Valencia, Spain


The British media have been busy the past week wondering what could possibly be the reason for Ferrari topping the charts at Valencia last week. Never mind that Ferrari has won 8 out of the last 11 world constructor championships, one would have thought Force India topped the charts judging by the reaction. One interesting theory presented was that Ferrari omitted to add 30 kgs of ballast to the car, an honest mistake any team can make, and after all the self-congratulatory pats on the back for having exceeded expectations, were chagrined to find the missing ballasts hidden behind the extra tyres. We can see that going down well with Luca di Montezemolo. Or wait, maybe it was a deliberate ‘mistake’, much like our beloved Schumster parking in Rascasse. Maybe Ferrari thought it was a wonderful idea to corner all the pre-season hype only to fail spectacularly in the first race. Well, clearly we are not the only ones in the fake news business, that’s for sure.

We hear Red Bull’s got a bit of a problem. Adrian Newey, in his quest for aerodynamic perfection has designed such a unique raised nose that it’s pretty much all the driver can see from the cockpit. Maybe they should have just stuck to the previous year’s design, much like Force India. Force India has cleverly restricted all their innovations to the steering wheel. We have already highlighted their desire to just have a car that runs, which is actually a clever strategy. This way, they will surely finish ahead of at least five other teams that seem destined to merely form immovable hurdles at the race start. And there is further action in store presented by teams such as Virgin, where you never know when the car is going to disintegrate all over the track, as it did in Jerez today, with drivers no doubt having to drive warily around to avoid the odd piece of debris. Thankfully DC has retired, I doubt our hearts could have withstood that added excitement, given his well documented stopping-in-the-rain routines and attempted decapitations.  

Ferrari is looking increasingly consistent and reliable at the Jerez tests, all positive signs leading up to the season. Bring on Bahrain! Forza! I will leave you with a bit of Ron-Speak, just so we can be grateful we are not subjected to this on a regular basis anymore. “You have one driver preceding the other and feeling that he had to catch up. You have all these very, very different chemistries, and it’s just not the case with two drivers who have got like-minded approaches, an Anglophile approach”. And this was all in reply to some unsuspecting journo asking Ron about the Hamilton-Button pairing in McLaren.

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ferraris-flying-finn1.jpgThe fourth and final day of F1 testing at the Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Valencia Spain, bathed in good weather witnessed a duel between the sports two Finns for final honours at the top of the timesheets.

The Kim-bot in his Ferrari just managing to beat ‘Happy Heidi’ in his McLaren by a tenth of a second with his best effort of the day being a 1.11.189, all while continuing his non-stop verbal effusions concerning the F2008 since it’s initial launch back at the beginning of January. Suffice to say here at FFN we are delighted to hear Kimi is very happy with his new car, but we are concerned that if he carries on this uncharacteristic chattering nineteen to the dozen without pausing for breathe, he’ll be knackered by the season opener in Melbourne.

Ickle Felipe secured the 3rd spot of the day for the Scuderia (and we don’t mean pimples because he clearly doesn’t look old enough to suffer that fate yet), with Nakajima’s Williams again demonstrating good pace and squeezing out Spain’s favourite driver of the week Lewis Hamilton for fourth place.

The day generally witnessed more red flags than you’d find at a bullfight, and when you couldn’t see a red flag or a Red Bull for that matter, there were a fair few mechanical breakdowns out on track. Which seemed to amuse the locals no end if the raucous roars were anything to go by. Nelson Piquet, Sebastien Vettel, Giancarlo Fisichella and Lewis Hamilton all suffered various attacks of the technical gremlins during the session.

When out of the car, Lamppost Lewis was on the receiving end of a few verbal attacks from the strongly vocal partisan Spanish crowd, who had come armed with banners and posters (and probably a few pitchforks as well) demonstrating their support for Alonso. And taking plenty of opportunity to denigrate and have a bash at the Englishman and his potty training progress, amongst other less mentionable subjects.

spanish-favourite-lamppost-lewis.jpgNot one to miss a golden opportunity to have the last word, the McLaren star was last seen giving an interview to the media suggesting he had learned a valuable lesson last season. According to the Englishman, he would be using the behaviour of his former team-mate to influence his future conduct in the sport.

