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Maldonado denies any rift with Williams

Pastor Maldonado has played down talk of a rift between himself and Williams – and he insists that he will still be in F1 next year.

Doubts have been cast over the future of PDVSA-backed drivers after some problems in Venezuela.

“Rumours about my relationship with Williams and vice versa are completely false,” he wrote in a series of Tweets. “There is a good relationship between driver and team. We have been working hard day and night to improve our performance and results. Unfortunately this is F1, there are good years and bad, I think we’re not the only ones who have gone through difficult times in terms of results.

“Similarly, we have shown that even after non-competitive performance we did not give up and won’t give up until the last race.

 “About my future – I will be in F1 next season proudly representing Venezuela. Hopefully good news soon.”

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Mark Webber: “We did the lap when it counted…”

Mark Webber secured his first pole of 2013 at Suzuka, but the Aussie admitted that the achievement was a little hollow given that for once his team mate Sebastian Vettel had some bad luck.

The German had KERS problems in Q3 and yet was still able to give Webber a run for his money and take second place.

"It's a great track, we all enjoy driving here and the laps weren't too bad,” said Webber. “Seb had a problem in qualifying, I still did a phenomenal lap, but it's a bit of a hollow pole. People were trying all sorts of tyres, scrubbed, new, but we did the lap when it counted. It's a nice farewell to have the pole on my last time here.”

Webber now has to get his start right on Sunday after consistently having problems this season.

"I haven't been too bad at starts, the clutch has been good all weekend, so it should be OK. I'll focus on myself, try to find some gaps for myself, but Seb, Lewis and the Lotus will be challenging. I'm hoping for a clean race, from me, from the pit stops, we have enough experience, so it should be OK.”

Webber is hoping to end his season on a high: “I just have to look forward, It's tough to see the results I lost and you can frustrated for. It takes energy is you look back. Tomorrow we'll have a great chance and I'll think it's my last time in Suzuka when I'll come out of the last corner. It's a great circuit, the car is working great and it was a nice day, and let's hope it lasts another 24 hours, in India and until the rest of season.”

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Maria de Villota 1980-2013

The tragic news emerged while the F1 cars were running in Suzuka on Friday afternoon that Maria de Villota has been found dead in a hotel room in Seville. She was 33.

The daughter of former F1 driver Emilio, she competed in F3, GTs and touring cars before getting her first experience of powerful single-seaters in the Superleague Formula in 2009.

She had a chance to test an old Renault F1 car at Paul Ricard in 2011, and that let to a testing deal with Marussia the following year.

Sadly on July 3 that year she was involved in a freak accident at Duxford Aerodrome which saw her strike the back of the open tail gate of a truck. She suffered terrible injuries and lost her right eye.

Her subsequent recovery and determination to rebuild her life offered a shining example to people in any walk of life, and she continued to champion the cause of female racing drivers.

She had written a book about her experiences, and was in Seville for its launch.

FIA President Jean Todt said: “Today is a tragic day for motor sport. My deepest condolences go to the de Villota family. María was a fantastic driver, a leading light for women in motor sport and a tireless campaigner for road safety.

“Above all she was a friend I deeply admired. Through her courage, strength and determination she transformed her personal misfortune on the track into a powerful message for road safety that was heard at race tracks and beyond around the world. María was a beloved member of the FIA family. Our thoughts go to her family today.”

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It’s very easy to be misunderstood, says Hamilton

Lewis Hamilton stressed today that he was keen to clarify what were perceived as negative comments about Sebastian Vettel when he Tweeted about the German earlier this week.

Hamilton used Twitter to emphasise that he has a lot of respect for the World Champion (see previous story).

“I was just in my hotel and I just looked at some of the Tweets that people were writing and stories that people had read,” he said in Suzuka. “And because we’re always doing interviews it’s very easy for thing to not necessarily be taken out of context, but misunderstood. So I just wanted to clarify, as I said.”

Meanwhile Lewis was in an upbeat mood today as he considered his prospects for this weekend’s Japanese GP.

“This is another track that I haven’t won at, and it’s definitely one that I’d love to win. The first sector is the most challenging and most critical of the lap, the Red Bull has generally been the quickest there, for the last four years. I anticipate they are going to be the quickest there again this year. But I hope that the strong showing we had in Korea in the middle sector can correlate with the first sector here. Fingers crossed I’ll get out there tomorrow, and it flows as well as I dream and we can give the Red Bulls a good race.

Regarding the tyre situation this weekend, he said: “It’s so strange, but even though you have past experiences with the tyres, when you go to a new circuit, new surface, it’s always different. So I’m hoping this weekend we’re strong. I’ve generally not had any good races here. I’ve had good races in Fuji. I really hope this is a new start for me here.”

He also had an interesting comment on why he suffered more than Nico Rosberg with the tyres in Korea.

“There is an explanation, but I’m not going to tell you! I’m going to keep it to myself. It’s not the car – it’s me.”

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Fernando Alonso: “We didn’t have the pace…”

Fernando Alonso says that Ferrari didn’t have its usual race pace in Korea, and admits he already realised after practice that it would be a tough weekend.

