Toyota


race-start-chinaI know what you are thinking. It’s Tuesday afternoon, 3 days after the Chinese Grand Prix and you were beginning to think we had flung ourselves off a Balcony in a fit of despair after what can only be described as yet another desolate and demoralising weekend for the Ferrari Team.

Do not fear, we can confirm we are alive and well, albeit wearing pairs of underpants on our heads, inserting pencils up our nostrils and taking valium like its going out of fashion. Even the FFN cat is refusing to come out from under the duvet.

Going into the race weekend, Ferrari confirmed they would be racing in China without the KERS system, which to those of you new to the sport, is the Kinetic Energy Recovery System, although given all the reliability problems that Ferrari have had with it of late we do feel it should be more aptly described as Kimi’s Early Retirement System.

Allegedly, the removal of the extremely temperamental device was supposed to improve the reliability of the F60 and the chances of some much needed points, but on the downside would make it harder to overtake during the race. But at least it wouldn’t be spontaneously bursting into flames and fumigating Kimi’s underpants at any given moment.

ferrari_kersKimi as ever was pretty nonchalant about the removal of his retirement system, and was more interested in knowing when the ice hockey was on and if the Ferrari Fridge Freezer was fully stocked, but ickle Felipe was eager to insist the team work to improve the reliability and get the infernal creation reinstalled back in time for Bahrain. Heaven knows why, unless he is hell bent on removing his teammate as a rival before he has even left the garage.

At this point it is worth mentioning, that during the Chinese Grand Prix weekend only 3 cars out of 20 on the grid were using KERS, the rest of the grid including BMW who insisted on the teams developing it in the first place at FOTA, removing the device from their cars.

Renault’s Flamboyant Team Principal took a few seconds break over the weekend from haranguing Ross Brawn, to describe the KERS system as being very useful as a sailboat anchor and not much else.

flavio1Flavio then immediately went back to calling Jenson Button a concrete bollard, Rubens an old fart, and demanding that the FIA refuse to give Ross Brawn his £30 million share in TV revenues for forcing everyone to fork out for the odd new diffusor or two. We can only hope this new cashflow problem for the Renault team will mean Flavio cannot afford any more new eye-watering thongs. Every cloud has a silver lining so they say.

We can’t help feeling that if the FIA hadn’t insisted on KERS in the first place, (which thus far has proved about as much use as a chocolate teapot), then all the teams would be able to have just as many diffusors as they jolly well liked….since they are after all in fitting with the wording and spirit of the current technical regulations. We are enthusiastically waiting for the first team to come up with a triple-decker, and see how the FIA like that, presuming they actually noticed of course.

Anyway I suppose at some point we should actually mention the race, as that is why we are here, isn’t it?

Red Bull emerged as a serious contender over the course of the race weekend, being the only non-double diffusor team taking the challenge to Ross Brawn’s BrawnGP team.

Popular little German Sebastien Vettel led home a resounding 1-2 victory for Red Bull from pole position, his cryogenically frozen teammate Mark ‘Wooden Leg’ Webber not far behind, with current World Championship Leader Jenson ‘Bollard’ Button happy to secure third spot on the podium after yet another extremely difficult race thanks to precipitation.

Yes, following on from the wet weather debacle in Malaysia just a week or so ago, the weather once more intervened in proceedings thank you very much to whoever’s wise idea it is to swap the F1 calendar around to incorporate the rainy season. We won’t mention any names of vertically challenged F1 supremo’s at this point, lest he decides to sue us. Let’s hope he doesn’t come up with any more bright ideas for the future of the sport, like putting a race in tornado alley or up the side of a volcano for example.

safety-car-chinaDue to the track conditions the race began under the safety car, which while we applaud the FIA taking seriously the safety of the drivers concerned, they actually cancelled out about the only exciting bit of the race, and we were therefore deprived of Rubens Barrichello tanking his way past anyone who happened to be on the same bit of track he wanted.