Obviously we are pretty pleased to hear this, as we had thought on seeing Alonso’s departure from McLaren we had seen the last of toys coming out the pram, childish spats across the garage, slinging your racing helmet about in a fit of temper and much door slamming to boot. So its wonderful to see that Lewis will carry on that fine tradition for the foreseeable future.

Nelson Pretty-boy Piquet Jnr resumed testing duties for the Renault team, his first day in the R28 was spent acclimatising to the car, carrying on where Fernando had left off and working on finding an optimal set-up. Not to mention taking every opportunity to check he was still as good-looking as he was five minutes ago in his wing mirrors.

Down at Honda things were not looking too happy or good looking either for that matter. After enduring a dismal 2007 campaign with an excessively temperamental car, hopes were initially high within the team that things would indeed be better for 2008.

The RA108 was subsequently launched on track on Wednesday, and thus far seems to be just as much off the pace as its predecessor. With Jenson Button careering around in it 2.5 seconds per lap behind the pacesetters during the final day of testing.

hondas-cat.jpgTeam-mate Rubens Barrichello struggled to put a positive spin on things when talking to the media, suggesting there wasn’t much to say about the new car as yet (which we take to mean nothing that can be reported without the use of some rather candid language). Rubens adding that the small problems they were encountering were relatively normal when shaking down a cat (According to Autosport). Yes, you read that correctly.

Which probably explains a few things, because we presume cats don’t like being shaken down at the best of times, and usually the only time you can get one to go fast is if you put a large dog on its tail threatening to eat it. The rest of the time they just sit there and snore their heads off.

Ross Brawn did say he liked a challenge. Will he finally manage to rid Honda of their strange animal fixation? First it was elephant ears…now its cats…whatever next armadillo’s, pot-bellied pigs, sloths? And will Honda finally manage to save up enough pocket money to actually pay for a paint-job before the season starts?

Only time will tell…

There is an old saying lurking somewhere in the ether, that states it is unwise for a writer to own a cat, if he or she ever intends to get any writing done. Suffice to say true to form my obstinate feline friend is not stupid, the minute I sit down at the desk to write and the persistent little beggar plonks herself down on the keyboard or mouse and wont budge for love nor money nor any amount of tasty treats.

So I hope that sometimes if I’m a bit late in posting, you understand it’s because I’ve been involved in a battle royale with an 8 month old furball for possession of a few plastic keys, and more often than not I’m the one who comes off the worst.

heidi-in-action.jpgYesterday was the third and penultimate day of testing for the Formula 1 fraternity at the Circuito Ricardo Tormo in Valencia Spain.

On this occasion, McLaren’s flying Finn ‘Heidi’ Kovaleinen topped the timesheets at the end of the session with a best time of 1.11.000, nearly six tenths of a second faster than Ferrari’s ickle Felipe, and 8 tenths faster than the Kimi-bot.

The session itself was fairly uneventful, with only STR’s Sebastien Vettel suffering a technical glitch, and Ferrari’s Felipe Massa stopping out on track from an impromptu scenic stroll back to the paddock. Apparently this was a result of a temperature sensor failure and not just because the Brazilian fancied topping up his tan.

The Williams team continued with good pace, with new recruit Nakajima ending the day in 5th spot ahead of Double World Champion Fernando Alone-so.

After the initial excitement at their car launch, things seemed to have gone slightly off the boil for the BMW-Sauber team. Bearded German wonder Nick Heidfeld has admitted that the team are struggling currently with the balance of their car, which probably explains a thing or three about their dismal showing so far in testing.

We can’t help but feeling that next time the team might want to concentrate more on whether the darned thing can go ok in a straight line before going hell for leather employing more fancy wings and giblets than you’d find at the average local poultry farm. Have Honda taught the F1 fraternity nothing?

