January 2010


Williams have declared that they are going in for a ‘clean-sheet design’, which is the best way to go really when you have produced a string of turkeys year after year with unfailing consistency. In fact, I think it’s for the best if they burn all the previous design documents, just in case they are tempted to take a quick peek as to where they attached the steering wheel last time around. Sam Michael also seems to have a lot of (misplaced?) optimism in the driver lineup. “We have managed to sign the German managed by Willi Weber” he told us proudly in an exclusive to FFN, and we didn’t have the heart to put a damper on his enthusiasm by pointing out they’ve already tried this before with Ralf Schumacher. As for Rubens Barrichello…well, given his tendency to sue bloggers who feel rather differently about his capabilities on track, we shall refrain from comment. It would suffice to say we don’t share Sam Michael’s sunny optimism.

We hear Nick Heidfeld is cursing Michael Schumacher a goodish deal in his spare time (of which he has plenty these days), and you can’t help but feel a little sympathetic. When Mercedes (Brawn) announced they were settling for an all German lineup for 2010, Nick was confident it was a done deal. Naturally he is not very pleased with the new developments, and if there’s one person who is not waxing on eloquently about how Michael’s return is good for F1, it is Nick. Good for F1 maybe, but a disaster for him personally, as he has now been announced as Mercedes reserve driver when all a reserve driver does these days is pretty much sit in the garage and twiddle his thumbs. It’s all down to the grooming we think, after all, with Nico Rosberg looking like a pretty Hollywood actress, who will go in for the Chewbacca look alike? Moral of the story – A shave in time saves a F1 career. Or something like that.

Meanwhile Heikki Kovalainen is busy hitting back at critics who are discussing odds of Heikki being the next Finn to go rallying. It is said Kimi will consider switching back to F1 mid-season, and maybe they can just trade places. While an elegant solution no doubt, Heikki is convinced he has a long and prosperous F1 career ahead. “If Rubens can be in F1, why can’t I?” reasons Heikki, “After all, I have beaten Michael Schumacher in RoC. And the only thing Rubens has ever beaten Michael in is in Backgammon…plus I am a hundred years younger”.   Very logical, you have to admit. Heikki also suggests that his reputation as a poor racer is not ‘a true reflection of his many talents’ (of which perhaps racing is not one?). “I didn’t get the best out of the McLaren” he admits (in a gross understatement), “I don’t think there are any areas I particularly need to improve”. That’s twisting the truth a bit, one particular area where we feel there’s definite room for improvement is driving a F1 car at reasonable speed. “Some people think I’m a good qualifier and not such a good racer (like some kind of reverse Jenson Button?)” he adds helpfully, “But that is only in McLaren. If you look at my time at Renault in 2007, the race performances were actually very strong (but the qualifying not so much)”. The key to this whole racing thing, Heikki, is to do both the qualifying and racing part well in the same year.

Not much news on the Ferrari front, except the new 2010 livery looks like they couldn’t decide till the last minute if they wanted a red car or a white car, with the end result the car now looks like a red-and-white zebra. Still no comparison to the Renault rainbow of 2007 or the Honda Earth Car. And as long as the car can race like a Ferrari always races, we should have a good season ahead. Forza.

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Here at FFN, we are convinced January is the longest month in the year. We know its just 31 days like most other months, but the days somehow just seem longer you have to admit. Probably its all an elaborate cosmic conspiracy hatched to lengthen the F1 off season. Speaking of which, it’s a miracle Bernie Ecclestone hasn’t just suggested around-the-year racing, considering there’s not much car development anyway what with all the cost cutting. And its not like Bernie is the shy kind who shrinks from making ridiculous suggestions (speaking figuratively of course, in a literal sense, if he shrank anymore he would be invisible…). The various F1 comittees (how many are there anyway?) are not to be outdone, they are as good as the next person in airing harebrained schemes to the general public.  When they are not busy cutting costs, they are trying to reduce speeds. It’s a bit confounding this one, you would have thought the whole idea about F1 racing is to increase speeds but apparently not. A bunch of blokes got together yesterday and officially agreed to ban double diffusers for 2011, in a move aimed at keeping speeds under control. If you are thinking rules could hardly get more haphazard, you are not alone. We think Christian Horner nails it when he says “I think the most important thing is to set clear objectives – as to what do the governing body and the promoters want F1 to be. I think looking at components in isolation is often quite dangerous, so I think it is important that the overall objective is clearly defined and then worked on by the various technical groups. What do they want the F1 cars to be able to do?” From the look of it, go very slowly one behind the other with no overtaking whatsoever. Oh, and maybe have shortcuts if things get too boring. Pinnacle of motor racing, indeed!

