BMW


oz-gp-go-go-goNo doubt as you are probably aware by now (given the inordinate length of time it has taken me to dispose of the FFN cat off my laptop keyboard to sit down to write) that this weekend past was the opening round of the 2009 F1 season in Melbourne Australia.

Albert Park located just a few kilometres south of the city of Melbourne, had the auspicious task of hosting what turned out to be a fairytale and nightmare all rolled into one.

The BrawnGP team (formerly Honda), who once were on the receiving end of more than their fair share of stick for building cars that made wayward supermarket trolleys seem a drivers dream, got off to a dream start by not only securing pole position during Qualifying but then going on to dominate the race with a fairytale 1-2 result. Englishman Jenson Button securing only his second ever race win ahead of teammate Rubens ‘Did I tell you I hate Ferrari’ Barrichello.

Sufficed to say, the team couldn’t quite believe it, and neither could the rest of the paddock who immediately shot off to their garages to think up imaginary complaints to the FIA. Not that there were many left to make after the deluge that poured through the FIA’s letterbox by the end of Qualifying.

In fact the governing body taking the strange action of only announcing the official starting grid for the race 1 hour before it was due to take place, presumably it taking them that long to wade through the neverending and increasingly ridiculous retaliatory complaints submitted by teams.

sam-michael-williamsIn fact by the end some teams were submitting then retracting complaints, because they couldn’t even remember what they were protesting in the first place. We understand though that Williams strongly objected to Ferrari for eating Pepperoni Pizza on Friday night, and objected to Red Bull for putting too much taurine in their popular soft drink. But in the interests of the sport they retracted the complaint, although they hoped the FIA would pop over to Ferrari and investigate what Pasta they would be serving Sunday Lunchtime.

The race result itself for BrawnGP was particularly remarkable when you consider they had a semi-bungled pitstop in the dying laps of the race, Rubens Barrichello taking an impromptu nap off the startline and letting half the field past, followed by his penchant for spending the rest of the afternoon trying to drive through other F1 cars and not around them.

a-victim-of-the-barrichello-brawlThe BrawnGP driver took out an impressive four rivals cars in the first corner alone, leaving Mark Webber, Happy Kovaleinen, Nick Heidfeld and Adrian Sutil all scuttling back to the pitlane for repairs or retirement and all without incurring the slightest penalty from the Stewards. Even Maestro Michael Schumacher himself would have been in awe of that one.

We can only presume Rubens who is now the oldest member of the F1 driver fraternity, has taken over the mantle from its previous encumbant David Crash-Magnet Coulthard. The little Brazilian it would seem is firmly intent on winning a title now that he has a decent car, in fact any title, and from what we have seen thus far we can only presume he is gunning for the world record in dodgem racing.

Ferrari were unfortunately handed a masterclass on a plate by their previous Technical Director Bananaman Brawn, the Maranello squad were left with red faces (blending in seamlessly with their red shirts of course), after a disastrous start to their Championship challenge.

Things all started out well enough, with both of the Ferrari driving duo getting off the start grid well and gaining places on their rivals thanks to the KERS system and the soft tyres. Initially all went well, and it looked like Ferrari had pulled off a strategic masterstroke with Felipe Massa up into 3rd place and Kimi chasing down BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica from 5th place.

felipe2However, within a few laps it all went horribly wrong, the degradation on the tyres on the Ferrari’s being such, that the Scarlet clad chargers became strongly reminiscent of an ambling tortoise. The Ferrari pitwall were embarrassingly forced to pit both drivers way to early to change the troublesome rubber rings located on the corners of the car.

Williams Japanese driver Kazuki Nakajima even selflessly attempted to even things up a bit in Ferrari’s favour, by unexpectedly parking his car at high speed into a barrier at turn 3, eventually tempting the safety car out once it’s designated driver had finished the crossword in the Times and enjoyed a round of Ham and Cheese Deltoids (sandwiches).

The emergence of the safety car allowed the field to close up behind Jenson Button who had reportedly been not far off finishing the championship, enjoying his champagne and buying himself a yacht with his winnings.

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa meanwhile was evidently sick to the back teeth of his tyres misbehaving, the usually sunny little Brazilian doing his darnedest to flat spot them and get another 4, unfortunately more of the same awaited him back in the Ferrari Garage. Mores the pity.

piquetAfter the safety car had peeled off and the race was back on, Renault’s Nelson Piquet improved his pitlane reputation no end by tussling with Williams Nico Rosberg and unceremoniously sliding straight off track into the nearest gravel trap. According to the Brazilian his brakes failed at a vital moment leaving him floundering in the kitty litter (hope there were no unmentionables), although here at FFN we strongly suspect you could replace brakes with the word ‘brain’ and you’d not be far wrong.

As if the lack of performance and tyre degradation issues were not enough to be going on with at Ferrari, a rather baffling 3 stop strategy which we can only presume was to trim Felipe’s ferocious facial fuzz, pretty much put paid to the afternoon’s proceedings. Adding insult to injury, a broken suspension in the dying laps of the race meaning Felipe was out of the race and out of the points in Australia for the second year in a row.

