February 2007

The fifth and penultimate day of testing before the new Formula 1 season begins, got underway at the Sakhir Circuit in Sunny Bahrain today.

felipe12.JPGThe timesheets were topped once again by Ferrari’s little Brazilian Felipe Massa, who managed to complete 100 laps (in celebration of FFN’s 100 posts obviously) and posted the fastest time of 1.30.640 seconds, beating McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton by nearly half a second and his own team mate by nearly 9 tenths of a second. Massa was apparently testing the new aerodynamic package that Raikonnen ran with yesterday, so signs for the Scuderia boys are looking encouraging thus far….

Double World Champion Fernando Alonso sat out the session on the pitwall (is F1 back to not being a sport again?), while testing duty fell to fellow Spaniard Pedro De La Rosa. McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton suffered a hydraulic failure in the morning but by afternoon had managed to complete 55 laps.

Poor Felipe was quite emotional to learn of FFN’s 100 post count

Renault performed miracles over night managing to completely rebuild Heikki Kovaleinen’s car in time for the afternoon session, after he spectacularly re-arranged the car design yesterday in a dramatic fisticuffs with the barriers. The rookie Finn managed to post an impressive 6th fastest time of the day despite limited running.

Fortunes at BMW-Sauber seem to have taken a bit of turn recently, yesterday they suffered mechanical problems on Kubica’s car, and today the Polish driver was besieged by two hydraulic problems. Meanwhile the facially-follically challenged Nick Heidfeld had a relatively quiet and trouble free day apart from getting a particularly feisty bratwurst caught in his beard at breakfast.…and had to be carted off to the medical facility to have it removed surgically.

alternative-transport.JPGAt Toyota Ralf Schumacher was back in action on track after throwing a sickie yesterday, presumably realising not many people are interested in his autograph so he might as well actually earn a living instead. Meanwhile his Italian team mate Jarno Trulli (or Truly Awful as I like to call him – I’m kidding Jarno!) having suffered reliability issues all day, ditched the car and found immediately a faster and more reliable way of getting round the circuit. Go Jarno!

Other-wordly hero’s Honda, did not manage any earth shattering display of pace, remaining over 1.5 seconds off of the pace of scoreboard leaders Ferrari. You’d think with Nick Fry’s inter-galactic contacts he might get them something a bit faster with a few “lasers” attached for comedy value…I wonder if the mechanics will be dressed up as little green men?

Highlight of the day goes to Super Aguri and the flu-ridden Takuma Sato who managed to outpace both Toyota and Red Bull’s newest turkey (as designed by Adrian Newey), and all in an interim vehicle….because apparently the FIA crash-test dummies aren’t happy with this years vehicle yet….presumably that means they aren’t happy with Honda’s either?

At Red Bull, David Cubehead Coulthard and Mark Whingebag Webber were over 2.5 seconds off the pace of the leaders and only managed to scrape off the bottom of the test times by beating Toyota’s resident moving chicane Jarno Trulli. Whatever happened to Red Bull gives you wings?

Last day of testing resumes tomorrow, I think I’ll have a vodka or three to celebrate on Kimi’s behalf! Like I need an excuse!

100posts.jpgThis post has nothing to do with Ferrari for once. Nor with F1 coming to think of it. It is just a small and happy (for us) reminder that sugarpuff and I have managed to dish out a 100 posts in the two months since this blog was started, no doubt a lot of you are looking heavenwards and wondering when this nuisance will cease, but the two of us are planning on continuing to ramble for a little more time, our apologies. On a serious note (yes, we do get serious sometimes), thanks to all of you who have taken time to visit this blog and contribute to the hit count. 🙂 Forza Ferrari.

PS: Watch out for the new Profiles page that we will be launching next week containing detailed profiles of key personnel at Ferrari. You might just pick up the odd detail or two you didn’t already know about.

With less than 3 weeks to go before the start of the F1 season, its already hotting up between the two teams believed to be the main championship contenders for the 2007 season, Ferrari and McLaren.

Not content to be outdone in any area by their championship rivals, McLaren have revealed they will be doing something unheard of in its 41 year racing history which will no doubt strike fear into the very heart of Maranello.

What is this secret weapon you ask?…..replica team kits for the fans.

I suspect you’ve probably had to re-read that last line a few times, just to check I’m not off my rocker.

