Ron Dennis


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.

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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!

Unless you have been desperately trying to avoid the glare of the global media by living under a rock for the past week (no names mentioned of course Pinocchio), you will no doubt be aware that the FIA have decided in their infinite wisdom to adopt some rather dramatic and draconian rules for the beginning of the 2010 F1 season.

do-as-your-jolly-well-toldWell we say the FIA, in reality lets be clear and say Max Mosley, since it would seem whatever he fancies these days goes with very little opposition from his minions, and who can blame them? We wouldn’t much fancy a good thrashing with a cat o’ nine tails either.

The FIA president has dropped somewhat of a proverbial bombshell on the F1 fraternity, by the introduction of a voluntary £40 million budget cap. Before you get all excited and start clambering to get your hands on expensive copies of Kimi Raikkonen’s trendsetting red head gear perhaps we should actually explain.

In an ‘alleged’ effort to secure the future of the sport in times of economic doom and gloom, the proposed £40 million budget cap per team is intended to make it cheaper for Formula 1 team to operate in the sport at competitive prices. It is also intended to allegedly reward those who can be innovative with a reel of sticky tape, two egg cartons, an empty washing detergent bottle and unlimited ice lolly sticks, and be slightly less rewarding of those with a fancy designer italian leather chequebook and endless euros at their disposal.

Unfortunately the proposed voluntary budget cap, comes with some rather ‘interesting’ smallprint and conditions attached. Those teams who can compete within the £40 million can pretty much get away with anything they want, including having movable front and rear wings, unlimited engine revs, extra KERS (although that does beg the question who would actually want it) and as much testing as they can cram into the season. While those who struggle to downgrade the cost of their F1 operations, are basically going to be allowed to race the untested reconditioned lawnmower from their garden sheds.

Sufficed to say, these new rules caused somewhat of a stir in the undergarments of several F1 bosses up and down the pitlane, as effectively the rules would be introducing a two-tiered system, with one set of rules for the low budget new boys, and another for the more longstanding big budget boys.

ronaldoblindfoldWe simply can’t imagine this happening in any other sporting arena, where there are only one set of rules and regulations. Can you imagine Manchester United playing Altrincham FC for example? Except in this case Manchester United would only be allowed to field 11 men hopping about on one foot, blindfolded and twirled around three times in comparison to their able bodied counterparts.

While it might be amusing to watch Man U get a good thrashing start with, having two sets of rules is farcical….particularly when the FIA who govern the sport usually struggle to get to grips with one set….let alone two.

What next? Giving detailed instructions to the race stewards about which coloured cars are allowed to overtake and which are not?

Anyway before this turns into a feature length rant, you get the idea…..its simply ridiculous to govern a sport by two distinct and separate set of rules. It doesn’t take a degree in the Krypton Factor to work that one out….which is just as well as we don’t have one…

poor-lucaIt comes as hardly any surprise though, that these proposed regulations were met with much gesticulation, arm-waving and Mamma Mia’s in the vicinity of Maranello. Ferrari and FOTA President Luca Di Montezemolo reportedly firing off strongly worded complaints to the White Star Line (oops I mean FIA) which were met with the usual dose of Max Mosley’s contempt and derision.

In retaliation to this alleged fan mail, Max has insisted that F1 can survive without Ferrari if they don’t like it, thank you very much. Naturally this has led to speculation that Max has now got somewhat bored of picking on McLaren now that former Team Principal Ron Dennis has departed the scene, and has now switched his beady eyes in the direction of the Maranello outfit. Although personally we feel he may actually have trouble getting an argument out of Stefano Domenicali, who seems to be the most perennially cheerful man on the planet.

In response Ferrari have reiterated their commitment to F1, but the tifosi have been left feeling rather irked with the FIA President, who only last year was telling us how historically important Ferrari were to the sport. We do wish he would make up his mind….and actually get on with retiring like he has promised for the last half century.

bernie-ecclestone-and-mental-maxF1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone meanwhile has stepped into the fray, and promised to protect Ferrari and it’s President with all four foot 3 inches of his powerful presence….assuming Max Mosley can actually see him down there of course.

