Giancarlo Fisichella


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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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.

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….

ferraris-flying-finn1.jpgThe fourth and final day of F1 testing at the Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Valencia Spain, bathed in good weather witnessed a duel between the sports two Finns for final honours at the top of the timesheets.

The Kim-bot in his Ferrari just managing to beat ‘Happy Heidi’ in his McLaren by a tenth of a second with his best effort of the day being a 1.11.189, all while continuing his non-stop verbal effusions concerning the F2008 since it’s initial launch back at the beginning of January. Suffice to say here at FFN we are delighted to hear Kimi is very happy with his new car, but we are concerned that if he carries on this uncharacteristic chattering nineteen to the dozen without pausing for breathe, he’ll be knackered by the season opener in Melbourne.

Ickle Felipe secured the 3rd spot of the day for the Scuderia (and we don’t mean pimples because he clearly doesn’t look old enough to suffer that fate yet), with Nakajima’s Williams again demonstrating good pace and squeezing out Spain’s favourite driver of the week Lewis Hamilton for fourth place.

The day generally witnessed more red flags than you’d find at a bullfight, and when you couldn’t see a red flag or a Red Bull for that matter, there were a fair few mechanical breakdowns out on track. Which seemed to amuse the locals no end if the raucous roars were anything to go by. Nelson Piquet, Sebastien Vettel, Giancarlo Fisichella and Lewis Hamilton all suffered various attacks of the technical gremlins during the session.

When out of the car, Lamppost Lewis was on the receiving end of a few verbal attacks from the strongly vocal partisan Spanish crowd, who had come armed with banners and posters (and probably a few pitchforks as well) demonstrating their support for Alonso. And taking plenty of opportunity to denigrate and have a bash at the Englishman and his potty training progress, amongst other less mentionable subjects.

spanish-favourite-lamppost-lewis.jpgNot one to miss a golden opportunity to have the last word, the McLaren star was last seen giving an interview to the media suggesting he had learned a valuable lesson last season. According to the Englishman, he would be using the behaviour of his former team-mate to influence his future conduct in the sport.

Obviously we are pretty pleased to hear this, as we had thought on seeing Alonso’s departure from McLaren we had seen the last of toys coming out the pram, childish spats across the garage, slinging your racing helmet about in a fit of temper and much door slamming to boot. So its wonderful to see that Lewis will carry on that fine tradition for the foreseeable future.

Nelson Pretty-boy Piquet Jnr resumed testing duties for the Renault team, his first day in the R28 was spent acclimatising to the car, carrying on where Fernando had left off and working on finding an optimal set-up. Not to mention taking every opportunity to check he was still as good-looking as he was five minutes ago in his wing mirrors.

Down at Honda things were not looking too happy or good looking either for that matter. After enduring a dismal 2007 campaign with an excessively temperamental car, hopes were initially high within the team that things would indeed be better for 2008.

The RA108 was subsequently launched on track on Wednesday, and thus far seems to be just as much off the pace as its predecessor. With Jenson Button careering around in it 2.5 seconds per lap behind the pacesetters during the final day of testing.

hondas-cat.jpgTeam-mate Rubens Barrichello struggled to put a positive spin on things when talking to the media, suggesting there wasn’t much to say about the new car as yet (which we take to mean nothing that can be reported without the use of some rather candid language). Rubens adding that the small problems they were encountering were relatively normal when shaking down a cat (According to Autosport). Yes, you read that correctly.

Which probably explains a few things, because we presume cats don’t like being shaken down at the best of times, and usually the only time you can get one to go fast is if you put a large dog on its tail threatening to eat it. The rest of the time they just sit there and snore their heads off.

Ross Brawn did say he liked a challenge. Will he finally manage to rid Honda of their strange animal fixation? First it was elephant ears…now its cats…whatever next armadillo’s, pot-bellied pigs, sloths? And will Honda finally manage to save up enough pocket money to actually pay for a paint-job before the season starts?

