Christian Horner


Here at FFN, we are convinced January is the longest month in the year. We know its just 31 days like most other months, but the days somehow just seem longer you have to admit. Probably its all an elaborate cosmic conspiracy hatched to lengthen the F1 off season. Speaking of which, it’s a miracle Bernie Ecclestone hasn’t just suggested around-the-year racing, considering there’s not much car development anyway what with all the cost cutting. And its not like Bernie is the shy kind who shrinks from making ridiculous suggestions (speaking figuratively of course, in a literal sense, if he shrank anymore he would be invisible…). The various F1 comittees (how many are there anyway?) are not to be outdone, they are as good as the next person in airing harebrained schemes to the general public.  When they are not busy cutting costs, they are trying to reduce speeds. It’s a bit confounding this one, you would have thought the whole idea about F1 racing is to increase speeds but apparently not. A bunch of blokes got together yesterday and officially agreed to ban double diffusers for 2011, in a move aimed at keeping speeds under control. If you are thinking rules could hardly get more haphazard, you are not alone. We think Christian Horner nails it when he says “I think the most important thing is to set clear objectives – as to what do the governing body and the promoters want F1 to be. I think looking at components in isolation is often quite dangerous, so I think it is important that the overall objective is clearly defined and then worked on by the various technical groups. What do they want the F1 cars to be able to do?” From the look of it, go very slowly one behind the other with no overtaking whatsoever. Oh, and maybe have shortcuts if things get too boring. Pinnacle of motor racing, indeed!

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dc.jpgDavid Coulthard has had a rather mixed beginning to the season so far this year, which is to say he is yet to score a championship point or make it into Q3 for that matter, but it is all looking rather promising (No, honest!) He started off the season by running wide in Q1 and qualifying 18th, and didn’t do too much better in the race either. Let us just say Alex Wurz was lucky to escape with his head intact after DC unleashed a particularly potent and botched up overtaking move from his unique repertoire. If DC was determined to turn things around in Malaysia after the rather dramatic start in Australia, well…it didn’t quite show, though the Adrian Newey designed Red Bull was partly to blame. He did make it to 13th on the qualifying grid this time (when a mistake in Q2 stopped his progress to Q3), but was forced to retire from the race on encountering a rather weird problem. With his brake pedal obstructing his steering column, he was forced to choose between braking and turning, and understandably chose the third option of parking his car instead. With barely a week between Malaysia and Bahrain, the RB reliability didn’t exactly improve by leaps and bounds and gearbox problems this time around meant DC started the Bahrain race from 21st on the grid, not really the ideal position one has to admit. A sterling drive and an aggressive fuel strategy saw him storm to seventh, before the car decided it had had enough of racing and a broken driveshaft put paid to any hopes DC might have had of picking up a point or two.

After 3 retirements from 3 races, he remains positive for the rest of the season and claims “he would rather park the car having had a good race” than finish the race 2 laps down in a turkey. Now that is precisely the dangerous attitude that caused McLaren to become popularly known as ‘McBoomer’, and it has taken them all these years to realize reliability is not a bad thing after all. Christian Horner says the current reliability level  is unacceptable and they have every intention of doing something about it, but he is also busy trying to prevent former employees from distributing RB design documents to all and sundry, not to mention convincing Spyker (and possibly Williams) that there is nothing quite wrong in multiple constructors saving a bit of money and nicking chassis design from each other (or chassis-sharing in other words). Adrian Newey’s finely tuned aerodynamicist senses are still in shock after calculating the effect of the open fuel flap on Webber’s car from last race, and hopefully he will recover soon enough to do the needful. It will be interesting to see if there are any improvements in the RB reliability in Barcelona post the one month break.

PS: If you are wondering why I started this feature with David Coulthard, I don’t have a clue either, it just seemed like a rather good idea at that time. Anyway, watch out for The Season So Far: Kimi Raikkonen next.

It’s all a bit laughable really. Formula 1 a dangerous sport, where overgrown little boys with over-competitive egos in dangerously fast cars can’t manage to go one weekend with out smashing to smithereens at least one or two vehicles.

crashtestdummies1.jpgSo it comes as somewhat of a surprise that the F1 community have been asked to give their support to the United Nations Road Safety Week that takes place between the 23rd and 29th of April. Various Formula 1 stars have given their backing to this campaign which is seeking to improve awareness concerning the scale of the global road safety problem, especially among young people who are particularly affected.

