Flavio Briatore

The World of Formula 1 can be a strange place at times, with more bizarre goings on per square foot during the F1 season than you’d find at any science fiction/star trek convention fully of spotty 14 year-olds.

Usually during the winter months (November-March) us poor petrol-heads are limited to pouring over car launches with a magnifying glass and the odd winter test session timing sheet if we are lucky.

By and large these test sessions are pretty dull affairs, but eager for any scrap of detail no matter how minute, we scour the ‘tinter-web’ like a plague of hungry locusts. No doubt looking for some small clue that our car is the best one out there, and that our team could be onto a winning streak in the coming year. Obviously with some of us having to employ slightly more imagination than others.

This winter looked no different from normal, with all the usual claims of sandbagging, showboating and strange appendages, which we will come back to later.

lewis-in-barcelona.jpgThen Lo and Behold, just when we here at FFN were about to pull our hair out rather than face the daunting task of attempting to make winter testing a tad more “interesting” to the normal folk (that’s not including the armchair geeks with protractors ever at the ready)…. All manner of shenanigans kicked off. Unfortunately,well maybe fortunately for some, before the FFN staff could even so much as pass comment, our domain provider conveniently decided to pull the plug, replace us with some weight loss pills (what are they implying?) and hold us to ransom Ecclestone style.

We can only say we now know how Rod Hull felt when he had some interference in his TV football coverage, although we are hopefully going to stop short of climbing on the roof and subsequently falling off – EMU or not. Although we could be tempted to push Max Mosley off it at times.

Unless you have been living like a hermit and have had your broadband cancelled recently, no doubt you will be aware that at a recent test in sunny Barcelona, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton came in for a bit of flak from the local partisan crowd. The subsequent fall out; if the reaction of some could be believed was akin to the start of World War 3. Let me explain.

Emerging reports from some sources in Spain, suggested that a particularly small contingent of Alonso “fans” (we use the term loosely), decided to take it upon themselves to shout some rather unfriendly terms at young Lamppost Lewis as well as lobbing objects onto the race track. Presumably the objects in question were simply rubbish and anything found lying around at the time, and probably did not include any pertinent tomes on local Spanish Colloquialisms and Customs.

Apparently some of Fernando’s fans felt their hero had been hard done by at the hands of Lewis and the McLaren team last season, and felt the need to vocalise their displeasure in the direction of the British Star. Although why they would feel Alonso needs anyone’s assistance in that department we are at a loss to explain, since he seems more than capable of falling out with just about anyone all of his own accord and ensuring everyone knows about it. He is a big boy after all, allegedly.

We wouldn’t deem it appropriate to post some of the terminology employed here lest it upset anyone, but suffice to say according to some reports some of the phrases were particularly descriptive and involved mention of the word “black” and [insert expletive] and no we are not talking about astronomical phenomena that have a habit of swallowing whole galaxies and so forth (that would actually be Flavio Briatore’s gob).

Quicker than it takes Ron Dennis to blow dry his hair on the average morning, the British Press latched onto this rather unfriendly display, and before you could count the number of fingers on one hand, a tabloid war was going on back and forth between the British and their continental cousins. Not like the British to get involved in the odd war with the European Continent now and then, is it? Unconfirmed rumours have suggested the British Fleet were put on standby at Plymouth at one point in the ensuing verbal fracas, but don’t quote me on that.

the-most-ill-advised-carnival-costume-ever.jpgOne small group of unfortunates that found themselves in the eye of this particular storm in a tea mug, was a handful of Spaniards. According to themselves, the misguided group had dressed up for carnival, by painting their faces with boot polish, donning some rather flea-ridden looking wigs and writing on their T-shirts in rather dubious English that they were in fact members of Lamppost Lewis’s family.

An absolute furore seems to have ensued across F1 forums and bulletin boards, with most Spaniards rather furious at being labelled as a nation of racists (no general tarring and feathering involved then), and much name calling going on by both sides, with a few individuals in the middle totally perplexed as to why it had happened in the first place.

According to some sources in Spain, it is not considered a racial slur to paint oneself in boot polish and mock someone else’s family; it is apparently just dressing up in the carnival spirit (and looking competely ridiculous on further reflection). Although how carnival-like they will feel the next morning when they struggle to get said boot polish off their bed linen and get put in purgatory by the wife is anyone’s guess.

Presumably one of those groups getting their undergarments in a thorough twist over the whole affair are the small section of fans that had also dressed up for carnival at the circuit, but had gone largely unnoticed by the present media. Jealousy is a terrible thing.

