David Coulthard


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.

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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.

After a calamitous opening round to the Formula 1 season in Melbourne Australia, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, the boys from Maranello vowed to bounce back and prove themselves once more in the stifling humidity of Sepang Malaysia.

Going into the race weekend, both Ferrari boys (ickle Felipe and the Kimbot) demonstrated a strong pace in free practice, but it remained to be seen if that dominance would translate into qualifying and race pace.

Would the F2008 manage to go one weekend without having a temperamental technical hissy fit? And would Ferrari’s driving duo manage to break the habit of spinning around like a bunch of ballerina’s after too many M&M’s?

qualifying-saturday.jpgVery soon it became evident that the shambolic shenanigans of Oz were an uncharacteristic one-off for Ferrari, with Felipe and Kimi trading fastest sector for fastest sector in qualifying to ensure a front row lock-out for the Maranello outfit for Sunday ahead of their main archrivals McLaren.

However, a slight mishap at the end of the qualifying session robbed the viewing public of a straight shoot out between the rival teams off of the starting grid.

It was judged that the McLaren duo whilst coasting around in fuel saving snail mode and admiring the scenery (not to mention themselves), had impeded the fastest flying lap of BMW-Sauber’s Quick Nick and Renault’s Fernando ‘I’m an FIA frequenter’ Alonso.

As per the FIA rulebook if you get caught impeding another drivers qualifying lap, then it’s a slap on the hand and back five spaces on the snakes and ladders board. And so it proved, within hours of the qualifying session the race stewards had demoted the unhappy pair back to 8th and 9th on the start grid, further compounding McLaren’s misery for the weekend. However much to the delight of some sections of the tifosi.

The Race

As Sunday dawned, even the inclement weather that had been predicted seemed to behave itself (much to ickle Felipe’s relief) leaving us with the exciting prospect of an entertaining dry race and hopefully a 1-2 finish for the Maranello Squad. But if the opening round of the season was anything to go by, then it doesn’t do to start counting your chickens too early or remaining drivers for that matter.

kimi-and-felipe-fight-for-first-corner.jpgAs the five red lights went out signalling the start of the afternoon’s proceedings, both of Ferrari’s driving duo got off to a decent start battling it out for supremacy in the first corner.

The Kimster briefly snatched the lead off his team-mate, only for the feisty little Brazilian to take no cheek off the Finn (WDC or not) and snatch the lead back from him just seconds later.

Meanwhile 3rd placed man Quick Nick Heidfeld had a disastrous start off the grid, losing several places from the get go to watch team mate Kubica, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovaleinen, David Coulthard and Fernando Alonso all go sailing past him serenely on the first lap. Undoing all the work he had put in with the race stewards the previous evening.

Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais meanwhile appeared to have boiled his brain in the stifling Sepang heat, forgot what he was supposed to be doing and subsequently spun his car straight into the gravel trap. Race over before it’s even begun then.

Lucky Lewis got off to a great straight making up 4 places right from the start line, only to find himself stuck behind the Red Bull of Antipodean Mark Whingebag Webber, which was going to happen quite a lot throughout the afternoon if he didn’t know it yet.

Meanwhile further down the grid Williams’ ‘Captain’ Nico Rosberg and Toyota’s Timo Glock entangled, leaving the Williams star with no front wing (it’s in the gravel trap Nico!) and both drivers had to recover to the pits to repair the resulting damage.

Unfortunately Timo had to retire, and Nico was left to rejoin the racetrack albeit trailing around in last place behind Super Aguri’s Ant Davidson. We do hope Nico does haven’t this kind of incident whilst flying that airbus!

coulthard-in-a-sandwich.jpgJust a few laps into the race and Formula 1’s elder statesman (or old fart whichever you prefer) David Coulthard was being harried by Renault’s Fernando Alonso and BMW-Sauber’s Wookie Quick Nick. Before the Scot knew what was happening he was suddenly the Haggis in the middle of a Heidfeld/Alonso sandwich on the straight, with Quick Nick stealing the place off him, shortly followed by Fandango.

In fifth place meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was being harangued and harassed by Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, the Brit appearing to struggle with pace despite having superior machinery and having to fight off the charge of the Trulli-train (who for once was actually having a good race and not falling asleep in the cockpit).

