Charlie Whiting


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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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.

Just when we thought the Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro F1 team had plenty issues of concern to be going on with (what with malfunctioning driver’s software, engines packing up left, right and centre, and the pitwall staff reportedly suffering from a case of the sleeping sickness) along comes another one to compound their problems.

sepang_circuit.jpgAccording to recent meteorological reports on the area, we can expect some rain and thunderstorms during the race on Sunday at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.

Barely having recovered from the excitement of last weekend race in Oz, our blood pressure could be thoroughly tested again this weekend, as the current crop of F1 stars prove their mettle for the first time in wet conditions without that useful little gizmo known as traction control.

Although if the opening round of the season was anything to go by, we could end up just watching rain lashing down on the concrete and the poor bedraggled local spectators, with the entire grid parked up neatly in a gravel trap if we aren’t too careful.

We can only hope if the bad weather does come to pass (and we don’t know for certain since Niki Lauda has been remarkably quiet these last few days) that the FIA have it all under control. Here at FFN we will be making calls to the governing body at regular intervals to ensure they have prepped all the teams with any last minute rule changes – and in particular insist they dispatch Charlie Whiting off to Ferrari for good measure.

not-concerned-at-all.jpgMeanwhile the Maranello boys are hopeful they can banish the memory of their nightmare start to the season and kick start their championship campaign in Malaysia. Both Kimi and Felipe in recent days have suggested that they are not concerned about the reliability of the car and are confident the issues that blighted the team in Oz can be quickly resolved.

Although to be fair, we can’t recall Kimi ever being overly concerned about anything, but we expect the Kim-bot’s ECU has yet to realise its full potential in that department. Just imagine the hulabaloo that would ensue though in the unlikely eventuality someone snatched his champagne off him on the podium.

We understand the offending engines from last weekend have been sent back to Maranello for further analysis, in the hope the team can discover the cause of the mystery ailment that sent both drivers out of the race. Two new engines are rumoured to be on route to Malaysia as we speak and should arrive in time for the first free practice on Friday. And if they don’t, we can expect to see the Kimster’s and ickle Felipe’s legs going round faster than roadrunner while they peddle like the clappers.

macca-steering-wheel.jpgOver at arch-rivals McLaren, the Woking based team are currently planning to make changes to the pitlane limiter button on the MP4-23 steering wheel, after new starlet Heikki Kovaleinen accidentally pushed the darned thing during the Australian Grand Prix gifting a place in proceedings to Fernando Alonso.

Following on from rumours of a similar event happening at the Brazilian Grand Prix last season, presumably McLaren have come to the realisation that drivers just cannot be trusted when it comes to a big red button with the wording “Do not push!” stamped all over it.

It is unclear whether the team will remove the offending button completely or simply place it out of the reach of the driving duo’s sticky mitts. Cue lots of unexpected speeding in the pitlane and monetary fines from the FIA, then.

In other news, we are sad to report that Jean Todt (or Toad as some rival team fans like to call him) has stepped down from his position as Ferrari CEO.

todt-and-domenicali.jpgThe feisty little Frenchman who led the Ferrari F1 team through one of it’s greatest periods of success during his 15 year reign, is thought to want to spend more time dedicated to pursuing other interests and not being permanently glued to a desk in Ferrari HQ. Who can blame him. It is understood he will remain on the board of directors at Ferrari.

Here at FFN we wish him lots of luck for the future and hope he still pops by at the occasional Grand Prix from time to time. He will be sadly missed, especially the sight of him boiling his socks off in that bloody red sweater, randomly ripping off journalists heads and chewing his fingernails off in anger every time he sees Ron Dennis. As much as we dearly love new team Boss Stefano Domenicali, he just doesn’t provide the same entertainment value.

We are very sad. Roll on Malaysia.

According to German Publication, Auto, Motor und Sport, Ferrari CEO Jean Todt is more than a little disappointed. Apparently when Jean offered former 7 times World Champion Michael Schumacher the exciting prospect of being glued to a desk in the Gestione Sportiva as ‘Director’ for 16 hours a day for the next 40 or so years, Michael politely declined the kind offer.

todt-and-his-protegee.jpg Here at FFN we can’t think why. Jean has gone on record to say that Michael really was the best candidate for the job, but was unable to accept it on account that he couldn’t commit the time.

