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Button dismisses “accident” claims

Brackley, Tuesday: Formula One world championship leader Jenson Button has angrily dismissed semi-humorous reports that he has been involved in an accident, declaring them “stupid and unnecessary.”

Angry: F1 race winner Jenson Button

Angry: F1 race winner Jenson Button

The phenomenon, which circulates primarily around Internet forums and tongue-in-cheek F1 blogs, sees articles published under the headline “BUTTON INVOLVED IN MASSIVE F1 ACCIDENT.” On opening the report, the only item is an image of a computer keyboard, with its F1 key removed from the board and placed at an unusual angle.

The phenomenon has been traced to 1954, when a locally-known wit in Barrowford spotted the similarity between the motor racing category “Formula One” and one of the keys on his typewriter. The gentleman, whose name is unknown, removed the F1 key from his machine, threw it on the floor and photographed it, sending the resulting image by carrier pigeon to associates throughout Lancashire.

Since Button’s F1 debut in 2000, the joke has taken on an increased apparent relevance to the modern sport, and with the growth in popularity of the Internet, repeated iterations of the story have been widely distributed.

“They’re all just very stupid, and unnecessary,” Button told journalists today. “Sure, maybe it was good the first time, but over and over again, it just gets a bit boring.

“Yes, my name is Jenson Button. And yes, there is an F1 key on your computer that you could remove if you wanted to. But the lack of originality is staggering.”

Button also hit out at reports over the weekend that, following the Brawn GP team’s success in the Australian Grand Prix in the wake of Honda’s pull-out from the sport, the team had been “Brawn Again.” “That’s just inaccurate and misleading,” the Somerset-born racer said.

He did, however, express a slight soft spot for the puns relating to the involvement of the Virgin Group in his team.

“Then again, there is no need to repeat these ideas,” Jenson said. “There’s plenty to laugh about in Formula One.”

The Runoff Area already knows this.

Beeb to revise Brundle’s grid walk

London, Sunday: New British Formula One broadcasters the BBC have announced a change in the format of a part of their pre-race show, to take effect from the Malaysian Grand Prix next weekend.

Commentator Martin Brundle’s grid walk, which takes place about fifteen minutes before the start of each Grand Prix, has been a firm favourite among fans of the sport since the British ex-driver joined ITV for their Formula One programmes in 1997.

Revised: Martin Brundle on the grid

Revised: Martin Brundle on the grid

In recent years, however, access to drivers on the grid has been restricted, with many choosing not to interrupt their pre-race preparations by talking to the media so close to the start of the race.

A statement from the BBC Television Centre in London today read: “As part of our commitment to improving our F1 broadcasts, we have opted to revise Martin Brundle’s ‘grid walk’ segment in the hope of being able to interview more drivers.

“Martin will now be broadcasting before the race from the toilets in the paddock, a place frequented by drivers who feel the need to ‘lighten the load’ as part of their regular routine just before a Grand Prix.

“The BBC, therefore, have opted to utilise a key part of this routine to increase the exposure of the drivers, for the benefit of fans everywhere.”

Brundle himself has often commented over the years on the need for drivers to take a “comfort break” before the race in order to fully prepare themselves for what can be a gruelling few hours. Now fans will have the opportunity to witness this crucial stage in the driver’s preparation first-hand.

“I think it’s a great idea,” former F1 driver and BBC pundit David Coulthard said. “It will give a whole new insight on the inner workings of Formula One. I for one am very interested to see whether Lewis Hamilton really does have balls of steel.”

Australian Grand Prix: Preview Preview

Absolutely bloody everywhere, Thursday: With less than a day until Formula One’s 2009 competitors take to the track for the first time, publications the world over have been frantically previewing and predicting the outcome of this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, the first of the season.

So, what can we expect from these mountains of race previews? The Runoff Area takes a look.

