Jackie Stewart


Just when you think the powers that be in Formula 1 can’t come out with anything more ridiculous than they have already unleashed on the world, then lo and behold they seem intent on proving you completely wrong.

bowlhead-bernieThis week Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has declared that the global economic downturn seems to be having very little effect on the sport, despite the withdrawal of several teams’ sponsors or should we say bankers.

Both ING and RBS who are major sponsors for Renault and Williams respectively, have announced their imminent withdrawal from the sport, but not before they have nonchalantly frittered away our hard earned cash on the stock exchange and scoffed a few rounds of salmon sandwiches and fancy vol-au-vents.

According to the pint-sized bowl-headed one (who we suspect lounges around on sheepskin rugs getting fed peeled grapes by Mongolian princesses), all of this is having very little effect on how the teams are spending their money or operating. Little Bernard has reportedly pointed out that most F1 teams will still be bringing just as many team personnel to the grand prix for example, and therefore the global recession cannot be having much of an effect in the sport.

Not withstanding the extensive raft of cost cutting measures implemented by the Formula One Team Association (FOTA) in recent times to ensure the future of the teams in the sport, you only have to look around the paddock to find evidence to counter the claims of the pint-sized one.

A stones throw from the FOM trailer for example, we can see the global economic downturn already biting at Toyota, with Team Principal Tadashi Yamashima admitting he had to fight to keep the F1 team going against the need for Toyota as a Manufacturer to drastically reduce costs. Nowhere is this more evident, than in the Toyota Garage itself where the poor car designers have had to re-use the same can of paint to decorate their charger for at least the last five years. Here at FFN we even have a sneaking suspicion the poor mechanics are having to construct the car out of second hand Meccano kits found on E-bay and a reel of duct tape.

what-do-you-mean-i-dont-get-paidLikewise at Renault, if you scratch beneath the surface, evidence bubbles to light of hard times ahead for the team. Rumours of a most alarming nature have reached our ears, that things are in fact so tight at Renault that the team have confiscated Pat Symonds pocket money and the respected technical genius can no longer be found loitering around the back of the trucks enjoying a crafty cigarette. Tough times indeed.

Down at BrawnGP (formerly Honda and we all know about their financial crisis over the winter) it is clearly evident their poor drivers are taking the brunt of the global economic downturn, with Jenson Button’s retainer being cut almost in half, which must explain why the poor mite can’t even afford a cheap razor and can of shaving foam, while poor Rubens Barrichello has lost weight over the winter….because he hasn’t been able to afford food for the table.

dishwashing-dutyEven Ferrari, who let’s face it are always rolling in money, have been cutting costs of late. Gone is the state of the art scarlet clad electric dishwasher for cleaning pasta sauce off those plates, and in come the rubber gloves with the mechanics reportedly signed up to a dishwashing rota. We dread to think whether this means Luca Di Montezemolo can’t afford another TV set to wreck come the time of the Brazilian GP this year, and whether Stefano Domenicali has had to double up as the tea-lady.

Rumours have even been circulating that McLaren may have to de-commission their glorious gleaming beacon of a media centre because it is too costly to run, and replace it with the less costly alternative of canvas tent and deck chairs (second hand of course).

Not forgetting ex-Formula 1 Champion of yesteryear Jackie Stewart who is doing his bit for the good of the sport (no he hasn‘t promised to stay quiet for a change), the canny Scotsman is carrying on doing whatever he does without getting paid for it, which we must all agree is very benevolent of him. Although why he would need paying we haven’t got the foggiest, since he seems to be wearing the same trousers as he did 30 years ago, so it can’t be going on his wardrobe can it?

Clearly though Bernard hasn’t the first notion what he is on about.

Anyway, amidst all this financial doom and gloom, spare a thought for our poor friend from Asturias. Dear Nando.

poor-nandoWhile we are not aware of any financial hardships for the former double world champion, we do suspect the Spaniard may have made a dreadful mistake. What the deuces am I wittering on about you ask? Well we do wonder if the Renault driver may in fact be now regretting turning down that reported blank cheque proffered by Ross Brawn to lure him to BrawnGP. Presuming it wouldn’t have bounced of course.

Could he be currently sitting on a wall somewhere in Jerez bemoaning the surprising “performance” of the BrawnGP outfit, while Renault haven’t exactly been setting fires in winter testing? We wouldn’t like to bet on it……but we do suspect he may live to regret spending every other weekend for the next nine months getting up early each morning to look at that eyesore parked in the Renault Garage. Perhaps utilising the current spirit of goodwill and cooperation from FOTA, Fernando can petition Toyota for some cheap paint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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”?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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