July 2007


According to ex-F1 star and previous world champion Mika Hakkinen, we should not be concerned at all at how McLaren deal with the rivalry between their two drivers Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso.

mika.jpgApparently the Finnish favourite believes team principal Ron Dennis or Mo-Ron as I’m going to call him from now on, has plenty of experience dealing with the internal rivalry between successful driving pairings.

“It’s a very difficult situation. But Ron can give them a direction and instructions, and advice. He has experience from many years, it started with Prost and Lauda, and there are so many drivers that have been fighting for the championship, so he has the experience to give the instructions.

“I think he is using his experience with Fernando and Lewis to the maximum level that he can. I don’t think it will become a problem. The best driver will win at the end of the day, that is what is going to happen.” chirped the cheery Finn.

Here at FFN we are very touched that Mika has come forward to allay our worst fears that it could be handbags at dawn across the McLaren Garage, although we do feel he is a little behind in reading his F1 script for the season.

We can’t help pointing out we have never been concerned about Mo-Ron’s ability of dealing with difficult people, more like we have been marvelling at how Mrs. Dennis has managed all these years. Still if she wants some advice on where to ‘bury bodies’ she only need drop an email to Nigel Stepney the ex-Ferrari Mechanic and Dossier Publicist.

Our Nige has popped out the woodwork again today in the Italian Media. Nige has reportedly told the Italian Publication La Repubblica that he was not responsible for taking Ferrari designs and information and passing them onto to rivals at McLaren, according to Stepper’s someone else inside Ferrari is responsible for that little misdemeanour.

steppers-or-drop-dead-fred.jpg“I do not want to involve other colleagues. I know one part of the story, not all. Ferrari know the whole story.” the Englishman is quoted as saying. Well surely if your career and reputation are on the line not to mention the fact you could be facing a few years of prison food, you might want to chirp up and let us know who this mysterious insider is. Especially considering they are responsible for these dastardly crimes, unless you have a real penchant for orange boiler suits and burly room mates.

It seems for now our Nige is remaining tight-lipped on who the ‘real’ culprit is (Does he have an imaginary friend called Drop-Dead Fred?). It remains to be seen if Nige continues his tight-lipped silence when he has Mad Max Mosley threatening to bore him to death about green F1 technologies when he is called up in front of the Federation of Idiots and Amateurs in a few weeks time.

An hour in the presence of the FIA is probably enough to have even the most hardened criminal confessing their crimes, rather than enduring the torture of spending the rest of the day listening to a bunch of indecisive old farts whittering away on subjects they have got the first darned clue about.

Interestingly it seems McLaren have now erected a firewall on their computer system to stop Nigel Stepney bombarding them with emails. We can’t help but think if someone had introduced him (I mean Drop-Dead Fred) to MySpace and Facebook a lot earlier; none of this silly spy scandal would have ensued.

Meanwhile it seems that the whole Espionage Drama has had a motivating effect on the two Ferrari drivers, if Felipe Massa is to be believed. According to the little Brazilian poppet, the verdict from the World Motor Sports Council not to punish McLaren despite finding them in possession of Ferrari’s secret bible means that Felipe and Kimi will be working extra hard to respond on track. To prove they are competitive and driving to the best of their abilities (and not breaking cars we hope). Here at FFN we are wondering if Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo might have sanctioned the release of Ferrari Top Secret Data a little earlier in the year if he thought it might have this sort of motivational effect on their two young pilots.

vettel.jpgIn other news, it has been announced today that Scott Speed is indeed a man of his word (well about some things). After announcing he would never again work for Team Bosses Gerhard CheeseBurger and Franz Toast at Scuderia Torro Rosso after a bust up with the team at the Nurburgring, it seems Scott was right. The American has been replaced with young German Sebastien Vettel for the remainder of the season. We can only presume Mark Webber’s clairvoyant talents have once again been of much use in the pitlane.

Meanwhile according to pitlane rumour, Sebastien Vettel was drafted in to take over the drive not solely because of his outstanding driving talent. But also because if things don’t go his way he is not likely to go off tittle tattling to the media like Scott did, he’d be too busy throwing his toys out the pram.