Meanwhile here at FFN we had to go and lie down in a dark room all afternoon when we heard some very unlikely and startling news from within the pitlane.

happy-webber-apparently.jpgAccording to some reliable sources, Red Bull’s resident old woman Mark Webber was claiming to be happy, for a change. Immediately we had to dispatch a reporter to find out what the deuces was going on, had Red Bull been forcing too much of their taurine-packed beverage down his throat with a funnel?

After his first initial outing in the RB4 (which looks by the way remarkably similar to the RB3 just with a slightly different shade of paint) apparently the Antipodean has claimed to be perfectly happy with the car and encouraged with the reliability and speed of his new charger. Mind you it can’t have been worse than the RB3 in 2007, which spent more time having technical glitches than Bernie Ecclestone does counting his money, or Max Mosley trading insults with former World Champions for that matter.

Naturally we are not counting chickens before they have hatched, and are holding out to see if the RB4 can last a race distance without sending the Aussie Star off into a mad rant and handbag slinging frenzy. Not that we’d blame him.

As is the natural order of things, if one person is happy you can rest assured some poor soul elsewhere is less than so. This time Toyota’s Jarno Trulli was going at it like a rabid Jack Russell with a bone. The Italian according to some media reports, has been throwing accusations about left, right and centre concerning the legality of other teams cars.

According to Jarno, some F1 teams have found a way around the new standard electronic control unit and found a way to manipulate the car’s launch procedure. This meaning that some cars would apparently be able to get off the start line faster than others.

jarno.jpgJarno supposedly telling F1 publication Autosprint yesterday; “I’m not saying someone’s cheating, even though we’ve received some conflicting information at Toyota,” followed by…

“But having analysed the behaviour on the track both now and in the tests in December, the changes between them are many – and in several cases suspicious.”

Presumably the Toyota driver is yet to discover what the accelerator pedal is used for, which might account for why he has been trundling around like a snail for the past decade.

One has to wonder if Toyota would actually recognise a fast starting car if they saw one, given their propensity for going backwards down the grid faster than former F1 star Juan Pablo Montoya can eat a cheeseburger.

In other news, you will be pleased to know that afore mentioned ickle Felipe has informed us all he will not be changing in his bid to become world champion. Which is just as well, because we rather like our ickle Felipe the way he is, and wouldn’t change his slightly erratic off-track excursions, verbal fisticuffs with Spaniards and chubby little chops for the world.

Its not like any previous World Champions made the effort is it? As far as we know Fernando still has a penchant for making conflicting press statements and then claiming he didn’t, Kimi still mumbles alot, and Michael Schumacher is…. still Michael Schumacher last time we checked at any rate.

con-cordero.jpgOur last thought of the day concerns Ferrari’s President Luca Cordero di Montezemolo. No, no he hasn’t popped out and started benevolently sharing his forthright views with the world again, in fact things seem to have gone strangely quiet on the Maranello front and we think we might have accidentally stumbled across the sinister reason why.

Imagine my dismay early this morning when on being awoken by my feline furball and going downstairs to feed it, I made a shocking discovery amongst the cat food.

On pulling out a pouch of Whiskas Kitten Food I noticed the following word emblazoned on the front in big bold type…. “Con Cordero”….

Has our feisty family pet really just eaten the Ferrari President? Wouldn’t he be a bit tough, old and gristly for some tastes? Stay tuna’d to find out.

Valencia Day 1

On Monday two more F1 teams launched their respective cars for the upcoming 2008 season. This time it was the turn of Renault or Renooo as they are affectionately known, and Williams, both teams choosing to launch their challengers on track in Valencia Spain.

Although we are reliably informed Renooo will be having a shindig with buck fizz, canapés and a few corporate crusty old dudes standing about waxing lyrical about the car at a later date.

a-foggy-day-in-valencia.jpgUnfortunately as is always the case in Spain, the weather decided to get the upper hand for the affair, as thick fog shrouded the track keeping Renooo’s prodigal son Fernando Alonso confined to the team garage for the morning. This evidently providing plenty of time for him to start work in earnest on his CV for the next employer he wants to fall out with then.

