Rory Byrne


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.

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dennisatparishearing.jpgIt’s been an interesting couple of days to say the least. We have seen at least one of the ten commandments being rewritten from “Thou shalt not steal” to “Thou shalt steal by all means if you feel like it, just don’t leave evidence of usage”. Flavio Briatore claims he is baffled by FIA’s decision, and he can rest assured he is not the only one scratching his head in confusion – infact a substantial portion of the population is no doubt stymied by this one. It is not everyday that “Guilty, but no punishments…let’s all go home” verdicts are handed out by a deciding body. The FIA certainly moves in mysterious ways its gaffes to perform. I mean, if I am going to make a jackass of myself, I would rather do it discretely than to convene an extraordinary meeting and look silly before a global audience.

Some websites have been attempting to drown out the fact that McLaren didn’t suspend Coughlan till after the entire world knew about it, instead repeatedly harping on Nigel Stepney and buried bodies. You know what Nige said as to knowing “where the bodies are buried”….speaking figuratively of course, in case you go about getting other ideas. I suspect while these supposed ‘bodies’ might lead to a few sensational headlines along the lines of “Ferrari Shocker! The Truth about Jean Todt’s Red Jumper!“, “Has Ross Brawn ever really caught a live fish?“, “Did Schumi steal the pepper bottle from Ferrari cafeteria?” or even “Baldisserri caught wearing padded shoes to increase height” and “Is Byrne an alien from Krypton?“,  these are hardly likely to do Ferrari any permanent damage. “Nothing has changed. It is right that the world championship is won on the track” says Stepney, “I remain calm”. Well, if I were him, I wouldn’t be so dashed calm…things aren’t looking so great actually. And does ‘won on track’ include sneaking behind the employer’s back and sabotaging championship hopes?

Jean Todt is not terribly pleased with the current state of things, and that’s because he signed an agreement with McLaren for a better working relationship only a month back. I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t seem to me right now that these two teams are on particularly chummy terms. But that agreement was signed before Ferrari came to know they would be sharing more than just goodwill with McLaren, and they certainly don’t remember agreeing to share all their design secrets. Jean Todt feels someone in McLaren ought to have warned him that Stepney was leaking like a sieve, and you can’t really blame Todt for feeling reproachful.

Meanwhile other team principals are livid that McLaren have gained an unfair advantage by taking a peek at the Ferrari documents. “We want to take a look too” demands a team boss who doesn’t wish to be named, “It is apparently legal to look at them or photocopy them as long as we don’t show our design documents to Ferrari. That way they ain’t going to be able to tell if we used anything”. You have to concede he has a point, so what’s the FIA going to do now? Montezemolo says “I just want to say to our fans, who are contacting Ferrari from all over the world and who are offended by the decision taken yesterday in Paris, that they can stay calm because this story doesn’t end here”. We certainly hope not. Forza.

felipemassa.jpgThis is all very distressing of course. First, it is rumored that all is not quite well with the Ferrari wind tunnel – apparently a steel belt gave way at high speed, and it would suffice to say the engineers are still rumored to be picking out shards of steel from the ceiling in their spare time. And it happens to be the only wind tunnel around, as someone decided to save a bit of money here and divert it to the Raikkonen salary fund. Assuming the only way Ferrari could have continued development would have been to stick bits of aerodynamic appendages into the car and wait for feedback from our driver pair, it doesn’t take rocket science to figure out why we have fallen behind. We do hear McLaren has an excellent wind tunnel setup, but we can scarcely ask Ron Dennis permission to borrow it for a few days I suppose, so there.

Then there is also this other rumor that aerodynamicists are leaving Ferrari in droves, no doubt bored of twiddling their thumbs and waiting around for the wind tunnel to become operational again. To top it all off there is Nigel Stepney, who is a good and lovable man except when he is making off with top secret design documents and distributing the same to all and sundry, or so they say (sugarpuff has provided us with the details in her post). With the super-assistant using his elaborate virtual network setup at home just to play backgammon online with his Ferrari pals, and Ross Brawn on a sabbatical causing a serious dent in fish population in the southern hemisphere, not to mention Rory Byrne running a scuba diving equipment rental (or some such thing), the dream team is sorely missed. Add to this Jean Todt’s impending retirement, and you know the reason why the tifosi have been gritting their teeth and thinking violent thoughts.

McLaren on the other hand is suffering from an abundance of riches. Not only do they have two excellent drivers (who stop promptly at red lights and are never caught napping at starts), they also don’t have steel belts causing mayhem or the odd employee participating in a healthy information exchange. Infact their only current problem seems to be how to keep Fernando Alonso silent without using cotton and sticky tapes, and for this they have hit upon a brilliant solution. They have the drivers on a pact of silence, that one wouldn’t mention the other in his absence, and unless Lewis Hamilton can magically teleport himself into Spanish radio stations it looks like the journos will be out of soundbites for a while. Ron the spoilsport.

Meanwhile Felipe Massa has squashed the Michael Schumacher comeback rumors, attributing the same to our highly creative pals in the German media growing a bit restless with all the Lewis Hamilton – Fernando Alonso battle of words, and longing to create a diversion. Anything to make everyone shut up about Lewis Hamilton for a while seems to be the idea, and you have to agree with them there. “For sure I think I know Michael quite well” says Felipe, “When he decides something he decides it”. So if you want to see da Schumi race again, it would have to be at Wembley for the Race of Champions this year. We hear the tickets are already getting sold out.

Ciao for now, tune in later for more!

partymaranello.jpgFIAT President Luca Di Montezemolo and Ferrari CEO Jean Todt requested Fake Ferrari News Agency (FFNA) to pass on their new year greetings to the tifosi community and promised a succesful year from Ferrari this time around with hopes of clinching both championships. The Ferrari F1 team members along with their families gathered in full force at Maranello for the customary end-of-year party. However there was a small security scare as Todt, recently given the title of Datuk in Malaysia, arrived with the headgear et al and was nabbed by an over-zealous security guard who failed to recognize him in his new costume.

Michael Schumacher (Former Ferrari driver…in case you are from a different planet and didn’t know) arrived at the party from Switzerland with Corrina and his children. It is rumored that Michael has been asked by Todt to concentrate solely on Mick Schumacher (his son) as part of his job in Ferrari’s young driver development program. An insider revealed that Mick(who is six years old) is already a better driver than Ralf Schumacher, but Michael is not getting carried away as this doesn’t necessarily mean anything (Who isn’t a better driver than Ralf anyway?)

Other familiar faces at the party included Felipe Massa, a sober Kimi Raikkonen, Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne, Aldo Costa, Stefano Domenicali, Nigel Stepney and Luca Baldisserri.