According to the half pint-sized supremo you don’t want to go getting yourself into an argument with Max because he is so clever….which leads us to wonder if in fact there are two FIA Presidents, as some of the decisions emanating from Place de la Concorde of recent times seem frankly laughable even for a village idiot.

As ever though it seems Bernie is pretty adept at knowing where the money is at, and after all what other team has such a fanatically deranged fanbase that would mortgage their grandmothers for the prospect of sitting on a rather uncomfortable concrete block in a hugely overpriced red shirt for 2 hours for an extortionate sum during an economic crisis?

tifosiConsidering the tifosi make up a pretty large proportion of the F1 fan base, we’d like to see them fill the grandstands and extort ridiculous annual fees out of all the race tracks without the presence of the barmy red flag waving brigade.

It remains to be seen if this is yet another ploy by the FIA to herd FOTA where they want them, and if FOTA are willing to go along like good little sheep….or if the sheep might actually bite back.

Meanwhile, the rest of Ferrari have been busily concentrating on developing and testing the F60(B) according to media reports. Last weekend the Maranello squad were testing their new gadgets and gizmo’s at the Vairano test track in Italy. Test driver Marc Gene carried out the 350km straightline test (excluding the times when he had to actually turn around or end up in Calais) to assess the new fangled improvements.
It is rumoured the upgrades to the F60, including a new floor, interim diffusor and various aerodynamic changes (including Luca Di’s latest hair trim) will be bring somewhere in the region of 0.6 seconds to the speed of light to the Maranello charger.

adessoAccording to reports in the Finnish Media, the Italian squad have managed to shave off an astounding 15Kg from the weight of the car to improve the use of the KERS system. Alongside suggestions of lighter body parts (the car’s not the driver’s we hope) it is also rumoured the Maranello boys found all sorts of debris in the footwell of Felipe and Kimi’s chargers.

Allegedly, Kimi’s footwell was full to brimming with copies of the Times Crossword, various inflatable animals and a 1st edition tome on effusive public speaking, while Felipe’s was in danger of becoming a fully established 1980’s aviator sunglasses emporium.

Test Driver Marc Gene has suggested that the upgrade is the biggest he has ever seen at Ferrari, which no doubt has led to some teams Technical Directors hopping from foot to foot in nervous agitation like men in a department store changing room lest their’s should turn out to be less well endowed.

ferrari-factoryNoises emanating from Ferrari HQ suggest the team are quietly pleased with their progress, but the last time they counted their chickens, they ended up with only three points on the scoreboard and a lot of egg on their faces. So we can only hazard a guess that every available appendage is crossed back at the factory in hope they have done enough to take the fight to the likes of Brawn and Co.

McLaren who have recently been let off the hook for their grovelling apologies to the FIA over liegate, have reportedly begun fretting already that their upgrades will not be as big as other teams and are concerned they may be leapfrogged. We’d suggest keeping out the way of Robert Kubica then as he has already had a good go on Jarno Trulli recently.

The F1 teams will be arriving tomorrow in Barcelona for the Spanish GP….so all we can do is wait for the next enthralling installment in the F1 soap opera…..the only difference is here at FFN we are still waiting for a mysterious shooting like in Dallas….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay Tuned.

After a calamitous opening round to the Formula 1 season in Melbourne Australia, where everything that could go wrong did go wrong, the boys from Maranello vowed to bounce back and prove themselves once more in the stifling humidity of Sepang Malaysia.

Going into the race weekend, both Ferrari boys (ickle Felipe and the Kimbot) demonstrated a strong pace in free practice, but it remained to be seen if that dominance would translate into qualifying and race pace.

Would the F2008 manage to go one weekend without having a temperamental technical hissy fit? And would Ferrari’s driving duo manage to break the habit of spinning around like a bunch of ballerina’s after too many M&M’s?

qualifying-saturday.jpgVery soon it became evident that the shambolic shenanigans of Oz were an uncharacteristic one-off for Ferrari, with Felipe and Kimi trading fastest sector for fastest sector in qualifying to ensure a front row lock-out for the Maranello outfit for Sunday ahead of their main archrivals McLaren.

However, a slight mishap at the end of the qualifying session robbed the viewing public of a straight shoot out between the rival teams off of the starting grid.