The FIA have apparently been backing the campaign in a number of ways including sending crash test dummies to the Bahrain Grand Prix. Quite how sending a bright yellow plastic man to a Grand Prix highlights the need for road safety one does not know, and it certainly didn’t have that much effect as Honda’s Jenson Button and STR’s Scott Speed still had a first lap crash once the lights had gone out….unless it was the two yellow plastic men actually driving? Still I’m assuming the plastic men were rather chuffed at getting in to the race for free, whereas mere mortals still had to cough up some lolly for the prospect of a good old prang.

schumacherintrouble.jpgAnother of the FIA’s initiatives involves former 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher attending an event on the 23rd April in London to talk about road safety. What I wouldn’t give to see Mr. Schumacher’s speech notes, which must be intriguing and very insightful given his coloured career. I’m wondering if they contain the following:-

* Advice on how to punt your rivals off the road when they are looking like they are going to beat you
* Handy parking manoeuvres on tight city street corners
* High speed swerving overtaking manoeuvres once the traffic lights have gone green
* How to deal with other motorists in a rational manner after an accident (Spa 98)
* How to combat road rage

Rather amusingly another firm believer in absolute road safety is Double World Champion Fernando Alonso. “For me its very important to support this campaign and make safety the first priority in our cars in everyday life. I think we need to improve safety and we need to improve the roads, make the roads safe and I think we can do this if everyone works in the same directions” Nando quipped. Indeed, I shall take that with a pinch of salt coming from someone with a penchant for brake-testing his rivals in qualifying trim…as that kind of behaviour is only going to see someone rapidly parked into the back of your car on the motorway.

Even Mr.Magoo (David Coulthard) himself has had the temerity to start preaching on the subject…..which is a bit rich considering his track record so far this season. Perhaps he will be promoting awareness on how not to mow down innocent pedestrians and how to look where your going on the road instead of driving over someone else’s car.

So it’s a case of do as I say and not as I do, from the F1 community. Next it will be Kimi Raikkonen preaching about the dangers of drinking vodka and singing karoake badly, and Flavio Briatore instilling in us the importance of using anti-perspirant deodorants.

autosportblueprint1.jpgMeanwhile War is brewing yet again down the pit-lane. Red Bull it is rumoured have been investigating the leak in which a set of Red Bull technical blueprints managed to spirit themselves out of a filing cabinet in their Milton Keynes factory and escort themselves into the hands of the Spyker F1 team. Red Bull claim they have uncovered who the sticky mitted taurine covered thief is and our consulting with their lawyers next week over the best course of action to take.

Presumably it won’t be an eye for an eye…..because who would really want to nick blueprints for the slowest car on the grid?

However team principal Christian Horner is keeping a tight lid on the whole thing and refusing to confess just what Red Bull’s battle plans are. Red Bull are also keeping stumm about whether it is just the sticky fingered muppet who stole the plans initially or Spyker or both who are on their most wanted list.

Meanwhile talks between the team principals initiated to resolve the customer car row which started all this sticky mess in the first place, have stalled with no compromise as yet being found. Bernie Ecclestone F1 supremo must now go away and come up with a proposal before the Spanish Grand Prix. It is expected that this meeting will also now involve Technical Directors…..so not only will it be a bunch of argumentative crotchedy old men having a spat over money, now a bunch of technical nerds are sticking their noses in as well. Sounds absolutely fascinating. *wake me up when it’s all over*.

Updated 23/04/2007 Just in case you were interested 😉 two links to Michael talking about Road Safety:

BBC News

Sky News

mclarenwins.jpgI must thank sugarpuff for pitching in and writing the race review. I have to confess that I started on it but couldn’t go beyond “The Ferrari drivers…” without gnashing my teeth and having to log off to restore the blood pressure to normal levels. Moreover, I have also been very busy sending Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa a spate of bricks by post, not to mention thanking heavens that the Bahrain grand prix is just a few days away (so the rather vivid imagery of Ron Dennis and Fernando Alonso on the podium will not stay on my mind for a month). That said, I am assuming Ferrari can set right whatever it is that went wrong before this weekend…otherwise I shall just have to skip watching the podium ceremony next time around. I might be a F1 fan, but I am no masochist. And really, where is the fun in watching an entire F1 race with no smoky McLaren during the course of it? If this trend continues, before long the audience will be wanting their money back I am sure, so Bernie better watch out.

The key thing here of course is tolerance towards our drivers…however overwhelming the urge is to find a stout stick and hit them over the head with it… Just kidding of course, last Sunday was certainly not a display of Kimi and Felipe showcasing their talents, but no one has perfect weekends all year round, and I am confident our drivers will bounce right back – we have an excellent driver lineup after all. Anyway, it appears there were some ‘compromises’ that were made, apart from attending to Kimi’s potential engine problem (which according to Jean Todt cost him just 0.1 seconds per lap), though of course the team did not provide us with much details on just what those ‘compromises’ were. Hopefully, the Bahrain race will bring us better fortune.

