Catalunya, Spain


This week we have seen all ten Formula 1 teams in action at the same time at the winter group test at the Circuit de Catalunya, near Barcelona in Spain.

By and large testing is usually a pretty dull affair, (unless your one of those armchair experts who excitedly devours all the photographs like they are going out of fashion looking for all the latest updates and gizmos) with the most exciting event being when someone’s car has a technical hissy fit and forces the poor driver to abandon it and walk back to the pitlane.

michael-inspects-mclarenThat is unless you are the World Champion at McLaren and fancy parking it in a gravel trap, immediately causing former World Champions scuttling off eagerly down the nearest escape road to oversee proceedings whilst the track marshalls recover your car using your favourite crane. However, don’t worry Lewis, at least it is giving Michael Schumacher something to do in his spare time, when he isn’t falling off motorbikes, polishing his trophies or counting his handsome Ferrari retainer for standing about like a spare part in the Ferrari Garage and distracting the media, allegedly.

This weeks group test, has been quite interesting, for more than just this reason alone though.

Firstly we should mention that the former Honda Team, which has been saved from extinction by none other than former Ferrari favourite Uncle Ross (Brawn) has surprised the pants off just about everyone connected to the sport. Given that up until a week or so ago, nobody knew if the team would even make it to the season opener in Melbourne, you can imagine the surprise, eyebrow raising and head scratching going on that the Brawn GP has spent the entire group test soundly thrashing everyone including Ferrari, McLaren and co.

brawngpBoth Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello respectively topping the timesheets on subsequent days in the BrawnGP challenger. Sufficed to say this has caused a flurry of excitement, discussion, arguments and financial bets across internet forums, as the formula 1 fanbase are trying to work out if indeed Uncle Ross has managed to pull a rabbit out of the hat like never before or if the truth of the matter is that the former Honda team are in fact showboating in a desperate attempt to attract sponsors with more money than sense. Although given that Honda spent at least a year or two recently failing to attract any sponsors, we do wonder if perhaps that could be an entirely fruitless and pointless exercise if it is indeed the case as some may claim.

At this point in proceedings we should point out that controversy is already rearing its ugly head prior to the season opener in two weeks time, with several team bosses muttering furiously away nineteen to the dozen about the illegality or otherwise of several car’s difusers. According to some, the Williams, Toyota and Brawn GP teams are all running difusers which may need clarifying by the FIA. By which we take it to mean someone runs off to the FIA complains bitterly, and hey presto next week the FIA confiscates somebodies new toy and out the pram comes that rattle.

icklefelipe2Ferrari who have been consistently fast in winter testing (when their KERS system doesn’t keep breaking down) were last seen heading off for Maranello muttering that they thought they had the fastest car, and couldn’t quite believe they have had their thunder stolen by their former Technical Director. It is not all bad news however, we are to understand that ickle Felipe is pleased as punch with his new F2009 and hopes he will be go on to challenge for the World Championship with it, if only the FIA would agree to make F1 races a little bit shorter (one lap would do eh Felipe?).

We are a little less clear what the Kimblebot thinks of his new charger, aside from the fact we are still trying to decipher his mumblings, we understand he has been taking part in yet another artic event of some sort. It would seem the former Ferrari World Champion has been quite busy this winter entertaining himself at various events involving snow, but we are yet to work out how this fits into the bigger picture unless Ferrari have replaced horsepower with reindeers and skidoos, or are predicting an awful lot of snow during the season. Well you never know with this global warming malarkey or Ferrari‘s weather prediction systems.

McLaren meanwhile have been enduring a bit of a torrid time during the recent test at Barcelona, with their 2009 car consistently languishing down the timesheets leading to all sorts of speculation. Heikki Kovaleinen has informed us all that this winter he has in fact put on weight (which might account for why his car seems slower), but doesn’t really explain what has happened to the current World Champion’s, Lewis Hamilton. We can only presume McLaren spent too much time faffing about making vodaphone adverts about remote control cars and blackberry phones, and not enough time working on the damn car.

mclaren-boysAs per usual the McLaren PR department has been working like a perfectly oiled machine, with former team principal Ron Dennis declaring he is not worried about the pace of the MP4-24, but subsequently both Martin Whitmarsh and Norbert Haug have admitted they are concerned that they aren’t fast enough. Probably a good job Norbert isn’t driving the damn thing, we reckon. However, do not fret, the team claim to know what is wrong and are working even as we speak to resolve the problem.