It was judged that the McLaren duo whilst coasting around in fuel saving snail mode and admiring the scenery (not to mention themselves), had impeded the fastest flying lap of BMW-Sauber’s Quick Nick and Renault’s Fernando ‘I’m an FIA frequenter’ Alonso.

As per the FIA rulebook if you get caught impeding another drivers qualifying lap, then it’s a slap on the hand and back five spaces on the snakes and ladders board. And so it proved, within hours of the qualifying session the race stewards had demoted the unhappy pair back to 8th and 9th on the start grid, further compounding McLaren’s misery for the weekend. However much to the delight of some sections of the tifosi.

The Race

As Sunday dawned, even the inclement weather that had been predicted seemed to behave itself (much to ickle Felipe’s relief) leaving us with the exciting prospect of an entertaining dry race and hopefully a 1-2 finish for the Maranello Squad. But if the opening round of the season was anything to go by, then it doesn’t do to start counting your chickens too early or remaining drivers for that matter.

kimi-and-felipe-fight-for-first-corner.jpgAs the five red lights went out signalling the start of the afternoon’s proceedings, both of Ferrari’s driving duo got off to a decent start battling it out for supremacy in the first corner.

The Kimster briefly snatched the lead off his team-mate, only for the feisty little Brazilian to take no cheek off the Finn (WDC or not) and snatch the lead back from him just seconds later.

Meanwhile 3rd placed man Quick Nick Heidfeld had a disastrous start off the grid, losing several places from the get go to watch team mate Kubica, Mark Webber, Lewis Hamilton, Jarno Trulli, Heikki Kovaleinen, David Coulthard and Fernando Alonso all go sailing past him serenely on the first lap. Undoing all the work he had put in with the race stewards the previous evening.

Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Bourdais meanwhile appeared to have boiled his brain in the stifling Sepang heat, forgot what he was supposed to be doing and subsequently spun his car straight into the gravel trap. Race over before it’s even begun then.

Lucky Lewis got off to a great straight making up 4 places right from the start line, only to find himself stuck behind the Red Bull of Antipodean Mark Whingebag Webber, which was going to happen quite a lot throughout the afternoon if he didn’t know it yet.

Meanwhile further down the grid Williams’ ‘Captain’ Nico Rosberg and Toyota’s Timo Glock entangled, leaving the Williams star with no front wing (it’s in the gravel trap Nico!) and both drivers had to recover to the pits to repair the resulting damage.

Unfortunately Timo had to retire, and Nico was left to rejoin the racetrack albeit trailing around in last place behind Super Aguri’s Ant Davidson. We do hope Nico does haven’t this kind of incident whilst flying that airbus!

coulthard-in-a-sandwich.jpgJust a few laps into the race and Formula 1’s elder statesman (or old fart whichever you prefer) David Coulthard was being harried by Renault’s Fernando Alonso and BMW-Sauber’s Wookie Quick Nick. Before the Scot knew what was happening he was suddenly the Haggis in the middle of a Heidfeld/Alonso sandwich on the straight, with Quick Nick stealing the place off him, shortly followed by Fandango.

In fifth place meanwhile, Lewis Hamilton was being harangued and harassed by Toyota’s Jarno Trulli, the Brit appearing to struggle with pace despite having superior machinery and having to fight off the charge of the Trulli-train (who for once was actually having a good race and not falling asleep in the cockpit).

By lap 16 both of the Ferrari’s were scuttling nicely away at the front and had come up to lap backmarker Nico Rosberg.

On the following lap ickle Felipe who was leading the race up until this point shot into the pitlane for his first of two proposed pitstops. This released the Kimbot on track, to put in some storming sector times while his team-mate was admiring how handsome his pitcrew looked in their little red overalls. Well they do!

A lap later the Kim-bot shot down the pitlane for his first scheduled pitstop, and out again like a rocket rejoining the track in second place ahead of Brazilian poppet ickle Felipe much to his chagrin. Leaving the popular Polish BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica to lead the race from the front.

pitstop-pandemonium.jpgTwo laps later the first McLaren driver was called in for their first scheduled pitstop, on this occasion it was Lewis. Unfortunately just to compound the already torrid weekend the McLaren team were having, the right front wheelnut refused to budge, and the Englishman lost in the region of 15 seconds track time while his pitcrew maniacally fumbled the old tyre off and the new front right into place.

