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Motorsport

With the world focussed on sports that where men play with balls, we'd rather focus on one where you need them (at least figuratively). If it doesn't have an engine, it's not here.

Sebastian Vettel, F1's spoiled brat, had tears in his eyes as he got a hug from Ferrari Team Principal Maurizio Arrivabene. For his part, Arrivabene, already subject to some kind of gagging order from his bosses, has some explaining to do and he'd better come up with something better than his last excuse: a third party delivered sub-standard components and the team didn't notice before they failed. But it might be that the real reason that things are going tits up for the German driver are more intangible than the latest official reason of a failing spark plug. Renault and Torro Rosso are being taught a lesson, too. Welcome to the mystical East.

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There are simply no superlatives left: the race around the public roads around Mount Panorama is perfect. From the fly-pasts to Deltra Goodrem showing that National Anthems at sporting events don't have to be cringe-worthy demonstrations of ego to the fact that races that last 1000km around a circuit that is, on a good day, dangerous and, this year, beyond that, are decided by, usually, at most seconds and, often fractions of a second, to the tear-jerking losses and outsider wins this is the consummate racing event. And then there's the party and the partisan crowd. Mercedes turned their back on the series, so have Volvo although the reasons for that are different, whipped by the perennial battle between Ford and Holden, a battle made all the more poignant by the decisions by both companies to withdraw manufacturing from Australia and support from Aussie motorsport.

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It didn't rain. Vettel's tech problems in qualifying put him at the back of the grid (and tech problems put Raikkonen out on the grid) and he drove brilliantly, without bullying or cheating, to challenge for third (but then he reverted to type and behaved like an idiot after the race had finished: does he have a heavy left hand, or poor peripheral vision on his left?), Hamilton came second sandwiched between the Red Bulls, Verstaapen, on his 20th birthday weekend, won. This is what F1 is all about, the best racing on the best track in the world. And now, with a heavy heart, it's time to report that F1 in Malaysia is over.

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Let's be clear: I've lived in Malaysia, I love Malaysia, I'd like to live there again. It's a wonderful country full of absolutely lovely people (with a few crazy exceptions) and in the ten years I lived there it began to restore its fortunes as a regional leader, a position it had somehow lost in the 1980 until the mid 1990s. Amongst its crowning achievements was the astonishing Sepang circuit. But, due to a succession of errors of judgement, this amazing place managed to lose its pole position as the regional home of motor racing, surrendering without a fight to newcomer Singapore which doesn't even have a track but has a can-do, will-do attitude that seems to have completely eluded the Malaysian authorities. The reasons, it saddens me to say, are plain to see and are a mix of the neglectful and the deliberate. Things have become so bad that I'm in Malaysia but I'm not going to the race.. read on to find out why I and many more will miss the final (ever?) F1 in Malaysia.

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It's easy to blame Sebastian Vettel for so many incidents, especially where he collides with another car. He's a horrible person and he's aggressive when he shouldn't be. But for once, although he was highly aggressive in the first corner of this year's Singapore Grand Prix, and he caused a crash which took out his team-mate Raikkonen, Verstappen and Alonso and himself and put Hamilton into the lead, it wasn't entirely his fault.

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While many recognised the successes of Michael Schumacher, he was never a hero to generations: his achievements were simply a target while those of e.g. Clarke, Senna and a handful of others were as much a matter of folk-lore as numbers. These, like Jenson Button and Filipe Massa had drawn adoration, even love. Lewis Hamilton currently holds pretty much every record there is to hold in Formula One but the status of icon eludes him. How come?

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Leaving aside Vettel's dangerous driving and the stewards' lenient treatment of that, the 2017 Azerbaijan Grand Prix was a genuine classic with some inspired driving by several drivers and some surprising results.

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Let's be clear about one thing: if a normal person deliberately drives his car into the car of another driver, he goes to jail. How, then, does Vettel get away with an insignificant penalty plus three points on his licence (that will have little or no effect due to points due to expire soon) for exactly that action. The FIA needs to review the Azerbaijan stewards' decision, retrospectively cancel Vettel's points from Baku and impose a meaningful and immediate ban of, say, three races. Also, he should be penalised for causing a collision when he ran into the back of Lewis Hamilton's Mercedes causing extensive damage.

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This might just be the shortest motorsport article ever. Can it even reach past the "Read More" link onto a full page?

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If you are a fan of motor racing, don't bother with yesterday's Monaco Grand Prix. An utterly dull procession for almost the entire event was punctuated only by odd-ball happenings and intrigue. If you are a conspiracy theorist and find humour in the oddest places, there might be something for you. But first, this telephone call from Fernando Alonso waiting to drive in the Indy 500 to Button, in the car on the way down the pit lane to his own, personal, lonely, starting line.

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Some people think Jenson Button is just doing a contractual obligation race because he's possibly the most relaxed man, woman or child in the entire paddock. Hell, sans alcool, he may just be the most relaxed person in Monaco. Does that mean he's dozing off? Not at all: the consummate racing professional is back, and with it McLaren's best brand ambassador. Just don't mention Honda...

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Valentino Rossi's week has borne promise, then failure then near possible catastrophe. Thank God it's Saturday and a new week starts tomorrow.

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Nicky Hayden, the 2006 MotoGP champion is in serious condition after being involved in a road accident near Rimini on the Italian Riviera.

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I've had to watch a recording of yesterday's race before I could write a fair piece. And that's because, twice, I fell asleep during the race. At least with a recording, when I fell asleep again, I could go back and see the parts I missed. There has not been such a race of nothingness for .. well, since Bahrain 2010. Seriously.

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Russian President Putin, who it is generally accepted was at least instrumental in the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines MH17 seems to think it's OK to bash the South East Asian country. His comments to a driver for team the name-sponsor of which is a Malaysian oil company, demonstrated an astonishing lack of sensitivity: is he simply callous or is he trying to inflame passions?

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