Unsubstantiated rumours emanating from the F1 paddock from an unnamed source, have suggested some short-sighted bod at Woking has mistakenly popped the car axles on the wrong way round leading to the MP4-24 having no rear grip and in fact going backwards instead of forwards. We couldn’t possibly comment.

ferrarieye3Meanwhile, just to make life a little bit fairer for everyone else Ferrari have announced they will reintroduce their traffic light pitstop system for the 2009 season, yes the very one that caused all sorts of manic mayhem with refuelling rigs in Singapore and near traffic halting pitlane collisions in Valencia. We are to understand from Sporting Director Luca Baldisserri, that Ferrari have implemented a solution to prevent such errors happening again, which only leads us to consider what new debacles it might unexpectedly throw up for trigger happy head mechanics and overenthusiastic Finns. Mentioning no names of course.

Testing continues from today at Jerez for McLaren, BrawnGP, Renault and Williams, while the rest of the grid have shot back to their respective factories ahead of Melbourne for two weeks of frantic head scratching, swearing under their breath and car tinkering.

Stay Tuned.

Advertisements

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…..

Yesterday witnessed nine out of eleven current Formula 1 teams returning to testing action at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, ahead of the opening round of the European races in Spain in two weeks time.

Usually this early season test is an opportunity for all the teams to start adding new developmental pieces to their cars, in a bid to boost their championship hopes against rival teams.

slicks1.jpg Tyre supplier Bridgestone provided the teams present with an opportunity to test out the 2009 regulation specification slick tyres.

Apparently any testing done using the new specification slicks does not count towards the teams 15,000 km testing limit, so many teams took advantage of the fact to test out some of their new components whilst pounding around the circuit relentlessly on the black round things.

The morning session rather unusually was topped by Honda’s Austrian Beanpole Alex Wurz, prompting all sorts of speculation about the emerging omnipotent powers of ‘Uncle’ Ross Brawn, Ferrari’s ex-Technical Director who took over leadership of the Brackley team at the end of last year.

Really if you consider 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher has been raised to the status of a near demi-god in the eyes of his fanbase not withstanding cowboy boots, flowery shirts and the fashion sense of someone’s slightly drippy grandmother, then it’s not so far fetched to imagine a member of Honda’s green trouser brigade could likewise imminently join the Pantheon of the Gods.

Fortunately it would seem the Brackley outfit under the tutelage of Uncle Ross are making steady progress in a forwardly direction, which must be relief to all concerned (well apart from their rivals obviously), especially if you compare this season to the previous one where the team unfortunately seemed to engage reverse mode and get permanently stuck in it.

mclaren-rear-wing1 Ferrari’s arch-rivals McLaren meanwhile, took the opportunity also to test out the 2009 spec tyres in association with a new rear wing in anticipation for the 2009 season, so their car was set up to perform aerodynamically as close to the 2009 regulations as possible.

Well that’s McLaren’s excuse for test driver Pedro ‘the Pink’ being beaten by Honda’s test driver on the first day of testing, and we presume they are sticking to it like epoxy resin.

After minimal running during the morning session where Ferrari’s Felipe Massa only completed 12 laps, in the afternoon the Maranello outfit once more came out to play.

The little Brazilian poppet completing 77 laps in total for the day, putting in a stunning fastest lap somewhere in the region of 2.4 seconds faster than any of the rival teams, which must have caused a few raised eyebrows from within the paddock.

kimi-raikkonens-drink-supply1Before you all start fretting that Felipe has taken to employing drastic measures in his championship bid and started surreptitiously consuming the Kim-bot’s rocket fuel (as pictured), we understand that the Ferrari driver’s stunning lap times were actually set on a lap utilising the 2009 spec tyres and 2008 downforce levels, alongside the introduction of Ferrari’s latest radical new gizmo….the holy nose cone.

Yes finally after many months of speculation in the media and across Internet forums, the much vaunted and discussed aerodynamic piece finally broke cover in testing.