In the intervening time, we are to understand that Lewis quite fancied a beer, something which the media later seized upon.

Subsequently the British Media lamented the fact that their poor pin-up had to make do with driving without any drinking water (did he spill it into the footwell and all over his smelly socks – we want to know).

Not the least bit known for their sensationalist headlines…by Monday Lewis had not only been subjected to thirst and dehydration but also water torture, rickets, beri-beri, ebola and god knows what other afflictions and still survived. What a man.

We can’t help but wonder if next week we will be duly informed by said same Media that Lewis is responsible for the resolution of global conflicts and world poverty in his spare time, and thus would explain why he can’t find the time to join the GPDA (grand prix driver’s association).

poor-thirsty-lewis.jpgThe Spanish media obviously taking a completely different meaning altogether from Lewis’s beverage related comments, by suggesting his comment about fancying a beer to actually be a sarcastic comment relating to how rubbish his pitcrew are or something similar.

Unless there is some unhitherto reported secret pitlane language we don’t know about, we can only scratch our heads in confusion about how Spanish Motorsports publication Marca could put two and two together and come up with 29. It’s not like they have a reputation for this sort of thing, is it?

A lap later BMW-Sauber’s race leader Robert Kubica came in for his first pitstop, releasing the Kimbot into the race lead for the first time that afternoon.

Meanwhile Jarno Trulli having somewhat of a storming afternoon for a change, was now out on track harassing the other McLaren driver Heikki Kovaleinen, had Toyota put some class B medication into his drinking water or a rocket under him?

Back on track after his pitstop pandemonium, Lewis was once again behind Red Bull’s Mark Webber and losing time as a result, the Brit struggling in vain to get past the Red Bull but was unable to do so. Diddums.

felipe-out-of-the-race.jpgShortly after the first round of pitstops had been completed, Ferrari’s ickle Felipe was trailing team-mate the Kimbot by something like 4 seconds. At this point in proceedings the little Brazilian clipped a kerb in turn 7 and as a result spun the car in turn 8 bedding his F2008 straight into the gravel trap, from whence he could not recover to the track.

Unfortunately since crane assistance is now outlawed by the FIA, the little poppet’s race was over and he had to scamper back to the Ferrari garage hanging his head in shame.

This second disastrous weekend in a row for the Brazilian star has sparked a whole siege of rumours about his imminent exit from the Maranello Squad, with just about everyone in the paddock apart from Max Mosley being touted as a replacement.

Later Fernando Alonso who isn’t exactly making a secret of his displeasure at not driving at the sharp end of the grid this season in his Renoo, commenting it is natural that speculation is touting him as a replacement for Felipe at Ferrari (he wishes). This is despite the fact Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Vettel is also rumoured to be heading for the second seat. It could be a tight squeeze.

Of course this is all news to Ferrari, who are standing by their man and saying there is no need to panic and we will undoubtedly see the troubled Brazilian return to form in Bahrain (or otherwise he will be taken out back tied to a lamppost, force fed the Kimbot’s rocket fuel against his will and given forty lashes with Luca di Montezemolo’s tongue).

kimis-pitboard.jpgMeanwhile before I go off topic completely, back on track at this point Ferrari’s flying Finn the Kimster was already somewhere in the region of 22 seconds ahead of next placed man Robert Kubica.

Unconfirmed rumours suggesting that the Kimster wasn’t even going as fast as he could have, and by this point had taken to playing Sudoku on his Nintendo DS in the cockpit to keep himself awake.

Poor Felipe tramped back to the paddock on foot only to be met by a horde of waiting hacks demanding to know what had happened, the forlorn little mite admitted to nothing, despite Ferrari suggesting they could see nothing on their telemetry to indicate any technical reason for the Brazilian stars impromptu spin.

Meanwhile now on Lap 37 the Kimbot was back in the pitlane for his second and final pitstop for the afternoon, gifting the lead of the race once more to Polish poppet Robert Kubica.

