is a lot of fun, particularly driving the first corner of the oval banking flat out. It’s always a good race for the fans because you can overtake at Indianapolis. It’s a long way from the grid down to the first corner so that is a good opportunity or at the end of the back straight."
--Rubens Barrichello, driver of the No. 8 RA107 for Honda Racing

"The Indianapolis Speedway is fundamentally different from the circuit at Montreal, yet both tracks demand a medium downforce level. In Indy that is the result of a tricky compromise. On the oval section you have a 1,860-metre full-throttle section - the longest flat-out stretch to date on the whole F1 calendar. To achieve maximum top speed, you would want to take the Indy oval with a very low wing setting and minimal drag. But with a low-downforce package of the kind we use in Monza, there wouldn't be nearly enough downforce for the 11 turns in the Indianapolis infield section. If you haven't got sufficient braking stability and traction in these corners, you lose more time than can be gained on the straights. In the infield, where you shift down all the way to first, you want the maximum possible downforce, similar to Monaco or Budapest."
--Willy Rampf, Technical Director for BMW Sauber F1 Team

"As the home of American motor racing, Indianapolis is a special venue and it has a special atmosphere to go with it. Unfortunately it has never been a very lucky track for me and I have had a couple of incidents that I would prefer to forget. Now I will look to put those behind me with a more positive visit to the venue. The main challenge of the Speedway’s F1 circuit is to balance the set-up of the car. We have to reach a good top speed along the banked start-finish straight into the first corner while keeping the car stable through the slow and twisty infield section. This season has been a struggle for me but I remain confident that we can turn our form around. We scored a point at Montreal and Toyota has a strong record from its races at Indianapolis so we will hope to give the team a boost with a good result on Sunday."
--Ralf Schumacher, driver of the No. 11 TF107 for Panasonic Toyota Racing

"Coming to Indy is special as it is a race track which has a significant place in motor racing history, in fact, what a name - 'Indianapolis'. I am really looking forward to the race and of course I come here feeling very positive after scoring some more points in Canada, but of course the US GP is another clean sheet and a new game. My goal is to ensure I qualify in the top ten and of course fight hard for some points in the race itself. The set-up for the race is quite similar to Canada, yet there are some subtle differences in the details, for instance the tire compound is one step on in terms of hardness, so we will definitely have to do quite a lot of set-up work on the car to find its balance on this track."
--Alexander Wurz, driver of the No. 17 FW29 for AT&T WilliamsF1 Team

"Last year when I was Indy, I had a huge reception. I definitely feel very welcome here in North America. I am looking forward to Indy. I am really excited to go back there. Any time I can go back to America and enjoy all the idiosyncrasies that I love in my own country like Starbucks, it makes my time a little bit more enjoyable off the track."
--Scott Speed, driver of the No. 19 STR2 for Scuderia Toro Rosso and the sole American in the field

"I think that (this weekend’s aim) is very obvious, to get two cars to the finish without making any mistakes. We never forget that we are not here to lap around at the back, we do want to move forward, but the only way we can move forward is to set good foundations and build on them."
--Colin Kolles, Team Principal and Managing Director of Etihad Aldar Spyker Formula One Team

Schedule of Events
Friday, June 15

* Practice 1: 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. (ET)
* Practice 2: 2:00 - 3:30 p.m. (ET)

Saturday, June 16

* Practice 3: 10:00 - 11:00 a.m. (ET)
* Qualifying: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

Sunday, June 17

* Race: 1:00 p.m. (ET)

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America about to meet Formula One's new star
June 13, 2007

Meet Lewis Hamilton, the newest racing star in the Formula One Firmament.

Very new.

Fans around the world already know his name and his face, thanks to the global popularity of F1 and its international television coverage.

But the first black man to race in the 61-year history of F1 is a stranger to most Americans.

That's not surprising, since the man on the street in the United States would be hard-pressed to name even one current F1 driver, especially now that seven-time champion Michael Schumacher has retired.

