Nick Fry

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!


After enduring a torrid season in 2007, struggling with a car that was as temperamental as a 14 year old and a stomach wrenching complexion to match, it would seem the Honda team have gone just slightly giddy.

we-are-going-to-win-arent-we-ross.jpgIf rumours are true, the Brackley based team is cock-a-hoop over the fact they have managed to snatch former Ferrari technical Director Ross Brawn from the clutches of Ferrari. (Let’s ignore for one moment the fact Ross has mentioned on more than one occasion he planned his escape from Maranello as far back as 2004 – perhaps he should have asked Nigel Stepney to smuggle him out it would have been quicker) Meanwhile Honda has now gone back to their old ways of counting chickens before they have hatched. 1,2, 3…

Honda CEO Nick Fry has gone on record recently as saying he sees no reason why the team will not be able to start off their 2008 campaign pretty much on a level with their performance at the end of the 2006 season. Theoretically there is nothing wrong with making such assumptions, but we can’t help wondering if Honda are putting foot firmly in mouth yet again by making the statements publicly before they have even got their new challenger out on the tarmac. After all at the beginning of 2007, they were predicting challenging for the championship…and look how that turned out. With Honda only managing to win one prize, that of most ridiculous paint job on a shopping trolley. If in doubt it’s best to stop crowing to all and sundry from the rooftops, as Ron Integrity Dennis will be able to tell you, lest you have to make a grovelling apology later on and really do look like a prize turkey (albeit a very bald one).

Here at FFN we can partially understand Honda’s enthusiasm at having Uncle-Cuddly-Bear-Banana-Man-Brawn whip them into shape, after all he did a decent job of sorting out those “irrational screaming hysterical Italians” down at Ferrari. But really we feel they would be better off concentrating on shaving off that alarming ginger bird’s nest that seems to have firmly ensconced itself on Jenson’s chin. After all that thing has got to have some negative effect not only on the car’s handling performance, but on the morale of the poor Mechanics that have to look at it weekend in and out. (At least Alonso’s raised a few giggles).

It remains to be seen if the Brackley team have finally got to grips with their wind tunnel gremlins and produced a better car for the 2008. One thing we can’t help pondering here at FFN, is whether some of Honda’s new found enthusiasm and cheery attitude could be a result of passing on their lame dog of a car for 2007 to the poor Super Aguri team, who will have to pay for the dubious pleasure. In which case we fully endorse Sato taking out just about every passing car he can in a destruction derby. We can only hope in the following days we may here some good news on behalf of the Super Aguri team, and hopefully find out if Ant Davidson has kept his race seat.

tadashi.jpgMeanwhile Ross Brawn apparently has a two-year plan for turning Honda’s fortunes around, which coincidentally is the same time limit Toyota’s Team Principal Tadashi Yamashina has been given before Toyota pull the plug and see their F1 plans go swirling down the toilet.

Despite the biggest budget of all F1 teams (most of which was presumably paid to the other Schumacher brother by mistake) the Toyota team have failed to impress in the 6 year history in F1.

Yamashina has confirmed that their efforts will be concentrated on improving in two areas: aerodynamics and operationally. According to recent reports, Toyota officials are claiming that their 2008 car will be 2.2 seconds faster – but they didn’t confirm if they meant faster than last years vehicle or faster than the warp speed in which the FIA slapped a libel law suit on an ill advised journalist for voicing his opinion. If FFN suddenly goes off air, please come and storm the basement of FIA headquarters in Paris – otherwise I could be forced to eat my own arm off.

Meanwhile Toyota’s Jarno Trulli has been quoted as saying that is he looking forward to driving against a challenging team mate for a change (Timo Glock). When asked if he was making a snide remark regarding his previous team mate Ralf Schumacher, the Italian refused to elaborate lest he incriminated himself. Rumours in the Schumacher camp are suggesing Ralfie is plotting a return to F1 in 2009 after a sabbatical (it didn’t harm Ross did it?) although we cannot ascertain if there is any truth in suggestions that Ralfie has petitioned big brother to buy him an F1 team just in case he can’t get in at Force 1 India.