Rumour has it Ferrari’s team boss Stefano Domenicali had to keep frantically double checking the date on the pitwall calendar to reassure himself it wasn’t 2008 all over again, either that or Groundhog day. Still Stefano should thank his lucky stars his alarm clock didn’t get rather confused over British Summertime and drag him out of bed to watch the Grand Prix at 4am instead of 6am really.

By the end of it all, really was it any wonder the usually unperturbable Kimbot had enough and decided to try and retire himself from proceedings, clipping the barrier and damaging his differentials, which I can’t help thinking sounds a tad on the painful side. Unfortunately for Kimi, even that didn’t go according to plan leaving the Finn doing his best impression of Mark Webber (sorry, bad joke) and limping around at the back of the pack for the remainder of the race.

the-semiautomatic-machine-gun-goes-hereWe understand that Ferrari chief car designer, Nick Tombazis was last spotted storming at high speed into the Ferrari Motorhome, allegedly the talented Greek was overheard muttering about incorporating Challenger Tank Tracks and a gun turret into the 2010 car instead of having to endure another season of being bested by those pesky round black Bridgestone affairs.

A few laps later, back on track BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica had caught up with Red Bull’s Sebastien Vettel, both drivers seemingly so intent on securing 2nd position and not yielding an inch, they took each other out of the race in spectacular fashion.

Unconfirmed rumours have suggested that it wasn’t really Sebastien Vettel’s fault, despite the fact the popular little German skipped off to BMW-Sauber to politely apologise, bless his cotton socks. Was it purely coincidental that the Red Bull starlet was spotted earlier in the weekend wearing what can only be described as 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher’s shorts?

schumachers-undercrackers1All these years Ferrari Legend Michael has been on the receiving end of some particularly unfair flak from the British Media for his on track ruthlessness, win at all costs attitude and apparent arrogance, when all the time it was a pair of chequered undercrackers that were evilly masterminding the punting off of rivals willy-nilly in championship title deciding moments. Poor Michael, just goes to show you never really know a man. There is hope for Lewis Hamilton yet then.

Anyway before we start whittering away nineteen to the dozen about current paddock fads and fashions and global domination, we should conclude that predictably the BrawnGP duo led home a dominant dream 1-2 result, much to the delight of the flaxen haired and toothy new team sponsor Virgin’s Entrepreneur Richard Branston Pickle, and to the obvious relief and delight of Uncle Ross Bananaman Brawn.

Much to the dismay of everyone else of course, as subsequently the BrawnGP team have admitted there is much more to come (heavens forbid), and presumably every other team in the paddock is having to work their socks off 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in order to remotely keep up.

One does have to wonder though just exactly what the FIA race stewards were doing on Sunday afternoon, as we strongly suspect they weren’t actually watching the race at all.

After failing to give Ruben’s Barrichello a good rap over the knuckles for his numerous avoidable incidents, and demoting Jarno Trulli from 3rd place effectively handing the trophy to McLaren’s World Champion Lewis Hamilton (who we grudgingly admit drove a stellar race from the rear of the grid to claim a handful of points), rather puzzlingly the FIA saw fit to punish little Sebastien, but not for dispatching Robert Kubica onto the grass verges minus a wheel.

The FIA slapped the German with a 10 place grid slot penalty and a 50,000 euro fine for not getting his car off track quickly enough after the initial incident. According to the FIA regulations it was a breach of safety, which does beg the question what the one-man-demolition-darby who also goes by the moniker of Mr.Barrichello is classed as.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and the FIA are well….I’ll leave you to figure that out.

As suspected, Thursday morning of the opening weekend of the Grand Prix season in Albert Park, Melbourne, Australia was a flurry of activity.

catwalk-model-kimiWhile the drivers were chatting away merrily in the FIA press conference or happily getting their official photo taken (fetchingly demonstrated by stunning catwalk model Kimi Raikkonen inset), BMW-Sauber, Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault were frenetically submitting official protests to the sports governing body the FIA over the controversial and innovative design of the diffusors on rival teams’ cars, notably that of the Williams, Toyota and BrawnGP.

Within minutes BMW-Sauber’s protest was thrown out on the grounds they did not submit it within one hour of scrutineering, presumably because Nick Heidfeld’s new best friend kept eating the paper and hiding the pencils and generally aping about much to the annoyance of Super Mario.

However Renault, Red Bull and Ferrari all got their own way, leaving the poor FIA technical delegation crawling around on the garage floor like children at kindergarten for half the afternoon, inspecting the rear ends of the cars in question.

It seems the protests though have amounted to nothing, as just a few hours ago, the FIA threw out the protests and confirmed that as far as they were concerned the devices were perfectly legal….but then haven’t we been here, done that and bought the t-shirt when it came to mass dampers? And we all remember how that saga ended.

scrutineeringIt is presumed that the teams protesting will not be happy to leave matters there and may protest the race result on Sunday (if either BrawnGP, Toyota or Williams win) taking the matter to the FIA Court of Appeal (at least they provide a nice spread of cucumber sandwiches, sausage rolls and fizzy pop no expense spared).

