Jean Todt


No doubt there are sinister machinations afoot at Mercedes headquarters. I am sure Nico Rosberg has been having sleepless nights ever since he heard he was going to be the ‘other’ driver in a team that has Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher…not that Ross will be doing any driving…his role will be strictly restricted to eating bananas and looking intelligent on the pitwall. Rosberg confessed recently that he had a really bad nightmare, that the new president of FIA, Jean Todt, was present at every race, instructing Rosberg over the microphone to “let Michael pass, I repeat, LET MICHAEL PASS”. Not the ideal situation you have to agree. For all the brave talk Rosberg has been doing about beating Michael and being the king of the world, he has kept a wary eye on the proceedings. So when Michael Schumacher recently declared that he wanted the No 3 car because he is superstitious about even numbers, it is fair to assume Nico’s hackles are up and he is all ready to bite if the need arises.  It’s a pity Michael is not more like Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, you remember Ron Dennis told us, is apparently beyond human emotions, a spiritual kind of chappie. Michael unfortunately still believes in initimidating his opponents, starting with his teammate first.

Conspiracy theories aside, maybe Michael really is superstitious. Martin Brundle once said that Michael went out looking for four leaf clovers before every important race (it’s a bit odd it’s not a three leaf clover considering…). No doubt he didn’t find one before Jerez 97 and got all into a nervous twitter…and we all know what happened next. Or Suzuka 1998 for the matter. Who would have thought what is often mistaken for Michael cracking under pressure and making a hash of things is actually Michael’s inability to find four leaf clovers? Felipe Massa recently confessed that he has been following Michael’s advise since 2007. “Michael has made me the driver I am” he declared proudly the other day, “It was Michael who told me to wear the same underpants through the race weekend if Friday turns out well. It works like magic”. Michael was clever enough to  hand out this advise just before his departure in 2006, but no wonder poor Kimi Raikkonen has given up on F1 and taken up rallying instead. And unsuspecting Fernando Alonso knows nothing about the grave assault in store for his olfactory senses every other Sunday. Talking of other driver superstitions, Alex Wurz likes to wear different colored shoes on race weekends, not that it helps his performance any. Mark Webber likes to get dressed in the same order – underpants, socks, pants, shoes – which I suppose works the same way for everyone unless you are Clark Kent.

It remains to be seen whether the FIA and Mercedes management would agree to Schumacher’s request, innocent or otherwise. But considering Todt is president of FIA, and Ross Brawn is team boss, I am thinking the answer is probably a resounding yes. Give it some thought though – all the exciting things that Michael’s ever done, from winning championships to parking in Rascasse, have all been in odd number cars…can you really blame the man? There, I didn’t think so either.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Earlier this afternoon, quite literally out of the blue (or should it be red?) the Ferrari Board of Directors made the announcement that former team principal, CEO and much loved vertically challenged knitwear fashionista Jean Todt has resigned from all his posts at Ferrari with immediate effect. That’s a shocker and no mistake.

Ferrari’s President Luca Di Montezemolo (of whom it is scurrulously suggested is as old as the invention of the wheel itself) paid a glowing tribute to the Frenchman in the press release, adding “All of these years we’ve spent together – victories and tough times included – have forged a link between Jean Todt and Ferrari that will never be broken.”

Allegedly, at one point we are to understand Mr Montezemolo even had a tear in his eye, but fears of an emotional outburst in the Ferrari Boardroom were unfounded when the Ferrari President reportedly revealed he had in fact just accidentally poked himself in the eye with his biro (according to our unnamed source).

jean-todtNaturally though, this sudden shock announcement has sent ripples through the world of F1 and it’s fanbase, prompting all sorts of speculation as to what this shock departure could be signalling (apart from the end of a very special era in which Jean was instrumental in bringing success and glory back to the Scuderia – not that we are in the teeniest bit biased of course).

Some may say that Jean Todt has stepped down from his commitments at Ferrari in order to run for the Presidency of the FIA, should Max Mosley ever tire of being a power-mad tea-drinking control freak of a lawyer (which surely is never going to happen, is it?).

Other theories have suggested that at 63 years old, the Frenchman is retiring from active duty and is looking to relocate to the outer rim, where he will take up residence in the swampy regions of Dagabah and train young Jedi Knights when he isn’t being a Datuk or appearing at Michelle Yeoh’s film premieres.