Unconfirmed reports from the continent suggest this group largely consists of greedy money-grabbing 3 foot tall bowl hair-cut hobbit look-a-likes, dried up old prunes in grey suits pretending to be the FIA, and a whole legion of men in sombreros with straw donkeys tucked firmly under arm and bearing dodgy moustaches that could usually only be found on the film set of Zorro or in the McLaren camp on a bad day at a push.

3-foot-hobbit-look-a-like.jpgIn response the FIA has according to various media reports, launched an anti-racism campaign to be kicked off during the current season at the Spanish Grand Prix. F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has dismissed it all out of hand and suggested the best way to deal with the issue, is to ignore it and let it go over your head (or some such advice). Which is pretty easy when you’re that vertically challenged, and would explain a few things about little Bernard for sure.

Lewis meanwhile has kept his cool and kept his head down, and we admire his patience and forbearance under such difficult circumstances. Having spent two weeks some years back feverishly working on my sun-tan in Crete, only to be called Snow White repeatedly by the hysterical lifeguards at the local waterslide park – well it’s enough to make one’s blood boil. Lewis really is a better man than I am, which probably isn’t that hard since I’m missing something vital in that department…

Meanwhile, not wanting to be outdone in the histrionic department by the F1 fanbase, F1 has been brewing its own storm if media reports are to be believed (and more often than not they aren’t).

According to Italian publication Autosprint, the Honda F1 team have discovered a hidden ‘bug’ within the Standard ECU (Electronic Control Unit) supplied to all the teams by the McLaren Group. If reports are true, pressing three of the buttons on the steering wheel in a set sequence unleashes an aggressive launch mode for the cars off the starting grid.

ecu.jpgUnusually Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has kept strangely quiet on the subject, suffice to say here at FFN we are very concerned. We can only presume this magical ‘three button’ launch sequence is either an entire fabrication, or Ferrari have found a much simpler way around launching their cars quick-sticks off the starting line, which doesn’t involve having to teach the Kimster complex button pressing routines first thing in the morning. Ferrari’s Spokesman would not confirm current scurrulous circulating rumours that Jean Todt has now found alternative employment within the company, and is largely responsible for screaming “Go!!! You muppets!!!” down his headpiece from his pedestal on the pitwall.

Strangely though, this aggressive secret performance mode hidden with the SECU seems to have done very little in the way of shooting Honda up the pecking order. Maybe next time they want to keep it under their bonnets, if they can work out which part of the car that is.

Stay tuned. For Spying, Sandwiches, Sandbags and Strange Appendages (that’s if I haven’t been branded a heretic and lynched by Honda fans in the meantime, or burnt at the stake in Barcelona and broadcast on YouTube) It’s a dangerous life being a writer. Ciaooo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It seems some people no matter how much trouble they are in, just can’t seem to put a sock in it for their own good, and take every available opportunity to spout off hot air faster than Lewis Hamilton’s hairdryer.

im-going-to-tell-you-a-little-story.jpgOne such person being Nigel Stepney (Ferrari’s former storyteller with a part-time hobby for sabotage on the side). Just when the dust was finally settling, Ron Dennis could just about go out in the street again without cabbages being thrown at him, and Jean Todt had stopped chewing his fingernails down to his elbows and ranting and raving like a madman….Nigel pops out of the woodwork once more to stir the proverbial hornets nest with a big stick.

One has to wonder why Nige has decided to speak out now giving us yet another version of his side of events after being quiet for so long, could it possibly be to promote an upcoming work of fiction perchance? I know! Call me cynical, while I’m going to start calling him Jackie Collins.

This time Nige has decided to kindly impart yet more of his “reliable” testimony of what really happened in the Spygate saga. Going back to the beginning…

Firstly we were to understand Nige was on holiday and hadn’t got the first clue what all the fuss was about. Later on we were entertained with stories of a mysterious insider in Maranello who was attempting to frame Nige by sending out confidential top secret documents to his former friends via the postal service.

Before long we were worrying about dead bodies apparently hidden somewhere inside the Ferrari Factory about to jump out at any given second to scare us all witless. Then we were enthralled by tales of high-speed car chases and mysterious strangers hounding Nige out of Europe.

Later still we were informed that actually the postal service must have broken down and Nige delivered the secret 780 page dossier of bedtime reading himself to Mike Coughlan. At this point we were assured via Nigel that Mike “wouldn’t use it so don’t worry”. Look how that one turned out.

