January 2007


Seven out of 11 teams participated in the test session at Valencia today and made progress with their pre-season testing schedule. It was a day of a few usual occurences (bad weather conditions, McLaren engine failure) and few unusual ones (Ferrari -F248 driven by Luca Badoer finished last on the timing sheets). It is not known if Kimi Raikkonen finished 2nd or 5th overall as there were conflicting reports posted on websites – he either did 45 laps and finished 5th or did 47 laps and finished 2nd. Either way, he was more than a second off the McLaren pace set by Fernando Alonso.

The practice session saw 10 red flags during the course of the day, and Alonso had quite the eventful day causing a small percentage of those flags. Initially he understeered into a poor unsuspecting Luca Badoer spinning him into the gravel before setting fastest lap in dry conditions. Fernando Alonso can sometimes get a shade impatient about sharing the race track with fellow pilots and try to dispense with the formality, as Robert Doornbos can surely vouch for. But while Alonso-bashers would like to think that it was a deliberate attempt by Fernando to sabotage the attempts of Luca Badoer to get off the last place in the timing sheet (who was just cruising around in a F248 anyway, to give Kimi some company no doubt), it just looked like a genuine incident…though a fatheaded one at that.

Finally Alonso had to beat a hasty retreat from his car owing to a rare McLaren detonation, with marshals carrying fire extinguishers doing the needful. All in all, poor Kimi Raikkonen couldn’t start on a fast lap without having to slow down for the red flag, and the times he set with the F2007 are quite encouraging for his first appearance. Kimi was his customary eloquent self when questioned about the experience, with a typical “it was nice” and no further elaboration.

Michael Schumacher was not present at the Valencia circuit, much to Mark Webber’s disappointment. An insider reveals that Webber had thought up a couple of other things to say about Michael’s continued association with Ferrari, that would have been a surety to boost his February press visibility. Unfortunately now, it is not to be.

Note: Video taken from YouTube and not uploaded by FFN.

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Rain is expected in Valencia ahead of the mega test session on Tuesday with Ferrari, McLaren, Renault, BMW, Toyota, Honda and Red Bull all participating (Incidentally, it is all bright and sunny in Vallelunga this week). That leaves out just Spyker, Williams, Super Aguiri and STR. Of course, SA and STR have nothing to worry about as long as Honda and Red Bull are testing. Williams and Spyker are too busy protesting customer cars that they haven’t quite had the time to develop their own.

After the disastrous test session that Ferrari had last week with Felipe and Kimi driving roughly five laps a day before finally trashing their respective cars on the last day, they would be hoping to correct things in Valencia. Massa has wisely opted to sit out while Kimi Raikkonen will try out Ferrari’s new challenger for the first time. This session is expected to give a good indication of where the cars stand respective to one another, though Ferrari is confident that with this hard-working new team (below), they stand a very good chance this year.

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Meanwhile, it is that time of the year again when Bernie Ecclestone threatens to axe the Silverstone grand prix. This time around, he is suggesting replacing it with another race in Chicago (last year he was suggesting having no races in USA, now he wants two), and even one in Abu Dhabi. It might be in one of those man-made islands, the only hitch being the islands are just a few feet above sea level. So if the race is held with high tide on a full-moon day, we might need submarines instead of cars. Michael Schumacher will be in Abu Dhabi from Feb 1st to 4th to promote the idea, and it is rumored that he will be offering free helicopter parking in the part of the ‘world’ strategically gifted to him after his retirement last year.

David Coulthard clarified that his earlier statements about Lewis Hamilton were taken out of context. Apparently he did not say Hamilton was too young to be in F1, nor did he say racing in McLaren would destroy his confidence. All Coulthard actually said was that at 22, Lewis Hamilton is two years younger than what he would be at 24. Eureka! We never could have figured that one out, so thanks to DC for that piece of information.

kimiwebber.jpgMeanwhile, Mark Webber has said that if he were Kimi Raikkonen, he would feel ‘suffocated’ by the presence of Michael Schumacher during practice sessions. Kimi Raikkonen in turn has said that only an idiot would not take advantage of Michael’s advisory role in the team. By transitive laws, it would appear that Kimi has just called Webber an idiot, and this kind of proves the suspicion we have had all along about DC’s new teammate. It has perhaps never occured to Webber that F1 pilots need not remain F1 pilots their whole lives, and can sometimes play other roles after retirement.

McLaren might find themselves a star driver short at Melbourne, as Fernando Alonso was recently photographed sipping on a glass of wine during dinner with his fiancee (who had threatened to break up with him if he ordered for fruit juice with steak). It must be remembered that Ron Dennis had issued a ban earlier this month for his drivers to consume alcohol in any form. It is rumored that Gerhard Berger has sent a text message to Alonso offering him a STR race seat just in case. Frank Williams has protested that STR cannot compete in the championship after borrowing its chassis from Red Bull, its engine from Ferrari and its driver from McLaren. We will keep you updated on the developments.