By lap 16 both of the Ferrari’s were scuttling nicely away at the front and had come up to lap backmarker Nico Rosberg.

On the following lap ickle Felipe who was leading the race up until this point shot into the pitlane for his first of two proposed pitstops. This released the Kimbot on track, to put in some storming sector times while his team-mate was admiring how handsome his pitcrew looked in their little red overalls. Well they do!

A lap later the Kim-bot shot down the pitlane for his first scheduled pitstop, and out again like a rocket rejoining the track in second place ahead of Brazilian poppet ickle Felipe much to his chagrin. Leaving the popular Polish BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica to lead the race from the front.

pitstop-pandemonium.jpgTwo laps later the first McLaren driver was called in for their first scheduled pitstop, on this occasion it was Lewis. Unfortunately just to compound the already torrid weekend the McLaren team were having, the right front wheelnut refused to budge, and the Englishman lost in the region of 15 seconds track time while his pitcrew maniacally fumbled the old tyre off and the new front right into place.

In the intervening time, we are to understand that Lewis quite fancied a beer, something which the media later seized upon.

Subsequently the British Media lamented the fact that their poor pin-up had to make do with driving without any drinking water (did he spill it into the footwell and all over his smelly socks – we want to know).

Not the least bit known for their sensationalist headlines…by Monday Lewis had not only been subjected to thirst and dehydration but also water torture, rickets, beri-beri, ebola and god knows what other afflictions and still survived. What a man.

We can’t help but wonder if next week we will be duly informed by said same Media that Lewis is responsible for the resolution of global conflicts and world poverty in his spare time, and thus would explain why he can’t find the time to join the GPDA (grand prix driver’s association).

poor-thirsty-lewis.jpgThe Spanish media obviously taking a completely different meaning altogether from Lewis’s beverage related comments, by suggesting his comment about fancying a beer to actually be a sarcastic comment relating to how rubbish his pitcrew are or something similar.

Unless there is some unhitherto reported secret pitlane language we don’t know about, we can only scratch our heads in confusion about how Spanish Motorsports publication Marca could put two and two together and come up with 29. It’s not like they have a reputation for this sort of thing, is it?

A lap later BMW-Sauber’s race leader Robert Kubica came in for his first pitstop, releasing the Kimbot into the race lead for the first time that afternoon.

Meanwhile Jarno Trulli having somewhat of a storming afternoon for a change, was now out on track harassing the other McLaren driver Heikki Kovaleinen, had Toyota put some class B medication into his drinking water or a rocket under him?

Back on track after his pitstop pandemonium, Lewis was once again behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber and losing time as a result, the Brit struggling in vain to get past the Red Bull but was unable to do so. Diddums.

felipe-out-of-the-race.jpgShortly after the first round of pitstops had been completed, Ferrari’s ickle Felipe was trailing team-mate the Kimbot by something like 4 seconds. At this point in proceedings the little Brazilian clipped a kerb in turn 7 and as a result spun the car in turn 8 bedding his F2008 straight into the gravel trap, from whence he could not recover to the track.

Unfortunately since crane assistance is now outlawed by the FIA, the little poppet’s race was over and he had to scamper back to the Ferrari garage hanging his head in shame.

This second disastrous weekend in a row for the Brazilian star has sparked a whole siege of rumours about his imminent exit from the Maranello Squad, with just about everyone in the paddock apart from Max Mosley being touted as a replacement.

Later Fernando Alonso who isn’t exactly making a secret of his displeasure at not driving at the sharp end of the grid this season in his Renoo, commenting it is natural that speculation is touting him as a replacement for Felipe at Ferrari (he wishes). This is despite the fact Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Vettel is also rumoured to be heading for the second seat. It could be a tight squeeze.

Of course this is all news to Ferrari, who are standing by their man and saying there is no need to panic and we will undoubtedly see the troubled Brazilian return to form in Bahrain (or otherwise he will be taken out back tied to a lamppost, force fed the Kimbot’s rocket fuel against his will and given forty lashes with Luca di Montezemolo’s tongue).

kimis-pitboard.jpgMeanwhile before I go off topic completely, back on track at this point Ferrari’s flying Finn the Kimster was already somewhere in the region of 22 seconds ahead of next placed man Robert Kubica.