We can only suppose the 300 odd text messages informing McLaren of the day to day business of Ferrari between March and June 2007, including what was on the breakfast menu weren’t to be used either.

i-could-swear-i-left-it-here.jpgThe current gospel according to Nige is that he gave the Ferrari dossier to Mike under the misguided illusion it would entice Mr Coughlan away from McLaren. They would then embark on setting up a new group of like-minded technicians (Presumably with Nige playing the role of Robin Hood albeit in red tights not green).

This band of merry light-fingered men would then go to work for a new team, allegedly. How Kimi Raikkonen’s pit strategies come into the equation we haven’t quite figured out yet, unless of course Nige was planning to set up his own pitcrew for the Finn’s benefit… But could they be trusted not to make off with the wheels and Kimi’s prized bottle of Finlandia Vodka when he wasn’t looking?

According to Nige he never intended for any of the information to be disseminated throughout McLaren, and is shocked and appalled by his friend’s apparent lack of moral values and integrity. Which is the Pot calling the Kettle if ever we heard it. Whatever next? Adrian Newey calling Ron Dennis a slaphead? Max Mosley calling Jackie Stewart opinionated? Flavio Briatore calling Bernie Ecclestone an old gasbag?

But don’t feel too bad for Nige, he has told us that he doesn’t feel responsible for what happened at McLaren. Although this does lead us to wonder whom on earth is responsible if he isn’t. Nigel though is not that bothered by the fact he won’t be working in F1 again.

Which is just as well, because we don’t think the Italian Prison Service currently has a Motorsports Division on account they might accidentally provide the inmates with get away vehicles. Although the paint scheme on the Renault is a crime all in itself…but I’m digressing.

mi5.jpgBefore we get a little bit ahead of ourselves and start booking visiting rights and putting crowbars in cakes, we understand that the Englishman has just been appointed as Director or Race Technologies at on-board camera company Gigawave.

Amongst one of their many motorsports activities, Gigawave will be running a team in the FIA GT championship this season.

And should they not do so well, they can always resort to spying on their rivals via the on-board camera footage. Honestly Nige is wasted as an author and motorsports bod, he should be employed at MI5.

pedro-in-jerez.jpgAfter launching their new car the MP4-23 yesterday in Stuttgart, the McLaren Mercedes team successfully completed their first full day of testing today at Jerez in Spain.

In the morning session test driver Pedro de la Rosa (or Pedro the Pink as we know him here) put the MP4-23 through its initial paces, before being joined on track in the afternoon by McLaren new boy Heikki ‘Happy’ Kovaleinen in the afternoon.

Pedro covered 177km in total with a best time of 1.19.655, and Heikki managed a respectable 128km with a best time of 1.20.559.

Both Pedro and Heikki were enthusiastically encouraged by the car’s initial outing. Heikki apparently commenting “It was really great to get on track today with the MP4-23,”

“It was my first session as a Vodafone McLaren Mercedes driver. I always really enjoy the first day a new car runs, there is always a very unique atmosphere, you know a little bit tense, a little bit excited” .

“The first impressions of the new car are good. We have a comprehensive development schedule to work through over the next couple of months. The car’s performance today is definitely an encouraging starting point.”

Test driver Pedro de la Rosa was similarly pleased stating “We covered 69 laps in total today between Heikki and me, which is a good start,” de la Rosa said. “The car felt positive and it has been an encouraging day. This is the second time I have had the opportunity to make the track debut with our new car, it is also the eighth car I have driven for the team.”

new-boy-heikki.jpgSo all in all an encouraging start from the Woking boys, which is probably what they need after all the cafuffle they have had to endure in the last 12 months – and that’s just the flack they’ve had to take from us here at FFN.

Lewis Tax-Free Swiss-Cheese Hamilton will be taking over testing duties from the morrow, apparently. That’s if he can fit his entourage of celebrities and ego into the garage simultaneously, which is no mean feat.

Here at FFN, we have to admit to feeling the slightest ever so teensy bit of sympathy for Pedro the Pink. We know it is every little boy’s dream to get to drive an F1 car, but it must be thoroughly infuriating to do all the donkey work in testing and so forth, then for some flashy upstart from Renault to swan in and swipe the driver’s seat from under your nose at the last minute. The poor Spaniard must be wondering just what he has to do to get the McLaren drive these days, perhaps a move to Renault would be a good start!

