February 2008


Yesterday was the final group testing day for the Formula 1 fraternity on location at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

With just two weeks to go before the season opener in Melbourne, the paddock pecking order remains about as transparent as a bucket of dirty ditch water, with armchair experts and pundits alike speculating like wildfire whom will come out on top down under.

trulli.jpgThe final day of testing witnessed a Toyota top the timesheets, with Italian Jarno Trulli setting the fastest lap of the day on a 1.20.801 on what many have presumed to be a ‘qualifying’ run.

Ferrari’s Technical Director Aldo Costa has recently commented that the Cologne-based Toyota team appears to have upped their game on previous seasons. But it remains to be seen whether the mysteriously set fastest time yesterday had more to do with showboating in order to impress the Sponsor-like big-wigs that appeared in the Toyota Garage, than the actual true race performance of the car.

Not that we feel it would make a great deal of difference either way, because once the red lights go out it’s all systems go for the Trulli train. Team-mate Timo Glock reportedly has been suffering with set-up trouble and could not get the car to his liking, which we presume must go a long way to explain why the third fastest driver in F1 (Ralf Schumacher) struggled all those years towards the tail-end of the grid.

Ralfie has now embarked on a new stage in his career, driving in DTM. The German confessing that he lied about having other offers in F1 towards the end of last season, because he wanted to end his F1 career with as little fuss as possible. Of course that’s making an assumption there was going to be a great deal of fuss in the first place.

dc.jpgMeanwhile, the second fastest man of the day was Red Bull’s DC, who seemed to have recovered very well from the trapped nerve that kept him sidelined during Tuesday’s proceedings. Some cynics suggesting that the sight of someone nearly half his age setting a blistering pace in the RB4 the previous day was enough to put a rocket under the archaic Red Bull racer. We can think of a few people we’d like to put a rocket under….

Nico Rosberg continued to impress in the Williams, securing the third fastest time over all for the day and having completed somewhere in the region of 200 laps between himself and team mate Nakajima towards the William’s test program.

Unusually both the McLaren and Ferrari drivers failed to trouble the top of the time sheets yesterday, with Heikki Kovaleinen in 4th, the Kimster in 9th, Lewis in 10th and ickle Felipe in 13th places respectively. Before the tifosi get their undergarments all a tangle, perhaps it is worth pointing out some of the assessments of those apparently in the ‘know’.

niki-lauda.jpgOne man who can always be relied upon to divulge his considered opinion no matter how far-fetched it may be (and whether we want to know or not) is Triple World Champion Niki ‘Nostradamus’ Lauda. If you are fairly new to FFN you may wonder why he has been nicknamed Nostradamus, well ‘tis simply really…. He likes to make predictions…. And no the world hasn’t come to an end just yet…that’s next week.

This week Niki has benevolently bestowed his thoughts on us, informing us all that his tip for the top is the Maranello outfit. According to Niki, the F2008 is roughly 0-5-0.8 seconds a lap faster in race trim than the MP24-23-67 (or whatever it is called) of nearest rivals McLaren.

How exactly Niki has stumbled upon this elusive figure we are not sure, but given that most F1 insiders are touting a maximum of 0.4 seconds advantage at a push on a good day in fair weather (and those are the ones who have been furiously crunching away like a bunch of nerds on their calculators) we’ll take this with a liberal dose of sodium chloride and a Tequila, thanks.

Thinking back to last season, we are pretty sure Niki tipped Alonso to be WDC and look how that one turned out…. Of course I could be wrong I do have the memory of a goldfish. Where was I?

In other news, it has been reported that the spy scandal is still rumbling away under the surface, with Italian Magistrates reportedly paying visits to Paragon as well as the homes of several key McLaren employees yesterday, including CEO Ron Dennis.

What started out as a simple report on Pitpass and Autosport yesterday as some senior McLaren management figures being interviewed by Modena Magistrates accompanied by Surrey police, has already begun to snowball in the Media.

British Publication ‘The Daily Mail’ has reported this morning that Ron has had his home raided by order of the Italian Courts, and that his career is on the brink of collapse, not to mention the prospect of the damage this could do to Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 campaign.

ron-dennis.jpgAlthough we are completely at a loss to work out just what Ron keeps in the privacy of his own home that could be so damning for the British Driver. Answers on a Postcard if you please.

This is despite senior McLaren and Mercedes figures moving to dispel recent rumours regarding Ron’s impending retirement as ‘pure speculation’.