Former Ferrari favourite Uncle Ross (looking resplendently grey in his new Henri Lloyd ensemble) was quick to point out that the only reason Ferrari have protested is because they have fallen out of bed in shock that someone is quicker than them, and also intimated they wouldn’t be in this mess if they had actually learned to read the regulations for themselves. Saucer of Milk at table two. Sufficed to say Uncle Ross might not be quite so popular as previously thought in Maranello this week.

In Ferrari’s defence we do feel that the lengthy FIA rules and regulations are in fact the perfect cure for insomnia if ever there was one, so really is it any wonder the Italians nodded off over their hot chocolate before ever getting to the end.

vision-in-greyScurrulous circulating rumours in Melbourne have suggested that Ferrari are so incensed by the whole debacle they have sent a formal notice down the pitlane to the BrawnGP garage, asking Uncle Ross to return his official limited edition Ferrari Parmesan Cheese Grater and Vintage 2006 bottle of balsamic vinegar.

Meanwhile Ferrari’s Felipe Massa has been sharing his little gems of wisdom with the media in the official FIA press conference, discussing such subjects as KERS, the new front wings, his chances for the season and who he thinks will be lining up to driver for the Scuderia next.

One journalist asked the Brazilian poppet how he would feel sharing a garage with Lewis Hamilton, who we understand has set tongues wagging by announcing that he would pleased to learn if rival teams were interested in him.

As is always the case in F1, a simple innocent statement flies around the paddock three times, and before you know it Lewis Hamilton has packed his bags, bought a Villa on Lake Como and declared a penchant for Pasta Pillows all based on the rumour of an alleged performance deficit at his beloved McLaren.

hamiltonWhat may come as a little bit of a shock to the McLaren star, is that there is a lengthy list of drivers ahead of him in the queue for a seat at the Scuderia, not withstanding his good friend Fernando Alonso, Robert Kubica, Nico Rosberg, Sebastien Vettel and anyone else that has ever shown a fancy for wearing red, today Felipe let slip that his father may even be in the frame for the job. Although we do think it might be a tight squeeze getting him into the cockpit of Kimi’s car (especially with the Finn sleeping inside). Perhaps Ferrari might consider employing Felipe’s mum as Chief Designer and kill two birds with one stone while they are at it.

They do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and to this effect it seems that former World Champion and Renault star Fernando Alonso seems hell bent on following in the footsteps of Ferrari President Luca Di Montezemolo. The Spaniard has been spotted waving his arms around and talking rather animatedly in the paddock, anytime the merest mention of Bernie Ecclestone is uttered.

According to reports, the Double World Champion has insisted that it is about time the Formula 1 Supremo, got off his soapbox and actually listened to those involved in the sport before running off half-cock with stupid and ill-advised rule changes to the FIA. Our dear friend from Asturias in recent times seeming to have promoted himself to the role of ambassador for sport, in the absence of any sense emitting from anyone else aged over 25 in the paddock.

nicks-new-friendWe can’t help wondering however if Fernando might have more luck selling ice to Eskimos or even encouraging Nick Heidfeld‘s new best friend to compose the entire works of Shakespeare on a manual typewriter, given that Bernard has reportedly admitted this week “Everything I have done, I have done for myself or for the company I run. I have never done it thinking it could be good for somebody else”.

Has the world of F1 finally gone to pot? Why the deuces is Force India’s Adrian Sutil figure skating up and down the pitlane like Peter Pan? Will Mark Webber ever defrost in time for Sunday? Will Ferrari’s Team Principal Stefano Domenicali ever succeed in getting that grubby stain off Felipe’s chin? Will FFN ever write a serious and intelligent article? Stay tuned to find out more….

3 days and counting…..

Well here we are again. Only five more days to go until the start of the 2009 Formula 1 season, and we are still no nearer having the first darned clue about what to expect for the opening race of the season in Melbourne.

mark-webberUnfortunately our usual pitlane clairvoyant Red Bull’s Mark Webber has been remarkably quiet of late, and we cant help fearing that whilst he was hobbling about healing his broken leg in a cryogenic chamber over the course of the winter, his crystal ball has succumbed to a fatal case of frostbite. Ouch.

One thing however is certain, that Formula 1 will continue on for the time being with the old points system. Unfortunately the governing body, the FIA, have ended up this week rather red faced after craftily trying to sneak through a controversial new points system, only to be amusingly defeated by the legality of their own small print. It would seem the old farts at the FIA didn’t reckon on anyone at FOTA actually having the first darn clue about the rules and regulations, let alone the ability to read.

Given that the teams spend every waking moment trying their darnedest to exploit the rules and regulations to gain advantage over their rivals, we suspect you couldn’t even pass off a fart in the F1 paddock without someone catching on to the fact and exploiting it.

FIA 0 – FOTA 1.

Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, has however assured the world that the controversial points system will be enforced from 2010, so the reprieve is only temporary unless FOTA can find ways to permanently put a spanner in proceedings, and we wouldn’t put it past them.

melbourneAll the teams have now arrived in Melbourne ahead of the first race of the season on Sunday, and as usual all the drivers and teams have been talking about their chances for the title.