Although the thick fog was a little disheartening for the waiting F1 hacks who were eager to catch a glimpse of the R28, the local populace were apparently chuffed to bits they had been given a temporary reprieve from the impending retina-burning paint scheme that was about to be unleashed on an unsuspecting mankind.

the-renooo.jpgAt lunchtime the weather abated a little, allowing the much-anticipated R28 out of the garage for the first time. On initial inspection it was interesting for all to see that the Renooo had adopted a nose wing bridge configuration thingey, similar to that sported last year by the McLaren and now seemingly the last fad amongst the teams.

In fact so far this year we have notice how alike some of the cars look, all apart from McLaren who aren’t allowed to look like anybody lest they have to forego this years pocket money for being copycats.

Fernando Alonso then took the R28 out on its inaugural laps to see what it was all about and to decide whether it was a dog with three legs or a thoroughbred stallion on four wheels.

Monday also saw the launch of Williams car the FW30 (after Frank Williams – but we can safely assure you he isn’t 30 by a long shot). According to recent reports in the media, the name incorporates how many years Sir Frank has been in the sport or some such trivia (sorry I wasn’t paying attention Alonso’s tea cosy put me off).

The Williams team will be incorporating six different interim paint jobs on their title charger this season to commemorate some of the golden moments during the team’s history in the sport. We are wondering if Michael Schumacher’s assault on the car’s suspension in Jerez in 1997 is one of them.

the-hulk-and-the-fw30.jpgAt the moment the Williams car is sporting a midnight blue metallic effect, which looks rather nice, well anything will look nice in contrast to that hideous orange on the Renooo. Presumably with a few strategically placed star constellations slapped on, it will be very useful for sneaking up on rivals in night races, leaving them completely unaware of being lapped.

Newly appointed test driver Nico Hulkenberg (The Hulk) was on hand to put the Williams through its initial paces, because ‘Britney Rosberg’ was rumoured to be unavailable due to hair washing commitments.

By the end of the first day, the Rookie Monster (Nando) came out on top in front of his home crowd much to their delight. Strangely much ado was made about the fact that Alonso on his maiden day in the R28 had managed to beat a rookie with no more than a few hours experience under his school shirt. Here at FFN we are a little bemused to see that Alonso’s stock seems to have sunk as low as the titanic, considering they have to make a song and dance every time he beats any snotty nosed kid who has just fallen off a go-kart.

Valencia Day 2

The second day of testing at the Circuito Ricardo Torno witnessed the Ferrari duo of Felipe Massive and Kimster Iceman storm to the top of the testing tables with a dominant performance. And all before they had strapped on any of their new aerodynamic appendages if our eyes can be believed.

ferrari-duo.jpgThe Ferrari team apparently concentrating on reliability and various set-up options for the day. Not to mention checking if they had all their crayons in place ready for the racing to commence, and keeping their beady eyes skyward lest the Regenmeister had been at a loose end and been unwittingly unleashing havoc (and not just from his wardrobe).

The surprise star of the day went to Nico Rosberg, who with his newly washed flaxen locks, secured the third fastest time of the event in his new Shiny Williams. Raising more than a few eyebrows down the paddock, but not Alonso’s whose permanently look like two slumbering slugs.

The McLaren duo of Happy Heikki and Pedro Pinko could only manage 4th and 5th respectively despite completing over 207 laps. Is it any wonder…I think after two laps of going around in circles I’d fall over with a bad headache, let alone 200 odd. We hope the team had a medical professional on standby in case they experienced a case of the wobblies on disembarkation.

Renault’s Fernando Alonso could only manage a 6th place in front of 35,000 of his home supporters, despite a last ditch attempt on low fuel to snatch away the lead spot from old sparring partner ickle Felipe. Fernando was summarily rewarded with a technical glitch in the engine department for his troubles, and some poor Marshall had to hop to attention and get his hose out (fire hose just in case your wondering where my seedy little mind was going with that one).

alex-wurz.jpgFor some strange reason unbeknownst to anyone but Honda, they sent out their newly appointed star test driver Alex Beanpole Wurz in last year’s planetary behemoth albeit after an ice age had its way with the map. Really is that any kind of way to welcome the new guy into the team? Will they be flushing his head down the toilet next for good measure? We can’t help but wonder if it would have been cheaper and quicker to send him around the local supermarket on a mobility scooter. No wonder the Austrian has reiterated his wish never to race again if that’s what he has to go on with. Poor man.

