Nelson Piquet Jnr


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

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

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

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This weekend hosts the fourth round (and quarter way point already – crikes!) of the Formula 1 season at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain. Following on from the two previous races in Malaysia and China where local weather conditions played havoc, it is rumoured that a sandstorm may be on the cards for Sunday afternoon which just happens to be race day.

sandstorm-sakhir-circuitBahrain’s Meteorology Office (not to be confused with Ferrari’s sometimes errant pitwall system) has reported there is an increasing risk of “rising sand” whatever that means. We do hope it isn’t quicksand, otherwise the entire paddock could be swallowed up and never seen again.

With the current season only being four weeks old, and two thirds of that taking place in meteorological conditions of biblical proportions, here at FFN we are beginning to wonder what catastrophe we are in for next….fire and brimstone raining from the skies? plagues of locusts? incurable boils? We realise the powers that be have been trying to improve the spectacle of the sport but this is just getting ridiculous.

While the F1 teams have been unpacking and getting ready ahead of the race weekend, the F1 rumour mill has been in top gear all week, seemingly no amount of rain or sand can put a spanner in the works of the worlds motorsports media.

If you have access to the BBC, you may remember that last weekend at the Chinese GP, former Force India Technical Director Mike Gascoyne took over from the BBC’s regular pundit Eddie Jordan to bring us his unique insight into all matters F1, and did a superb job.

According to recent reports the feedback received by the BBC was so positive, that Mike Gascoyne is allegedly pushing for the job full time at the expense of the Irishman. Simultaneously it is reported that Mr. Gascoyne also has his eye on an unspecified role at Maranello and fancies himself as a bit of a Ross Brawn.

mike-gascoyneAllegedly Mike has been quoted as saying he will fit in well with the culture at Ferrari (no doubt he has his beady eye on the lunch menu already and has been practicing speaking and waving his arms around like an animated windmill at the same time) and is touting himself for a possible role in the wind tunnel or in the aerodynamics department.

Perhaps Mike is offering to fill the Maranello based windtunnel with hot air, as it seems this is what he is spouting at the moment. As far as we are concerned he is nothing like Ross Brawn, in height, girth or fashion sense, not to mention Ross Brawn hasn’t been sacked by his last two employers. But lets not split hairs. Perhaps he is referring to his facial fuzz and whether he looks jolly and round in red uniforms.

Personally we would have thought Jean Todt would have been a more accurate comparison….since they both have reputations for rollocking their employees when they get cross, not to mention the need for a few copies of the Yellow Pages so they can reach their pitwall bar stools….

Someone else who is considering their future with the Ferrari Team is Michael Schumacher, who has confirmed he will be holding talks with the team over the summer as to whether he continues on in his extremely vaguely titled role as ‘Advisor’, two years on we are still trying to ascertain what he does apart from standing around looking pretty and scaring the bejesus out of Kimi.

Although we suppose some tifosi may point out the very same thing two years on, regarding sometimes WDC Kimi Raikkonen. Not least since Team Boss Stefano Domenicali hinted after Malaysia that people would be best remembering what their responsibilities are, assuming of course that Kimi can actually remember that far back in the first place…..

michael-schumacher-mystery-advisorMichael’s announcement has led to all sorts of scurrulous speculation, that he is either looking to dethrone current F1 team boss Stefano Domenicali, or has simply got fed up of standing about like an expensive piece of furniture and taking flak for dubious strategy decisions, and wants to cut ties with the Maranello team and instead has decided to run off with the Moscow State Circus.

Is there anyone in the paddock these days not considering their future with the team? According to former Toro Rosso boss Gerhard Berger, the only man in Maranello with an assured job for next year is Fernando Alonso, quel surprise!

Allegedly the Toro Rosso ex-boss and former Ferrari encumbant himself, claims that the Spaniard already knows what team he is working for in 2010. According to reports, Fernando informed the Toro Rosso team in 2008, that he was only looking for an option for 2009 as he had already got plans in place for the following year. We can only presume he is coming to Ferrari in an advisory capacity as it seems to be all the rage these days, filling your garage up with highly paid advisors, never mind the sodding drivers.

