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A1 bosses relieved by swine flu

Brands Hatch, Wednesday: A1GP series chief Tony Teixeira has today revealed that he is “extremely relieved” by news of an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico, which has led him to cancel the proposed season-ending event in Mexico City.

Cancelled: A1GP in Mexico City

Cancelled: A1GP in Mexico City

The World Health Organization recently raised its level of influenza pandemic alert relating to the spread of the virus, which originated in Mexico. This announcement led Teixeira to cancel the A1GP event, thanks to the UK Bureau of Unnecessarily Paranoid Travel Advice suggesting that “non-essential” travel to Mexico is avoided.

However, Teixeira has also revealed that he had been looking for an excuse to cancel the event anyway, and was happy that swine flu had given him the perfect reason: “We feel that, having only cancelled two events so far this season and run with an incomplete grid in another, we need to improve on our potential for delivering hilariously disastrous results.

“Obviously the outbreak of swine flu is tragic for all involved, and we hope that the pandemic can be contained and resolved quickly and at minimum human cost, but for us the cost of travelling all the way to Central America has been saved, and we’re very grateful for that.”

Teixeira said that he would not usually follow the advice of the Bureau for Unnecessarily Paranoid Travel Advice, as most of their ideas – such as avoiding travel on Latvian roads or long-distance buses in Nepal – was nonsensical and impractical. “Honestly, there would only be about three countries we could go to,” he revealed, “but in this case their suggestions complied exactly with what we were looking for. So really there was no choice but to do as they said.”

A1GP has a chequered history in that part of the world, having tried and failed to host events in Brazil in every season so far. Teixeira hopes normal shoddy service can be resumed when the next season gets underway in the autumn.


Strategist sidelined in Toyota reshuffle

Cologne, Monday: The Toyota Formula One team has today announced a major reshuffle among its race team staff, with the biggest news being the “re-assignment” of the team’s chief strategist to a factory role.

Magic Eight Ball, who has been with the team since they first began preparations to enter F1 in 2001, was criticised after a poor call in the Bahrain Grand Prix led to Jarno Trulli and Timo Glock finishing low in the points rather than challenging for the squad’s maiden win. Mr. Ball decided to run the two drivers’ longer stints on the uncompetitive medium tyre, allowing Jenson Button to leapfrog the pair and claim victory in Sakhir.

Random: Toyotas former chief strategist

Random: Toyota's former chief strategist

“Some teams use calculators or spreadsheets to work out the optimum race strategy,” Toyota had previously boasted. “But our Magic Eight Ball is better than that.” It now appears that the Japanese manufacturer has changed its mind on the matter, with Ball now to work as a supervisor in the team’s Cologne base.

A source at Toyota said: “Magic Eight has been with us for a long time, and obviously it’s a shame to see him go from the race team. He was always so reliable – you’d just shake him up and there was your answer.”

Ball’s solutions to routine strategic problems were often unconventional, such as instructing Jarno Trulli to qualify on three litres of fuel in the 2005 US Grand Prix or telling both drivers to get in Fernando Alonso’s way in Japan in 2006. The seemingly random nature of his decisions, however, were seen by Toyota management as being a strength, making it harder for competitors to guess what Ball was going to do next.

Doubts have existed for a long time about Ball’s ability to accurately judge situations, however. Some prominent Toyota figures were calling for him to be replaced as early as 2004, when he disastrously advised bosses to “hire Ralf.”

New entries want exclusive F1 spot

Sakhir, Saturday: As the Formula One circus gears up for the Bahrain Grand Prix, the news this weekend is that several groups are planning their entries into the F1 world championship for 2010.

Fail: Chassis builder and F1 hopefuls Lola

Fail: Chassis builder and F1 hopefuls Lola

Chassis maker Lola, failed former F1 applicant Prodrive and car manufacturer Aston Martin have all been linked with moves to the sport next year, their enthusiasm rekindled by sweeping cost cuts proposed for the new season. FOM boss Bernie Ecclestone has already hinted that the grid could be allowed to expand beyond its current maximum of 24 cars, to make way for all the new entries – and that a return to the pre-qualifying of the early 1990s could be necessary.