Red Bull launched their new Adrian Newey designed RB3 yesterday, and the car was described by Newey as ‘McLareneque minus engine fireworks’. Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, hailed Newey as the Michael Schumacher of the engineering world, a fitting tribute given the phenomenal records set by his cars – 6 WDCs, 7 WCCs and 100 race wins. Adrian Newey expressed his regrets late last year that he never got to work with Michael, something Bernie Ecclestone is still thanking his lucky stars for, no doubt. One shudders to think what the two might have done together.

cyclecar.jpgInfact Bernie recently revealed to FFNA that the idea did come up a few years back, but he had made it clear that he would allow a Newey-Schumi partnership only under one of the following conditions –

(1) The FIA will allow a partnership between Adrian Newey and Michael Schumacher under the stipulation that Michael should design the car, and Newey should race it, with no inputs from each other. Needless to say, the roles cannot be reversed.

(2) The FIA will allow Adrian Newey to design the car for Michael Schumacher, and Michael to race the same, under the stipulation that it has no engine and operates on manual pedalling.

Apparently they did try out option (2) and Michael set reasonably competitive times, but with the mandatory pitstop clause that FIA added later despite lack of need for refuelling, it was felt that the chances for a world championship were not very bright, eventually forcing them to abandon the idea.

Meanwhile, Gerhard Berger, STR team principal, said he was not very worried about the possibility of not having any car to race for Melbourne, because they might anyway not have drivers either. He also added that he didn’t see why Spyker or Williams should have any complaint about STR using Ferrari engine with Adrian Newey chassis, for as long as they retained Scott Speed and Liuzzi they didn’t stand a chance at being competitive anyway. Spyker and Williams are yet to respond.

drunkkimi.jpgWhen a drunk Kimi Raikkonen slipped on the boat and landed on his head, little did he know that the moment would be captured on video and preserved for posterity. It is perhaps with a mild feeling of reproach that he watches the video on YouTube if at all (though its entertainment value is undeniable). The general opinion seems to be that this image doesn’t quite gel with the sober driven-to-win approach that his predecessor established in the team. On the contrary, Jean Todt (Ferrari CEO) insists that Kimi will do just fine at Ferrari, and that Michael Schumacher was just as liable to do half-baked things sometimes, if not worse. Michael’s penchant for getting into trouble is well known and documented. “Drivers like Michael and Kimi like to do all their talking on the track” explained Todt.

Jean Todt also revealed he might have inadvertantly caused the Monaco parking incident by repeatedly urging Michael on the radio to produce something special that would give the media something new to talk about. He unfortunately forgot to add ‘something positive to talk about’ and in the ensuing confusion, Michael figured parking the car at Rascasse ought to do the trick.

Meanwhile McLaren called off the test at Valencia today owing to bad weather conditions. It is believed that the rainfall might last till end of next week, which probably explains why Ferrari have scheduled their upcoming test session there. It is expected that Kimi will be making his debut with the F2007 next week, if the weather permits it.

massacrash.jpgAfter four miserable days at the Vallelunga circuit near Rome, outsiders would be forgiven for thinking Ferrari failed to achieve anything positive from a test marred by bad weather, mechanical failure and a crash.

Felipe Massa however, has been the revelation of the test, not for sterling drives or for his amazing feedback to the team…but for his ability to see past the rain, the winds and the debris of his F2007.

Massa has been remarkably upbeat while talking to the Italian Media, claiming that despite the bad weather the squad had managed to achieve some work, the car had felt good (presumably before it hit the barrier and not after) and that they felt they were making positive progress.

Luca Colajanni must be in fear of his job in the light of Massa’s revelations, because anyone who can find so much positivity out of such a dreadful turn of events must be either on medication or a media relations genius.

Meanwhile Kimi Raikonnen was seen heading away from the track with a broad grin, presumably because it wasn’t him smashing up the car for once in his career.

Now all Ferrari need to do is employ someone who can read weather reports and they are set for global domination.

lewis.JPGWith the promotion of young talent Lewis Hamilton to a McLaren seat this season, it seems the British F1 Media have ditched their love affair with Honda “Star” Jenson Button.

While Poor Jense was setting out on his maiden laps in his new Honda, the press had largely decamped off to Valencia to watch rookie Hamilton stuff his car into a tyre wall. One can only suppose hacks find a good crash far more exciting than watching a sport where the cars appear to go round in circles for an hour and a half on sunday afternoons. And nothing sells papers like a cock-up does it?

The McLaren team have yet to confirm if Hamilton’s accident was a driver error, or that rare unexpected thing at McLaren called a technical failure.

However McLaren team boss Ron Dennis has decided to be the “knight in shining armour” and vowed to protect young Lewis from the slings and arrows of the media on the condition Hamilton stays away from “Crisps, Chocolate, Women and Booze”.

Kimi Raikonnen must be happily rejoicing in his contract at Ferrari at this point, not only is he allowed to drink “discreetly” (although how you achieve that in Italy as a major sports star one does not know) but he can quite happily tuck into a bag of pork scratchings, peanuts or skips crisps while he down’s his pint of Finlandia Vodka.

Something has to be said from having a reputation as a bit of a miscreant….maybe goody-two shoes Felipe Massa should take note…the press might get off his case a bit if he has a pint or two before he stuffs his car into a wall at Vallelunga.

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