Going back somewhat to the subject of toilets, Ferrari’s Nick Tombazis has recently moved to deny there has been any dissent in the Ferrari camp regarding their new Champ Kimi Raikkonen. According to Tombazis, there has never been any question marks over Kimi’s head (apart from when can he leave to get to the bar) and that Kimi although very quiet, when he does pipe up apparently says “significant things”. We only hope the significant things he is talking about include excellent technical feedback on the car and do not include detailed descriptions of his bowel habits, as mentioned some time ago at the Brazilian Grand Prix in 2006.

a-vision-in-grey.jpgWorryingly, we have just heard some disturbing news regarding McLaren’s new charge Heikki Kovaleinen. The chirpy Finn has reportedly been seen with a pair of grey underpants on his head, walking around in circles in Woking, claiming that it was his “childhood dream to drive for McLaren”.

Additionally the poor mite is reported to be muttering about staying with the team long term and the possiblity of enjoying equal treatment to Lamppost Lewis. We really do hope this strange malaise lifts soon, otherwise we may be forced to send Professor Sid Watkins in to investigate…assuming he can fit inside McLaren’s tiny garages at the end of the pitlane of course.

Stayed Tuned….Part 3 coming soon.

mclarenmotorhome.jpgThe McLaren Mercedes F1 team is apparently deeply concerned about media speculation. One would have thought they should be used to it by now, as the McLaren machinery that pumps out their press statements (also known as the Discombobulation Discourse Department) has been causing all sorts of ruminations this year, with contradictory statements flying out on a daily basis. You may remember Monaco, enough said.

McLaren according to reports are deeply concerned at the level of speculation and erroneous information flying about in the wake of the Stepneygate-Coughlan Saga. Of particular concern is the misleading and inaccurate information leaking out concerning legal documents filed in response to Ferrari’s High Court action in London in attempt to recover their intellectual property.

What the devil does it all mean? Basically as we understand it McLaren have got their long john’s in a twist that several media publications particularly in Italy are claiming to quote directly from the signed affidavit submitted by McLaren’s rogue employee Mike Cock-up Coughlan (We presume Mike did the honours with the photocopying and distribution then).

McLaren we suppose feel that these ‘leaked’ stories might get back to the FIA and come back to bite them on the bottom during the FIA World Motorsports Council meeting on July 26th. Although here at FFN we believe the Federation of Idiots and Amateurs is extremely busy. Probably working day and night making up ridiculous new rules and regulations to prevent any future excitement in the sport. We sincerely doubt they have time to be sitting around drinking tea and browsing quality tabloid Italian rag-sheets for gossip and slander.

Still what goes around comes around they do say, and years of crying “cheat” and snitching about their rivals to the FIA have come back with a vengeance. We are not finding it absolutely hilarious honestly.

deferran.jpgOne subject that has yet to attract any real attention of the F1 hacks and storytellers, is the immediate departure of Gil de Ferran from Honda. The previous Sporting Director announced he was leaving with immediate effect after the job had “not lived up to his expectations”.

Did it become too painful to watch the two Honda’s doing their best impressions of badly behaved supermarket trolleys year in year out? Or is the actual truth that de Ferran contracted permanent and painful Tinnitus, from having to sit next to Nick Fry on the pit wall jabbering inanely about challenging for the championship again this year? we will never know.

One conspiracy theory that might be doing the rounds about Gil’s departure, is the fact the promised 780 page dossier of how to build a championship winning car and team failed to arrive in the post. Allegedly Mike Coughlan spent all his pocket money on photocopies and humbugs, and couldn’t actually afford the stamps.

Of course in all seriousness this is just speculation and rumour, and probably has not one iota of truth in it…but since when did it stop us here at FFN making up utter baseless rubbish?

renaultsoverenthusiasticwindtunnel.jpgFinally Renault have come to the realisation that their wind tunnel is to blame for their lacklustre performance this year. Well the excuse worked for Honda, right? The previous World Champions have spent much of the season loitering around in the middle of the grid (and chivvying Fissy-fella along), but now at last seem to be making some inroads to developing their car in the right direction. Initially the team felt they had spent so much of their resources last year ensuring they won the championship, that they kinda forgot to concentrate on this year’s campaign as well. Doh!