Kimi and Felipe looking cool in their new kit, a look which tifosi will no doubt want to emulate

Yes McLaren have decided to copy their rivals and start producing replica team apparel for their fan base, something unheard before from the Woking based team. Apparently the move is a bid to improve the global image of McLaren and to appeal to a younger audience. And honestly has nothing to do with trying to fleece a few easy Euros out of the fickle Spanish Fernando Alonso supporters who hadn’t a clue what Formula 1 was until last year…and won’t be watching in 3 years time.

“With this new team clothing, we really wanted to bring the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team closer to the fans and what better way to reach them than by clothing them in the teamwear” Ron Dennis McLaren CEO (and the original Mr Grey and Gloomy) commented on the launch.

sexmyclaren2.JPGFirstly, does McLaren actually have any fans to sell the replica kit to? How many fans do you honestly see going around with ‘Forza McLaren’ banners and McLaren Mercedes hats?

Secondly, grey is not by nature a very trendy colour…I just can’t imagine young people looking at them and going ‘oooh I must have that unbelievably dull coloured shirt that looks like it got accidentally dyed by mum in a dark wash cycle’. Grey is not the new Black.

Thirdly, if your trying to improve your global image and appeal to a younger, trendier audience then there is a simpler solution that does not involve some poor 5 year old asian child slaving away 16 hours a day in a sweatshop over reels of grey cloth……
Yes you got it. Get rid of Ron.

Ron Dennis, enough to put anyone off grey for life

The only people who must actually be cock-a-hoop about this new development in the merchandising department must be the two cleaners employed by McLaren who successfully managed to sneak off scot-free with thousands of pounds worth of merchandise last year. They will be rubbing their hands with glee at the prospect of all those sexy free grey shirts…..mmmmmm lovely.

Does Ferrari Sporting Director Stefano Domenicali look a worried man?…I suspect not.

Ferrari team mates Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikonnen showed promising form by topping the time sheets in the 4th day of testing at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain yesterday, beating nearest rival Double World Champion Fernando Alonso by nearly 6 tenths of a second. And all in a car, which has been considered a bit of a gaffe since its launch (according to those in the know, down the pit lane).

Felipe Massa continued to dominate his team mate in testing despite the Kimster having a new aerodynamic package on his car. Obviously the crate of Vodka in the back of the Flying Finn’s car is creating adverse handling problems while cornering; maybe Race Engineer Chris Dyer would be best advising Kimi to stick to the usual ballast and leave his ‘life supporting giggle juice’ at home.

Ferrari Head of Track of Operations, Luca Baldisserri looking chirpy about testing performance….as per usual…looks like he could use a Vodka…

Both McLaren and BMW-Sauber continued to show impressive form, with McLaren drivers Alonso and Hamilton finishing the day in 3rd and 5th positions respectively. BMW driver Kubica finished 4th despite his day being marred by mechanical problems.

The unexpected highlight of the day came when Renault Rookie Heikki Kovaleinen did what we have all wanted to do since the car was launched, making a neat job of rearranging the paintwork in a pretty hefty shunt into the barrier at the Sakhir Circuit. Too bad he hadn’t got the car paint design team strapped to it at the time…better luck next time.

Heikki Kovaleinen hits the barrier and saves our eyeball’s from certain doom

Rumour has it that the crash caused sufficient damage to delay Renault’s test programme in Bahrain, even with the mechanics working flat out to repair the damage it is unlikely the vehicle will be ready until this afternoon. With one driver out of action and the other about as much use as a chocolate teapot in front of a blast furnace, Renault’s test programme in Bahrain is looking like it could be seriously compromised. Still by Australia the team will no doubt have chosen their number 1 driver and one has to wonder will there be tears before bedtime for Giancarlo Fisichella?

Meanwhile at Toyota, Ralf Schumacher has been replaced by test driver Franck Montagny after Ralf hurt his back slightly sliding over the kerbs and decided to throw a sickie for the day. Rumour has it Ralf took the day off to practice his autograph now he is no longer “the other Schumacher” you never know it might come in useful one day….

Elsewhere someone might need to point out to Honda that having the image of the world on your car does not have any causal effect on your chances of winning the “world championship”. Team Principal Nick Fry is under the illusion that Honda will be winning races in 2007 despite showing very average pace in testing….does he know something we don’t?

Planet Earth calling Nick…..Nannoo, Nannoo. Is Nick Fry actually an alien imposter? ….the shifty eyes, the strange statements, the ever permanent evil grin….

Be afraid he has come to take over the planet!

Testing resumes later today at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain Earthlings…..tune in or be assimilated.