This could leave Renault in the lurch somewhat when it comes to drivers, as already rumours have begun to emerge that Nelson Piquet Jnr (Alonso’s less illustrious teammate) has been given a 3 race deadline to show his skills or get given a close encounter with Flavio Briatore’s boot and the fire exit.

flav-and-his-boysThe Brazilian has been told that he has until Monaco to impress the Flamboyant Flav, or the team will start looking at other options, including running his car with a plastic crash test dummy. Not that we would probably notice much difference when it comes to the actual driving, but we do suppose they complain less, are a lot cheaper and have similar colours to Nelson’s helmet already which should please the sponsors.

Flav has gone on record as saying that even if Nelson Piquet Jnr does get the old heave-ho, the team are limited at trying too find a decent replacement this season (surely anything has got to be an improvement albeit slightly less entertaining…..).

One rumour currently doing the rounds is that Renault may be interested in luring away BrawnGP’s third driver Austrian Beanpole Alex Wurz, due to the fact he provides excellent technical feedback and has close working knowledge of BrawnGP’s hairdryer (I mean diffusor). Not to mention Alex has already worked for Flavio on a previous occasion at Benetton, and conveniently comes with a pair of industrial earplugs already installed. That’s if he isn’t already off to Ferrari, like the rest of the paddock.

Meanwhile the Maranello squad themselves have confirmed they will not be running the KERS system on Raikkonen’s car this weekend, but they will be running it on Felipe Massa’s.

kimi-in-bahrainApparantly the team have been hard at work back in the factory trying to get to the bottom of the system’s problems, and are hopeful that they may have fixed its reliability issues in time for the Bahrain GP. According to news reports this afternoon they will be running the system on only one car as a way of comparing performance, presumably to see the difference between very slow and VERY VERY VERY slow.

Mr. Raikkonen has spoken to the Italian Media today and in his usual understated manner has assured them there is not much chance of the Maranello outfit winning at Sakhir this weekend (just in case we were in any doubt), but that the realistic target is at most a podium place or a few points. That’s what we like to see, our drivers brimming with enthusiasm and confidence!

We can only hope that with the removal of his KERS (Kimi’s early retirement system) the Finn hasn’t got much excuse but to get on with it, and will have to wait a bit longer for his after race refreshments. Although we should point out since they don’t supply champagne on the podium in Bahrain, it’s hardly much of an incentive for him is it?

race-start-chinaI know what you are thinking. It’s Tuesday afternoon, 3 days after the Chinese Grand Prix and you were beginning to think we had flung ourselves off a Balcony in a fit of despair after what can only be described as yet another desolate and demoralising weekend for the Ferrari Team.

Do not fear, we can confirm we are alive and well, albeit wearing pairs of underpants on our heads, inserting pencils up our nostrils and taking valium like its going out of fashion. Even the FFN cat is refusing to come out from under the duvet.

Going into the race weekend, Ferrari confirmed they would be racing in China without the KERS system, which to those of you new to the sport, is the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, although given all the reliability problems that Ferrari have had with it of late we do feel it should be more aptly described as Kimi’s Early Retirement System.

Allegedly, the removal of the extremely temperamental device was supposed to improve the reliability of the F60 and the chances of some much needed points, but on the downside would make it harder to overtake during the race. But at least it wouldn’t be spontaneously bursting into flames and fumigating Kimi’s underpants at any given moment.

ferrari_kersKimi as ever was pretty nonchalant about the removal of his retirement system, and was more interested in knowing when the ice hockey was on and if the Ferrari Fridge Freezer was fully stocked, but ickle Felipe was eager to insist the team work to improve the reliability and get the infernal creation reinstalled back in time for Bahrain. Heaven knows why, unless he is hell bent on removing his teammate as a rival before he has even left the garage.

At this point it is worth mentioning, that during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend only 3 cars out of 20 on the grid were using KERS, the rest of the grid including BMW who insisted on the teams developing it in the first place at FOTA, removing the device from their cars.