However it is now revealed the results from the wind tunnel were a little bit over enthusiastic and were not translating to performance advantage once parts were developed on the car. If only Renault would realise they don’t need to spend millions on a high tech state of the art wind tunnel when they could just line up their vehicles in front of the McLaren Media home and take advantage of the current hot air emissions….

Honda is in the news again. No, not because they stole a bit of limelight during race weekend by inviting the Beckhams over to attend the grand prix (they probably figured this was their only chance at positive PR, what with their earth cars really). Not even because they have made poor Jenson Button seriously contemplate retirement. “I’m in this sport to win and I won’t want to keep on finishing eighth at best” says Jense, and understandably so. He has already been demoted from “The British motorsporting hero” to “chappie who was mucking around before Hamilton happened”. And if things get any worse with the development, he could potentially be faster if he just parked the car and tried legging it. “To be honest, I’d find this too tough to handle” remarks Button, “If this continues then maybe in a couple of years I’ll just call it a day and go and find something else to do”. Of course, he is no doubt inspired by our Schumi here, who has found so much else to do after retirement that he’s too busy dashing off from one exotic vacation spot to the next, all the time contemplating on how he could help Ferrari while sunbathing in Miami beaches. Anyway Jenson is not yet giving up – “The positive outlook is to say we can start winning races again next season and my confidence in my ability remains high”. That is all very well, nothing like confidence and all that…but we are not entirely sure what he means by “winning races again”…after all Jense has just won one solitary F1 race his entire life. Not meaning to nitpick of course.

metal_plate.jpgOh well, we are deviating from the topic though, which would be why Honda is in the news. And that would be because they are purloining more men from other teams than it would take to invade a country. We have already discussed Honda and their army of aerodynamicists, and we have also discussed team hopping at length (link). Maybe it is time to bring back the iron-clad contract dogtag to counter Honda’s recruitment drive. How are teams supposed to concentrate on car development in peace, knowing that any time an engineer leaves for a cup of coffee he might end up in the Brackley cafeteria? Honda’s latest acquisition is Jorg Zander, previously chief designer at BMW, who will be the new deputy technical director at Honda. He will be joining Loic Bigos previously from Williams. No, we don’t think Zander brought along the BMW F1.07 design manual, it’s hardly the standard practice in the sport. But if Mario Theissen looks askance at Nick Fry the next time they meet, you know why.

Already Nick Fry is not on the best of terms with Ron Dennis. This is because when Ron was busy sobbing to the assembled journos to reiterate McLaren’s integrity, Nick Fry didn’t see it fit to mention he had conducted a joint job interview with Stepney and Coughlan just a while back…naturally one doesn’t jump into the frying pan willingly. Nick claims he was in Japan at that time, but Ron is quite cross because there is such a thing called telephone you know. Still the good news is that Max Mosley doesn’t think Honda is involved in the espionage scandal or has anything to do with it for that matter – Nick did interview the suspects, but that was bound to happen considering he was interviewing nearly the entire paddock.

“This is the latest in a series of key appointments that we have made in order to bolster our team,” says senior TD Nakamoto, so maybe there’s more to come. Good luck to them on getting the earth car up to speed. Meanwhile 11 days to go for the next race and yet another potential Ferrari 1-2. Forza.

nickfrystatement.jpgHonda’s statement regarding the whole sorry Stepney-Coughlan espionage affair : “Given the speculation surrounding the legal investigations at Ferrari and McLaren, the Honda Racing F1 Team would like to clarify that earlier this year Nigel Stepney, formerly of Scuderia Ferrari, requested a meeting with Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer of the Honda Racing F1 Team. Nigel Stepney subsequently met in June of this year with Nick Fry and brought with him Mike Coughlan of McLaren, with a view to investigating job opportunities within the Honda Racing F1 Team. Honda would like to stress that at no point during this meeting was any confidential information offered or received. Nick Fry informed Jean Todt and Ron Dennis of the meeting and has offered to provide any information required by Ferrari and McLaren“.