Towering: A collection of Australian Grand Prix previews

Towering: A collection of Australian Grand Prix previews

Pre-season form has been good for most of the usual suspects, with comprehensive testing analysis coming from the likes of F1 Racing and Autosport. The latter, however, tipped to once again top the pile for F1 news this season, took a wild and perhaps rash step last week in utilising the testing performance of each team to predict the order in Australia. This analysis could, in the long run, hurt their predictive power.

GrandPrix.com looked promising early in testing, but fears persist that they devoted too much of their programme to concocting radical excuses for McLaren’s lack of pace, and not enough on seriously analysing the rest of the teams. This lack of preparation may prove critical later in the season.

Late arrivals to the party include a myriad of British tabloids, who have suddenly rediscovered a chap named Jenson Button and are already championing him to take the world title. As Force India have proved, however, motorsport and patriotism rarely produce satisfactory results.

Several bloggers have already switched their focus away from the racing and onto the politics of Formula One, which have taken a disastrous turn in the last few weeks. A dangerous strategy, this, especially as actual racing might occur for the first time in several years.

Planet-F1 had hoped to move away from their laughable position as chief unsubstantiated-rumour-mongers this season, but all indicators so far are that they will continue to provide a source of entertainment for the motorsport world, though little more.

A1 organisers to sue F1

Melbourne, Wednesday: A1GP chief Tony Teixeira has threatened to sue Formula One’s Bernie Ecclestone after accusing the sport of infringing on the intellectual property of his series.

The World Cup of Motorsport, powered by Ferrari since the beginning of the current season, has reportedly suffered losses this year after, Teixeira claims, F1 has attempted to steal the identity of the category.

Threatening: A1GP boss Tony Teixeira

Threatening: A1GP boss Tony Teixeira

“Dreadful organisation and internal strife have been hallmarks of A1GP since the very beginning of the series,” Teixera told reporters today. “Yet here we are, a week before the first F1 race of the season, and there are rumblings about illegal diffusers, money not being paid to teams, points systems and all kinds of organisational disasters. This sort of nonsense is supposed to be the exclusive property of A1GP, and we will fight to restore our exclusive status as the world’s most frequently shambolic racing series.”

Teixeira pointed to the disastrous Beijing race, where the circuit was not wide enough to safely fit the cars, and the fact that few of the Ferrari-powered machines had even been built in time for the first race of the season at Zandvoort, as examples of A1’s identity, declaring that F1 had no right to demonstrate itself as disorganised and chaotic so soon before the beginning of the 2009 season.

F1 supremo Ecclestone, however, was scathing about Teixeira’s accusations: “He’s just a bit annoyed because his colleagues failed to arrange his birthday party properly,” the commercial overlord of Formula One said. “It was supposed to be some kind of booze-fuelled bash in a beer factory, but apparently they couldn’t get it sorted in time.”

It is not believed that Ecclestone was invited.

Meanwhile Teixeira has reportedly been arranging for his series to re-assert itself as disgracefully unprepared for the task of running a pseudo-serious racing category, having already cancelled the proposed Interlagos race and apparently launching plans to “lose” some of the cars on the way to the next round in Portugal.

FIA to extend points plan for 2010

Paris, Monday: Following the rejection of the new Formula One scoring system by the teams this weekend, the FIA have insisted that although the controversial “winner-takes-all” plan will be deferred until 2010, it will now actually be extended to promote an even more dramatic change in the way the F1 world championship is decided.

Different: The F1 World Drivers Championship

Different: The F1 World Driver's Championship

Last week the FIA World Motor Sport Council altered the scoring system – although drivers would continue to score points based on the old 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 system, the winner of the world championship would be the driver who had won the most races, regardless of how many points he had scored.

Now FIA President Max Mosley has told reporters that the system will be extended. “Not only will first place go to the driver with the most race wins,” he said outside the FIA’s headquarters today, “but second place will go to the driver who has finished second the most times. The driver who finishes third most often will get third place, and so on.”

After this system had been exhausted, with twentieth place going to the driver listed as last most often, the remaining drivers would be listed in points order. This would mean that, in 2008, Felipe Massa would have won the driver’s championship, with Nick Heidfeld second and Kimi Raikkonen third. Mark Webber would manage the significant achievement of being both seventh and eighth in the standings. Lewis Hamilton would be twenty-first.

