Nigel Stepney


You really do have to hand it to F1 team Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes. No other team in the history of the sport have managed to repeatedly get themselves into quite so much hot water as the Woking based squad, without actually employing the nefarious talents of one Michael Schumacher (Scandalmeister) and that is quite an accomplishment in itself.

At least not in all the years I have been watching the sport, and since I’m told I have the memory of a goldfish perhaps that doesn’t really count for a whole lot.

This week McLaren have managed to embroil themselves in yet another FIA related saga, this time as a result of telling a few innocent fibs to the race stewards about events that transpired towards the end of the season opener in Melbourne.

dave-ryan-and-lewis-hamil-001If we are to believe recent media reports, McLaren’s Sporting Director Dave Ryan took it upon himself to embellish events somewhat in the Steward’s presence forcing World Champion Lewis Hamilton to corroborate his version of events against his will and better judgement, and all for the sake of one measly championship point and a peanut bowl platter. (Although we suspect half of Ferrari might sell their respective grandmothers right now for aforementioned measly point not to mention the peanuts of course).

As a result Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was demoted to fourth place with a post race 25 second penalty, handing the shiny platter to McLaren’s World Champion.

Unfortunately, it would seem McLaren didn’t reckon on the old farts of the Federation Idiots and Amateurs actually listening to any post race media interviews, let alone having a good old earwig into McLaren’s radio communications with their ear trumpets.

Evidently the governing body discovered (after plowing through hours of Happy Heikki warbling Abba’s Greatest Hits) evidence that contradicted the statements made by Lucky Linda (I mean Lewis) and his Sporting Director Dave Ryan (although we feel perhaps ‘unsporting’ is probably a more applicable job title all things considered).

Sufficed to say the hapless duo were called back before the Stewards at Malaysia and asked to account for themselves, even after listening to the contradictory evidence we are to understand they continued to pull the chain of the FIA race stewards, if recent media reports are to be believed.

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh immediately leapt to the defence of his driver and team, declaring to anyone who would listen that no-one at McLaren had told any pork-pies and he really hadn’t got the foggiest what the FIA were whittering on about. No Honestly. Deja vu anyone?

lucky-linda-squirming24 hours later, Lucky Linda (I mean Lewis) was squirming like a maggot on a fish hook in front of the world’s media admitting to lying, but we are to understand it doesn’t count because his Sporting Director Dave Ryan made him do it, presumably under threat of stealing his penny sweets and pocket money.

Of course being the caring, sharing, no-blame culture that the modern McLaren is (as we were informed just a few short weeks ago) the team summarily sent their Sporting Director packing, although under the new caring culture they continued to happily employ 3 ex-spygate scandalists, so there is still hope for poor misunderstood Dave yet.

Yesterday events took a more serious turn, when the FIA announced it was cordially inviting Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes to a soiree in Paris on the 29th April, to enjoy a buffet lunch, some bottled fizzy water and a friendly get together for a frank and polite exchange of opinions regarding the meaning of article 151(c) of the international sporting code. RSVP.

rsvp2For those of you (unlikely I know given recent events) wanting to know what this article 151(c) is all about, let us explain.

In a nutshell it is a catch-all clause in the governing bodies regulations, that should anyone do anything to compromise the illusion that all is fair in love and F1 (barring the odd controversial race stewards decision or three and a few illegal/legal/illegal diffusors), then they shall be invited to Paris for a day or two and made to grovel cap in hand to the WMSC for a lenient punishment and pay for the pleasure.

Anyone found not to be grovelling quite as much as deemed necessary, we understand are duty bound to receive 30 lashes with a cat-o-nine-tails and whatever else the FIA hand out for punishment these days.

Some newspapers are suggesting that McLaren may at worst be excluded altogether from the world championship for 2009 for bringing the sport into disrepute, or at least receive a few race bans and even possibly a huge financial fine (as the FIA has already spent the last one on road safety campaigns, icecreams and day trips to the seaside).