Only time will tell…

michaels-fashion-statement.jpgThe penultimate day of testing at Jerez in Spain on Tuesday saw the return of Renault’s prodigal son Fernando Alonso to the fold. The Double World Champion was spotted strolling into the paddock wearing what can only be described as his grandmother’s tea-cosy on his head.

We are a little bit concerned that Fernando has been taking fashion advice from 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher, in the fervent hope the more ridiculous the outfit the more successful he will be in his chosen profession. One only has to look to Michael’s latest offering to realise all the money in the world, a vast collection of shiny pots and a giant ‘schloss’ really cant buy you fashion sense.

Rumour has it Ferrari Team Boss Stefano Domenicali has ordered the Maranello based team to scour the inside of Kimi Raikkonen’s wardrobe for any eyeball offending checked shirts, silly hats or cowboy boots lest he start following suit.

But it would seem the knitted tea cosy worked its wonders, as Fernando managed to set the fastest time of the day out on track in the 2007 Renault much to the delight of the local fans. It’s purely coincidental that the fastest lap was secured on a new set of tyres and a very light fuel load, but we won’t let that detract from Alonso’s homecoming glory in the slightest, or from the multicoloured barnet topper.

kovaleinen-in-one-of-nandos-hats.jpgPresumably Fisichella and Kovaleinen will be wondering why on earth Fernando couldn’t have left that magical 0.6 seconds he took with him to McLaren, behind for their benefit. Kovy will have to resignedly make do with accepting Nando’s unwanted cast-offs for the second season in succession. Poor Boy. Fisichella no doubt will to be too preoccupied with team mate relations and dressing up like a man servant at Force 1ndia, to worry what Nando and Renault have been doing in his absence.

Now all season long in 2007 you may have noticed a little bit of a tabloid news war (on the scale of the armada) going on between Spain and England, over their respective F1 stars. Nary a week went past without a flurry of stories being printed on either side making outlandish claims and counter claims and generally throwing insults about like a bunch of fractious five year olds at a tea party.

Suffice to say, the waiting Spanish Media at Jerez could not wait to shoot down the pitlane and demand to know from Lamppost Lewis his reaction to Nando’s fastest lap. The British Star was left looking somewhat bemused when a rather persistent journalist demanded to know on at least two separate occasions what Lewis had thought about Nando’s time.

Naturally F1 drivers are a rather egotistical bunch on the whole, only used to talking about their favourite subject – themselves. So when some sneaky F1 hacks slips a question in about someone else, its no wonder they are left floundering about like a mackerel out of water. “What do I think to Nando?” erm “Who is Nando?”.

Lewis managed to just about mask his surprise and trot out “Good for him”, whilst obviously wondering if he was going to be plagued by a thousand and one questions on Nando for the rest of his natural life. Here at FFN we are thinking perhaps Lewis might want to publish a book on the subject entitled ‘1001 interesting facts about Nando-chops, including his favourite toothpaste’ and have done with it.

gravel-trap-take-2.jpgOn the final day of testing, there was nothing much of interest to report, Toyota’s rookie Timo Glock topped the timesheets in a session mired by the inclement precipitous conditions, and Lewis was drawn in his metallic McLaren like a magnet into the gravel trap on two separate occasions.

Apparently Lewis commented that his two trips into the stony stuff were as a result of the loss of traction control and contact with a slippery surface. And honestly has nothing to do with circulating rumours that the Brit is considering purchasing himself a beach hut, windbreaker and barbeque set since it is his favourite spot on any circuit.

In other news emerging yesterday, McLaren could be in the Mire. German Publication Auto Motor und Sport is rumoured to have suggested that Mercedes Benz are looking to buy out any of Ron Dennis’s remaining shares in the team and take control of the Woking base outfit.

It is thought that the German Automotive Giants (that’s not a football team by the way), are less than happy at the management of last season’s photocopying debacle that ended in McLaren being stripped of all their constructors championship points, fined $100 million and packed off to the end of the pitlane in disgrace.

the-ronster.jpg Unconfirmed speculation suggests that the Mercedes company is aiming to seize control of McLaren before the opening race in Melbourne Australia, and will be buying their own photocopying shop to ensure nothing like this happens again.