Peter Windsor, motorsports journalist and key figure in fellow 2010 applicant USF1, told reporters why the motivation to enter F1 has never been stronger:

“Obviously the massively reduced costs have made some impact,” Windsor said, “but the main thing is that with the withdrawal of Honda at the end of last year, there is a niche in F1 to be filled.

“USF1, Lola, Prodrive and others will basically be competing for the privileged spot of F1’s laughing stock.”

The role, filled in the past by such entries as Andrea Moda, Pacific Grand Prix and Forti Corse, is said to be prestigious among motorsport bosses, as it is difficult to make a team so woeful without a special effort. “And with costs dramatically coming down, being a good businessman will no longer be a requirement to running an F1 team,” Windsor added. “This paves the way for all sorts of inept and disorganised lunatics to start competing in the very near future.”

Hopefully, shoestring-budget race teams will also allow dangerously rich and marginally talented pay drivers into the sport as well. “Skill is too important a factor these days,” Windsor confessed. “We want drivers who can pay, even if they are hilariously useless.”

The need for rich, underperforming drivers will be a relief for Nelson Piquet, whose F1 dreams may not be over just yet.

Milestones enraged at Briatore

Enstone, Wednesday: The Renault Formula One team’s factory has today been blockaded by an angry horde of milestones, enraged at Flavio Briatore’s slanderous comments about them over the weekend.

The Renault boss described world championship leader Jenson Button as a paracarro, which is Italian slang for the milestones found at the side of the road, marking the distances between towns. A representative of the Italian National Union of Milestones, however, described the anger of the milestone community at these remarks.

Enraged: A concrete milestone

Enraged: A concrete milestone

“Mr. Briatore is totally out of order,” the featureless concrete post told reporters. Somehow. “None of our union members have ever purchased an expensive yacht instead of trying to do their job properly, we always honour our contracts and the NUM’s official policy strictly forbids any member from growing silly facial hair. In short, milestones are nothing like Jenson Button.”

Confusion over the exact translation of paracarro means that the protesting milestones were also joined by isolated groups of other posts and bollards from a variety of functions. When asked about their presence, the union representative described them as “Splitters,” in a manner vaguely reminiscent of some movie or other, and declined to comment further.

Renault employees have been greeted by chaos as they arrived at the factory today, with most of the parking spaces in the team’s car park being blocked by angry protestors. “We’re seriously considering calling in the Metropolitan Police to disproportionately deal with this minor disturbance,” Renault technical director Pat Symonds said.

Briatore was incandescent at the tenacity of the milestones gathering in front of his office, flying into an incomprehensible rage about something unintelligible to our reporters. “I think he was a bit angry,” one source said.

Reports also suggest that an unhappy group of pensioners are planning to descend on Enstone later in the day, to protest about Briatore’s comparison of Rubens Barrichello with a retired person. Quite how a collection of inanimate concrete posts managed to arrive at the factory before a bunch of old people has yet to be explained.

USF1 offer alternative medals interpretation

Charlotte, Monday: Proposed new Formula One team USF1 USGP USGPE USF1 have today announced that they will not recognise Bernie Ecclestone’s planned “medals” system if they enter the sport in 2010, instead declaring the world champion based on their own interpretation of the medals concept.

Defiant: USF1 figure Peter Windsor

Defiant: USF1 figure Peter Windsor

British journalist Peter Windsor, who is a key member of the fledgling team as well as an influential figure in the motorsports world, told reporters today: “USF1, which is what we’re still calling the team because none of the alternatives are in any way appealing, does not accept Bernie Ecclestone’s conclusion that the person with the most gold medals should be world champion.”

He continued: “Here in America, in the Olympics, the medals table is sorted according to the total number of medals. If the medals concept is used in Formula One next season, USF1 will declare the world champion in this way rather than through Ecclestone’s nonsensical, hierarchical system.”

Ranking Olympic countries by the total number of medals scored usually leads to the United States coming out on top – such as in Beijing in 2008 where the Chinese were better in just about every single sport but the US managed to gain more medals in total by finishing second an awful lot. American authorities have constantly denied that this is why the table is sorted in this way, claiming that it is simply fairer: “It worked for Fernando Alonso, so why not for the USA?” Windsor pointed out.