By this evening we are expecting to hear that Ron has been arrested on suspicion of running a drugs cartel from his garden shed, Martin Whitmarsh will have been promoted to Secretary General of the United Nations, Fernando Alonso will win the Nobel Peace Prize and Lewis will be named the Greatest F1 driver of all time.

Stranger things have happened.

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The second and penultimate day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona witnessed the McLaren duo of Heikki Kovaleinen and Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets ahead of their nearest rival Kimi Raikkonen.

half-price-heikki.jpgWhich is not a bad effort really from a pair of semi-rookies, one of which according to reports in the quality German Publication ‘Bild’ or ‘Bilge’ as we like to call it here, was only third man down on McLaren’s winter shopping list. According to said publication Mercedes had their beady eyes on getting either Nico Rosberg or Sebastien Vettel in to partner Louie, but neither were available to be released from their contracts apparently.

Well that’s the official story, but we can’t help wondering if recent rumours about McLaren being a bit cash-strapped (and who wouldn’t be after building Paragon, getting fined $100 million and paying a small fortune to a double world champion only for him to flounce off back to Renault in a strop) has more than a little to do with it. Not that we are calling Heikki ‘cheap’ you understand.

Anyway I digress. Fortuitously the penultimate day of testing enjoyed some decent weather for a change allowing all of the present 10 teams to complete their allotted programs for the day.

With the exception of course of struggling Super Aguri who are rumoured to have turned up with their lorries in the paddock. Whereby the team apparently sat about chewing their fingernails and scouring the employment section of ‘Autosport’ anxiously, only to pack up again without the cars ever having made it out of said transporter.

super-aguri-in-the-paddock.jpgIt remains to be seen if the popular little Japanese team will even be taking part in the 2008 championship campaign amid reports of some rather serious financial difficulties for the Honda ‘B’ team. Here at FFN we do hope that SA will manage to compete, after all we would sorely miss the spectacle of Takuma Sato in the sport for one.

Meanwhile, the McLaren boys spent the day concentrating on various different areas of testing ranging from pitstop practices (for one not two), qualifying simulations in the morning to longer runs in the afternoon.

Down at Ferrari, ickle Felipe and Kimi the ‘King of Loquaciousness’ were concentrating their efforts on race simulations, with Felipe managing to successfully complete his part of the program. Unfortunately the Kimster was unable to complete his allotted program due to an unforeseen technical issue on his F2008. Well we presume that was what it was, and not the Kimster deciding to retire to bed for an impromptu nap, as he is wont to do on the odd occasion.

The Williams team continued throughout to impress, with blonde bombshell ‘Britney’ Rosberg securing the fourth fastest time of the day while concentrating on set-up work for the Groves-based team. Just going to prove Nico’s Phillishave is working it’s aerodynamic forces to perfection, we just wish that someone at Honda would buy Jense one, and Team Boss Ross is not exactly leading by example on that score is he?

jense.jpgRumour has it that the Englishman has split from his long-term girlfriend Florence Brudenell-Bruce amid claims the society beauty couldn’t tame him, which we take to mean that she couldn’t put up with the ‘Wildman of Borneo’ look.

And has nothing to do honestly with gossipy rumours that Jense has been cavorting about with a string of beautiful birds behind her back (and who wouldn’t attract such attention with that facial nest). Bill Oddie eat your heart out.

Meanwhile, just going to prove there is life in the old man yet, Giancarlo Fisichella raised more than a few eyebrows by setting the sixth fastest time of the day marginally behind that of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in his VMJ01.

Giancarlo was joined by fellow Italian Tonio Liuzzi, who secured the tenth fastest time slot for the day in the sister Force 1ndia challenger, whilst working on a varied test programme.

Whether this signals a vast improvement in form for the former ‘Spyker’ boys, or is purely an indication that everyone else was running with heavier fuel loads who can say.

vjm-the-original-one.jpgHere at FFN, we are a little dubious about how prudent it may be to name the car after yourself (as Team Owner Vijay Mallya has done) lest it goes down in history as a bit of a three-legged canine…. Oh well at least he can give Fernando some company on that score if it all goes pear-shaped.

Down at Red Bull, F1’s elder statesman DC was sidelined for the day due to a trapped nerve in his neck. As one rather keen-eyed observer pointed out, it’s little wonder his neck hurts holding that humungous great square head on top of it while pulling up to 5G in the corners.