Apparently this testing malarkey continues tomorrow, where if I have recovered from the excitement of reading Max Mosley’s latest news and views, I shall continue to spout forth like Mount Etna.

Ciaooo for now.

bernie.jpgFor a pint sized ankle-biting midget with a bowl haircut and the fashion sense of the average grandma, Bernie Ecclestone sure can kick up a big fuss at a moment’s notice. Today the miniature F1 supremo has sparked a political row in Spain, by vowing that Valencia will be hosting a round of the F1 Grand Prix Calendar from 2008, on the condition that current President Francisco Camps (Interesting Surname) gets re-elected in the forthcoming local elections to be held later on this month. (Can I detect a bung?).

Suffice to say in Spain, this has upset a few people….most notably the opposition political parties, who are furious that Bernie is making a political event out of the issue. This is an insult to the people of Valencia who are above these sort of conditional offers,” said Inmaculada Rodriguez-Pinero, the PSOE’s secretary of politics, economics and employment. Not to a mention an insult to the intelligence of us all when Bernie said there was no reason for any country to host two Grand Prix while axing some of Europe’s old favourites, to twenty seconds later attempt to cash in on the new found popularity of Formula 1 in Spain due to the success of some chap called Fernando “Eyebrow” Alone-so and all over a bit of monopoly money.

I don’t know why we should be surprised, the midget hasn’t got to where he has with out a fantastic business acumen, the ability to manipulate at will, a secretive admiration for Josef Stalin, and knowing how to make friends and influence people on a par with Microsoft’s Bill Gates. Let’s hope he never mistakenly gets offered the job as a UN goodwill ambassador….or Switzerland could be invading Iraq.

On the back of the FIA saying they are going to clamp down on all the silly winglets appearing like sprouting mushrooms up and down the pitlane, in an attempt to improve the opportunity of overtaking possibilities….BMW-Sauber have confirmed they will be unveiling an interesting and novel new wing from tomorrow morning in Friday Practice. BMW-Sauber Team Boss Mario Theissen has confirmed the team will be testing the new device for the first time tomorrow and suggested “we will know it when we see it”….leading us to wonder if it can be any more fantastical or long lasting than the ‘dumbo ears’ from Honda.

davidcoulthard.jpgTalking of dumbo’s, apparently Red Bull’s Mr.Magoo (that’s David Coulthard to you and I) is apparently getting a bit narked about people continually harping on about his age. According to DC he is just as motivated as he was last millennium and doesn’t see what difference it makes if he is 18 or 158 as long as he is a fast experienced driver. And the fact that he doesn’t see is the crux of the issue, as Alex Wurz’s nicely attached head might agree.

But there is no telling DC, who actually believes he has out-performed his younger team mate Mark Webber, despite the Scot not having finished a race since last August…and Mark finishing in both Australia and Malaysia. Another benefit of Old Age…Convenient Short Term Memory Loss. Next DC will be turning up at McLaren and wondering who the hell the two children are that seem to have stolen his seat. I am also wondering if perhaps mirrors have been banned in the Coulthard Household and if David has convinced himself he actually has ‘blonde highlights’ in that grizzled old man’s beard. Gawd help us all when he gets a mobility scooter.

kimster.jpgMeanwhile down at Ferrari young whipper-snapper Kimi Raikkonen has been wildy monosyllabically enthusing as only he knows how, about the return of his predecessor the ‘Red Baron’ to the Formula 1 scene. According to the Kimster, The Return of the King, will involve Michael going behind the scenes to advise Ferrari on what he thinks other teams are upto (sounds like a bit of spying) and suggesting valuable ways to help the team move forward (I usually find the accelerator is a good place to start).

