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Stefanovic announces “dream team”

Belgrade, Tuesday: Wannabe Formula One team boss Zoran Stefanovic has revealed the identity of a number of key personnel in his Stefan Grand Prix team, which he claims will join the F1 fold in the 2010 season.

Confident: Zoran Stefanovic. Maybe.

Confident: Zoran Stefanovic. Maybe.

The Serbian believes that having twice been rejected for a spot on the Formula One grid is no obstacle to competing in the sport, and in a press release earlier today outlined his team’s determination to make it into F1 next year: “Praise be to the glorious consortium of F1 grouping for making of win,” proclaimed Stefanovic. “We will smash the imperialist car manufacturers with iron fist of glory and reliable supply of Cosworth engines.”

Stefanovic had already previously revealed that his chief designer was to be disgraced former McLaren employee Mike Coughlan, which prompted some to believe that this action – along with his attempt to sue the FIA through the European Union over their selection process for 2010 entries – may have sufficiently blotted his copybook to prevent him from having much chance of receiving an F1 entry at any stage.

However, Stefanovic blames his failure so far to be permitted to race on “imperialist tendencies” in Paris, and undeterred by the potential bad press brought about by Coughlan’s involvement with the team, has announced that Flavio Briatore and Nigel Stepney will take up senior positions at Stefan Grand Prix once they turn up (probably uninvited) at Bahrain in March, with former Andrea Moda team principal Andrea Sassetti in a consultancy role.

“Is good for many experienced warriors in the field of Grand Prix struggle to the joining of Stefan Grand Prix,” the press release continued. “We will fight to liberate their names from the tyranny of Max Mosley’s bad books!”

The press release did not address the issue of who will drive for the Serbian team if they make it into Formula One in 2010, although on current form it is likely that Nelson Piquet Jr. will get a seat.


“Moan factor” a consideration for Brawn

Brackley, Monday: F1 world championship leaders Brawn GP have admitted that their driver choice for next year will be hinged on several factors, including the amount of moaning that the team’s factory can withstand.

Whiny: F1 team Brawn GP

Whiny: F1 team Brawn GP

“Unfortunately the soil around our team’s headquarters is quite soft, not really the best foundation for basing a Grand Prix team,” a Brawn spokesman said today. “Therefore we have to consider the possibility that excessive moaning from our drivers could present severe structural problems in the team’s factory. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that the architect designed a building around which high-pitched noises of indignation reverberate with unusual vigour, making it imperative that we choose our drivers carefully.”

Current Brawn GP drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello are both known for their propensity to whinge loudly when things aren’t going their way, and with champion complainer Nico Rosberg set to join the team in 2010, Brawn are said to be worried about the moaning potential of the driver lineup next year. Button’s recent tantrums over his “meagre” salary of seven and a half million pounds are said to have already collapsed some of the factory’s outbuildings.

“We do have to be extremely careful, and it is a problem we are looking into,” team principal Ross Brawn guardedly said at the Singapore Grand Prix this weekend. “Unfortunately the factory’s moaning capacity was compromised earlier this month when a tour bus full of McLaren fans came to visit. So it is an ongoing concern.”

Brawn’s final decision on their 2010 driver lineup may not be made until after the season has finished. “We have some essential maintenance to do until then,” Brawn confessed.

“I understand the problems, but I wish they’d get on with it and make up their minds,” Button said at the factory today, accompanied by a mysterious creaking sound underneath him.

Hamilton Senior under investigation

Stevenage, Friday: Anthony Hamilton, the father of reigning Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton, is under investigation by the Inland Revenue for an alleged ten-year tax-evading scheme that apparently helped fund his son’s motorsport career.

Dodgy: Anthony Hamilton with son Lewis

Hamilton, Sr. has claimed on several occasions that he worked three simultaneous jobs in order to pay for the huge expenses of Lewis’ competitions, sometimes even working for thirty-six hours at a stretch. However, the taxman has been unable to find records of this period of multiple employment, prompting speculation that Hamilton did not declare details of his second and third jobs so as to avoid paying taxes.

“We’d be quite interested to have a chat with Mr. Hamilton,” said a spokesman for the Inland Revenue today. “The amount of money he saved by not paying the taxes he owed on his multiple jobs must have been huge, given that he managed to pay for race seats in Formula Renault, Formula Three and GP2. Our estimate is that, when we factor in the unpaid taxes, fines and interest, Anthony owes us somewhere in the region of fifteen million quid.”

McLaren team boss Martin Whitmarsh, employer of Lewis Hamilton, was surprised at today’s announcement: “To my knowledge Anthony never worked any extra jobs,” he said. “The funding for Lewis’ career was arranged by me, and Lewis’ family had barely any input.” Anthony Hamilton has yet to comment on the affair, although a retraction of his previous statements seems likely now that the taxman has got involved.

Jordan leads Briatore tributes

Monte Carlo, Wednesday: Former F1 team owner and BBC TV pundit Eddie Jordan has led tributes to departing Renault team principal Flavio Briatore, after the Italian was handed an effective lifetime ban from FIA-sanctioned motorsport on Monday.

Tributes: Former team boss Eddie Jordan

Tributes: Former team boss Eddie Jordan

Briatore was not a popular figure amongst many members of the F1 fraternity, and the whooping and hollering over his removal from Formula One has been widespread over the last few days. Jordan, however, took the time to pay tribute to his former rival.

“Flavio was a real bastard, wasn’t he?” Jordan began after accosting several nearby members of the press. “I mean, remember how he nicked Michael Schumacher from under my nose back in 1991. That was truly disgraceful. Michael was all set for a career of alarming mediocrity just like everybody else who’s ever driven for me, and then Flavio comes along and puts him straight on the path to seven world championships. It ruined Michael’s career. Disgusting.”

