April 2008


Day 2

rubens.jpgThe second day of testing for the Formula 1 fraternity at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, was by and large a fairly dull affair, not withstanding the fact that Honda’s Rubens Barrichello ended up topping the timesheets by the end of the day’s session. Followed on by Force 1ndia’s Giancarlo Fisichella who has been having somewhat of a barnstorming season now he has escaped the rather large shadow of Flabby-o Briatore.

Following on from the previous day’s proceedings, most teams concentrated on working with the 2009 regulation spec slick tyres and associated aerodynamic/downforce configurations, although we were treated to some rather intriguing aerodynamic pieces by a handful of teams still working on developments for this championship season.

If you follow wildlife documentaries you may have noticed that nature always seems to come up with some of the most clever and efficient designs, and it would seem many an F1 team down the paddock have cottoned onto this fact.

We certainly have witnessed Honda’s obsession with it in the past, with Ruben’s Barrichello talking about his vehicle as if it were a cat, and some of the strange appendages that appeared during 2007 looking like they were straight out of London Zoo.

honda-rabbit-ears.jpgEvidently it would seem that BMW-Sauber’s prickly porcupine has had somewhat of an influence in this area, no doubt because of their excellent and impressive performances thus far this season. Following suit on Tuesday, Honda appeared with some interesting appendages of their own…a pair of rabbit ears protruding out of the front of their nose cone.

Of course here at FFN we will willingly admit we are no ‘Adrian Newey’ when it comes to aerodynamics, but we do have to wonder how a pair of rabbit ears helps the performance of the car, wouldn’t they be better off with a rabbit’s foot? (A well known good luck charm) I suppose we should thank our lucky stars they didn’t build a tortoise instead.

renoos-shark-fins.jpgContinuing on with the wildlife theme, Renault appeared to have copied Red Bull, by adopting a similarly hideous looking ‘shark’s fin’ to the rear of the engine on their car. If nothing else it looks like it could be useful for the team to hang their coats off when the car is in the garage.

Even Ferrari were getting in on the act, with little Brazilian poppet Felipe Massa laughingly admitting that the F2008 now looks like a shark, complete with ‘hammerhead’ front wing and a gaping mouth on top of the nose cone. As long as it doesn’t inadvertently chew his gear-shifting arm off when he is least expecting it.

Incidentally the Ferrari star put in the third fastest time of the day, however, we understand that this was done on grooved tyres with the 2008 aerodynamic configuration, making Felipe the fastest man using full 2008 regulations. Forza Felipe!

Day 3

familiar-face.jpgThe third day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya got under way with a rather familiar face at the wheel of the F2008. Yes, you guessed it sometimes Super Assistant, Car Developer, Football reality TV show and Motorbike stunt skid fiend Michael Schumacher taking over in testing from Felipe Massa. Where he finds the time amongst all his trophy polishing we’d really like to know.

The 7 times World Champion managed to finish the day second fastest on the timesheets, behind Renault’s Fernando Alonso. But due to most of the teams still tinkering about with a mixture of 2008 and 2009 regulations, slick and grooved tyres and various appendages left, right and centre it was nigh on impossible to have the slightest inkling what it all meant.

Renault’s Pat Symonds has admitted that the R28 has failed to live up to the Enstone team’s expectations, but it is apparently difficult to pinpoint one area where there is specifically a problem. It would seem in an effort to improve their midpack position, just 3 races in they have resorted to throwing just about every available aero appendage they can at the R28 and hoping for some kind of divine intervention.

fernando.jpgCurrent rumours circulating the paddock are suggesting that Renault are desperately trying to hang onto their Double World Champion, who is rumoured to have signed a two year contract with the team, albeit with a clause to leave after one year if the car is not upto scratch.

Given Fernando’s much touted car development skills (you’ll have to browse a few F1 internet forums for further information) we can’t help feeling Renault should be up at the front challenging by now, if the Spaniard spent more time concentrating on the job in hand and less time sending flirty emails off to Maranello every hour on the hour.

On track for the first time on Wednesday was the new Torro Rosso STR3, which within hours of having been unveiled, promptly found itself careering across a gravel trap into a crash barrier by former Champ Car ace Sebastien Bourdais after just 71 laps of testing.

newly-reconfigured-torro-rosso.jpgIt is understood the damage is significant enough to ensure the car will be unable to be repaired in time for the fourth and final day of testing at the Barcelona Circuit.

