Rear View Mirror: Turkey

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While the Formula One world (and the television feed) was fixated on the battle between Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher for second place at the Petrol Ofisi Turkish Grand Prix, Felipe Massa was quietly proving that he belonged with those at the top of the field.

Massa, who is currently on a one-year driving contract with Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, scored his first career pole and victory this weekend at the Istanbul Park Circuit - clearly showing he was in a class by himself as the two championship rivals battled behind him.

With the victory, Massa did what seemed impossible just a few months ago: make Ferrari rethink their driver lineup for 2007.

As Formula One teams begin to announce their lineups for next season, it has been widely speculated that the Italian outfit was set to build a "super-team" with both Schumacher and soon-to-be free agent driver Kimi Raikkonen.

At the beginning of the season, this seemed to be a quite logical option as Massa was not performing to Ferrari's standards - scoring just four points in the first three races and holding an average finish of 12th in that span.

Since then, however, Massa has been on a tear as he has finished outside the points just twice in eleven races, scoring five podium finishes and a victory. Outside of performing well for himself, his results have catapulted Ferrari to just two points behind Renault F1 Team for the coveted Constructor's Championship with only four races remaining this season.

"Tonight I have a feeling he is a new champion," said Team Principal Jean Todt. "For me it is good to judge a driver when they are not winning. To judge somebody when you have some problems is probably more demanding, but more rewarding as well."

"I confirm that I always had the feeling that Felipe was a very talented driver. That is why we contracted him a few years ago and we are very happy to have him with us."

As the Brazilian driver proved this weekend, Ferrari may already have the "super-team" they are looking for.

Vettel Turns Heads
While Saturday and Sunday was all about Ferrari's Felipe Massa, Friday's first two practice sessions introduced the world to 19-year old Sebastian Vettel - who made quite a splash at the Istanbul Park Circuit.

Vettel, who just a few days earlier was announced as the third driver for BMW-Sauber at Turkey, became the youngest driver to take part in a F1 Grand Prix at the age of 19 years and 53 days.

His age wasn't the reason why all the eyes at Turkey were on him however.

Even with 29 drivers setting times in Friday's second practice session, including World Champions Michael Schumacher and Fernando Alonso, Vettel lapped the circuit in 1:28.091 - tops on the day.

His performance was impressive enough that inside the paddock it was being speculated that he would be the third driver for the next stop at Monza, with more events possible depending on that performance.

Not all the news this weekend was positive for the young man, however, as he achieved a record of sorts as he was fined 9 seconds into his debut by race stewards for speeding on pit lane by 4 kilometers per hour.

If Vettel continues to impress as he did this past weekend, the $1,000 fine he received will look like chump change compared to the money he will make in Formula One.

Speed, Liuzzi Set to Keep Seats
With so many possibilities remaining in the driver's market, nobody's seat is secured for 2007 until an official announcement is made by their respective team.

While not definitive, Scuderia Toro Rosso Team Principal Gerhard Berger feels his team will be announcing no changes for next season as they plan to keep both Vitantonio Liuzzi and American Scott Speed

"Well, I think we are going to stay with the drivers as we are. It's not finally decided but we are quite happy with both of them. They are both young, they are both inexperienced, Tonio a little bit further than Scott but still both very green," said Berger in Friday's Team Principal press conference. "I think, under these circumstances, they are doing quite a good job, a little bit up and down but normal for young drivers who we think will be a bit more stable next year, they are going to give us back something that they learned this year and I think it's worth staying with the drivers as we are."

On the Horizon
The next Formula One race is set to take place on Sept. 10 at the 5.793 km Autodromo Nazionale Monza. The Italian Grand Prix will be race 15 of 18 on the 2006 FIA Formula One World Championship schedule.

Aside from action on the track, keep an eye out for a multitude of expected announcements as various members of Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro have hinted throughout the season that Monza would be the site where they would announce their plans for 2007 and beyond. Should Schumacher and Co. make their intentions known at the team's home event, expect the rest of the 2007 driver's puzzle to take shape shortly thereafter.

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Sunday, November 24, 2013

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