F1 insiders are hoping that will change this week at the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis, where the 22-year-old Hamilton will make his U.S. debut.

``I don't know if he will make any new Formula One fans in the States,'' said three-time world champion Jackie Stewart. ``But this kid is the best young talent to come along in F1 in many years. I hope people watch.''

Hamilton, who comes from Stevenage, England, has burst onto the F1 scene unlike any rookie before him.

In his first six starts, the Mercedes McLaren driver has finished in the top three every time, culminating with a win from the pole Sunday in the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal. And the victory appeared to be no fluke as Hamilton led all but three of the 70 laps and was never really challenged.

Now he heads for the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway leading teammate and two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso by eight points at the top of the standings.

The comparisons to Tiger Woods are inevitable.

Like Tiger, Hamilton has been a winner at every level on the way to the big time. And, like Woods, the slim, well-spoken Englishman is mature beyond his years and seems to produce best when under pressure or in the spotlight.

Woods is from mixed parentage - African American and Thai. Hamilton's paternal grandparents came to Britain from Grenada in the 1950s, and his mother, who separated from his father when Hamilton was 2, is white.

Like Woods and his father, Hamilton and his dad, Anthony, are practically inseparable.

``We're a close family,'' said Anthony Hamilton, whose other son, 15-year-old Nicolas, has cerebral palsy. ``We have always spent a lot of time together and we still do. Lewis hasn't really changed. He's just doing what he's always wanted to do.''

After his big win on Sunday, Hamilton was asked how he would celebrate.

``I'll spend some time this evening with my dad and some friends and we'll enjoy this for a while before we start thinking about Indy,'' he said.

In his short time in F1, Hamilton has already fielded just about every question one can imagine.

After winning his first pole last Saturday in Canada, he was asked if the feeling was better than sex.

Hamilton grinned, saying, ``I think it's completely different. You can't compare it to sex.''

Then, he paused a moment to consider and said, ``Actually, no, I'll say it is better than sex,'' which drew a gale of laughter from the assembled media.

With stardom, though, comes scrutiny, and Hamilton is certainly in the spotlight, getting lots of attention from Britain's tabloids and the world's sporting press.

He caused quite a stir last month when he said after finishing second to Alonso at Monaco that the team told him to take it easy and not push his teammate at the end. FIA, Formula One's governing body, investigated and cleared McLaren of any wrongdoing.

``We never issue team orders,'' said McLaren boss Ron Dennis, who signed Hamilton to a development contract at the age of 13. ``We had a racing strategy to come first and second at Monte Carlo. That's what we're there to do, and that's what we did. To achieve that, you have to cover every eventuality, and that's what we did.''

As for the uproar that followed when Hamilton spoke about being told to slow down, Dennis said he has no problem with the youngster's reaction.

``I think both drivers are highly polished in and out of the car and, obviously, Lewis makes the odd mistake when dealing with the ferocious nature of the media,'' he explained. ``But he's learning quick and he's becoming very professional at dealing with the inevitable efforts of the media to get the sound bite.

``I'm very happy with the way everything is going and we're just so lucky to have two such talented drivers on the team who have mutual respect for each other and who clearly enjoy the challenge they each represent to each other.''

Team orders weren't an issue for Hamilton and Alonso in Canada. The Spaniard suffered through a miserable day as he finished seventh and fell out of a tie for the points lead.

Hamilton smiled when he was asked about all the media attention he gets now wherever he goes.

``I'm just trying to take it in my stride, really,'' he said. ``It's all really a new experience for me and already there's been a lot of attention.

``But, at the end of the day, I get to race a Formula One car around the track and it's just an amazing feeling. So, anything else that comes into it doesn't matter.''

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Kubica ready for medical check
June 14, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Formula One driver Robert Kubica was scheduled to undergo a medical exam Thursday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway that could clear him to drive in Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix.