The ‘hole’ reportedly works by utilising the high-pressure air that builds up between the front wing and the underneath of the nose cone, channelling the air over the top of the car onto the rear wing and thus improving the car’s downforce.

And is not as suggested by some pundits, actually a device used for cooling Kimi’s feet because his socks become a particularly nasty biohazard after spending an hour and a half in close proximity to the flying Finn in stifling heat in the cockpit. If this had been the case we’d expect a huge gaping hole to appear right under Felipe’s seat, for every race he rolled out his lucky underpants.

the-holy-nose.jpg Back at Maranello apparently an investigation is now under way, after the news of the ‘holy nose’ contraption as some fans have dubbed it, got mysteriously leaked to the Italian Media back in January.

Reports have suggested that Technical Director Aldo Costa was horrified to find out that despite very few people within the team actually knowing about the existence of the aerodynamic piece back then, it still somehow found it’s way into the press.

Unconfirmed scurrilous rumours have suggested that once Mr.Costa has pinned down the guilty culprit, they will be having a face to face meeting with a reel of duct tape and banned from social networking site Facebook for a year.

Unfortunately it would seem this is one such incident that Nigel Stepney cannot be blamed for…but does raise the ugly spectre that there might yet still be someone lurking inside Maranello that can’t be trusted and deserves a firm smack over the knuckles with Nick Tombazis’ trusty slide-rule.

michael-in-action Meanwhile in other news, Ferrari’s official 3rd driver Michael Schumacher (who incidentally will be testing the F2008 at Barcelona on Wednesday) was yesterday back in action on a motobike at the Eurospeed way at the Lausitzring in Germany.

Wearing yet another rather fetching outfit (this time in Orange), the former World Champion who was taking part in a bike promotion unfortunately had a small disagreement with an oil slick on track and found himself deposited on his rear end on the concrete. No doubt you will all be relieved to know the German Superstar was unhurt in the incident, although we do suspect there might be a slight dent in his ego (not to mention a few grazes on his rear end).

F1 Testing continues again today at the Circuit de Catalunya, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa once more leading proceedings for the Maranello outfit. Forza Ferrari.

Yesterday was the final group testing day for the Formula 1 fraternity on location at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain.

With just two weeks to go before the season opener in Melbourne, the paddock pecking order remains about as transparent as a bucket of dirty ditch water, with armchair experts and pundits alike speculating like wildfire whom will come out on top down under.

trulli.jpgThe final day of testing witnessed a Toyota top the timesheets, with Italian Jarno Trulli setting the fastest lap of the day on a 1.20.801 on what many have presumed to be a ‘qualifying’ run.

Ferrari’s Technical Director Aldo Costa has recently commented that the Cologne-based Toyota team appears to have upped their game on previous seasons. But it remains to be seen whether the mysteriously set fastest time yesterday had more to do with showboating in order to impress the Sponsor-like big-wigs that appeared in the Toyota Garage, than the actual true race performance of the car.

Not that we feel it would make a great deal of difference either way, because once the red lights go out it’s all systems go for the Trulli train. Team-mate Timo Glock reportedly has been suffering with set-up trouble and could not get the car to his liking, which we presume must go a long way to explain why the third fastest driver in F1 (Ralf Schumacher) struggled all those years towards the tail-end of the grid.

Ralfie has now embarked on a new stage in his career, driving in DTM. The German confessing that he lied about having other offers in F1 towards the end of last season, because he wanted to end his F1 career with as little fuss as possible. Of course that’s making an assumption there was going to be a great deal of fuss in the first place.

dc.jpgMeanwhile, the second fastest man of the day was Red Bull’s DC, who seemed to have recovered very well from the trapped nerve that kept him sidelined during Tuesday’s proceedings. Some cynics suggesting that the sight of someone nearly half his age setting a blistering pace in the RB4 the previous day was enough to put a rocket under the archaic Red Bull racer. We can think of a few people we’d like to put a rocket under….

Nico Rosberg continued to impress in the Williams, securing the third fastest time over all for the day and having completed somewhere in the region of 200 laps between himself and team mate Nakajima towards the William’s test program.