Considering most stalwart fans had to get up in what can only be described as the middle of the night (well to me anyway), the last thing they want to watch is 90 odd laps of F1 cars driving around at a snails pace, behind a safety car that goes slower than my Grandmother in her FIAT 500 at a roundabout.

Once the safety car had been dispatched, Ferrari’s Felipe Massa had a storming race fighting his way up through the field with a magnificent drive from 12th to 4th, silencing some of his critics (who claim he can’t drive in the rain) in the process.

Unfortunately fate had other plans, and a software management program shut down ickle Felipe’s Engine leaving the poor Brazilian floundering on the grass verge like a fish out of water.

Had it not been for this unfortunate turn of events there was every chance the passionate little poppet would have been in with a good chance of getting on the podium, assuming Ferrari hadn’t come up with some bizarre strategy to send him out with no tires at all not to mention the obligatory white visor…..

kimi-chinaTeammate Kimi Raikkonen endured a less auspicious afternoon, the Flying Finn (or should that be Floundering Finn?) struggled throughout, apparently suffering from a lack of speed, lack of grip and intermittent issues with rain dripping into his engine. Perhaps next time he might want to take an umbrella round with him, either that or get his engine covered in sticky back plastic.

Kimi managed to bring his F60 home in 10th spot, which is quite a remarkable feat in itself considering it seemed he was overtaken by just about every driver on the grid on at least two or three occasions. Unfortunately Kimi has come in for come flak for his Sunday afternoon performance, with some fans insisting he might actually go faster if Ferrari strap choc-ices to the rear wings of all the other cars to motivate him to go faster. The Kimbot has hit back and suggested that motivation isn’t his problem, in fact he hasn’t even got a first clue what it is…..or something to that effect.

Suffice to say yet another dismal performance has incensed the Italian Media and some sections of the“Tifosi” somewhat, with yet more calls for heads to roll. We are at a loss to see how beheading Ferrari Staff is actually going to help matters, not least because they won’t be able to see the darned car to improve it.

_stefano_domenicaliAfter the Race, Ferrari Team Principal Stefano Domenicali hinted that the Maranello outfit may resort to scrapping efforts for 2009 and concentrating on 2010, if they do not see a vast improvement in the performance of the car come the Spanish Grand Prix in 3 weeks time.

According to some reports, Ferrari will be introducing a new floor on the F60 (riddled with drilled holes for more downforce) I know this because they phoned us up here at FFN HQ asking to borrow our cordless power drill in exchange for an extremely rare free official signed photo of Kimi smiling and Felipe looking vacant.

It is also thought that the Spanish GP will see the team introduce a new double diffusor at the back of the car, to help claw back some of the performance deficit to some of the top teams. Ferrari staff were unavailable for comment last night, when we tried to ascertain any truth to the rumours they would also be installing a couple of rockets (not icecreams Kimi) on the side of the car to speed it up a little.

As per usual Austria’s very own like-for-like version of Prince Phillip (due to his fondness for political incorrectness), has popped out the woodwork to impart us with his words of wisdom on the current situation. Former World Champion Niki Lauda has insisted that the loss of Ross Brawn, Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt has left the Ferrari team unravelling into chaos like a ball of spaghetti. We just hope they find the meatballs to turn the situation around, either that or find some spare socks or a block of parmesan to stuff into the piehole located on Lauda’s face.

lewis-spinmasterEven McLaren starlet Lewis Hamilton had a torrid time on Sunday afternoon, the Brit who has developed something of a reputation for his skills in wet weather driving the last two seasons, ended up spinning around more times than a ballerina in a version of Swan Lake, well we suppose he would look very pretty in a tutu. Even then he still managed to overtake Kimi on 3 seperate occasions (although don’t quote me on that I had slipped into a comatose state by this stage) and simultaneously mount a serious challenge on Felipe Massa’s all time silverstone-spin record.