Renault’s Flamboyant Team Principal took a few seconds break over the weekend from haranguing Ross Brawn, to describe the KERS system as being very useful as a sailboat anchor and not much else.

flavio1Flavio then immediately went back to calling Jenson Button a concrete bollard, Rubens an old fart, and demanding that the FIA refuse to give Ross Brawn his £30 million share in TV revenues for forcing everyone to fork out for the odd new diffusor or two. We can only hope this new cashflow problem for the Renault team will mean Flavio cannot afford any more new eye-watering thongs. Every cloud has a silver lining so they say.

We can’t help feeling that if the FIA hadn’t insisted on KERS in the first place, (which thus far has proved about as much use as a chocolate teapot), then all the teams would be able to have just as many diffusors as they jolly well liked….since they are after all in fitting with the wording and spirit of the current technical regulations. We are enthusiastically waiting for the first team to come up with a triple-decker, and see how the FIA like that, presuming they actually noticed of course.

Anyway I suppose at some point we should actually mention the race, as that is why we are here, isn’t it?

Red Bull emerged as a serious contender over the course of the race weekend, being the only non-double diffusor team taking the challenge to Ross Brawn’s BrawnGP team.

Popular little German Sebastien Vettel led home a resounding 1-2 victory for Red Bull from pole position, his cryogenically frozen teammate Mark ‘Wooden Leg’ Webber not far behind, with current World Championship Leader Jenson ‘Bollard’ Button happy to secure third spot on the podium after yet another extremely difficult race thanks to precipitation.

Yes, following on from the wet weather debacle in Malaysia just a week or so ago, the weather once more intervened in proceedings thank you very much to whoever’s wise idea it is to swap the F1 calendar around to incorporate the rainy season. We won’t mention any names of vertically challenged F1 supremo’s at this point, lest he decides to sue us. Let’s hope he doesn’t come up with any more bright ideas for the future of the sport, like putting a race in tornado alley or up the side of a volcano for example.

safety-car-chinaDue to the track conditions the race began under the safety car, which while we applaud the FIA taking seriously the safety of the drivers concerned, they actually cancelled out about the only exciting bit of the race, and we were therefore deprived of Rubens Barrichello tanking his way past anyone who happened to be on the same bit of track he wanted.

Considering most stalwart fans had to get up in what can only be described as the middle of the night (well to me anyway), the last thing they want to watch is 90 odd laps of F1 cars driving around at a snails pace, behind a safety car that goes slower than my Grandmother in her FIAT 500 at a roundabout.

Once the safety car had been dispatched, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa had a storming race fighting his way up through the field with a magnificent drive from 12th to 4th, silencing some of his critics (who claim he can’t drive in the rain) in the process.

Unfortunately fate had other plans, and a software management program shut down ickle Felipe’s Engine leaving the poor Brazilian floundering on the grass verge like a fish out of water.

Had it not been for this unfortunate turn of events there was every chance the passionate little poppet would have been in with a good chance of getting on the podium, assuming Ferrari hadn’t come up with some bizarre strategy to send him out with no tires at all not to mention the obligatory white visor…..

kimi-chinaTeammate Kimi Raikkonen endured a less auspicious afternoon, the Flying Finn (or should that be Floundering Finn?) struggled throughout, apparently suffering from a lack of speed, lack of grip and intermittent issues with rain dripping into his engine. Perhaps next time he might want to take an umbrella round with him, either that or get his engine covered in sticky back plastic.

Kimi managed to bring his F60 home in 10th spot, which is quite a remarkable feat in itself considering it seemed he was overtaken by just about every driver on the grid on at least two or three occasions. Unfortunately Kimi has come in for come flak for his Sunday afternoon performance, with some fans insisting he might actually go faster if Ferrari strap choc-ices to the rear wings of all the other cars to motivate him to go faster. The Kimbot has hit back and suggested that motivation isn’t his problem, in fact he hasn’t even got a first clue what it is…..or something to that effect.

Suffice to say yet another dismal performance has incensed the Italian Media and some sections of the“Tifosi” somewhat, with yet more calls for heads to roll. We are at a loss to see how beheading Ferrari Staff is actually going to help matters, not least because they won’t be able to see the darned car to improve it.

_stefano_domenicaliAfter the Race, Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali hinted that the Maranello outfit may resort to scrapping efforts for 2009 and concentrating on 2010, if they do not see a vast improvement in the performance of the car come the Spanish Grand Prix in 3 weeks time.

