February 2010


It must be quite obvious that we, here at FFN, are rather fond of Kimi Raikkonen in that detached, indulgent manner like you are sometimes fond of a crazy cousin. Having authored several best sellers such as “The Art of Replying in Monosyllables” and “Ron Dennis: A Survival Guide”, not to mention “When and Where to Dress in a Gorilla Costume”, Kimi also drove a F1 car in his spare time, and was even a Ferrari driver briefly. However, after a career move to rallying, we are surprised by how vocal Raikkonen suddenly is, never losing an opportunity to remind everyone how boring F1 is, and how foolish millions of people are to be even following this silly sport (or non-sport as Alonso would put it). Now when he says “WRC is more open than F1, there’s a warmer feeling”, we can’t help but feel not all is well with Iceman. I mean, Kimi-Bot talking about openness, friendship and warmness is like Flavio Briatore talking about team orders…just doesn’t gel. By the way, what did you think of the new Lotus? This is what we thought…

The next test session in Jerez is promising to be a cheery affair, what with severe rain forecasts and  flood warnings. It will be interesting to watch all the F1 teams huddled up in their respective motorhomes watching the cars floating in the garages outside.  With the testing regulations and all that, we can’t help but feel half the grid is going to get the first decent run only during the Bahrain GP, adding a whole new dimension of variability to the proceedings (Can the Virgin front wing last 10 laps? Is USF1 really going to be there on the grid? Did Campos get the brake and accelerator pedals interchanged?)  So when Kimi says boring and unpredictable, he clearly doesn’t have a clue.

There was an interesting news piece on Pitpass yesterday on majority of the Mercedes former management resigning, and to be replaced by Mohamed Badawy Al Huseinny (and if that’s only one man, then a few others from Aabar Investing Fund as well). But today, a Mercedes spokesman has dismissed the reports – “”I can confirm that Nick Fry remains at the team in the position of chief executive officer”. The spokesman adds that there is no big change forthcoming, except they have fired the cook in the Mercedes motohome. “There was a lot of negative PR because Michael was always dashing off to the Ferrari motorhome for lunch” clarifies the spokesman, “Now we have a Italian chef who can make spaghetti aglio e olio pasta with garlic and olive oil  as well as the next person”. Michael was not available for comment.

The British media have been busy the past week wondering what could possibly be the reason for Ferrari topping the charts at Valencia last week. Never mind that Ferrari has won 8 out of the last 11 world constructor championships, one would have thought Force India topped the charts judging by the reaction. One interesting theory presented was that Ferrari omitted to add 30 kgs of ballast to the car, an honest mistake any team can make, and after all the self-congratulatory pats on the back for having exceeded expectations, were chagrined to find the missing ballasts hidden behind the extra tyres. We can see that going down well with Luca di Montezemolo. Or wait, maybe it was a deliberate ‘mistake’, much like our beloved Schumster parking in Rascasse. Maybe Ferrari thought it was a wonderful idea to corner all the pre-season hype only to fail spectacularly in the first race. Well, clearly we are not the only ones in the fake news business, that’s for sure.

We hear Red Bull’s got a bit of a problem. Adrian Newey, in his quest for aerodynamic perfection has designed such a unique raised nose that it’s pretty much all the driver can see from the cockpit. Maybe they should have just stuck to the previous year’s design, much like Force India. Force India has cleverly restricted all their innovations to the steering wheel. We have already highlighted their desire to just have a car that runs, which is actually a clever strategy. This way, they will surely finish ahead of at least five other teams that seem destined to merely form immovable hurdles at the race start. And there is further action in store presented by teams such as Virgin, where you never know when the car is going to disintegrate all over the track, as it did in Jerez today, with drivers no doubt having to drive warily around to avoid the odd piece of debris. Thankfully DC has retired, I doubt our hearts could have withstood that added excitement, given his well documented stopping-in-the-rain routines and attempted decapitations.  

Ferrari is looking increasingly consistent and reliable at the Jerez tests, all positive signs leading up to the season. Bring on Bahrain! Forza! I will leave you with a bit of Ron-Speak, just so we can be grateful we are not subjected to this on a regular basis anymore. “You have one driver preceding the other and feeling that he had to catch up. You have all these very, very different chemistries, and it’s just not the case with two drivers who have got like-minded approaches, an Anglophile approach”. And this was all in reply to some unsuspecting journo asking Ron about the Hamilton-Button pairing in McLaren.

We (at FFN) have been wondering about the new point system a bit. You know, the newest 25-18-15-12-10 one, awarding the winner with a whopping 7 point lead. It feels as though the powers that be in F1 have a sudden sneaking suspicion that lack of overtaking might have little to do with the cars and tracks after all. In the recent past, the governing bodies have been throwing everything they could lay their collective hands on into making F1 a better sporting spectacle, meaning more cars overtaking and less resemblance to a ruddy procession. If this meant sweeping aerodynamic changes or the blessed KERS or even shortcuts, so be it. And then some bright chap in some Council approved a proposal from a different commission, the gist of it being to provide a bit of incentive to the drivers to actually want to overtake. We think it’s a rather bright idea, our only concern being Bernie Ecclestone agrees. “The idea was to make a much bigger gap between first and second” says Bernie, “give people the incentive to overtake, not to sit there getting points”. Uh oh, what did we miss? Jenson Button, it has to be said, is far more diplomatic than FFN when it comes to voicing opinions on anything Bernie. He thinks the ‘shortcuts’ idea is rather ridiculous of course, but seems to suggest it is an exception rather than norm. “We struggle seeing anyway out of the sides of the cars, because the cockpit comes up to here for safety reasons. So if there is a car coming at an angle, it can be very dangerous” says Jense, “It’s probably not one of Bernie’s better ideas”. Oh, we think it is one of Bernie’s better ideas, which doesn’t say much for the standard I suppose.

Meanwhile, Force India’s design director Mark Smith is not upset about skipping the Valencia test last week. “As long as we are ready to go the Jerez test with a car that will run then it’s better for us” he says, and you have to agree. Car that runs is definitely better than car that maintains its state of inertia at rest. Nico Hulkenberg is also feeling the pressure, not that he is driving for Force India. “Williams expect me to deliver a good job, to drive quickly and do well for them. They would not appoint me as a driver if they didn’t expect something from me” says the clearly inexperienced youngling. If only he had read a bit of F1 history, he would know Williams specialize in appointing drivers no one in their right mind can expect anything out of. I mean, he’s got Rubens Barrichello as teammate for heaven’s sake! I bet if Ralf Schumacher were to make a comeback, Williams would sign him up without a second thought. Speaking of Rubens, we hear he had been urging young Rosberg to bolt out of Mercedes, now that Michael Schumacher is his teammate. Acts of courage, indeed.

Bring on the Jerez test then, keep fingers crossed that Ferrari goes fastest there as well. Forza!