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Gascoyne: Lotus line-up shows intent

Norwich, Sunday: Lotus technical director Mike Gascoyne has claimed today that his team’s driver line-up of Jarno Trulli and Heikki Kovalainen demonstrates fully the team’s intentions for moving forward in the future.

Intent: Lotus' team for 2010

“Some teams are struggling to find drivers who have the appropriate blend of experience and money,” Gascoyne said today. “However, by signing two drivers of the calibre of Jarno and Heikki, [Lotus boss] Tony Fernandes has made clear that the team will be moving in a very specific direction in 2010 and onwards.

“Basically, our plan is to qualify a fairly long way up the grid in each race, then drive very slowly around on Sunday afternoons, irritating the drivers behind us beyond measure. We aim to finish each race mired in midfield obscurity, having shown the potential of doing much better on Saturday but never quite delivering.”

Of all possible drivers, Lotus could have picked no better than these two: Trulli is well-known for his “Trulli train” technique of leading a group of faster cars during races, while being impossible to pass. Kovalainen, on the other hand, often qualified well in his McLaren days but faded during the race, particularly in the first stint.

“Heikki has never been particularly quick in the first stint of a race,” Gascoyne confirmed. “With no refuelling in 2010, the whole race is basically going to be one big first stint, so we’re confident that Heikki will be able to deliver exactly what is expected of him this year.”

Trulli admitted he was looking forward to the challenge of underperforming with a new team in 2010: “My whole career has been about unfulfilled promise,” he said. “What better place to continue that trend than with a team making impossibly ambitious predictions for 2010?”

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Irvine sparks racism row

Dublin, Thursday: Former F1 driver Eddie Irvine has been criticised by fans of Lewis Hamilton after he made supposedly racist remarks about the 2008 world champion last week.

Controversial: Former F1 driver Irvine

Speaking about Hamilton’s new teammate for 2010, reigning champion Jenson Button, Irvine claimed that the McLaren newcomer would not stand a chance in the intra-team battle next season, stating: “I think he [Button]’s going to get murdered.”

Fans of the British star, F1’s first ever black world champion, have taken the Ulsterman to task for his choice of words, however. “This is blatantly an attempt to perpetuate the myth that all black people are criminals and murderers,” S. Shoes, Hamilton fan club spokesperson, said.

“As we know, all criticism of Hamilton is based on racism rather than any legitimate concerns over his ability, driving standards or personality,” Ms. Shoes continued. “However, Irvine’s comments reach a new level in that they are so transparently racist, this complaint doesn’t even count as straw-clutching.

“Everyone knows that Lewis would never murder or even slightly bruise any fellow competitor. Everyone, that is, apart from this particularly stupid Irishman.”

Hamilton himself was unmoved by the comments, thanking the team for allowing him to express no opinion whatsoever on Irvine’s diatribe.

Lauda in “no comment” shock

Vienna, Tuesday: Former F1 driver and outspoken pundit Niki Lauda has shocked journalists today by declining to comment on a number of stories currently circulating in the F1 world.

Laud: The uncharacteristically silent Niki Lauda

Lauda, who won three world championships between 1975 and 1984, has been renowned in recent years for his brash, uncompromising attitude and lack of reservations over saying what he thinks. His opinions are often widely published in the motorsports press, such as in 2007 when he called Lewis Hamilton “the next big thing in F1,” and in 2008 when he called Lewis Hamilton “an overrated waste of space.”

However, with little in the way of Formula One news at present, journalists hoped to goad Lauda into saying something controversial about Michael Schumacher’s return to Formula One with Mercedes. The Austrian did not put anything on the record, citing “no need to talk about what has already been talked about over and over again.”

“This is truly baffling behaviour from Niki,” one F1 news analyst commented. “Over the last twenty years or so, talking about what has already been talked about over and over again was one of the hallmarks of Niki’s punditry. The kind of ill-informed, speculative, angry and entirely contradictory stream of quotes is exactly what we at Planet-F1 have been relying on for years.”

Concerns have been raised that Lauda may be feeling unwell, given the sudden and extreme nature of his departure from his usual personality.

When asked about Lauda’s unwillingness to cooperate, former F1 champion Jackie Stewart also shocked reporters by telling them to “go away.”

Journalists confess to “silly rumours”

Everywhere, Saturday: Formula One journalists spend most of their time deliberately cooking up silly rumours to trick syndication agencies into publishing nonsensical stories, it has been revealed today.

False: Rumoured Campos driver Nelson Piquet Jr.

Last week a Spanish website ran a story claiming that three-time world champion Nelson Piquet had purchased a stake in the Campos F1 team so that his son would be guaranteed an F1 race seat in 2010. This turned out to be a joke for the traditional Spanish “Day of the Innocents,” similar to April Fools’ Day, but it led F1 journalists to reveal that such occurrences are not uncommon.

Many Formula One reporters privately detest certain so-called “syndication” websites, which do no original journalism but pass off F1 stories as if they are their own work. Making up the occasional false rumour, it has been reported, is an amusing way for real journalists to show up the lack of actual work done by their Internet-based rivals.