According to some reports, Ferrari will be introducing a new floor on the F60 (riddled with drilled holes for more downforce) I know this because they phoned us up here at FFN HQ asking to borrow our cordless power drill in exchange for an extremely rare free official signed photo of Kimi smiling and Felipe looking vacant.

It is also thought that the Spanish GP will see the team introduce a new double diffusor at the back of the car, to help claw back some of the performance deficit to some of the top teams. Ferrari staff were unavailable for comment last night, when we tried to ascertain any truth to the rumours they would also be installing a couple of rockets (not icecreams Kimi) on the side of the car to speed it up a little.

As per usual Austria’s very own like-for-like version of Prince Phillip (due to his fondness for political incorrectness), has popped out the woodwork to impart us with his words of wisdom on the current situation. Former World Champion Niki Lauda has insisted that the loss of Ross Brawn, Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt has left the Ferrari team unravelling into chaos like a ball of spaghetti. We just hope they find the meatballs to turn the situation around, either that or find some spare socks or a block of parmesan to stuff into the piehole located on Lauda’s face.

lewis-spinmasterEven McLaren starlet Lewis Hamilton had a torrid time on Sunday afternoon, the Brit who has developed something of a reputation for his skills in wet weather driving the last two seasons, ended up spinning around more times than a ballerina in a version of Swan Lake, well we suppose he would look very pretty in a tutu. Even then he still managed to overtake Kimi on 3 seperate occasions (although don’t quote me on that I had slipped into a comatose state by this stage) and simultaneously mount a serious challenge on Felipe Massa’s all time silverstone-spin record.

The highlight of the race weekend for us, apart from listening to Flavio Briatore’s witticisms, was watching first Nelson Piquet, then Adrian Sutil aquaplaning off track to demolish the 50m and 100m polystyrene braking markers at the side of the track. Not that any of the drivers could probably see them in the first place through all the spray coming off the back of the car in front of them.

Unfortunately poor Adrian had been on course to score some points after a dogged effort up into 6th place, and even overtaking current world champion Lewis Hamilton on one of his many off track excursions. Nelson Piquet Jnr meanwhile looks like he is on course to sign his own F1 death warrant which might be preferable to walking back to the Renault garage and finding out what Flav has got to say on the matter.

sebastien-buemi1Meanwhile Torro Rosso’s Swiss Rookie Sebastien (yes another one) Buemi, yet again had a sterling race, showing up supposedly more experienced former world champions, the Torro Rosso star managing to overtake both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton at one stage, then proceeded to fight off the attentions of Fernando Alonso who was attempting to inspect his gearbox at close range for several laps. The swiss youngster eventual went onto score a valuable point for the Faenza outfit, bravo!

All in all though, despite the weather and the numerous spins, gravel trap outtings, and Robert Kubica’s car trying to mate with the back of Jarno Trulli’s, the Chinese GP was a pretty dull affair and I suppose we would say that considering our allegiances.

Still here at FFN we are finally hoping for a race when it doesn’t rain as really Ferrari have just about enough to contend with already, and have sent off one of our office staff in search of Ferrari’s famous Weather Cow which was last seen in the sand dunes in the immediate vicinity of the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain in 2008.

We have just about every appendage crossed in the hope that Ferrari finally get some points on the scoreboard this weekend….otherwise we will be in desperate need for some retail therapy, not to mention wanting to affectionately smack Ferrari staff round the back of the head with our keyboards.

oz-gp-go-go-goNo doubt as you are probably aware by now (given the inordinate length of time it has taken me to dispose of the FFN cat off my laptop keyboard to sit down to write) that this weekend past was the opening round of the 2009 F1 season in Melbourne Australia.

Albert Park located just a few kilometres south of the city of Melbourne, had the auspicious task of hosting what turned out to be a fairytale and nightmare all rolled into one.

The BrawnGP team (formerly Honda), who once were on the receiving end of more than their fair share of stick for building cars that made wayward supermarket trolleys seem a drivers dream, got off to a dream start by not only securing pole position during Qualifying but then going on to dominate the race with a fairytale 1-2 result. Englishman Jenson Button securing only his second ever race win ahead of teammate Rubens ‘Did I tell you I hate Ferrari’ Barrichello.

