Luca Colajanni


fia-logoJust a few minutes ago, news reports have emerged that the governing body the FIA is introducing a voluntary budget cap of £30 million into the sport to encourage new teams to enter into F1.

It is thought the budget cap is entirely voluntary, giving the new teams open access to all the technological advancements that their less frugal counterparts have near bankrupted themselves developing at great expense.

FIA President Max Mosley has suggested the budget cap will encourage all the teams to get clever with their engineering, which can be translated as meaning F1 engineers are going to start engaging in the practice of foraging through other peoples mini-skips looking for useful treasures.

According to the reports the £30 million proposed figure incorporates all costs for running an F1 team, including paying the wages of all the team plus the drivers.

We do wonder how the likes of McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and co may react to the news, given that a £30 million yearly budget probably scarcely covers the pocket money expenses of one of their drivers, nevermind any actual technology.

Will McLaren be able to afford Lewis Hamilton’s popstar entourage? Can Ferrari meet Kimi’s bar tab? Can Renault afford to buy Flavio a new thong? Will Britney Rosberg ever afford a haircut? Will the teams start racing lawnmower engines instead?

not-impressed-colajanniMeanwhile, it would appear the WMSC has ratified plans to make F1 drivers more accessible to the general public and the media. It is understood drivers are going to be required to attend autograph sessions during first practice on a grand prix weekend as well as making themselves more available to the media if they are not attending the FIA official press conferences.

It is thought this piece of alarming news has come as somewhat of a shock to Ferrari’s official media representative and spokesman Luca Colajanni, who has been carted off to lie down in a dark room to ward off an impending migraine triggered by all the extra “for sures” he is going to have to translate over the course of the year.

In addition to introducing a budget cap, and forcing Kimi to mumble in the company of journalists more than is strictly necessary, it seems the FIA have made some minimal rule changes with regards to the points system.

Instead of accepting proposed changes to the points themselves for 2009, the FIA has introduced a new rule that the driver who has gained the most wins during the course of the season will go home with the spoils of war and a few bottle of fizzy pop to boot, while someone who has scored more points but less overall wins goes home sobbing uncontrollably….presumably.

What does all this mean for the future of our beloved sport? answers on a postcard please!

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Amidst the aftermath of the Australian Grand Prix, where the Ferrari team endured a dismal weekend with both drivers retiring from the race due to technical problems, rumours have already begun circulating concerning the causes of the double engine failures that put an end to the Ferrari drivers respective races.

Although going by the driving on display at some points during the race, it was a closely run toss up between whether technical gremlins or a meeting with a barrier was going to come first for the pair.

ecu.jpgThis morning in an article on Autosport.com in which Ferrari have vowed to work on their reliability issues, it has emerged that there are possible question marks over whether the move to the standard ECU supplied by MES (McLaren Electronic Systems) may have been a contributory factor.

Amongst other issues Team Boss Stefano Domenicali was quoted as saying “Today we had engine trouble, but with this rule-book the gearbox is another element to keep in check. Let’s not forget that with MES (the standard ECU) we can have some problems in understanding the system, and how to integrate it with the car. We must still discover it in full.”

Current circulating rumours are thought to suggest that a conflict between the SECU and Ferrari’s own software may also have been responsible for Kimi’s fuel pump problem on Saturday during the qualifying session.

Here at FFN we knew the Kim-bot had undergone some basic software programming since his arrival at Maranello in 2007 particularly in relation to smiling 24/7, spouting forth garrulous comments to the media that appear to all intents and purposes to be straight out the mouth of Luca Colajanni (without the italian accent of course), and efficiently consuming Shell V-tech fuel instead of Vodka….but we hadn’t realised things had gotten so darned complicated.

malfunction-in-the-kim-bot-software.jpgIt is thought the Maranello-based clever bods may be eagerly beavering away right this minute in order to upgrade the Kim-bot software in time for Malaysia, to ensure he doesn’t blow up any more engines and doesn’t lose his drinks straw at inopportune moments.

That still leaves us with ickle Felipe. Could the Standard ECU be responsible for making the little Brazilian veer off track into the shrubbery and crash into the side of other unwitting race drivers at random intervals during the race weekend?

All these years we had been under the illusion that Felipe’s endearing special talents were entirely his. So it comes as somewhat of a shock to discover some devious bod at McLaren is sat somewhere in the paddock pressing buttons merrily on a remote control device and causing mayhem inside the Italian outfit. What next we wonder, will the wheels shoot off the F2008 during qualifying in Malaysia?

Meanwhile, Former World Champion Niki Lauda has already popped out of the woodwork to tell it like it is. According to the Austrian, the weakest link for the team during the opening round of the F1 season in Australia, was without a doubt it’s two drivers. (presumably he isn’t taking into account the ECU’s role in affairs then).

