Luca Baldisserri


Finally yesterday after months of dithering, deliberating, discussing and debating, the day of reckoning that may eventually decide the outcome of the 2009 Formula 1 championship finally arrived.

rory-byrne-in-jolly-old-paris‘Double Diffusorgate Deadline Day’ or DDDD as it will hence forth be affectionately known, saw the FIA finally stop faffing about and were forced at the International Court of Appeal in Paris to clarify the legality or otherwise of the much debated Double Diffusors on the BrawnGP, Williams and Toyota cars.

Despite the best efforts principally of Ferrari’s infamous Lawyer Nigel Tozzi to reduce the usually unperturbable Ross Brawn to tears with a few well placed tongue-lashings (well Tozzi does have a bit of a habit of reducing Formula 1 employees into quivering heaps on previous occasions) , the ICA eventually ruled in the favour of BrawnGP, Williams and Toyota declaring the double diffusor-devices to be completely legal. This is despite the fact seven other F1 teams have disputed that the devices are within the spirit and wording of the sports regulations.

Unfortunately, due to the annually occurring utter incompetence of the FIA to get their rules in some semblance of sense and order, once again we are in a position where the outcome of the sporting season may not actually be decided on track as we suspect it is intended to be, but in a coffee shop over croissants in Paris instead.

names-in-a-hat-pleasePerhaps in future the FIA might want to entertain the idea of writing the teams and drivers names on pieces of paper and pulling the winner out of a top hat and be done with it, not only would it help in the FIA’s overall drive to reduce costs in the sport by having the teams not bothering to actually compete on equal terms, but it might be more environmentally friendly than KERS in the long run with a sheet of A4 paper having a far lower overall carbon impact. Not forgetting how many trees would be saved by not letting the teams design a car in the first place.

Here at FFN being of naturally suspicious nature, we are inclined to believe the sports governing body are doing this on purpose purely for an all expenses day out in the French Capital, as this sort of debacle overshadowing the start of each season seems to be happening with annoying regularity, and in fact with more regularly than a dose of laxatives.

Sufficed to say, the ruling now forces the seven teams that had built their cars within the wording and spirit of the sporting regulations, to either sit back and see the Double Diffusor ‘3’ disappear off into the distance, or force them to spend even more money by adapting the technology to their cars in an attempt to get back on equal footing. Which is a bit farcical to say the least when the Mad Max and Bernie Puppetshow are forever preaching about penny-pinching, while pinching other peoples pennies.

fiaOne has to wonder what is the point of having regulations in the first place if you only go on to give teams carte blanche to completely disregard them anyway? It sets a very dangerous precedent, not least calling into question what is the point of having the FIA at all? (a question many F1 fans have probably been scratching their heads and wondering for years anyway).

Some reading this might be inclined to think it is simply a case of sour grapes (is that vinegar then?) because here at FFN we are somewhat inclined to support Ferrari, whom it just so happens on this occasion at least followed the regulations to the letter.

It is not so much the outcome or result that irks, or that BrawnGP and co could be about to scamper away with the championship pot for being rather clever, but if we wanted to watch court room drama week in week out we’d go and get ourselves a video of LA law, some shoulder pads and a bucket of popcorn instead.

Personally we’d prefer the fighting to be done wheel to wheel on track on equal terms (with the odd occasional punch up and name calling thrown in for good measure), and enjoy the odd car rearranging technical glitch as Nelson Piquet bounces his car off the armco, rather than have to sit through more old farts shouting and waiving bits of paper about in an exaggerated and animated fashion.

It is rumoured that Ferrari will now have to spend in the region of 10-20 million dollars, to redesign the F60 to incorporate the double diffusor device if they wish to compete on equal terms. If reports are to be believed, it is not simply a case of strapping one on and hey presto! It would involve a major redesign of the car including, the floor, rear, gearbox and suspension all which will take time, resources and effort to complete.

Not surprisingly Ferrari’s Team Principal Stefano Domenicali was not best pleased with the ruling, the usually mild mannered and chipper team boss yesterday expressing his discontentment.

ferrari-store1As a result, Ferrari are promptly dispatching their Flying Finn Kimi Raikkonen to London, to officially open the new Ferrari Store on Regent Street on May 6th. It is rumoured the move is intended to generate some much needed cash for the Diffusor fund, by increasing sales in T-shirts, caps and Magnum ice-creams to teenage girls. Do not be alarmed though, we are to understand Kimi won’t actually required to make an opening speech, he will already have quite enough hard work on his plate with cutting a ribbon and having to smile for at least five seconds for the camera, all whilst wearing a strangely oversized cap.