Sufficed to say, the team couldn’t quite believe it, and neither could the rest of the paddock who immediately shot off to their garages to think up imaginary complaints to the FIA. Not that there were many left to make after the deluge that poured through the FIA’s letterbox by the end of Qualifying.

In fact the governing body taking the strange action of only announcing the official starting grid for the race 1 hour before it was due to take place, presumably it taking them that long to wade through the neverending and increasingly ridiculous retaliatory complaints submitted by teams.

sam-michael-williamsIn fact by the end some teams were submitting then retracting complaints, because they couldn’t even remember what they were protesting in the first place. We understand though that Williams strongly objected to Ferrari for eating Pepperoni Pizza on Friday night, and objected to Red Bull for putting too much taurine in their popular soft drink. But in the interests of the sport they retracted the complaint, although they hoped the FIA would pop over to Ferrari and investigate what Pasta they would be serving Sunday Lunchtime.

The race result itself for BrawnGP was particularly remarkable when you consider they had a semi-bungled pitstop in the dying laps of the race, Rubens Barrichello taking an impromptu nap off the startline and letting half the field past, followed by his penchant for spending the rest of the afternoon trying to drive through other F1 cars and not around them.

a-victim-of-the-barrichello-brawlThe BrawnGP driver took out an impressive four rivals cars in the first corner alone, leaving Mark Webber, Happy Kovaleinen, Nick Heidfeld and Adrian Sutil all scuttling back to the pitlane for repairs or retirement and all without incurring the slightest penalty from the Stewards. Even Maestro Michael Schumacher himself would have been in awe of that one.

We can only presume Rubens who is now the oldest member of the F1 driver fraternity, has taken over the mantle from its previous encumbant David Crash-Magnet Coulthard. The little Brazilian it would seem is firmly intent on winning a title now that he has a decent car, in fact any title, and from what we have seen thus far we can only presume he is gunning for the world record in dodgem racing.

Ferrari were unfortunately handed a masterclass on a plate by their previous Technical Director Bananaman Brawn, the Maranello squad were left with red faces (blending in seamlessly with their red shirts of course), after a disastrous start to their Championship challenge.

Things all started out well enough, with both of the Ferrari driving duo getting off the start grid well and gaining places on their rivals thanks to the KERS system and the soft tyres. Initially all went well, and it looked like Ferrari had pulled off a strategic masterstroke with Felipe Massa up into 3rd place and Kimi chasing down BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica from 5th place.

felipe2However, within a few laps it all went horribly wrong, the degradation on the tyres on the Ferrari’s being such, that the Scarlet clad chargers became strongly reminiscent of an ambling tortoise. The Ferrari pitwall were embarrassingly forced to pit both drivers way to early to change the troublesome rubber rings located on the corners of the car.

Williams Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima even selflessly attempted to even things up a bit in Ferrari’s favour, by unexpectedly parking his car at high speed into a barrier at turn 3, eventually tempting the safety car out once it’s designated driver had finished the crossword in the Times and enjoyed a round of Ham and Cheese Deltoids (sandwiches).

The emergence of the safety car allowed the field to close up behind Jenson Button who had reportedly been not far off finishing the championship, enjoying his champagne and buying himself a yacht with his winnings.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa meanwhile was evidently sick to the back teeth of his tyres misbehaving, the usually sunny little Brazilian doing his darnedest to flat spot them and get another 4, unfortunately more of the same awaited him back in the Ferrari Garage. Mores the pity.

piquetAfter the safety car had peeled off and the race was back on, Renault’s Nelson Piquet improved his pitlane reputation no end by tussling with Williams Nico Rosberg and unceremoniously sliding straight off track into the nearest gravel trap. According to the Brazilian his brakes failed at a vital moment leaving him floundering in the kitty litter (hope there were no unmentionables), although here at FFN we strongly suspect you could replace brakes with the word ‘brain’ and you’d not be far wrong.