Where this leaves the Ronster, we haven’t got the first clue…but we are desperately upset about the far reaching repercussions of such drastic action. Who would we take the mickey out of if Ron goes? And who then would be the shining beacon of integrity in the sport? troubling times are ahead indeed.

This week has witnessed the Ferrari Team upping camp and relocating to Madonna di Campiglio in Northern Italy, for the annual Wrooom event. Generally the event seems to be grown men larking about like a bunch of schoolboys up a mountain.

serious-stefano.jpg The Ferrari boys indulged in a little bit of skiing, a bit of snowboarding, the odd press conference, shoving snowballs down Felipe Massa’s sweater and crashing a few FIAT 500’s into each other in the snow for good measure.

Not forgetting to mention of course the important business of projecting a serious, responsible and grown up public image when you have just been crowned F1 team boss, is that not so Mr Domenicali?

We are not entirely sure what the real purpose of the event is, but it is good to see the team having some fun before the serious business of F1 racing gets underway in March. Naturally we are just jealous we don’t get to muck about in the Alps at the expense of our boss.

In light of some comments we made several days ago, we are glad to report that Ferrari’s Official Spokesman Luca Colajanni has been found alive and well. Mr Colajanni magically popped out the woodwork less than 24 hours after we were wondering what Ferrari had done with him, and reportedly told Finnish Publication Turunsanomat that he is delighted that their new world champion Kimi Raikkonen now talks more to the media than he used to.

ferraris-3rd-driver.jpgPresumably Ferrari are still struggling understand a word his Mumbleship mutters, but at least it means Mr Colajanni is not having to make up comments on Kimi’s behalf and stick them through babelfish to get the right effect.

Other news emanating from the Scuderia, comes this week on the back of President’s Luca di Montezemolo’s earlier comments that retired star Michael Schumacher has been given the role of Ferrari’s 3rd Driver.

Mr Schumacher has clarified that his role within the team will actually be to help develop cars, both in the road car division and to help the F1 team where he can. When asked if this meant he would be making a Grand Prix comeback should anything untoward happen to one of Ferrari’s regular drivers (mentioning no names), Michael confirmed that this was not a possibility. Thereby dashing the hopes of many tifosi, but no doubt delighting Felipe Massa who had probably been considering hiring two beefy bodyguards for his own protection from the fanbase’s madcap scheming.

Elsewhere in F1, Force 1ndia has unveiled their driver line-up this week in Mumbai. German star Adrian Sutil and Italian Giancarlo Fisichella have been confirmed for the race seats, with Tonio Liuzzi being hired as the test driver. The curious launch of the line up saw the threesome dressed in a rather curious ensemble, with a leather-looking tunic and a pair of jodphurs.

curious-outfits.jpgObviously looking a little bit concerned at having to wear the get-up, no doubt Sutil and Fisichella were wondering if they would actually be getting F1 cars for the 2008 season, or having to go about on a pair of old nags. Perhaps new team owner Vijay Mallya has misunderstood the concept of horsepower.

Here at FFN we have come to the conclusion that Renault must put something in their ex-driver’s water on the way out the door, as apparently within days of being announced at Force 1ndia, Fisichella has already upset his team-mate. Which has to be a record, at least Fernando Alonso took a few months before upsetting the apple cart at McLaren.

According to some reports in the Media, Fissy announcing “I’m the reference point, the number one driver, thanks to my experience. Sutil comes after that,” to Italian Publication Gazzetta Dello Sport.

Naturally all this talk of Number 1’s and 2’s has come as somewhat of a nasty surprise for Sutil, who had been reliably informed he was going to be driving at the back of the grid not the front. The German Star has reportedly retorted to Fisichella’s comments, along the lines of, “we will worry about that when we are fighting for podiums” and silently adding “which will be when you have long retired old man”.

tf108.jpgYesterday saw the Cologne based Toyota squad officially launch their car for the 2008 season. The TF108 according to the teams Technical Chief Pascal Vasselon is a departure from the recent cars churned out by the Japanese Squad.