Kubica, from Poland, was released from the hospital Monday after a frightening crash in Montreal that left him with a concussion and a sprained ankle.

His car slammed into the inside concrete wall Sunday, then somersaulted across the track in a shower of debris. Kubica then hit the outside wall before the car stopped on its side.

At a news conference Thursday, Kubica said he was fit to drive although he was still waiting for clearance from the doctors.

Sometimes joking, Kubica said he spent this week trying to relax and cool down.

``Now I'm 100 percent back to normal, so that's important and we needed to get the car fixed'' he said. ``I think in these three days we've all done a good job and now I'm here, ready to race.''

Still, the BMW Sauber team had tentatively scheduled a late afternoon news conference in case Kubica was not cleared and they had to announce a replacement.

But if it's up to Kubica, he'll drive Sunday.

``I realized very quickly I was OK,'' he said. ``Everybody said the next morning would be the worst, and I woke up and there was nothing. So I thought 'OK, good.' Of course, I want to come back straight away and if I was not 100 percent, I say I not want to race.''

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Kubica out of U.S. Grand Prix
June 14, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Formula One driver Robert Kubica came to Indianapolis Motor Speedway proclaiming he was alert, clear-minded and ready to race Sunday in the U.S. Grand Prix.

The doctors disagreed.

FIA, the international governing body of racing, ruled Kubica could not yet climb back into the cockpit four days after sustaining a concussion and spraining an ankle in a frightening crash at Montreal. He will be replaced by Germany's Sebastian Vettel, a test driver for BMW Sauber.

``I felt absolutely ready to race,'' Kubica said in a statement issued by the team after the doctors' decision. ``I respect the decision. It was made because there is too much risk to let me race in this Grand Prix in case I have an impact so soon after Montreal. I will go home now.''

Vettel, a 19-year-old rookie, is expected to make his first F1 start Sunday.

It was another disappointment for Kubica, who spent a midday news conference insisting he was ready to drive.

``I have bit of pain in ankle first day, but now it's 100 percent OK,'' he said as dozens of cameras clicked. ``So no headache, nothing like that. We have to wait for the doctors of FIA and Indy here to give me OK. But I feel like nothing happened.''

Those who witnessed the crash know better.

Kubica's car slammed into the inside concrete wall near the halfway point of last Sunday's race in Montreal, then went somersaulting across the track scattering debris and hit the outside wall, too.

He was carefully removed from the remains of his car by safety workers. As he was pulled out, Kubica said he felt his shoulder burning, which he attributed to hot oil on the ground. Amazingly, he had no broken bones and showed up at Indy with a medical report from a doctor in Montreal saying he could drive. FIA saw it differently.

``Well, I can't remember a lot, of course,'' the 22-year-old Polish driver said. ``What I remember is what you see.''

His appearance at Indianapolis drew nearly as much attention Thursday as last week's race winner, Britain's Lewis Hamilton, another 22-year-old rookie and the first black driver to race on the F1 circuit. Hamilton's victory made him an overnight sensation and sent him to New York and Washington for personal appearances earlier this week.

But it was Kubica's crash, and the question about his availability this week that created the biggest stir.

Colleagues expressed relief that Kubica escaped more serious injuries.

Germany's Nick Heidfeld, Kubica's teammate, said his second-place finish in Montreal felt better once he knew Kubica would be OK, and veteran Italian driver Jarno Trulli was asked to give an explanation of instructions drivers are given by F1 officials following a ``big hit.''

``It's important in such a big accident to not move too much the neck or spine because that's one part that can be really badly injured,'' Trulli said. ``I think straight away you realize if you're OK or not by yourself.''

Kubica tried to diffuse any concerns about his health.

At times, he joked about the crash that was replayed dozens of times on highlight shows over the weekend.

``I have seen it live when I was there,'' he said during one exchange.

``Looking at the pictures, I think radio was not any more there,'' he said when asked if he tried to tell his team he was OK. ``I mean, I don't know what has been left.''