As if the lack of performance and tyre degradation issues were not enough to be going on with at Ferrari, a rather baffling 3 stop strategy which we can only presume was to trim Felipe’s ferocious facial fuzz, pretty much put paid to the afternoon’s proceedings. Adding insult to injury, a broken suspension in the dying laps of the race meaning Felipe was out of the race and out of the points in Australia for the second year in a row.

Rumour has it Ferrari’s team boss Stefano Domenicali had to keep frantically double checking the date on the pitwall calendar to reassure himself it wasn’t 2008 all over again, either that or Groundhog day. Still Stefano should thank his lucky stars his alarm clock didn’t get rather confused over British Summertime and drag him out of bed to watch the Grand Prix at 4am instead of 6am really.

By the end of it all, really was it any wonder the usually unperturbable Kimbot had enough and decided to try and retire himself from proceedings, clipping the barrier and damaging his differentials, which I can’t help thinking sounds a tad on the painful side. Unfortunately for Kimi, even that didn’t go according to plan leaving the Finn doing his best impression of Mark Webber (sorry, bad joke) and limping around at the back of the pack for the remainder of the race.

the-semiautomatic-machine-gun-goes-hereWe understand that Ferrari chief car designer, Nick Tombazis was last spotted storming at high speed into the Ferrari Motorhome, allegedly the talented Greek was overheard muttering about incorporating Challenger Tank Tracks and a gun turret into the 2010 car instead of having to endure another season of being bested by those pesky round black Bridgestone affairs.

A few laps later, back on track BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica had caught up with Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel, both drivers seemingly so intent on securing 2nd position and not yielding an inch, they took each other out of the race in spectacular fashion.

Unconfirmed rumours have suggested that it wasn’t really Sebastien Vettel’s fault, despite the fact the popular little German skipped off to BMW-Sauber to politely apologise, bless his cotton socks. Was it purely coincidental that the Red Bull starlet was spotted earlier in the weekend wearing what can only be described as 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher’s shorts?

schumachers-undercrackers1All these years Ferrari Legend Michael has been on the receiving end of some particularly unfair flak from the British Media for his on track ruthlessness, win at all costs attitude and apparent arrogance, when all the time it was a pair of chequered undercrackers that were evilly masterminding the punting off of rivals willy-nilly in championship title deciding moments. Poor Michael, just goes to show you never really know a man. There is hope for Lewis Hamilton yet then.

Anyway before we start whittering away nineteen to the dozen about current paddock fads and fashions and global domination, we should conclude that predictably the BrawnGP duo led home a dominant dream 1-2 result, much to the delight of the flaxen haired and toothy new team sponsor Virgin’s Entrepreneur Richard Branston Pickle, and to the obvious relief and delight of Uncle Ross Bananaman Brawn.

Much to the dismay of everyone else of course, as subsequently the BrawnGP team have admitted there is much more to come (heavens forbid), and presumably every other team in the paddock is having to work their socks off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to remotely keep up.

One does have to wonder though just exactly what the FIA race stewards were doing on Sunday afternoon, as we strongly suspect they weren’t actually watching the race at all.

After failing to give Ruben’s Barrichello a good rap over the knuckles for his numerous avoidable incidents, and demoting Jarno Trulli from 3rd place effectively handing the trophy to McLaren’s World Champion Lewis Hamilton (who we grudgingly admit drove a stellar race from the rear of the grid to claim a handful of points), rather puzzlingly the FIA saw fit to punish little Sebastien, but not for dispatching Robert Kubica onto the grass verges minus a wheel.

The FIA slapped the German with a 10 place grid slot penalty and a 50,000 euro fine for not getting his car off track quickly enough after the initial incident. According to the FIA regulations it was a breach of safety, which does beg the question what the one-man-demolition-darby who also goes by the moniker of Mr.Barrichello is classed as.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and the FIA are well….I’ll leave you to figure that out.

michael-in-barcelona-test.jpgThis week so far, with the exception of the Super Aguri Team (who are currently holding financial crisis talks in Japan – some people go to any lengths to avoid the RA107), all of the Formula 1 fraternity have been taking part in a group test session at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.
This is the last group testing session to occur before the 2008 Formula One season begins in earnest in Melbourne Australia on March 16th.