Still, Sebastien should take some solace from the fact his penchant for off-road excursions are probably earning him quite an army of admirers in the Rallying fraternity if things don’t work out in Formula 1….failing that he could always start a pop career…..

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Yesterday witnessed nine out of eleven current Formula 1 teams returning to testing action at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, ahead of the opening round of the European races in Spain in two weeks time.

Usually this early season test is an opportunity for all the teams to start adding new developmental pieces to their cars, in a bid to boost their championship hopes against rival teams.

slicks1.jpg Tyre supplier Bridgestone provided the teams present with an opportunity to test out the 2009 regulation specification slick tyres.

Apparently any testing done using the new specification slicks does not count towards the teams 15,000 km testing limit, so many teams took advantage of the fact to test out some of their new components whilst pounding around the circuit relentlessly on the black round things.

The morning session rather unusually was topped by Honda’s Austrian Beanpole Alex Wurz, prompting all sorts of speculation about the emerging omnipotent powers of ‘Uncle’ Ross Brawn, Ferrari’s ex-Technical Director who took over leadership of the Brackley team at the end of last year.

Really if you consider 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher has been raised to the status of a near demi-god in the eyes of his fanbase not withstanding cowboy boots, flowery shirts and the fashion sense of someone’s slightly drippy grandmother, then it’s not so far fetched to imagine a member of Honda’s green trouser brigade could likewise imminently join the Pantheon of the Gods.

Fortunately it would seem the Brackley outfit under the tutelage of Uncle Ross are making steady progress in a forwardly direction, which must be relief to all concerned (well apart from their rivals obviously), especially if you compare this season to the previous one where the team unfortunately seemed to engage reverse mode and get permanently stuck in it.

mclaren-rear-wing1 Ferrari’s arch-rivals McLaren meanwhile, took the opportunity also to test out the 2009 spec tyres in association with a new rear wing in anticipation for the 2009 season, so their car was set up to perform aerodynamically as close to the 2009 regulations as possible.

Well that’s McLaren’s excuse for test driver Pedro ‘the Pink’ being beaten by Honda’s test driver on the first day of testing, and we presume they are sticking to it like epoxy resin.

After minimal running during the morning session where Ferrari’s Felipe Massa only completed 12 laps, in the afternoon the Maranello outfit once more came out to play.

The little Brazilian poppet completing 77 laps in total for the day, putting in a stunning fastest lap somewhere in the region of 2.4 seconds faster than any of the rival teams, which must have caused a few raised eyebrows from within the paddock.

kimi-raikkonens-drink-supply1Before you all start fretting that Felipe has taken to employing drastic measures in his championship bid and started surreptitiously consuming the Kim-bot’s rocket fuel (as pictured), we understand that the Ferrari driver’s stunning lap times were actually set on a lap utilising the 2009 spec tyres and 2008 downforce levels, alongside the introduction of Ferrari’s latest radical new gizmo….the holy nose cone.

Yes finally after many months of speculation in the media and across Internet forums, the much vaunted and discussed aerodynamic piece finally broke cover in testing.

The ‘hole’ reportedly works by utilising the high-pressure air that builds up between the front wing and the underneath of the nose cone, channelling the air over the top of the car onto the rear wing and thus improving the car’s downforce.

And is not as suggested by some pundits, actually a device used for cooling Kimi’s feet because his socks become a particularly nasty biohazard after spending an hour and a half in close proximity to the flying Finn in stifling heat in the cockpit. If this had been the case we’d expect a huge gaping hole to appear right under Felipe’s seat, for every race he rolled out his lucky underpants.

the-holy-nose.jpg Back at Maranello apparently an investigation is now under way, after the news of the ‘holy nose’ contraption as some fans have dubbed it, got mysteriously leaked to the Italian Media back in January.

Reports have suggested that Technical Director Aldo Costa was horrified to find out that despite very few people within the team actually knowing about the existence of the aerodynamic piece back then, it still somehow found it’s way into the press.

Unconfirmed scurrilous rumours have suggested that once Mr.Costa has pinned down the guilty culprit, they will be having a face to face meeting with a reel of duct tape and banned from social networking site Facebook for a year.