Just two laps after the Kimbot’s pitstop, the Ferrari engine in the back of Sebastien Vettel’s Torro Rosso blew, which must have been cause for concern for the Maranello outfit given the turn of event a week previously where both F2008’s had suffered a case of the engine gremlins.

We can only presume at this point the Ferrari pitwall were nervously crossing every available appendage, chewing off their fingernails and clock watching like no tomorrrow.

On lap 41, Nick Heidfeld and Fernando Alonso both came into the pitlane for their final stops of the afternoon, allowing Lewis Hamilton to be promoted to fourth in proceedings.

However, this advantage lasted just three laps, as Hamilton once more came into the pitlane for a beer and change of black round things. This time fortunately the pitcrew managed to perform their tasks without any pesky wheelnuts misbehaving allowing the Brit to get back on track and keep position over BMW-Sauber’s bearded wonder Quick Nick, but unfortunately not in front of the Trulli-train.

heikkis-pitstop.jpgThe following lap McLaren’s other driver Happy Heikki pitted, rejoining the race track in third place albeit six centuries behind fellow Finn Kimbot Raikkonen who was still leisurely dawdling around out front in a league all of his own, having to be occasionally prodded back into consciousness by his race engineer Chris Dyer.

Despite putting in some strong lap times after his final pitstop, and catching up with the Italian, Hamilton was unable to make up enough time to overhaul Toyota’s Jarno Trulli leaving the Brit to take fifth place in the race adding just a handful of points to his WDC tally.

Much to the delight of the tifosi, Kimi brought home the win for Ferrari with a superlative dominant performance ahead of BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica in second, and McLaren’s Happy Heikki in third.

While Ferrari were understandably chuffed to have a win under their belts following on from the previous week’s debacle, they were left rueing the fact it could have been 18 points and not 10 they could have taken away from the Malaysian GP.

Onto Bahrain then, where we hope Felipe can finally get it together and secure a win, and where we hope Ferrari have finally ironed out all their confusion over engines, ECU’s and everything else.

shock-horror-kimi-misses-mouth.jpgSlightly worrying for the Maranello squad though was an incident that occurred after the checkered flag, while the Kimbot was celebrating his win on the podium.

How many times have we ever witnessed the Kimbot miss his mouth when it comes to alcohol only to get it into his eye socket instead? I know worrying times indeed for Ferrari’s Electronics division, we can only hope they get this unfortunate malfunction ironed out pronto.

However, if they find themselves in dire need of some advice in this area, they need only look to McLaren. McLaren’s CEO and Team Principal Ron Dennis today confirming what we had suspected all along….that the Woking based team are a dab hand at taking their drivers apart and putting them back together.

According to Ron, this is exactly what they have done over the winter to new signing Happy Heikki, who if reports are to be believed (huge vat of sodium chloride at the ready) had arrived into the team from Renault almost a broken man after a difficult year in 2007.

We cant help but feel if their work on Fernando Alonso is anything to go by (yes that’s the one who is stuck in permanent team switching mode) then we had better keep our eyes peeled for the rest of the season for any emerging serious defects.

Forza Ferrari.

start-line-at-albert-park.jpgAfter much anticipation the Formula 1 season finally got underway this weekend with the Australian Grand Prix taking place in Albert Park, Melbourne. We defy even Nostradamus Lauda and his finely attuned powers of prediction to have known exactly what was to follow in what turned out to be a very exciting and dramatic action packed race (yes F1 – I know!).

The weekend started well enough for the boys from the Scuderia, with our favourite Finn the Kimster topping the timesheets in the first free practice session, but from there on in things began to go pear-shaped for the Maranello outfit and no doubt new Team Principal Stefano Domenicali will be rueing the day he forced Felipe Massa to throw away his lucky underpants.

In the afternoon’s free practice something mysteriously seemed to go wrong with the set-up of the F2008, and soon arch-rivals McLaren rivals were taking charge of proceedings led by Lucky Lewis and Happy Heikki.

On Saturday, the bad luck continued with the Kimster suffering an engine pump failure during the first of the qualifying sessions, which we take to mean as the drinking straw fell out of his rocket fuel bottle and into the footwell of the F2008, leaving the Finn limping back to the pitlane in frustration not to mention very thirsty.