If media reports are anything to go by, the first day of testing was largely dominated by the three way duel out for the top spot between McLaren’s young star Lewis ‘Hamster’ Hamilton, Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen and Formula 1’s most highly decorated and overpaid test driver one Mr. Michael Schumacher.

Despite the day starting off with damp track conditions, presumably as a result of climatic conditions e.g. precipitation, conditions on the black stuff steadily improved throughout the course of the day allowing all of the teams to at least obtain some semi-useful data. We are of course making the assumption that rain was the guilty party, and not the horde of journalists all wetting themselves in anticipation of seeing some 40 year-old German fellow squeezing into an F1 car.

As the day wore on, the talented trio continually traded fastest lap for fastest lap. Sending F1 forumites into a frenzy of manic analysis about what it all meant, trying to decipher who was the undisputed king of the track and whom would be going out of the circuit at sunset with their reputation in tatters and their head in a paper bag.

kimi-looking-impressed.jpgFerrari’s flying Finnster narrowly missed out on setting the fastest lap of the day on his final run, but alas after setting the fastest first two sectors the mumbling maestro unfortunately came across some traffic which held him up in the last sector. It just so happened the traffic in question was a certain German in a bright red F2008 cheekily ensuring he had the last word as usual.

As a result McLaren’s Hamster got to keep top spot by the width of a cat’s whisker (domestic feline of course and not a man-eating Sabre tooth) giving the Woking boys something to be cheerful about for a change. After all if you grimace for long enough there is always the terrible risk of the wind changing and you end up looking like Max Mosley in a meeting. Frightening Thought.

Speaking after the day’s session had expired, Michael meanwhile kindly divulged his impressions of the F2008, his thoughts on his team’s chances for the upcoming 2008 season, as well as pointing out that Williams Star Nico Rosberg is the man to watch for the future. (On track and not in shampoo commercials you understand).

According to the Titlemeister, the F2008 is an improvement on the F2007. Naturally this comes as some welcome news, otherwise we can imagine Luca Di starting to ask some rather pertinent questions of his highly paid employees about what the devil they have been up to in the last 12 months…. Apart from polishing his tractor and playing chess of course.

Michael went on to confirm that he believes Ferrari will be able to fight for wins straight from the opening race of the 2008 campaign and that they are better prepared than last year. Let’s hope they don’t forget to refuel their cars and get their wheels on the right way round then, otherwise they could be learning a few lessons from the likes of Force 1ndia and Honda.

renoo-garage.jpgSince the teams launched their respective challengers back in the cold depths of winter, Ferrari have emerged as the favourites for many pundits to win the 2008 titles. Whether this is because they genuinely look to be the fastest or is actually because no-one can remember the names of the vast legions of white liveried cars on track is anyone’s guess.

This is despite the Maranello team exchanging some pretty close lap times with their silver ‘sisters’ at McLaren, and rumours that Renault have apparently been sandbagging somewhat in winter testing. Here at FFN we have been enthusiastically scouring the photographic archives looking for tell-tale buckets and spades parked outside the Renault Garage, but to no avail.

Unconfirmed rumours have suggested that Alonso’s team have been hiding their true pace thus far, in order to give their sponsors a thorough appreciation of the car’s overall aesthetically pleasing paint scheme and logos as Nelson Piquet Jnr pedals past furiously at 5kph.

luca-di.jpgToday Ferrari President Luca Di ‘Unpronounceable’ has asked the team to keep their optimism in check and their feet on the ground for the season ahead.

According to lippy Luca the 2008 championship will be just as hardly fought as in previous years (Just hopefully not so much of it over the table with handbags at full swing in the FIA headquarters in Paris).

It just goes to prove it really doesn’t matter what field of employment you work in, the moment you look to be enjoying yourself and having a good time the boss has to walk in and put a kaibosh on it. Whatever next, a ban on Kimi smiling on the podium?

Yesterday witnessed two more F1 teams officially launch their challengers for the 2008 championship. With both Honda and Renault having already given us a sneak preview of their chargers at the recent testing session in Valencia, albeit without the final paint scheme in Honda’s case.

happy-families.jpgRenault’s Prodigal son Fernando Alonso has been speaking out today and informing us that the 2008 car is roughly 1 second off the pace of the likes of the McLaren and Ferrari. We are not entirely sure of the reasons behind making such information public, unless Alonso is trying to subtly lower our expectations.