Unconfirmed rumours suggesting that the Kimster wasn’t even going as fast as he could have, and by this point had taken to playing Sudoku on his Nintendo DS in the cockpit to keep himself awake.

Poor Felipe tramped back to the paddock on foot only to be met by a horde of waiting hacks demanding to know what had happened, the forlorn little mite admitted to nothing, despite Ferrari suggesting they could see nothing on their telemetry to indicate any technical reason for the Brazilian stars impromptu spin.

Meanwhile now on Lap 37 the Kimbot was back in the pitlane for his second and final pitstop for the afternoon, gifting the lead of the race once more to Polish poppet Robert Kubica.

Just two laps after the Kimbot’s pitstop, the Ferrari engine in the back of Sebastien Vettel’s Torro Rosso blew, which must have been cause for concern for the Maranello outfit given the turn of event a week previously where both F2008’s had suffered a case of the engine gremlins.

We can only presume at this point the Ferrari pitwall were nervously crossing every available appendage, chewing off their fingernails and clock watching like no tomorrrow.

On lap 41, Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso both came into the pitlane for their final stops of the afternoon, allowing Lewis Hamilton to be promoted to fourth in proceedings.

However, this advantage lasted just three laps, as Hamilton once more came into the pitlane for a beer and change of black round things. This time fortunately the pitcrew managed to perform their tasks without any pesky wheelnuts misbehaving allowing the Brit to get back on track and keep position over BMW-Sauber’s bearded wonder Quick Nick, but unfortunately not in front of the Trulli-train.

heikkis-pitstop.jpgThe following lap McLaren’s other driver Happy Heikki pitted, rejoining the race track in third place albeit six centuries behind fellow Finn Kimbot Raikkonen who was still leisurely dawdling around out front in a league all of his own, having to be occasionally prodded back into consciousness by his race engineer Chris Dyer.

Despite putting in some strong lap times after his final pitstop, and catching up with the Italian, Hamilton was unable to make up enough time to overhaul Toyota’s Jarno Trulli leaving the Brit to take fifth place in the race adding just a handful of points to his WDC tally.

Much to the delight of the tifosi, Kimi brought home the win for Ferrari with a superlative dominant performance ahead of BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica in second, and McLaren’s Happy Heikki in third.

While Ferrari were understandably chuffed to have a win under their belts following on from the previous week’s debacle, they were left rueing the fact it could have been 18 points and not 10 they could have taken away from the Malaysian GP.

Onto Bahrain then, where we hope Felipe can finally get it together and secure a win, and where we hope Ferrari have finally ironed out all their confusion over engines, ECU’s and everything else.

shock-horror-kimi-misses-mouth.jpgSlightly worrying for the Maranello squad though was an incident that occurred after the checkered flag, while the Kimbot was celebrating his win on the podium.

How many times have we ever witnessed the Kimbot miss his mouth when it comes to alcohol only to get it into his eye socket instead? I know worrying times indeed for Ferrari’s Electronics division, we can only hope they get this unfortunate malfunction ironed out pronto.

However, if they find themselves in dire need of some advice in this area, they need only look to McLaren. McLaren’s CEO and Team Principal Ron Dennis today confirming what we had suspected all along….that the Woking based team are a dab hand at taking their drivers apart and putting them back together.

According to Ron, this is exactly what they have done over the winter to new signing Happy Heikki, who if reports are to be believed (huge vat of sodium chloride at the ready) had arrived into the team from Renault almost a broken man after a difficult year in 2007.

We cant help but feel if their work on Fernando Alonso is anything to go by (yes that’s the one who is stuck in permanent team switching mode) then we had better keep our eyes peeled for the rest of the season for any emerging serious defects.

Forza Ferrari.

start-line-at-albert-park.jpgAfter much anticipation the Formula 1 season finally got underway this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix taking place in Albert Park, Melbourne. We defy even Nostradamus Lauda and his finely attuned powers of prediction to have known exactly what was to follow in what turned out to be a very exciting and dramatic action packed race (yes F1 – I know!).

The weekend started well enough for the boys from the Scuderia, with our favourite Finn the Kimster topping the timesheets in the first free practice session, but from there on in things began to go pear-shaped for the Maranello outfit and no doubt new Team Principal Stefano Domenicali will be rueing the day he forced Felipe Massa to throw away his lucky underpants.

