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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.”

Renault to sell team on eBay

Enstone, Friday: After senior members of Renault management met yesterday to discuss the future of the Formula One team, it has been revealed that the French corporation intends to sell its F1 team through online auction site eBay.

For sale: One F1 team (double world champion driver not included)

Rival bids, from Luxembourg’s Gravity consortium and British team Prodrive, have been considered by the team, with Russian telecommunications giant MegaFon also rumoured to be interested in purchasing the outfit, which is expected to be sold after Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn suddenly realised that F1 wasn’t very environmentally friendly.

However, the team’s top brass in Paris and the F1 team’s management in Enstone are said to disagree over who should be allowed to complete the purchase, with Gravity favoured by the French and Prodrive by the British-based team members. Instead, senior management have resolved that the whole concern should be put up for sale on eBay, allowing rivals to publicly bid for ownership.

“This way, we get the best possible price and ensure that the best people are bound to take control,” a Renault spokesman said. “Or at least, the people willing to pay the most for it. But that’s the same thing as ‘best,’ isn’t it?”

Meanwhile, Prodrive boss Dave Richards spoke for the first time on his intention to get back into Formula One, having been outside the sport since he was sacked by BAR in 2004. “It is my intention to bring Prodrive into F1 without having to do any work whatsoever,” he pointed out. “Instead of the usual approach, of building a car in your factory and racing it, we’re going to buy a factory, complete with an F1 car already in it, and race that instead. It’s the future of F1, I tell you.”

The eBay auction is scheduled to go live some time this weekend, though a reserve price for the team has not yet been specified.

FIA acknowledge poll, crown Raikkonen

Paris, Tuesday: After reading the results of an Internet poll, the FIA have decided to take the unprecedented step of awarding Kimi Raikkonen the 2009 Formula One world championship.

Hanging: Possible reasons for Raikkonen's poll victory

Hanging: Possible reasons for Raikkonen's poll victory

The poll, on a popular Formula One fansite, asked fans to name their “Driver of the Year” for 2009. Raikkonen won an easy victory, gathering nearly three times as many votes as his closest rival. Despite claims that the poll had been “bombarded” by members of a vociferous Raikkonen fan club, the FIA have decided that the poll better reflects the state of this year’s F1 world championship than the actual races.

“Given the overwhelming turnout in favour of Kimi Raikkonen this year, despite his alarming mediocrity on track,” an FIA spokesman said today, “We have decided to dispense with the archaic and restrictive tradition of awarding the world championship to the driver who scores the most points in a season, and instead allow this end-of-season poll to decide who is world champion for 2009.”

Raikkonen fans welcomed the change to the world championship, though none were coherent enough to translate their glee into a quote.

The move has already angered many fans of F1, claiming that allowing the championship to degenerate into a popularity contest is a bad move for a sport already rocked by scandal and subterfuge over the last few years.

“I didn’t think it was possible for the FIA to get any sillier,” one fan said, “but they have. This is ridiculous – bring back Max!”

The Runoff Area advises this fan to be careful what they wish for.

Raikkonen, however, who is expected to leave F1 for a career in the World Rally Championship next year, was unavailable for comment, though we can guess what it probably would have been. FIA President Jean Todt reacted to criticism of the move with an irritable croak.

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.”