Torro Rosso’s star for the future Sebastien Vettel kindly stepped in to take over the mantle from David for the day. Little Seb completed 110 laps in total and finished in a very respectable 7th place for the day, almost 9 tenths ahead of usual Red Bull incumbent Mark Webber.

Honda’s woes continued, despite Jenson making into the top 10, and Barrichello securing the 14th fastest time of the day, both of the RA108 were blighted during proceedings with technical issues. A spokesman for the team confirmed that they knew what the problems were (which is a vast improvement on last years situation) and were hoping to implement fixes as soon as reasonably possible.

ross-beardy-boss.jpgTeam Boss Ross has suggested that there are some big updates to come on the car, so their fanbase should try not to despair and resort to pulling their hair out just yet.

We can only hope on Honda’s behalf these ‘big’ updates are in terms of performance improvement, and not in size. Although perhaps having a car twice as long and wide as your rivals might make it a bit more difficult for them to overtake you…so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for that.

More shortly….

michael-in-barcelona-test.jpgThis week so far, with the exception of the Super Aguri Team (who are currently holding financial crisis talks in Japan – some people go to any lengths to avoid the RA107), all of the Formula 1 fraternity have been taking part in a group test session at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.
This is the last group testing session to occur before the 2008 Formula One season begins in earnest in Melbourne Australia on March 16th.

If media reports are anything to go by, the first day of testing was largely dominated by the three way duel out for the top spot between McLaren’s young star Lewis ‘Hamster’ Hamilton, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Formula 1’s most highly decorated and overpaid test driver one Mr. Michael Schumacher.

Despite the day starting off with damp track conditions, presumably as a result of climatic conditions e.g. precipitation, conditions on the black stuff steadily improved throughout the course of the day allowing all of the teams to at least obtain some semi-useful data. We are of course making the assumption that rain was the guilty party, and not the horde of journalists all wetting themselves in anticipation of seeing some 40 year-old German fellow squeezing into an F1 car.

As the day wore on, the talented trio continually traded fastest lap for fastest lap. Sending F1 forumites into a frenzy of manic analysis about what it all meant, trying to decipher who was the undisputed king of the track and whom would be going out of the circuit at sunset with their reputation in tatters and their head in a paper bag.

kimi-looking-impressed.jpgFerrari’s flying Finnster narrowly missed out on setting the fastest lap of the day on his final run, but alas after setting the fastest first two sectors the mumbling maestro unfortunately came across some traffic which held him up in the last sector. It just so happened the traffic in question was a certain German in a bright red F2008 cheekily ensuring he had the last word as usual.

As a result McLaren’s Hamster got to keep top spot by the width of a cat’s whisker (domestic feline of course and not a man-eating Sabre tooth) giving the Woking boys something to be cheerful about for a change. After all if you grimace for long enough there is always the terrible risk of the wind changing and you end up looking like Max Mosley in a meeting. Frightening Thought.

Speaking after the day’s session had expired, Michael meanwhile kindly divulged his impressions of the F2008, his thoughts on his team’s chances for the upcoming 2008 season, as well as pointing out that Williams Star Nico Rosberg is the man to watch for the future. (On track and not in shampoo commercials you understand).

According to the Titlemeister, the F2008 is an improvement on the F2007. Naturally this comes as some welcome news, otherwise we can imagine Luca Di starting to ask some rather pertinent questions of his highly paid employees about what the devil they have been up to in the last 12 months…. Apart from polishing his tractor and playing chess of course.

Michael went on to confirm that he believes Ferrari will be able to fight for wins straight from the opening race of the 2008 campaign and that they are better prepared than last year. Let’s hope they don’t forget to refuel their cars and get their wheels on the right way round then, otherwise they could be learning a few lessons from the likes of Force 1ndia and Honda.

renoo-garage.jpgSince the teams launched their respective challengers back in the cold depths of winter, Ferrari have emerged as the favourites for many pundits to win the 2008 titles. Whether this is because they genuinely look to be the fastest or is actually because no-one can remember the names of the vast legions of white liveried cars on track is anyone’s guess.

This is despite the Maranello team exchanging some pretty close lap times with their silver ‘sisters’ at McLaren, and rumours that Renault have apparently been sandbagging somewhat in winter testing. Here at FFN we have been enthusiastically scouring the photographic archives looking for tell-tale buckets and spades parked outside the Renault Garage, but to no avail.