Despite being ardent supporters of the Maranello based company, the tifosi don’t always see eye-to-eye with Ferrari’s insistence on utmost secrecy when not really required – it is widely felt the top honchos at Ferrari need frequent reminders that they are just running a darned F1 team and not some international espionage service. And there are those cryptic soundbites that are thrown out from time-to-time that sends the entire F1 community into a tizzy trying to figure what they possibly could have meant (Jean Todt: “Those are my three favorite drivers on the podium”, Michael Schumacher: “If I continue, I will be with Ferrari mostly“). Not to mention the endless speculation that entails – like it is the plot of an upcoming Harry Potter book.

We hate to say this, but this is perhaps one (and the only) department where they can pick up a point or two from McLaren. I mean, Fernando Alonso signed a contract with McLaren in December 2005, and the ink had hardly dried before Ron Dennis cornered the nearest chap who looked like he might be a journo and let him have the scoop. It is rumored that Ferrari might have signed their contract with Kimi Raikkonen as far back as August 2005, but did they let their vast multitude of well-wishers know? Not a chance, not before taking a goodish year about it and letting it develop into one of those great mysteries they make documentaries about – will Kimi drive for Ferrari? Will he drive for Renault? Perhaps stay back in McLaren? What the deuce is Michael planning to do? Wait a minute, Michael is going to Renault? Is Michael retiring? That can’t be right – Kimi is retiring end of 2006? Are we going to have any drivers at all? If a sizeable population of Ferrari supporters are balding or bald already, you know who it is to blame.

Is it so hard really to say “Our technical director Ross Brawn has opted to take a year off and go fishing instead, so we are a bit in the soup and looking for alternatives. We will keep you posted”? Now that is a good press release. Or “Michael is being a pain-in-the-neck and does not really know what to do, but we have signed Kimi Raikkonen already. We will let you know the rest when Michael decides”. Concise and to the point. Or more recently, “We asked Michael to be team boss, and he had a hearty laugh about it. We don’t think he agrees it is a good idea, but we will let you know either way”.

jtkidding.jpgSchumi: Yeah right! Team boss now, what next?

Luca Colajanni dismissed it as ‘nonsense’, now Todt says he will be delighted if it happened. After a spate of rumors linking Michael to the top job have been dealt with and dismissed by all concerned parties, and after FFN has concluded that there are four team bosses at Ferrari currently taking turns, Jean Todt has decided to stir up the pot a little by saying “I would be delighted if Michael came up to me and said being a team boss is the next step in his career”. We don’t know what you think, but to us that certainly sounds like there is a vacancy for the post – otherwise why in heavens would Jean Todt be ‘delighted’? So does that mean Ross Brawn is not coming back? What happened to Stefano Domenicali? Are the McLaren rumors true after all? Is this what Michael wants? Ah, there we go again.

It is tragic is what it is. They took this beautiful piece of machinery on the left, and transformed it to this on the right. The only thing that is stopping us at FFN from picking up the phone and dashing off a call to the ‘Society for Prevention of Cruelty to (defenseless) F1 cars’ bureau is the cause Honda is espousing. Still when Max Mosley spoke of his vision to turn F1 green, we don’t think he meant it in the literal sense – there is such a thing called speaking figuratively, you know. And it is also tough to understand how a car that looks like a world map will increase global awareness of environmental issues – I mean we have all seen the world atlas before, haven’t we? Did they do any study that linked the world atlas sales with ozone layer depletion? Some research that proves that the constant sight of the world map makes people more environment friendly perhaps?


Oh yes, you can pledge your devotion to solving environmental issues and Honda will add a pixelated version of your name to the car that can be seen with the microscope, and they will put the name in their website as well. Considering most of the general public can’t get close enough to a F1 car, leave alone peer at millions of pixels through the microscope leisurely hoping to identify their names on it – it is felt Honda would have been best adviced to just stick to the website part of the idea and to have given the car a decent livery instead. Well, just so long as this contraption sticks to revolving around the race track and doesn’t start rotating or spinning on its axis, Jenson Button and Rubens Barichello will not be complaining.

Young Felipe Massa has changed his mind again. He still thinks BMW is looking good, but says “in my opinion, the best looking team at the moment is McLaren”. He also outlines what is thought to be a slightly wierd policy when he says “It doesn’t matter if we are a second ahead or a second behind in testing, the only thing that matters is we are there”. Really? If only we had known this earlier at FFN, we sure wouldn’t have wasted all this space analyzing test performances and writing daily test reports. 