“Everything they could do wrong, they did do wrong” Niki pointed out during his post race analysis, before moving on to his more usual run of the mill predictions about the end of the known universe, what Alonso should do next and so forth.

stefano12.jpgTeam Boss Stefano stopped short of criticising anyone specifically for the dismal turn of events, but is rumoured to have commented “the whole team has not performed to our usual standard.”

Which we take as an impending sign of the mild mannered and pleasant Mr.Domenicali about to read the riot act behind closed doors, if ranting rabble-rouser Luca di Montezemolo doesn’t get in there first.

Meanwhile in other “news”, you may remember over the winter period there was much discussion across internet forums and the like, concerning a radical new nose Ferrari were rumoured to be testing in relation to the F2008. Today again the rumours re-emerged, and are suggesting that the new nose could be brought into play as early as the Bahrain Grand Prix.

We can’t help feeling though, that it would be wise for Ferrari to sort it’s driving duo out first, otherwise a new nose cone isn’t going to do much good instantly parked into the side of another car or lodged deep in a gravel trap.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh dear! You do still remember the FIA of course – they played a rather important role in the recently concluded Espionage saga – which led to McLaren losing all their constructor points and a 100 million dollars additionally to boot for having access to Ferrari secret information. As has been rumored, there are no secrets between Ferrari and McLaren now when it comes to car design – all knowledge is just common knowledge. So naturally, at the recent WMSC hearing held in Paris, there were no veiled references to design components or any beating about the bush, but just an open and amicable discussion on whether it was right that Fernando Alonso apparently knows more about the F2007 than Kimi Raikkonen does (whose knowledge is unfortunately limited to “it is red, it is nice and it goes fast”).

Of course what they weren’t all anticipating was that FIA would go about and release the uncensored transcripts on the internet, with the net result that everyone has access not only to Ferrari secret information, but also to McLaren secret information additionally. I bet Jean Todt and Ron Dennis are not exactly thrilled to bits about this new development. It’s always a bit fatiguing when you have spent nearly the entire season painstakingly collecting evidence that sensitive information is in the hands of a rival, only to find the same sensitive information being disseminated to all and sundry because some bungling muppet at FIA doesn’t understand the meaning of “Black out the secret stuff”.

There is also Ross Brawn…who took a temporary break from his attempts to catch at least a single fish before the year is through, just so he could fly all the way to Paris and emphasise on how important the Ferrari weight distribution information is to any strategist worth his salt. And now every member of the paddock (or non-member for that matter) not only knows the Ferrari weight distribution, but also Mike Coughlan’s salary, Alonso’s opinion on the Swiss climate and de la Pink’s know-how (or lack of it) of cylinders and springs. Not the ideal situation.

McLaren driver (at least as of now) Fernando Alonso, also fondly referred to as the in-house recluse by Ron Dennis, is being touted as a possible Ferrari driver for next year, and this is no doubt a bit concerning for the tifosi. Not that we have anything against his driving skills, but Schumi has spoilt us all rotten with all the vivid “happy and winning Ferrari family” imagery, and Nando does have this unfortunately tendency to bring the roof down if things don’t go his way.  Felipe is friendly, Kimi is silent, and Fernando Alonso is apparently neither. Anyway, unless Ferrari can employ 3 drivers and let them take turns, I don’t see how this can be managed. The situation at Toyota seems a bit crowded as well with nearly half the grid being touted to drive for them next year – the latest addition to which is Felipe Massa. Very convenient for Alonso no doubt, but we see no reason why poor Felipe should be so unceremoniously packed off to Toyota when he has exceeded all expectations and matched Kimi in performance this year.

The only hitch is – if Alonso is not driving a red car, he will be driving for a rival – and we all know what a pain in the neck that can be as he is a rather goodish driver one must admit. An insider in Maranello tells us that Luca Colajanni will no doubt demand a hefty pay rise if Nando dons red next year, for he is likely to feel overworked with all the potential damage control. And poor Kimi deserves a break having had teammates like the rather destructive Montoya, and later de la Pink who no doubt plagued him with emails attempting to explain brake balance systems and what not. Anyhow, it will be interesting to observe how this year’s silly season plays up. Hopefully Ferrari will make the right decisions. Forza.

Apparently us tifosi have been a tad naughty, and deserve a slap on the wrist. According to Williams Driver Alex Wurz, we are unfairly expecting Ferrari Driver Kimi Raikkonen to be 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher, and it needs to stop according to the Austrian.

kimicanthearyou.jpgNow I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a slightly unfair assessment of the situation. I may have been guilty of going on non-stop about vodka, roll mop herrings, discos, karaoke and falling on your head aboard yachts on a weekly basis….but I don’t personally recall ever thinking Kimi was German, had a “Schloss” the size of my street, a penchant for upsetting his rivals with some dodgy manoeuvres, or enough shiny pots on his mantlepiece to make up 7 World Championships.