Fernando Alonso is said to be especially excited about the move, as had the system been in place in 2005, he would have finished first, second and third in the drivers’ championship.

Explaining the new system, Mosley said: “We looked over our original proposal and decided that only having drivers fighting for the win wasn’t good enough. We want them to be fighting for all positions, all the time.”

This morning Mosley was unavailable for further comment as he was apparently “tied up elsewhere.” The Runoff Area didn’t ask.

Montezemolo banned from Comet

Maranello, Friday: The Ferrari Formula One team have today issued a statement confirming that team boss Luca di Montezemolo has been banned from entering the premises of electrical goods store Comet, after a fresh outburst of rage against a range of household appliances earlier this week.

Smashed: Ferrari boss Montezemolos television

Smashed: Ferrari boss Montezemolo's television

Montezemolo, who is the president of FOTA as well as the head of the Italian squad, reacted badly to the news that the sport’s governing body, the FIA, had rejected his organisation’s proposals for improving the show of Formula One in future, and instead adopted a different set of ideas for this season and beyond.

“He just went mental,” one unfortunate witness observed. “First it was televisions, then the computer, the dishwasher and everything he could get his hands on. All of it was completely smashed. I’m surprised nobody was hurt.”

A frustrating few years for the Ferrari team has meant that Montezemolo has racked up an impressive total of $2.1 million’s worth of smashed electrical appliances – a sum so significant that Ferrari have had to take out extra insurance to cover their equipment in case of an “Act of Luca.”

“It’s almost as much damage as Kimi did to our cars last year,” one Ferrari mechanic wryly observed.

Fearing the damage the Italian could cause, both physically and in terms of their brand, the Comet Group have swiftly announced that Montezemolo is no longer welcome in their stores: “In order to protect our assets, Comet has no choice but to ask Mr. di Montezemolo to refrain from entering any of our premises from now on,” a spokesman said today.

It is not known how often the Ferrari supremo frequents the stores, but it is conceivable that a host of other anti-Luca measures could follow from other companies, also fearful that Montezemolo could take out his anger on them. Sensationalist newspapers in the Italian press have already speculated about triggering what is being dubbed as “Montezemolo’s Revenge.”

FIA now “too ridiculous” to parody

The Internet, Wednesday: Motorsport satire sites across cyberspace have been plunged into turmoil today with the revelation that the new-for-2009 Formula One rule changes announced by the FIA yesterday cannot be made any more ridiculous than they already are.

Too silly: The FIA inaction

Too silly: The FIA inaction

The job of entertaining motorsport fans by parodying serious news stories has become more difficult in the wake of yesterday’s news, which includes the introduction of a “winner-takes-all” points system for the driver’s world championship and a £30m budget cap that will only be applicable to half the teams.

“I’ve been racking my brains all morning and I just can’t come up with anything that’s more completely stupid than this,” the editor of one popular humour site said. “Seriously, I’ve been ringing the FIA for hours now, trying to get Max Mosley to write articles for us. He’s hilarious.”

Another satirist was horrified at the news: “How are we supposed to compete with this? I mean, I’ve had some funny ideas for how F1 could be made more pointless and unfair in the past, but none of them were this crazy.”

Rumours that FIA President Max Mosley was tired of being satirised by the F1 fringe media and decided to descend into shameless self-parody in order to make it impossible for him to be ridiculed any further have not been substantiated, although the explanation is certainly compelling.

There is hope for fans of the motorsports comedy genre, however, with at least one leading figure in the field assuring our sources that there was plenty left in the sport that could still be made fun of: “The FIA may be a no-go area now, but we’re confident that we can extract a few cheap laughs by swearing a lot and publicly insulting Ferrari fans,” the unnecessarily vulgar and unpleasant webmaster said.

It is not yet known how the rest of the motorsports humour and satire world will respond to the news.