If we are to believe the vast array of news reports and articles on the matter, there is to be a 19 man/car tie for the championship, with only the ever constant Kimi Raikkonen calmly stating like clockwork he doesn’t know what his chances are, and refusing to elaborate any further.

We can only think its going to be a rather crowded podium celebration come Abu Dhabi in November, and perhaps that’s the real reason all the drivers have been desperately losing weight throughout the winter so they can all squeeze en masse into one tight spot to pick up the winners trophy.

Ferrari Team Boss Stefano Domenicali meanwhile it seems has intimated that this season is a very important one for the flying Finn, and Kimi is apparently intelligent enough to know as much.

Presumably this roughly translates as Stefano lighting a rather large petrol-fuelled Shell-branded bonfire under the Finn’s posterior regions, the real question is not whether Kimi is intelligent to know it, but whether he actually gives two figs worth of notice or actually just carries on as normal in his own inimitable way while the rest of the universe is going to rack and ruin.

icecool-kimiIf that isn’t pressure enough for the Ice-cool-cardboard-cut-out Kimi, former World Champion Michael Schumacher will be attending the opening two races of the season in his role as Ferrari team advisor (although exactly what he actually advises about we still have no idea).

Historically, this hasn’t always been a recipe for success for the Finn, as when the German Superstar has attended previously, Kimi’s car has mysteriously suffered a case of the hissy-fits on more than one occasion. Not that we are insinuating that Schumacher has been up to anything dubious or sinister of course….as if he would.…the man is virtually a saint.

But Kimi might want to insist on a few last minute checks with his race engineer prior to the start grid in Melbourne, just to check his charger has actually got four functioning wheels and has been filled up with petroleum, and an absence of bratwurst sticking out the exhaust pipe.

Team mate ickle Felipe meanwhile has been busily casting his beady eye over the bottom of the pitlane where the BrawnGP team are residing, as well as nurturing what can only be described as a smudge of dirt that has mysteriously appeared attached to his chin. It can’t possibly be a beard, surely, he can’t be old enough!?!

Kimi and Felipe Massa in Maranello to see President Napolitano at a Ferrari ceremony, 19th March 2009Anyway before I digress completely, according to the pocket-sized Brazilian poppet, Ross Brawn’s re-badged Honda Team look likely to be Ferrari’s arch–nemesis for the 2009 season. That’s if Ferrari’s KERS coolant system doesn’t beat them to that accolade first.

Arch-rivals of recent times, McLaren have been downplaying their chances for the opening rounds of the season, with Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh declaring the MP4-24 is suffering from a “performance deficit” or as the rest of us call it in layman’s terms – SLOW.

World Champion Lewis Hamilton has been attempting to put a brave face on it, and has informed us all that he will still do his utmost and race his little heart out even if he is not at the sharp end of the grid. It is rumoured that the MP4-24 is suffering for an aerodynamic problem, well here at FFN we can’t say we are surprised, has anyone actually seen those ridiculous rear wings? Of course your going to have an aerodynamic problem dragging what is akin to a child’s chair around at the back of your vehicle.

It is widely thought it may take McLaren as much as half the season to rectify the problem (unless they have a fortuitous first corner incident to remove the offending article), so they should thank their lucky stars the new points system hasn’t been introduced otherwise the championship could be wrapped up by Barcelona. Assuming that the Woking fraternity have not in fact been pulling the proverbial wool over the eyes of their rivals of course, and have actually been secretly sniggering behind their hands and sandbagging all winter.

Elsewhere it seems the rest of the paddock are jockeying for position to be the one’s taking the fight to Ferrari, and to date nobody has yet admitted to being a midfield runner or backmarker. So it looks like Ferrari really have got their work cut out this season beating off the attentions of Toyota, BrawnGP, Williams, Renault, BMW and co with a large stick.

quick-nick-demonstrates-the-ejector-buttonSpare a thought however, for Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica. This time, I’m not referring to their respective fashion sense and follical growthage.

It would seem this years BMW-Sauber car has somewhat of a complicated steering wheel, with more buttons and dials than the local telephone exchange can boast.

How the deuces the pair of them are expected to look where they are going, whilst twiddling all those knobs we haven’t the faintest idea. We can only hope the driving duo are a dab hand at multi-tasking, otherwise a quick twist of the differentials could end up with track marshalls flying in all directions and a BMW parked neatly into a nearby burger stand.

5 days and counting…..

If recent news reports are anything to go by, it would seem that BMW-Sauber’s Team Principal Mario Theissen has been complaining somewhat about the unexpected side effects of KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) that most of the Formula 1 teams have been implementing ahead of the 2009 season.

mario-brosAccording to Mario (who we should point out is actually the inspiration behind the globally recognised Nintendo character bearing the same moniker), the sporting regulations should now raise the minimum weight of Formula 1 cars to help incorporate the technology.

It is understood that the installation of such systems, which has kept most of the paddock pulling their hair out all winter, has been quite a technological challenge as engineers have had to get very clever indeed (well that is what they are paid for isn’t it?) attempting to make the cars as light as possible to offset the weight of the KERS devices.