Unconfirmed rumours have suggested that Alonso’s team have been hiding their true pace thus far, in order to give their sponsors a thorough appreciation of the car’s overall aesthetically pleasing paint scheme and logos as Nelson Piquet Jnr pedals past furiously at 5kph.

luca-di.jpgToday Ferrari President Luca Di ‘Unpronounceable’ has asked the team to keep their optimism in check and their feet on the ground for the season ahead.

According to lippy Luca the 2008 championship will be just as hardly fought as in previous years (Just hopefully not so much of it over the table with handbags at full swing in the FIA headquarters in Paris).

It just goes to prove it really doesn’t matter what field of employment you work in, the moment you look to be enjoying yourself and having a good time the boss has to walk in and put a kaibosh on it. Whatever next, a ban on Kimi smiling on the podium?

Today 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher will finally get his hands on the F2008 in a much publicised test session at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.

the-return-of-the-schu1.jpgAs is always the case with the Schu, the prospect has created quite a stir amongst the F1 fanbase, as the German Superstar will be testing alongside Ferrari’s current WDC Kimbot ‘Flu-riddled’ Raikkonen for the first time in the same car.

The Ferrari team have been quick to point out that the duo will actually be completing different parts of the F2008 program as to avoid the prospect of anyone making direct and possibly unflattering comparisons between the two champions (and to save any blushes for the loser). Like that is actually going to stop anyone!

Suffice to say F1 internet buffs everywhere are already rubbing their hands together in delight at the prospect of pouring over the timesheets like a bunch of complete anoraks to ascertain who is actually the fastest of the two.

We can only wonder which WDC will be going home with a rather large dent in their ego tonight, and which will be going home in another hideous fashion statement. Just kidding (about the ego not the shirts) and we haven’t honestly the faintest notion who will come out as the cream of the crop.

Meanwhile another WDC who has been in the beady eye of public scrutiny just recently is Renault’s Double World Champion Fernando Alonso. The reclusive Spaniard (who barely speaks two words together during the course of a season if we are lucky, according to Ron Dennis) has this week spoken out about his forthright opinions on the ongoing ‘race row’ that has dominated the sport in recent weeks.

nando.jpgWe can only presume that we are not talking about the same man as Mr. Dennis, as the one that comes to our minds is the one that spews forth with greater alacrity and garrulousness than Mount Etna the minute he is within 3 square feet of a microphone.

The ‘race row’ in question should not be confused with the usual ‘race rows’ that envelope Formula 1, whereby a lot of brake-testing, impeding rivals, red flags, spats across the garage, dodgy parking and ending up in the gravel trap go on during the course of the average weekend in the sport, much to our delight.

Indeed Nando has been speaking out in defence of his countrymen in response to allegations thrown at them by the British Media. According to the King of Spanish Public Relations, the Spanish are not racist and the whole incident at Barcelona a few weeks back whereby a few individuals took it upon themselves to lob objects and vocalise their appreciation for Lewis Hamilton was a one-off incident. We can only presume then the other incident in China mentioned by Max Mosley, was a figment of someone’s overactive imagination.

Nando went on to dismiss the need for the FIA to involve themselves in the whole affair and suggested that an anti-racism campaign was not desirous. According to the Renault Star, he too has been on the receiving end of some verbal abuse on occasion, with Niki Lauda reportedly calling him a “dog” during the course of the 2007 season. Nando quite rightly pointing out that the FIA didn’t rush and launch an anti-canine campaign on his behalf.

Just for future reference we think someone should point out one minor trivial and inconsequential detail to the Double World Champion, that our four legged furry friends are actually considered a ‘species’ and not a ‘race’. Otherwise he could end up not doing so well at the ‘Science and Nature’ questions when he plays that board game Trivial Pursuit.

smiling-stepney.jpgOver in Italy this week disgraced former glorified Mechanic Nigel Stepney was seen putting in an appearance at the public abode of the Modena Magistrate, Giuseppe Tibis.

Steppers spent around 3 hours having a “discussion” with the Italian magistrate regarding the ongoing legal action being brought against the Brit by the Ferrari team.

Judging by the photos of the Brit smiling as he left the Magistrates Office, we can only conclude it was a civilised affair with glasses of champagne and some rather tasty hors d’ouvres thrown in for good measure…and disappointingly no apparent toenail extraction to expediate matters.