Still according to Alex, if we all back off and let Kimi do his thing, stop harping on about the good old glory days and how Michael Schumacher is like a pair of our favourite old slippers that we can’t quite bear to throw out….he may in fact become a Ferrari Legend in the mould of the late Gilles Villeneuve, and win a special place in our hearts.

Alex (who worked with the Kimster for 4 years at McLaren) went on to suggest that Kimi is easy to understand and therefore to love. Well I don’t know about anyone else but personally I can’t understand a single word. After each press conference, I have to get straight on the great big spidery web to see if Ferrari’s Official Spokesman and Communication Genius Luca Colajanni has managed to extract any sense out of the mumbling.

Still there is hope yet, Sporting Director Stefano Domenicali managed to get Kimi to deliver a few smiles in the pre-season build up, so you never know he could have Kimi booked on a speech therapy course and he might wow us later on with great rousing ‘Winston Churchill’ type speeches….and I’d willingly line up to fight McLaren on the beaches.

While Kimi is struggling to win over the hearts of us fickle tifosi (and does he actually know since he isn’t supposed to listen according to Ron Dennis), his predecessor is keen to point out he is thoroughly enjoying his retirement at the grand old age of 38, thank you very much. (Don’t some people just make you sick?).

Former Ferrari driver Michael Schumacher, made a rare public appearance in Poznan in Poland recently. Where he informed us all that he is not missing racing at the moment one little bit and is happily enjoying all his new found spare time, including spending more of it with wife Corinna and his two children, Mick and Gina-Maria.

schumachernotmissing.jpgLooking nicely sun-tanned (and I should think so after all that lounging around on sunbeds in Miami), Michael told the press conference that “I’m very close to the racing, I’m involved with almost everything that’s happening”.

No doubt this little snippet of information will be blown out of all proportion by tomorrow, when we will in fact be informed by the German Media that Michael has replaced Mario Almondo as Technical Director for the week. This will be followed by a week as Head of Track Operations in place of Luca Baldisserri, who is expected to have an unfortunate incident with his curling tongs and will be unable to report for duty.

Michael went on to confirm that he finds watching the Grand Prix interesting, and no doubt because the tifosi are griping about someone else for a change, which must make for a novel experience after spending 16 years as a hero and villain all in one combo. However, Michael insisted he was only watching for the enjoyment of it, and not to learn anything. We here at FFN can’t help but think if you haven’t learn it sitting in your Formula 1 car for all those years, then sitting in a lazy-boy armchair, munching on popcorn and falling asleep during the advert breaks isn’t really going to bring any great moments of realisation is it?. But you can’t tell that to the “armchair experts”.

Formula 1 is supposedly the high-tech pinnacle of motorsport, so naturally the engineers and technical bods involved are always coming up with weird gadgets and gizmo’s, strange crazes that last five minutes before the FIA ban them, and basically pretending they are rocket scientists from NASA…albeit without the Buzz Lightyear costume.

So it comes as no surprise really that these folk who like to think outside the box, like to do things in slightly unconventional ways.

Spyker-Ferrari this week have decided they are not going to go about securing financial sponsors in the time-honoured old fashioned way (wining, dining and talking gibberish until some rich dude can stand no more so he gets his cheque book out) oh no. They are going to go all internet-agey and sell themselves on Ebay instead. There is bound to be some nutcase out there in cyberspace with plenty of dollars to chuck around and nothing to spend it on.

The Dutch Formula 1 team are apparently selling 4 advertising spots on their car via the internet sensation that is Ebay, with prices ranging from 500,000 to 3 Million Euros.

spyker.jpg

Unsurprisingly even though their advert went live last friday, they have yet to attract any bids. One can’t help but wonder if this is because the general public have already been put off by Honda’s ‘My Earth Dream’ where you can buy the rights to have your name stuck on a pixel of a really rubbish car, that basically is outclassed by the average sainsbury’s supermarket trolley even with Felipe Massa behind it. Either that or we are all buying invisible ghosts in jars, stuffed foxes found in mini-skips and each others used undergarments.

However the CEO of the media company that came up with the wise idea, Bas Verhart of Media Republic, is adamant that some poor fool wants to fritter away their hard earned cash on what he terms a ‘long-haul success story’. I think what he is failing to appreciate is that generally people like to see some sort of benefit from their investments before they are dead and buried….but you know I could be wrong.

gonefishing.jpgMeanwhile Ferrari are most miffed, and decided that instead of running away from the press, sticking their heads in the sand and doing the old cloak and dagger code of secrecy routine…they might actually utilise the media for a change to issue a message to one of their former employees.