In the afternoon’s free practice something mysteriously seemed to go wrong with the set-up of the F2008, and soon arch-rivals McLaren rivals were taking charge of proceedings led by Lucky Lewis and Happy Heikki.

On Saturday, the bad luck continued with the Kimster suffering an engine pump failure during the first of the qualifying sessions, which we take to mean as the drinking straw fell out of his rocket fuel bottle and into the footwell of the F2008, leaving the Finn limping back to the pitlane in frustration not to mention very thirsty.

Unfortunately even with a highly paid 7 times World Champion and Super Assistant on the Books, no will in the world could make the Kimsters vehicle get back to the pitlane to allow him to have the problem fixed. And thus under Parc Ferme rules the Kimster was not allowed to take any further part in qualifying proceedings relegating the World Champ to 15th spot on the grid for Sunday’s Race.

Meanwhile team mate ickle Felipe was suffering misfortunes of his own having to abandon his last flying lap in the final qualifying session due to encountering traffic, meaning that the plucky Brazilian was unable to get the temperature into his tyres for his last flying attempt. Unfortunately this meant Felipe could only manage to secure 4th spot on the grid behind Lucky Lewis, Polish Papal favourite Robert Kubica in his spiky porcupine and Happy Heikki in his first turn out for the McLaren team.

Still all was not lost. Yet.

On race day, as the grid formed it was evident that pitlane poppet and Ferrari Team Manager Luca Baldisserri had a cunning plan up his sleeve, as both Ferrari’s lined up on the grid wearing the softer of the two tyre compounds available to the teams, compared to most of their rivals who started on the harder round black things. Despite having higher degradation and wear rates than the harder compound, conventional wisdom suggests that the softer of the two would allow the drivers to make up places at the start of the race now that traction control has been banned from the sport.

felipe-heads-off-for-some-sight-seeing.jpgWhen the lights went out, true to form the Kimster rocketed up the grid from 15th into 8th place leaving rivals left, right and centre in his wake.

Things however, did not start so well for ickle Felipe, who despite managing to get into the first corner maintaining his fourth position had what can only be described as a blonde moment and immediately shot off onto the grass for an impromptu scenic diversion.

This temporary mishap meant by the time the little ray of sunshine had recovered, most of the grid had got past him and were scuttling off at a rate of knots ahead of him. Whether as a result of Felipe’s impromptu track departure or not, we can’t really say but Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Vettel and Force 1ndia’s Giancarlo Fisichella entangled on track putting a premature end to their respective races before things had even barely started. Thus bringing out the Safety car for it’s first of many tour of duty for the afternoon’s proceedings.

The fortuitous arrival of said safety car allowed our ickle Felipe to return to the pitlane to have his nose-cone replaced which had taken a bit of a scrape in his tete a tete with the barriers on the grass verge. At this point more retirements ensued with Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Ant Davidson all packing up shop early and heading off for an early shower and afternoon nap.

the-stress-caused-by-green-trousers.jpgAt least Ferrari Team Boss Stefano Domenicali could take comfort from the fact ex-Ferrari man Ross Brawn was having an equally torrid time in his first official outting as Head Honda Honcho not least because of the hideous green trews (trousers) he was forced to wear. We can only presume Honda have engaged the services of F1’s foremost fashionista and former World Champion Jackie Stewart over the winter months to design their team kit, and as a result half of Honda look like extras from Robin Hood – Men in Tights. And we thought McLaren had it bad.

At the end of the second lap the safety car peeled off into the pitlane leaving the McLaren boys to scamper off merrily into the distance, and Ferrari’s poor ickle Felipe returning yet again to the pitlane for some fuel (since some silly sausage at the FIA has banned refuelling during a SC period) and we can but hope a flea in his ear from his race engineer Rob Smedley.

While Lucky Lewis was pulling out a 2 second gap over Robert Kubica’s BMW/pineapple, our flying Finn was all over the back of Honda’s Rubens Barrichello but to no avail. The planetary themed car proved to be very fat indeed and quite difficult to overtake – hardly a surprise with all that G Force Planet Earth produces.

Finally some 16 laps later, the Kimster finally managed to overhaul the Honda putting in an audacious move, and immediately was able to set about putting in some fast laps in the race, however by this time race leader Lucky Lewis had been able to complete his first pitstop and his teammate Kovaleinen was now leading proceedings out in front.