If rumours are to be believed BMW-Sauber driver Robert Kubica feels he is at a weight disadvantage to the other F1 pilots (even though you’d find more meat on a spare rib) and feels that this may have some sort of negligible influence on his driving prospects for the forthcoming season.

This week,Team Boss Mario has said he feels it is important to increase the minimum weight of the cars or else we will be left with just a jockey or words to a similar effect. Of course here at FFN (myself and the office cat) immediately fell about laughing, imagining the current crop of F1 stars riding around Albert Park on donkeys. The mind boggles though where you would keep the KERS batteries.

electrocuted-bmw-minionStill before we get carried away at a tangent, we can’t help but point out that it was BMW-Sauber themselves that insisted on forging ahead with the introduction of KERS this year, dragging the rest of the pitlane with them kicking and screaming (literally in some cases). Let’s not forget Red Bull nearly burnt their factory to the ground, some poor mechanic ending up in the emergency room after getting to close to the BMW car, not even mentioning the meteoric explosion in winter sales of Prozac in the immediate vicinity of Maranello.

So the important lesson to be learnt here is; Karma can come back and bite you on the behind if your not too careful.

Meanwhile it seems that the Williams team, have removed the ‘skate’ fins that adorned the FW31 at the recent test in Barcelona. It in understood the team have decided not to forge ahead with the devices after a friendly chit-chat with the sports governing body the FIA.

Allegedly the devices which were located on the side of the cockpit next to the drivers head, were some sort of aerodynamic device to channel the flow of air towards the rear of the car, and were actually not a pair of blinkers to prevent the William’s drivers from seeing who they were crashing into at the first corner of each race as had been originally thought.

flappy-thingsAnyway we understand after a brief consultation with Charlie Whiting, Williams have done a U turn and whipped the devices off the car faster than Kimi can get out of a Formula 1 circuit to watch the ice hockey. Probably not half as quick as they would have done if Max Mosley had been handing out punishments though.

According to the latest reports, the FIA will be today voting on the implementation of a new points system for the sport. The proposition is to replace the current 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 points awards with a 12-9-7-5-4-3-2-1 system. It is thought that the new points system will ensure that whoever wins the most races during the course of the season, might actually go on to be the world champion at the end of the day.

Now Michael ‘Trophy-Hogging’ Schumacher has left the sport, presumably the powers that be are quite happy to award a few extra points here and there on the understanding the championship titles are not done and dusted before March is over, giving plenty of scope for race stewards to controversially tinker about with proceedings to keep the show on the road right up until the season finale so to speak.

fernando-at-jerezFinally, a little snippet of news from testing at Jerez. It seems yesterday our friend from Asturias, Fernando Alonso, knocked the BrawnGP challenger off the top of the timesheets, beating Rubens Barrichello by a tenth of a second.

We can only hazard a guess at how fast dear Nando might have gone if he in fact had got his grubby mitts on the Beast from Brackley. We best not repeat the equation here though as it has a tendency to rather excite Fernando’s fanbase, and FFN HQ is not big enough to swing the cat in let alone house a riot.

Day 2

rubens.jpgThe second day of testing for the Formula 1 fraternity at the Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona, was by and large a fairly dull affair, not withstanding the fact that Honda’s Rubens Barrichello ended up topping the timesheets by the end of the day’s session. Followed on by Force 1ndia’s Giancarlo Fisichella who has been having somewhat of a barnstorming season now he has escaped the rather large shadow of Flabby-o Briatore.

Following on from the previous day’s proceedings, most teams concentrated on working with the 2009 regulation spec slick tyres and associated aerodynamic/downforce configurations, although we were treated to some rather intriguing aerodynamic pieces by a handful of teams still working on developments for this championship season.

If you follow wildlife documentaries you may have noticed that nature always seems to come up with some of the most clever and efficient designs, and it would seem many an F1 team down the paddock have cottoned onto this fact.

We certainly have witnessed Honda’s obsession with it in the past, with Ruben’s Barrichello talking about his vehicle as if it were a cat, and some of the strange appendages that appeared during 2007 looking like they were straight out of London Zoo.

honda-rabbit-ears.jpgEvidently it would seem that BMW-Sauber’s prickly porcupine has had somewhat of an influence in this area, no doubt because of their excellent and impressive performances thus far this season. Following suit on Tuesday, Honda appeared with some interesting appendages of their own…a pair of rabbit ears protruding out of the front of their nose cone.

Of course here at FFN we will willingly admit we are no ‘Adrian Newey’ when it comes to aerodynamics, but we do have to wonder how a pair of rabbit ears helps the performance of the car, wouldn’t they be better off with a rabbit’s foot? (A well known good luck charm) I suppose we should thank our lucky stars they didn’t build a tortoise instead.

renoos-shark-fins.jpgContinuing on with the wildlife theme, Renault appeared to have copied Red Bull, by adopting a similarly hideous looking ‘shark’s fin’ to the rear of the engine on their car. If nothing else it looks like it could be useful for the team to hang their coats off when the car is in the garage.