Unusually both the McLaren and Ferrari drivers failed to trouble the top of the time sheets yesterday, with Heikki Kovaleinen in 4th, the Kimster in 9th, Lewis in 10th and ickle Felipe in 13th places respectively. Before the tifosi get their undergarments all a tangle, perhaps it is worth pointing out some of the assessments of those apparently in the ‘know’.

niki-lauda.jpgOne man who can always be relied upon to divulge his considered opinion no matter how far-fetched it may be (and whether we want to know or not) is Triple World Champion Niki ‘Nostradamus’ Lauda. If you are fairly new to FFN you may wonder why he has been nicknamed Nostradamus, well ‘tis simply really…. He likes to make predictions…. And no the world hasn’t come to an end just yet…that’s next week.

This week Niki has benevolently bestowed his thoughts on us, informing us all that his tip for the top is the Maranello outfit. According to Niki, the F2008 is roughly 0-5-0.8 seconds a lap faster in race trim than the MP24-23-67 (or whatever it is called) of nearest rivals McLaren.

How exactly Niki has stumbled upon this elusive figure we are not sure, but given that most F1 insiders are touting a maximum of 0.4 seconds advantage at a push on a good day in fair weather (and those are the ones who have been furiously crunching away like a bunch of nerds on their calculators) we’ll take this with a liberal dose of sodium chloride and a Tequila, thanks.

Thinking back to last season, we are pretty sure Niki tipped Alonso to be WDC and look how that one turned out…. Of course I could be wrong I do have the memory of a goldfish. Where was I?

In other news, it has been reported that the spy scandal is still rumbling away under the surface, with Italian Magistrates reportedly paying visits to Paragon as well as the homes of several key McLaren employees yesterday, including CEO Ron Dennis.

What started out as a simple report on Pitpass and Autosport yesterday as some senior McLaren management figures being interviewed by Modena Magistrates accompanied by Surrey police, has already begun to snowball in the Media.

British Publication ‘The Daily Mail’ has reported this morning that Ron has had his home raided by order of the Italian Courts, and that his career is on the brink of collapse, not to mention the prospect of the damage this could do to Lewis Hamilton’s 2008 campaign.

ron-dennis.jpgAlthough we are completely at a loss to work out just what Ron keeps in the privacy of his own home that could be so damning for the British Driver. Answers on a Postcard if you please.

This is despite senior McLaren and Mercedes figures moving to dispel recent rumours regarding Ron’s impending retirement as ‘pure speculation’.

By this evening we are expecting to hear that Ron has been arrested on suspicion of running a drugs cartel from his garden shed, Martin Whitmarsh will have been promoted to Secretary General of the United Nations, Fernando Alonso will win the Nobel Peace Prize and Lewis will be named the Greatest F1 driver of all time.

Stranger things have happened.

The second and penultimate day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona witnessed the McLaren duo of Heikki Kovaleinen and Lewis Hamilton topping the timesheets ahead of their nearest rival Kimi Raikkonen.

half-price-heikki.jpgWhich is not a bad effort really from a pair of semi-rookies, one of which according to reports in the quality German Publication ‘Bild’ or ‘Bilge’ as we like to call it here, was only third man down on McLaren’s winter shopping list. According to said publication Mercedes had their beady eyes on getting either Nico Rosberg or Sebastien Vettel in to partner Louie, but neither were available to be released from their contracts apparently.

Well that’s the official story, but we can’t help wondering if recent rumours about McLaren being a bit cash-strapped (and who wouldn’t be after building Paragon, getting fined $100 million and paying a small fortune to a double world champion only for him to flounce off back to Renault in a strop) has more than a little to do with it. Not that we are calling Heikki ‘cheap’ you understand.

Anyway I digress. Fortuitously the penultimate day of testing enjoyed some decent weather for a change allowing all of the present 10 teams to complete their allotted programs for the day.

With the exception of course of struggling Super Aguri who are rumoured to have turned up with their lorries in the paddock. Whereby the team apparently sat about chewing their fingernails and scouring the employment section of ‘Autosport’ anxiously, only to pack up again without the cars ever having made it out of said transporter.

super-aguri-in-the-paddock.jpgIt remains to be seen if the popular little Japanese team will even be taking part in the 2008 championship campaign amid reports of some rather serious financial difficulties for the Honda ‘B’ team. Here at FFN we do hope that SA will manage to compete, after all we would sorely miss the spectacle of Takuma Sato in the sport for one.