If Jean had taken the time to avidly read FFN every day, then he would have been in the position to know that Michael suffers from a severe case of ants-in-the-pants and can barely manage to keep still for more than 20 seconds at a time. Which might explain why he is forever popping up all over the globe with more regularity than sightings of Elvis.

The only way we could see it working was if the Gestione Sportiva relocated lock, stock and barrel to a high-speed bus. Thus giving Schumi the chance to drive at high speed whilst shouting orders to his minions, all while trying to stop the bus from blowing to smithereens lest it go below 50kph. He could certainly teach that Keanu Reeves a thing or three.

Michael meanwhile, is showing no signs yet of slowing down or taking his retirement seriously. In recent months Michael has tested for Ferrari at Jerez to advise the team on the way forward without traction control, given some other top drivers a run for their money in the Race of Champions at Wembley, and taken up a new hobby to add to his countless other talents – becoming a taxi driver.

The role of ‘Director of the Gestione’ and Team Principal has now gone to Stefano Domenicali, and good luck to him. Here at FFN we are quite pleased about that, if only for the fact Stefano is a damn sight better looking than some of the trolls that pass as F1 team bosses nowadays.

While the Ferrari team have been locked away inside Maranello, building a shiny new car, reorganising themselves, and playing chess (if Nick Tombazis is anything to go by) their new champion has been busy coming up with a very clever idea.

The Finn has gone out and got himself another tattoo. This time though, he has not opted for another swirly tribally meaningless thingey-me-bob, oh no. It is rumoured that Kimi has had his nickname ‘iceman’ tattooed on his lower left arm. Not only will this serve as a useful reminder to Kimi when he has had one too many vodka’s and can’t remember his own name, but he can also flash it off to any barmen in his vicinity as a useful reminder of what he likes in his favourite tipple. Who said he wasn’t a smart cookie?

kimis-tattoo.jpg

In other news, it appears that some F1 drivers are none to happy about the prospect of driving in the rain next season without the use traction control. F1 veteran David Coulthard has been leading the call by the drivers to FIA delegate Charlie Whiting to open a discourse about the best course of action should another ‘Fuji’ occur.

This has inevitably lead to a few armchair experts in chatrooms and forums using a few choice expressions regarding the current crop of F1 drivers, and much laughter at their fear of getting wet unless they dissolve.

Thinking back to 2007, we are at a loss to understand the big deal regarding the traction control anyway, considering it didn’t do much good for at least five drivers who ended up beached in the gravel trap at Nurburgring.

mad-max-and-charlie-whiting.jpgFIA supremo Max Mosley has apparently downplayed the importance of the issue declaring that it is dangerous to drive in the wet with or without the use of traction control, and goes on to suggest that even the least competent F1 driver should have no problem. We can’t for the life of us think who he is referring to, but we are pretty sure its not Jackie Stewart since he is known as the half-wit. Answers on a postcard please.

Our last thought for the day lingers on what CD Max must have playing in his car audio system, is it perhaps Rihanna’s “Shut up and Drive”?

thewmsc.jpgNo doubt if you are an avid F1 fan, by now you have heard the news, that McLaren were yesterday dealt a pretty severe slap on the back of the hand at the World Motorsports Council Extraordinary Meeting in Paris.

The meeting itself seemed to go on just about forever, having started at 9.30 am local time in Paris, by 5pm in Europe most of the F1 fans were just about ready to pull their hair out in desperation to find out what if anything was going on. Most reliable F1 dedicated websites were up and down like yo-yo’s buckling under the strain of fans trying to find out what the verdict would be and what it would mean for their respective team and the sport in general.

Even the FIA official website struggled to cope with the demand, especially considering the most internet traffic it has been used to coping with on an annual bias has been 5 hits, and all of those by FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting checking out what regulation the Ferrari F1 team have supposed to have breached this time according to their bitterest rivals McLaren.

ross-in-paris.jpgThe tifosi were delighted to see old favourite Uncle Ross Banana-Man Brawn in attendance at the hearing on behalf of Ferrari, as being the big chap he is, if he threatened to sit on Bernie Ecclestone to solicit a result it was always going to be a bit more productive than having Jean Todt biting at your ankles like a rabid chihuahua.

McLaren also wheeled out their top players for the occasion, even taking along their rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton for moral support. Fandango Alone-so was not in attendance, a move that raised many eyebrows (apart from Nando’s two facial slugs) and prompted much speculation. Was Nando staying away because he had provided the evidence to sink McLaren’s title hopes or was it that he and Lewis just can’t be trusted in the same room anymore without dummies flying? Whatever the reason Nando was back at Spa keeping schtum on his role if any in the spy scandal.