McLaren’s other test driver Gary Paffett doesn’t appear to be faring much better in his F1 plans, as Prodrive have had to postpone their plans to enter F1 until the customer car issue has been resolved. Apparently Williams have contested the legality of Prodrive’s entry and until the issue is resolved they are unable to enter the sport. Which does seem a bit of a backwards way of doing things considering there are at least two teams we can think of running customer cars already in the sport.

Far be it for us to point out the inconsistencies of the FIA’s approach, lest we end up being dragged kicking and screaming into the Court of Appeal and subjected to a lengthy verbal torturing by a bunch of lawyers who have swallowed the English Dictionary for a hobby. Eating Flavio’s sweaty jock strap in retrospect would probably be preferable!

While we are on the subject of worrying about people, we are beginning to get mightily concerned for the whereabouts of Ferrari’s Official Spokesman Luca Colajanni. Usually he is popping up out of the ether like nobodies business issuing statements and denials left, right and centre on behalf of the Maranello boys – and baffling us all with his cryptic verses, before disappearing again from whence he came.

frostbite-alert.jpgWe are beginning to fear the worst. Has the suddenly verbose Kimi-bot Raikkonen gone on the rampage and stolen Luca’s public speaking handbook? Or has the poor Mr Colajanni been put out of employment, now that the Kimster is seemingly unable to shut up for more than a few seconds at a time?

So far this winter we have had Luca Di, Jean Todt, Stefano Domenicali, Aldo Costa, Mario Almondo and just about everyone else from Maranello bar the cleaning lady give us their thoughts on every topic under the sun…while the official spokesman hasn’t seemingly uttered a word.

Here at FFN we are really hoping Mr Colajanni is off in the Caribbean enjoying a nice relaxing holiday, and is planning on coming back soon to save us all. Preferably before the Kimster is struck down by a debilitating double case of laryngitis and face ache, to go along with the embarrassing case of frostbite he must have contracted on his rear-end at the Wroom Event staged held at Madonna di Campligio.

renaultmotorhome.jpgI suspect you have been secretly wondering when I was going to mention the prospective pickle that former champions Renault seem to have found themselves in. If not I’m going to blather on anyway!

After winning successive championship titles in 2005 and 2006, everything seemed to rapidly go down the toilet for the Enstone based squad. Especially when their lead driver Fernando Alone-so made the strange decision to up sticks and head off for a new “challenge” at McLaren.

And what a challenge it turned out to be! With So Alone-so, Hamilton, Martin Whitmarsh and Ron Dennis involved in the mother of all four way duels to talk the most amount of nonsense to the waiting media in the shortest space of time, whilst single-handedly demonstrating to the rest of the pitlane McLaren’s unique style of team-work and championship winning ways.

Exhausted after all the high drama, Alonso has now decided to return to the Renault fold on the understanding that he will be their number 1, and not have to share his limelight with any snotty-nosed trophy hogging rookies. After all it worked for Michael Schumacher…and he didn’t even have to bribe and blackmail his team….

patandflav.jpgYou may recall recently both Renault Team Boss Flavio Briatore and his trusty side-kick Pat Symonds waxing lyrical publicly about the importance of having a clear and defined Number 1 and Number 2 driver in modern F1 teams.

Unfortunately it would seem the Management duo seemed to have accidentally forgotten their own advice (well they are getting on a bit – old age and all that) and signed young hot-shot and official Renault test Driver Nelson Piquet Jnr to the other racing seat.

(Heikki having contracted the same strange illness that Alonso previously caught in 2006, and having dementedly swanned off to Woking believing in fairytales, integrity, shiny-pots and what-have-you).

It may be worth pointing out that nobody seems to have told young Nelson that he is due to play the supporting cast to the sparky Spaniard. Comments in the media of late has seen Nelson Piquet’s old man wading in to insist Nelson Jnr will be firmly attempting to thrash the pants off said Double World Champion in 2008. What is it with ex-world champion fathers anyway? Nothing that a decent length of duct tape wouldn’t cure we are sure…

piquet-snr-and-jnr.jpgFollowing on from the tantrum throwing, door smashing and helmet chucking that went on against a certain rookie last year, here at FFN we just can’t wait for round 2 to begin!

But in all seriousness….Renault are hoping to return to the sharp end of the grid in 2008. A mysterious unnamed insider from the team mentioned to the Spanish media (is that a clue, then?) that predictions from wind tunnel simulations show the Renault R28 to be somewhere in the region of 1.6 seconds faster than the 2007 car. Presumably the 0.6-second part of that total coming from the unique leadership, team morale building and engineering skills only Fernando Alonso can bring to any team. Well that’s roughly what he said he took to McLaren…

Here at FFN we are fervently hoping the R28 is considerably faster than the 2007 car, if only to prevent the inevitable blood loss that would occur from our eyeballs if last year’s paint scheme is anything to go by.