More alarming though is the suggestion that the Frenchman has decided to adopt an entirely new career at this late stage, and is set for global domination via the opening of a new knitwear franchise with Ron Dennis signed up as the catwalk model. Stranger things have happened in F1 before now, we don’t know what exactly….but they must have.

Whatever the truth of the matter, only time will tell. But here at FFN we wish Jean luck in his future endeavours as he will always have a very special place in our hearts and on our pages. Bon Chance Jean!

Just when we thought the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F1 team had plenty issues of concern to be going on with (what with malfunctioning driver’s software, engines packing up left, right and centre, and the pitwall staff reportedly suffering from a case of the sleeping sickness) along comes another one to compound their problems.

sepang_circuit.jpgAccording to recent meteorological reports on the area, we can expect some rain and thunderstorms during the race on Sunday at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.

Barely having recovered from the excitement of last weekend race in Oz, our blood pressure could be thoroughly tested again this weekend, as the current crop of F1 stars prove their mettle for the first time in wet conditions without that useful little gizmo known as traction control.

Although if the opening round of the season was anything to go by, we could end up just watching rain lashing down on the concrete and the poor bedraggled local spectators, with the entire grid parked up neatly in a gravel trap if we aren’t too careful.

We can only hope if the bad weather does come to pass (and we don’t know for certain since Niki Lauda has been remarkably quiet these last few days) that the FIA have it all under control. Here at FFN we will be making calls to the governing body at regular intervals to ensure they have prepped all the teams with any last minute rule changes – and in particular insist they dispatch Charlie Whiting off to Ferrari for good measure.

not-concerned-at-all.jpgMeanwhile the Maranello boys are hopeful they can banish the memory of their nightmare start to the season and kick start their championship campaign in Malaysia. Both Kimi and Felipe in recent days have suggested that they are not concerned about the reliability of the car and are confident the issues that blighted the team in Oz can be quickly resolved.

Although to be fair, we can’t recall Kimi ever being overly concerned about anything, but we expect the Kim-bot’s ECU has yet to realise its full potential in that department. Just imagine the hulabaloo that would ensue though in the unlikely eventuality someone snatched his champagne off him on the podium.

We understand the offending engines from last weekend have been sent back to Maranello for further analysis, in the hope the team can discover the cause of the mystery ailment that sent both drivers out of the race. Two new engines are rumoured to be on route to Malaysia as we speak and should arrive in time for the first free practice on Friday. And if they don’t, we can expect to see the Kimster’s and ickle Felipe’s legs going round faster than roadrunner while they peddle like the clappers.

macca-steering-wheel.jpgOver at arch-rivals McLaren, the Woking based team are currently planning to make changes to the pitlane limiter button on the MP4-23 steering wheel, after new starlet Heikki Kovaleinen accidentally pushed the darned thing during the Australian Grand Prix gifting a place in proceedings to Fernando Alonso.

Following on from rumours of a similar event happening at the Brazilian Grand Prix last season, presumably McLaren have come to the realisation that drivers just cannot be trusted when it comes to a big red button with the wording “Do not push!” stamped all over it.

It is unclear whether the team will remove the offending button completely or simply place it out of the reach of the driving duo’s sticky mitts. Cue lots of unexpected speeding in the pitlane and monetary fines from the FIA, then.

In other news, we are sad to report that Jean Todt (or Toad as some rival team fans like to call him) has stepped down from his position as Ferrari CEO.

todt-and-domenicali.jpgThe feisty little Frenchman who led the Ferrari F1 team through one of it’s greatest periods of success during his 15 year reign, is thought to want to spend more time dedicated to pursuing other interests and not being permanently glued to a desk in Ferrari HQ. Who can blame him. It is understood he will remain on the board of directors at Ferrari.

Here at FFN we wish him lots of luck for the future and hope he still pops by at the occasional Grand Prix from time to time. He will be sadly missed, especially the sight of him boiling his socks off in that bloody red sweater, randomly ripping off journalists heads and chewing his fingernails off in anger every time he sees Ron Dennis. As much as we dearly love new team Boss Stefano Domenicali, he just doesn’t provide the same entertainment value.

We are very sad. Roll on Malaysia.

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!

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.

tf108.jpgYesterday saw the Cologne based Toyota squad officially launch their car for the 2008 season. The TF108 according to the teams Technical Chief Pascal Vasselon is a departure from the recent cars churned out by the Japanese Squad.

Apparently the TF108 is completely different from its predecessor the TF107, due to the team changing their design philosophy as a result of a string of poor results last season.