Either that or Steppers is rather masochistic in nature and enjoys a good interrogation as well as the notoriety gained from being Public Enemy No.1.

Meanwhile, just in case any of us were in danger of being completely overshadowed by the size of McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton’s ego (which is not likely unless you happen to live in Switzerland) Willi Weber has benevolently stepped into the fray to save us all, how kind of him.

willi-weber.jpgThe German best known for being Michael Schumacher’s Manager, and for spending 15 years constantly printing out World Champion T-shirts whether his man won or not, has commented in the Media that he sees no current replacement in the sport for the majesty of his former Star.

According to Willi (which we think is an apt name for him if ever there was one) F1’s latest golden boy Hamilton is good but not that good. The German went on to suggest that if Michael Schumacher were still driving today (well he is, isn’t he?) he would easily knock the British sensation into a cocked hat, or something similar.

We can only hope that Michael manages to pull out a good qualifying performance today in Barcelona and beats the Brit, otherwise Mr Weber could be going home embarrassingly with egg all over his face, Although that would be a vast aesthetic improvement to our minds.

Of course we can only come to the rather startling and cynical conclusion that the real reason behind such comments is that Mr.Weber isn’t making a single Euro out of the British Star, Bah Humbug.

gloomy-track-conditions-at-barcelona.jpgThis week some of the F1 fraternity has been back in action again this time in the sunny climes of Spain. Well we say sunny, unfortunately though the teams haven’t seen much of it with the first two days at Montmelo (Circuit de Catalunya) being on the receiving end of some British style weather (we do like to share).

It is rumoured that perhaps the Meteorological Office might be persuaded to pull their fingers out and get things sorted in exchange for a few Grand Prix tickets and a bit of advertising on the odd ‘Earth-themed’ car.

Yesterday, Ferrari’s Felipe or ‘Flippi’ Massa topped the time sheets during a session marred by plenty of precipitation. Despite being allegedly highly allergic to the wet stuff (according to nonsensical internet rumours anyway), Flippi only managed one small uncharacteristic off-track excursion during the days proceedings, and only then just to check to see if Team Manager Baldo had sneakily dozed off in the garage.

The diminutive Brazilian then handed over the F2008 to Luca Badoer to carry on proceedings for the afternoon. No doubt you will be glad to know our reporter on the ground there managed to get a glimpse of Flippi as he scuttled back into the garage to avoid the rain and nary a hive could be found residing on his chubby little face. Thank heavens for that.

the-poor-kimster.jpgFerrari’s Champion the Kimster is not due to attend the test until Friday, and current circulating reports are suggesting the poor Finn may have been struck down with a case of that deadly contagion the ‘Man-Flu’. According to some, the poor WDC has a runny nose and a case of the sniffles and had to take to his bed in his favourite red pyjamas (with go faster stripes of course!). It is beginning to look like the only new red shiny nose we are going to see this week is the one firmly attached to the Finn’s face.

No doubt you have probably already come across much speculation and rumour surrounding a new nose cone design concept that the Ferrari team was considering putting onto the F2008.

The concept involving a hole in the nose to increase the aerodynamic efficiency of the front of the car, has been much discussed of late on F1 forums and bulletin boards. The Italian media had also gone as far as suggesting it would be making an appearance in this weeks Barcelona test…but thus far the nose has not been forthcoming. We are beginning to wonder if the clever design engineers at Ferrari HQ have been having a great titter all along behind the legendary gates of Maranello, pulling our proverbial legs.

Yesterday arch-rivals McLaren wisely decided again sit out the rainy weather and save their testing mileage. Unnamed sources in the paddock suggest the team spent most of the rain-hit session playing I-spy Alonso, noughts and crosses on their laptops and playing about with the strange flaps attached to the wheel fairings.

strange-wheel-fairing.jpgIt is still a matter of debate whether these strange wheel attachments are indeed an aero device, a measuring device, a satelite system, or a tv signal booster, perhaps only time will tell. Personally we were hoping for some spikes out the side to shred the oppositions tyres, but you know we can’t have it all and we are prone to getting carried away with things on the odd occasion.

The Red Bull’s of Mark Webber and David Coulthard posted the second and fourth fastest times of the day on the wet Montmelo circuit, as always with testing it is nigh on impossible to know just exactly what teams are upto in their testing programmes. But we are hoping here at FFN that the team has managed to put all their technical gearbox glitches behind them and have finally found their wiiings.