Even Ferrari were getting in on the act, with little Brazilian poppet Felipe Massa laughingly admitting that the F2008 now looks like a shark, complete with ‘hammerhead’ front wing and a gaping mouth on top of the nose cone. As long as it doesn’t inadvertently chew his gear-shifting arm off when he is least expecting it.

Incidentally the Ferrari star put in the third fastest time of the day, however, we understand that this was done on grooved tyres with the 2008 aerodynamic configuration, making Felipe the fastest man using full 2008 regulations. Forza Felipe!

Day 3

familiar-face.jpgThe third day of testing at the Circuit de Catalunya got under way with a rather familiar face at the wheel of the F2008. Yes, you guessed it sometimes Super Assistant, Car Developer, Football reality TV show and Motorbike stunt skid fiend Michael Schumacher taking over in testing from Felipe Massa. Where he finds the time amongst all his trophy polishing we’d really like to know.

The 7 times World Champion managed to finish the day second fastest on the timesheets, behind Renault’s Fernando Alonso. But due to most of the teams still tinkering about with a mixture of 2008 and 2009 regulations, slick and grooved tyres and various appendages left, right and centre it was nigh on impossible to have the slightest inkling what it all meant.

Renault’s Pat Symonds has admitted that the R28 has failed to live up to the Enstone team’s expectations, but it is apparently difficult to pinpoint one area where there is specifically a problem. It would seem in an effort to improve their midpack position, just 3 races in they have resorted to throwing just about every available aero appendage they can at the R28 and hoping for some kind of divine intervention.

fernando.jpgCurrent rumours circulating the paddock are suggesting that Renault are desperately trying to hang onto their Double World Champion, who is rumoured to have signed a two year contract with the team, albeit with a clause to leave after one year if the car is not upto scratch.

Given Fernando’s much touted car development skills (you’ll have to browse a few F1 internet forums for further information) we can’t help feeling Renault should be up at the front challenging by now, if the Spaniard spent more time concentrating on the job in hand and less time sending flirty emails off to Maranello every hour on the hour.

On track for the first time on Wednesday was the new Torro Rosso STR3, which within hours of having been unveiled, promptly found itself careering across a gravel trap into a crash barrier by former Champ Car ace Sebastien Bourdais after just 71 laps of testing.

newly-reconfigured-torro-rosso.jpgIt is understood the damage is significant enough to ensure the car will be unable to be repaired in time for the fourth and final day of testing at the Barcelona Circuit.

Still, Sebastien should take some solace from the fact his penchant for off-road excursions are probably earning him quite an army of admirers in the Rallying fraternity if things don’t work out in Formula 1….failing that he could always start a pop career…..

No doubt by now (unless you’ve been living on Planet Mosley) you’ll be aware that Ferrari finally secured their first 1-2 of the season in the third round of the Formula 1 Championship at the Sakhir Circuit in Bahrain.

start-of-the-race-bahrain.jpgEven though Felipe lost out on pole position during the dying seconds of qualifying thanks to a stunning lap by BMW-Sauber’s ‘Mr.Potatohead’ Robert Kubica, and suffered an unfortunate earphone related debacle on his way to the grid formation (where he reportedly couldn’t hear any merry mancunian chuckles from his race engineer Rob Smedley), the little Brazilian poppet still managed to outpace the Papal Polish favourite into the first corner and go on in commanding style to secure his first victory of the season. Simultaneously silencing his critics better than any familiar two-fingered salute could have done..

Ferrari’s current WDC the Kimbot, allegedly was suffering from an ear infection throughout the weekend (hopefully not inspired by Luca Di Montezemolo) and to all intents and purposed appeared a little off colour throughout proceedings (not that here at FFN we think he could get any paler, just for the record), but the Kimster bravely soldiered on and secured second place to ensure a perfect weekend and result for the Maranello Squad.

Ickle Felipe’s win coincidentally marked the 100th victory for the team under the leadership of their glorious softly spoken and media shy leader Mr Montezemolo.

Elsewhere BMW-Sauber’s Robert Kubica, who lost out to Felipe in the first corner and the Kimbot on the second lap due to some mysteriously invisible on-track oil spillage, was able to hang onto 3rd place and finish a not too shabby four seconds behind the Kimster.

McLaren meanwhile endured yet another torrid weekend.

Lewis Hamilton seemed to have unfortunately caught something contagious off ickle Felipe, whereby he started off the weekend losing control of his car on a kerb and spinning it through a sand trap and into a barrier demolishing one side of the car in the process. Not content to leave it there, the Brit fumbled his start to the race engaging the anti-stall on his car, slipping him back into tenth place from third and behind old arch rival Fernando Alonso. Nothing like making a hams fist of things is there?

lewis-minus-front-wing.jpgOn the first lap Lewis managed to damage his wing while driving into the back of the Renault, and then just a lap later decided to go one better and try and drive over the top of Alonso instead, knocking off his own front wing in the process.

This debacle sparking all manner of debate amongst the F1 fanbase, did Alonso brake-test him? Had Lewis lost his contact lenses? Had the Renault got a super strong magnet in it? You get the general gist.