At other times, Kubica struck a more serious tone.

He said Trulli's front wing tapped the back of his car, causing Kubica to lose control and sending his BMW Sauber car airborne.

But even as Kubica expressed his hope of driving on Indy's 2.6-mile, 13-turn road course Sunday, there were still questions about whether he should drive.

American football players who sustain concussions are usually held out of practice and games for at least one week until they can pass a psychological test.

Doctors at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, apparently, felt the same way about Kubica.

It's the second time this week BMW Sauber has scrambled for a replacement.

A team spokesman said Kubica's engineer, Mehmi Ahmadi, will not be at the race this week because the Iranian native was not granted an American visa. Ahmadi will be replaced by Ossi Oikarinen, the chief engineer for the test team.

Ironically, that means Vettel will be working with his usual engineer in his F1 debut.

``Of course, I am looking forward to my first F1 race, but I wish it had come under different circumstances,'' Vettel said. ``It's never nice if a teammate can't drive because he had an accident.''

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Hamilton: No favoritism at McLaren
June 14, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Coming off his first Formula One victory Sunday in Montreal, English rookie Lewis Hamilton was a little surprised to hear that Spanish teammate Fernando Alonso said the Mercedes McLaren team is favoring its fellow Brit.
   
``I find it strange he said that because I feel that ever since he joined the team, the team had been extremely motivated to push us both toward winning,'' Hamilton said Thursday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he will drive in his first United States Grand Prix on Sunday.

Alonso, who also joined McLaren this year after winning two F1 championships for Renault, told a Spanish radio station this week that he been uncomfortable with his new team and that Hamilton was being given better equipment and support by the British team.

Even before those comments were published Wednesday in England, there were rumblings about favoritism as Hamilton burst onto the F1 scene with an unprecedented five straight top-three finishes before winning in race No. 6.

Before last Sunday's race, McLaren boss Ron Dennis said, ``We don't favor one driver over another and we're very comfortable with what we do and how we do it.''

``I'm very happy with the way everything is going and we're just so lucky to have two such talented drivers on the team who have mutual respect for each other and who clearly enjoy the challenge they each represent to each other,'' Dennis said.

Alonso's comments were made after he went through a frustrating day in Montreal, finishing seventh and falling out of a tie with Hamilton for first place in the standings. The 22-year-old Hamilton has an eight-point lead.

Alonso was not available for comment Thursday.

Hamilton had a personal appearance Wednesday in Washington, D.C., and had to spend an extra night there after his flight to Indianapolis was canceled because of bad weather. He showed up about 20 minutes late for the FIA press conference Thursday morning and shrugged off the questions about Alonso's comments.

``Ron and the other guys on the team have been pushing extremely hard to make sure we have ... equal opportunity,'' he said. ``It's probably always going to be difficult in a business but, obviously, I've got a great relationship with all the guys in the team because I've been with them since I was 13.''

Hamilton was signed by Dennis to a development contract at the age of 13 and has worked his way up the ladder with team support, winning the GP2 championship last year.

``At the end of the day, when Fernando came into the team they were extremely excited and, I feel, built a very good relationship with him,'' Hamilton said. ``So I don't see why he would say that. But I guess because he is Spanish and I am English, he might feel that way. But I don't agree with it, personally.''

Hamilton noted that Alonso likely didn't expect a rookie to be challenging the reigning F1 champion the way he has.

``I doubt very much he was expecting me to do as well as I have. But I don't know whether that's why he would be saying what he's saying,'' Hamilton said. ``But ... he's a two-time world champion and he's not really been challenged - well, I think he has (had) some challenges in the past, but not really had probably someone as close as me and as good a friend off the track (challenge him), so it's a very difficult situation.''

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Fernando Alonso retained his place at the top of the timesheets in the final practice session for the US GP.

