1) Blown diffusers - F1’s newest fad replacing the F duct, girlfriends who are only marginally less famous than you and falling out with your team mate.
2) Pirelli - New rubber for 2011. We’ll miss you Bridgestone.
3) Williams - It looks like they’ve finally found an upgrade that improves the car.
4) Pat Fry - Landed himself a very cushy job at Ferrari weeks after leaving McLaren. Lucky boy.
5) Robert Kubica - All of a sudden the man driving the bumble bee Renault looks like he could win a race or two before the season’s out. Rumours of a big money move to Merc wont go away either.
5) Eddie Jordan’s moccasins - Jesus Christ almighty!
4) Jenson Button’s new helmet design - You know it wasn’t worth the effort when Ted Kravitz has to point it out to everyone.
3) USF1 - Banned and fined. Quite impressive for a team that doesn’t exist. It also reminds us how much we like it when the FIA flexes it’s muscles. It gets us all hot and bothered.
2) Valencia - Who decided it would be a good idea to let Tilke loose in a Spanish container ship port? The best part of the weekend is knowing we don’t have to suffer this circuit for another 12 months once the chequered flag falls.
1) Michael Schumacher - We love you Schumi, we really do but what’s going on? Buck up your ideas or bow out.
1) Falling out with your team mate - Red Bull are at it, so are McLaren. There’s never been a better time to fall out with the man across the garage from you.
2) David Coulthard - Can you say MBE?
3) Bending the rules - Running out of petrol on your qualifying in lap? That’ll be a £7,000 fine for you McLaren.
4) Signing a new contract - Massa and Webber have both decided to stay where they are for a few more years.
5) Tonio Liuzzi - Just as it looks he’s only got a few races left before he’s consigned to a life in DTM he qualifies sixth. Well done, Tonio!
5) The F duct - Everyone has one nowadays.
4) Jonathan Legard - “Here he comes! Will he get pole!? …no. Seventh.”
3) Nigel Mansell - It would be rude not to mention him after yesterday.
2) Mercedes GP - They were the best of the rest in Turkey, they looked very promising in free practice but in qualifying they struggled.
1) Formula One versus Football - Don’t make me choose. Please don’t make me choose.
Let’s be honest, Fernando Alonso doesn’t need an excuse to look all distant and moody. I’ve seen smacked arses that look more welcoming than ‘Nando when he’s feeling chipper so God knows what it must be like trying to converse with the perpetually cross looking Spaniard when he’s had a bad day at the office. One group of people who will have some idea are his mechanics at Ferrari, who will have had their ears bashed for the progress, or lack of it, since Alonso won first time out in Bahrain.
In the later stages of last Sunday’s Turkish Grand Prix, as the assembled media were pouring over footage of Vettel’s failed move on his team mate Mark Webber, the scarlet red Ferrari of the two time world champion was involved in a tussle for a paltry amount of points with the Renault of young Russian Vitaly Petrov. A dozen or so laps earlier the FIA broadcast a transmission from the pit wall to Alonso, smugly assuring him that Petrov wouldn’t last long under pressure from the prancing horse. They were wrong. A few laps from the close of the race the desperate and undoubtedly frustrated Spaniard finally managed to battle his way past Petrov, sustaining almost terminal damage to his Ferrari and a puncture to the Renault. A far cry from his saunter though the field in Oz only a month or two earlier and not how Ferrari would’ve wanted to mark their 800th Grand Prix.
At the start of the season it seemed all the sensible money was being thrown on red. After last season’s horror show we were assured Ferrari were back to their best, chuck a world class driver like Fernando into the equation and a heard of wild stallions weren’t going to stop them from securing both the drivers and constructors titles at a canter. However, it seems a rather lame prancing horse (and an unlucky pilot) have put pay to that.
So how have Alonso and Ferrari went from standing on the top step of the podium to pottering around in parc fermé while the lads from Red Bull, McLaren and even Mercedes take the glory? There’s no doubt that the Spaniard hasn’t had the best of seasons after the win in the Middle East, coming together with his old rival Michael Schumacher in Australia put pay to his chances in that race, although his storming drive through the pack to secure fourth was commendable. This was followed by an amateurish jump start in China which again saw him finish fourth and a crash in Monaco during free practice managed to ruin that weekend before any competitive racing had begun. Add these mistakes to his lack of pace in Turkey and it suggests that all is not well with car and driver.
Alonso’s brain fades have been supplemented by a car which hasn’t been developed as quickly others have, so much so that it’s arguable Ferrari are now on a par with Renault who spent their winter trying to work out a way to leave the sport without incurring the wrath of the FIA. However, this may not last long with the French team promising to debut new upgrades, including an f-duct, in the very near future. Being behind Renault, when the team ideally want to be ahead of the likes of Red Bull, will be a huge dent to the ego of all at Maranello. Any improvements that the team do make may well drag them back ahead of the rest of the chasing pack but given the progress of the two frontrunners in this year’s championship they can write off any ambitions they may still have of picking up silverware come the end of the season.
So where does this leave the key players in this current mess? There is no way that Ferrari will drop Alonso unless his form dips even more severely. If as some suspect, he isn’t psychologically strong enough to cope with a team mate that doesn’t role over for him then Massa may well be elbowed out of the team and move to a potential ART Grand Prix outfit (ran by his agent Nicholas Todt). The most likely replacement looks to be Robert Kubica, but the Pole is widely regarded as a better racer than Massa which could also prove problematic.
