April 2007


kimigoforwardmate.jpgFerrari’s Kimi Raikkonen posted the fastest time of 1.21.195s in testing today at the Circuit De Catalunya near Barcelona in Spain, proving that Ferrari Technical Director Mario Almondo is not to be trifled with even if he does look grey, boring and slightly friendless.

Well actually that’s not strictly the truth, Ralf Schumacher actually set the fastest time of the day of 1:20.479s. But unfortunately skipping the odd chicane here and there does not go down well with your pitlane rivals, unless your name is Takuma Sato, in which case skipping the odd chicane is probably safer for all concerned.

Talking of which, the diminutive Japanese star of Super Aguri finished the timesheets for the day surprisingly in second place which must be a bitter blow to McLaren, Honda, Toyota, Williams, BMW-Sauber, Renault, Spyker and just about everyone else who assumed they were closely following behind the Ferrari. Apparently Super Aguri were testing new aerodynamic and gearbox upgrades…and one has to wonder at this pace, if in fact we will all be eating our Ferrari caps in astonishment when they win a race (mind you at that price can we afford to?). Or was it that old age F1 chestnut where everyone was ‘sandbagging?’.

mclarenfrontwing.jpgMcLaren were the talking point of the day and not only for having a slightly silly looking new front wing. No doubt half the field will be rushing back to their hotels tonight to try and replicate the new McLaren wing on their simulation programmes (what an exciting life they lead) only for it to probably be banned next week by the FIA.

The absence of McLaren’s two drivers Fernando ‘I’m the World Champion Here’ Alonso and Lewis ‘ITV Love Child’ Hamilton, was also notable. If rumours are correct, Lewis is back home in Stevenage playing with his Lego, Action Man and practicing his starts on his Playstation, while his Double World Champion team-mate is off assasinating any media hack within a thousand miles that brings up the subject of his slightly-toothy-ever-so-nice-humble-as-pie-must-win-a-race-soon Lordship.

Duty then for McLaren fell to Pedro Of The Rose, who completed 101 laps finishing 0.712 seconds off the pace. According to McLaren, Alonso will take over testing tomorrow, that’s if he can take time off from sticking pins in his new voodoo doll ‘Louie’ and throwing ‘Nobody loves me’ tantrums.

Ralf Schumacher managed to rack up a credible fourth place for the day, ahead of BMW-Saubers Quick Nick Heidfeld…no doubt the fear of losing his seat to a wookie has spurred the German ‘Other Schumacher’ into action. Apparently the Toyota has undergone some dramatic aerodynamic and bodywork modifications…no sign yet of more red paint or any Marlboro stickers…so ex Ferrari employees can breathe a sigh of relief tonight. And I’m left wondering why if Ralf is in the top 3 drivers, did he only get fourth spot? I may have only miraculously got a ‘C’ grade in Maths…..but…..

BMW-Sauber have also come to Barcelona with upgrades to their car, which team Boss Mario Theissen (and he is a Mario with that moustache) believes will bring the team much closer to the front runners Ferrari and McLaren. After the excitement of driving on the ‘Nordschleife’ at the Nurburgring, poor Nick Heidfeld was brought back down to earth with a bump and had to put in a days testing several new car components instead of thrashing it hell for leather and having his beard whipping round his ears.

Rubens Barrichello showed a slight improvement in form for Honda, finishing in sixth place albeit 1.46 seconds off the pace of Ferrari’s Flying Finn. However, it is too early to say whether this is because Honda have actually managed to finally get to grips with their ‘Earth Nightmare’ or because no-one else was really trying all that hard.

Nelson Piquet Junior was seventh for Renault, however the previous World Champions do not appear to have made any major aerodynamic upgrades to their car despite trailing Ferrari, McLaren and BMW-Sauber. Apparently well placed insider’s commenting that we should not expect anything different from previous races, which means Kovaleinen inspecting the grass verges as often as a school caretaker and Fisichella teaching us all slightly naughty words we didn’t know before courtesy of his team radio.

Vitantonio Liuzzi managed eighth place on the timesheets for Scuderia Torro Rosso, and had a very quiet day, surprising everyone with the fact he didn’t once bring out the safety car. Suffice to say the shock of it all has meant Team Boss Gerhard Berger has had to go lie down in a dark room to recover.