The McLaren driver, who dominated Friday's first two sessions, was once again the man to beat, clocking a 1:12.150 to beat BMW's new boy Sebastien Vettel by 0.171 seconds.

Lewis Hamilton was third quickest, ahead of the Renault of Heikki Kovalainen and Nick Heidfeld..

Heidfeld had set the early pace, putting in a fast lap of 1min 12.964secs before Ferrari's Felipe Massa, then Alonso and then Hamilton each posted fastest times approaching the halfway mark of the session.

Hamilton's 1:12.378 shaded Alonso by 0.181 of a second and Massa by 0.419.

Then Heidfeld's 19-year-old team-mate Vettel showed his intention to make his debut Grand Prix weekend a memorable one by posting 1:12.321 to head the practice times.

The German stands in for Robert Kubica, who despite declaring himself fit, was not allowed to race this weekend by race doctors, following the concussion he received in a massive crash last week in Canada.

Vettel, a BMW test driver, wasted little time learning the ropes, with the fourth fastest time of the first practice yesterday and today he emphasised the point that there could be more than one BMW Sauber in contention in qualifying.

Normal service was restored, however, as the clock wound down on the session, with Alonso edging Vettel out of the fastest lap position.

Hamilton came out for a final flying lap but returned to the pit before registering a time, having settled for third fastest with his 1:12.378.

Kovalainen set a time of 1:12.574, while Heidfeld clocked 1:12.646.

That bumped the Ferraris of Kimi Raikkonen and Massa down to sixth and seventh fastest for the session, with the other Renault of Giancarlo Fisichella eighth and Red Bull's David Coulthard ninth.


Times
01 F. Alonso McLaren 1:12.150 12 laps
02 S. Vettel BMW 1:12.321 27 laps
03 L. Hamilton McLaren 1:12.378 14 laps
04 H. Kovalainen Renault 1:12.646 24 laps
05 N. Heidfeld BMW 1:12.646 24 laps
06 K. Räikkönen Ferrari 1:12.692 16 laps
07 F. Massa Ferrari 1:12.709 17 laps
08 G. Fisichella Renault 1:12.710 20 laps
09 D. Coulthard Red Bull 1:12.940 17 laps
10 N. Rosberg Williams 1:13.031 18 laps
11 J. Trulli Toyota 1:13.057 23 laps
12 R. Schumacher Toyota 1:13.061 23 laps
13 A. Davidson Super Aguri 1:13.069 20 laps
14 M. Webber Red Bull 1:13.289 14 laps
15 J. Button Honda 1:13.318 20 laps
16 V. Liuzzi Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:13.415 23 laps
17 T. Sato Super Aguri 1:13.476 19 laps
18 R. Barrichello Honda 1:13.573 17 laps
19 A. Wurz Williams 1:13.626 18 laps
20 S. Speed Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:13.979 18 laps
21 A. Sutil Spyker F1 1:14.142 24 laps
22 C. Albers Spyker F1 1:14.402 24 laps

www.planet-f1.com

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Re: United States Grand Prix News and Notes

Hamilton on pole at US Grand Prix

McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton will start on pole for Sunday's US Grand Prix, after beating team-mate and world champio Fernando Alonso in qualifying.

The 22-year-old Briton clocked a fastest time of one minute 12.331 seconds, 0.169secs ahead of Alonso, to claim his second pole is as many races.

Alonso was fastest in practice and the first two qualifying sessions but was blown away in the third.

The Ferraris of Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen will make up the second row.

German teenager Sebastian Vettel finished an impressive seventh, filling in for injured BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica.

Afterwards, a clearly delighted Hamilton admitted he was rather surprised to find himself on the second pole position of his fledgling career.

"I'm quite surprised to be honest," said Hamilton, who leads the world championship standings, eight points ahead of his team-mate.

"Going into qualifying we hadn't found the optimium set-up and I knew Fernando was quick here.

"It's good to see we're ahead of the Ferraris. I had to pull it all out but my last two laps in third qualifying were just right."