No doubt there are sinister machinations afoot at Mercedes headquarters. I am sure Nico Rosberg has been having sleepless nights ever since he heard he was going to be the ‘other’ driver in a team that has Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher…not that Ross will be doing any driving…his role will be strictly restricted to eating bananas and looking intelligent on the pitwall. Rosberg confessed recently that he had a really bad nightmare, that the new president of FIA, Jean Todt, was present at every race, instructing Rosberg over the microphone to “let Michael pass, I repeat, LET MICHAEL PASS”. Not the ideal situation you have to agree. For all the brave talk Rosberg has been doing about beating Michael and being the king of the world, he has kept a wary eye on the proceedings. So when Michael Schumacher recently declared that he wanted the No 3 car because he is superstitious about even numbers, it is fair to assume Nico’s hackles are up and he is all ready to bite if the need arises.  It’s a pity Michael is not more like Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, you remember Ron Dennis told us, is apparently beyond human emotions, a spiritual kind of chappie. Michael unfortunately still believes in initimidating his opponents, starting with his teammate first.

Conspiracy theories aside, maybe Michael really is superstitious. Martin Brundle once said that Michael went out looking for four leaf clovers before every important race (it’s a bit odd it’s not a three leaf clover considering…). No doubt he didn’t find one before Jerez 97 and got all into a nervous twitter…and we all know what happened next. Or Suzuka 1998 for the matter. Who would have thought what is often mistaken for Michael cracking under pressure and making a hash of things is actually Michael’s inability to find four leaf clovers? Felipe Massa recently confessed that he has been following Michael’s advise since 2007. “Michael has made me the driver I am” he declared proudly the other day, “It was Michael who told me to wear the same underpants through the race weekend if Friday turns out well. It works like magic”. Michael was clever enough to  hand out this advise just before his departure in 2006, but no wonder poor Kimi Raikkonen has given up on F1 and taken up rallying instead. And unsuspecting Fernando Alonso knows nothing about the grave assault in store for his olfactory senses every other Sunday. Talking of other driver superstitions, Alex Wurz likes to wear different colored shoes on race weekends, not that it helps his performance any. Mark Webber likes to get dressed in the same order – underpants, socks, pants, shoes – which I suppose works the same way for everyone unless you are Clark Kent.

It remains to be seen whether the FIA and Mercedes management would agree to Schumacher’s request, innocent or otherwise. But considering Todt is president of FIA, and Ross Brawn is team boss, I am thinking the answer is probably a resounding yes. Give it some thought though – all the exciting things that Michael’s ever done, from winning championships to parking in Rascasse, have all been in odd number cars…can you really blame the man? There, I didn’t think so either.

This is most disturbing. I know I’ve been in hibernation for a year or so, but really, who would have thunk?!  The Iceman has gone rallying, our very own super assistant has gone behind our back and signed for Mercedes (just when the general audience was beginning to understand what a super assistant really does), and we have good old Nando in Ferrari red proudly displaying the Santander logo. Todt is the new president of FIA (I bet Nando won’t call it Ferrari International Assistance any longer), Ron Dennis is finally gone, and Flavio…well, dear Flavio is always getting into some trouble or the other. This time apparently he thought it would be funny to tell Nelson Piquet Jr to crash (it’s a bit like asking Nick Heidfeld to look like Chewbacca) and Nelson was so thrilled on being asked to do what he does so well for a change that he executed it in perfection. It’s good that indignant Flavio got the lifetime ban overturned, a pure case of witch-hunting,  this! As if Nelson wouldn’t have crashed if Flavio hadn’t asked him to! Oh, and did I mention Jenson won the world championship? You can easily understand why my head’s reeling a bit as I type.

I am already missing Kimi a bit. Agreed he had about as much animation in his eyes as that of a dead fish, but the Iceman was still a bit special. Who can forget the gorilla costumes and James Hunt pseudonyms? And now we have to change the website logo, which is a darned nuisance  by the way. Oh well, at least we still have dear Felipe, a fighter as always. Talking of which, what has come over Michael Schumacher (Or his evil twin, as Luca di Montezemolo would have us believe)? So he got the racing itch, and there was a small logistical problem at Ferrari (2 Ferrari cars is not divisible by 3 drivers), but if he had been a bit patient, I am sure Bernie would have found the way. Yes, Bernie Ecclestone. Clearly a man who can reveal he would like short-cuts at every circuit with a straight face is capable of thinking up some creative solution to this problem. I attribute this whole fiasco to inviting Michael to every other race by the way. No good racing driver can sit on the pit wall and watch his erstwhile colleagues make a hash of it race after race without wanting to jump in the car and show them a pointer or two. Anyway, no use crying over spilt milk, so we resign ourselves to watching da Michael in gray overalls and red helmet, a fashion disaster as always.  

Talking of fashion disasters…I mean fashion, I must say the red sits pretty well on young Fernando. Better than blue anyway. And is it just me, or has his neck slimmed down quite a bit? No more talks of fat necks, bushy eyebrows and mental instability by the way. We have always been very fond of Fernando Alonso here at FFN, and as a grand welcoming gesture from now on, we shall only focus on the positives. Anything else is just an endearing quirk. With Fernando and Felipe at Ferrari, we are very tempted to change FFN to FFFFN, no that’s not what I was going to say…we at FFN are very excited about the 2010 season. Bring it on! Forza Ferrari, as always!