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Ron Dennis is no doubt a man of many talents, but his ability to spout mind boggling bilge at a moment’s notice is perhaps a rare and unique talent that is rather exclusively his. He would have us believe that Lewis Hamilton has attained nirvana in the course of racing McLaren cars, and is now the enlightened one. “The driver in our team must have real mental focus and commitment. Lewis has nothing material to think about” says Ron (the part time spiritual guru), “He must appreciate that several people facilitate his life. Expectation and anticipation are not in his daily thought process”. Well, really! And there’s more about half the grid being filled with “useless drivers”, teams being “small, highly trained armies”, “human emotions” (though Lewis is clearly beyond them) and what not, but I wouldn’t want to bore you silly. 

kimigorilla.jpg By the way, if you happen to spot a gorilla pottering about the paddock, don’t be too alarmed…it’s probably just Kimi Raikkonen. Though if you attempt to tug at the head gear and it doesn’t come off easily you will be well advised to leg it. According to reports, when Kimi is not racing snowmobiles pretending to be James Hunt, he is attending boating events in Hanko pretending to be a human gorilla. He was found out after someone noticed the brown gorilla had entered its name in the event as “James Hunt”. Further proof came when the gorilla attached a rope wrongly and someone yelled out “Kimi, don’t put it like that”. The final confirmation was when the gorilla was spotted entering the boat carrying a crate of Finlandia vodka. And just when he thought Jean Todt would never come to know…

Willi Weber, manager of F1 legend Michael Schumacher, might have numerous sterling qualities, but tact is clearly not one of them. It is quite possible that he might have irked Colin Kolles a bit by saying “I would never put one of my drivers in a Spyker. Nico (Hulkenberg) does not need a fast Formula 1 debut”. That is kind of funny because if Nico doesn’t want a “fast” F1 debut, I would have thought Spyker is about ideal. And Colin is by nature a rather patient man (what? He wouldn’t be running Spyker otherwise), but he will be justified in wondering why Weber didn’t just turn down the drive privately, instead opting to make a song and dance out of it to the media. “I will never cooperate with Weber” swears Colin, which you have to admit is a rather lame comeback, but still one has to empathize with the man. All this is no doubt the Lewis Hamilton effect, which has everyone thinking that unless you debut in a Ferrari or a McLaren and rake in a dozen consecutive podiums immediately – you are not worth the trouble. Fernando Alonso spent his debut year in a Minardi being lapped by all and sundry, and he hasn’t turned out too shabbily I would think, what with two consecutive WDCs and all that.

And then there is this other team yet to score a point this season – yes, STR. Well, I bet at least in Spyker you don’t get punched around for finishing last in what is a turkey cleverly posing to be a race car. And this is what Sebastian Vettel seems to have missed out on, now that it has been confirmed Scott Speed will race in Hungary. Clearly when Speed said “I will never drive for those two (Berger and Tost) again”, he didn’t mean it as in “never ever” but just “never in the next two days”. But Vettel took it too literally and was consequently disappointed – “Just as soccer players want to play, race drivers want to race”. Rather an interesting way to state the obvious. Considering the chap seems rather obviously talented, maybe a better race drive awaits.

Five days to go for the Hungarian GP. Forza.

dennisatparishearing.jpgIt’s been an interesting couple of days to say the least. We have seen at least one of the ten commandments being rewritten from “Thou shalt not steal” to “Thou shalt steal by all means if you feel like it, just don’t leave evidence of usage”. Flavio Briatore claims he is baffled by FIA’s decision, and he can rest assured he is not the only one scratching his head in confusion – infact a substantial portion of the population is no doubt stymied by this one. It is not everyday that “Guilty, but no punishments…let’s all go home” verdicts are handed out by a deciding body. The FIA certainly moves in mysterious ways its gaffes to perform. I mean, if I am going to make a jackass of myself, I would rather do it discretely than to convene an extraordinary meeting and look silly before a global audience.

Some websites have been attempting to drown out the fact that McLaren didn’t suspend Coughlan till after the entire world knew about it, instead repeatedly harping on Nigel Stepney and buried bodies. You know what Nige said as to knowing “where the bodies are buried”….speaking figuratively of course, in case you go about getting other ideas. I suspect while these supposed ‘bodies’ might lead to a few sensational headlines along the lines of “Ferrari Shocker! The Truth about Jean Todt’s Red Jumper!“, “Has Ross Brawn ever really caught a live fish?“, “Did Schumi steal the pepper bottle from Ferrari cafeteria?” or even “Baldisserri caught wearing padded shoes to increase height” and “Is Byrne an alien from Krypton?“,  these are hardly likely to do Ferrari any permanent damage. “Nothing has changed. It is right that the world championship is won on the track” says Stepney, “I remain calm”. Well, if I were him, I wouldn’t be so dashed calm…things aren’t looking so great actually. And does ‘won on track’ include sneaking behind the employer’s back and sabotaging championship hopes?

