Michael Schumacher


It must be quite obvious that we, here at FFN, are rather fond of Kimi Raikkonen in that detached, indulgent manner like you are sometimes fond of a crazy cousin. Having authored several best sellers such as “The Art of Replying in Monosyllables” and “Ron Dennis: A Survival Guide”, not to mention “When and Where to Dress in a Gorilla Costume”, Kimi also drove a F1 car in his spare time, and was even a Ferrari driver briefly. However, after a career move to rallying, we are surprised by how vocal Raikkonen suddenly is, never losing an opportunity to remind everyone how boring F1 is, and how foolish millions of people are to be even following this silly sport (or non-sport as Alonso would put it). Now when he says “WRC is more open than F1, there’s a warmer feeling”, we can’t help but feel not all is well with Iceman. I mean, Kimi-Bot talking about openness, friendship and warmness is like Flavio Briatore talking about team orders…just doesn’t gel. By the way, what did you think of the new Lotus? This is what we thought…

The next test session in Jerez is promising to be a cheery affair, what with severe rain forecasts and  flood warnings. It will be interesting to watch all the F1 teams huddled up in their respective motorhomes watching the cars floating in the garages outside.  With the testing regulations and all that, we can’t help but feel half the grid is going to get the first decent run only during the Bahrain GP, adding a whole new dimension of variability to the proceedings (Can the Virgin front wing last 10 laps? Is USF1 really going to be there on the grid? Did Campos get the brake and accelerator pedals interchanged?)  So when Kimi says boring and unpredictable, he clearly doesn’t have a clue.

There was an interesting news piece on Pitpass yesterday on majority of the Mercedes former management resigning, and to be replaced by Mohamed Badawy Al Huseinny (and if that’s only one man, then a few others from Aabar Investing Fund as well). But today, a Mercedes spokesman has dismissed the reports – “”I can confirm that Nick Fry remains at the team in the position of chief executive officer”. The spokesman adds that there is no big change forthcoming, except they have fired the cook in the Mercedes motohome. “There was a lot of negative PR because Michael was always dashing off to the Ferrari motorhome for lunch” clarifies the spokesman, “Now we have a Italian chef who can make spaghetti aglio e olio pasta with garlic and olive oil  as well as the next person”. Michael was not available for comment.

We (at FFN) have been wondering about the new point system a bit. You know, the newest 25-18-15-12-10 one, awarding the winner with a whopping 7 point lead. It feels as though the powers that be in F1 have a sudden sneaking suspicion that lack of overtaking might have little to do with the cars and tracks after all. In the recent past, the governing bodies have been throwing everything they could lay their collective hands on into making F1 a better sporting spectacle, meaning more cars overtaking and less resemblance to a ruddy procession. If this meant sweeping aerodynamic changes or the blessed KERS or even shortcuts, so be it. And then some bright chap in some Council approved a proposal from a different commission, the gist of it being to provide a bit of incentive to the drivers to actually want to overtake. We think it’s a rather bright idea, our only concern being Bernie Ecclestone agrees. “The idea was to make a much bigger gap between first and second” says Bernie, “give people the incentive to overtake, not to sit there getting points”. Uh oh, what did we miss? Jenson Button, it has to be said, is far more diplomatic than FFN when it comes to voicing opinions on anything Bernie. He thinks the ‘shortcuts’ idea is rather ridiculous of course, but seems to suggest it is an exception rather than norm. “We struggle seeing anyway out of the sides of the cars, because the cockpit comes up to here for safety reasons. So if there is a car coming at an angle, it can be very dangerous” says Jense, “It’s probably not one of Bernie’s better ideas”. Oh, we think it is one of Bernie’s better ideas, which doesn’t say much for the standard I suppose.

Meanwhile, Force India’s design director Mark Smith is not upset about skipping the Valencia test last week. “As long as we are ready to go the Jerez test with a car that will run then it’s better for us” he says, and you have to agree. Car that runs is definitely better than car that maintains its state of inertia at rest. Nico Hulkenberg is also feeling the pressure, not that he is driving for Force India. “Williams expect me to deliver a good job, to drive quickly and do well for them. They would not appoint me as a driver if they didn’t expect something from me” says the clearly inexperienced youngling. If only he had read a bit of F1 history, he would know Williams specialize in appointing drivers no one in their right mind can expect anything out of. I mean, he’s got Rubens Barrichello as teammate for heaven’s sake! I bet if Ralf Schumacher were to make a comeback, Williams would sign him up without a second thought. Speaking of Rubens, we hear he had been urging young Rosberg to bolt out of Mercedes, now that Michael Schumacher is his teammate. Acts of courage, indeed.

