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Stefanovic denies “disguise” rumours

Belgrade, Saturday: Prospective F1 team principal Zoran Stefanovic has dismissed rumours spread this week that he is actually Flavio Briatore in disguise.

Unmasked: The (allegedly) real Zoran Stefanovic

The Serbian, whose government is supporting his “Stefan Grand Prix” effort, has been linked in recent days with a buyout of the withdrawing Toyota team, and admitted that his outfit were still intent on getting onto the Formula One grid in 2010. However, he denied the “scurrilous rumours” linking him to disgraced ex-F1 figure Briatore.

Conspiracy theories emerged this week, with proponents pointing out a number of “discrepancies” indicating that “Stefanovic” could simply be a ploy by Briatore to work his way back into F1’s inner circle, after he was handed a lifetime ban by the FIA in September.

“Firstly, Mr. Briatore and Mr. Stefanovic both have murky business histories, where they somehow made a fortune in a way that is not at all clear,” one leading proponent of the theory pointed out on an Internet forum yesterday. “Secondly, both have a history of failing to curry favour with the FIA,” referring to Stefanovic’s lawsuit against the governing body for their selection process when compiling the 2010 entry list, and Briatore’s belief that he could instruct drivers to deliberately crash their cars and get away with it.

“Thirdly, and this is very important, why do you never see Mr. Briatore and Mr. Stefanovic in the same room? The only explanation is that they are the same person,” the theorist continued. The alternative possibility, that Briatore and Stefanovic have simply never met, was dismissed as “unworkable.”

Stefanovic, however, was scathing about the rumours, suggesting they were “imperialist lies disseminated to prevent full glory from reaching great nation of Serbia and Stefan Grand Prix. Min.”


Brawn pleased at rebranding

Brackley, Wednesday: Mercedes GP team principal Ross Brawn has said that he is pleased about the rebranding he has undergone after selling his team, and is unconcerned by reports in the British press of a lack of patriotism.

Deutsch: Newly rebranded team principal Ross Braun

After Jenson Button’s departure from the team, formerly Brawn GP, rumours have persisted that new owners Mercedes wanted to create an all-German “über-team” to take on their former partners, the increasingly all-British McLaren.

Brawn confirmed today that the rumours were indeed true. “We’re looking for a German driver to race alongside Nico Rosberg,” he admitted, “but of greater concern is the fact that no all-German team could be complete when being led by a British team principal. Thus the decision has been made to rebrand me as a German for the duration of Mercedes’ tenure in F1.”

Brawn, or Braun as he now insists on being called, stood alongside his also-rebranded second-in-command Nick Frei as he took questions from an indignant crowd of journalists. One asked whether there was any truth in the rumours linking Michael Schumacher to the team: “Have you been in talks with Schumacher about a drive?”

Braun cagily answered, “I can confirm that I instructed Nick to contact Michael earlier about the possibility, but as yet we have not heard a response.” At this point, Frei excused himself, heard to be muttering, “He meant Michael? Oh, nein!”

Braun was also asked about whether his decision to take on German branding for 2010 and beyond was motivated by a lack of patriotism. However, the team boss denied this: “I can categorically say that my loyalty first and foremost will always be to this country, to Britain. Über alles,” he added.

Austrian wolf buys Williams stake

Grove, Sunday: The Williams Formula One team proudly revealed this week that a minority stake in their team had been sold to a wolf, after many years of fierce resistance to the prospect of selling off any part of the company.

Snappy: New Williams stakeholder Toto

Snappy: New Williams stakeholder Toto

The wolf, who is apparently named Toto and is from Austria, will now sit on the company’s board as well as managing his own interests including other investments, and a part-time drive in the FIA GT Series and Austrian Rally Championship.

Team principal Frank Williams welcomed the move as a positive step for the team, although he did admit that it may prove difficult to obtain a paddock pass for the team’s newest member.

“Those with long memories will recall a similar association to this in the past,” Williams said, “although we can confirm that this wolf has nothing to do with the old one.

“Furthermore, they say that every dog is only two meals away from becoming a wolf,” Williams continued, “and over the last few years we’ve continually produced dogs. So this move is quite fitting, in its way.”

Toto also expressed his pleasure at having concluded the deal, barking enthusiastically as he turned to ravage a group of passing rabbits.

Toto is not the first animal to have an involvement with Formula One: Ferrari famously saw its most successful years under the leadership of an irritable toad, and Brabham was once run by a weasel, before he left to make a career on the commercial side of the sport.

This article may or may not have been based on a complete misunderstanding of last week’s F1 news.

Spa protestors chastised over noise

Spa, Thursday: Activists protesting over excessive noise levels caused by motor racing at Belgium’s Spa-Francorchamps circuit have been warned by local authorities after their latest demonstration was deemed to be “too loud.”

Noisy: Protestors at Spa

The Spa circuit has hosted motorsport events since 1922, meaning that anyone with a legitimate right to protest about noise levels generated by the track is at least 87 years old. However, this has not stopped younger people from moving into the vicinity of the racing venue and then acting surprised when it turns out that motorsport is actually quite a noisy activity.

Campaigners in the town of Spa have recently threatened the future of the historic Belgian Grand Prix, which takes place on the track late every summer. However their efforts received a setback as police were called to their most recent protest, warning the activists that they were making too much noise.