More precarious is the position of Stefano Domenicali, who has been team principal at Ferrari for three years. In 2008 Massa narrowly missed out on the title, in 2009 Ferrari only managed one win and 2010 is looking equally as fruitless. Following Jean Todt, who transformed Ferrari into the winning machine it is widely thought of as now, was never going to be easy but it probably isn’t too dramatic to call Domenicali’s tenure so far a disaster. Luca di Montezemolo doesn’t suffer fools gladly and while the flamboyant Italian may be proud of having more of his compatriots involved in the running of the team if it simply isn’t working he won’t think twice about wielding the axe.
Talk of a crisis at Maranello and key personnel being given the chop may feel slightly premature but we’re already over one third of the way through the season. Teams don’t have much time left to play catch up; they need to be at the front taking maximum points now and if there’s one team that demands maximum points it is Ferrari.
The first in what we hope will be a long running series, hot and not will run down the best and worst in the world of F1 every race weekend. So, without further or do lets begin.
1) Scary Fernando Alonso waxworks - There are no words.
2) Jessica Michibata - Rumours that Jenson has shelved the model are rife, but we still would.
3) Martin Brundle - If you don’t grin like a child every time he uses the phrase “understeers like a cross channel ferry” you’re dead inside.
4) Formula 1 in the United States - It’s back, apparently. Lets keep Michelin away from it this time.
5) Tensions in the Korean Peninsula - Kim Jong-il could yet save us from visiting yet another Hermann Tilke designed monstrosity.
5) Lewis Hamilton’s earrings - One ear is just about tolerable but both? Was this another one of Nicole’s ideas?
4) Jake Humphrey and his iPad - You can see the jealousy in EJ’s eyes as Jake waves his new toy around and we can’t help but wonder why?
3) Williams - It’s sad to see one of the great names struggling towards the back of the pack.
2) Tonio Liuzzi - What’s that coming over the hill? It’s Paul di Resta, it’s Paul di Resta!
1) Seb Vettel’s finger wagging - It was cute when you managed to nab pole in a Toro Rosso, now you’re at Red Bull it’s just irritating. Stop it or we’ll break it.
Now I am loathe to use the title of any song, let alone something penned by the likeable one out of Genesis, to start an article but nothing quite sums up the closing stages of Sunday’s Monaco Grand Prix like this 1980s pop rock number.
When Michael Schumacher shot up the inside of a struggling Fernando Alonso on the final corner of the final lap after the safety car had left the track there was no hint that this move was anything other than an entirely lawful and extremely crafty piece of driving from the seven time world champion. However, within moments of the chequered flag it became clear that we were going to have another protracted discussion about rules, regulations and the FIA’s grip on reality.
Stefano Domenicali’s post race interview began to cast doubt on whether the move was lawful, something which seemed to be news to the majority of the BBC team as well as yours truly. According to the Italian, tucked away in the tome that is the rules of Formula 1, was article 40.13 which stated: “If the race ends while the safety car is deployed it will enter the pit lane at the end of the last lap and the cars will take the chequered flag as normal without overtaking.” The FIA ruled that Schumacher’s overtake was unlawful and slapped him with a 20 second penalty, dropping him out of the points.
The case seems cut and dry, but several questions still remain about 40.13 and the incident in general. For instance, was the safety car still considered deployed? Unusually for a race ending under these conditions it was announced that the safety car would be coming in at the end of the lap. Fans know the procedure if the race ends in such circumstances so why decide to signpost it all of a sudden? Was the announcement because the SC was coming in allowing drivers to race to the line? Additionally, why was Alonso looking very racey coming out of the last few corners himself? Ferrari have said both their drivers knew the situation but they were hardly the actions of someone coasting to the finish line.
Most interestingly though was the conduct of the race marshals when the safety car came in. Previously when the race has finished under the safety car the marshall have continued to wave the yellow flags to indicate no overtaking, as we saw in Australia 2009.
Button - Australia 2009 (Click for full image)
Yesterday we saw something slightly different - green flags. The universal racing signal for “hurry your arse up, we’re going at it.”
Schumacher & Alonso - Monaco 2010 (Click for full image)
This could just be a mistake by the race marshals and if it is then Alonso shouldn’t suffer because of it but neither should Schumacher be punished. Reverse the positions and be done with it rather than attempt to keep up this charade.
To be fair this is a relatively minor incident in the grand scheme of things. The FIA have got form for either getting far bigger, far more important decisions wrong or acting in an overzealous manner when dealing with indiscretions. Unfortunately though this just manages to reaffirm the belief many race fans have that the sport is confusing and mollycoddled. Last seasons rule change, creating a line before the start/finish straight which would allow racing to begin earlier in the event of a safety car, looked smart on paper but in the cold light of day you can’t help but ask “why bother?” The same goes for the frankly ridiculous 20 second penalty imposed by the stewards. I understand that there are few options open to them but if this, as I suspect when it goes to appeal, it wont be as easy to rule on as the stewards found it yesterday.
Note: I can’t take credit for the photos, they’ve been lifted from elsewhere.