Rumours have begun to emerge that Lewis and his Manager/Father/Principal Cheerleader are not best happy with how things are going at McLaren, particularly the damage done to Lewis’s reputation as a result of the ‘Liegate Scandal’ and his subsequent fall from grace in the eyes of the fickle British ‘Love Button’ Media.

hamilton-snrAlthough personally we felt floating about like a PR fairy on a highwire is as damaging as it can ever get for one’s reputation when it comes to grown men.

It is rumoured the Brit may be intent on leaving the team that has supported, financed and developed his career since he was 13, some skeptics have suggested that the latest turn or events might serve as a smokescreen to hide the fact Lewis is already bored of driving the MP4-slowathon and is hankering after a drive at BrawnGP (presumably over Rubens Barrichello’s dead body).

Good to see team loyalty is alive and thriving in Woking, but then we wouldn’t want to hang around Woking for too long either…..and not just for fear of an imminent P45 (marching orders).

At least this latest scandal to rock the sport, makes a change from the 20 times-a-yearly stories of Alonso going to Ferrari that seem to have been bandied about since the Jurassic period began, and probably still rumbling on long after I’m dead, buried and been eaten by a few garden worms.

What we really want to know is what do ‘gates’ have to do with anything? Have you ever noticed that anytime the sport is engulfed in a storm in a teacup, immediately a ‘gate’ is brought into the equation?

First we had ‘Spygate’ although we don’t actually recall any missing ‘gates’ being reported in the immediate vicinity of Maranello when Nigel Stepney was a very naughty boy, and for that matter we don’t remember anyone spying through one either.

Now we have ‘Liegate’…and not a wooden strutt, fence or beam in sight. You can see why we are somewhat baffled and bemused here at FFN.

Yesterday witnessed nine out of eleven current Formula 1 teams returning to testing action at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, ahead of the opening round of the European races in Spain in two weeks time.

Usually this early season test is an opportunity for all the teams to start adding new developmental pieces to their cars, in a bid to boost their championship hopes against rival teams.

slicks1.jpg Tyre supplier Bridgestone provided the teams present with an opportunity to test out the 2009 regulation specification slick tyres.

Apparently any testing done using the new specification slicks does not count towards the teams 15,000 km testing limit, so many teams took advantage of the fact to test out some of their new components whilst pounding around the circuit relentlessly on the black round things.

The morning session rather unusually was topped by Honda’s Austrian Beanpole Alex Wurz, prompting all sorts of speculation about the emerging omnipotent powers of ‘Uncle’ Ross Brawn, Ferrari’s ex-Technical Director who took over leadership of the Brackley team at the end of last year.

Really if you consider 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher has been raised to the status of a near demi-god in the eyes of his fanbase not withstanding cowboy boots, flowery shirts and the fashion sense of someone’s slightly drippy grandmother, then it’s not so far fetched to imagine a member of Honda’s green trouser brigade could likewise imminently join the Pantheon of the Gods.

Fortunately it would seem the Brackley outfit under the tutelage of Uncle Ross are making steady progress in a forwardly direction, which must be relief to all concerned (well apart from their rivals obviously), especially if you compare this season to the previous one where the team unfortunately seemed to engage reverse mode and get permanently stuck in it.

mclaren-rear-wing1 Ferrari’s arch-rivals McLaren meanwhile, took the opportunity also to test out the 2009 spec tyres in association with a new rear wing in anticipation for the 2009 season, so their car was set up to perform aerodynamically as close to the 2009 regulations as possible.

Well that’s McLaren’s excuse for test driver Pedro ‘the Pink’ being beaten by Honda’s test driver on the first day of testing, and we presume they are sticking to it like epoxy resin.

After minimal running during the morning session where Ferrari’s Felipe Massa only completed 12 laps, in the afternoon the Maranello outfit once more came out to play.

The little Brazilian poppet completing 77 laps in total for the day, putting in a stunning fastest lap somewhere in the region of 2.4 seconds faster than any of the rival teams, which must have caused a few raised eyebrows from within the paddock.

kimi-raikkonens-drink-supply1Before you all start fretting that Felipe has taken to employing drastic measures in his championship bid and started surreptitiously consuming the Kim-bot’s rocket fuel (as pictured), we understand that the Ferrari driver’s stunning lap times were actually set on a lap utilising the 2009 spec tyres and 2008 downforce levels, alongside the introduction of Ferrari’s latest radical new gizmo….the holy nose cone.