“There was one man standing on a box with a megaphone, shouting about the noise pollution caused by motor racing at Spa,” one witness said. “He was very loud; it was quite unpleasant to listen to him, actually. I feel that if he had gone on longer, he could have negatively impacted property prices in the area.

“So I was quite relieved when this police officer turned up and told him to be quiet. Anti-noise protestors? Not in my back yard!”

The protest group have vowed that they will not give up on their cause because of the actions of the local authorities. “We’ll just have a nice quiet petition instead,” whispered one representative of the group. “We may be turned down slightly, but we will not be silenced!”

One resident, however, had had enough: “I’m moving to get away from the noise. I’ve found a nice quiet little town in Northamptonshire, England, which will be perfect as there’s no chance they will stage a Grand Prix there next year!”

Raikkonen to extend sabbatical

Turku, Wednesday: Former McLaren and Ferrari driver Kimi Raikkonen’s manager revealed to a Finnish newspaper yesterday that he is to extend his sabbatical from Formula One for another year.

Goodbye: Raikkonen turns his back on the camera

The driver was last seen in F1 in 2007, when he won the world championship for Ferrari at the Brazilian Grand Prix. Since then his continuing absence from the sport has been felt, especially by his employers who were less than satisfied at the weird blonde kid who turned up to replace the Finn and crashed a lot. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo famously asked for the real Raikkonen to return in 2009, to no avail.

Ferrari finally tired of waiting for Raikkonen to decide on his comeback, and earlier this year announced that he and his alter-ego would be replaced by Fernando Alonso for next season. Since then Raikkonen – or his slower lookalike, no one’s really sure – have been in negotiations with McLaren about a seat. However, the Woking-based team refused to bow to Raikkonen’s salary demands, leaving the Finn to conclude he might as well take 2010 off as well.

“Unfortunately Kimi has decided he’d be better off driving elsewhere for another year,” manager Steve Robertson told Finnish reporters yesterday. “It also seems that even his sporadically talented colleague is surplus to requirements too.” This leaves open the intriguing possibility that Raikkonen could be his own co-driver when he inevitably takes part in a few rounds of the World Rally Championship next year.

Raikkonen himself was impassive about the news, offering a “bemused grunt” for possibly the very last time ever.

Mercedes livery causes widespread illness

Stuttgart, Monday: Mercedes’ announcement that they are buying a 75% stake in Brawn GP and rebranding the team as a works outfit has met with mixed reactions after the German corporation made the mistake of revealing the new team’s expected livery at their headquarters today.

Disturbing: The offending Mercedes livery

Disturbing: The offending Mercedes livery

Mercedes’ 2010 colour scheme is based on the unpleasant chrome livery that has characterised the McLaren cars since 2006, but this new iteration of the paint job caused serious illness in those it was exposed to this morning.

Most of the gathered reporters and motoring enthusiasts suffered only mild vomiting, but in some unfortunate individuals the symptoms were more serious. “I suffered a wave of uncontrollable spasms down my left hand side,” one journalist revealed, “and now I can’t feel my thighs.”

Several of those present also suffered temporary blindness. Unconfirmed reports suggest that one member of the crowd had to have his arm amputated after suffering a severe allergic reaction to the livery.

“Suddenly this picture came up on the slide show,” one eyewitness remembered. “It was horrible, a sort of disgusting chrome colour. I had to shield my eyes almost immediately, but I wasn’t fast enough – my body was doing all it could to try and erase the memory of the picture. I hope I never have to see one in the flesh.”

Mercedes motorsport chief Norbert Haug was surprised by the reaction: “Yes, the colour scheme is a little extreme, but I think this is something of an overreaction,” he said. “Eventually people will just get used to it. They will see it; they will like it. There is NO CHOICE!”

Haug’s further comments were lost amongst the screams of those unfortunate enough to have been in Stuttgart this morning.

Brawn: 99% comment was a misquote

Brackley, Saturday: Ross Brawn has told journalists that previous reports that he was “99% sure” Jenson Button would remain at his Brawn GP team for next season was not correct, and that he had been misquoted by the journalist who he had originally spoken to.

Misquoted: Team principal Ross Brawn

Brawn was widely quoted earlier this week as being confident that Button would stay at the team, although the two parties have been deadlocked in recent weeks over the matter of the new world champion’s salary.

“Unfortunately my words have been taken entirely out of context,” Brawn said in a hastily arranged news conference today. “I have no idea whether Jenson will stay or go. He’s refusing to speak to us after we told him to stop adding zeroes onto all the numbers in his contract.

“When I said I was 99% sure Button would stay, I was talking about this button on my jacket,” Brawn said, showing his coat to the assembled journalists. “It was only hanging on by a single thread, and I was a bit worried it would fall off before I could get home and ask the wife to sew it back on again.”

Reports suggest that Brawn did indeed get home with the errant button intact, and it has since been secured to its rightful place.

Brawn refused to comment on reports that Button had been seen touring McLaren’s Woking factory, fuelling speculation that the champion could make a switch to that team for 2010. “That’s Jenson, of course,” Brawn helpfully added. “I can say with reasonable certainty that this button isn’t going to McLaren. Unless the bastards try to steal it and photocopy it again.”