Unfortunately even with a highly paid 7 times World Champion and Super Assistant on the Books, no will in the world could make the Kimsters vehicle get back to the pitlane to allow him to have the problem fixed. And thus under Parc Ferme rules the Kimster was not allowed to take any further part in qualifying proceedings relegating the World Champ to 15th spot on the grid for Sunday’s Race.

Meanwhile team mate ickle Felipe was suffering misfortunes of his own having to abandon his last flying lap in the final qualifying session due to encountering traffic, meaning that the plucky Brazilian was unable to get the temperature into his tyres for his last flying attempt. Unfortunately this meant Felipe could only manage to secure 4th spot on the grid behind Lucky Lewis, Polish Papal favourite Robert Kubica in his spiky porcupine and Happy Heikki in his first turn out for the McLaren team.

Still all was not lost. Yet.

On race day, as the grid formed it was evident that pitlane poppet and Ferrari Team Manager Luca Baldisserri had a cunning plan up his sleeve, as both Ferrari’s lined up on the grid wearing the softer of the two tyre compounds available to the teams, compared to most of their rivals who started on the harder round black things. Despite having higher degradation and wear rates than the harder compound, conventional wisdom suggests that the softer of the two would allow the drivers to make up places at the start of the race now that traction control has been banned from the sport.

felipe-heads-off-for-some-sight-seeing.jpgWhen the lights went out, true to form the Kimster rocketed up the grid from 15th into 8th place leaving rivals left, right and centre in his wake.

Things however, did not start so well for ickle Felipe, who despite managing to get into the first corner maintaining his fourth position had what can only be described as a blonde moment and immediately shot off onto the grass for an impromptu scenic diversion.

This temporary mishap meant by the time the little ray of sunshine had recovered, most of the grid had got past him and were scuttling off at a rate of knots ahead of him. Whether as a result of Felipe’s impromptu track departure or not, we can’t really say but Torro Rosso’s Sebastien Vettel and Force 1ndia’s Giancarlo Fisichella entangled on track putting a premature end to their respective races before things had even barely started. Thus bringing out the Safety car for it’s first of many tour of duty for the afternoon’s proceedings.

The fortuitous arrival of said safety car allowed our ickle Felipe to return to the pitlane to have his nose-cone replaced which had taken a bit of a scrape in his tete a tete with the barriers on the grass verge. At this point more retirements ensued with Jenson Button, Mark Webber and Ant Davidson all packing up shop early and heading off for an early shower and afternoon nap.

the-stress-caused-by-green-trousers.jpgAt least Ferrari Team Boss Stefano Domenicali could take comfort from the fact ex-Ferrari man Ross Brawn was having an equally torrid time in his first official outting as Head Honda Honcho not least because of the hideous green trews (trousers) he was forced to wear. We can only presume Honda have engaged the services of F1’s foremost fashionista and former World Champion Jackie Stewart over the winter months to design their team kit, and as a result half of Honda look like extras from Robin Hood – Men in Tights. And we thought McLaren had it bad.

At the end of the second lap the safety car peeled off into the pitlane leaving the McLaren boys to scamper off merrily into the distance, and Ferrari’s poor ickle Felipe returning yet again to the pitlane for some fuel (since some silly sausage at the FIA has banned refuelling during a SC period) and we can but hope a flea in his ear from his race engineer Rob Smedley.

While Lucky Lewis was pulling out a 2 second gap over Robert Kubica’s BMW/pineapple, our flying Finn was all over the back of Honda’s Rubens Barrichello but to no avail. The planetary themed car proved to be very fat indeed and quite difficult to overtake – hardly a surprise with all that G Force Planet Earth produces.

Finally some 16 laps later, the Kimster finally managed to overhaul the Honda putting in an audacious move, and immediately was able to set about putting in some fast laps in the race, however by this time race leader Lucky Lewis had been able to complete his first pitstop and his teammate Kovaleinen was now leading proceedings out in front.