David Coulthard, F1’s resident Mr.Magoo secured ninth spot in his almost identical but different paint job car, the Red Bull….luckily Williams driver Alex Wurz was nowhere in sight and Toyota’s engineers kept hidden safely in the garage, so there was no need for former 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher to pop up and start preaching road safety….just yet.

slightlydentedspyker.jpgSpyker test driver Adrian Valles returned to action, and nicely parked the orange monstrosity into the barriers at turn 5…our only gripe he didn’t make a better ‘write off’ of it…what a disappointment after Christian Albers. Van Der Garde was also testing for Spyker, but two seconds off the time of the pacesetter…which goes to show if you spend too much time bickering like children over a pack of smarties your never going to build a better car.

Testing resumes at Barcelona tomorrow weather permitting, where we will see if Kimi Raikkonen can stay awake for two days in a row, if Alonso can manage to keep his car away from dangerous falling lighting pods and if Chewbacca’s beard is any longer than today. Gripping.

Today the F1 teams are in Barcelona Spain, embarking on the first of three days of testing in the run up to the Spanish Grand Prix on May 13th. With bad weather expected on Tuesday, it is thought the test will be extended to include Thursday as well.

Ahead of the testing, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has been hopeful the Maranello squad will find some improvements for the Spanish Grand Prix. It is expected there will be some upgrades coming on the F2007 for the first time since the start of the season, in an attempt to keep the Ferrari team on terms with their rivals and Ron Dennis off the podium platform (we can but hope and pray).

coldkimi.jpgAccording to rumour, Kimi Raikkonen will be allowed out of the Maranello trophy cabinet today on good behaviour to carry out testing duties.

Technical Director Mario Almondo apparently insisting on having an electronics system installed in Kimi’s car whereby if the Finn falls asleep a warning light will flash up on Race Engineer Chris Dyer’s Monitor. It is thought then that an electric shock and a blast of cold air will be dispensed immediately out of the Kimster’s steering wheel.

On being asked what he thought of the new system Kimi nonchalantly replied “It is ok, I can use for chilling my vodka and roll mops”. So it will be interesting to see just how spiky Kimi’s hair appears when he gets out of the car this afternoon. Of course here at FFN we will keep you updated as testing progresses.

Meanwhile elsewhere hapless former Ferrari employee Mauro Iacconi who was last week convicted by a court in Modena of Industrial Espionage, is this week protesting his innocence. The dizzy dolt who half-inched a CD ROM with technical drawings, data and files on his way out the door from Ferrari to Toyota claims that the data he stole was too old to be of use to man nor beast, and certainly would not be relevant to apply to a recent car design.

swag.gif“It’s true that the Toyota TF103 looked like a copy of the F2002, also because of its red colour, but it’s normal for F1 cars to resemble the winning machine,” Iacconi was quoted as saying by Gazzetta dello Sport.

“In the trial, my last aerodynamic chief at Maranello, Nick Tombazis, defended me by highlighting the fact that the Ferrari parts found in the CD-ROM were obsolete and unusable, so there was no point copying them”. Which just goes to prove what an idiot the man is ….if your going to steal something and subsequently get caught and in trouble for it, you might as well take a few seconds to check your actually taking the latest technological data and not someone’s Abba greatest hits CD.

“Who knows, maybe the whole point of the accusation was to put a stop to the brain drain from Ferrari.” Iacconi claims, although quite where he gets the idea that Ferrari are lamenting the loss of such a great mind when the hapless fool can’t even steal relevant data is beyond me.

The unlucky Italian apparently started work on building his own wind tunnel before the trial began, but had to give up working on it while the court case ensued. Now that he has received his suspended sentence there is nothing to suggest he can’t continue with his wind tunnel. I’m sure given Honda’s trouble working out their own they would willing queue up to use Iacconi’s in the hope the light fingered thief might do them a favour and spirit away their supermarket trolley of a RA107.

rossbrawn.jpgOver in jolly old England, former Ferrari Technical Director and Official Fish Worrier Ross Brawn has popped up out of the blue, which will no doubt start tongues wagging and send the German Press into a story writing frenzy about Ross’s latest job offer.