Well, what can we say? The more the merrier I suppose, so we are glad Honda could join the party….but one has to admit things are getting curiouser and curiouser (borrowing liberally from Alice in Wonderland). I just have one question – Is there any team in the paddock that doesn’t have a copy of the now-not-so-secret Ferrari dossiers? This is getting a bit ridiculous really. Maybe Bernie is right, if the FIA were to punish all teams that are involved and dock constructor points, they might as well call it a day and award the shiny pots to Ferrari (assuming one doesn’t penalize the victim). What’s the point in lugging hundreds of tons of equipment all around the world if no team is going to get a darned constructor point to show for all the trouble. todtsblackjumper.jpgYou know, there are rules in F1 – “Thou shall not pinch secret documents from thy employer” or even “Thou shall not covet thy neighbour’s design blueprints”. Incidentally bets are being accepted in the paddock as to which will be the next team to make a ‘statement’. Jean Todt is reportedly so upset that he forgot to pack in his red jumper and had to make do with a black one instead. In this picture, you can see him eyeing the McLaren car rather reproachfully no doubt wondering if there are any apparent similarities to the F2007. No team boss likes to know he is the only man in the paddock who isn’t entirely familiar with his car design documents. These are troubled times indeed.

We all know Michael Schumacher is indeed the model employee for FIAT (link), for not only does he not discuss the nuances of car design with relative strangers, but he is also always ready to say a few nice words about whatever happens to be the latest model out of the FIAT factory…and that too keeping a straight face of course. Here’s something from the launch of the new FIAT 500 at Rome. Forza.

renaultlivery.jpgRenault has been in Formula 1 for 30 years now, and to celebrate they have unveiled a new livery. I know exactly what you are thinking…but tough luck, no they are not going to race with it. So we are stuck with the rainbow car on the grid after all. But it does make you wonder…if they are capable of coming up with a nice livery in the first place, then why would they deliberately want to blot the F1 landscape with their current version? A mystery is what it is.

Moving on to far more important things, Nigel Stepney’s lawyer – Sonia Bartolini – is convinced that Ferrari has conjured up the current (rather elaborate) scenario just so they can get rid of Nigel Stepney. I would have thought a simple dismissal letter would have done the trick, but still it is nice that someone would think of Ferrari as being so creative. “It seems to me that Ferrari have at the end of the day got their way. They wanted to get rid of Nigel and that’s what they have done. Nigel’s reputation has been severely damaged by all this” says Sonia. Yes, it is true that Nige’s reputation is pretty much mud now, but what of “The F2007 for Dummies” and “Learn to design a Ferrari car in 30 days” books rumored to be found in Coughlan’s residence? I wasn’t aware that these were available for public reading at the Ferrari library. Surely she is not hinting that the Maranello team would resort to magic teleportation? Oh well, that’s a thought.

Meanwhile the Italian police force has applied their keen minds to the mystery of the white-powder-in-the-fuel-tank, and have reportedly identified it to be detergent. There’s nothing wrong in being an overzealous cleanliness freak of course, but they don’t think the person who put it there was trying to clean the car…especially as the act is rumored to have been caught on cameras. We all know that the first thing they teach in Espionage Schools is that one should avoid a large audience when in the process of sabotaging something as it is rather counter-effective…and so it proved in this case as the ‘detergent’ was immediately removed by Ferrari. The only side effect was a lot of bubbles floating out of the car every time anyone opened the fuel flap, and that we can all live with.

That aside, Nick Fry claims he is fed up with Honda’s poor starts every season…and considering he is the team boss, you would think he should be the one doing something about it.  “I’m fed up with having these terrible starts to the year and having to battle back” he declares, “we make it hard for ourselves and we’ve really got to get out of the habit”. While Honda’s ability to bounce back from bad starts is admirable, Fry thinks it would be tad helpful if they avoided the bad starts in the first place. He feels the key to this problem is in getting the engineers back from their vacations and working in January rather than June, and that sounds like an idea certainly worth a shot. Good luck to Honda on that.