 Felipe had a few nice words to say about the super-assistant though – “Michael did an incredible job in all areas, he is the most complete driver I have ever known and I tried to learn as much as I could from him”. He also added that he has ‘earned the respect of the Ferrari team’, which is very well deserved we are sure. Forza Ferrari.

Toyota is in the news again…and no, they didn’t pinch Ferrari’s design blueprints this time. They have recently stated that they are going to “turn their focus to performance” – which is a little odd really if you think about it, makes you wonder what they have been focussing on all along. The team is the highest spender in Formula 1 currently, and they unfortunately don’t have much to show for it. They are apparently paying a small fortune to retain the services of Ralf Schumacher…no offense to Ralf but we have always wondered if Toyota were under the impression that they were signing the other Schumacher when they negotiated with Willi Weber. You can almost imagine the rude shock on Tsutomu Tomita’s face when he got around to reading the first name on the signed contract (“You mean we just signed Ralf Schumacher for 20 million dollars a year for five years?!! Not Michael?”). Oh well, ‘Wily’ Webber must have a jolly good laugh about it on his way to the bank to cash his 20%.

schumilaugh.jpgSTR is coming in for a lot of criticism for the way they announced Scott Speed as their driver – in a press release filled with puns about Scott’s last name. They obviously thought they were being funny (we thought it was funny too), and we really empathize with STR here, but they must remember the paddock is filled with people who can’t understand a good joke, leave alone laugh at it. When Michael Schumacher attempted to induce some humor into the proceedings by parking his car at Monaco last year, it was misunderstood as a deliberate ploy to rob Fernando Alonso of his pole position. And now why would Michael want pole position when he has won most of his races in Monaco from 2nd position on the grid, and has retired almost every time he was on pole? Not even the fact that he was dressed in an orange race suit with huge yellow stars on it could convince the stewards that he was doing it for a laugh. As we said, humorless chappies these. Kimi Raikkonen would agree for sure, considering all the raised eyebrows he caused after his comments on live television in Brazil ’06 (You know to what I ‘allude’, as Mark Blundell would say). 

Finally, Super Aguiri are in a bit of trouble…they don’t have a car. Well, they had one, but it failed the crash test, and with accusations that they are going to be running the same car as Honda, they probably thought it wise to let STR deal with all the heat about customer cars right now – safely waiting till Friday practice in Melbourne to launch their car. They will be running their interim car in Bahrain this week though, if it manages to pass the second crash test. Anthony Davidson and Takumo Sato could not be reached for comments.

Throughout the long winter months, Formula 1 addicts avidly scour the internet looking for the latest news and information regarding the sport they love. They meet in forums and chatrooms to discuss the latest car designs, the test results, what the weather is doing, how many engines Kimi can blow up in one season and how many double cheese burgers Juan Pablo Montoya can eat in a row now he has skipped off to Nascar….but all is fairly happy anticipating the start of the F1 merry-go-round again.

Once in a while though, something untoward happens. A journalist or event exposes something earth shattering, something unbelievable, something that makes us question everything we have ever been told…..that something happened today.


No doubt this will all come as a complete shock and embarrassment to the Maranello based team who have obviously been under the misguided illusion all these years that they were paying Rory Byrne and Aldo Costa to design their F1 cars, whilst paying Brawn to be Technical Director and for Jean Todt to return the team to winning ways. Well that’s what they had been telling us.

However, this shocking revelation would partly explain why the Italian teams’ rivals seem to think Ferrari have got their car design so wrong this season, now that Brawn has taken a year out on sabbatical. The F2007 has a longer wheelbase than most of the other F1 cars lining up for Melbourne, which has caused more than a few raised eyebrows down the pit-lane.

Rumour has it Ferrari CEO Jean Todt was most displeased at reading the report (plenty of time for reading tabloids when your a fake boss you know!) and popped round to Rory’s Office to find out what he had actually been doing since 1997.

ferrarilegoman.JPG On opening the door he was confronted with a tidal wave of Lego that swept the Frenchman off his feet, twenty feet down the corridor and picking a Ferrari Lego Mechanic out of his ear…giving the supposed Design Consultant Rory and Chief Designer Aldo a chance to disappear out the back door and make good their escape.