According to the Motorsports Media, Ross attended an evening event at Woburn Abbey in Bedfordshire with the Motorsports Industry Association where he was the guest speaker. One can only guess at what pearls of wisdom he had to offer, but I’m hazarding that it involved some tips on how to string half of F1 along in the hope of securing your services.

Rumour has it that Ross is still in talks with Honda about taking up a possible role with them in 2008. Which no doubt has Ferrari CEO and little pitbull Jean Todt gnashing his teeth and selling off his mother on Ebay to stump up enough cash to keep Brawn on the payroll.

You may be thinking that finally your luck is in and that here at FFN we have paused for breath and stopped gabbling away about a load of old rubbish….

…However we can assure you this reprieve is only temporary, with FerrariFan off on holiday and having suffered an unfortunate fracture to my typing arm…I’m hoping to have mastered the art of typing by monday and will be back to witter on non-stop in true Flavio Briatore style…

Enjoy the peace while it lasts. Forza Ferrari.

athingofbeauty.jpg

sugarpuff x

You have to really wonder what is in the water supply over at Toyota. With Ralf Schumacher coming to the end of his contract with the team this year, and having not really achieved a whole lot with his supermarket trolley, you’d think they would be looking to the younger generation of drivers to take the team forward.

nickheidfeld1.jpgOne such young driver who’s name has been bandied about in association with the Cologne based team is Quick Nick Heidfeld who is currently driving for BMW-Sauber, who has been very impressive so far this season….and I’m not just talking about his beard growth rate.

However, today Toyota F1 team boss John Howett has dismissed the speculation that Heidfeld could switch from BMW-Sauber to Toyota at the end of the season. “Heidfeld is nothing more than a decent midfield driver” claimed Howett, “We would not improve ourselves by signing him”.

Well really, I’m beginning to wonder what sort of warped reality Toyota live in, firstly claiming that Ralf Schumacher is one of the three best drivers in F1….despite his penchant for driving around in the bottom half of the grid for the vast majority of the time. And now Quick Nick is just an average midfield driver, who consistently so far this season has managed to outscore both of the Toyota pairing with his hands tied behind his back.

Just going to prove really that Toyota like to chuck good money after bad and really don’t know their bottoms from their elbows. Former Toyota boss Norbert Kreyer confirming what we had suspected all along that John Howett signed Schumacher mostly because of his name, unfortunately the Toyota boss is still failing to grasp the fact he signed the wrong one….and keeps wondering why the shiny pots aren’t coming in.

Another team struggling to know their left foot from the right, and getting their wellies on completely wrong is Honda. However, they finally have come to the realisation (and not before time) that it’s no good letting your best technical staff go in favour of employing your best mates, when really they haven’t got a foggiest which end of an F1 car is which.

To which end Honda have decided finally to get the old cheque book out and go shopping, hopefully for some big F1 names to bolster their technical department. Team Boss Nick Fry admitting that they are looking to make some key signings but not before the end of the season, as strangely all the good technical people seem to be already employed and not sat at home waiting for his call (or probably and more likely avoiding Honda like the plague). Rumour has it that talks are still taking place with ex-Ferrari Technical Director Ross Brawn about taking up a possible position with the team in 2008, possibly with Fry talking himself out of his own job…….(we can but hope).

button.jpgWe can’t help thinking that Honda would need more than Ross Brawn to sort out the pickle they have got themselves into, and are wondering here at FFN if they ought to really try and just buy the entire race team from Maranello…not to mention someone who knows how to operate a wind tunnel….either that or start sticking their car directly in front of Renault Boss Flavio Briatore’s mouth which would probably have the same desired effect.

Meanwhile Jenson Button’s Manager Richard Goddard has confirmed that despite his intense frustration, Jense is not looking to leave the sinking ship along with all the other rats and is still pledging his future to Honda as according to the British Driver it is the best place for him for his future….leading us to one conclusion…that Jense has more money than sense……or has been out in the sun too long (You know what they say about dogs and mad Englishmen?).