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s other starlet Felipe Massa is reportedly being put on a new exercise regime in the Maranello Gym. The dimunitive Brazilian as we speak is being strapped up to a recumbant bicycle and a dynamo, and being asked to power the Gestione Sportiva and Ferrari Factory by pedal power. The savings on the electricity bill all going to the good cause of helping Ferrari fund a new car.

Even Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo will be doing his bit for the cause by considerably cutting down on hairspray, and limiting himself to one stamp per week for firing off written complaints about the current shambolic state of the sport.

poor-baldoIn other news this week, we were shocked to learn that in the aftermath of the disastrous opening rounds of the season for the Scuderia, Ferrari have relocated pitwall poppet, Team Manager and Strategic Chief Luca Baldisserri back to the factory.

It would seem the poor thing has been made the sacrificial scapegoat for the poor start to the season particularly for the strategic decisions at Sepang, and as a result he has been grounded, and is not allowed out to play again until Ferrari have produced a championship challenging car (or until the Italian Media have stopped asking for heads on silver platters).

We can’t help feeling that this is a bit harsh, especially when you consider British Weatherman and Meteorologist Michael Fish couldn’t even predict a Hurricane heading for the coast of Britain back in 1987 after a tip off from a viewer, and he got off with just a rather red face and no official punishment from the BBC.

Baldo will apparently be working closely with Technical Director Aldo Costa (Aldo and Baldo – sounds like a winning formula for a children’s TV show) in a working group created with the sole intention of improving the F60, hopefully giving Felipe and Kimi the best possible chances to compete on level terms with the rest of the rule regarding F1 fraternity.

Chief Race Engineer and Antipodean Chris Dyer meanwhile, will take over the trackside responsibilities of Luca, while he is chained 24/7 to a desk in the design office. We do sincerely hope he has been given enough leeway to actually make it back and forth to the toilet and expresso machine.

We wish Chris the best of luck in taking over the hot seat so to speak, and sincerely hope he doesn’t find himself getting his weather predictions or tyre selections slightly wrong, otherwise Ferrari could end up with an empty pitwall by the end of the season.

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.

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.

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.

michaels-modest-hut.JPGHeading into the last three Grand Prix of the curent Formula 1 season much of the news and rumours surrounding the paddock concern the drivers market.

This season being no exception to previous ones with the exception we are not wondering this time what Michael Schumacher might be upto (apart from the important business of tinkering with his new Schloss that is).

As FerrariFan previously reported Fernando Alonso is keeping everyone guessing, with rumours that he is joining just about every other team plus some in his bid to escape the incessant chattering of McLaren Team Principal Ron Dennis. Obviously having seen that Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen made a great escape, Nando it is rumoured is attempting to follow suit. Not least because he probably feels that his temper tantrum throwing ways should fit in well with a team that historically had been known for throwing the odd few itself on occasion (Ferrari just in case you were unsure who I was prattling on about).

But it is not just Nando’s eyebrow movements that are keeping the tifosi on their toes and potentially having them pulling tufts of hair out, oh no.

It would seem according to current rumours, other changes could be afoot at Ferrari as well apart from the obvious difficulty the team are going to encounter trying to cram Felipe Massa and Nando into the same car.

jean-todt2.JPGAccording to the latest scurrulous rumours Ferrari CEO Jean Todt could be receiving his pension and bus pass sooner rather than later. It is understood in some of the less prestigious sections of the media that Jean is under increasing pressure from the top to give up his role of Team Boss to make way for former Technical Director Ross Brawn. Jean however it is thought is less than willing to give over the reins of power as is often the way with people of dimunitive stature (just look at Bernie!).

Here at FFN we think we have hit upon the solution. Given that Jean is not very big anyway, why not keep them both, after all if Jean sat on Ross’s knee on the pitwall (and Ross being a great hulking figure of a man) he would finally be able to see what the deuces is going on track and lead the team from there, instead of having to be resigned to campaigning for the teams annual shiny pot allowance in courtrooms in Paris.