Jarno Trulli is incredibly optimistic about the performance of the team and it’s new charger and still believes the team have the potential to make it onto the podium at the very least in 2008.

Here at FFN we like Jarno we really do, he always appears a happy character trotting around the paddock, unlike some we could mention. Even his penchant for falling asleep at the wheel and creating an on track moving chicanery leaving 20 odd drivers frustratedly trailing behind him doesn’t detract from his otherwise fantastic personality traits, including the fact he owns a vineyard which is always a redeeming feature in my book.

But we do have to wonder if all those years of having that shaggy hairdo flopping about in his face had some sort of toll on his eyesight. In fact we are wondering if the entire Toyota squad should be booked in for a much-needed trip to Specsavers (The Opticians).

As far as we can see the TF108 is exactly the same as the TF107. It appears Toyota have employed someone’s 80 year old grandmother to come up with a funky paint scheme. Which to all intents and purposes looks like they had just parked the car next to a paint shop and a wayward tin has accidentally thrown itself all over the car in an desperate but rather misguided attempt to cover up the blandness of it all.

Then there is the actual car design itself, which might have taken a design concept from every other car in the paddock from last year, thrown them into a cement mixer, churned them around a bit and spat them out – and hey presto you have the TF108.

Perhaps we are being a little bit harsh, and no doubt if Renault or Honda come out with something to top it I could be shortly eating my words. Which wouldn’t be the first time eh Kimi?

fisi-force1-india.jpgWhile we are on the subject of old things, yesterday saw the confirmation that two of F1’s veterans (that’s a nice way of saying ancient) are staying in the sport. Austrian Alex Wurz has signed up to become Honda’s test driver, and Italian Giancarlo Fisichella has become confirmed as the second driver for Force1 India.

Naturally the 50 odd other candidates who were all desperate to be a backmarker in F1 (apart from Ralf Schumacher obviously) are rather disappointed that team boss Vijay Mallya has gone for ‘experience of swearing’ over youth and good looks. Young Spanish Driver Roldan Rodriguez who had been one of the candidates in line for the seat was last seen throwing a tantrum crying into his teddy bear.

Meanwhile in Italy, half of the Ferrari Squad is apparently up a snowy mountain larking about in FIAT 500’s and laughing when Kimi falls off his snowboard. In between they have been throwing the odd press conference to keep the media happy.

In the Wrooom press conference yesterday the Kimster spoke about his hopes for the new season, according to the Finn he is hoping to be able to challenge for back to back titles with the Maranello squad. Kimi also spoke about his excitement (we have the photos to prove it) at the prospect of two new circuits on the F1 calendar for the 2008 season, Valencia and Singapore. Ferrari’s World Champion is eagerly looking forward to the first night race on the F1 calendar in Singapore, not for it’s stunning location, or the fact that it’s going to be a challenging street circuit…but because it means the lazy blighter can get out of bed later.

kimi-looking-excited.jpgLittle Brazilian Felipe was worrying his head off about the loss of traction control and was mightily concerned the effects it would have in slightly inclement weather conditions e.g. Fuji style. Not that we want to start any completely wide of the mark internet theories or anything, but is it purely coincidental the man just confirmed as Ferrari’s “3rd driver” is also known as the Regenmeister (rainmaster)?

Ferrari’s new Team Boss Stefano Domenicali has also been in attendance at the event, speaking on many subjects and mentioned his wish to see the subject of the spying saga finally brought to a close. Which is all well and good…but perhaps someone might want to mention the plan in passing to Jean Todt as well.

It is also rumoured the other half of the Ferrari Squad were secretly testing some of their new aerodynamic gizmo’s at Vairano in Northern Italy, with Marc Gene apparently doing the honours this time. We can only assume on this occasion, Michael Schumacher was too busy washing his hair, because he is worth it.

ldm.jpgThis morning Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has unwittingly started an Internet frenzy, without knowing it.

In comments made to the Media released today, Luca Di innocently announced former 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher as Ferrari’s 3rd Driver for the season.

Presumably this is for the purposes of allowing Michael to aid in the testing and development of the F2008 given his experience in driving without driver aids such as traction control.

However before you could say ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, a certain contingent of Michael/Ferrari fans everywhere have started plotting all manner of medical complaints and unfortunate bizarre scenarios to befall ickle Felipe. Apparently this would make way for Michael to make a comeback and challenge Ferrari’s current WDC ‘the Kimster’ to an on track duel (not the type with pistols and pointy swords – just for the record).

ickle-felipe-and-badoer.jpgWe only hope poor Felipe asked for a decent life insurance and medical care package as part of his terms of employment when he resigned contracts in October, and avoids walking under ladders, past black cats and over manholes at all costs.