Local hero Fernando Alonso posted the fifth fastest time of the day in his R28, but was reportedly none too happy with the car’s handling during the day. Ferrari’s other test driver Marc Gene (who we think must have the cushiest number in F1 since he only works about two days a year), has reportedly suggested that the Renault team and Alonso could in fact be hiding their true pace and are possibly ‘sandbagging’ during recent tests.

fernando-in-his-renooo.jpgFernando has cautiously played down his chances of being able to get race wins and podiums next year, and in one interview in the Spanish Press pointed out that even Michael Schumacher had to spend 5 seasons at Ferrari before bagging the next WDC shiny pot. Since Fernando has insisted he will retire once he has won 3 WDC, we can only presume he is no nearer to picking up his pension than we are and on a reported $46 million a year we wouldn’t be too quick to retire for a free bus pass either.

Renault’s Team Principal Flavio Briatore also went on record yesterday as suggesting that the Double World Champion and Renault resumed talks about returning to the Enstone based team as early as the opening Grand Prix in 2007 in Melbourne. This may come as a surprise to many that things seem to have turned so sour so quickly for the Spaniard at McLaren, seemingly before he even got out on track for a set-to with his illustrious team-mate the Hamster. However, we can only wonder what took him so long to come to his senses, mind you it took Kimi five years….

More to follow shortly….

The World of Formula 1 can be a strange place at times, with more bizarre goings on per square foot during the F1 season than you’d find at any science fiction/star trek convention fully of spotty 14 year-olds.

Usually during the winter months (November-March) us poor petrol-heads are limited to pouring over car launches with a magnifying glass and the odd winter test session timing sheet if we are lucky.

By and large these test sessions are pretty dull affairs, but eager for any scrap of detail no matter how minute, we scour the ‘tinter-web’ like a plague of hungry locusts. No doubt looking for some small clue that our car is the best one out there, and that our team could be onto a winning streak in the coming year. Obviously with some of us having to employ slightly more imagination than others.

This winter looked no different from normal, with all the usual claims of sandbagging, showboating and strange appendages, which we will come back to later.

lewis-in-barcelona.jpgThen Lo and Behold, just when we here at FFN were about to pull our hair out rather than face the daunting task of attempting to make winter testing a tad more “interesting” to the normal folk (that’s not including the armchair geeks with protractors ever at the ready)…. All manner of shenanigans kicked off. Unfortunately,well maybe fortunately for some, before the FFN staff could even so much as pass comment, our domain provider conveniently decided to pull the plug, replace us with some weight loss pills (what are they implying?) and hold us to ransom Ecclestone style.

We can only say we now know how Rod Hull felt when he had some interference in his TV football coverage, although we are hopefully going to stop short of climbing on the roof and subsequently falling off – EMU or not. Although we could be tempted to push Max Mosley off it at times.

Unless you have been living like a hermit and have had your broadband cancelled recently, no doubt you will be aware that at a recent test in sunny Barcelona, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton came in for a bit of flak from the local partisan crowd. The subsequent fall out; if the reaction of some could be believed was akin to the start of World War 3. Let me explain.

Emerging reports from some sources in Spain, suggested that a particularly small contingent of Alonso “fans” (we use the term loosely), decided to take it upon themselves to shout some rather unfriendly terms at young Lamppost Lewis as well as lobbing objects onto the race track. Presumably the objects in question were simply rubbish and anything found lying around at the time, and probably did not include any pertinent tomes on local Spanish Colloquialisms and Customs.

Apparently some of Fernando’s fans felt their hero had been hard done by at the hands of Lewis and the McLaren team last season, and felt the need to vocalise their displeasure in the direction of the British Star. Although why they would feel Alonso needs anyone’s assistance in that department we are at a loss to explain, since he seems more than capable of falling out with just about anyone all of his own accord and ensuring everyone knows about it. He is a big boy after all, allegedly.

We wouldn’t deem it appropriate to post some of the terminology employed here lest it upset anyone, but suffice to say according to some reports some of the phrases were particularly descriptive and involved mention of the word “black” and [insert expletive] and no we are not talking about astronomical phenomena that have a habit of swallowing whole galaxies and so forth (that would actually be Flavio Briatore’s gob).