The highlight of the race weekend for us, apart from listening to Flavio Briatore’s witticisms, was watching first Nelson Piquet, then Adrian Sutil aquaplaning off track to demolish the 50m and 100m polystyrene braking markers at the side of the track. Not that any of the drivers could probably see them in the first place through all the spray coming off the back of the car in front of them.

Unfortunately poor Adrian had been on course to score some points after a dogged effort up into 6th place, and even overtaking current world champion Lewis Hamilton on one of his many off track excursions. Nelson Piquet Jnr meanwhile looks like he is on course to sign his own F1 death warrant which might be preferable to walking back to the Renault garage and finding out what Flav has got to say on the matter.

sebastien-buemi1Meanwhile Torro Rosso’s Swiss Rookie Sebastien (yes another one) Buemi, yet again had a sterling race, showing up supposedly more experienced former world champions, the Torro Rosso star managing to overtake both Kimi Raikkonen and Lewis Hamilton at one stage, then proceeded to fight off the attentions of Fernando Alonso who was attempting to inspect his gearbox at close range for several laps. The swiss youngster eventual went onto score a valuable point for the Faenza outfit, bravo!

All in all though, despite the weather and the numerous spins, gravel trap outtings, and Robert Kubica’s car trying to mate with the back of Jarno Trulli’s, the Chinese GP was a pretty dull affair and I suppose we would say that considering our allegiances.

Still here at FFN we are finally hoping for a race when it doesn’t rain as really Ferrari have just about enough to contend with already, and have sent off one of our office staff in search of Ferrari’s famous Weather Cow which was last seen in the sand dunes in the immediate vicinity of the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain in 2008.

We have just about every appendage crossed in the hope that Ferrari finally get some points on the scoreboard this weekend….otherwise we will be in desperate need for some retail therapy, not to mention wanting to affectionately smack Ferrari staff round the back of the head with our keyboards.

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.

Ahead of the second round of the 2009 Formula 1 championship in Sepang Malaysia, the subject very much still at the forefront of everyone’s mind is the controversial diffusors on the Williams, Toyota and BrawnGP cars.

jordanNaturally, if you’re a certain Irish ex-Formula 1 team owner from Jordan/TV Pundit that goes by the moniker of Eddie Jordan (or Mrs. Branson on a race weekend allegedly) then were actually talking about Confusors whatever they might be.

Which considering the headache this will be giving the sports governing body the FIA in Paris on the Tuesday following the Malaysian GP, might be quite an appropriate freudian slip if ever there was one.

The entities in question located at the rear of the F1 car, are used to channel airflow under the rear of the car to increase overall downforce, it is thought the clever double-decker solution on Brawn GP and co’s vehicular offerings could add as much as an extra 15% downforce which in turn improves the car’s handling and speed.

It is no wonder then given the relative performance of the cars belonging to these 3 very naughty sets of boys, that the rest of the paddock are champing at the bit for the FIA to clarify the regulations on them.

This week it has emerged that 5 out of the 7 teams that believe BrawnGP and co’s solutions to be contravening the wording and spirit of the technical regulations, have already set to work building their own double-deckers (just to clarify diffusors and not London Buses).

Unfortunately it would seem that matter is not quite as straightforward for some teams as it is others, with Ferrari for example reportedly having to design a whole new car to fit one on. Quality German publication of choice ‘Bild’ this week reports that the Maranello squad are set to spend somewhere in the region of 20 Million Euros building a ‘B spec’ F60 in an attempt to overcome their performance deficit.

sleeping-kimiAlthough we can’t help but wonder if the 20 million might be better spent bribing official tyre supplier Bridgestone to build some Ferrari specific tyres for a change, and a few packets of pro plus to keep Kimi Raikkonen awake for the length of an entire race distance.

It is thought the ‘B spec’ Ferrari charger will take somewhere in the region of two months to complete and may be ready to hit the track somewhere around the time of the Turkish Grand Prix, assuming that BrawnGP, Toyota or Williams haven’t already won the title and swanned off on their post season jollies.