Meanwhile Super-Assistant, Car-tester, Gardening Expert and Driver Mentor Michael Schumacher has gone into hiding lest a clever clued up journalist manages to expose him….as he’s been getting paid a merry fortune to drive the darned vehicle the last 11 years but actually he had been skipping off to play backgammon and letting the cleaning lady do the driving instead.

It would seem with those F1 hacks about no skeletons are safe in Ferrari’s closet.

Toyota had a wierd problem today – they ran out of fire extinguishers (honest, we are not making it up this time). It is reported that for safety reasons they tried to borrow some from the neighboring McLaren garage, but obviously they chose the wrong garage – with McLaren needing all the fire extinguishers around to put out smoking engines. Yes, they had one of those today with Lewis Hamilton’s car expiring shortly after lunch, though in McLaren’s defense it was probably an expected engine blowup with a lot of miles on it. Toyota is having some new fire extinguishers flown in overnight.

Honda we know will be revealing their new livery on Monday, but it has been revealed that this livery will reflect Honda’s “commitment to environmental awareness”. It is feared that the colors will be shades of green and blue like that of the earth, and with Renault looking like the darned rainbow, it is going to be one scenic grid this season. It is not known if the combined effect will be enough to persuade viewers to switch off their television sets, but Bernie Ecclestone ought to be worried.

Scott Speed has finally been confirmed by STR today. An insider reveals that the reason for the delay in confirming him was lack of enthusiasm from Speed to participate in an analysis of his weaknesses, apparently he felt it should accompanied with an analysis of weaknesses of the car itself. Scott Speed celebrated his confirmation by finishing last in the timesheets today.

schumibike.jpgMichael Schumacher can start thinking of making a comeback now, because we think everyone is done giving him retirement gifts – the latest of which is this custom made Harley-Davidson presented by the Ferrari clientele (source: news.windingroad.com). Well if they can afford to buy vintage Ferrari racing cars, one suspects this wouldn’t have made a big dent in their collective bank accounts…and despite the rather loud red paint it certainly looks better than a similar custom made bike Kimi Raikkonen was photographed with last year. Of course the Dubai crown prince might have stolen their thunder a bit by gifting Schumi a small island against which anything pales in comparison, but given Michael’s penchant for collecting HDs, this should certainly be appreciated.

The third day of pre-season testing at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain, was a pretty quiet low key affair for the boys from the Scuderia.

Spectators at Sakhir discussing the finer points of the day’s action

The day began partly cloudy and partly sunny with warm temperatures, however within an hour the first red flag was out. Scuderia Torro Rosso driver Scott Speed got off to a fantastic start so shortly after resigning contracts with the STR team by spinning the car and narrowly avoiding hitting a tyre wall. The car was undamaged, however it remains to be seen if the American’s eardrums remain intact from the pit to car radio.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikonnen and Felipe Massa carried out long run tests on the Ferrari Engine, and managed to cover more than double race weekend distance including pitstops, different car set-ups and testing different components without Kimi disappearing off to a local bar for a glass or three of rose-water.

McLaren duo Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton topped the time sheets today, with the World Champion only managing to beat his rookie team-mate by one tenth of a second. The Kimster and his Brazilian sparring partner, were seven tenths behind the leading duo.

Neither team managed to complete their programmes without the odd gremlin in the works. Kimi’s car suffered a gearbox failure on exiting the pitlane (it wasn’t him who broke it honestly!), Lewis Hamilton suffered a rare McLaren engine failure and Fernando Alonso had to stop out on track when oil started dripping out of the floor of his MP-22…well if he will take to cooking Paella as he goes round….

The Kimster: another stroll back to the garage…he is no stranger to that

They can all breathe a huge sigh of relief though as winter testing surprise favourites BMW, also had a few technical gremlins today. Nick Heidfeld’s engine blew up after lunchtime and Robert Kubica also had to have his engine changed due to an oil-line problem.

Red Bull’s David Coulthard managed to finish the day in 8th, while antipodean pit-lane drama queen Mark Webber finished 14th presumably still carping about the tight fitting seat in his RB3 (technical tip: try leaving the handbag at home Mark there will be more room in the cockpit.)

Testing resumes on tuesday next week at the Sakhir circuit, stay tuned.

nicholascage.JPG In other news, Hollywood Legend Nicholas Cage is reportedly interested in making a movie about motor racing after attending the Daytona 500. Cage did not confirm whether the film would concentrate on Le Mans, Daytona, Formula One or all three. Given the outfit perhaps Nicholas Cage would make a good job of playing Michael Schumacher’s wardrobe in an F1 film….

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