Michael certainly hasn’t been helping matters of late; the German superstar was in attendance at the shakedown of the F2008 at Fiorano on Tuesday and made several comments to the waiting media about how beautiful the car was and how visually quick it appeared to be. This was just shortly after Michael had been spotted closely scrutinising the vehicle in the garage with a shiny gleam to his eye.

While Michael has been busy admiring the F2008, Ferrari’s Team Manager Luca Baldisserri has been talking Balls. What have spherical devices got to do with F1 I hear you ask….What indeed!

According to the pint-sized poppet, we should expect to see a lot of oversteer and opposite lock taking place in F1 at the beginning of the season due to the lack of traction control and other electronic devices.

And just when your wondering where I’m going with this, Baldo suggested that the drivers would need to have balls in order to be quick. The mind boggles, there doesn’t look to be an awful lot of room left in the F2008 once the driver is in it, so how they plan to fit some large round spherical devices in the cockpit we haven’t got the first darned clue.

mario-theissen.jpgIn other electronic news, Dr Mario Theissen, Team Principal of the BMW-Sauber team, has waded into the growing debate regarding those little black boxes known as the SECU or Standard Electronic Control Unit that seem to have got so firmly lodged up Jean Todt’s nostrils.

Apparently Mario (and what else would he be called with that moustache?) has commented that the move to the Standard Control Unit has been a mistake and has ensured that the team have incurred substantial additional costs.

In addition to the cost factor, Mario has also highlighted his concern that the unit is dispensed by a fellow competitor in the sport, that has the ability to review and look at the procedures of rival teams.

Mercedes Benz boss Norbert Haug has downplayed the issues being raised by Ferrari and BMW-Sauber, and suggested that their concerns regarding the involvement of a subsidiary company of the McLaren Group are unfounded.

Suffice to say this has gone down like a lead balloon at a party, given the spying scandal that took place last season and how Norbert Haug’s assertions of McLaren being whiter than white actually turned a rather dull grey colour as all the revelations slowly came out in the wash. If only they had borrowed some of Stepney’s detergent…

kimi-at-fiorano.jpgYesterday Kimi Raikkonen was the first man at Ferrari to get his mitts on the new F2008, putting it through its paces in an initial shakedown at Ferrari’s private racetrack Fiorano.

As is always the way with these things, the minute you plan a party or a barbecue or some such event involving plenty of people, the weather likes to come along and chip its two cents into proceedings.

And so it proved for the initial test, with the morning of the event proving to be rather cold, damp and foggy. Which is probably not so bad if your strapped into a car seat the size of a postage stamp. But probably means if your one of the many tifosi that loyally turn up to watch the inaugural performance, more likely than not you froze your brass monkeys off while trying to work out what exactly that red blob is that goes screeching past in the swirling mists.

As a result the Kim-bot could only get a feel of the F2008 on wet weather tyres, posting a best time of 1.00.897 on the longer configuration of the Fiorano racetrack. During the course of the day Kimi managed to take the car through 55 laps, and surprisingly despite the damp dreary weather, came out of the experience in a rather positive and cheery mood.

According to Kimi, first impressions of the car are positive and he doesn’t feel that there is any need to make any improvements at the moment, adding that they will see how the car behaves itself next week when the team relocates to Jerez for its first official test.

kimis-new-hat.jpgSince Kimi is not usually one for making long flowing verbal effusions about any given subject, it is always nice to know the car has made a positive impression at this stage, and it isn’t getting likened to a mangy canine with bad breath and three stumpy legs.

While the Kimster was answering a 1001 questions about the F2008, other members of Ferrari have been on hand to give us their insights and thoughts on just about every topic going, including the ECU, aerodynamics, steering wheel buttons and Lewis Hamilton’s prospects for 2008.

Usually very quiet and one to keep his thoughts to himself, Luca Baldisserri who has been freed from the constraints of being ever permanently glued to the pitwall with a colouring book and crayons and given the job of Team Manager instead, popped up yesterday.

According to the little poppet, one of Ferrari’s main rivals at McLaren, Lamppost Lewis, might not be making such a dramatic impression on the sport in his second season, due to the changes in regulations and the banning of electronic driver aids.