Yes finally after many months of speculation in the media and across Internet forums, the much vaunted and discussed aerodynamic piece finally broke cover in testing.

The ‘hole’ reportedly works by utilising the high-pressure air that builds up between the front wing and the underneath of the nose cone, channelling the air over the top of the car onto the rear wing and thus improving the car’s downforce.

And is not as suggested by some pundits, actually a device used for cooling Kimi’s feet because his socks become a particularly nasty biohazard after spending an hour and a half in close proximity to the flying Finn in stifling heat in the cockpit. If this had been the case we’d expect a huge gaping hole to appear right under Felipe’s seat, for every race he rolled out his lucky underpants.

the-holy-nose.jpg Back at Maranello apparently an investigation is now under way, after the news of the ‘holy nose’ contraption as some fans have dubbed it, got mysteriously leaked to the Italian Media back in January.

Reports have suggested that Technical Director Aldo Costa was horrified to find out that despite very few people within the team actually knowing about the existence of the aerodynamic piece back then, it still somehow found it’s way into the press.

Unconfirmed scurrilous rumours have suggested that once Mr.Costa has pinned down the guilty culprit, they will be having a face to face meeting with a reel of duct tape and banned from social networking site Facebook for a year.

Unfortunately it would seem this is one such incident that Nigel Stepney cannot be blamed for…but does raise the ugly spectre that there might yet still be someone lurking inside Maranello that can’t be trusted and deserves a firm smack over the knuckles with Nick Tombazis’ trusty slide-rule.

michael-in-action Meanwhile in other news, Ferrari’s official 3rd driver Michael Schumacher (who incidentally will be testing the F2008 at Barcelona on Wednesday) was yesterday back in action on a motobike at the Eurospeed way at the Lausitzring in Germany.

Wearing yet another rather fetching outfit (this time in Orange), the former World Champion who was taking part in a bike promotion unfortunately had a small disagreement with an oil slick on track and found himself deposited on his rear end on the concrete. No doubt you will all be relieved to know the German Superstar was unhurt in the incident, although we do suspect there might be a slight dent in his ego (not to mention a few grazes on his rear end).

F1 Testing continues again today at the Circuit de Catalunya, with Ferrari’s Felipe Massa once more leading proceedings for the Maranello outfit. Forza Ferrari.

Today 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher will finally get his hands on the F2008 in a much publicised test session at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona.

the-return-of-the-schu1.jpgAs is always the case with the Schu, the prospect has created quite a stir amongst the F1 fanbase, as the German Superstar will be testing alongside Ferrari’s current WDC Kimbot ‘Flu-riddled’ Raikkonen for the first time in the same car.

The Ferrari team have been quick to point out that the duo will actually be completing different parts of the F2008 program as to avoid the prospect of anyone making direct and possibly unflattering comparisons between the two champions (and to save any blushes for the loser). Like that is actually going to stop anyone!

Suffice to say F1 internet buffs everywhere are already rubbing their hands together in delight at the prospect of pouring over the timesheets like a bunch of complete anoraks to ascertain who is actually the fastest of the two.

We can only wonder which WDC will be going home with a rather large dent in their ego tonight, and which will be going home in another hideous fashion statement. Just kidding (about the ego not the shirts) and we haven’t honestly the faintest notion who will come out as the cream of the crop.

Meanwhile another WDC who has been in the beady eye of public scrutiny just recently is Renault’s Double World Champion Fernando Alonso. The reclusive Spaniard (who barely speaks two words together during the course of a season if we are lucky, according to Ron Dennis) has this week spoken out about his forthright opinions on the ongoing ‘race row’ that has dominated the sport in recent weeks.

nando.jpgWe can only presume that we are not talking about the same man as Mr. Dennis, as the one that comes to our minds is the one that spews forth with greater alacrity and garrulousness than Mount Etna the minute he is within 3 square feet of a microphone.