Meanwhile, it has always been known that Formula 1 teams are by nature a rather secretive lot and especially so when it comes to car design. Understandably, they do not advertise what it is that is makes their cars go faster than that of their rivals, and I imagine blueprints of currently used Formula 1 car parts would be quite hard to come by. So when Christian Horner learned that Colin Kolles has been going around distributing copies of design drawings of the Red Bull and STR cars to the stewards and the media, he must not have been exactly thrilled. And then there is this small matter of how Colin got his hands on the blueprints in the first place, as far as Horner knows he had not issued any instructions on printing out pamphlets of the same and letting the rival teams have a copy each. The documents were apparently sent to Spyker ‘anonymously’ (which is always a prudent way of going about it if you are indulging in dubious behavior), and Horner would very much like to know just who it is who is being rather generous with the information exchange. “We were somewhat surprised to hear that Spyker have in their possession drawings of our cars” says Horner, “And inevitably we will look into it following the Sepang Grand Prix”. And that would be about now.

After Renault, it is now Honda’s turn to be working on a B version of the car, which is expected to be ready in time for Canada. It appears that the reason for their problems is that they have been designing the car by trial and error method rather than really understanding what they were attempting to do. “I don’t think we can say hand on heart that we fully understood the problems we had at the start of the 2005 season, when we raised the front wing of the car” says Nick Fry, “Although we improved the situation I don’t think we even understand now how we did that. And if those kind of issues are coming back to bite us again it would not surprise us”. Well no, it wouldn’t surprise us either. It’s the kind of thing they warn you against in the first year of an engineering degree. “We are pretty good at digging ourselves out of holes and I am sure we will dig ourselves out of this one” says Nick. Good luck to them on that.

Keeping fingers crossed for Bahrain. 5 days to go.

The start of the Formula 1 season is just two weeks away, and trouble is already rearing its ugly head. (No I’m not talking about Jacques Villeneuve for once).

Aside from the customer car row that has been bubbling away underneath the surface all winter, several teams have now come to the realisation that their car is really rather rubbish and are frantically pulling all the strings to try to rectify the situation.

Most notably the teams that are not happy with their vehicles’ performance are Honda and Red Bull. In addition Poor Super Aguri haven’t even finished building their car yet…. So they have no idea if it’s rubbish or not.

Honda has confirmed today that they are planning a major revamp to the RA107 in time for the Malaysian Grand Prix, which takes place on 8th April.

A lack of out and out pace has become evident throughout winter testing, with tectonic plate movement on planet Earth recording faster times than the RA107. This has left the technical team at Honda urgently seeking to make upgrades to the car’s aerodynamic package and other mechanical changes including revision to the rear suspension.

Honda’s Senior Technical Director Shuhei Nakamoto has stated that he fears the Honda outfit will struggle in Australia to qualify inside the top 10, claiming to be marginally ahead of Toyota and Red Bull but behind the rest.

nickfry.JPGTeam Boss Nick Fry however has downplayed suggestions that Honda are pants, and reckons that the car has intentionally been built to give room for vast improvements throughout the season. (Pull the other one it has bells on it Nick! who builds a crap car on purpose?).

“With our team over the last seven or eight years it has been an evolutionary process and we evolved our way up to fourth place in the championship last year,” he said.

Can Honda ignore their critics and actually produce a decent car for a change?

“But to get into the top three, we don’t feel you can do it with evolution. It is more minor revolution and a lot of features of this car, especially the cooling package, the exhaust packaging and Coke bottling at the rear of the car are probably more dramatic than any other.

“So the headroom this cars gives us in order to develop through the season is much greater than we have had before. I am not promising we will win in Melbourne, far from it, I think we will be in a points scoring position.

“But as we go through the season this car has the ability to get stronger and stronger, and it will be a race winner.” jabbered Nick…. (Right I’m off down the bookies to put a bet on that one, who will lend me a quid?).

Meanwhile Red Bull who throughout last year gave up on developing their car to concentrate on this season’s vehicle, have come to the realisation that they also have a bit of a turkey on their hands.

christian-horner.JPGThe Adrian Newey designed RB3 has not shown impressive pace during winter testing and has had its fair share of reliability issues as well. Although an aerodynamic update is due to be tested on the car next week at Magny-Cours, Red Bull are in a race against time if they want to make any kind of big impression this season.