Apparently our Baldo thinks that although young Lewis drove in GP2 without traction control, he may struggle in F1 next season to get to grips with the loss of the driver aid in addition with trying to manage tyre degradation. Presumably not mentioning his inability at spotting obstacles in his path and walking into them, or the fact his car will be considerably heavier than everyone else’s on account of all his rapper friends permanently hanging off Lewis’s trouser legs.

jean-todt-fiorano.jpgNot keen to leave it there whilst having a pop at arch rivals McLaren, Ferrari CEO Jean Todt has popped up like clockwork to mention for the umpteenth time his concerns regarding the standard ECU.

Jean fondly mentioned that he feels the Electronic Control Unit that is supplied by MES (McLaren Electronic Systems) is providing an advantage to the Woking based team, and should be closely monitored by the sport’s governing body the FIA.

Here at FFN we can only point out that the Standard ECU didn’t do a very good job of controlling things at McLaren last year (Hungarian pitlane qualifying shenanigans spring to mind), but perhaps that is what Jean is worried about. Chaos spreading electronically like wildfire up and down the pitlane, with drivers demanding number 1 status, stamping their feet, throwing tantrums and bickering like small children.

We really don’t think Ferrari have anything to worry about on that score, especially since we can’t imagine Kimi being all that bothered to actually have an argument when there are for more important things to do like sleeping, watching ice hockey and sleeping. Although ickle Felipe does look like he could throw the odd tantrum or three if the occasion calls for it.

Meanwhile in Stuttgart, McLaren were officially unveiling their 2008 car, the MP4-23. (Does it play music videos? we would really like to know!).

Compared with the lavish production last year, this years launch at McLaren Mercedes was a rather subdued affair, even Ron Dennis not having much to say for himself for a change. Martin Whitmarsh and Norbert Haug took control of proceedings and inevitably the Motorsports Media all jumped to irrational conclusions regarding the future of the team as a result.

and-did-you-say-there-were-vol-au-vents.jpgAfter his rather tasteful Christmas Card, it was surprising to see F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone inside the Mercedes HQ for the event. Rumours have suggested that Bernie mistakenly read the invite as saying ‘McLaren Lunch’ and turned up enquiring where the free sausage rolls and cucumber sandwiches were. What you didn’t think he’d part with any money did you?

Like rivals Ferrari, McLaren have confirmed their new car will undergo quite a major transformation before the first race of the season in Melbourne. According to the McLaren Management the new MP4-23 will be faster than its predecessor. The Woking team has confirmed that most of the changes prior to Melbourne will be aerodynamic improvements. It’s a shame they couldn’t do a few on Norbert Haug’s suit while they are at it.

McLaren were quick to quash any suggestion of favouritism in their camp, Martin Whitmarsh telling the waiting media that both drivers will be receiving equal treatment, carrying on McLaren’s long standing tradition of equality and fairness. This is despite Lamppost Lewis suggesting not so long ago that he is looking forward to 2008 immensely, especially the prospect of becoming the lead driver and leading the team’s championship campaign. All singing from the same hymn sheet and that’s before the season has started, marvellous.

If reports are to be believed, on one of the few occasions that McLaren CEO Ron Dennis piped up during proceedings was to inform the waiting world that the reason why the car on display had a huge number 23 emblazened on it. According to Ron it was partially as a result of the car being named the MP4-23 and also partially due to the fact that January 7th (launch date) coincided nicely with Lewis Hamilton’s 23rd birthday.

Now call me an old cynic, but I was under the misguided illusion that the reason the McLaren’s were numbered 22 and 23 was due to the position they were classified in the constructors championship in the previous F1 season. But you know what they say never let the facts get in the way of a good story! We just hope Lewis was delighted with his new birthday present, although by the time he gets to Michael Schumacher’s age he might not want reminding of it.

mclaren-mp4-23.jpgMeanwhile McLaren’s new signing Heikki Kovaleinen is chugging along merrily, saying all the right things, and not being overly concerned with the equality issue that much, but is looking forward to doing everything to beat his illustrious team mate out on track.

Heikki commented that he looks forward to working with Lamppost Lewis whom he has known since their karting days, and will be hopefully pushing Lewis and the team…forward. We were hoping he was going to say off a big cliff, but you can’t have it all. (Just in case any McLaren fans have stumbled across FFN and are about to start complaining, we are pulling your leg in a good-natured way, honestly).

McLaren this week will embark on a 3-day private test of their new challenger at Jerez, we’ll keep you posted.

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