Meanwhile, the McLaren boys spent the day concentrating on various different areas of testing ranging from pitstop practices (for one not two), qualifying simulations in the morning to longer runs in the afternoon.

Down at Ferrari, ickle Felipe and Kimi the ‘King of Loquaciousness’ were concentrating their efforts on race simulations, with Felipe managing to successfully complete his part of the program. Unfortunately the Kimster was unable to complete his allotted program due to an unforeseen technical issue on his F2008. Well we presume that was what it was, and not the Kimster deciding to retire to bed for an impromptu nap, as he is wont to do on the odd occasion.

The Williams team continued throughout to impress, with blonde bombshell ‘Britney’ Rosberg securing the fourth fastest time of the day while concentrating on set-up work for the Groves-based team. Just going to prove Nico’s Phillishave is working it’s aerodynamic forces to perfection, we just wish that someone at Honda would buy Jense one, and Team Boss Ross is not exactly leading by example on that score is he?

jense.jpgRumour has it that the Englishman has split from his long-term girlfriend Florence Brudenell-Bruce amid claims the society beauty couldn’t tame him, which we take to mean that she couldn’t put up with the ‘Wildman of Borneo’ look.

And has nothing to do honestly with gossipy rumours that Jense has been cavorting about with a string of beautiful birds behind her back (and who wouldn’t attract such attention with that facial nest). Bill Oddie eat your heart out.

Meanwhile, just going to prove there is life in the old man yet, Giancarlo Fisichella raised more than a few eyebrows by setting the sixth fastest time of the day marginally behind that of Ferrari’s Felipe Massa in his VMJ01.

Giancarlo was joined by fellow Italian Tonio Liuzzi, who secured the tenth fastest time slot for the day in the sister Force 1ndia challenger, whilst working on a varied test programme.

Whether this signals a vast improvement in form for the former ‘Spyker’ boys, or is purely an indication that everyone else was running with heavier fuel loads who can say.

vjm-the-original-one.jpgHere at FFN, we are a little dubious about how prudent it may be to name the car after yourself (as Team Owner Vijay Mallya has done) lest it goes down in history as a bit of a three-legged canine…. Oh well at least he can give Fernando some company on that score if it all goes pear-shaped.

Down at Red Bull, F1’s elder statesman DC was sidelined for the day due to a trapped nerve in his neck. As one rather keen-eyed observer pointed out, it’s little wonder his neck hurts holding that humungous great square head on top of it while pulling up to 5G in the corners.

Torro Rosso’s star for the future Sebastien Vettel kindly stepped in to take over the mantle from David for the day. Little Seb completed 110 laps in total and finished in a very respectable 7th place for the day, almost 9 tenths ahead of usual Red Bull incumbent Mark Webber.

Honda’s woes continued, despite Jenson making into the top 10, and Barrichello securing the 14th fastest time of the day, both of the RA108 were blighted during proceedings with technical issues. A spokesman for the team confirmed that they knew what the problems were (which is a vast improvement on last years situation) and were hoping to implement fixes as soon as reasonably possible.

ross-beardy-boss.jpgTeam Boss Ross has suggested that there are some big updates to come on the car, so their fanbase should try not to despair and resort to pulling their hair out just yet.

We can only hope on Honda’s behalf these ‘big’ updates are in terms of performance improvement, and not in size. Although perhaps having a car twice as long and wide as your rivals might make it a bit more difficult for them to overtake you…so we’ll keep our eyes peeled for that.

More shortly….

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?

Today 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher will finally get his hands on the F2008 in a much publicised test session at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.

the-return-of-the-schu1.jpgAs is always the case with the Schu, the prospect has created quite a stir amongst the F1 fanbase, as the German Superstar will be testing alongside Ferrari’s current WDC Kimbot ‘Flu-riddled’ Raikkonen for the first time in the same car.

The Ferrari team have been quick to point out that the duo will actually be completing different parts of the F2008 program as to avoid the prospect of anyone making direct and possibly unflattering comparisons between the two champions (and to save any blushes for the loser). Like that is actually going to stop anyone!

