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Alguersuari concerned over youth

Faenza, Tuesday: Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jaime Alguersuari has revealed his concerns that his age has been a factor in his team’s delay in confirming him in a race seat for 2010.

Too young? F1 driver Jaime Alguersuari

The Spaniard believed he had signed a contract with STR to race for them next season, but so far the Red Bull-owned team have failed to announce him as one of their drivers. Today Alguersuari claimed that being the youngest Formula One driver in history has hindered him, and this may influence STR’s decision over whether to keep him.

“It’s not easy, being both a Formula One driver and a foetus at the same time,” Alguersuari said in a message delivered by ultrasound earlier today. “There were some issues earlier in the year when my fingers hadn’t fully developed, so I was unable to change gear properly, but now I’m coming close to full term and I’m confident that these issues can be put behind me for 2010.”

Alguersuari is due to be born in January – his F1 debut in Hungary last July made him the youngest driver ever to take part in a Grand Prix weekend. The previous record holder, 3-month-old Sebastian Vettel, responded to the Spaniard’s debut by spitting up over his chief mechanic.

STR have yet to comment publicly on Alguersuari’s appointment, amid rumours that ex-F1 driver Ralf Schumacher is to follow his brother into returning to the sport, in a move that promises an alarming level of mediocrity should it come off. However, team principal Franz Tost is said to be keen to give Alguersuari one more chance following his birth, “and if he doesn’t improve I’ll kick him across the garage.”

Though initially of questionable legality, it is now thought to be perfectly within the FIA’s rules for a driver as young as Alguersuari to take part. There have, however, previously been problems at the post-race weigh-in.

Large Hadron Collider to be used in crash testing

Geneva, Monday: The FIA have unveiled new plans for the structural impact testing of Formula One cars, as revised safety regulations mean that prospective entrants to the F1 world championship will need to pass ever-more stringent crash tests to be allowed to compete.

Large: F1's newest testing venue

In a brand new approach to impact testing, which was previously done on FIA-approved testing rigs in the teams’ factories, the FIA have agreed a deal with the European atomic research group CERN to use the underground Large Hadron Collider as a venue for future F1 crash tests.

The LHC is a particle accelerator located in a 27-kilometre-long tunnel under the Franco-Swiss border, in which subatomic particles are excited to high speeds and smashed together to observe what comes out. The FIA plan to use the tunnel to accelerate F1 cars to high speeds and smash them together, to observe how well the cars stay together.

“Obviously this is an expensive, and some would say needless, process, given the rarity of head-on collisions in Formula One and the limited relevance of a circular circuit to F1 racing,” an FIA spokesman said. “But we are confident that any car capable of surviving such an impact would easily be safe enough to race in F1, even with someone like Romain Grosjean at the wheel.”

One of the benefits to F1 of using the LHC is that the subatomic research is only carried out at intervals throughout the year, with the rest of the time being devoted to refining the equipment and repairing damage. During this extended downtime it is imagined that the F1 testing could take place.

Surprisingly no-one has yet volunteered to drive the cars as they are being tested, though some sources in the FIA are telling us that Nelson Piquet’s immunity from punishment in the recent “Crashgate” case may soon be revisited.

FOTA Christmas dinner ends in chaos

Paris, Thursday: Plans for a joint Christmas dinner attended by members of the Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) have officially been abandoned after concerns over the contribution to the evening by each team could not be resolved.

Abandoned: Christmas, FOTA style

Initially teams agreed to save the costs of their traditional festive meal by all dining together at Christmas, giving the added benefit of demonstrating unity amongst the organisation heading into 2010.

However, it has emerged in recent days that a deal concerning the nature of the dinner and the way food would be distributed between the teams cannot be made, and the plan for the joint party has been abandoned.

Apparently some of the new teams were concerned that bigger, more established figures like Ferrari’s Luca di Montezemolo and McLaren’s Martin Whitmarsh would take all the best cuts for themselves, leaving only a few leftovers for the smaller teams. Montezemolo claimed that this was the only fair course of action, as his team was providing the turkey and McLaren the Christmas pudding, while the much-maligned Campos team were only bringing sprouts and it was not yet clear whether USF1 were going to bring anything at all.

Instead it has been decided that teams will have their own separate Christmas dinners again this year. Virgin F1 stakeholder Richard Branson announced that his team was proud to provide the best possible Christmas dinner at the smallest possible budget, having organised a trip to Aldi with many of his employees. Lotus boss Tony Fernandes called Branson’s idea “stupid” before announcing that he wasn’t going to send the British entrepreneur a Christmas card after all.

The festive spirit is still alive in F1, though, with all the teams clubbing together to buy Luca di Montezemolo a new television set.

The Runoff Area wishes all its readers a Merry Christmas and apologises for the recent shortage of articles. Service will be sporadic until the New Year.

USF1 try alternative technologies

Charlotte, Thursday: New Formula One team USF1 have announced that they are planning to abandon conventional methods of car development in bringing together their 2010 car, in order to pursue alternative technologies.

Unconventional: F1 hopefuls USF1

Virgin Racing, formerly known as Manor Motorsport, raised eyebrows in F1 when they declared that they were not going to use a wind tunnel to develop their car, instead doing all of the development work with a computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulator. Other teams use a combination of wind tunnels and CFD to complete their designs.