For once Alonso didn’t gain places during the race, starting and finishing sixth, behind Nico Hulkenberg and Lewis Hamilton.

“Normally on Sunday we have a good pace, but here also on Sunday we didn’t have the performance we expected,” he said. “We saw on Friday a little bit, the long runs were not as good as other Grands Prix, and we knew that maybe the race was tough, and unfortunately we confirmed this feeling today. We were not so good at the start, in Turn 3 we lost a position to Nico, and then we were all the race behind Hulkenberg, which obviously also doesn’t help the tyres. We didn’t have the pace, but hopefully in Suzuka we can come back to a better one and fight for the podium again.”

Fernando had a lucky escape on the first lap, when he was nearly hit by a spinning Felipe Massa.

“It was close, obviously we arrived there everybody attacking. Felipe lost the control a little bit, but we were able to avoid a collision. I don’t know if I had a chance to attack Nico in Turn 4, I doubt, so I don’t think the race changed too much for me. Felipe recovered some positions and arrived ninth, so it’s important for the constructors’ championship as well. As I said we need to recover form in Suzuka.”

Alonso appears resigned to the pace of Red Bull: “It’s no surprise any more, so more or less you know it’s not frustrating or surprising you on Sunday. You know this on Thursday before you arrive to the Grand Prix. The place Webber overtook me in Turn 6, you need to have another category car, because it’s impossible to do Turn 4 and 5 behind another car and be side-by-side – this is a super performance. And they deserve it, they are the best ones at the moment, they are winning everything, and we have to do better.”

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Kimi Raikkonen: “I would rather start in the front…”

Kimi Raikkonen enjoyed another good run to the podium in Korea, the Finn turning ninth on the grid into second place at the flag.

Crucially he got ahead of Lotus team mate Romain Grosjean just after the first safety car restart, and after that the Frenchman was not able to find a way back past. Meanwhile the team opted not to ask Kimi to move over despite his pursuer being potentially faster.

“It’s not ideal to start so behind and not having maybe the best weekend,” said Raikkonen. “Bit similar to the last race really, but the car was a bit better in the race. Still not ideal, a little bit too much understeer, and I lost one place or two places at the start and then got them back in corner three.

“And then I was able to pass people and then sat behind them again after the pitstop. I had more speed but I couldn’t get past, and then we decided to stop a bit earlier, and when the safety car came for whatever it was, five laps or something, obviously it helped a little bit for us to close the gap in the front.

“Romain made a mistake and I managed to pass him and just didn’t have enough speed at the end and not enough tyres were left compared to them, because they stopped later. It was good fun but I would rather start in the front and finish in the front. It would have made our life a bit easier.”

Raikkonen said that even without the safety car periods he would probably have gone to the end on that set of tyres.

“We would probably have tried it, or looked at some point at how the tyres [were lasting]. Without the safety car we gained a lot of time and lap places if we’d stopped earlier in the last pit stops, so who knows? In the end we didn’t stop again now. You can always say that if but it makes no difference. You have to react and do what you think is the right thing, and sometimes certain things help you. My front tyre was pretty done in the end, but we finished the race in a pretty good position. We would probably try to run until then anyhow.

“It maybe helped a bit in the end because my front tyre was in quite a bad way, it kind of ran out of the rubber in the end. So I couldn’t go much longer any more – but obviously that’s the part of racing. Sometimes it helps you a bit.”

Regarding Vettel’s pace he said: “Let’s put it this way: even it we would have started behind him, we still don’t have the speed of him. Not far off from him in the race with a little bit from all the tyres but I mean it’s so difficult to overtake if you’re not massively faster. So, I think that was pretty OK, what we did today.”

 

 

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Sebastian Vettel: “We have to stay on top of our game…”

As usual it may have looked easy from the outside, but Sebastian Vettel insists that he had to work hard to lodge a fourth straight Grand Prix win in Korea.

Vettel clearly met the challenge of keeping his tyres alive, but his first job was to stay in front on the first lap.

“It’s always tricky here because the way to the first corner is quite short but then you have two big straight lines,” said Vettel. “To be the first car is the worse because you have no tow. I had a good start and could focus on the first corner.

“I had a very good exit and was able to get a couple of metres between myself and Lewis and then I think Lewis was in more trouble with Romain from behind into Turn Three and I obviously benefit from that and had a little bit of cushion and again for the next straight and then kept the lead – which I think was crucial. After that I tried to build a gap and keep it quite consistent. I knew that on the soft tyres it will be tricky and yeah, obviously with the safety car later on it got quite busy.”

Vettel’s life was made harder by the safety car, which cost him the 5s margin he had established.

“Kimi pitted a couple of laps before that so his tyres were a little bit older but obviously took quite a long time before the safety car came back in and then there was another safety. So I think in terms of tyre age it was no problem. Obviously the cars get lighter towards the end, so fortunately we didn’t have to challenge the absolute maximum out of the tyres, because I think the Lotuses were probably a little bit better in terms of endurance. So, I think the speed was there and in the end obviously I tried to build up a little bit of a gap to Kimi and keep it quite consistent.”