Meanwhile all has been very quiet at Williams. Over the winter, Williams confirmed they had resigned their star driver Nico “Britney” Rosberg until 2010. Here at FFN we are presuming his nickname is Britney because of his long blond locks and hopefully nothing to do with his penchant for spells in rehab, driving with small children on his lap without a seat belt, or his involvement in dismal performances on MTV whilst off his face on anti-depressants.

britney.jpg Lining up alongside “Britney” for 2008 is young Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima, whose father incidentally is another former F1 driver. Nakajima apparently raced in the GP2 series last year and sufficiently impressed the Williams team enough to land the race seat. Meanwhile a young rising German talent Nico Hulkenburg has landed himself the role of Williams’ test-driver for 2008.

Incidentally, it would seem Williams have decided against having a car launch this year…only time will tell if its because they have something cunning up their sleeve, or if they have finally succumbed to the ‘if you can’t beat them join them mentality’ and gone out shopping for a customer car (let’s hope they didn’t get a Honda). Is that Frank Williams I can hear gnashing his teeth?

imnotpisshhheeeeedddddd.jpgWith less than 48 hours to go before 2008 dawns on us all (depending on how quickly some of us recover from a Finlandia Vodka induced comatose vegetative state) naturally here at FFN we felt it was about time to pull our fingers out and turn our attention to the prospects for the formula 1 year ahead. And really had absolutely nothing to do with the persistent nagging that went on in some quarters for us to update, no honestly, it didn’t.

2007 was a year of over indulgence, gossip, treachery, scandal and surprises – and that was just what went on here at FFN, without taking into account the pantomime the F1 season turned into. But really we shouldn’t dwell on the past, as we have an exciting new shiny season just around the corner and much to look forward to….

So what exciting prospects do we have in store apart from the obvious ’round 2′ of Rookie versus Champion toys-out-of-pram Chucker?

According to recent reports in the media, Ferrari will be unveiling their new challenger on Sunday 6th January. It is believed that the 2008 car will have a shorter wheelbase than the previous year’s entry, while the rest of the grid have apparently opted to go in the other direction (well not literally but you know what I mean). De-ja-vu anyone?

Rumour has it that in 2009 Ferrari are considering sending Luca di Montezemolo out on track on a unicycle wearing a tutu – just to see how many teams down the paddock catch on to that one (as long as it’s not Flav in his speedo’s please!). Whether Luca would still be faster than a Honda remains to be seen.

Talking of the Ferrari President, it is understood from recent communications in the media that he is a great admirer of the McLaren F1 team and is eagerly anticipating the Woking based team to produce something very fetching with a high degree of red on, just to please him. Luckily for LdM he won’t have long to wait, as McLaren will unveil their car the following day in Stuttgart at Mercedes HQ. Presumably the 24 hour delay giving the McLaren boys just long enough to remove any made in Maranello stickers should the FIA’s beady little eyes swivvel in their general direction for the umpteenth time.

lamppost-lewis.jpgInitially the Woking-based team were not going to indulge in a lavish car launch, presumably on account that Max Mosley had stripped them of their pocket money for misbehaviour.

But we have subsequently learnt the reason why Ron Dennis has been so very quiet over the winter, he has been fastidiously baking home made vol-au-vents and sausage rolls inside Paragon to ensure Cinderella (aka Lamppost Lewis) can go to the ball after all. That’s assuming Lewis can find his way out of Switzerland without walking into any more inconviently placed street furniture.

Other news from the Scuderia sees Sporting Director Stefano Domenicali replacing Jean Todt as Team Principal, presumably though only on the days when Schumi is off playing football or performing in the race of champions and accidentally stalling on the start line like a true pro.