Can Red Bull manage to save Horner’s bacon, or will he be left looking a bit of a prat? —>

Team Boss Christian Horner who has been recently studying at the Nick Fry Management School of Excuses and Explanations, had this to say:

“It is not an evolutionary car, but a revolutionary one. Of course, we have teething problems to deal with such a new car, and it is hard to know where we are.

“There will be an aggressive development through the season that will move us forward. And I am confident we will stride forward.

“There is going to be a huge fight. Everyone is so tightly packed.” (A big fight to stop everyone else lapping them that is).

So there we have it the Constructor A teams, that promised so much, have so far delivered so little…and are faced with the prospect of getting beaten by their customer car compatriots.(I’m not laughing no honestly I’m not…..much.)

I bet those that were laughing their socks off back in January at Ferrari’s long wheel-based cars aren’t laughing quite so hard now, eh?

It is rumored that F1 might be forced to scrap the fuel-burning qualifying sessions and resort to picking up chits instead to decide the grid order, and we know who is to blame. It all started with Honda and the ‘earth car’. An insider revealed (rather reproachfully) that if Honda had sponsorship issues, they should probably have stuck to the plain black livery. Now not only do they have a wierd blue car with green splotches on it, but they have also drawn unnecessary attention to F1 from environmentalists, who have collectively termed it as “probably the most polluting sport in the planet contributing to climatic changes”. The environmentalists understandably feel it is a little rich for a F1 manufacturer to be advocating the ‘green’ program, and have suggested that Honda should skip the third session of qualifying if they really cared. Now that is a line we can easily imagine Rubens delivering as an excuse – “I would have been on pole, but it is against my principles”. 

The Skip-Q3 policy is still something Red Bull can adopt probably, because we don’t anticipate DC or Webber will be reaching Q3 that often anyway. A RB insider reveals that the team has tried almost everything aerodynamically, and the only thing that remains is to interchange the front and rear wings, turn the car around and try driving backwards. We are not too sure if that will work, but stranger things have happened. Team principal Christian Horner apparently still has some hope left – he feels the new car is “not evolutionary, but revolutionary”. So revolutionary infact, that it is almost going in the opposite direction compared to other cars on the grid. They are planning on some ‘aggressive development’ now, and it is about time.

stefano.jpg 

Kimi Raikkonen has again turned down invitations to compare the Ferrari and McLaren cars, instead preferring to deal with absolutes like “it is a nice car” and “I am happy”. He got a nasty shock though when he suddenly ran into Stefano Domenicali wearing his scary sunglasses (see left picture above), around the corner, and has still not recovered from the shock completely. He needed a few ice packs to try and cool off a bit, and was overheard promising Stefano he would smile more if Stefano in turn would agree to never scare him like that again. We could not reach Stefano Domanicali for comments.

Red Bull launched their new Adrian Newey designed RB3 yesterday, and the car was described by Newey as ‘McLareneque minus engine fireworks’. Christian Horner, Red Bull team principal, hailed Newey as the Michael Schumacher of the engineering world, a fitting tribute given the phenomenal records set by his cars – 6 WDCs, 7 WCCs and 100 race wins. Adrian Newey expressed his regrets late last year that he never got to work with Michael, something Bernie Ecclestone is still thanking his lucky stars for, no doubt. One shudders to think what the two might have done together.

cyclecar.jpgInfact Bernie recently revealed to FFNA that the idea did come up a few years back, but he had made it clear that he would allow a Newey-Schumi partnership only under one of the following conditions –

(1) The FIA will allow a partnership between Adrian Newey and Michael Schumacher under the stipulation that Michael should design the car, and Newey should race it, with no inputs from each other. Needless to say, the roles cannot be reversed.

(2) The FIA will allow Adrian Newey to design the car for Michael Schumacher, and Michael to race the same, under the stipulation that it has no engine and operates on manual pedalling.

Apparently they did try out option (2) and Michael set reasonably competitive times, but with the mandatory pitstop clause that FIA added later despite lack of need for refuelling, it was felt that the chances for a world championship were not very bright, eventually forcing them to abandon the idea.

Meanwhile, Gerhard Berger, STR team principal, said he was not very worried about the possibility of not having any car to race for Melbourne, because they might anyway not have drivers either. He also added that he didn’t see why Spyker or Williams should have any complaint about STR using Ferrari engine with Adrian Newey chassis, for as long as they retained Scott Speed and Liuzzi they didn’t stand a chance at being competitive anyway. Spyker and Williams are yet to respond.