It seems the Maranello based team are a little bit narked that Honda’s Nick Fry is attempting to woo their former Technical Director Ross Brawn away from them with promises of unlimited cans of sardines and anchovies, and have gone to the effort of sending him a message via the Guardian Newspaper. It could be a risky strategy….especially if it turns out that Ross actually prefers ‘reading’ tabloids such as ‘The Sun’ or the ‘Daily Star’…or is in fact in the back of beyond, miles away from a newsagents and up to his knee-caps in fishy friends.

However Ferrari Spokesman Luca Colajanni was quoted in the Guardian as saying “Ross is obviously a free agent, but we would like to think there is a gentlemen’s agreement that he will talk to us before deciding on his future plans,” which we here at FFN think translates into “He better consider our offers first, otherwise he won’t be fishing…..he’ll be sleeping with them in Lake Garda, concrete boots and all”.

jeantodt.jpgFerrari CEO Jean Todt has felt the need to step in and speak up on the subject announcing that the Maranello based squad does indeed have a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ in place with Brawn, and adding that if Ross was actually in talks with Honda he would be breaching that promise.

“The truth is Ross decided to leave his position to gain some time for himself” Todt added “We agreed with him that should he decide to come back and remain in the business, he would come to me first to discuss it together”.

Meanwhile the rest of us are scratching our heads, pondering why Ferrari seem to be getting all excitable over the subject…because who in their right mind would want to leave the glamour and prestige of the famous Ferrari Marque for Honda? ….a team that doesn’t seem to know it’s bottom from its elbow. We can’t help but feel that’s not a career challenge, more like a migraine waiting to happen and probably even more traumatic than getting stuck in a lift with Ron Dennis (which says alot).

Jean Todt might be only three foot tall, but if you were Ross would you want to get on the wrong side of that nail-biting little Jedi Master?

The tug of love continues….

What a chirpy chappie young Heikki Kovaleinen is.

Who would believe just a few weeks ago his career as a Formula 1 driver got off to a bit of a wobbly start? After the tears and tantrums have subsided in the Renault garage (and none of them from Heikki himself we can assure you) Heikki has forgotten the ‘disaster’ that was Melbourne and is looking forward to the Malaysian Grand Prix.

heikkikov1.jpgHere at FFN we can’t help feeling it all got blown way out of all proportion anyway, I mean what was the worst that happened? The young Finn had a few off track excursions during the last grand prix, and lets face it even 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher used to have a few of those…just to ensure his fans weren’t secretly napping when they should have been poised on the edge of the seat trembling with nerves. But you know Flavio Briatore being the colourful chap he is, wouldn’t be himself if he wasn’t jumping up and down and screaming hysterically like a girl and that’s before the car has even left the grid.

Heikki himself is a bit more composed we are pleased to see, and says there are positive things to be learned from the last race…things that he can take forward and ensure do not happen in future. Well we can’t disagree with that, learning from experience is what it is all about and now he knows the car will generally go faster on tarmac than grass and gravel we expect he’ll be giving the grassy knolls a wide berth in future.

Let’s face it, if everyone in Formula 1 took Flavio’s ranting seriously there wouldn’t be many people left in the sport.

Moving on from one hissy fit to the next…..

It is expected that this week will be a testing time for all Formula 1 teams after the FIA clampdown on movable floors, as all teams will be rushing to ensure they are not caught out by the new stringent tests.

ferrarif2007.jpgThe impact is expected to be felt further down the pit lane than just Ferrari and BMW-Sauber who are at the centre of the controversy. Rumour has it over half of the grid has had to make modifications to the floors of their cars to ensure they comply fully with the new stance held by the FIA. In fact only a handful of teams have admitted they have not had to make any modifications and that includes Super Aguri and Williams.

Renault’s Head of Race Engineering Alan Permane admitted that he is not surprised so many teams have now had to make modifications, claiming that is an area on the car which teams have been openly exploiting for years. Permane even concurred to what most of us always thought… “There is always something to start the season, isn’t there,” he said. “Someone always sees something on the car. There is always a flexible wing, or a bendy something.” Glad it’s not just me rolling my eyes at yet another ‘drama’ then.

Given that most teams have had to make modifications to meet the strict new guidelines, it would be rather laughable if McLaren have unwittingly shot themselves in the foot and had to make modifications themselves considering they were the ones who went to ‘snitch’ to the FIA.

Of the two teams at the centre of the storm-in-a-teacup, BMW-Sauber have admitted they are “looking into it”. Ferrari have adopted that good old ‘cloak and dagger’ approach, admitted nothing and sent out that silver-tongued spokesman Luca Colajanni to inform us “as usual we will do whatever will be required according to the FIA regulations and specifications.” Just once in a while, I wish they would go mad, throw a tantrum and nut Ron Dennis.

According to autosport.com leading technical figures in the sport believe that the banning of movable floors in unlikely to make much difference to the fight at the front of the field. Which really makes one wonder why on earth did serial snitchers McLaren make such a song and dance about it to start with?

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