Quicker than it takes Ron Dennis to blow dry his hair on the average morning, the British Press latched onto this rather unfriendly display, and before you could count the number of fingers on one hand, a tabloid war was going on back and forth between the British and their continental cousins. Not like the British to get involved in the odd war with the European Continent now and then, is it? Unconfirmed rumours have suggested the British Fleet were put on standby at Plymouth at one point in the ensuing verbal fracas, but don’t quote me on that.

the-most-ill-advised-carnival-costume-ever.jpgOne small group of unfortunates that found themselves in the eye of this particular storm in a tea mug, was a handful of Spaniards. According to themselves, the misguided group had dressed up for carnival, by painting their faces with boot polish, donning some rather flea-ridden looking wigs and writing on their T-shirts in rather dubious English that they were in fact members of Lamppost Lewis’s family.

An absolute furore seems to have ensued across F1 forums and bulletin boards, with most Spaniards rather furious at being labelled as a nation of racists (no general tarring and feathering involved then), and much name calling going on by both sides, with a few individuals in the middle totally perplexed as to why it had happened in the first place.

According to some sources in Spain, it is not considered a racial slur to paint oneself in boot polish and mock someone else’s family; it is apparently just dressing up in the carnival spirit (and looking competely ridiculous on further reflection). Although how carnival-like they will feel the next morning when they struggle to get said boot polish off their bed linen and get put in purgatory by the wife is anyone’s guess.

Presumably one of those groups getting their undergarments in a thorough twist over the whole affair are the small section of fans that had also dressed up for carnival at the circuit, but had gone largely unnoticed by the present media. Jealousy is a terrible thing.

Unconfirmed reports from the continent suggest this group largely consists of greedy money-grabbing 3 foot tall bowl hair-cut hobbit look-a-likes, dried up old prunes in grey suits pretending to be the FIA, and a whole legion of men in sombreros with straw donkeys tucked firmly under arm and bearing dodgy moustaches that could usually only be found on the film set of Zorro or in the McLaren camp on a bad day at a push.

3-foot-hobbit-look-a-like.jpgIn response the FIA has according to various media reports, launched an anti-racism campaign to be kicked off during the current season at the Spanish Grand Prix. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed it all out of hand and suggested the best way to deal with the issue, is to ignore it and let it go over your head (or some such advice). Which is pretty easy when you’re that vertically challenged, and would explain a few things about little Bernard for sure.

Lewis meanwhile has kept his cool and kept his head down, and we admire his patience and forbearance under such difficult circumstances. Having spent two weeks some years back feverishly working on my sun-tan in Crete, only to be called Snow White repeatedly by the hysterical lifeguards at the local waterslide park – well it’s enough to make one’s blood boil. Lewis really is a better man than I am, which probably isn’t that hard since I’m missing something vital in that department…

Meanwhile, not wanting to be outdone in the histrionic department by the F1 fanbase, F1 has been brewing its own storm if media reports are to be believed (and more often than not they aren’t).

According to Italian publication Autosprint, the Honda F1 team have discovered a hidden ‘bug’ within the Standard ECU (Electronic Control Unit) supplied to all the teams by the McLaren Group. If reports are true, pressing three of the buttons on the steering wheel in a set sequence unleashes an aggressive launch mode for the cars off the starting grid.

ecu.jpgUnusually Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has kept strangely quiet on the subject, suffice to say here at FFN we are very concerned. We can only presume this magical ‘three button’ launch sequence is either an entire fabrication, or Ferrari have found a much simpler way around launching their cars quick-sticks off the starting line, which doesn’t involve having to teach the Kimster complex button pressing routines first thing in the morning. Ferrari’s Spokesman would not confirm current scurrulous circulating rumours that Jean Todt has now found alternative employment within the company, and is largely responsible for screaming “Go!!! You muppets!!!” down his headpiece from his pedestal on the pitwall.

Strangely though, this aggressive secret performance mode hidden with the SECU seems to have done very little in the way of shooting Honda up the pecking order. Maybe next time they want to keep it under their bonnets, if they can work out which part of the car that is.

Stay tuned. For Spying, Sandwiches, Sandbags and Strange Appendages (that’s if I haven’t been branded a heretic and lynched by Honda fans in the meantime, or burnt at the stake in Barcelona and broadcast on YouTube) It’s a dangerous life being a writer. Ciaooo!

