Rubens Barichello


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

One really does have to feel a little bit of sympathy these days for Rubens Barrichello, or as one of my close friends calls him ’Woobens’. It seems wherever the plucky Brazilian goes, controversy is never far behind bobbing about on the horizon like a malevolent storm cloud.

woobens2Not mentioning the four seasons he spent at Ferrari where the team seemed to spend more time in trouble than out of it, even the odd impromptu karaoke night out on the tiles reciting complimentary ditties about your past teammates’ ends up unceremoniously splashed all over the media.

Moving to Honda (now BrawnGP) it seems poor Ruben’s still can’t escape the evil cloud of controversy that dogs his every move, the moment he finally gets his mitts on a half decent car that doesn’t drive like a drunken three-legged tortoise, already his counterparts up and down the pitlane seem hell bent on getting the darn thing declared illegal for having a diffuser that exploits a loophole in the regulations, allegedly.

Really is it any wonder that ‘Woobens’ has been stamping his feet somewhat and getting slightly irked with well meaning journalists when they have innocently asked about the legality of his current mode of transport.

During an interview with Spanish Publication Marca, the Brazilian churlishy replied “Your asking are we legal? When someone is behind it is easier to say your rivals are against the rules than do better work”.

That clears things up nicely thanks ‘Woobens’, the BrawnGP challenger is clearly not illegal in any way shape or form, and evidently the rest of the paddock are like a bunch of silly jealous schoolgirls, sniping at you because they want your shiny new car.

brawngp-diffuserUnfortunately in F1 things are never quite that simple. Despite the fact the FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has today confirmed that the diffusers on the BrawnGP, Toyota and Williams’ vehicles are considered legal and just a clever exploitation of a loophole in the sporting regulations, that doesn’t mean it won’t be illegal in two week’s time. Especially once Renault’s Team Boss Flavio Briatore has threatened to sit on him and talk him into submission of course.

Naturally Charlie might have changed his mind in the interim period, as he has demonstrated a want to do on previous occasions, most noticeably when telling the McLaren pitwall that their driver’s overtaking manoeuvre at Spa is in fact acceptable, only then to go on and report it as an infraction to the race stewards. And they say women are fickle and indecisive.

Williams’ Technical Guru Sam Michael meanwhile has expressed his surprise that more teams have not copied and adopted the controversial diffuser designs (although we understand McLaren have been having a jolly good attempt at Jerez with a bottle of green liquid dye and a sheet of sticky-back plastic), stating that it would be fairly easy to do.

What might surprise Sam Michael is the speed in which the other teams can get into race control first thing on the Friday morning prior to the Australian Grand Prix and lodge a complaint, no doubt faster than the FFN office cat can run when I get the frontline flea treatment out of it’s hiding place….. and that’s saying something.

fernando-alonsoMeanwhile while the teams are considering how they can put a kaibosh on the seemingly runaway BrawnGP express train, the drivers yesterday have been sharing their thoughts about the latest dubious turn of events courtesy of the Freakin’ Idiots Assocation.

Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg to name but a few have condemned the latest rule changes to the points system, declaring it as nonsensical, silly and confusing…..and they were just the printable comments. Even former World Champion Michael Schumacher has waded into the fray in his cowboy boots, saying he is astonished and that the change in rules make little sense, and can only be of detriment to the sport. Sufficed to say the new rules have gone down like a lead balloon at a party.

Toyota’s Jarni Trulli has gone on to suggest that the FIA are in fact trying to kill off F1 and make the drivers leave to race in another series, which we feel is a rather drastic course of action merely because they have had the odd falling out with Max Mosley in the past over the hugely inflated prices of superlicenses and so forth.

madame_tussauds_lewis_hamiltonThis being the case the FIA may want to borrow Vodaphone’s remote control Blackberry and get on to Madame Tussauds’ in London pretty sharpish, to get themselves some cheaper and less vocal replacements.

Madame Tussaud’s reportedly have a rather impressive array of Formula 1 waxwork dummies on show, including Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher. This week Lewis Hamilton has been added to the collection, with his waxwork dummy costing a cool 230,000 euros to make. Well in these times of economical difficulty, if ever there is a power cut….you know where to go to get a candle!