According to Ferrari’s President Luca Montezemolo, the team are suffering somewhat from a hangover. Unfortunately not due to consumption of large quantities of Chianti like can sometimes happen here at FFN, but from the efforts they put into their 2008 title campaign.

montyReportedly both 2008 title protagonists McLaren and Ferrari were so intent on their title campaigns for last season, they are several months behind in their development of this years car in comparison to their pitlane rivals.

Late last night Ferrari’s official spokesman Luca Colajanni was unavailable for comment (on account he was allegedly tucked up safely in bed composing his next literary masterpiece), and therefore we were unable to obtain any clarification on mysterious reports suggesting Ferrari are intent on building a carbon copy of the BrawnGP car, including 1980’s fluorescent yellow go-faster stripes and matching socks, albeit with a bit more red paint and a few ‘made in Maranello’ stickers haphazardly slung in for good measure.

The next few weeks it would seem are going to be a busy time for the FIA, which will teach them in future for being rather vague and waffly when it comes to writing their own rules and regulations (ok perhaps we are being slightly over-optimistic on this score). Not that they can probably remember what they have written, if recent events regarding points systems is anything to go by.

It is also reported that the FIA Race Stewards will be reconvening today at 1pm in Malaysia to reopen an investigation into the Lewis Hamilton-Jarno Trulli incident that took place in the dying laps of the Australian Grand Prix. Both drivers have been apparently been summoned to appear before the Race Stewards in Sepang.

Not that we were actually watching the race at this point, as we were more than likely crying into our morning cornflakes as a result of Ferrari’s dismal performance. But the incident apparantly saw Jarno Trulli overtaking the world champion under the safety car, which we all know is frowned upon and usually results in the guilty party receiving a sharp rap across the knuckles from the Race Stewards, when Max Mosley is otherwise engaged of course.

In this particular case, Jarno had his champagne snatched from his sticky fingers, his shiny peanut dish confiscated and was summarily and shamefully demoted to 4th place in the final results classification by default handing 3rd place to Lucky Linda…..I mean Lewis.

It is understood the investigation has been reopened following allegations that Lewis Hamilton told an entirely different version of events to the SpeedTV media outlet, shortly before going into the FIA race control and telling yet another version of events.

lucky-lindaAuto, Motor und Sport revealed that Hamilton initially told the race stewards investigating the incident that he slowed down to read the safety car instructions on his steering wheel, and it was then that Jarno allegedly overtook him.

However, after reviewing their data it now transpires that at this point in proceedings the safety car instructions would have long been cleared from Lucky Linda’s dashboard and the FIA are not best amused at being told porky pies (lies – for those of you unversed in cockney rhyming slang).

The Trulli trains’ version of events suggested that Jarno only overtook Hamilton on account that the McLaren driver pulled to the side of the road and to all intents of purposes looked to be having some sort of problem with his car (aside from the fact its uninspiringly grey and allegedly slower than a Ferrari on a bad day).

The FIA have requistioned the appropriate radio traffic for the investigation (lets hope they haven’t mistakenly picked out a copy of Kimi snoring) and are set to give the Brit a good grilling, although we are not too sure if a barbecue actually comes into the equation…..

If the investigation finds in Trulli’s favour he will be reinstated back to 3rd minus the champagne, and there may be serious repercussions for Lucky Linda…..stay tuned for the next thrilling installment of F1 the soap opera!

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…..

One really does have to feel a little bit of sympathy these days for Rubens Barrichello, or as one of my close friends calls him ’Woobens’. It seems wherever the plucky Brazilian goes, controversy is never far behind bobbing about on the horizon like a malevolent storm cloud.

woobens2Not mentioning the four seasons he spent at Ferrari where the team seemed to spend more time in trouble than out of it, even the odd impromptu karaoke night out on the tiles reciting complimentary ditties about your past teammates’ ends up unceremoniously splashed all over the media.