Naturally we are a little bemused by such newfound cautious behaviour, since the self-proclaimed expert on car development is going to bring at least 6 tenths of a second or even more in the intervening time between now and the season opener in Melbourne, and he is going to absolutely wipe the floor with his rookie team-mate…. of course. Hopefully all those tenths of a second he will be accruing over his team-mate, might mean Nando can actually make time to attend a hairdressing salon between now and Interlagos, we wouldn’t want his flowing locks to get wrapped around the front axle and cause any unfortunate on-track misdemeanours.

Fandango’s new team-mate Nelson ‘I’m so handsome’ Piquet Jnr is looking forward enormously to his F1 debut, and believes there will be no repeat of the shenanigans that went on at McLaren last year, on account that Renault team principal Flav would simply not allow it. Presumably there will be no repeat in inter-team-mate hostile relations, because if anyone is going to throw a tantrum and act like a 6 year old girl at a birthday party…. It’s going to be Flav. Everyone else will just have to wait patiently in line.

While Renault were launching their car in Paris, Honda were launching their 2008 “charger” at their operations centre in Brackley…although we feel the town should be renamed Bracken to be in-keeping with Honda’s environmental theme. Gone is the humungous planetoid of 2007, replaced with a smaller globe (they orbit faster we reckon) and instead of any corporate advertising the RA108 is plastered with the environmental logo ‘earth dreams’.

We are a little bit confused to whom this apparent marketing ploy is pitched, apart from earthworms and long-haired, bicyle-riding, sandal-wearing hippy geologists. It’s definitely not for the poor legion of F1 fans that spend on average 3 days every July wading around up to their armpits in mud and rain, catching the common cold at Silverstone, is it?

is-it-a-dream-or-a-ruddy-nightmare-honda.jpgNew Team Boss Uncle Ross informs us that there are many parts to come on the car before the season opener in Melbourne, and really we shouldn’t be at all concerned that the RA108 was trundling around in the recent test at Valencia slower than Ron Dennis on his way to a WMSC meeting.

At the official Honda Launch, Jense, Rubens and Nick Fry were witnessed waxing lyrical about their new team boss, and the fact they are definitely going to be challenging for the 2009 season championship (so sorry, Ferrari) which as far as we can tell is no different from any other year they have been in the sport….and apparently going to win it. I’m still counting chickens.

Meanwhile Ross has been keen to point out that he will be concentrating on building up the team and its processes, practices and philosophies rather than walking in the door with a 780 page dossier on how to build a vintage 2007 Ferrari. Are we to presume Honda hasn’t even successfully mastered that immensely difficult task of operating a photocopier yet? Is there any hope? Can you help them please Obi-wan Kenobi?

Suffice to say it is not just us here at FFN that are pleased to hear this, because the grid is already half full of white liveried cars, and adding another duo of red ones (to the already present two) will just cause more confusion than it will solve. Not to mention McLaren wouldn’t know whom to protest about first, and just think of those poor pitcrews charging out of their garage like a nest of frenzied ants, only to realise the car coming down the pitlane isn’t theirs after all. And then there are the race stewards…who already seem to not have the faintest idea what day of the week it is let alone who owns what car…..

no-fancy-hats-in-f1-please.jpgMeanwhile the FIA has been looking into introducing a budget cap for all F1 teams, to limit spending and help level up the playing field. The Ferrari team is apparently not too keen on the idea, while other teams seem to be in favour of Max’s latest fashion craze.

FIA president Max Mosley today has suggested that all the F1 teams should be paying in the region of £2 million a year for accountants to ensure that each team is sticking to the budget cap, and not circumventing the rules.

Here at FFN we are all for levelling up the playing field and ensuring the continuity of independent teams within the sport. But we are at a loss to understand where cheaper headgear comes into the equation and how a bunch of grossly overpaid glorified bean counters are going to enforce it. It just wouldn’t have happened if Michael Schumacher were still in the sport! Bring back that cowboy hat pronto!

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…

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