mosley.jpgI think we can all admit quite frankly that we have had it up to the eyeballs with the words – constructor, make, chassis, intellectual property, customer and car – that have been bandied about in every possible permutation imaginable. It makes us wonder if the blessed team bosses can’t just sort it out amongst themselves and get on with the racing really. If there is something F1 fans don’t like doing every other day, it is following news on interpretation of legal documents. We don’t care what articles 19 and 20 of the 2008 Sporting Regulations say, and how it compares with schedule 3 of the Concorde agreement or section 10 of what-do-you-call-it, honest to god. “If you don’t have customer cars you end up with people at the back being lapped three or four times during the race. That doesn’t help anyone and is miserable for the drivers concerned” says Max Mosley. Well, we have customer cars now (legal or not), and I don’t see it making any darned difference to be honest. Probably Mosley doesn’t understand how ironic it is to say “It is just two completely different views of what the Agreement says”. Maybe they should call it Concorde Disagreement, what do you think?

flavio.jpgIf I could have had a dollar every time Max Mosley came up with a rule change or Flavio Briatore called for putting on a better show, I might be a millionaire many times over. First the 2 races per engine rule, next the engine homologation, whatever next? Let’s do away with engines all together and make it all pedal karts instead? Or why not just make it the pinnacle of bicycling technology? Some of Max Mosley’s bright ideas in the past that have thankfully never come to pass include – weight penalties for winners, driver rotation and reversal of qualifying grid (If you are on pole, you will start from the last position). How wonderful it would have been to spend Saturday afternoons watching each car trying to be slower than the other. Thankfully all these ideas have become rather extinct with Michael Schumacher’s retirement and now Mosley is concentrating all his brain power on cost cutting measures. While there’s dear Max on one end chipping away diligently and taking the joy out of racing (with drivers thinking more about preserving their engines than racing for positions), there is Flavio at the other end calling for revolutionary changes. “We need 2 races” says Flavio, “One sprint race of 45 minutes in the morning and then a one hour race in the afternoon”. Apparently the teams would only be allowed to change tyres with refueling being banned, which is kind of a complement of 2005 pitstops. And Max Mosley has followed up his suggestion of removing traction control (which might be good) with adding stability control (which might be disastrous and make great drivers nearly indistinguishable from mediocre ones). Is anyone else developing a migraine?

Just when we thought that the month off between the Bahrain and Spanish Grand Prix would be a relatively quiet affair, thus giving us free reign here at FFN to make up a lot of old twaddle…. Along comes a whole bunch of news all in one day to put paid to the plan.

The FIA it would seem get just as bored as the rest of us in between the races, and like to find ways to entertain themselves. When they are not sending Formula 1 drivers with dubious driving histories off to the UN to promote road safety, they are re-arranging their false teeth, tripping youths up with their zimmer-frames and making up new party games. The favourite game of the moment involves writing to the F1 teams with just a few weeks to go before a race to drop a nasty little surprise in their laps. Inevitably the poor little engineering mites have to stop working on their latest cunning invention they were planning on slipping past Charlie Whiting (FIA technical delegate) and go to work making the last one legal.

fiafloors.jpgThis week the FIA are back on the case of the flexi-floor. They feel that some teams are still attempting to exploit loopholes in the FIA regulations (as if they would!). After inspecting all of the cars in Malaysia and Bahrain, the FIA have decided to impose even stricter rigidity tests, to put a stop to teams who appear to be building floors with the sole purpose of increasing aerodynamic efficiency at speed.

You may remember after the Australian Grand Prix when McLaren went tittle-tattling, the FIA wrote to all the teams telling them the use of springs/stays to hold the floor to the chassis were not in fitting with the regulations and would have to be removed. Now they have decided the naughty little boys are still making the floor’s flex at speed (although the FIA can’t quite figure out how), so they are introducing further more stringent rigidity tests ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix. The cars floors will now have to be able to resist 2000 Newtons of upward pressure as opposed to the original 500 Newtons. What it all means and who it will effect I haven’t got the foggiest, but I’m expecting either a lot of cars being launched into the stratosphere from the FIA weigh-bridge, or a total ban on floors by the end of the season. (Which could be a bit hairy for the poor old drivers as they go over the kerbs).

hondawindtunnel.jpgI’m sure the flexi-floor saga is the least of the worries at poor old Honda. According to Rubens Barrichello, performance improvements identified in the Honda Wind Tunnel just don’t seem to be coming to fruition on track. Writing on his personal website, Rubens (who is turning out to be quite the philosopher) suggests that he has two theories on why the wind tunnel results don’t seem to be transferring onto the car. The first is that the wind tunnel has been calibrated incorrectly and the second is that when the parts are being built as a response to the wind tunnel results they are not coming out right.