If recent news reports are anything to go by, it would seem that BMW-Sauber’s Team Principal Mario Theissen has been complaining somewhat about the unexpected side effects of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) that most of the Formula 1 teams have been implementing ahead of the 2009 season.

mario-brosAccording to Mario (who we should point out is actually the inspiration behind the globally recognised Nintendo character bearing the same moniker), the sporting regulations should now raise the minimum weight of Formula 1 cars to help incorporate the technology.

It is understood that the installation of such systems, which has kept most of the paddock pulling their hair out all winter, has been quite a technological challenge as engineers have had to get very clever indeed (well that is what they are paid for isn’t it?) attempting to make the cars as light as possible to offset the weight of the KERS devices.

If rumours are to be believed BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica feels he is at a weight disadvantage to the other F1 pilots (even though you’d find more meat on a spare rib) and feels that this may have some sort of negligible influence on his driving prospects for the forthcoming season.

This week,Team Boss Mario has said he feels it is important to increase the minimum weight of the cars or else we will be left with just a jockey or words to a similar effect. Of course here at FFN (myself and the office cat) immediately fell about laughing, imagining the current crop of F1 stars riding around Albert Park on donkeys. The mind boggles though where you would keep the KERS batteries.

electrocuted-bmw-minionStill before we get carried away at a tangent, we can’t help but point out that it was BMW-Sauber themselves that insisted on forging ahead with the introduction of KERS this year, dragging the rest of the pitlane with them kicking and screaming (literally in some cases). Let’s not forget Red Bull nearly burnt their factory to the ground, some poor mechanic ending up in the emergency room after getting to close to the BMW car, not even mentioning the meteoric explosion in winter sales of Prozac in the immediate vicinity of Maranello.

So the important lesson to be learnt here is; Karma can come back and bite you on the behind if your not too careful.

Meanwhile it seems that the Williams team, have removed the ‘skate’ fins that adorned the FW31 at the recent test in Barcelona. It in understood the team have decided not to forge ahead with the devices after a friendly chit-chat with the sports governing body the FIA.

Allegedly the devices which were located on the side of the cockpit next to the drivers head, were some sort of aerodynamic device to channel the flow of air towards the rear of the car, and were actually not a pair of blinkers to prevent the William’s drivers from seeing who they were crashing into at the first corner of each race as had been originally thought.

flappy-thingsAnyway we understand after a brief consultation with Charlie Whiting, Williams have done a U turn and whipped the devices off the car faster than Kimi can get out of a Formula 1 circuit to watch the ice hockey. Probably not half as quick as they would have done if Max Mosley had been handing out punishments though.

According to the latest reports, the FIA will be today voting on the implementation of a new points system for the sport. The proposition is to replace the current 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points awards with a 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 system. It is thought that the new points system will ensure that whoever wins the most races during the course of the season, might actually go on to be the world champion at the end of the day.

Now Michael ‘Trophy-Hogging’ Schumacher has left the sport, presumably the powers that be are quite happy to award a few extra points here and there on the understanding the championship titles are not done and dusted before March is over, giving plenty of scope for race stewards to controversially tinker about with proceedings to keep the show on the road right up until the season finale so to speak.

fernando-at-jerezFinally, a little snippet of news from testing at Jerez. It seems yesterday our friend from Asturias, Fernando Alonso, knocked the BrawnGP challenger off the top of the timesheets, beating Rubens Barrichello by a tenth of a second.

We can only hazard a guess at how fast dear Nando might have gone if he in fact had got his grubby mitts on the Beast from Brackley. We best not repeat the equation here though as it has a tendency to rather excite Fernando’s fanbase, and FFN HQ is not big enough to swing the cat in let alone house a riot.

Just when you think the powers that be in Formula 1 can’t come out with anything more ridiculous than they have already unleashed on the world, then lo and behold they seem intent on proving you completely wrong.

bowlhead-bernieThis week Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has declared that the global economic downturn seems to be having very little effect on the sport, despite the withdrawal of several teams’ sponsors or should we say bankers.