Yesterday witnessed two more F1 teams officially launch their challengers for the 2008 championship. With both Honda and Renault having already given us a sneak preview of their chargers at the recent testing session in Valencia, albeit without the final paint scheme in Honda’s case.

happy-families.jpgRenault’s Prodigal son Fernando Alonso has been speaking out today and informing us that the 2008 car is roughly 1 second off the pace of the likes of the McLaren and Ferrari. We are not entirely sure of the reasons behind making such information public, unless Alonso is trying to subtly lower our expectations.

Naturally we are a little bemused by such newfound cautious behaviour, since the self-proclaimed expert on car development is going to bring at least 6 tenths of a second or even more in the intervening time between now and the season opener in Melbourne, and he is going to absolutely wipe the floor with his rookie team-mate…. of course. Hopefully all those tenths of a second he will be accruing over his team-mate, might mean Nando can actually make time to attend a hairdressing salon between now and Interlagos, we wouldn’t want his flowing locks to get wrapped around the front axle and cause any unfortunate on-track misdemeanours.

Fandango’s new team-mate Nelson ‘I’m so handsome’ Piquet Jnr is looking forward enormously to his F1 debut, and believes there will be no repeat of the shenanigans that went on at McLaren last year, on account that Renault team principal Flav would simply not allow it. Presumably there will be no repeat in inter-team-mate hostile relations, because if anyone is going to throw a tantrum and act like a 6 year old girl at a birthday party…. It’s going to be Flav. Everyone else will just have to wait patiently in line.

While Renault were launching their car in Paris, Honda were launching their 2008 “charger” at their operations centre in Brackley…although we feel the town should be renamed Bracken to be in-keeping with Honda’s environmental theme. Gone is the humungous planetoid of 2007, replaced with a smaller globe (they orbit faster we reckon) and instead of any corporate advertising the RA108 is plastered with the environmental logo ‘earth dreams’.

We are a little bit confused to whom this apparent marketing ploy is pitched, apart from earthworms and long-haired, bicyle-riding, sandal-wearing hippy geologists. It’s definitely not for the poor legion of F1 fans that spend on average 3 days every July wading around up to their armpits in mud and rain, catching the common cold at Silverstone, is it?

is-it-a-dream-or-a-ruddy-nightmare-honda.jpgNew Team Boss Uncle Ross informs us that there are many parts to come on the car before the season opener in Melbourne, and really we shouldn’t be at all concerned that the RA108 was trundling around in the recent test at Valencia slower than Ron Dennis on his way to a WMSC meeting.

At the official Honda Launch, Jense, Rubens and Nick Fry were witnessed waxing lyrical about their new team boss, and the fact they are definitely going to be challenging for the 2009 season championship (so sorry, Ferrari) which as far as we can tell is no different from any other year they have been in the sport….and apparently going to win it. I’m still counting chickens.

Meanwhile Ross has been keen to point out that he will be concentrating on building up the team and its processes, practices and philosophies rather than walking in the door with a 780 page dossier on how to build a vintage 2007 Ferrari. Are we to presume Honda hasn’t even successfully mastered that immensely difficult task of operating a photocopier yet? Is there any hope? Can you help them please Obi-wan Kenobi?

Suffice to say it is not just us here at FFN that are pleased to hear this, because the grid is already half full of white liveried cars, and adding another duo of red ones (to the already present two) will just cause more confusion than it will solve. Not to mention McLaren wouldn’t know whom to protest about first, and just think of those poor pitcrews charging out of their garage like a nest of frenzied ants, only to realise the car coming down the pitlane isn’t theirs after all. And then there are the race stewards…who already seem to not have the faintest idea what day of the week it is let alone who owns what car…..

no-fancy-hats-in-f1-please.jpgMeanwhile the FIA has been looking into introducing a budget cap for all F1 teams, to limit spending and help level up the playing field. The Ferrari team is apparently not too keen on the idea, while other teams seem to be in favour of Max’s latest fashion craze.

FIA president Max Mosley today has suggested that all the F1 teams should be paying in the region of £2 million a year for accountants to ensure that each team is sticking to the budget cap, and not circumventing the rules.

Here at FFN we are all for levelling up the playing field and ensuring the continuity of independent teams within the sport. But we are at a loss to understand where cheaper headgear comes into the equation and how a bunch of grossly overpaid glorified bean counters are going to enforce it. It just wouldn’t have happened if Michael Schumacher were still in the sport! Bring back that cowboy hat pronto!