Bring on the Jerez test then, keep fingers crossed that Ferrari goes fastest there as well. Forza!

Williams have declared that they are going in for a ‘clean-sheet design’, which is the best way to go really when you have produced a string of turkeys year after year with unfailing consistency. In fact, I think it’s for the best if they burn all the previous design documents, just in case they are tempted to take a quick peek as to where they attached the steering wheel last time around. Sam Michael also seems to have a lot of (misplaced?) optimism in the driver lineup. “We have managed to sign the German managed by Willi Weber” he told us proudly in an exclusive to FFN, and we didn’t have the heart to put a damper on his enthusiasm by pointing out they’ve already tried this before with Ralf Schumacher. As for Rubens Barrichello…well, given his tendency to sue bloggers who feel rather differently about his capabilities on track, we shall refrain from comment. It would suffice to say we don’t share Sam Michael’s sunny optimism.

We hear Nick Heidfeld is cursing Michael Schumacher a goodish deal in his spare time (of which he has plenty these days), and you can’t help but feel a little sympathetic. When Mercedes (Brawn) announced they were settling for an all German lineup for 2010, Nick was confident it was a done deal. Naturally he is not very pleased with the new developments, and if there’s one person who is not waxing on eloquently about how Michael’s return is good for F1, it is Nick. Good for F1 maybe, but a disaster for him personally, as he has now been announced as Mercedes reserve driver when all a reserve driver does these days is pretty much sit in the garage and twiddle his thumbs. It’s all down to the grooming we think, after all, with Nico Rosberg looking like a pretty Hollywood actress, who will go in for the Chewbacca look alike? Moral of the story – A shave in time saves a F1 career. Or something like that.

Meanwhile Heikki Kovalainen is busy hitting back at critics who are discussing odds of Heikki being the next Finn to go rallying. It is said Kimi will consider switching back to F1 mid-season, and maybe they can just trade places. While an elegant solution no doubt, Heikki is convinced he has a long and prosperous F1 career ahead. “If Rubens can be in F1, why can’t I?” reasons Heikki, “After all, I have beaten Michael Schumacher in RoC. And the only thing Rubens has ever beaten Michael in is in Backgammon…plus I am a hundred years younger”.   Very logical, you have to admit. Heikki also suggests that his reputation as a poor racer is not ‘a true reflection of his many talents’ (of which perhaps racing is not one?). “I didn’t get the best out of the McLaren” he admits (in a gross understatement), “I don’t think there are any areas I particularly need to improve”. That’s twisting the truth a bit, one particular area where we feel there’s definite room for improvement is driving a F1 car at reasonable speed. “Some people think I’m a good qualifier and not such a good racer (like some kind of reverse Jenson Button?)” he adds helpfully, “But that is only in McLaren. If you look at my time at Renault in 2007, the race performances were actually very strong (but the qualifying not so much)”. The key to this whole racing thing, Heikki, is to do both the qualifying and racing part well in the same year.

Not much news on the Ferrari front, except the new 2010 livery looks like they couldn’t decide till the last minute if they wanted a red car or a white car, with the end result the car now looks like a red-and-white zebra. Still no comparison to the Renault rainbow of 2007 or the Honda Earth Car. And as long as the car can race like a Ferrari always races, we should have a good season ahead. Forza.

No doubt there are sinister machinations afoot at Mercedes headquarters. I am sure Nico Rosberg has been having sleepless nights ever since he heard he was going to be the ‘other’ driver in a team that has Ross Brawn and Michael Schumacher…not that Ross will be doing any driving…his role will be strictly restricted to eating bananas and looking intelligent on the pitwall. Rosberg confessed recently that he had a really bad nightmare, that the new president of FIA, Jean Todt, was present at every race, instructing Rosberg over the microphone to “let Michael pass, I repeat, LET MICHAEL PASS”. Not the ideal situation you have to agree. For all the brave talk Rosberg has been doing about beating Michael and being the king of the world, he has kept a wary eye on the proceedings. So when Michael Schumacher recently declared that he wanted the No 3 car because he is superstitious about even numbers, it is fair to assume Nico’s hackles are up and he is all ready to bite if the need arises.  It’s a pity Michael is not more like Lewis Hamilton. Hamilton, you remember Ron Dennis told us, is apparently beyond human emotions, a spiritual kind of chappie. Michael unfortunately still believes in initimidating his opponents, starting with his teammate first.