Suffice to say F1 internet buffs everywhere are already rubbing their hands together in delight at the prospect of pouring over the timesheets like a bunch of complete anoraks to ascertain who is actually the fastest of the two.

We can only wonder which WDC will be going home with a rather large dent in their ego tonight, and which will be going home in another hideous fashion statement. Just kidding (about the ego not the shirts) and we haven’t honestly the faintest notion who will come out as the cream of the crop.

Meanwhile another WDC who has been in the beady eye of public scrutiny just recently is Renault’s Double World Champion Fernando Alonso. The reclusive Spaniard (who barely speaks two words together during the course of a season if we are lucky, according to Ron Dennis) has this week spoken out about his forthright opinions on the ongoing ‘race row’ that has dominated the sport in recent weeks.

nando.jpgWe can only presume that we are not talking about the same man as Mr. Dennis, as the one that comes to our minds is the one that spews forth with greater alacrity and garrulousness than Mount Etna the minute he is within 3 square feet of a microphone.

The ‘race row’ in question should not be confused with the usual ‘race rows’ that envelope Formula 1, whereby a lot of brake-testing, impeding rivals, red flags, spats across the garage, dodgy parking and ending up in the gravel trap go on during the course of the average weekend in the sport, much to our delight.

Indeed Nando has been speaking out in defence of his countrymen in response to allegations thrown at them by the British Media. According to the King of Spanish Public Relations, the Spanish are not racist and the whole incident at Barcelona a few weeks back whereby a few individuals took it upon themselves to lob objects and vocalise their appreciation for Lewis Hamilton was a one-off incident. We can only presume then the other incident in China mentioned by Max Mosley, was a figment of someone’s overactive imagination.

Nando went on to dismiss the need for the FIA to involve themselves in the whole affair and suggested that an anti-racism campaign was not desirous. According to the Renault Star, he too has been on the receiving end of some verbal abuse on occasion, with Niki Lauda reportedly calling him a “dog” during the course of the 2007 season. Nando quite rightly pointing out that the FIA didn’t rush and launch an anti-canine campaign on his behalf.

Just for future reference we think someone should point out one minor trivial and inconsequential detail to the Double World Champion, that our four legged furry friends are actually considered a ‘species’ and not a ‘race’. Otherwise he could end up not doing so well at the ‘Science and Nature’ questions when he plays that board game Trivial Pursuit.

smiling-stepney.jpgOver in Italy this week disgraced former glorified Mechanic Nigel Stepney was seen putting in an appearance at the public abode of the Modena Magistrate, Giuseppe Tibis.

Steppers spent around 3 hours having a “discussion” with the Italian magistrate regarding the ongoing legal action being brought against the Brit by the Ferrari team.

Judging by the photos of the Brit smiling as he left the Magistrates Office, we can only conclude it was a civilised affair with glasses of champagne and some rather tasty hors d’ouvres thrown in for good measure…and disappointingly no apparent toenail extraction to expediate matters.

Either that or Steppers is rather masochistic in nature and enjoys a good interrogation as well as the notoriety gained from being Public Enemy No.1.

Meanwhile, just in case any of us were in danger of being completely overshadowed by the size of McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton’s ego (which is not likely unless you happen to live in Switzerland) Willi Weber has benevolently stepped into the fray to save us all, how kind of him.

willi-weber.jpgThe German best known for being Michael Schumacher’s Manager, and for spending 15 years constantly printing out World Champion T-shirts whether his man won or not, has commented in the Media that he sees no current replacement in the sport for the majesty of his former Star.

According to Willi (which we think is an apt name for him if ever there was one) F1’s latest golden boy Hamilton is good but not that good. The German went on to suggest that if Michael Schumacher were still driving today (well he is, isn’t he?) he would easily knock the British sensation into a cocked hat, or something similar.

We can only hope that Michael manages to pull out a good qualifying performance today in Barcelona and beats the Brit, otherwise Mr Weber could be going home embarrassingly with egg all over his face, Although that would be a vast aesthetic improvement to our minds.

Of course we can only come to the rather startling and cynical conclusion that the real reason behind such comments is that Mr.Weber isn’t making a single Euro out of the British Star, Bah Humbug.

Next Page »