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McLaren aim to solve downforce problems

Woking, Sunday: McLaren’s technical department have been working overtime this week as they try to solve the problems that have plagued this year’s car since the beginning of the season.

The team, who won six races last season and saw Lewis Hamilton win the drivers’ championship, have struggled this year with a fundamental lack of downforce on the car, with high-speed circuits such as Barcelona being particularly problematic for the British team.

Lacking: McLarens downforce-free 2009 car

Lacking: McLaren's downforce-free 2009 car

Today, however, McLaren team principal Martin Whitmarsh declared that the team had made great progress on finding extra performance on this year’s car, and that he was confident that their new approaches to the design and operation of the car would help them score much-needed points as they aim to improve on their current fifth in the Constructors’ world championship.

“We think we’ve hit upon a solution,” Whitmarsh told reporters outside the team’s Woking factory. “Unfortunately, with the new aerodynamic regulations it’s difficult to find extra downforce on the car. But we believe we have found a way to compensate for these shortcomings, and the problems with the car, to start scoring more regular points throughout the rest of the season.

“What we’re aiming to do is to get the drivers to push down really hard on the steering wheel throughout qualifying and races, to gain extra front-end grip by helping the front of the car stick closer to the ground. It’s quite clever really – I’m surprised no one has thought of it before.”

Lead driver Lewis Hamilton, as well as some other driver who no one’s ever heard of, have been training extra hard in preparation for the Turkish Grand Prix next weekend, in the hope of being able to apply as much force as possible to keeping the car on the ground.

“It’s a good idea,” Hamilton said. “I’d like to thank the team for allowing me to work out even more.”

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Teams insist on “right to spend selves into oblivion”

Paris, Saturday: The Formula One Teams’ Association last night entered the 2010 F1 world championship, on the condition that the FIA back down from its plans to intervene in the teams’ financial affairs.

The FIA wants to protect the future of the sport by mandating a stringent budget cap on all teams, but FOTA have suggested that such a move is a gross violation of their rights as independent businesses.

Demanding: FOTA vice president John Howett

Demanding: FOTA vice president John Howett

“If we want to spend so much money that the whole team is financially unsustainable, that’s our prerogative,” FOTA vice president and Toyota team boss John Howett told reporters. “The FIA has no right to try and ensure against the financial collapse of teams. Whether or not we choose to implode thanks to extravagant budgets and massively inflated costs is a business decision, and will be taken by us. Not by some tinpot regulatory body.”

The FIA have pointed out that huge spending for little return, in a time of global economic recession, could spell disaster for Formula One, whose costs have spiralled almost out of control since an influx of car manufacturers joined the sport about a decade ago. But FOTA believe that, if such a disaster is to happen, it should be allowed to happen on its own terms.

“We will spend as much as we like and publicly ridicule those who disagree,” one senior member of FOTA, who shall remain nameless, pointed out while suspiciously eyeing up a nearby television set. “And then, when the sport gets into trouble, we will blame the FIA for not controlling costs well enough. It’s really a very simple concept.”

Howett later pointed out that the fundamental right of Formula One teams to spend themselves into insolvency had been exercised by the Super Aguri team, and no one thought to deny them such a right back then: “In fact, Honda were positively thrilled.”

Ecclestone hints at Sealand GP

Sealand, Tuesday: F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has shocked fans and motorsport experts alike by announcing controversial plans to host a Grand Prix on the principality of Sealand from 2011 onwards.

Watery: Prospective GP host nation Sealand

Watery: Prospective GP host nation Sealand

The self-proclaimed autonomous micronation, which consists only of a small platform raised above the North Sea, has been occupied by Major Paddy Roy Bates since 1967 and since then has been trying to establish diplomatic relations with other countries, as well as global recognition of its independence from Britain. It is thought that the hosting of a Grand Prix in the country will raise its global profile and help in its independence movement.

Logistical problems for the Grand Prix have been cited, such as where an F1-standard racing circuit would be constructed given that the “land” area of the country is only 550 square metres, but Ecclestone is confident that these problems can be solved and that the Sealand Grand Prix of 2011 will be the highlight of the F1 calendar.

“We have a few stumbling blocks to surmount first,” Ecclestone admitted, “such as the fact that Sealand does not have its own national motorsport association, but we believe that these problems will be sorted out with time and that we can stage our F1 race in this exciting new location.”

Prince Roy of Sealand hopes to establish himself as a fashionable head of state with a close association with F1, in the manner of Prince Albert of Monaco and Bahrain’s Crown Prince, who have been intimately involved with the Grands Prix in their countries for some time now.

The Formula One Team’s Association is expected to welcome the prospect of a new Grand Prix in Europe, given their general opposition to the huge numbers of Asian and Middle Eastern races being added to the calendar. Whether Sealand’s Grand Prix circuit will be completed before Donington remains to be seen, but most consider it likely.

Button in trouble after weight-loss run

Monte Carlo, Sunday: Jenson Button could be excluded from the results of the Monaco Grand Prix after the race stewards found that he was underweight at the post-race weigh-in. Button led the race from pole and dominated to take his fifth win of the season, but that result now hangs in the balance as Brawn GP attempt to convince race officials that the weight was only shed after Button had parked his car.

Underweight: Monaco winner - for now - Jenson Button

Underweight: Monaco winner - for now - Jenson Button

Unused to finishing on the podium at Monaco, the British driver mistakenly parked in the pit lane after the race had finished. Monaco tradition dictates that the top three drivers park their cars on the start-finish straight, near the Royal Box where the podium procedure takes place.

Button’s error meant that he had to run from the pit lane to the podium, and it was this unexpected strenuous exercise that led to him shedding a few crucial kilograms that meant that the weight of himself and his car did not add up to the required 605 kg.