However, Kimi uncertainly refuted the fact Michael would be driving the F2007 “I think I still drive the car, and I do with my engineers what I want,” the Finn replied to Media questions while rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Which probably only prompted more questions, as it is rumoured Michael like to wear his engineers lucky underpants….so the mind boggles just what Kimi gets up to behind closed doors with his roll-mop herrings and Chris Dyer.

Just three days to go until the Spanish Grand Prix…..

kiminando.jpgIt is being rumored that the departure of key personnel in Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn and Paolo Martinelli is leading to internal trouble at Ferrari with discontent brewing about the new management structure. For one, Kimi Raikkonen looked highly displeased having to sweat it out in a red racing suit and polo-neck perhaps wondering why he couldn’t just dress casually like his McLaren counterpart Fernando Alonso. An insider reveals that he had a few cold words with sporting director Stefano Domenicali about the same, as it had been Domenicali’s idea that he should do the drivers parade in his racing suit. However in keeping with his new avatar, he had his now-usual smile plastered on his face, concealing his displeasure like a diplomat.

Meanwhile, Alonso maintained a grim countenance throughout, in stark contrast to his usual cheery disposition (maybe it is just part of being a McLaren driver). It is however rumored that he was sulking after Ron Dennis refused to allow his favorite teddy bear along on the trip. The teddy, as it is well known, has accompanied Fernando to all race circuits so far and its presence was deeply missed by the world champion. The stuffed toy was last photographed wearing a stylish ‘Alonso’ headband. (picture below).

nandoteddy.jpgMichael Schumacher clarified that his role in Ferrari is undefined because it is his wish that it be that way as it would absolve him of any responsibility whatsoever. He opined that ‘we made the right decision in hiring Kimi Raikkonen’, backing the Finn to shine in the Scuderia camp. The 7 time world champion also seemed to be under the impression that he has attended all Ferrari practice sessions and meetings this year, and was deeply surprised when informed that Ferrari had tested at Vallelunga and Valencia the past two weeks. It must be remembered that Nigel Stepney is also the test technical manager, and in all the recent agitation perhaps forgot to inform Michael about the test sessions. One can’t help but feel that this new Ferrari staff makes Kimi Raikkonen seem assiduously hard-working in comparison.

First of all, who is Van Der Garde? And why is everyone fighting over him? It appears that Van Der Garde’s claim to fame is that he has won a race in F3 Euroseries. And his earlier attempts at procurring a super-licence this week were thwarted by bad weather (Apparently he is a bit touchy about driving when it is windy).

After being announced as Super Aguiri test driver and having had his first test at Valencia only yesterday, he was today announced as a Spyker test driver – much to Super Aguiri’s chagrin. It must be remembered that Spyker and SA aren’t already on the best of terms really what with the customer car row, and now SA is not thrilled (understandably) about having their third driver nicked in addition.

Team-hopping and dubious contracts are not new to F1, and there have been more high profile instances than SA and Spyker fighting over Garde for test driver. There was Jenson Button who felt something as trivial as a contract with Honda shouldn’t prevent him from racing for Williams. Then there was Adrian Newey who thought he could design cars for Jaguar while contracted to McLaren while Ron Dennis thought he couldn’t.

metal_plate.jpgOf course, one mustn’t forget Michael Schumacher who nonchalantly qualified seventh in his first attempt with a F1 car with no prior testing experience. Jordan thought they had him, Benneton thought they did as well, and in all the ensuing confusion the night before race weekend, Bernie Ecclestone told a distraught Michael to “shut up and goto bed” and arranged for him to drive for Benneton. Well, 7 world championships later, Michael is legend, and Eddie Jordan is still kicking himself for letting Michael walk around the paddock at large without an iron-clad contract hung around his neck.

Ferrari has meanwhile clarified that Nigel Stepney remains under contract to Ferrari and his advertisement for a new job through Autosport might have been a shade premature. And oh yes, Garde – in keeping with the current trend – announced that he was not the next Schumacher just in case anyone was wondering.

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