As usual Vettel insisted that he’s not looking at the points just yet.

“I’m trying not to think about it to be honest. I’m trying to focus more on the present I think we obviously had the incredible chance, I think two years ago, to do so. We did it but I think there are still a lot of points to get, even though it looks very good for us. There’s still a chance for Fernando, I think, so we have to stay on top of our game but to be honest, I think I said on the podium, we’re just having a good time.

“We enjoy the fact that the team is working very well. The car is working… It’s on the edge to be honest, more so than you would probably think from the outside, but it’s obviously nice when you get the results like Singapore or this weekend. To be honest with you, I don’t really care. I look forward to Japan because it’s one of the nicest tracks of the whole season.”

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Nico Hulkenberg: “It’s a mega result for us…”

Nico Hulkenberg was the star of the Korean GP, the Sauber driver taking a superb fourth place after holding off Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso in the closing laps.

Hulkenberg kickstarted his great afternoon by getting up to fifth on the first lap.

“We started seventh but if anything we were looking more to the rear to defend rather than attacking,” he said. “I think it was an almost perfect race for us. We put everything together, we grabbed the opportunities.

“It was tough, really tough, and long and demanding really. I couldn’t really afford any kind of mistake. It was one of these days where we weren’t really expecting that much, but when the opportunity came, we grabbed it. Good passing, the strategy worked out fine.”

Hulkenberg admitted he was worried that his tyres would go off before the end of the race.

“I think the safety car helped us a bit there, both safety cars. On the other hand it brought everybody back together, and my worry at the time was that if we’d fallen off like bananas five laps to the end then I had everybody on my tail. I was worried that all the effort would be for nothing in the end. I think one of the keys today was good traction, and we had a very good top speed, which made the others not get past me.

“I’m very pleased, very happy, it’s a mega result for us, best one of the year actually. So a great team effort.”

Regarding next weekend’s race in Japan he said: “It’s a different circuit. Obviously it’s a high speed track with a lot of flowing corners. It will be difficult – don’t expect this to happen every week now! We’re going to try, but I wouldn’t expect it.”

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Bianchi gets a grid penalty and a bonus reprimand

Jules Bianchi was given a three-place grid penalty for impeding Paul Di Resta in Q1 in Korea – and the FIA stewards decided to throw in a reprimand for good measure.

The penalty only drops the Frenchman from 21st to 22nd, behind team mate Max Chilton, while his second reprimand of the year means that he is now at risk of an equally meaningless 10-place drop should he earn a third reprimand.

The stewards noted that the Marussia driver “was given a radio warning of the approach of car 14 (on a fast lap) but decided to stay on line to start his own lap. The Stewards consider that car 22 could safely have allowed car 14 to pass before starting his flying lap.”

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Fernando Alonso: “It’s true that we’re too slow…”

Fernando Alonso admits that he’s not sure if Ferrari will have enough pace with which to make progress in Sunday’s Korean GP.

Alonso starts fifth at Yeongam, and while he has gained a lot of places in recent races, he believes that it might not be so easy this time.

“We know we have this weak point in the team,” he said. “And we know we have some other strong points, normally on Sunday we do everything perfectly to maximise points. With this kind of performance in four years we fought for the World Championship three times, so it’s something good we do. But it’s true that we’re too slow.

“The race will be long, and apart from the start, whoever has the pace tomorrow, it will be not to difficult to overtake with the two DRS points. The start will not be as crucial as maybe Singapore or whatever, where the positions are more stable. We need to do a good start, that’s for sure, and then we need to keep a pace that today we didn’t have, and yesterday we didn’t have also. Normally on Friday we saw some optimistic pace for Sundays. So, we need to improve things for tomorrow.

“We need to see what pace everybody has. I think also in terms of degradation we need to see. There are some cars that are behind us that are a threat, like Webber, there are the two Saubers that from the time we put the 2012 Pirelli tyres they were out of Q1, and now they are both in Q3. So they were a big switch and a big penalty for Ferrari, and Lotus, and there was a big benefit for some teams. Sauber probably is one big example.

“And we need to see tomorrow, because it’s still very open. We can be in the podium or we can be out of the points, depending on how is the pace in the race. For this we need to prepare really carefully for tomorrow’s race. It’s not so straightforward that on Sunday Ferrari will improve and we will have a good degradation and pass people. It’s not so clear this time, and we need to work very hard.”

Alonso says that at least overtaking is possible here: “If you have the pace it’s not too difficult to overtake, you catch the car in front of you in the first one, and then you attack in the second, it should be not too difficult to pass. It’s good to see some action tomorrow in the race. As I said if you have a quick car tomorrow in the race you can perform really well, and this is one of the things we have to look at. For example Webber starting at the back with the possibilities of overtaking more or less easy here he will be strong in the race.”

However he admits that the first lap could be his best chance.

“It will be one big opportunity for us. The start normally is good. It’s true that here the first corner there is not enough space to really attack, we pass one by one in Turn One, so we will try to attack in Turn Three and Turn Four, there is always some action in the past here. So we’ll see what we can do.”

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