Yesterday we also learnt that former glorified Mechanic and top of Max Mosley’s Christmas Card list Nigel Snitch Stepney is penning his autobiography. The lengthy tome entitled “Red Mist” which will highlight all areas of Nigel’s life (car chases, white powder, secret dossiers, love trysts with Coughlan and whether he knows his beard is only second in silliest to Alonso’s) will be available in bookshops next year.

Ever the thoughtful type we are to understand ‘Steppers’ is not penning this great work of fiction to make any money (I’m not rolling my eyes in incredibility honestly) but to put across his version of events in the spygate saga amongst other things. How incredibly kind of him, we are presuming since Nige doesn’t want any money for the honour, it will be perfectly acceptable for us to ‘borrow’ a copy from the local bookshop, sneak it out under our coats, take a photocopy on McLaren’s behalf and return the original from whence it came.

the-artist.JPGGiven that our Nige has gone on record in the past talking about knowing where Ferrari keep their dead bodies (we had presumed a cemetary but maybe that’s naive) we are wondering if this lengthy revelation may have half the staff at Maranello downing tools and heading off en masse with spades in hand preparing a plot on his behalf.

If other scurrulous rumours are to be believed yet more changes may be afoot amongst Ferrari’s other encumbants. Here at FFN we understand Mario Almondo is looking to set up his own cake baking emporium, Luca Di Montezemolo is thinking about going into hairdressing (I promise I won’t make a pun about his cutting remarks) and Luca Baldisserri it is thought will be donning a beret and heading off into the sunset with his crayons to be an artist.

Where this leaves the likes of Rob Smedley and Chris Dyer we haven’t got the foggiest, but at least ickle Felipe is giving Luca Colajanni a run for his money in the press release department. Forza.

dcandfelipe.jpgThat David Coulthard’s got some nerve! Affectionately referred to as cube-head by some, the former McLaren driver who is next only to Attila the Hun when it comes to wreaking havoc in wet races was caught trying to needle poor Felipe Massa during the FIA press conference. Going by Felipe’s spirited exchange of words with Fernando Alonso just a few weeks ago, DC must be thanking his lucky stars Felipe didn’t just turn around and plug him in the eye to end the debate. “How do we know that Ferrari didn’t deliberately not put fuel in Felipe’s car?” DC apparently pointed out during the press conference, “Maybe that was a team decision to benefit Kimi. How do you forget to put fuel in a car?” Well, I suppose the same way people do fatheaded things like slowing down in the racing line in the rain or attempting to decapitate fellow drivers by jumping over them with the car. But you wouldn’t know, would you DC?

We do agree that Ferrari have committed some public gaffes in the past. “Rubens, please let Mikol pass for the sampeonsip” comes readily to mind, which made us all wonder rather reproachfully if anyone in Ferrari had heard of such a thing called code language. Ideally, whenever McLaren got DC to move aside for Hakkinen, they apparently did so by saying “it’s a fine day, did you see that sparrow?”. While this might have raised questions about Ron Dennis’s mental state had the radio transcripts been published (I mean, talking about spotting sparrows when his driver is going purple attempting to manouever a F1 car), no one would have suspected them of issuing team orders. Sadly, subtelity is something that was lacking in Ferrari then.

But to suggest that Ferrari would deliberately risk looking like supreme jackasses just so they can give their in-house gorilla-suit donning James Hunt fan a better shot at the race is to stretch things a bit whichever way you look at it. And we have already explained the unfortunate events leading up to Massa’s attempt to qualify with no fuel here on FFN before. As we said, this was because Luca Baldisserri had misplaced his strategy crayons and was searching for them frantically, while the rest on the pitwall were helping him look for it…and no one noticed Felipe had come in and gone out during all the commotion. Happens to the best of them. Surely you remember when Ferrari tried to send Eddie Irvine out with three tyres in 1999? I think we can assume a master strategist like Ross Brawn knows a car is generally faster on four tyres than it is on three. Just a lapse is what it is.

So enough with the conspiracy theories already. Michael Schumacher’s engine failure in Suzuka ’06 has nothing to do with Schumi nearly taking out Nige in 2000 and giving him a wobbly knee to boot. And Ferrari’s fatheaded mistake in forgetting to refuel Felipe in Hungary is just that – a fatheaded mistake. It’s on to Turkey now, and as always, keeping fingers crossed for a Ferrari 1-2. Forza.

Next Page »