“Originally it was all quite pleasant and subtle, with unlikely driver moves or sponsorship issues being raised, when they had no actual basis in reality,” one esteemed journalist said earlier. “But recently we’ve been upping the ante to see what these guys are stupid enough to fall for. Sebastien Loeb driving for Toro Rosso, Anthony Hamilton buying Renault, even Ralf Schumacher making an F1 comeback – as if that would ever happen. So far these have all been reported as fact by various syndication websites….

<ten-minute rant deleted>

“…which is why they should all be rounded up and have their Internet connections forcibly removed,” he concluded.

It has even been reported that there are whole websites dedicated to making up obviously false stories about Formula One, though this is obviously too silly to be true.

Alguersuari concerned over youth

Faenza, Tuesday: Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari has revealed his concerns that his age has been a factor in his team’s delay in confirming him in a race seat for 2010.

Too young? F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari

The Spaniard believed he had signed a contract with STR to race for them next season, but so far the Red Bull-owned team have failed to announce him as one of their drivers. Today Alguersuari claimed that being the youngest Formula One driver in history has hindered him, and this may influence STR’s decision over whether to keep him.

“It’s not easy, being both a Formula One driver and a foetus at the same time,” Alguersuari said in a message delivered by ultrasound earlier today. “There were some issues earlier in the year when my fingers hadn’t fully developed, so I was unable to change gear properly, but now I’m coming close to full term and I’m confident that these issues can be put behind me for 2010.”

Alguersuari is due to be born in January – his F1 debut in Hungary last July made him the youngest driver ever to take part in a Grand Prix weekend. The previous record holder, 3-month-old Sebastian Vettel, responded to the Spaniard’s debut by spitting up over his chief mechanic.

STR have yet to comment publicly on Alguersuari’s appointment, amid rumours that ex-F1 driver Ralf Schumacher is to follow his brother into returning to the sport, in a move that promises an alarming level of mediocrity should it come off. However, team principal Franz Tost is said to be keen to give Alguersuari one more chance following his birth, “and if he doesn’t improve I’ll kick him across the garage.”

Though initially of questionable legality, it is now thought to be perfectly within the FIA’s rules for a driver as young as Alguersuari to take part. There have, however, previously been problems at the post-race weigh-in.

Large Hadron Collider to be used in crash testing

Geneva, Monday: The FIA have unveiled new plans for the structural impact testing of Formula One cars, as revised safety regulations mean that prospective entrants to the F1 world championship will need to pass ever-more stringent crash tests to be allowed to compete.

Large: F1's newest testing venue

In a brand new approach to impact testing, which was previously done on FIA-approved testing rigs in the teams’ factories, the FIA have agreed a deal with the European atomic research group CERN to use the underground Large Hadron Collider as a venue for future F1 crash tests.

The LHC is a particle accelerator located in a 27-kilometre-long tunnel under the Franco-Swiss border, in which subatomic particles are excited to high speeds and smashed together to observe what comes out. The FIA plan to use the tunnel to accelerate F1 cars to high speeds and smash them together, to observe how well the cars stay together.

“Obviously this is an expensive, and some would say needless, process, given the rarity of head-on collisions in Formula One and the limited relevance of a circular circuit to F1 racing,” an FIA spokesman said. “But we are confident that any car capable of surviving such an impact would easily be safe enough to race in F1, even with someone like Romain Grosjean at the wheel.”

One of the benefits to F1 of using the LHC is that the subatomic research is only carried out at intervals throughout the year, with the rest of the time being devoted to refining the equipment and repairing damage. During this extended downtime it is imagined that the F1 testing could take place.

Surprisingly no-one has yet volunteered to drive the cars as they are being tested, though some sources in the FIA are telling us that Nelson Piquet’s immunity from punishment in the recent “Crashgate” case may soon be revisited.

FOTA Christmas dinner ends in chaos

Paris, Thursday: Plans for a joint Christmas dinner attended by members of the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) have officially been abandoned after concerns over the contribution to the evening by each team could not be resolved.

Abandoned: Christmas, FOTA style

Initially teams agreed to save the costs of their traditional festive meal by all dining together at Christmas, giving the added benefit of demonstrating unity amongst the organisation heading into 2010.

However, it has emerged in recent days that a deal concerning the nature of the dinner and the way food would be distributed between the teams cannot be made, and the plan for the joint party has been abandoned.

Apparently some of the new teams were concerned that bigger, more established figures like Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh would take all the best cuts for themselves, leaving only a few leftovers for the smaller teams. Montezemolo claimed that this was the only fair course of action, as his team was providing the turkey and McLaren the Christmas pudding, while the much-maligned Campos team were only bringing sprouts and it was not yet clear whether USF1 were going to bring anything at all.

Instead it has been decided that teams will have their own separate Christmas dinners again this year. Virgin F1 stakeholder Richard Branson announced that his team was proud to provide the best possible Christmas dinner at the smallest possible budget, having organised a trip to Aldi with many of his employees. Lotus boss Tony Fernandes called Branson’s idea “stupid” before announcing that he wasn’t going to send the British entrepreneur a Christmas card after all.

The festive spirit is still alive in F1, though, with all the teams clubbing together to buy Luca di Montezemolo a new television set.

The Runoff Area wishes all its readers a Merry Christmas and apologises for the recent shortage of articles. Service will be sporadic until the New Year.