Meanwhile ickle Felipe was struggling to get past the Super Aguri of Takuma Sato, and given the latter’s reputation for aggressive racing and happily punting off rivals into the gravel at the drop of a hat, we can’t help but sympathise with Massa’s predicament.

jarnos-retirement.jpgToyota’s Jarno Trulli at this stage came into the pits, pulled off his steering wheel in frustration and retired, presumably much to the relief of those out on track who actually wanted to spend the afternoon overtaking and falling off all over the place and not stuck in a customary Trulli tailback.

By all accounts Jarno is a lovely man, but here at FFN we do wonder how many years its going to take for him to manage to transfer his legendary single lap qualifying pace and string it together in a race type situation. Is it possible to teach an old dog new tricks?

Back on track Super Aguri’s Takuma Sato made a small mistake, which allowed both Felipe Massa and Williams Star Nakajima to take advantage and steam past. Nakajima’s team mate Britney (Rosberg) meanwhile was having a very decent race and had come into the pits with BMW’s Quick-Nick-Where’s-Chewbacca-Gone Heidfeld for a little bit of facial grooming and their first pitstop of the afternoon.

On the 21st lap McLaren’s Heikki Kovaleinen came into the pitlane for his scheduled pitstop, and just managed by the skin of his teeth to get back out on track ahead of his fellow rampaging Finn the Kimster who has been charging up the field like he had a rocket in his trousers and a point to prove. At this point only Rubens Barrichello, Fernando Alonso and the Kimster had yet to make their first pitstops.

Not long after this, ickle Felipe had evidently had enough of being stuck behind the Red Bull of David Coulthard (and who can blame him – David did obviously) and stole up the inside of the RB4 causing a collision by driving into the side of David’s car which put paid to the Scotsman’s race.

felipe-and-davids-fisticuffs.jpgOn being interviewed later the Red Bull veteran blamed the Brazilian for the incident and suggested ickle Felipe should take full responsibility for the collision, which incidentally he didn’t, and DC suggested that he might have to pop along to Ferrari and give ickle Felipe a good hiding (or something along those lines but no doubt less polite). It remains to be seen if the Ferrari Star has since been on the receiving end of a good thrashing and required urgent medical attention, so we shall keep our eyes peeled next weekend at Malaysia for any tell-tale big sunglasses and bruised eyes in the paddock.

As a result of the incident between the Red Bull and the Prancing Horse the safety car yet again pulled onto the race track allowing the drivers to form up behind in close formation.

Much to the relief of the Renault team, race control ordered the reopening of the pitlane two laps later allowing Fernando Alonso amongst others to come in and refuel. According to rumours the Sparky Spaniard had been running on fumes, team Boss Flavio Briatore was having kittens on the pitwall (not literally you understand), and poor Nando was beginning to wonder if he’d have to get out and push.

kimi-visits-the-gravel-trap.jpgOnce the safety car had peeled off into the pitlane for a second time, the race was back on. Happy Heikki was giving a hard time to his team mate Lewis out front, and the Kimster for some reason known only to himself decided to try some distraction tactics at turn 3 by shooting past his fellow Finn, waving and smiling as he went and shot into the gravel trap demoting himself back down to twelfth spot in the process. By which point we can only imagine the Ferrari pitwall must have developed an epidemic of hair pulling, hand wringing and furious nail-biting of epic proportions with Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo no doubt on the verge of lobbing his television out of the window in frustration.

Just to compound Ferrari’s torrid afternoon, shortly after Kimi’s escapades in turn 3, ickle Felipe’s car limped to the end of its life with engine trouble putting paid to the Brazilians efforts for the afternoon. Much to our disappointment, but we are sure there might have been the odd Scotsman here or there who might have taken some delight in this tragic turn of events.

Finally the Kimster came in for his one and only pitstop. Back out on track the two McLaren’s were still leading proceedings ahead of Quick Nick, Britney, and ‘I’m better than Michael Schumacher honestly’ Barrichello. Torro Rosso’s Rookie Sebastien Bourdais at this point was still having a stirling drive in his maiden F1 Grand Prix despite all the chaos going off everywhere else.