A Ferrari Spokesman has confirmed that Jean Todt’s role as team principal was only ever in an interim capacity, until the right man could be found for the job. And really has nothing to do with the fact Michelle Yeoh is reportedly sick to the back teeth of him being glued 24/7 to his desk wearing that ever-permanent red sweater (sweater being the operative word – eeewww). According to unconfirmed rumours Michelle was last seen behind the Gestione Sportiva jovially torching the afore mentioned red sweater in a burnt out Shell oil drum. Poor Jean, well Zorro wasn’t quite himself without his stupid face mask was he?

force1india.jpgMeanwhile in other news, newly renamed backmarkers Force 1 India will be employing the help of a renowned Bollywood actor in their launch and advertising campaign. Naturally this will go down a storm with the mechanics who instead of rebuilding a ‘Spyker’ on a Saturday evening will be enjoying a curry and some tiger beer, followed by a couple of men dressed in silly colourful outfits hamming it up for entertainment. All apparently paid for out of the $10 million sponsorship funds Fishyfella is bringing with him, allegedly, supposedly. What a kind chap. Nothing ever changes in F1, does it?

Tune in soon for more fakeferrarinews in 2008…

diddums-poor-lewis.jpgIn the aftermath of Spa, British sensation Lewis Hamilton has been openly critical in the media of teammate Fernando Alonso’s aggressive start tactics.

The young Brit complaining that Nando is the first one to throw his rattle out of the pram if someone does something on track that he doesn’t like, and so it was a bit of unfair of him to try and run his main rival (namely Lewis) off the road like that.

Really here at FFN we can’t see what Lewis is complaining about, for a man who claims Michael Schumacher was his inspiration growing up, we’d have thought aggressive attempts to drive your competitor off the road should be order of the day (didn’t he watch Jerez in 1997?)…. Even Sato and Fisichella have been known on occasion to do it in over ambitious overtaking incidents. And you have to consider that young Lewis has been prone to a bit of on track weaving on occasion this season at the beginning of races (I’m referring to his driving tactics not his spare time hobby of wicker basket making just for the record).

the-kimster.jpgSurprisingly Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen (a man well known for not using 10 words if 1 will suffice and generally a master of complete understatement) has leapt into the fray and to the defence of the Double World Champion. The Kimster is reported as saying “I saw the incident on TV after the race and I think there wasn’t anything wrong. That was just part of a hard race. It will be like that for the rest of the season”. We can’t help but feel that it is very kind of the Kimster to step to the defence of the beleaguered Spaniard like that, but then you have to wonder given Kimi’s torrid five years at McLaren where his car was systematically blowing up week in week out if he’d consider it normal if the wheels came off Lewis’s chariot on the start line.

While the McLaren duo continue to battle it out in the media and across the McLaren garage, Ferrari’s Flying Finn is enjoying a more tranquil time. The Kimster is currently sitting out the Jerez test to recover from the sore neck he obtained from his set-to with the barriers in the Ascari Chicane at Monza a week or so back. The unusually verbose Kimster happily chatting away 19 to the dozen to the media about the satisfaction and happiness he is still deriving from his win at Spa, a track which according to the Finn is his favourite. We only hope that Fuji, Shanghai and Interlagos will also be among his favourites in the coming weeks.

Some of you have pointed out on occasion that here at FFN we seem to favour ‘ickle Felipe above the Kimster, and we felt really we should clarify our position on the matter. It simply isn’t true in the slightest, we are just as happy to see Kimi give McLaren a good drubbing as we are ‘ickle Felipe. It’s just that the vodka swilling, gorilla costume wearing, identity stealing, press conference mumbling and poker faced antics of the Kimster are far more fascinating to write about than Felipe who sits shining his halo week in week out. So next time you see me giving the Kimster a hard time it’s all meant with much affection, honestly. Suffice to say I can’t say the same for Nigel ‘Steppers’….

bernie-and-spyker.jpgNow that the Spying Scandal has effectively been brushed under the F1 rug (barring McLaren making an appeal that is), pint sized megalomaniac Bernie Ecclestone is out and about stirring it yet again. This week Bernie has blasted the Spyker team for making no contribution whatsoever to Formula 1. The gospel according to Bernie “They came in and that was it”.

We think that’s a little unfair, as far as we can tell they came in, gave Renault a good run for their money in the most hideous car paint job stakes, created a political storm over customer cars, and systematically tested out the safety and reliability of every tyre wall and barrier in the sport. How can that be called making no contribution? Besides you have to give someone for poor old Jense and Rubens to beat.

Just 24 hours to go until the deadline given to McLaren to appeal their penalty dished out at the last World Motorsports Council Meeting. After perusing the 115 page transcripts of the last meeting we can’t help but think McLaren would be very silly indeed to put themselves through yet more torment at the hands of Ferrari’s Lawyer Nigel Tozzi. Personally if it were me, I’d rather walk over hot coals and eat Flavio Briatore’s trusty Speedo’s but then some people just don’t know to quit when they are ahead.

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