Conspiracy theories aside, maybe Michael really is superstitious. Martin Brundle once said that Michael went out looking for four leaf clovers before every important race (it’s a bit odd it’s not a three leaf clover considering…). No doubt he didn’t find one before Jerez 97 and got all into a nervous twitter…and we all know what happened next. Or Suzuka 1998 for the matter. Who would have thought what is often mistaken for Michael cracking under pressure and making a hash of things is actually Michael’s inability to find four leaf clovers? Felipe Massa recently confessed that he has been following Michael’s advise since 2007. “Michael has made me the driver I am” he declared proudly the other day, “It was Michael who told me to wear the same underpants through the race weekend if Friday turns out well. It works like magic”. Michael was clever enough to  hand out this advise just before his departure in 2006, but no wonder poor Kimi Raikkonen has given up on F1 and taken up rallying instead. And unsuspecting Fernando Alonso knows nothing about the grave assault in store for his olfactory senses every other Sunday. Talking of other driver superstitions, Alex Wurz likes to wear different colored shoes on race weekends, not that it helps his performance any. Mark Webber likes to get dressed in the same order – underpants, socks, pants, shoes – which I suppose works the same way for everyone unless you are Clark Kent.

It remains to be seen whether the FIA and Mercedes management would agree to Schumacher’s request, innocent or otherwise. But considering Todt is president of FIA, and Ross Brawn is team boss, I am thinking the answer is probably a resounding yes. Give it some thought though – all the exciting things that Michael’s ever done, from winning championships to parking in Rascasse, have all been in odd number cars…can you really blame the man? There, I didn’t think so either.

This is most disturbing. I know I’ve been in hibernation for a year or so, but really, who would have thunk?!  The Iceman has gone rallying, our very own super assistant has gone behind our back and signed for Mercedes (just when the general audience was beginning to understand what a super assistant really does), and we have good old Nando in Ferrari red proudly displaying the Santander logo. Todt is the new president of FIA (I bet Nando won’t call it Ferrari International Assistance any longer), Ron Dennis is finally gone, and Flavio…well, dear Flavio is always getting into some trouble or the other. This time apparently he thought it would be funny to tell Nelson Piquet Jr to crash (it’s a bit like asking Nick Heidfeld to look like Chewbacca) and Nelson was so thrilled on being asked to do what he does so well for a change that he executed it in perfection. It’s good that indignant Flavio got the lifetime ban overturned, a pure case of witch-hunting,  this! As if Nelson wouldn’t have crashed if Flavio hadn’t asked him to! Oh, and did I mention Jenson won the world championship? You can easily understand why my head’s reeling a bit as I type.

I am already missing Kimi a bit. Agreed he had about as much animation in his eyes as that of a dead fish, but the Iceman was still a bit special. Who can forget the gorilla costumes and James Hunt pseudonyms? And now we have to change the website logo, which is a darned nuisance  by the way. Oh well, at least we still have dear Felipe, a fighter as always. Talking of which, what has come over Michael Schumacher (Or his evil twin, as Luca di Montezemolo would have us believe)? So he got the racing itch, and there was a small logistical problem at Ferrari (2 Ferrari cars is not divisible by 3 drivers), but if he had been a bit patient, I am sure Bernie would have found the way. Yes, Bernie Ecclestone. Clearly a man who can reveal he would like short-cuts at every circuit with a straight face is capable of thinking up some creative solution to this problem. I attribute this whole fiasco to inviting Michael to every other race by the way. No good racing driver can sit on the pit wall and watch his erstwhile colleagues make a hash of it race after race without wanting to jump in the car and show them a pointer or two. Anyway, no use crying over spilt milk, so we resign ourselves to watching da Michael in gray overalls and red helmet, a fashion disaster as always.  

Talking of fashion disasters…I mean fashion, I must say the red sits pretty well on young Fernando. Better than blue anyway. And is it just me, or has his neck slimmed down quite a bit? No more talks of fat necks, bushy eyebrows and mental instability by the way. We have always been very fond of Fernando Alonso here at FFN, and as a grand welcoming gesture from now on, we shall only focus on the positives. Anything else is just an endearing quirk. With Fernando and Felipe at Ferrari, we are very tempted to change FFN to FFFFN, no that’s not what I was going to say…we at FFN are very excited about the 2010 season. Bring it on! Forza Ferrari, as always!