“Jenson’s car was perfectly legal throughout the race, but unfortunately his own body weight dropped below the critical threshold while he was running towards the podium,” the team’s Chief Scapegoat Nick Fry told reporters after the race. “The FIA seem to believe that Jenson should have run slower, in order to burn fewer calories, but we were trying to get on with the podium celebrations so as to avoid a fine for disrupting proceedings. Really, there was nothing we could do.”

It is understood that a decision on the infringement, which may be overlooked due to the unusual extenuating circumstances, is not expected for some days, in order to keep with the FIA’s specified intention of suddenly and arbitrarily altering the results of an F1 race for at least a week after the race has finished.

Hamilton Sr. offers advice to John Button

Monte Carlo, Saturday: Anthony Hamilton, father, manager and parasitic hanger-on to world champion Lewis Hamilton, has today offered pointers to John Button, father of current world championship leader Jenson, on where he feels the former rallycross driver is going wrong in dealing with the extreme pressure of being the parent of a racing driver.

Advisor: F1 barnacle Anthony Hamilton

Advisor: F1 barnacle Anthony Hamilton

“John has been a figure in Jenson’s career for all his life,” Anthony said, having collared an unsuspecting journalist and proceeded to talk at him in the Monaco Grand Prix paddock this weekend. “But clearly there are some things he hasn’t picked up on, which I suppose is only natural given that he hasn’t had the added pressure of his son being at the front of the grid before.”

Hamilton Sr., nicknamed “Three Jobs” after doubtful claims that he personally funded his son’s racing career rather than the accepted wisdom that McLaren may have had a hand in bankrolling the British driver, pointed out that Button’s father was not doing enough to unnecessarily get himself on television.

“It’s all very well sitting in the garage and cheering when Jenson wins,” Anthony said, “but what about bothering hard-working F1 people with daft questions, sweating anxiously whenever there’s a camera on you and generally being a right pain in the arse? John really needs to work on this if he wants to rise to the top as an F1 dad.”

Hamilton also poured scorn on Button’s choice of wardrobe, which includes an array of pink shirts: “I can see where he’s going, trying to get attention drawn to himself with his bizarre fashion sense, though if he was doing it properly he’d be loud enough that it wouldn’t matter what he was wearing, people would have to listen to him.”

Three-time world champion Nelson Piquet has taken a less “hands-on” approach to handling his son’s F1 exploits, though Hamilton was quick to ask, “What does he know about F1 anyway?”

With thanks to Norbert for inspiration.

FIA in controversial “results merger”

Paris, Thursday: The FIA, not content with their current plans to wreak destruction on Formula One, have further deliberately attempted to undermine the credibility of the sport today by announcing that the results of the Bahrain and Spanish Grands Prix will be merged, as if they were just a single race.

Halved: Race winner Jenson Button

Halved: Race winner Jenson Button

An FIA spokesman indicated that the races had been so similar that there was little point in continuing to believe that they had actually been separate events. “So there was a lot of action in the first lap or so, and then it was pretty dull after that,” the spokesman told reporters. “Jenson [Button] managed somehow to win, while Rubens Barrichello’s engineers mysteriously messed up his strategy and compromised his race. Am I talking about the Bahrain Grand Prix or the Spanish Grand Prix? I don’t know, I can’t remember.

“This is why we’ve decided that the points scored from each race will be halved and then added together, as if they were a single Grand Prix,” he continued. “Seeing as no one can remember which race was which, it won’t make much difference anyway.”

Jenson Button’s Brawn GP team are said to be irate at the declaration, which means that Button will only have scored ten points from the two races rather than twenty. “That’s just tough luck, I’m afraid,” the spokesman said. “If they wanted the full complement of points, they should have made the races more memorable. I mean, it wouldn’t have been so much more difficult to get Jenson to overtake Rubens on the last lap, would it?”

FIA President Max Mosley defended the plans, saying, “It simply wouldn’t do to have Brawn running away with the championship at this stage. It’s not as if this is Ferrari, or anything.”

Brawn GP declared their intention to appeal the ruling, as soon as they could remember which races the FIA were talking about.

Monaco traffic wardens ordered to stay away

Monte Carlo, Tuesday: Traffic wardens in the busy principality of Monaco have been ordered to stay away from the streets of Monte Carlo this weekend, with a view to avoiding the disruption caused at the Grands Prix of the last few years.

Over-policed: The Monaco GP venue

Over-policed: The Monaco GP venue

Formula One Management has apparently twisted the arm of the Monegasque government, and insisted that none of the city-state’s uniformed officials are to be permitted anywhere near the F1 circuit for the duration of the weekend.

The problems started in 2006, where an overenthusiastic officer tried to clamp Michael Schumacher’s Ferrari after he parked it on double yellow lines at Rascasse. Other colleagues of his had to be restrained from rebuking drivers on the starting grid on Sunday, though one did manage to break through security later in the race and ticketed Kimi Raikkonen’s McLaren for being “illegally on fire in a restricted area.”

Similar issues have flared up in the last two years, with Lewis Hamilton complaining after his inaugural Monaco Grand Prix in 2007 that he should have won the race, because Fernando Alonso got out of his car after the chequered flag in an area clearly marked “No loading or unloading.” Monaco’s traffic wardens briefly investigated the situation, before the FIA warned them not to be so silly.

“This has been a growing problem in recent years at Monaco,” F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone commented upon arriving in the Principality. “We even had to ask them to take down the speed cameras, though if it rains again I doubt that would be a problem anyway. But with budget capping coming in, it’s very important that the teams don’t end up receiving huge speeding fines from the Monaco police.”

The department responsible for traffic policing in Monte Carlo reluctantly accepted the order, but not before officially warning Kazuki Nakajima about littering the streets with bits of his car.