The ‘race row’ in question should not be confused with the usual ‘race rows’ that envelope Formula 1, whereby a lot of brake-testing, impeding rivals, red flags, spats across the garage, dodgy parking and ending up in the gravel trap go on during the course of the average weekend in the sport, much to our delight.

Indeed Nando has been speaking out in defence of his countrymen in response to allegations thrown at them by the British Media. According to the King of Spanish Public Relations, the Spanish are not racist and the whole incident at Barcelona a few weeks back whereby a few individuals took it upon themselves to lob objects and vocalise their appreciation for Lewis Hamilton was a one-off incident. We can only presume then the other incident in China mentioned by Max Mosley, was a figment of someone’s overactive imagination.

Nando went on to dismiss the need for the FIA to involve themselves in the whole affair and suggested that an anti-racism campaign was not desirous. According to the Renault Star, he too has been on the receiving end of some verbal abuse on occasion, with Niki Lauda reportedly calling him a “dog” during the course of the 2007 season. Nando quite rightly pointing out that the FIA didn’t rush and launch an anti-canine campaign on his behalf.

Just for future reference we think someone should point out one minor trivial and inconsequential detail to the Double World Champion, that our four legged furry friends are actually considered a ‘species’ and not a ‘race’. Otherwise he could end up not doing so well at the ‘Science and Nature’ questions when he plays that board game Trivial Pursuit.

smiling-stepney.jpgOver in Italy this week disgraced former glorified Mechanic Nigel Stepney was seen putting in an appearance at the public abode of the Modena Magistrate, Giuseppe Tibis.

Steppers spent around 3 hours having a “discussion” with the Italian magistrate regarding the ongoing legal action being brought against the Brit by the Ferrari team.

Judging by the photos of the Brit smiling as he left the Magistrates Office, we can only conclude it was a civilised affair with glasses of champagne and some rather tasty hors d’ouvres thrown in for good measure…and disappointingly no apparent toenail extraction to expediate matters.

Either that or Steppers is rather masochistic in nature and enjoys a good interrogation as well as the notoriety gained from being Public Enemy No.1.

Meanwhile, just in case any of us were in danger of being completely overshadowed by the size of McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton’s ego (which is not likely unless you happen to live in Switzerland) Willi Weber has benevolently stepped into the fray to save us all, how kind of him.

willi-weber.jpgThe German best known for being Michael Schumacher’s Manager, and for spending 15 years constantly printing out World Champion T-shirts whether his man won or not, has commented in the Media that he sees no current replacement in the sport for the majesty of his former Star.

According to Willi (which we think is an apt name for him if ever there was one) F1’s latest golden boy Hamilton is good but not that good. The German went on to suggest that if Michael Schumacher were still driving today (well he is, isn’t he?) he would easily knock the British sensation into a cocked hat, or something similar.

We can only hope that Michael manages to pull out a good qualifying performance today in Barcelona and beats the Brit, otherwise Mr Weber could be going home embarrassingly with egg all over his face, Although that would be a vast aesthetic improvement to our minds.

Of course we can only come to the rather startling and cynical conclusion that the real reason behind such comments is that Mr.Weber isn’t making a single Euro out of the British Star, Bah Humbug.

It seems some people no matter how much trouble they are in, just can’t seem to put a sock in it for their own good, and take every available opportunity to spout off hot air faster than Lewis Hamilton’s hairdryer.

im-going-to-tell-you-a-little-story.jpgOne such person being Nigel Stepney (Ferrari’s former storyteller with a part-time hobby for sabotage on the side). Just when the dust was finally settling, Ron Dennis could just about go out in the street again without cabbages being thrown at him, and Jean Todt had stopped chewing his fingernails down to his elbows and ranting and raving like a madman….Nigel pops out of the woodwork once more to stir the proverbial hornets nest with a big stick.

One has to wonder why Nige has decided to speak out now giving us yet another version of his side of events after being quiet for so long, could it possibly be to promote an upcoming work of fiction perchance? I know! Call me cynical, while I’m going to start calling him Jackie Collins.