Meanwhile ickle Felipe was struggling to get past the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato, and given the latter’s reputation for aggressive racing and happily punting off rivals into the gravel at the drop of a hat, we can’t help but sympathise with Massa’s predicament.

jarnos-retirement.jpgToyota’s Jarno Trulli at this stage came into the pits, pulled off his steering wheel in frustration and retired, presumably much to the relief of those out on track who actually wanted to spend the afternoon overtaking and falling off all over the place and not stuck in a customary Trulli tailback.

By all accounts Jarno is a lovely man, but here at FFN we do wonder how many years its going to take for him to manage to transfer his legendary single lap qualifying pace and string it together in a race type situation. Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks?

Back on track Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato made a small mistake, which allowed both Felipe Massa and Williams Star Nakajima to take advantage and steam past. Nakajima’s team mate Britney (Rosberg) meanwhile was having a very decent race and had come into the pits with BMW’s Quick-Nick-Where’s-Chewbacca-Gone Heidfeld for a little bit of facial grooming and their first pitstop of the afternoon.

On the 21st lap McLaren’s Heikki Kovaleinen came into the pitlane for his scheduled pitstop, and just managed by the skin of his teeth to get back out on track ahead of his fellow rampaging Finn the Kimster who has been charging up the field like he had a rocket in his trousers and a point to prove. At this point only Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso and the Kimster had yet to make their first pitstops.

Not long after this, ickle Felipe had evidently had enough of being stuck behind the Red Bull of David Coulthard (and who can blame him – David did obviously) and stole up the inside of the RB4 causing a collision by driving into the side of David’s car which put paid to the Scotsman’s race.

felipe-and-davids-fisticuffs.jpgOn being interviewed later the Red Bull veteran blamed the Brazilian for the incident and suggested ickle Felipe should take full responsibility for the collision, which incidentally he didn’t, and DC suggested that he might have to pop along to Ferrari and give ickle Felipe a good hiding (or something along those lines but no doubt less polite). It remains to be seen if the Ferrari Star has since been on the receiving end of a good thrashing and required urgent medical attention, so we shall keep our eyes peeled next weekend at Malaysia for any tell-tale big sunglasses and bruised eyes in the paddock.

As a result of the incident between the Red Bull and the Prancing Horse the safety car yet again pulled onto the race track allowing the drivers to form up behind in close formation.

Much to the relief of the Renault team, race control ordered the reopening of the pitlane two laps later allowing Fernando Alonso amongst others to come in and refuel. According to rumours the Sparky Spaniard had been running on fumes, team Boss Flavio Briatore was having kittens on the pitwall (not literally you understand), and poor Nando was beginning to wonder if he’d have to get out and push.

kimi-visits-the-gravel-trap.jpgOnce the safety car had peeled off into the pitlane for a second time, the race was back on. Happy Heikki was giving a hard time to his team mate Lewis out front, and the Kimster for some reason known only to himself decided to try some distraction tactics at turn 3 by shooting past his fellow Finn, waving and smiling as he went and shot into the gravel trap demoting himself back down to twelfth spot in the process. By which point we can only imagine the Ferrari pitwall must have developed an epidemic of hair pulling, hand wringing and furious nail-biting of epic proportions with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo no doubt on the verge of lobbing his television out of the window in frustration.

Just to compound Ferrari’s torrid afternoon, shortly after Kimi’s escapades in turn 3, ickle Felipe’s car limped to the end of its life with engine trouble putting paid to the Brazilians efforts for the afternoon. Much to our disappointment, but we are sure there might have been the odd Scotsman here or there who might have taken some delight in this tragic turn of events.

Finally the Kimster came in for his one and only pitstop. Back out on track the two McLaren’s were still leading proceedings ahead of Quick Nick, Britney, and ‘I’m better than Michael Schumacher honestly’ Barrichello. Torro Rosso’s Rookie Sebastien Bourdais at this point was still having a stirling drive in his maiden F1 Grand Prix despite all the chaos going off everywhere else.