Unfortunately it would seem this is one such incident that Nigel Stepney cannot be blamed for…but does raise the ugly spectre that there might yet still be someone lurking inside Maranello that can’t be trusted and deserves a firm smack over the knuckles with Nick Tombazis’ trusty slide-rule.

michael-in-action Meanwhile in other news, Ferrari’s official 3rd driver Michael Schumacher (who incidentally will be testing the F2008 at Barcelona on Wednesday) was yesterday back in action on a motobike at the Eurospeed way at the Lausitzring in Germany.

Wearing yet another rather fetching outfit (this time in Orange), the former World Champion who was taking part in a bike promotion unfortunately had a small disagreement with an oil slick on track and found himself deposited on his rear end on the concrete. No doubt you will all be relieved to know the German Superstar was unhurt in the incident, although we do suspect there might be a slight dent in his ego (not to mention a few grazes on his rear end).

F1 Testing continues again today at the Circuit de Catalunya, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa once more leading proceedings for the Maranello outfit. Forza Ferrari.

No doubt by now (unless you’ve been living on Planet Mosley) you’ll be aware that Ferrari finally secured their first 1-2 of the season in the third round of the Formula 1 Championship at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain.

start-of-the-race-bahrain.jpgEven though Felipe lost out on pole position during the dying seconds of qualifying thanks to a stunning lap by BMW-Sauber’s ‘Mr.Potatohead’ Robert Kubica, and suffered an unfortunate earphone related debacle on his way to the grid formation (where he reportedly couldn’t hear any merry mancunian chuckles from his race engineer Rob Smedley), the little Brazilian poppet still managed to outpace the Papal Polish favourite into the first corner and go on in commanding style to secure his first victory of the season. Simultaneously silencing his critics better than any familiar two-fingered salute could have done..

Ferrari’s current WDC the Kimbot, allegedly was suffering from an ear infection throughout the weekend (hopefully not inspired by Luca Di Montezemolo) and to all intents and purposed appeared a little off colour throughout proceedings (not that here at FFN we think he could get any paler, just for the record), but the Kimster bravely soldiered on and secured second place to ensure a perfect weekend and result for the Maranello Squad.

Ickle Felipe’s win coincidentally marked the 100th victory for the team under the leadership of their glorious softly spoken and media shy leader Mr Montezemolo.

Elsewhere BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica, who lost out to Felipe in the first corner and the Kimbot on the second lap due to some mysteriously invisible on-track oil spillage, was able to hang onto 3rd place and finish a not too shabby four seconds behind the Kimster.

McLaren meanwhile endured yet another torrid weekend.

Lewis Hamilton seemed to have unfortunately caught something contagious off ickle Felipe, whereby he started off the weekend losing control of his car on a kerb and spinning it through a sand trap and into a barrier demolishing one side of the car in the process. Not content to leave it there, the Brit fumbled his start to the race engaging the anti-stall on his car, slipping him back into tenth place from third and behind old arch rival Fernando Alonso. Nothing like making a hams fist of things is there?

lewis-minus-front-wing.jpgOn the first lap Lewis managed to damage his wing while driving into the back of the Renault, and then just a lap later decided to go one better and try and drive over the top of Alonso instead, knocking off his own front wing in the process.

This debacle sparking all manner of debate amongst the F1 fanbase, did Alonso brake-test him? Had Lewis lost his contact lenses? Had the Renault got a super strong magnet in it? You get the general gist.

After the race, Renault’s Pat Symonds kindly published the team’s telemetry to prove that the Sparkly Spaniard had not been willfully employing any kind of devious trickery on his old McLaren chum as had been previously suggested by ITV’s television “not quite-so-experts”.

Thus putting the spotlight firmly on the Woking based team to explain the strange incident and why Lewis seemed to have taken a rather obvious fancy to Alonso’s rear wing (apart from loving the paint scheme of course).

McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh (or Witchmarsh as we affectionately know him) suggested that the front wing of the McLaren had failed two seconds prior to Lewis climbing all over the back of the Renault like a bad rash.

This was evidently met with a fair helping of derision from F1 based internet forums, where members who quite clearly did not need to go to Specsavers (the opticians) could see from video footage for themselves that the wing had not come off two seconds before the incident but as a result of said same debacle.

But according to the Woking based fraternity they stand by their explanation, and suggest the failure of said device two seconds prior to the incident lead Lewis to lose all downforce and get sucked at high speed into the slipstream of Fernando. Which is quite scoffable really, since we all know at the speed Renault have been managing thus far in 2008, they couldn’t even suck a gobstopper in let alone a whole F1 car.

mr-talkative.jpgThis woeful performance on the part of the Enstone Massive might explain why just three races into the championship, we are being subjected to almost daily updates from the uncharacteristically loquacious Double World Champion.