USF1, however, has gone one step further by declaring it will use neither wind tunnels nor CFD, instead relying on “magic” to get their team in order before the opening round of the season next year.

“We have considered our options and believe that this is the best solution available to us,” team principal Ken Anderson told the press. “Magic is a promising and under-used development tool in Formula One, and we plan to use it to its fullest extent.”

The last person to attempt to use magic in a Formula One effort was Dave Richards, who attempted to get Prodrive into F1 in 2008 by shunning traditional methods of car construction. Instead, he sat in his office and concentrated very hard on wishing for a car to spontaneously appear in his factory. The attempt failed.

Anderson, however, is optimistic that his team’s approach will be a success: “We have already contacted some of the best stage magicians and shifty-looking mystics in both of the Carolinas,” he revealed. “So far we’ve succeeded in hypnotising Nick Craw and making millions of dollars disappear. The next step is to start producing bits of the car.”

Early reports had suggested that USF1 magicians had succeeded in turning the FIA president into a toad, but this was dismissed on account of there being no recognisable difference.

Trulli denies Lotus affiliation

Pescara, Monday: Former Renault and Toyota Formula One driver Jarno Trulli has today denied any association with the Lotus F1 team, claiming that he will not be driving for the Malaysian-based outfit next season.

Stolen: Lotus driver namesake Jarno Trulli

Lotus today announced that they had signed Heikki Kovalainen and someone called Jarno Trulli for the 2010 season, but the Italian says that he is not in any way linked to Lotus’ new signing.

“That’s not me,” an angered Trulli told journalists. “I have nothing to do with Lotus and will be commencing legal action for their improper use of my name.”

Trulli’s lawyer was contacted for a statement, which read: “My client, Jarno Trulli, has no relationship whatsoever with the Lotus Formula One team. The team have simply appropriated the glamorous and historic name of one-time Grand Prix winner Jarno Trulli and are wrongly using it to give their driver an air of historicity and past glory. Clearly this is unacceptable.”

Rumours on the identity of the “Trulli” signed by the team have been widespread, though nothing is yet certain – however, Fairuz Fauzy was spotted yesterday in Kuala Lumpur purchasing a false nose and a comically long brown wig.

The team’s technical director Mike Gascoyne was unfazed by threats of legal action when contacted, hard at work in the outfit’s Norfolk base. It is rumoured that Gascoyne is devising a whole new powertrain for Lotus’ first F1 car, to be launched in January, based upon harnessing the energy generated by Colin Chapman spinning in his grave.

F1 to embrace new media

Monaco, Thursday: Mercedes GP CEO Nick Fry has led calls for Formula One to modernise at this week’s Motor Sport Business Forum, claiming that the sport needs to utilise new media in order to widen its global appeal.

Old: A race report from 1998

Writing in a pamphlet issued yesterday in the Principality, entitled A Treatise on the Relevance of the Modern Communication Methods to Formula One, Fry insisted that F1 was “years behind” in embracing new ways of bringing the sport to fans around the world.

Formula One Management, led by Bernie Ecclestone, has been staunchly defensive of its business model over the years and has so far refused to modernise, with race results announced after Grands Prix by town crier and contracts sent back and forth between FOM and race promoters by carrier pigeon.

However, Fry argues that it is time for change: “The modern media encompasses far more than the archaic methods employed at present by FOM,” he writes. “Just this morning I sent a telegram to my colleague Ross Brawn, and in just twenty-six hours a message from Monaco got all the way to Brackley. It’s hard to imagine the media revolution going any further than this.”

Fry has also indicated that new technologies such as “the speaking-tube” should also be considered as tools for the future of Formula One. “F1 is an unquestionably modern sport, and should be embracing the most modern methods possible to market itself to the world,” he concluded. On the back page of the pamphlet is an advertisement for a new brand of abacus, endorsed by Fry himself, which he promises will “make far easier the previously tedious job of calculating pit strategies.”

The Motor Sport Business Forum continues today, with delegates scheduled to discuss the internal combustion engine as an exciting development for the future of Formula One.

World Heritage status for Silverstone toilets

Silverstone, Monday: The recent deal to keep the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for a further 17 years was assisted by a last-minute intervention by the United Nations, it has been revealed.

Flushed with success: A Silverstone toilet

The deal, between F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone and Silverstone owners the BRDC, was not completed until late last week due to disagreements over the fee charged by Ecclestone, and the refusal of the BRDC to upgrade the track’s facilities.

However, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) contacted the BRDC this weekend to inform them that the historic toilets at the Silverstone circuit were being designated a World Heritage Site.

“Documentation exists to suggest that these toilets have existed in more or less their present form since the fourteenth century, and in reality they are probably many centuries older than that,” a UNESCO spokesman said. “This is an unparalleled example of medieval-style sanitation in Europe, and for that reason we have bestowed World Heritage status upon the facilities.”

Silverstone’s toilets have been the bane of many motorsport fans’ existence for years, but the UNESCO announcement means that planned upgrades will have to be cancelled. “It’s such a shame in one sense,” BRDC president Damon Hill said, “because we had all these plans ready about how the toilets were going to be improved, and we were really going to implement them this time. Honest.”

However, reaction to the news has been mostly positive: “On the other hand, I’m very pleased that the UN has decided to recognise the historical relevance of Silverstone,” Hill continued. “It’s very important that fans gain a true medieval experience when they come to Silverstone, right down to the periodic outbreaks of plague.”