Apparently the TF108 is completely different from its predecessor the TF107, due to the team changing their design philosophy as a result of a string of poor results last season.

Jarno Trulli is incredibly optimistic about the performance of the team and it’s new charger and still believes the team have the potential to make it onto the podium at the very least in 2008.

Here at FFN we like Jarno we really do, he always appears a happy character trotting around the paddock, unlike some we could mention. Even his penchant for falling asleep at the wheel and creating an on track moving chicanery leaving 20 odd drivers frustratedly trailing behind him doesn’t detract from his otherwise fantastic personality traits, including the fact he owns a vineyard which is always a redeeming feature in my book.

But we do have to wonder if all those years of having that shaggy hairdo flopping about in his face had some sort of toll on his eyesight. In fact we are wondering if the entire Toyota squad should be booked in for a much-needed trip to Specsavers (The Opticians).

As far as we can see the TF108 is exactly the same as the TF107. It appears Toyota have employed someone’s 80 year old grandmother to come up with a funky paint scheme. Which to all intents and purposes looks like they had just parked the car next to a paint shop and a wayward tin has accidentally thrown itself all over the car in an desperate but rather misguided attempt to cover up the blandness of it all.

Then there is the actual car design itself, which might have taken a design concept from every other car in the paddock from last year, thrown them into a cement mixer, churned them around a bit and spat them out – and hey presto you have the TF108.

Perhaps we are being a little bit harsh, and no doubt if Renault or Honda come out with something to top it I could be shortly eating my words. Which wouldn’t be the first time eh Kimi?

fisi-force1-india.jpgWhile we are on the subject of old things, yesterday saw the confirmation that two of F1’s veterans (that’s a nice way of saying ancient) are staying in the sport. Austrian Alex Wurz has signed up to become Honda’s test driver, and Italian Giancarlo Fisichella has become confirmed as the second driver for Force1 India.

Naturally the 50 odd other candidates who were all desperate to be a backmarker in F1 (apart from Ralf Schumacher obviously) are rather disappointed that team boss Vijay Mallya has gone for ‘experience of swearing’ over youth and good looks. Young Spanish Driver Roldan Rodriguez who had been one of the candidates in line for the seat was last seen throwing a tantrum crying into his teddy bear.

Meanwhile in Italy, half of the Ferrari Squad is apparently up a snowy mountain larking about in FIAT 500’s and laughing when Kimi falls off his snowboard. In between they have been throwing the odd press conference to keep the media happy.

In the Wrooom press conference yesterday the Kimster spoke about his hopes for the new season, according to the Finn he is hoping to be able to challenge for back to back titles with the Maranello squad. Kimi also spoke about his excitement (we have the photos to prove it) at the prospect of two new circuits on the F1 calendar for the 2008 season, Valencia and Singapore. Ferrari’s World Champion is eagerly looking forward to the first night race on the F1 calendar in Singapore, not for it’s stunning location, or the fact that it’s going to be a challenging street circuit…but because it means the lazy blighter can get out of bed later.

kimi-looking-excited.jpgLittle Brazilian Felipe was worrying his head off about the loss of traction control and was mightily concerned the effects it would have in slightly inclement weather conditions e.g. Fuji style. Not that we want to start any completely wide of the mark internet theories or anything, but is it purely coincidental the man just confirmed as Ferrari’s “3rd driver” is also known as the Regenmeister (rainmaster)?

Ferrari’s new Team Boss Stefano Domenicali has also been in attendance at the event, speaking on many subjects and mentioned his wish to see the subject of the spying saga finally brought to a close. Which is all well and good…but perhaps someone might want to mention the plan in passing to Jean Todt as well.

It is also rumoured the other half of the Ferrari Squad were secretly testing some of their new aerodynamic gizmo’s at Vairano in Northern Italy, with Marc Gene apparently doing the honours this time. We can only assume on this occasion, Michael Schumacher was too busy washing his hair, because he is worth it.

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