This mainly consists of verbal musings in the media on what he plans to do next year, with whom, wearing which colour of his favourite underpants. That is when he isn’t too busy petitioning his fanbase to become his PR department for a year (all for the princely sum of 30000 Euro’s of course).

We can’t help feeling the Double World Champion would need a permanent army of Luca Colajanni clones to extricate him from the all trouble his mouth seems to get him into, nevermind just one poor deluded starry-eyed fan.

Before we go off completely at a tangent (and it wouldn’t be the first time) the only other point of interest in an otherwise quite dull coma-inducing race was provided courtesy of…you guessed it Mr. Magoo.

This time Red Bull’s David Coulthard tangled with Jense’s Honda on lap 17 taking off the fellow Brit’s nose cone in the process, sending Jenson scuttling back to the pitlane for another one.

Previously after similar incidents, DC has complained that the mirrors on F1 cars are about as much use as a chocolate fire guard (or something to that effect). Which goes some way to explaining his propensity for ignoring them completely and knocking rivals off track left, right and centre. Although we do feel that big square jaw might have something to do with it.

We can only assume by the end of the season there won’t be an F1 driver on the grid that hasn’t been driven into, run over in the pitlane, or been threatened with having seven shades of something knocked out of them. We’d really hate to see what carnage he could cause in a busy multi-storey carpark in a FIAT Punto.

michael.jpgNext week the teams will be returning to action at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona Spain, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in just over two weeks time.

It is rumoured Ferrari’s overqualified sometimes test driver Michael Schumacher will be putting in an appearance for the team, testing out slick tyres and some components for the 2009 amongst other things, not to mention driving the media round the bend as per usual.

It remains to be seen if McLaren can bounce back in Spain, if BMW will continue to give Stefano Domenicali sleepless nights, and who can introduce the silliest addition to their car in the F1 development race. Bring it on.

This week the F1 fraternity has relocated from Malaysia, to the hot sandy sunny climes of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Even though the season is barely two races old, already the gossip and scandal mongering has reached near epidemic proportions.

ickle-felipe5.jpgYou may remember roughly two weeks back (what’s a few days between friends?) that Ferrari’s ickle Felipe Massa was left with a complexion to rival the colour scheme of his F2008, when the poor poppet spun out of a second solid points paying position and bedded his car into the gravel trap with great panache.

Unfortunately this unforeseen turn of events brought his Grand Prix Completion Tally for the season to a big fat zero, which is to be expected if your driving a Super Aguri…but not one of the World’s most famous Marques, allegedly.

Despite the team checking his car and the telemetry, no obvious reason could be found for the uncharacteristic spin, leaving the poor little mite protesting his innocence and having to endure the slings and arrows of the paddock press (and just about anyone else that felt like getting their considered expert opinion into print).

Little did we all know that while the scavenging ‘Crows of Doom’ were circling above ickle Felipe’s bonce, something far bigger was about to unfold and scandalise us all.

Many times in the past, here at FFN we have found it rather irksome to read and listen to the fanbase of rival teams making claims that our beloved Ferrari enjoy a very special relationship with the sports governing body the FIA (The Federation of Idiots and Amateurs, as we fondly call them).

Especially when you consider the number of times that 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher got black flagged, red flagged, demoted to the bottom of the grid and stripped of all his world championship points for his on-track shenanigans. It certainly didn’t feel all that special on those occasions, we can assure you.

madmax.jpgIn light of recent events where FIA President Max Mosley has kindly stepped into the limelight and saved ickle Felipe’s head from the proverbial F1 chopping block, we are having to begrudgingly admit maybe there maybe something special to this relationship after all.

Last Sunday morning we all woke up to the unexpected news that FIA President Max Mosley had been caught out by a tabloid newspaper, while up to no good. According to the revelations in said tabloid publication, Max had been caught carrying out extra-curricular activities in a dungeon (not the FIA’s for the record), with five ladies with a penchant for dressing up and a DVD copy of Prisoner Cell Block H.

Immediately this caused all manner of uproar and lengthy tomes of discussion across the internet, about what these revelations could mean for the Presidency of the FIA. Surely someone getting caught paying to safety test various punishment-based paraphenalia outside of FIA office hours is taking things a bit too far? Especially when you consider all the opportunities McLaren presented free of charge for such things last season.