Meanwhile Papal Polish Poker Player Robert Kubica struggled with the tyres on his car and was being hounded by Double World Champion Fernando Alonso, who really you don’t want breathing down your neck at the best of times especially given his propensity for throwing temperamental hissy-fits when he doesn’t get his own way.

kimsters-optimism-pays-off-again.jpgWhile Nando was lining up to put a move on the BMW, the Kimster decided to try his distraction tactics again this time on the Toyota of Timo Glock, Unfortunately the bold move by the Finn resulted in him spinning around like a milk bottle top on a doorstep while Timo carried on as usual in a straight line. By this point we were beginning to wonder if the real Kimi was still at home in bed snoring his head off and some imposter had snuck off for the afternoon with his F2008 for a spin (literally).

The second row of pitstops ensued for some of the top runners (Hamilton, Rosberg and Heidfeld) shortly followed by Timo Glock having a big accident at turn 12, the German’s car was launched off the grass into the air for an impromptu flying lesson. Luckily the only damage being done to his pride and the car.

carnage-in-the-honda-pitbox.jpgDown at Honda things went from bad to worse, with Rubens Barrichello in the pitlane carrying out an illegal attempt at refuelling under the safety car (as a response to Glock’s accident) followed by the Brazilian knocking down several of his pitcrew with the refuelling rig when the lollipop guy got a bit over-enthusiastic. Well if it’s good enough for Mr Schumacher….

A few laps later the pitlane was confirmed open by race control, which allowed Alonso and Kovaleinen to pit for fuel and tyres, it was then confirmed that Rubens would have to undergo a 10 second stop and go penalty for his illegal refuelling under the safety car period…not to mention for sending the green trouser brigade scattering like a bunch of skittles.

Once more the safety car driver pulled into the pitlane with the fervent hope of getting to actually sit down for a cup of tea and some cucumber sandwiches for a change, but before the poor mite could count all his fingers and toes and curse the demise of traction control, his blood pressure was given a thorough testing again as the BMW of Robert Kubica and the Williams of Nakajima entangled out on track leaving both drivers with damage to their noses (on the cars not their faces). Luckily for the safety car driver his services were not needed on this occasion, but poor Kubica had to retire due to the damage caused to his spiky porcupine.

Unfortunately Heikki Kovaleinen was caught out slightly by the incident between Kubica and Nakajima, giving Fernando Alonso the perfect opportunity to sneak past and steal his position on track. Meanwhile Rubens had to report to the pits to complete his ten second stop and go penalty.

kimsters-retirement.jpgElsewhere the day was going from bad to worse to even worse for the Maranello squad, with some strange sounds emitting from Kimi Raikkonen’s F2008. After a few laps it became evident to us all the strange tones pouring from the Ferrari were not a result of the Kimster singing his usual favourite Karaoke tunes in the cockpit but in fact engine trouble as he slowly limped around at the back of the field in the last points paying position. Shortly after the Kimster had to retire from the race, ending a disastrous afternoon for the team that had been touted by many as pre-season favourites and predicted to dominate in Albert Park.

At this point in the afternoon the Ferrari engine also to decided to go on the Torro Rosso of star Rookie Sebastian Bourdais (presumably in sympathy for Kimi’s), robbing the Frenchman of a better finish to his maiden Grand Prix, which up until this point had been a solid performance.

With 8 laps to go until the end of the race, McLaren’s Happy Heikki was still battling it out on track with the man he replaced in Ron Dennis’s affections, Nando Alonso. A small mistake on the main straight by the McLaren man allowed the Renault to sweep past again, wiping the smug smile firmly off the face of Retirement Ron on the pitwall.

the-happy-trio.jpgAfter what can only be described as a tense yet exciting afternoon of unpredicatable action and drama, Lucky Lewis swept home in commanding style to take the win for McLaren, shortly followed by Quick Nick and Britney to complete the top three drivers of the afternoon, while Ferrari were left to pick up the pieces.

But before all you tifosi despair, just bear in mind these words from our Presidente “I can’t wait for sunday to see the real Ferrari”. Well I expect you may remember what happened when he last uttered similar sublimal messages to the effect of wanting to see the real Kimi at the half way point in 2007.

So all is not lost, and even Ron Dennis has admitted you can never write Ferrari off and they will bounce back from this distastrous start to the season…and you know Ron….he is never wrong, allegedly.

Roll on Malaysia and Forza Ferrari.

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.

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….

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….

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