After the race, Renault’s Pat Symonds kindly published the team’s telemetry to prove that the Sparkly Spaniard had not been willfully employing any kind of devious trickery on his old McLaren chum as had been previously suggested by ITV’s television “not quite-so-experts”.

Thus putting the spotlight firmly on the Woking based team to explain the strange incident and why Lewis seemed to have taken a rather obvious fancy to Alonso’s rear wing (apart from loving the paint scheme of course).

McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh (or Witchmarsh as we affectionately know him) suggested that the front wing of the McLaren had failed two seconds prior to Lewis climbing all over the back of the Renault like a bad rash.

This was evidently met with a fair helping of derision from F1 based internet forums, where members who quite clearly did not need to go to Specsavers (the opticians) could see from video footage for themselves that the wing had not come off two seconds before the incident but as a result of said same debacle.

But according to the Woking based fraternity they stand by their explanation, and suggest the failure of said device two seconds prior to the incident lead Lewis to lose all downforce and get sucked at high speed into the slipstream of Fernando. Which is quite scoffable really, since we all know at the speed Renault have been managing thus far in 2008, they couldn’t even suck a gobstopper in let alone a whole F1 car.

mr-talkative.jpgThis woeful performance on the part of the Enstone Massive might explain why just three races into the championship, we are being subjected to almost daily updates from the uncharacteristically loquacious Double World Champion.

This mainly consists of verbal musings in the media on what he plans to do next year, with whom, wearing which colour of his favourite underpants. That is when he isn’t too busy petitioning his fanbase to become his PR department for a year (all for the princely sum of 30000 Euro’s of course).

We can’t help feeling the Double World Champion would need a permanent army of Luca Colajanni clones to extricate him from the all trouble his mouth seems to get him into, nevermind just one poor deluded starry-eyed fan.

Before we go off completely at a tangent (and it wouldn’t be the first time) the only other point of interest in an otherwise quite dull coma-inducing race was provided courtesy of…you guessed it Mr. Magoo.

This time Red Bull’s David Coulthard tangled with Jense’s Honda on lap 17 taking off the fellow Brit’s nose cone in the process, sending Jenson scuttling back to the pitlane for another one.

Previously after similar incidents, DC has complained that the mirrors on F1 cars are about as much use as a chocolate fire guard (or something to that effect). Which goes some way to explaining his propensity for ignoring them completely and knocking rivals off track left, right and centre. Although we do feel that big square jaw might have something to do with it.

We can only assume by the end of the season there won’t be an F1 driver on the grid that hasn’t been driven into, run over in the pitlane, or been threatened with having seven shades of something knocked out of them. We’d really hate to see what carnage he could cause in a busy multi-storey carpark in a FIAT Punto.

michael.jpgNext week the teams will be returning to action at the Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona Spain, ahead of the Spanish Grand Prix in just over two weeks time.

It is rumoured Ferrari’s overqualified sometimes test driver Michael Schumacher will be putting in an appearance for the team, testing out slick tyres and some components for the 2009 amongst other things, not to mention driving the media round the bend as per usual.

It remains to be seen if McLaren can bounce back in Spain, if BMW will continue to give Stefano Domenicali sleepless nights, and who can introduce the silliest addition to their car in the F1 development race. Bring it on.

This week the F1 fraternity has relocated from Malaysia, to the hot sandy sunny climes of the Kingdom of Bahrain. Even though the season is barely two races old, already the gossip and scandal mongering has reached near epidemic proportions.

ickle-felipe5.jpgYou may remember roughly two weeks back (what’s a few days between friends?) that Ferrari’s ickle Felipe Massa was left with a complexion to rival the colour scheme of his F2008, when the poor poppet spun out of a second solid points paying position and bedded his car into the gravel trap with great panache.

Unfortunately this unforeseen turn of events brought his Grand Prix Completion Tally for the season to a big fat zero, which is to be expected if your driving a Super Aguri…but not one of the World’s most famous Marques, allegedly.

Despite the team checking his car and the telemetry, no obvious reason could be found for the uncharacteristic spin, leaving the poor little mite protesting his innocence and having to endure the slings and arrows of the paddock press (and just about anyone else that felt like getting their considered expert opinion into print).

Little did we all know that while the scavenging ‘Crows of Doom’ were circling above ickle Felipe’s bonce, something far bigger was about to unfold and scandalise us all.

Many times in the past, here at FFN we have found it rather irksome to read and listen to the fanbase of rival teams making claims that our beloved Ferrari enjoy a very special relationship with the sports governing body the FIA (The Federation of Idiots and Amateurs, as we fondly call them).

Especially when you consider the number of times that 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher got black flagged, red flagged, demoted to the bottom of the grid and stripped of all his world championship points for his on-track shenanigans. It certainly didn’t feel all that special on those occasions, we can assure you.

madmax.jpgIn light of recent events where FIA President Max Mosley has kindly stepped into the limelight and saved ickle Felipe’s head from the proverbial F1 chopping block, we are having to begrudgingly admit maybe there maybe something special to this relationship after all.