Jean Todt is not terribly pleased with the current state of things, and that’s because he signed an agreement with McLaren for a better working relationship only a month back. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem to me right now that these two teams are on particularly chummy terms. But that agreement was signed before Ferrari came to know they would be sharing more than just goodwill with McLaren, and they certainly don’t remember agreeing to share all their design secrets. Jean Todt feels someone in McLaren ought to have warned him that Stepney was leaking like a sieve, and you can’t really blame Todt for feeling reproachful.

Meanwhile other team principals are livid that McLaren have gained an unfair advantage by taking a peek at the Ferrari documents. “We want to take a look too” demands a team boss who doesn’t wish to be named, “It is apparently legal to look at them or photocopy them as long as we don’t show our design documents to Ferrari. That way they ain’t going to be able to tell if we used anything”. You have to concede he has a point, so what’s the FIA going to do now? Montezemolo says “I just want to say to our fans, who are contacting Ferrari from all over the world and who are offended by the decision taken yesterday in Paris, that they can stay calm because this story doesn’t end here”. We certainly hope not. Forza.

todtatparishearing.jpgNothing?! Not even a ruddy fine? “The WMSC is satisfied that Vodafone McLaren Mercedes was in possession of confidential Ferrari information and is therefore in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code,” says the verdict, “However, there is insufficient evidence that this information was used in such a way as to interfere improperly with the FIA Formula One World Championship. We therefore impose no penalty“. Oh well, clearly it is no big deal to be in breach of article 151c of the International Sporting Code then, so why have it in the first place? I still can’t get my head around the fact that 780 pages of Ferrari confidential information including car design, performance data and strategy permutations were clearly proven to have been in the possession of a chief rival, and still nothing was done about it. Unless there is a sub-clause to article 151c that says “You can violate article 151c till your eyes bubble, but no sanctions shall be imposed to deter you from the same”….or perhaps sounding a tad more legal as Ferrari has worded it in their press release – “possession, knowledge at the very highest level and use of highly confidential information acquired in an illicit manner and the acquiring of confidential information over the course of several months, represent violations that do not carry any punishment“.  I think it is fair to say that a chief designer has some say in the design of the car? Right then.

Now that it is apparent that 151c is nothing more than a filler between articles 151b and 151d and nobody attributes any real importance to it, whatever happened to Respondeat Superior? You know, the thingie that says the employer shall be held liable for the professional misdeeds of the employee? Oh right, I forgot, the mysterious subclause stipulates that it is not exactly a professional misdeed to swipe confidential documents from a rival or to be privy to their car data as long as you don’t put “Made in Maranello” stickers on your car parts. If reports are to be believed and certain persons in the top management were aware of the possession of Ferrari data, that would explain why they did not deem it fit to fire or suspend Coughlan immediately and inform Ferrari of the same, and instead chose to wait around till the information was outed by the local photocopier shop. If only Ferrari had taken the time to scan the sub-clauses in the International Sporting Code properly, they could have at least saved on the flight tickets to Paris. Well,  Montezemolo had the right idea though by keeping his ‘body in Maranello’ which is what I believe they charge flight tickets for (“My body is in Maranello but my thoughts are in Paris. We must absolutely expose disloyal behavior in Formula One“).

Now FIA has informed us that they will holding a hearing for Stepney and Coughlan to allow them to justify their behavior and argue why they should not be banned for a substantial period of time. What behavior? It has all been deemed perfectly legal as far as I can understand…is your head spinning a bit too? Here we are at FFN striving to bring some humor into F1 proceedings, while FIA seem capable of achieving the same with no apparent effort…it’s just not fair 😉 . That is what this championship has been reduced to anyway – one grand joke. Just like article 151c….not to mention the FIA and their ‘extraordinary meetings’. Extraordinary indeed! As always, Forza Ferrari.

 

Kimi Raikkonen must have spent his entire childhood walking under ladders and breaking mirrors – how else could you possibly explain the turn of events at Nurburgring? Carl Jung would probably explain it as “temporally coincident occurrences of acausal events” (no not Ron Dennis, Carl Jung – the influential thinker chappie…though it does sound like something Ron Dennis would say). But for those of us who don’t like reading about “collective unconscious” even if our lives depended on it, we can just resort to sending Kimi four-leaf clovers in our spare time hoping the rotten luck will eventually pass. I read somewhere that turning around a turtle on its back brings good luck as well, but one can scarcely expect Kimi to fit this activity into his busy schedule…plus we don’t want him carted off to the loony bin either, so the clovers will suffice for now.