After what seemed like a century of waiting and the tifosi driving themselves round the bend with nerves, an initial report leaked out that McLaren had been banned from both the 2007 and 2008 seasons. But just as soon as the report popped out, it disappeared again leaving us the waiting public with shredded nerves and more questions than answers.

Eventually (presumably after the WMSC had run out of bananas to keep Ross happy) and after much deliberation and apparently heated exchanges (that’s jumping up and down, banging your fists on tables and screaming like a girl by all accounts) the WMSC delivered their verdict. McLaren have been stripped of all constructors title points for 2007, fined a whopping $100 million and must submit their 2008 car to scrutineering to ensure there are no ‘made in Maranello’ stickers on it.

Ferrari issued a statement suggesting they were satisfied with the result, and that the truth had come out. Obviously us fans are still waiting to know what that truth is, apart from the fact that Ron is a smug slaphead with a penchant for story telling, and the FIA don’t half come out with baffling decisions.

give-us-another-bedtime-story-ron.jpgFirstly in this sorry saga, Honest Ron attempted to convinced us that the first his team knew about the Coughlan-Stepney Cock-up collaboration was on the 2nd July when officials raided the suspended McLaren muppet’s home and found the secret Ferrari Dossier. Then the story got changed when it was found that actually McLaren had known about it and half-heartedly attempted months before to stop Stepney leaking like a sieve by installing a firewall at Woking to stop him bombarding Mike with fan-mail. But they hadn’t seen or used the information, honestly.

Then we found out actually McLaren had used information supplied by Stepney to grass up their rivals to the FIA after the Australian Grand Prix for having a flexi-floor, but it wasn’t using the information it was called whistle-blowing and should be admired and encouraged. But honestly only Mike Coughlan had seen the dossier, no honestly he had.

Now according to rumours it turns out that some of the information fell into the hands of the McLaren drivers who happily discussed it all by email, but no-one apart from Mike Coughlan had seen the information, no honestly and even then he had only perused it for ten minutes while having a brew in his potting shed. A bit of a picture is developing here we feel.

It’s little wonder the FIA came to the decision they did, given that Ron and his cronies have changed their stories more times than Michael Schumacher changes his flowery shirts and cowboy hats, and that’s saying something.

honest-ron.jpgIn a press conference late last night after the WMSC verdict had been delivered, Honest Ron declaring that the McLaren team have done nothing wrong. They didn’t use the information honest guv’ (for the thousandth time) and they are shocked and appalled that they have been cast as the villains of the piece, and declared they will still fight for both championships (despite the fact they have just been turfed out of one). We can only wish them luck with that, but with zero points now on the constructors table McLaren will presumably be fighting it out with Spyker and Scuderia Torro Rosso for last place. So much for exonoration then Ron.

One thing that has baffled everyone is why the FIA have decided not to punish the McLaren drivers and strip them of their points as well. By declaring McLaren guilty of breaching the sporting code of conduct surely as part of the team the drivers have surely benefited from this ungentlemanlike conduct. However, just days before the WMSC the FIA apparently wrote to the McLaren Drivers offering them an amnesty if they come forward and provide the noose to hang their bosses with or something similar. Although why they had to go all this trouble I can’t quite see, I’d have done it for free if they provided the rope.

Here at FFN we can’t help wondering if their isn’t something a little more political behind the decision to allow the McLaren drivers to continue fighting it out for the championship.

mclaren-duo-with-cardboard-kimi.jpgApart from the obvious fact that Kimi Raikkonen standing like a cardboard cut out and with about as much facial expression as a wet dish cloth on the winners podium, does not make for dramatic and exciting television.

It would seem that the powers that be want the show to go on. For Nando to throw his weekly tantrums, for ITV to keep smarming around Lewis Hamilton like a bad case of nappy rash, and for Ferrari’s Felipe Massa’s car to keep suffering reliability problems, so he can be witnessed flouncing into the garage in a huff.

If F1 is going to be turned into a soap opera rather than a sport, could we at least have Nando in a big flowery dress, humungous sombrero and a few punch ups for good measure please? and bring back that hilarious beard!

We can only hope more information will come out in the coming weeks so we can understand what the deuces is going on, and that Ferrari can give McLaren a good stuffing at Spa because I desperately want to see Honest Ron bawl his eyes out again!