Jordan also offered his opinion on how Renault should have handled the case of Nelson Piquet’s deliberate crash in the Singapore Grand Prix, rather predictably termed “Crashgate:” “If I were Renault I would have sacked everyone immediately. The whole team. Not that I ever did anything like that when I was a team boss, but standing here on the sidelines with no idea about how any of it works I can say with complete confidence that under my leadership, everyone would be fired.”

Our reporters contacted Briatore for a response, which he was happy to give. “Min, Eddie is, you know, not the understanding of having about the Formula One, hmmm?

“Like, differences be things about what, min, you like-a the changes in the whole, hmmm, is sport. But is not sport, is glamour, is entertainment, is crashing on purpose to gain an unfair advantage over your rivals. For sure?”

Irvine “misled” over Manor job

Dublin, Monday: Former Ferrari F1 driver Eddie Irvine has complained that his appointment to the new Manor GP team was based on him being “misled” as to the nature of the operation.

Misled: Manor signing Eddie Irvine

Misled: Manor signing Eddie Irvine

Irvine, who retired from Formula One in 2002, recently took up a post with the new team shortly after it secured title sponsorship for the 2010 season from Richard Branson’s Virgin set of businesses.

“Well, I got a call the other day asking if I wanted a job at Virgin Manor,” the flamboyant Ulsterman told the press. “Now, when I heard the name, I had all these images of a house filled with young and beautiful girls. Now, who wouldn’t take an opportunity like that?

“Then they tell me to turn up at the factory, which I thought was a bit odd at the time, but when I got there it turned out it was just some stupid Grand Prix team. I’ve been totally misled into accepting this job.”

Irvine was renowned for his womanising while in F1, though Manor team boss Nick Wirth has denied that the choice of team name had anything to do with luring the Northern Irishman to the team. “It’s just coincidence. After all, we know how much Mr. Branson hates puns,” Wirth said, referencing a story featured in some high-quality F1 publication some months ago.

Formula One teams have had a history of causing confusion with their names, most recently in 2004 when Russian billionaire Alex Shnaider thought he was buying a small Middle Eastern country, when it turned out he had actually purchased the Jordan F1 team.

Richard Branson himself has not yet commented on the furore, though he is privately said to have considered Irvine’s suggestion of a Virgin Manor as “a bloody good idea.”

With apologies to Tom L.

Button slump blamed on baggage allowance

Brackley, Saturday: World championship leader Jenson Button’s mid-season slump in performance has been blamed on the Brawn GP’s policy of using budget airline easyJet to fly to races.

Excess baggage: Budget carrier easyJet

Excess baggage: Budget carrier easyJet

The Briton won six of the year’s first seven races, but then failed to finish on the podium in any of the following five Grands Prix. Only in last week’s Italian Grand Prix did Button finally take to the rostrum again, finishing second behind teammate Rubens Barrichello.

However, Brawn have revealed today that the reason for Button’s lack of performance in the last few races is that he was reluctant to win any more trophies, having encountered problems earlier in the season in getting them to conform to easyJet’s stringent baggage regulations.

“If I put a trophy in my suitcase I would invariably be over the weight limit for hold baggage,” Button confessed today. “And these trophies are such odd shapes, they would never fit in the overhead locker or under the seat either. In the end I was having to pay extra to put them in the hold, which at £50 per kilo is a little excessive.”

Team principal Ross Brawn admitted that he had instructed Button to aim to finish off the podium to avoid such problems in the middle of the season. “With money a little tight at present, we couldn’t afford to be spending hundreds of pounds every race on shipping trophies,” the team boss said. “So we asked Jenson to aim for fourth at best, although obviously sometimes we miscalculated and he ended up about seventh instead.”

Button’s return to form has been attributed to the hiring of a motorcycle courier to convey the trophies back to Brackley without incurring prohibitive airline expenses. Brawn declined to identify the motorcyclist in question, believed to be an unemployed German male, though he did specify that the trophies would be brought to the UK “at breakneck speed.”

McLaren fans complain over lack of bias

Woking, Sunday: Fans of McLaren’s F1 team have hit out at press reporting of the recent coverage of the Renault race-fixing controvery, insisting that it is not sufficiently biased against Fernando Alonso.

Balanced: Renault driver Fernando Alonso

Balanced: Renault driver Fernando Alonso

The heyday of the McLaren-oriented media came in 2007, when Alonso was regularly accused of backstabbing his team, kidnapping kittens and eating babies in the British media, as his fallout with teammate Lewis Hamilton became very public. Since then, however, Alonso’s move to Renault has left him out of the limelight, and McLaren fans have become worried that recent reports about alleged skullduggery at Renault have not been sufficiently blown out of all proportion.

“There has been far too much emphasis on the facts of the case and not enough meaningless speculation about how Alonso is completely to blame,” one McLaren fan insisted. “We don’t want evidence, we don’t want justice, we just want to hear about how the world’s most evil man is sitting in the cockpit of his Renault twirling his eyebrows.

“If this was Lewis Hamilton we were talking about,” the fan continued, but the rest of his comment was not picked up as our reporter had fallen asleep.

McLaren fans have reportedly already petitioned leading F1 websites to publish stories about how Nelson Piquet was sacked by Renault for “not being able to crash properly when Fernando asked him to,” and asked top F1 journalists to call for Alonso’s immediate sacking on the grounds of “being a talented Spaniard without due care and attention.”

“This blatant balance in F1 reporting has got to stop,” the fan said after our reporter had awoken from his coma. “It’s got to the stage where we are seriously considering consulting Planet-F1 for our news; its transparent prejudice is exactly of the standard that should be set by all leading F1 media.”

The Runoff Area is taking a break of a couple of weeks while Red Andy has a holiday eating couscous and riding camels. Full service will be resumed later in September!