schumacherspanishgrandprix.jpgWhen 7 times World Champion and Ferrari Ace Michael Schumacher announced his impending retirement at Monza last September, most of us were too busy weeping and wailing (or rejoicing in some quarters) to contemplate just how F1 would go on without him. It was rumoured that nobody would watch the sport again, everyone in Europe would turn off their TV’s, the Earth would stop spinning on its axis….and Bernie Ecclestone would have to go out and do the unthinkable…remortgage his wife and children to make ends meet.

So it is surprising to find ourselves after 3 races into the new F1 calendar, in the most open, unpredictable and exciting F1 season in a long time…with most of us lamenting like crazy any gap in the calendar that allows the poor F1 bods to go home and put their feet up (how dare they!).

This should not in any way reflect badly on Mr.Schumacher who inevitably had us pulling our hair out, having palpitations and having to go lie down in a dark room every other sunday while he fought it out to the last with someone over the shiny pots. However, he did have a bit of a habit of monopolising the whole affair to the point where actually most sports commentators would struggle if you asked them to name more than two current drivers on the F1 grid….and ten F1 teams were wondering why on earth they bothered turning up each weekend.

Finding ourselves in the enviable situation this season of having 3 highly rated drivers in Raikkonen, Alonso & Hamilton all equal on points at the top of the championship standings, and one little likeable Brazilian chappie Felipe Massa not far behind has been a revelation….and not the predicted flat pancake many feared. (Although the Michael Schumacher Socks Fanclub might think otherwise).

As a result former World Champions, F1 drivers and experts who have been hiding away for the last few years in various dark holes, have been pouring out the woodwork like an infestation of ants to tell us their considered opinions on which of these lucky devils will go on and be crowned World Driver Champion at the end of the season.

Hot on the heels of Nostradamus Lauda, who has temporarily nailed his colours to McLaren Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton’s mast until he changes his mind next week, is Frenchman Alain Prost who won four World Championships during his F1 career.

alainprost.jpgAlain believes that Ferrari are the favourite to win the Championship this year (and really I won’t argue with that). However, Alain believes that Felipe Massa stands a better chance at winning the coveted ‘King of the Pots’ title over team mate Karaoke-King Kimi Raikkonen. Why then does he think young Felipe will outdo his much hyped Flying Finn team-mate in the battle for the Championship? “Felipe can win the Championship because he knows the team better compared with Kimi Raikkonen”. And here we were at FFN thinking you had to be the fastest driver..not the one who knows the most intimate secrets inside the Ferrari garage. So next time you see Felipe “discussing his car” with his race engineer and mechanics, remember he is in fact finding out what they did last friday night, who hasn’t changed their socks this week and what tunes they are listening to on their IPODS…very important championship stuff.

Before I go off completely at a tangent, Alain Prost went on to confirm that he thought Ferrari had the advantage in the title chase because of their recent years experience of battling for the championship, but feels that the Maranello squad may struggle to deal with internal rivalry between their two drivers fighting for the status of top-dog, when for so long the team have tended to focus mainly on one driver. So maybe Rubens Barrichello wasn’t telling stories about being invisible when he worked at Ferrari after all…hmmm. I certainly would get up to a little bit more mischief if I was invisible though, instead of standing around wailing ‘its so unfair!’.

Alain also believes that we will know after the Spanish and Monaco Grand Prix if Lewis ‘ITV-Lovechild’ Hamilton is just a flash in the pan or in with a real chance of winning the championship in his debut year in F1. “it is not impossible, he is in a favourable psychological position” claimed 52 year old Prost. Of course Ted Kravitz from ITV will know all about that what with his expertise in driver psychology.

Former Ferrari driver and Champion Nigel Mansell has also been quick to sing the praises of young Lewis, saying that he had already tipped the youngster to get on the podium in his first race (well these experts do like saying I told you so after the fact).

In all of this we are wondering has everyone actually forgotten Fernando All-Alone-so? as joint leader in the championship standings and having two incidental previous world titles to his name, you’d think he’d be in with a shouting chance as well. And the Spaniard probably will be shouting if things go on like they are…next he will be turning up at the McLaren Factory and people won’t have the first darned clue who he is.

Of course all of this attention on Hamilton is not bothering the Kimster in the slightest, but then nothing does bother him apart from the odd track marshall here and there…and only then when he suspects they have been after his roll-mops.

brundle2.jpgIn other news, ITV-F1 commentator Martin Brundle is apparently to receive an honorary degree in Civil Law from the University of East Anglia in England. Quite why he deserves to just turn up at a ceremony and get a qualification, while the rest of us poor folk have to work our socks off to get one is beyond me. It’s not like he has the first darned clue about Law is it? Couldn’t they have given him a honorary degree in waffling on for two hours non-stop? mind you that doesn’t take any kind of serious talent does it…..just a mouth that goes nineteen to the dozen (James Allen comes to mind). My only thought is perhaps no one else is stupid or bored enough to sit in on the Spyker versus the World ‘customer car row’ that is going to arbitration in Lausanne, and Martin is unwittingly about to become judge and jury.

Meanwhile over at Renault HQ in Enstone, the previous world championship winning team are not content with having one working and fully functional wind-tunnel, they are now submitting for planning permission for a second device. Although why they need two is a mystery when standing twenty feet away from Flavio Briatore is enough to blow the wig off most people and presumably much cheaper. The team are hoping to build the second wind-tunnel fairly quickly, however a local resident is apparently already protesting saying it will increase traffic in the area. Evidently the misguided buffoon just read the word ‘tunnel’ before flying off into a temper tantrum…here at FFN we are seriously doubting Renault will be inviting much in the way of local traffic through its sensitively tuned, multi-million pound Flav-replicator. Renault believe the new wind tunnel will provide employment opportunities for 15 people, which we think is surprising because surely there are not enough folk on the planet to control Flav’s mouth once it starts going.

Oh and just in case you were wondering…..Michael Schumacher will be turning up next weekend at the Spanish Grand Prix in his role as Ferrari’s ‘super-assistant’ to steal back his limelight. Lewis you’ve been told.

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