Both ING and RBS who are major sponsors for Renault and Williams respectively, have announced their imminent withdrawal from the sport, but not before they have nonchalantly frittered away our hard earned cash on the stock exchange and scoffed a few rounds of salmon sandwiches and fancy vol-au-vents.

According to the pint-sized bowl-headed one (who we suspect lounges around on sheepskin rugs getting fed peeled grapes by Mongolian princesses), all of this is having very little effect on how the teams are spending their money or operating. Little Bernard has reportedly pointed out that most F1 teams will still be bringing just as many team personnel to the grand prix for example, and therefore the global recession cannot be having much of an effect in the sport.

Not withstanding the extensive raft of cost cutting measures implemented by the Formula One Team Association (FOTA) in recent times to ensure the future of the teams in the sport, you only have to look around the paddock to find evidence to counter the claims of the pint-sized one.

A stones throw from the FOM trailer for example, we can see the global economic downturn already biting at Toyota, with Team Principal Tadashi Yamashima admitting he had to fight to keep the F1 team going against the need for Toyota as a Manufacturer to drastically reduce costs. Nowhere is this more evident, than in the Toyota Garage itself where the poor car designers have had to re-use the same can of paint to decorate their charger for at least the last five years. Here at FFN we even have a sneaking suspicion the poor mechanics are having to construct the car out of second hand Meccano kits found on E-bay and a reel of duct tape.

what-do-you-mean-i-dont-get-paidLikewise at Renault, if you scratch beneath the surface, evidence bubbles to light of hard times ahead for the team. Rumours of a most alarming nature have reached our ears, that things are in fact so tight at Renault that the team have confiscated Pat Symonds pocket money and the respected technical genius can no longer be found loitering around the back of the trucks enjoying a crafty cigarette. Tough times indeed.

Down at BrawnGP (formerly Honda and we all know about their financial crisis over the winter) it is clearly evident their poor drivers are taking the brunt of the global economic downturn, with Jenson Button’s retainer being cut almost in half, which must explain why the poor mite can’t even afford a cheap razor and can of shaving foam, while poor Rubens Barrichello has lost weight over the winter….because he hasn’t been able to afford food for the table.

dishwashing-dutyEven Ferrari, who let’s face it are always rolling in money, have been cutting costs of late. Gone is the state of the art scarlet clad electric dishwasher for cleaning pasta sauce off those plates, and in come the rubber gloves with the mechanics reportedly signed up to a dishwashing rota. We dread to think whether this means Luca Di Montezemolo can’t afford another TV set to wreck come the time of the Brazilian GP this year, and whether Stefano Domenicali has had to double up as the tea-lady.

Rumours have even been circulating that McLaren may have to de-commission their glorious gleaming beacon of a media centre because it is too costly to run, and replace it with the less costly alternative of canvas tent and deck chairs (second hand of course).

Not forgetting ex-Formula 1 Champion of yesteryear Jackie Stewart who is doing his bit for the good of the sport (no he hasn‘t promised to stay quiet for a change), the canny Scotsman is carrying on doing whatever he does without getting paid for it, which we must all agree is very benevolent of him. Although why he would need paying we haven’t got the foggiest, since he seems to be wearing the same trousers as he did 30 years ago, so it can’t be going on his wardrobe can it?

Clearly though Bernard hasn’t the first notion what he is on about.

Anyway, amidst all this financial doom and gloom, spare a thought for our poor friend from Asturias. Dear Nando.

poor-nandoWhile we are not aware of any financial hardships for the former double world champion, we do suspect the Spaniard may have made a dreadful mistake. What the deuces am I wittering on about you ask? Well we do wonder if the Renault driver may in fact be now regretting turning down that reported blank cheque proffered by Ross Brawn to lure him to BrawnGP. Presuming it wouldn’t have bounced of course.

Could he be currently sitting on a wall somewhere in Jerez bemoaning the surprising “performance” of the BrawnGP outfit, while Renault haven’t exactly been setting fires in winter testing? We wouldn’t like to bet on it……but we do suspect he may live to regret spending every other weekend for the next nine months getting up early each morning to look at that eyesore parked in the Renault Garage. Perhaps utilising the current spirit of goodwill and cooperation from FOTA, Fernando can petition Toyota for some cheap paint.

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