Moving to Honda (now BrawnGP) it seems poor Ruben’s still can’t escape the evil cloud of controversy that dogs his every move, the moment he finally gets his mitts on a half decent car that doesn’t drive like a drunken three-legged tortoise, already his counterparts up and down the pitlane seem hell bent on getting the darn thing declared illegal for having a diffuser that exploits a loophole in the regulations, allegedly.

Really is it any wonder that ‘Woobens’ has been stamping his feet somewhat and getting slightly irked with well meaning journalists when they have innocently asked about the legality of his current mode of transport.

During an interview with Spanish Publication Marca, the Brazilian churlishy replied “Your asking are we legal? When someone is behind it is easier to say your rivals are against the rules than do better work”.

That clears things up nicely thanks ‘Woobens’, the BrawnGP challenger is clearly not illegal in any way shape or form, and evidently the rest of the paddock are like a bunch of silly jealous schoolgirls, sniping at you because they want your shiny new car.

brawngp-diffuserUnfortunately in F1 things are never quite that simple. Despite the fact the FIA Race Director Charlie Whiting has today confirmed that the diffusers on the BrawnGP, Toyota and Williams’ vehicles are considered legal and just a clever exploitation of a loophole in the sporting regulations, that doesn’t mean it won’t be illegal in two week’s time. Especially once Renault’s Team Boss Flavio Briatore has threatened to sit on him and talk him into submission of course.

Naturally Charlie might have changed his mind in the interim period, as he has demonstrated a want to do on previous occasions, most noticeably when telling the McLaren pitwall that their driver’s overtaking manoeuvre at Spa is in fact acceptable, only then to go on and report it as an infraction to the race stewards. And they say women are fickle and indecisive.

Williams’ Technical Guru Sam Michael meanwhile has expressed his surprise that more teams have not copied and adopted the controversial diffuser designs (although we understand McLaren have been having a jolly good attempt at Jerez with a bottle of green liquid dye and a sheet of sticky-back plastic), stating that it would be fairly easy to do.

What might surprise Sam Michael is the speed in which the other teams can get into race control first thing on the Friday morning prior to the Australian Grand Prix and lodge a complaint, no doubt faster than the FFN office cat can run when I get the frontline flea treatment out of it’s hiding place….. and that’s saying something.

fernando-alonsoMeanwhile while the teams are considering how they can put a kaibosh on the seemingly runaway BrawnGP express train, the drivers yesterday have been sharing their thoughts about the latest dubious turn of events courtesy of the Freakin’ Idiots Assocation.

Fernando Alonso, Jarno Trulli, Nick Heidfeld and Nico Rosberg to name but a few have condemned the latest rule changes to the points system, declaring it as nonsensical, silly and confusing…..and they were just the printable comments. Even former World Champion Michael Schumacher has waded into the fray in his cowboy boots, saying he is astonished and that the change in rules make little sense, and can only be of detriment to the sport. Sufficed to say the new rules have gone down like a lead balloon at a party.

Toyota’s Jarni Trulli has gone on to suggest that the FIA are in fact trying to kill off F1 and make the drivers leave to race in another series, which we feel is a rather drastic course of action merely because they have had the odd falling out with Max Mosley in the past over the hugely inflated prices of superlicenses and so forth.

madame_tussauds_lewis_hamiltonThis being the case the FIA may want to borrow Vodaphone’s remote control Blackberry and get on to Madame Tussauds’ in London pretty sharpish, to get themselves some cheaper and less vocal replacements.

Madame Tussaud’s reportedly have a rather impressive array of Formula 1 waxwork dummies on show, including Ayrton Senna, Nigel Mansell and Michael Schumacher. This week Lewis Hamilton has been added to the collection, with his waxwork dummy costing a cool 230,000 euros to make. Well in these times of economical difficulty, if ever there is a power cut….you know where to go to get a candle!

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