Some good news for the tifosi – apparently significant engine and aerodynamic upgrades are due at Silverstone (at least according to Kimi Raikkonen), and what we saw at Magny-Cours was merely a small part of the complete picture. Looks like we are in for another good weekend, keeping fingers crossed. Forza.

nosecone.jpgJust mere hours after Honda trialled an ‘innovative’ new aerodynamic package in the form of two dumbo ears attached to the front nose cone of the RA107, the idea has been scrapped and thrown straight in the trash. Testing on the 4th day at Barcelona proved the ‘ears’ gave absolutely no performance or aerodynamic benefit whatsoever, and only seemed to serve to give us all something to laugh about. Here at FFN we are wondering whatever next will come out of Brackley….it’s all very well believing in the ‘power of dreams’ but if we all acted them out willy-nilly well what a chaotic ‘world’ it would be.

Honda Team Boss Nick Fry has come in for some stick of late on various F1 websites, not least for the demoralising effect it must have advertising the fact you want better technical staff when the ones you have are already working night and day trying to dig the team out of the quagmire they are in. He has also come in for some stick for lying about his Curriculum Vitae slightly, as well as the usual complaint that he talks aload of cabbage. Well I can’t help feeling he deserves a bit of verbal grief, if the man put as much energy into ensuring the race operations and development department were properly organised and staffed as he does talking twaddle, the Honda team would be giving the Big Shots of F1 a run for their money by now. We can only hope Honda develop the ‘power of hindsight’ and see the mistake they made hiring this buffoon as the team boss…obviously its not the hot air pumping out the wind tunnel that is the main problem.

Meanwhile it seems the Flexi-floor saga is still rumbling on and is looking like it is hoping to out-last the ‘Mass Pampers’ Affair in it’s attempt to bore us all something silly. It is thought the new tests to be introduced by the FIA at the Spanish Grand Prix will now effect virtually all of the F1 teams (including McLaren who complained in the first place). The quadrupling of the load test to examine the stiffness of the floors is thought to mean that every F1 team will have to revise and stiffen the underbody of their cars to pass the new test. Which I’m sure is making the McLaren Management top of the their technical team’s christmas card list as the poor mites have to go about redesigning the floor. Leading technical figures in F1 however do not see the revisions as having any great impact on the pecking order in the paddock, so basically it has turned out to be a bit of an own goal on McLaren’s score card. Genius. I can’t wait to see what their next cunning plan is.

michaelsailing3.jpgOne chap who just doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of retirement is Michael Schumacher, the 7 times World Champion and ex Ferrari driver has been popping up at social events all over like an outbreak of measles. Well if this is what Ferrari are paying him millions for I think I might drop them a line and offer them my services. I’d quite happily swan about in a bikini while ‘Bilge’ take photos, preach about Road Safety when I’m not allowed a driving licence, hand out shiny pots to handsome young men and then stand about on yachts watching 17 men work their bottoms off, while I’m cracking jokes (and quaffing Kimi’s vodka obviously).

The former World Champion was invited along to be the 18th member on the Team New Zealand’s Yacht in yesterday’s Louis Vutton Cup (doesn’t he make handbags? I’m sure Mark Webber would be interested). The 18th member of the crew is apparently a spectator only and Mr.Schumacher commented it was interesting to see the 17 man crew scurrying about like an army of ants, while he stood about regally surveying it all and comparing how similar it was to watching an F1 pitstop. The only real difference from normal being Michael didn’t get a chance to prang the boat in a set-to with a rival and have to slink back to port to apologize to his team.

lauda.jpgTalking of World Champions, Someone seems to have wound up and set off Triple World Champion, ex-Ferrari driver and current pit-lane mentalist Niki Lauda again. The man seems to pop up like a jack-in-the-box with annoying regularity. This time ‘Nostradamus’ Lauda has changed his mind yet again (I had to lie down from the surprise) and decided that Lewis Hamilton (get your earplugs) is the most likely candidate to win the World Drivers Championship. Despite the fact just a few weeks ago predicting the said same Lewis Hamilton was due for a big career prang because he was a rookie.

According to the Austrian if McLaren can gain the upper hand in development over Ferrari, the World Championship will be a two way fight between Alonso and Hamilton. Of course there is nothing wrong in what he is saying per se, it’s just next week it will all change again, with Fernando Alonso probably being called a has-been, Lewis Hamilton toppling off his gold-plated pedestal and hopefully squashing the ITV F1 commentating team and no doubt hand-bags at 50 paces down at Ferrari between Kimi and Felipe, and we will be waiting for Lauda to say ‘I told you so’.

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