You really do have to hand it to F1 team Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes. No other team in the history of the sport have managed to repeatedly get themselves into quite so much hot water as the Woking based squad, without actually employing the nefarious talents of one Michael Schumacher (Scandalmeister) and that is quite an accomplishment in itself.

At least not in all the years I have been watching the sport, and since I’m told I have the memory of a goldfish perhaps that doesn’t really count for a whole lot.

This week McLaren have managed to embroil themselves in yet another FIA related saga, this time as a result of telling a few innocent fibs to the race stewards about events that transpired towards the end of the season opener in Melbourne.

dave-ryan-and-lewis-hamil-001If we are to believe recent media reports, McLaren’s Sporting Director Dave Ryan took it upon himself to embellish events somewhat in the Steward’s presence forcing World Champion Lewis Hamilton to corroborate his version of events against his will and better judgement, and all for the sake of one measly championship point and a peanut bowl platter. (Although we suspect half of Ferrari might sell their respective grandmothers right now for aforementioned measly point not to mention the peanuts of course).

As a result Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was demoted to fourth place with a post race 25 second penalty, handing the shiny platter to McLaren’s World Champion.

Unfortunately, it would seem McLaren didn’t reckon on the old farts of the Federation Idiots and Amateurs actually listening to any post race media interviews, let alone having a good old earwig into McLaren’s radio communications with their ear trumpets.

Evidently the governing body discovered (after plowing through hours of Happy Heikki warbling Abba’s Greatest Hits) evidence that contradicted the statements made by Lucky Linda (I mean Lewis) and his Sporting Director Dave Ryan (although we feel perhaps ‘unsporting’ is probably a more applicable job title all things considered).

Sufficed to say the hapless duo were called back before the Stewards at Malaysia and asked to account for themselves, even after listening to the contradictory evidence we are to understand they continued to pull the chain of the FIA race stewards, if recent media reports are to be believed.

McLaren Team Principal Martin Whitmarsh immediately leapt to the defence of his driver and team, declaring to anyone who would listen that no-one at McLaren had told any pork-pies and he really hadn’t got the foggiest what the FIA were whittering on about. No Honestly. Deja vu anyone?

lucky-linda-squirming24 hours later, Lucky Linda (I mean Lewis) was squirming like a maggot on a fish hook in front of the world’s media admitting to lying, but we are to understand it doesn’t count because his Sporting Director Dave Ryan made him do it, presumably under threat of stealing his penny sweets and pocket money.

Of course being the caring, sharing, no-blame culture that the modern McLaren is (as we were informed just a few short weeks ago) the team summarily sent their Sporting Director packing, although under the new caring culture they continued to happily employ 3 ex-spygate scandalists, so there is still hope for poor misunderstood Dave yet.

Yesterday events took a more serious turn, when the FIA announced it was cordially inviting Vodaphone McLaren Mercedes to a soiree in Paris on the 29th April, to enjoy a buffet lunch, some bottled fizzy water and a friendly get together for a frank and polite exchange of opinions regarding the meaning of article 151(c) of the international sporting code. RSVP.

rsvp2For those of you (unlikely I know given recent events) wanting to know what this article 151(c) is all about, let us explain.

In a nutshell it is a catch-all clause in the governing bodies regulations, that should anyone do anything to compromise the illusion that all is fair in love and F1 (barring the odd controversial race stewards decision or three and a few illegal/legal/illegal diffusors), then they shall be invited to Paris for a day or two and made to grovel cap in hand to the WMSC for a lenient punishment and pay for the pleasure.

Anyone found not to be grovelling quite as much as deemed necessary, we understand are duty bound to receive 30 lashes with a cat-o-nine-tails and whatever else the FIA hand out for punishment these days.

Some newspapers are suggesting that McLaren may at worst be excluded altogether from the world championship for 2009 for bringing the sport into disrepute, or at least receive a few race bans and even possibly a huge financial fine (as the FIA has already spent the last one on road safety campaigns, icecreams and day trips to the seaside).

Rumours have begun to emerge that Lewis and his Manager/Father/Principal Cheerleader are not best happy with how things are going at McLaren, particularly the damage done to Lewis’s reputation as a result of the ‘Liegate Scandal’ and his subsequent fall from grace in the eyes of the fickle British ‘Love Button’ Media.

hamilton-snrAlthough personally we felt floating about like a PR fairy on a highwire is as damaging as it can ever get for one’s reputation when it comes to grown men.