Just to rub in his supremacy, Hamilton improved his provisional pole on the final lap, having seen Alonso fail to better the provisional pole time on his own last lap.

But the Spaniard was keen to look for positives from his display.

"It's a good weekend for me now," he said.

"I was fastest in practice and in qualifying one and two, but not in qualifying three.

"But being fastest all weekend has given me a lot of confidence - we'll have a strong race on Sunday."

Sunday's race will be the third in a row with an all-McLaren front row.


Qualifying results for US Grand Prix:

1 L Hamilton (GB) McLaren 1:12.331
2 F Alonso (Spn) McLaren 1:12.500
3 F Massa (Brz) Ferrari 1:12.703
4 K Raikkonen (Fin) Ferrari 1:12.839
5 N Heidfeld (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:12.847
6 H Kovalainen (Fin) Renault 1:13.308
7 S Vettel (Ger) BMW Sauber 1:13.513
8 J Trulli (Ita) Toyota 1:13.789
9 M Webber (Aus) RedBull-Renault 1:13.871
10 G Fisichella (Ita) Renault 1:13.953
11 D Coulthard (GB) RedBull-Renault 1:12.873
12 R Schumacher (Ger) Toyota 1:12.920
13 J Button (GB) Honda 1:12.998
14 N Rosberg (Ger) Williams-Toyota 1:13.060
15 R Barrichello (Brz) Honda 1:13.201
16 A Davidson (GB) Super Aguri-Honda 1:13.259
17 A Wurz (Aut) Williams-Toyota 1:13.441
18 T Sato (Jpn) Super Aguri-Honda 1:13.477
19 V Liuzzi (Ita) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.484
20 S Speed (US) Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:13.712
21 A Sutil (Ger) Spyker-Ferrari 1:14.122
22 C Albers (Ned) Spyker-Ferrari 1:14.597

www.bbc.co.uk

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George optimistic about keeping U.S. Grand Prix in Indy
June 16, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George and Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone met again Saturday without reaching an agreement to extend the contract of the U.S. Grand Prix at Indy.

After a 25-minute session inside Ecclestone's trackside office, George emerged optimistic about a deal - just not this weekend. Speedway officials hope to have one by July 12.

``I'm confident it's going to happen, but it's not done yet,'' George said.

When was asked whether that meant there was an agreement in principle, George responded: ``No, I think we agree on all the things that have to come together.''

Ecclestone has repeatedly said F1 does not need to race in the United States and has mentioned the possibility of moving the U.S. Grand Prix to another city, such as New York or Las Vegas.

On Saturday, Ecclestone tried another ploy to gain leverage. He told a local television station he doesn't have to listen to the manufacturers who want to race in the U.S. nor does he believe the Indianapolis race has been promoted properly since Indianapolis 500 signs are still displayed around the city. The 500 was run May 28.

George acknowledged race officials could do more but stopped short of taking the blame or saying Ecclestone was posturing.

``We don't control all the factors that go into the public perception of this event,'' George said. ``I think everyone knows the challenges we have faced since it's been here.

In 2002, Michael Schumacher let teammate Rubens Barrichello win. Most considered that payback for a race earlier in the year when Barrichello was told to park his car on the course and let Schumacher go past.

Just before the start of the race in 2005, safety concerns with Michelin tires prompted 14 of 20 drivers to pull off the road course

Still, the U.S. Grand Prix has consistently been one of the biggest draws on F1 circuit since it arrived in Indianapolis in 2000, consistently attracting crowds of about 125,000.

``We have to do the right thing for us,'' George said. ``The right thing might be a decision not to go on, but that's not what either of our preferences are.''


TIGER TALK: Lewis Hamilton appreciates the comparison, but he wants things kept in perspective.

``Obviously, it's nice to be compared to someone like Tiger Woods,'' Hamilton said. ``But I'm not Tiger Woods; I'm Lewis Hamilton. And this is F1; it's not golf.''