We decided to do a bit of digging about. According to rumours, it would seem that the chap put in charge with the callibration and operation of the Honda wind tunnel has in fact no aerodynamic experience whatsoever. This might explain a thing or two about why Honda’s current car seems to act like a ‘parachute’ when it’s going in a straight line. Here at FFN we are wondering if the hapless chap has actually been popping the RA107 into the wind tunnel the wrong way, and then wondering why the hell no gust of wind is coming along at each grand prix to help the vehicle round the track.

Meanwhile over in Italy two former Ferrari employees have been found guilty of Industrial Espionage by a court in Modena. Mauro Iacconi and Angelo Santini were sentenced to 14 and 9 months in prison respectively for stealing industrial secrets from the Maranello based team. The dizzy dolts left Ferrari for Toyota in 2002, and decided they would help themselves to a few nuggets of information on the way out the door (although why they couldn’t stick to taking a few mugs and pens like anyone else we will never know).

Unfortunately the wretched pair got a bit carried away and everyone realised what was going on when Toyota popped out at the beginning of the 2003 with Ferrari’s car. It is thought the plethora of Marlboro stickers, red paint scheme and title F2002 was a bit of a give-away and the not so clever thieves were caught and subsequently fired by Toyota. However no real harm was done, as Toyota have kept loyal to their tradition of building turkeys to this day.

rondennis.jpgWith all this espionage, skullduggery and what-not going on you must be wondering if anything good and decent happens in the sport. I have to admit I got a little bit excited on Monday when I read the Headline ‘Dennis determined to step down’. Has McLaren’s CEO Ron Dennis finally answered all my prayers and decided enough is enough? Has he seen that Michael Schumacher at 38 is happily enjoying retirement and decided to follow suit?

No. It would seem we are stuck with the cantankerous old git with a personality bypass and a shiny forehead a while longer as he claims he is looking at retiring and handing over the reigns to his team at some point in the next five years. Whether this is because he is a control freak that just can’t let go, or because Mrs.Dennis is stubbornly and sensibly resisting any attempts to let him back into the family home we can’t say. Perhaps he is waiting for Lewis Hamilton to grow out of nappies, so he can stop ‘nannying’ him.

It would seem when the Ronster does finally decide to leave the sport, he will leave a huge gaping hole in our lives….we will all miss his warmth, his sense of humour and more than anything his passion for Ferrari…..and the FIA will sorely miss their weekly influx of fan mail.

lh1.jpgSpeaking of Lewis Hamilton (I know you wish that I didn’t, but there is news to be reported and we all know how meticulous and accurate FFN is in this department 😉 ), he now has former multiple world champions Michael Schumacher and Mika Hakkinen confessing they are not surprised by Hamilton’s form. Schumi says he is surprised by his consistency, but not by his talent or speed after following GP2 rather closely last year, while Mika says pretty much the same – “I am not surprised about Hamilton, I had expected him to do such a good job. It will be interesting to see if Lewis can keep cool in his head and keep his focus and concentration. His pure racing speed is no surprise to me”. Incidentally Mika is very thrilled for his former team (McLaren) and their return to form, but then he also leaves me rather fogged with this comment – “I think Ferrari might be on the top, therefore they can only lose performance and go down a bit. But McLaren still have a lot of potential to increase their performance”. Now wait a minute, if McLaren and Ferrari have comparable performances currently, why is it that one has only downward to go while the other has tremendous scope for improvement? That makes no sense to me really, though I really like Mika Hakkinen and would like to think he is not talking through the back of his neck. Do ping me if you can make anything out of it, otherwise I will just dismiss this small lapse as the outcome of long association with Ron Dennis.

Returning back to the topic, this is what good friend Adrian Sutil has to say of LH – “He’d rather push his rival out and end the race in the gravel than let him through”. Ring a bell, anyone? Taking into account his naughty little ‘weave’ at race starts, maybe Hamilton really means it when he says Schumi is his inspiration in racing and otherwise. Meanwhile, it is reported that television viewers are being badgered with the following telecast once every half hour (Schumi on Hamilton). So why spare the internet surfers?

Next Page »