Meanwhile Papal Polish Poker Player Robert Kubica struggled with the tyres on his car and was being hounded by Double World Champion Fernando Alonso, who really you don’t want breathing down your neck at the best of times especially given his propensity for throwing temperamental hissy-fits when he doesn’t get his own way.

kimsters-optimism-pays-off-again.jpgWhile Nando was lining up to put a move on the BMW, the Kimster decided to try his distraction tactics again this time on the Toyota of Timo Glock, Unfortunately the bold move by the Finn resulted in him spinning around like a milk bottle top on a doorstep while Timo carried on as usual in a straight line. By this point we were beginning to wonder if the real Kimi was still at home in bed snoring his head off and some imposter had snuck off for the afternoon with his F2008 for a spin (literally).

The second row of pitstops ensued for some of the top runners (Hamilton, Rosberg and Heidfeld) shortly followed by Timo Glock having a big accident at turn 12, the German’s car was launched off the grass into the air for an impromptu flying lesson. Luckily the only damage being done to his pride and the car.

carnage-in-the-honda-pitbox.jpgDown at Honda things went from bad to worse, with Rubens Barrichello in the pitlane carrying out an illegal attempt at refuelling under the safety car (as a response to Glock’s accident) followed by the Brazilian knocking down several of his pitcrew with the refuelling rig when the lollipop guy got a bit over-enthusiastic. Well if it’s good enough for Mr Schumacher….

A few laps later the pitlane was confirmed open by race control, which allowed Alonso and Kovaleinen to pit for fuel and tyres, it was then confirmed that Rubens would have to undergo a 10 second stop and go penalty for his illegal refuelling under the safety car period…not to mention for sending the green trouser brigade scattering like a bunch of skittles.

Once more the safety car driver pulled into the pitlane with the fervent hope of getting to actually sit down for a cup of tea and some cucumber sandwiches for a change, but before the poor mite could count all his fingers and toes and curse the demise of traction control, his blood pressure was given a thorough testing again as the BMW of Robert Kubica and the Williams of Nakajima entangled out on track leaving both drivers with damage to their noses (on the cars not their faces). Luckily for the safety car driver his services were not needed on this occasion, but poor Kubica had to retire due to the damage caused to his spiky porcupine.

Unfortunately Heikki Kovaleinen was caught out slightly by the incident between Kubica and Nakajima, giving Fernando Alonso the perfect opportunity to sneak past and steal his position on track. Meanwhile Rubens had to report to the pits to complete his ten second stop and go penalty.

kimsters-retirement.jpgElsewhere the day was going from bad to worse to even worse for the Maranello squad, with some strange sounds emitting from Kimi Raikkonen’s F2008. After a few laps it became evident to us all the strange tones pouring from the Ferrari were not a result of the Kimster singing his usual favourite Karaoke tunes in the cockpit but in fact engine trouble as he slowly limped around at the back of the field in the last points paying position. Shortly after the Kimster had to retire from the race, ending a disastrous afternoon for the team that had been touted by many as pre-season favourites and predicted to dominate in Albert Park.

At this point in the afternoon the Ferrari engine also to decided to go on the Torro Rosso of star Rookie Sebastian Bourdais (presumably in sympathy for Kimi’s), robbing the Frenchman of a better finish to his maiden Grand Prix, which up until this point had been a solid performance.

With 8 laps to go until the end of the race, McLaren’s Happy Heikki was still battling it out on track with the man he replaced in Ron Dennis’s affections, Nando Alonso. A small mistake on the main straight by the McLaren man allowed the Renault to sweep past again, wiping the smug smile firmly off the face of Retirement Ron on the pitwall.

the-happy-trio.jpgAfter what can only be described as a tense yet exciting afternoon of unpredicatable action and drama, Lucky Lewis swept home in commanding style to take the win for McLaren, shortly followed by Quick Nick and Britney to complete the top three drivers of the afternoon, while Ferrari were left to pick up the pieces.

But before all you tifosi despair, just bear in mind these words from our Presidente “I can’t wait for sunday to see the real Ferrari”. Well I expect you may remember what happened when he last uttered similar sublimal messages to the effect of wanting to see the real Kimi at the half way point in 2007.

So all is not lost, and even Ron Dennis has admitted you can never write Ferrari off and they will bounce back from this distastrous start to the season…and you know Ron….he is never wrong, allegedly.

Roll on Malaysia and Forza Ferrari.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stranger things have happened.

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