It is rumoured the Brit may be intent on leaving the team that has supported, financed and developed his career since he was 13, some skeptics have suggested that the latest turn or events might serve as a smokescreen to hide the fact Lewis is already bored of driving the MP4-slowathon and is hankering after a drive at BrawnGP (presumably over Rubens Barrichello’s dead body).

Good to see team loyalty is alive and thriving in Woking, but then we wouldn’t want to hang around Woking for too long either…..and not just for fear of an imminent P45 (marching orders).

At least this latest scandal to rock the sport, makes a change from the 20 times-a-yearly stories of Alonso going to Ferrari that seem to have been bandied about since the Jurassic period began, and probably still rumbling on long after I’m dead, buried and been eaten by a few garden worms.

What we really want to know is what do ‘gates’ have to do with anything? Have you ever noticed that anytime the sport is engulfed in a storm in a teacup, immediately a ‘gate’ is brought into the equation?

First we had ‘Spygate’ although we don’t actually recall any missing ‘gates’ being reported in the immediate vicinity of Maranello when Nigel Stepney was a very naughty boy, and for that matter we don’t remember anyone spying through one either.

Now we have ‘Liegate’…and not a wooden strutt, fence or beam in sight. You can see why we are somewhat baffled and bemused here at FFN.

Just in case you were beginning to wonder why on earth you hadn’t heard a peep out of us here at FFN all weekend, there has been a very good reason.

Unfortunately we still haven’t see the Malaysian Grand Prix. This calamity is not due to the fact our pitcrew were unable to bring us a white visor so we could actually see through the torrential downpours at Sepang like FelipebabyTM, but due to a small technical glitch at FFN HQ.

It would seem in his infinite wisdom my elder brother decided to replace my television, with one of these new fangled widescreen digital affairs, thus far we have only just cottoned on how to use the red button to watch free practice let alone got to grips with how to actually record from the infernal device.

My attempts to hook up the video recorder to record the race while I went out to earn FFN cat her biscuits, were doomed to failure, only compounded by the fact I got home and managed to missed the replay as well. Much to the derision of FFN cat who by now was chewing on the TV aerial with great relish.

Understandably we are most miffed at missing out on what turned out to be an exhilirating and edge-of-the-seat type wet weather debacle, our only consolation is that while we didn’t get to see the Malaysian GP, the people actually in the stands at Sepang who paid a fortune for the priviledge didn’t get to see much of it either and got a good drenching to boot.

ferrari-pitwall-sepang1We are reliably informed it was a race where the tactical mastery of Uncle Ross Brawn brought home a second win in a row for Jenson Button despite 4 pitstops, and the tactical mastery of Michael Schumacher (allegedly) brought an end to Kimi Raikkonen’s chances of scoring points by having the flying Finn sent out on a dry track with wet tyres.

Ferrari presumably thought it was going to rain sooner than it was……but given their recent history in weather predictions they might want to actually leap off the pitwall and wait until they actually feel some precipitation before jumping to rash decisions about equipping their drivers in full scuba-diving gear.

So it seems a second race in a row and our beloved Scuderia are doing their very best to be obliging and share out the points to all those teams they spent the last 10 years depriving of any, by shooting themselves resoundingly in both feet and then reloading for good measure.

We can only hope they will come to their senses sooner or later, as here at FFN we don’t know if we can bear seeing Force India above Ferrari in the championship standings for much longer.

According to Ferrari’s team principal Stefano Domenicali, Ferrari’s rather vocal President Luca Di Montezemolo is not a happy bunny. We bet he looks a picture with a fluffy tail and a pair of rabbit ears, not to mention a face stormier than the Malaysian skyline…if only we had a camera….

McLaren’s World Champion (and ex-british media darling) Lewis Hamilton reportedly secured a point (despite an earlier spin in the wet stuff), although whether he will still have it by the end of the week is anyone’s guess, as you know the FIA may want to remove it from his sticky mitts on account that he is allegedly a close family relative of the much loved Disney Character Pinocchio.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, if current reports are to be believed, is firmly standing by his decision to move the Malaysian GP to a twilight setting, and thought the torrential offering was a great show, well no doubt he would say that because he was probably watching from under an 18 carat gold golfing umbrella and munching on popcorn while the rest of the paddock were doing their best impressions of the humble goldfish and swimming about the pitlane.

Sincerest apologies about the lapse in service, I am sending FFN cat out to buy a digital recording device this afternoon, I just hope she doesn’t do a Kimi and come back with an icecream and can of coke instead.

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