kimi-at-fiorano.jpgYesterday Kimi Raikkonen was the first man at Ferrari to get his mitts on the new F2008, putting it through its paces in an initial shakedown at Ferrari’s private racetrack Fiorano.

As is always the way with these things, the minute you plan a party or a barbecue or some such event involving plenty of people, the weather likes to come along and chip its two cents into proceedings.

And so it proved for the initial test, with the morning of the event proving to be rather cold, damp and foggy. Which is probably not so bad if your strapped into a car seat the size of a postage stamp. But probably means if your one of the many tifosi that loyally turn up to watch the inaugural performance, more likely than not you froze your brass monkeys off while trying to work out what exactly that red blob is that goes screeching past in the swirling mists.

As a result the Kim-bot could only get a feel of the F2008 on wet weather tyres, posting a best time of 1.00.897 on the longer configuration of the Fiorano racetrack. During the course of the day Kimi managed to take the car through 55 laps, and surprisingly despite the damp dreary weather, came out of the experience in a rather positive and cheery mood.

According to Kimi, first impressions of the car are positive and he doesn’t feel that there is any need to make any improvements at the moment, adding that they will see how the car behaves itself next week when the team relocates to Jerez for its first official test.

kimis-new-hat.jpgSince Kimi is not usually one for making long flowing verbal effusions about any given subject, it is always nice to know the car has made a positive impression at this stage, and it isn’t getting likened to a mangy canine with bad breath and three stumpy legs.

While the Kimster was answering a 1001 questions about the F2008, other members of Ferrari have been on hand to give us their insights and thoughts on just about every topic going, including the ECU, aerodynamics, steering wheel buttons and Lewis Hamilton’s prospects for 2008.

Usually very quiet and one to keep his thoughts to himself, Luca Baldisserri who has been freed from the constraints of being ever permanently glued to the pitwall with a colouring book and crayons and given the job of Team Manager instead, popped up yesterday.

According to the little poppet, one of Ferrari’s main rivals at McLaren, Lamppost Lewis, might not be making such a dramatic impression on the sport in his second season, due to the changes in regulations and the banning of electronic driver aids.

Apparently our Baldo thinks that although young Lewis drove in GP2 without traction control, he may struggle in F1 next season to get to grips with the loss of the driver aid in addition with trying to manage tyre degradation. Presumably not mentioning his inability at spotting obstacles in his path and walking into them, or the fact his car will be considerably heavier than everyone else’s on account of all his rapper friends permanently hanging off Lewis’s trouser legs.

jean-todt-fiorano.jpgNot keen to leave it there whilst having a pop at arch rivals McLaren, Ferrari CEO Jean Todt has popped up like clockwork to mention for the umpteenth time his concerns regarding the standard ECU.

Jean fondly mentioned that he feels the Electronic Control Unit that is supplied by MES (McLaren Electronic Systems) is providing an advantage to the Woking based team, and should be closely monitored by the sport’s governing body the FIA.

Here at FFN we can only point out that the Standard ECU didn’t do a very good job of controlling things at McLaren last year (Hungarian pitlane qualifying shenanigans spring to mind), but perhaps that is what Jean is worried about. Chaos spreading electronically like wildfire up and down the pitlane, with drivers demanding number 1 status, stamping their feet, throwing tantrums and bickering like small children.

We really don’t think Ferrari have anything to worry about on that score, especially since we can’t imagine Kimi being all that bothered to actually have an argument when there are for more important things to do like sleeping, watching ice hockey and sleeping. Although ickle Felipe does look like he could throw the odd tantrum or three if the occasion calls for it.

Meanwhile in Stuttgart, McLaren were officially unveiling their 2008 car, the MP4-23. (Does it play music videos? we would really like to know!).

Compared with the lavish production last year, this years launch at McLaren Mercedes was a rather subdued affair, even Ron Dennis not having much to say for himself for a change. Martin Whitmarsh and Norbert Haug took control of proceedings and inevitably the Motorsports Media all jumped to irrational conclusions regarding the future of the team as a result.

and-did-you-say-there-were-vol-au-vents.jpgAfter his rather tasteful Christmas Card, it was surprising to see F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone inside the Mercedes HQ for the event. Rumours have suggested that Bernie mistakenly read the invite as saying ‘McLaren Lunch’ and turned up enquiring where the free sausage rolls and cucumber sandwiches were. What you didn’t think he’d part with any money did you?

Like rivals Ferrari, McLaren have confirmed their new car will undergo quite a major transformation before the first race of the season in Melbourne. According to the McLaren Management the new MP4-23 will be faster than its predecessor. The Woking team has confirmed that most of the changes prior to Melbourne will be aerodynamic improvements. It’s a shame they couldn’t do a few on Norbert Haug’s suit while they are at it.

McLaren were quick to quash any suggestion of favouritism in their camp, Martin Whitmarsh telling the waiting media that both drivers will be receiving equal treatment, carrying on McLaren’s long standing tradition of equality and fairness. This is despite Lamppost Lewis suggesting not so long ago that he is looking forward to 2008 immensely, especially the prospect of becoming the lead driver and leading the team’s championship campaign. All singing from the same hymn sheet and that’s before the season has started, marvellous.

If reports are to be believed, on one of the few occasions that McLaren CEO Ron Dennis piped up during proceedings was to inform the waiting world that the reason why the car on display had a huge number 23 emblazened on it. According to Ron it was partially as a result of the car being named the MP4-23 and also partially due to the fact that January 7th (launch date) coincided nicely with Lewis Hamilton’s 23rd birthday.

Now call me an old cynic, but I was under the misguided illusion that the reason the McLaren’s were numbered 22 and 23 was due to the position they were classified in the constructors championship in the previous F1 season. But you know what they say never let the facts get in the way of a good story! We just hope Lewis was delighted with his new birthday present, although by the time he gets to Michael Schumacher’s age he might not want reminding of it.

mclaren-mp4-23.jpgMeanwhile McLaren’s new signing Heikki Kovaleinen is chugging along merrily, saying all the right things, and not being overly concerned with the equality issue that much, but is looking forward to doing everything to beat his illustrious team mate out on track.

Heikki commented that he looks forward to working with Lamppost Lewis whom he has known since their karting days, and will be hopefully pushing Lewis and the team…forward. We were hoping he was going to say off a big cliff, but you can’t have it all. (Just in case any McLaren fans have stumbled across FFN and are about to start complaining, we are pulling your leg in a good-natured way, honestly).

McLaren this week will embark on a 3-day private test of their new challenger at Jerez, we’ll keep you posted.

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