Unfortunately, the F1 fraternity has not seen the unfortunate expose of the episode in quite the light intended.

Instead of being impressed that Max during his tenure of the FIA Presidency, had found the time to make close acquaintance with five young ladies and spend five hours having tea and hot cross buns with them, there has been growing calls today from the Manufacturers BMW, Toyota, Honda and Mercedes for the FIA to clarify their stance on the matter.

This has lead to the beleaguered President calling an extraordinary meeting of the FIA to discuss the matter, we do hope all those pacemakers will be up to the daunting challenge and no physical re-enactments will be involved.

crown-prince-of-bahrain.jpgAccording to recent reports, the Crown Prince of Bahrain has written to the FIA President in light of the alleged affair, and suggested it would not be appropriate for him to attend the forthcoming Bahrain Grand Prix.

While it was initially thought this was to ensure the unfortunate dungeon-based debacle did not overshadow the forthcoming event, scurrulous rumours are suggesting the real reason is an entirely different matter.

According to the very same scurroulous suggestions, it is thought there may be a heightened level of concern for the safety and continuing good reputation of the plethora of men that are wont to swan about Sakhir in dresses with tea-towels on their heads.

After all at 67 years old, the odd beard and moustache is not that unusual amongst some women (we know we have seen it) and it wouldn’t do for some of the Bahraini Royal Family to be inadvertently whisked off by mistake.

no-over-50s.jpgWhilst on route to the circuit today, our intrepid reporter also observantly noted several newly erected signs at the side of the road….which to all intents and purposes looks like the Bahraini Royal Family are trying to discourage anyone over the age of 50 from attending Sunday’s Motorsports Event. (Bernie apparently doesn’t count due to the fact he is no taller than the average 12 year old with a haircut to match).

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s ickle Felipe has been breathing a huge sigh of relief (thanks to Max). Former team-mate and mentor Michael Schumacher has stepped to the defence of the Brazilian star, commenting that ickle Felipe knows how to deal with the pressure being heaped upon him and there is no reason why he cannot pull out a good performance in Bahrain similar to last year.

However the former Champion admitted that ickle Felipe has used up all his current jokers in the opening two rounds of the championship and can’t afford any more, we just hope here at FFN that Felipe has been playing SNAP and not something more salacious.

Unfortunately the Brazilian’s poor start to the 2008 season, has inevitably lead to suggestions that he is about to be replaced contrary to whatever Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni has stated in recent media reports.

One such person being touted as Felipe’s replacement for next year is Renault’s Fernando Alonso, according to….well Fernando. The Double World Champion has been remarkably restrained this season, if you consider that after the Australian Grand Prix in 2007 after just one race with the McLaren team he was already in discussions to play musical team chairs.

whatshisnameagain.jpgThis time he has managed to last two Grand Prix before kindly informing anyone with a red sweater within twenty paces that he has a clause in his current contract that would allow him to leave Renault, if Ferrari would please come and get him kiss kiss wink wink.

We understand the Spaniard has even taken to sewing his name onto his team t-shirt in big letters, in the unlikely event that Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has a senior moment and forgets his name. God Forbid.

In other news, after McLaren were stripped of all their constructors championship points last year by the FIA for their part in the Stepneygate saga, it was initially thought the Woking based team would be demoted as per the rule book to the bottom of the pile for choosing garages in the pitlane. Apparently the championship winning team get first dibs, followed by the second and so forth, with the slightly red faces of McLaren coming last behind Force 1ndia.

However, it is understood that an agreement was made over the winter with Bernie Ecclestone to allow the team to take fifth placed slot, which would ensure the team could fit their behemoth Media centre into the alloted area in the paddock parking lot. And indeed in Australia and Malaysia this was the case.

end-of-the-pitlane.jpgBut in what could be deemed a parting shot, the FIA President (Max Mosley lest you have forgotten him already) has demanded that the team be relocated to the bottom of the pitlane amidst rumours that other teams have complained about this favouritist treatment.

An apology has been issued to the fans who had brought tickets with the sole purpose of being seated opposite from the McLaren Garage (presumably a bunch of irate Spaniards), and McLaren have indeed been squeezed like oranges into the two furthest garages in the pitlane, whilst championship rivals Ferrari get to swan about the top spot with four.

Never a dull moment in F1, that is “for sure”.