One has to feel sorry for poor Felipe as well. It’s bad enough that his elaborate rain dance ritual performed before season-start doesn’t seem to have had much effect (I mean, one can hardly call him reigenmaster), and having Alonso wagging the finger at him in addition had the effect of unleashing an impressive string of expletives and a hitherto unknown vocabulary (I must admit that I have been regarding Massa with a certain newly-found respect ever since). To top it all off, to actually arrive at the podium only to find Michael Schumacher standing there wearing something that looked like it was stripped off from the living room curtains and hastily patched up together clearly wiped the smile off Felipe’s face for the rest of the podium ceremony. One can’t really blame him, it took us a few minutes too to recover from the shocking wardrobe choice, before we could get ourselves to cheer for the 7 time world champion.

immaturedennisonpodium.jpg

Meanwhile, the Italian press is inexplicably siding with Fernando Alonso over Felipe Massa in their little exchange of words. “No one can justify Massa’s exaggerated reaction to Alonso’s criticism” claims La Gazetta dello Sport – which is rather puzzling, because it is not like we have never heard a F1 driver use an expletive before. In fact, I am sure one of the main reasons team radio isn’t included in the telecast is because this might make F1 races unsuitable for a young audience, which is clearly not what Bernie wants. That and the minor inconvenience that everyone will know each other’s strategy during the race. Niki Lauda chips in with a helpful suggestion for Felipe – “He should have just shown him (Nando) the middle finger. There is no need to get so excited”. Yes, showing someone the middle finger is the calm, composed and dignified route to take, no doubt. “Why Massa drove straight into Alonso, I cannot understand” adds Lauda, “Childishness, Carelessness or Brazilian Temper?”. Talking of childishness, no one can dare accuse Felipe of the same when Ron Dennis is still around at large giving intense competition in this department. Behaving like a particularly immature five year old on the podium and ridiculing a retired F1 legend isn’t the best way to convince everyone about Ron’s ‘sense of righteousness’ I would have thought. And looks like Lewis doesn’t have stringent rules on “permissible levels of happiness based on finishing positions” unlike Nando, for Ron certainly didn’t look like he was holding back on the celebrations just so Lewis didn’t start feeling ‘uncomfortable’. Incidentally what did you think of Lewis being crane-lifted back into contention after sliding off the race track? Pretty cool, huh? It was thought that having Lewis stuck in the gravel far away from the race track constituted a grave safety concern, which they set out to mitigate by bodily lifting the car and driver using a crane and placing them back on a live track (and that is not dangerous at all, I am sure). This sport will never cease to surprise.

Eleven days to go for the next grand prix, and less than a day to go for the Paris hearing. Forza Ferrari.

Yesterday you may remember we brought you the news that ‘Our Nige’ or Mr. Stepney as he is otherwise known had hired a private detective in his bid to clear his name in the Stepneygate-Coughlan Murder Mystery (I mean Espionage).

lordstevens.jpgToday it seems Ferrari have gone one better, and hired themselves a former English Chief Police Commissioner going by the name of Lord Stevens to investigate the alleged leaking of technical information to McLaren. Lord Stevens has previous experience of investigating the murkier side of the sports world having already led the investigation into football ‘bungs’ following on from TV claims of back-handers and bribes in the beautiful game. So it looks like he is the best guy for the job and considering McLaren’s Mike Coughlan does not appear to be the sharpest pencil in the box…well we can only think the brown stuff is going to hit the fan sooner or later.

Here at FFN we are wondering if ‘Our Nige’s’ Magnum PI is feeling out of his depth already. Nothing like Chicago rules is there? We are eagerly awaiting to see if Our Nige can top it. Obviously the thought of a private detective and an ex-Chief Police Commissioner running around Maranello, playing at cops and robbers and popping caps left, right and centre hasn’t crossed our minds.

jeantodt.jpgMeanwhile it has been confirmed that Ferrari’s CEO Jean Todt has turned down the chance to meet with Nigel Stepney in person to thrash out just what the devil has been going on. We can only assume Ferrari are terrified of what else might abscond off in the trouser pockets of Mr Stepney should he ever set foot again on Maranello soil, and we just can’t have Ron Dennis turning up next Grand Prix in Jean’s ever permanent trusty red sweater! Either that or Ferrari are already aware of where they have ‘buried their bodies’ and feel they do not need Nige’s kindly meant assistance in pointing them out to all and sundry.

In other news, it is rumoured that it is only a matter of time before Scott Speed is shown the door by the Scuderia Torro Rosso F1 team. Scott broke cover yesterday and told it like it is. (Which makes a change considering his propensity to exaggerate about the size of certain appendages). Speed accused team boss Franz Tost of losing it and assaulting him by punching him in the back after he crashed his car at turn 1 in the rain soaked chaos strewn Grand Prix last Sunday.