This time Nige has decided to kindly impart yet more of his “reliable” testimony of what really happened in the Spygate saga. Going back to the beginning…

Firstly we were to understand Nige was on holiday and hadn’t got the first clue what all the fuss was about. Later on we were entertained with stories of a mysterious insider in Maranello who was attempting to frame Nige by sending out confidential top secret documents to his former friends via the postal service.

Before long we were worrying about dead bodies apparently hidden somewhere inside the Ferrari Factory about to jump out at any given second to scare us all witless. Then we were enthralled by tales of high-speed car chases and mysterious strangers hounding Nige out of Europe.

Later still we were informed that actually the postal service must have broken down and Nige delivered the secret 780 page dossier of bedtime reading himself to Mike Coughlan. At this point we were assured via Nigel that Mike “wouldn’t use it so don’t worry”. Look how that one turned out.

We can only suppose the 300 odd text messages informing McLaren of the day to day business of Ferrari between March and June 2007, including what was on the breakfast menu weren’t to be used either.

i-could-swear-i-left-it-here.jpgThe current gospel according to Nige is that he gave the Ferrari dossier to Mike under the misguided illusion it would entice Mr Coughlan away from McLaren. They would then embark on setting up a new group of like-minded technicians (Presumably with Nige playing the role of Robin Hood albeit in red tights not green).

This band of merry light-fingered men would then go to work for a new team, allegedly. How Kimi Raikkonen’s pit strategies come into the equation we haven’t quite figured out yet, unless of course Nige was planning to set up his own pitcrew for the Finn’s benefit… But could they be trusted not to make off with the wheels and Kimi’s prized bottle of Finlandia Vodka when he wasn’t looking?

According to Nige he never intended for any of the information to be disseminated throughout McLaren, and is shocked and appalled by his friend’s apparent lack of moral values and integrity. Which is the Pot calling the Kettle if ever we heard it. Whatever next? Adrian Newey calling Ron Dennis a slaphead? Max Mosley calling Jackie Stewart opinionated? Flavio Briatore calling Bernie Ecclestone an old gasbag?

But don’t feel too bad for Nige, he has told us that he doesn’t feel responsible for what happened at McLaren. Although this does lead us to wonder whom on earth is responsible if he isn’t. Nigel though is not that bothered by the fact he won’t be working in F1 again.

Which is just as well, because we don’t think the Italian Prison Service currently has a Motorsports Division on account they might accidentally provide the inmates with get away vehicles. Although the paint scheme on the Renault is a crime all in itself…but I’m digressing.

mi5.jpgBefore we get a little bit ahead of ourselves and start booking visiting rights and putting crowbars in cakes, we understand that the Englishman has just been appointed as Director or Race Technologies at on-board camera company Gigawave.

Amongst one of their many motorsports activities, Gigawave will be running a team in the FIA GT championship this season.

And should they not do so well, they can always resort to spying on their rivals via the on-board camera footage. Honestly Nige is wasted as an author and motorsports bod, he should be employed at MI5.

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…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stayed Tuned….Part 3 coming soon.

Here at FFN we are extremely concerned. Has someone been slipping something into the drinking water in the F1 paddock? Or is it merely the mysterious effects of the mountain air?

This week it seems the glossy PR, carefully worded press statements and ‘more slippery than an eel in a politician’s pocket’ approaches have gone out the window. Nearly everyone has descended into that age-old bastion of forthright opinions, spouting nonsense and name calling that is usually reserved for the likes of Niki Nostradamus Lauda.

certified-half-wit.JPGThus far this week we have had the FIA’s president Max Mosley no less shooting straight from the hip and telling us that former World Champion Jackie Stewart is a certified half-wit. We wonder if that certificate is courtesy of the FIA and mounted in a silver-gilded frame at Sir Jackie’s Mansion.

According to Mr Mosley, Jackie should shut his trap and stop spewing forth rubbish concerning the Spygate Scandal when he wasn’t in fact there or actually have the first darned clue what the evidence in the case was. Mind you after reading the lengthy transcript from the said same hearing on September 13th we’d be entirely surprised if anyone else who attended did, as Ferrari’s Lawyer Nigel Tozzi did seem to be able to talk the hind legs off a donkey.