USF1 even threatened to start a breakaway series if their ideas were not listened to. “We will construct an entirely American-friendly motorsport that corresponds to our ideas of how the sport should be run, preferably into the ground.”

Proposals by the new team to run some of the races on oval-shaped tracks instead of the more usual “road courses,” which feature both left and right turns, are thought not to have been taken seriously by FOTA, with commercial head Flavio Briatore instructing them to “sod off back to IndyCar.”

Swiss police in BMW investigation

Hinwil, Friday: Police forces in the Swiss canton of Zurich have begun a formal investigation into the BMW Formula One team’s headquarters today, after reports of an outbreak of “humour” in the factory.

Serious: Swiss police in high-speed chase

Serious: Swiss police in high-speed chase

Reports suggest that office staff in the facility were using their computers to share comedic websites when they should have been working, including a motorsports blog billed as being “Genauer als Planet-F1.”

An unnamed whistleblower within the company alerted authorities last week when he heard noises that sounded “suspiciously similar to laughter” emanating from the Human Resources office. Further investigation determined that staff had been “unreasonably amused” by Internet material “undoubtedly intended for the purposes of humour and satire.”

Humour has been illegal in Switzerland since 1998, when a man in Grindelwald laughed surprisingly loudly at an episode of Freunden on the television. The sound of his merriment triggered an avalanche, which buried a small village.

“We take these allegations extremely seriously,” one Zurich police spokesman told the media. “Not only did the tragic and unnecessary events of 1998 show how dangerous humour can be, in these times of economic hardship it is doubly damaging as it contributes significantly towards inefficiency. Given how BMW Sauber are performing at the moment, you’d think they’d be working twice as hard.”

Nationalist groups within Switzerland have already called for the confederation to withdraw from the Schengen Treaty, which allows passport-free travel between European countries, after allegations that “mischievous Germans” from the Bavarian contingent of BMW could have been taking advantage of relaxed border checks by smuggling jokes into the country.

Attempting to import humour into Switzerland can carry a maximum of ten years’ furrowed brows and condescending looks from strangers, whereas actually using humorous material within the country is punished with a stern talking-to and a polite request not to commit the offence again.

BMW boss Mario Thiessen admitted that he found the case “quite amusing,” before hastily requesting that reporters “don’t tell the Swiss I said that.”

Brawn embroiled in “Briefcase-gate” controversy

Paris, Wednesday: Nigel Tozzi, the legal representative of the Ferrari Formula One team, has submitted a complaint to the FIA today over Brawn GP team principal Ross Brawn’s use of a briefcase while on his way to the FIA Court of Appeal this week.

Tozzi has claimed that Brawn’s use of a wheeled suitcase as he approached the FIA headquarters in Paris yesterday “contravened both the letter and spirit of the regulations,” and allowed Brawn a clear and unfair advantage in getting to the courtroom faster than Tozzi. “He then used that extra time in the court to sway the judges in his favour,” Tozzi said.

Controversial: Ross Brawn and briefcase

Controversial: Ross Brawn and briefcase

Brawn, however, has claimed that nowhere in the FIA regulations does it state that a wheeled briefcase is not permitted in official FIA hearings, and suggests that Tozzi is simply jealous because he did not think of the idea first.

“Frankly, these non-wheeled versions are a bit old hat, aren’t they?” the team principal told journalists. “Wheels are the future. If Ferrari had wanted to make them illegal when we were discussing the rules, they could have, but they didn’t take that opportunity. So now we’re enjoying an advantage and they have only themselves to blame.”

Further depth has been added to the case with the revelation that Renault’s Andrew Ford was advised not to use a similar briefcase when he consulted the FIA on its legality earlier in the season.

“One rule for us, another rule for them,” an exasperated Ford said outside the FIA headquarters today.

If the FIA rules in favour of Tozzi, Brawn could lose his victory in the “diffuser-gate” court case which ruled his team’s rear diffusers legal. On the other hand, Brawn could be allowed to keep his victory but the controversial briefcase designs banned from the next court hearing onwards.

One additional question was raised by an anonymous fashion journalist: “What’s Brawn doing dragging his briefcase behind him like some American tourist? Everyone knows that real men carry their luggage.”