We are a little baffled quite why Tost should have lost the plot with Scott this time. Especially considering at least five other Formula 1 drivers all ended up in the same parking lot including golden boy Lewis Hamilton, not to mention team-mate Liuzzi parking his car neatly into the side of a tractor.

franztost.jpgIt’s not like it’s the first time the hapless STR driver pairing have crashed out is it? Here at FFN we would have thought Tost would be half expecting it by now. Maybe he wants to thank his lucky stars he doesn’t have Japanese Stars Takuma Sato or Yuji Ide to deal with on a weekly basis or he could really be pulling his hair out, sticking pencils up his nose, clucking like a chicken and getting shipped off to the funny farm.

Speed declared yesterday that no amount of money would ever tempt him to work with Gerhard Berger and Franz Tost again (why do I feel suddenly hungry?).

Scott is currently testing for STR in Mugello in Italy, ahead of the next Grand Prix in Hungary on the 5th August 2007.

When asked by Autosport Team Boss Franz Tost if Speed would still be driving for STR in Hungary unequivocally said ‘Yes’. However, if current paddock rumours are to be believed it might not be long before Scott is looking for alternative employment.

Never mind Scott, we hear that with NASCAR’s Juan Pablo Montoya’s eating habits there are always plenty of positions going at McDonald’s.

We are so spoiled. F1 has been so much fun of late. What other sport brings you espionage, sabotage, fisticuffs, ‘buried bodies’, smashed up cars and middle aged men making total plonkers of themselves?

magnum-pi.jpgJust two days before the FIA hearing in Paris, which will call McLaren to account for their part in the Stepneygate-Couglan Spying Debacle, we learn that Ferrari’s former glorified but now disgraced Chief Mechanic known as ‘Our Nige’ has hired a private detective.

I know what your instantly thinking…..Magnum P.I. he drove a Ferrari right? and wasn’t his Butler an English buffoon? (played by Coughlan obviously) anyway I digress.

Our Nige has hired afore mentioned private detective to get to the bottom of the supposed ‘conspiracy’ against him. Assuming Magnum P.I. still has his 1980’s Ferrari and fully developed chest-wig and ‘tache were expecting he’d probably roll into Maranello HQ without so much as a blink from the security guards. Cunning Plan. Although how said detective is going to go about getting to the bottom of what is going on when nobody else seems to have the first darned clue we have no idea, perhaps he can hire Jessica Fletcher to help him as she seems to have first hand experience of ‘buried bodies’ and inept crooks.

speedandliuzzi.jpgMeanwhile, it seems it’s not just Ferrari that are having trouble with their staff. On Sunday Scott Speed (or Scott Slow as I affectionately know him) spoke out against the Scuderia Torro Rosso Management claiming that it’s pretty obvious from press statements made by team bosses Gerhard Berger and Franz Tost that they are trying pretty hard to get rid of Scott and Tonio, perish the thought.

This comes on the back of rumours that Scott was allegedly assaulted by team boss Fried Toast (I mean Franz Tost) after sunday’s race. According to current pitlane rumour, after Speed retired from the race he walked into the garage to explain what had happened to Franz, then as he turned away Franz made a grab for his shoulder with one eye witness declaring the move an “assault”. Personally we feel a punch in the face would make for better headlines, but we can’t have it all.

STR Management meanwhile have spoken out about their desire to get up and coming young starlets Sebastian Vettel and Sebatien Bourdais for next year’s drives. No doubt they won’t need to slap Vettel about, instead they can just send him back to his wendy house with no jelly and icecream when he has been naughty.

You have to feel for Speed and Liuzzi really, despite the fact between them they can barely manage to keep the car on track, it must be hard constantly getting a verbal lashing from your management in the morning papers. Perhaps they need some coaching from the Kimster who is a dab hand at not listening to anyone and everyone.

youngbernard.jpgIn other news, it appears young Bernard Ecclestone has gone back on his word. Just a few weeks ago he was gleefully declaring that Formula 1 would never have to go back to Magny-Cours and camping with cows again, now it seems just a few weeks later he has done an about face. Why the sudden change in heart we ask? Apparently our favourite F1 Meglomaniac has had a meeting with the French Prime Minister Francois Fillon, and has agreed in principle that Magny-Cours can retain the race until at least 2009 unless another viable option in France becomes available.

We are guessing either Disneyland is fully booked then for the next 2 years, or a small matter of monopoly money exchanged sweaty mitts.

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