And really what else are former forgotten F1 heroes of days gone past supposed to do when a microphone is shoved towards their left nostril? Start talking about the latest trend in knitted cardigans, slippers and the price of chewing tobacco?

The forthright expression of opinions does not stop there either (although we are perplexed at how quiet old Nostradamus has been this week). Indeed this week Ferrari’s President Luca Di Whatisname has popped out of the Maranello woodwork with a controversial statement or three. According to the tractor driving axe-wielding Italian, it matters little whoever shall win the World Drivers Championship this year out of the current contenders (Alonso, Hamilton, Raikkonen or Massa) as it will be done in a car that has a made in Maranello sticker firmly on it. Despite the fact McLaren insist most vehemently that no part of their current car comes from Ferrari…it just rather coincidentally has red paint on parts of it.

ickle-felipe.JPGEven the odd Ferrari driver has jumped into the fray this week. Usually ickle Felipe leaves the politics to the mudslinging old farts from the paddock, but he couldn’t quite resist the urge to get a dig in at rival team McLaren. Ickle Felipe apparently declaring that Ferrari’s 15th Constructors Title is in no way tainted by what has happened this year, because his team have won it by working very hand and sticking to playing by the rules. (Instead of nipping out back and borrowing one of Stepney’s illicit instruction manuals we assume).

When asked to comment on why he felt McLaren did not appeal their punishment at the hands of the FIA, ickle Felipe is reported to have said something along the lines of “Usually, in any sport, if you do something wrong you have to pay the penalty and I think the decision that they did do something wrong is reinforced as being correct exactly by the fact they did not appeal”.

Given that McLaren’s own witnesses seemed to have done a thorough job of shooting themselves firmly in the foot at the last attempt, is it any wonder they aren’t too keen at going back for round two? As one casual observer quipped “McLaren’s Paddy Lowe couldn’t lie straight in bed” whatever that means!

kimbot.JPGThe only man who seems immune to all the handbags flying overhead is Ferrari’s Kimbot. As ever his usual serene self, the Kimster has been concerning himself only with the on track action, what time the ice hockey is on TV, wheeling around Fuji on a motorbike with some bald headed chap and if he is getting meatballs for his evening meal. Despite only having 10 mumbled words to his vocabulary and disappearing off at a moments notice from Grand Prix, here at FFN we are beginning to really appreciate Kimi’s simple approach in contrast to some of the screaming fishwives that inhabit the paddock.

Despite earlier in the season declaring a media truce, McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton and Fernando Alonso have come out at Fuji with feathers flying in just about every direction. Still smarting from their on track set-to at Spa, Lewis has commented that Alonso just isn’t who he thought he was. Presumably Lewis wasn’t expecting a reclusive, non-talkative (unless there is a reporter in front of him) histrionic drama queen with a penchant for driving you up the wall for a team mate then when the Double World Champion joined the Woking outfit. Leading us to wonder if he had been watching cartoons previously while the rest of us watched F1.

Lewis has decided to spark a psychological war via the tabloids, by claiming that the team now know who to back in the drivers title challenge, given the events of the last few weeks. Lewis has intimated that Nando has not been loyal to the team (given that he dumped them right in it with the FIA presumably) and therefore the team will now rally around Lewis’s cause.

is-this-roy-orbison-or-fernando.JPGNando has apparently countered this statement saying he now feels very happy within the team and can’t see any reason why he won’t stay, and he will do his talking on track thank you very much. Followed quickly by half a dozen press releases saying that he can’t quite believe all the garbage being written in the press about him, he is on speaking terms with Ron Dennis and has always been (much to our chagrin) and that he doesn’t expect any first corner accidents involving him and that annoying Englishman, because they are both intelligent human beings. Presumably to be followed shortly after on Sunday, by giving Lewis a good brake-testing just to remind him who he is dealing with.

Phew! So with all these harsh words being bandied about we can only hope we are in for a very exciting weekend of racing, that’s if the drivers and team bosses remember to put their handbags away and get on with the business in hand of course!

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