NASCAR

Button in no mood to sympathize with Vettel

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SPA, Belgium (AP)

After clinching his first pole position for three years at the Belgian Grand Prix, Jenson Button was in no mood to feel sorry for defending champion Sebastian Vettel.

While the McLaren driver celebrated his first pole since the Monaco GP in 2009, Vettel had to settle for a lowly 10th place - the second time this season that the German driver finished 10th or lower in qualifying. It is a far cry from last year when Vettel secured a record 15 pole positions and won 10 races.

By comparison, Vettel has only three pole positions and one win so far this season. Asked if he had anything to say to comfort Vettel, Button paused briefly, measuring his words carefully.

''Nothing - I'm not the person to be comforting Sebastian Vettel,'' he said. ''I've started (in a) worse (position) and finished on the podium. It doesn't mean his race is over. We'll still see Sebastian fighting for some good points.''

It was not Vettel's day.

He was also fined $12,576 for an illegal practice start in the pits during the third practice.

But Vettel, who succeeded Button as F1 champion in 2010, is not the type to get too down.

''The laps didn't come together but the car felt good. There was nothing obvious that was wrong,'' he said. ''It's a shame to miss Q3 by such a small margin but that's racing. We've seen in the last races that our car is pretty good, so we will see what we can do.''

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SCHUMACHER'S SOUVENIR: The Mercedes team paid tribute to Michael Schumacher reaching the 300-mark in Grand Prix races by offering him a special souvenir.

Mercedes gave the 43-year-old Schumacher a commemorative front nose of the car with each of his races written out, year by year, starting from 1991.

Schumacher made his debut at the Belgian Grand Prix that year and won the first of his record 91 GPs a year later on the Spa circuit, where he was won six races.

The German driver was also given a large cake in the shape of a race helmet.

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LEWIS LENDS A HAND: Lewis Hamilton has vowed to help Jenson Button win the Belgian Grand Prix on Sunday, even though he is better placed in the overall standings than his McLaren teammate.

The two British drivers get on well, but with Button down in seventh and Hamilton in fourth, the talk heading into Spa had been of Button working to help Hamilton for the rest of the season.

Button responded by saying he had not given up on his own ambitions, proving that with his first pole position since 2009 on Saturday. And Hamilton insists he is ready to help Button clinch his 14th GP win.

''I will try and do as best I can to back Jenson up tomorrow,'' said Hamilton, the 2008 F1 champion. ''I will try to help him score a 1-2 for the team. Still all to play for.''

However, Hamilton felt that his car was inferior to Button's during qualifying.

''Just got back from big engineering meeting after a tough session,'' Hamilton added on his Twitter page. ''Car is not fast enough at the moment but (we) have made some big changes!''

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GEAR BOX TROUBLE: Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg saw their chances of winning the Belgian Grand Prix all but disappear after unscheduled irregularities cost them five grid places each.

Webber has had to replace the gearbox on his Red Bull and the statutory penalty for changing it before the end of its mandatory five-race life is five grid places. This means that Webber, who is second in the overall standings behind Fernando Alonso, starts Sunday's race from 12th place, having finished qualifying in seventh.

This severely hinders Webber's chances of closing the gap on Alonso, who is 40 points ahead of him overall.

''I've known about it (the penalty) for a month,'' Webber said. ''I'm disappointed. We would like to have been higher up the grid to take the sting out of the penalty, but we'll have to see what we can do tomorrow.

''We weren't quick enough and couldn't challenge for the front row today,'' the Australian driver said. ''Clearly we're out of position a little and we have work to do, but the team is a quality operation and we know what hard work is all about.''

Rosberg's gearbox change came after he pulled out early into Saturday's third practice session. He dropped from 18th to 23rd on the grid and has almost no chance of grabbing his second GP win of the season, after his triumph in China.

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