Last Sunday morning we all woke up to the unexpected news that FIA President Max Mosley had been caught out by a tabloid newspaper, while up to no good. According to the revelations in said tabloid publication, Max had been caught carrying out extra-curricular activities in a dungeon (not the FIA’s for the record), with five ladies with a penchant for dressing up and a DVD copy of Prisoner Cell Block H.

Immediately this caused all manner of uproar and lengthy tomes of discussion across the internet, about what these revelations could mean for the Presidency of the FIA. Surely someone getting caught paying to safety test various punishment-based paraphenalia outside of FIA office hours is taking things a bit too far? Especially when you consider all the opportunities McLaren presented free of charge for such things last season.

Unfortunately, the F1 fraternity has not seen the unfortunate expose of the episode in quite the light intended.

Instead of being impressed that Max during his tenure of the FIA Presidency, had found the time to make close acquaintance with five young ladies and spend five hours having tea and hot cross buns with them, there has been growing calls today from the Manufacturers BMW, Toyota, Honda and Mercedes for the FIA to clarify their stance on the matter.

This has lead to the beleaguered President calling an extraordinary meeting of the FIA to discuss the matter, we do hope all those pacemakers will be up to the daunting challenge and no physical re-enactments will be involved.

crown-prince-of-bahrain.jpgAccording to recent reports, the Crown Prince of Bahrain has written to the FIA President in light of the alleged affair, and suggested it would not be appropriate for him to attend the forthcoming Bahrain Grand Prix.

While it was initially thought this was to ensure the unfortunate dungeon-based debacle did not overshadow the forthcoming event, scurrulous rumours are suggesting the real reason is an entirely different matter.

According to the very same scurroulous suggestions, it is thought there may be a heightened level of concern for the safety and continuing good reputation of the plethora of men that are wont to swan about Sakhir in dresses with tea-towels on their heads.

After all at 67 years old, the odd beard and moustache is not that unusual amongst some women (we know we have seen it) and it wouldn’t do for some of the Bahraini Royal Family to be inadvertently whisked off by mistake.

no-over-50s.jpgWhilst on route to the circuit today, our intrepid reporter also observantly noted several newly erected signs at the side of the road….which to all intents and purposes looks like the Bahraini Royal Family are trying to discourage anyone over the age of 50 from attending Sunday’s Motorsports Event. (Bernie apparently doesn’t count due to the fact he is no taller than the average 12 year old with a haircut to match).

Meanwhile, Ferrari’s ickle Felipe has been breathing a huge sigh of relief (thanks to Max). Former team-mate and mentor Michael Schumacher has stepped to the defence of the Brazilian star, commenting that ickle Felipe knows how to deal with the pressure being heaped upon him and there is no reason why he cannot pull out a good performance in Bahrain similar to last year.

However the former Champion admitted that ickle Felipe has used up all his current jokers in the opening two rounds of the championship and can’t afford any more, we just hope here at FFN that Felipe has been playing SNAP and not something more salacious.

Unfortunately the Brazilian’s poor start to the 2008 season, has inevitably lead to suggestions that he is about to be replaced contrary to whatever Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni has stated in recent media reports.

One such person being touted as Felipe’s replacement for next year is Renault’s Fernando Alonso, according to….well Fernando. The Double World Champion has been remarkably restrained this season, if you consider that after the Australian Grand Prix in 2007 after just one race with the McLaren team he was already in discussions to play musical team chairs.

whatshisnameagain.jpgThis time he has managed to last two Grand Prix before kindly informing anyone with a red sweater within twenty paces that he has a clause in his current contract that would allow him to leave Renault, if Ferrari would please come and get him kiss kiss wink wink.

We understand the Spaniard has even taken to sewing his name onto his team t-shirt in big letters, in the unlikely event that Ferrari President Luca di Montezemolo has a senior moment and forgets his name. God Forbid.

In other news, after McLaren were stripped of all their constructors championship points last year by the FIA for their part in the Stepneygate saga, it was initially thought the Woking based team would be demoted as per the rule book to the bottom of the pile for choosing garages in the pitlane. Apparently the championship winning team get first dibs, followed by the second and so forth, with the slightly red faces of McLaren coming last behind Force 1ndia.

However, it is understood that an agreement was made over the winter with Bernie Ecclestone to allow the team to take fifth placed slot, which would ensure the team could fit their behemoth Media centre into the alloted area in the paddock parking lot. And indeed in Australia and Malaysia this was the case.

end-of-the-pitlane.jpgBut in what could be deemed a parting shot, the FIA President (Max Mosley lest you have forgotten him already) has demanded that the team be relocated to the bottom of the pitlane amidst rumours that other teams have complained about this favouritist treatment.

An apology has been issued to the fans who had brought tickets with the sole purpose of being seated opposite from the McLaren Garage (presumably a bunch of irate Spaniards), and McLaren have indeed been squeezed like oranges into the two furthest garages in the pitlane, whilst championship rivals Ferrari get to swan about the top spot with four.

Never a dull moment in F1, that is “for sure”.

Next Page »