Hamilton, a 22-year-old rookie from England, became the first black driver to win a Formula One race last weekend at Montreal. He leads the points standings, has top-three finishes at all six races this season and on Saturday claimed his second straight pole.

Woods, competing at Oakmont for his third U.S. Open title, told a British newspaper Friday he will keep an eye on Hamilton's results this weekend.

``Without a doubt, he is one of the most exciting talents to hit the sporting scene in recent years,'' Woods said. ``It's not just his results. I've been impressed by the way he has handled himself off the race track, and I think he has the potential to be a terrific role model. ... Ill be interested to see how Lewis Hamilton goes in our Grand Prix on Sunday.''


SAFER CARS: Earlier this week, Robert Kubica credited Formula One's safety improvements for helping him escape a frightening crash at last Sunday's Canadian Grand Prix with only a slight concussion and a sprained ankle.

He wasn't the only one thanking FIA, the international governing body.

Super Aguri team boss Aguri Suzuki acknowledged when he was driving on the circuit 15 years ago, the injuries could have been far worse. He said it was ``incredible'' Kubica had as few injuries as he did.

``I'm very happy with Formula One now,'' he said.

The Polish driver's car slammed into the inside concrete wall near the halfway point of the race in Montreal. He then went somersaulting across the track scattering debris and hit the outside wall.

When Frank Williams, team boss of Team Williams, saw it, he feared the worst. Instead, Kubica came to Indianapolis hoping to race until doctors decided Thursday not let him back in the car yet.

``It is certainly a remarkable testimony to the cooperation between the teams, engineers and designers and the FIA,'' Williams said. ``Because the (G force) numbers get higher and higher every year and, as consequence, I think the cars get safer and safer every year. Speaks very highly of Formula One in terms of safety.''


PIT STOPS: Germany's Sebastian Vettel, the 19-year-old replacement driver for Kubica on BMW Sauber, qualified seventh for his F1 debut. Vettel has been one of the team's test drivers this season and drove 51 laps Saturday, the most of any driver on the track. ... The only American in the 22-car field is Scott Speed, who the final round of qualifying and Honda has yet to score a point this season. ... Five drivers, including Lewis Hamilton, the pole-sitter, and Ferrari's Felipe Massa, starting third, were fined for pit lane violations: Hamilton and Massa ($243), Adrian Sutil ($485) and Heikki Kovalainen and Rubens Barrichello ($1,456 each).

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Re: United States Grand Prix News and Notes

Hamilton gets second straight F1 win
June 17, 2007

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -Rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton did it again, racing to his second straight Formula One victory in Sunday's U.S. Grand Prix.

The first black driver in F1's 61-year history has finished all seven races this season in the top three. He now leads Mercedes McLaren teammate and two-time world champion Fernando Alonso by 10 points in the standings.

The two finished 1-2 for the third time this season, but this time the order was reversed from Malaysia in April and last month's race at Monaco as the 22-year-old Englishman added this victory to his inaugural F1 triumph last week in the Canadian Grand Prix.

Alonso tried hard to pass his less experienced teammate at the start, darting to the outside and pulling nearly alongside Hamilton for a moment, then backing off and diving to the inside as the leaders squirted through the first two narrow turns, a sharp right-hander and then a left-hander.

Hamilton managed to stay in front and was able to continue to fend off the pressure by the hard-charging Spaniard to the end of the 73-lap event on Indy's 2.605-mile road circuit.

Alonso almost wrested the lead from Hamilton on lap 39. He had been dogging the back of his teammate's McLaren for several laps and pulled alongside on the main straightaway but was unable to complete the pass.

The outcome was still in question until Alonso locked up his brakes on lap 47 and drove through the grass, allowing Hamilton to pull out to a 2.5-second lead. Hamilton was able to drive on to the win without further challenge, crossing the finish line 1.5 seconds ahead of Alonso.

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