RGC: Well, another year, another season of Formula One. Last season had some awesome racing and some superb, some fascinating, some sad and some just plain weird moments: first Ferrari DWC since Hair Bear from the Hairbear bunch won in 43BC. First track invasion by disgruntled ex merc employee. First time wavy Davy Coulthard looked like a racing driver. First win for Rubinho. There was also the tragic death of a marshal at Monza. As it turns out, it was also the last full season for Murray Walker. This year there's a lot to look forward to. Will Williams and BAR break the monopoly of the top two teams? Will Jordan and Benetton remain in the top five teams? Will Jaguar be less embarrasing? Will Minardi and Prost turn up at all? We also have the return of traction control. Which I suppose will give rabid McLaren/ Ferrari fans one less thing to complain that the other team is cheating with.
PF: I can't quite get my head around the fact that this isn't a rebuilding/ transitional season for Ferrari. Jody Scheckter loses his main claim to lasting fame, and a Ferrari actually goes into the season having earned the number one (we'll forget the season le Professeur took it there from McLaren). I think 2001 will be the season of the tyre war, with Michelin weighing in with rubber for Benetton, Jaguar, Williams, Minardi (probably) and Prost. Rule changes are mainly limited to more severe chassis crash testing and restricted aero package, to start with, but traction control (yawn) comes back from Spain. This year seems to see a engine real power battle between Honda, Mercedes (said to have been hit by a ban on exotic materials), Ferrari and BMW, with the groundbreaking new wide-angle Renault making its race debut in Benetton's last season.
KF: If the competition is such that you can't afford to make a few mistakes early in the season we're fairly inevitably going to end up with a battle between the most technically competent teams and I think at the moment that means another year dominated by the red and grey. We might be lucky though.
RGC: Well perhaps Ferrari should sack Schumi, Todt and Montezemelo and enter a rebuilding decade. I can live without the whole tyre war thing - though it does throw up the odd bizarre race. It will only feed James Allen's rubber fettish and I can't stand more serious discussion of compound softness and "when is a groove not a groove". Incidentally, surely Jody Scheketer's lasting claims to fame are the invention of the white man's Afro and winning piss-poor 70s TV endurance test "Superstars" (thanks to his contraversial socks-only squat thrust technique).
PF: I don't see the point of a tyre war while we've got this grooves farce going on. I predict far more races ending up with rulebooks at dawn in the stewards' office than is entirely healthy. And let's get rid of traction control, please? Bit of mechanical grip from nice sticky slicks would make it irrelevant (possibly the only correct statement Tom Walkinshaw has made about F1 in living memory).
PF: Can't argue. If you like the picture, don't change the channel -- and it looks as though everything at Ferrari has remained the same -- technical, managerial and driver team all stable. Of course, as usual at Maranello, politics and complacency could start to tear the whole thing apart, but I think the combination of Montezemolo, Todt, Byrne, Brawn and Schumacher will go on winning races until some element of it gets bored.
KF: Unless by some miracle McLaren get their act together in terms of strategy. That's their big failing and Ferrari's big advantage, long term. Last year, if the McLaren's had been more reliable they'd have walked it again - they certainly got enough poles in the early part of the season, and it still ended up going down to the penultimate race of the year despite Mika getting only one win out of the first 9 races. It was closer than Schumi made it look.
RGC: Or possibly until Williams gets back up to strength or McLaren overtake Ferrari development wise or Renault build an 8 trillion pony power engine... or any one of a number of things come to think of it. But this year, Ferrari for sure I think.
PF: No argument there. Just looking at the continuity and momentum they've got going for them, I can't see anyone surpassing them.
PF: Must be gunning for another couple of titles to equal Fangio. Schumacher combines sheer breathtaking speed, arrogance and occasional excessive irresponsibility in such a way that on his day he's not merely unbeatable but unassailable. Given that McLaren have got a fundamentally new car, and Williams are still on an upward curve, I think this is another year for the Kaiser.
KF: And he gave us probably the funniest moment of the season by bursting into tears at Monza. Yes, the steward died, yes he was under a lot of stress, but it did look rather as if he had an onion hidden in his hanky and the rest was for the benefit of the Italian press. God help him if he's under that much pressure.
RGC: Oh - you're such a cynic Fearon. He was clearly overcome with emotion. And that emotion was clearly unrelated to the sudden popularity of his Italian speaking (of Italian descent) team-mate's first win. There has been a lot of tears in F1 recently: Rubens winning, Michael winning, Mika not winning, I can't remember whether Wavy Davy had a bit of a blub after his come-back drive from the plane crash or has Mr. Denis disabled the tears feature? I imagine Alain Prost's been weeping into his beer on the quiet too.
PF: Personally, I think the most heartrending thing Wavey said was the bit about not being able to.... you know.... and kicking the dog. But he seems to have been able to.... you know.... with someone else lately.... hmmm. What this has to do with Ferrari I don't know.
PF: I was surprised to see Rubinho not being crushed by the Schumachercentric atmosphere at Ferrari - he was walking tall (well, by his standards) and driving brilliantly. Certainly not a traditional "number two" - in any other team Rubens would be a natural team leader by now. Still young, remember, and I can see him staying at Ferrari for a long time - probably assuming the team leadership when Michael retires? Will always be there or thereabouts this year, but occasionally seems to lack aggression.
KF: Rubinho! Singing the same song as David I think, but with considerably more grace - and with good reason - David has less leeway.
RGC: David has been given considerable leeway over the years though. Rubens I think looks for the whole "team as family" thing and doesn't mind too much being the stumpy cuddly underachiever next to Schumi as head boy and captain of the cricket team. It's a role that not many drivers can take.
PF: So an admission that Rubinho isn't a championship contender from you there? A surprisingly mellow way of putting it too. Difficult to think of Rubens as a veteran now, but this is ninth season!
PF: Possibly overreached themselves, and the first-generation Newey cars have come to the end of their lifespan - this year's MP4/16 is a fundamentally new design. It's rumoured that the ban on "exotic" engine materials has affected Mercedes a lot and that this year's unit won't be much better than last year's - which means McLaren can only move backwards. I think 2001 will in general be a closer season than 2000 and the "top 2" may well become a genuine "top 3" with Williams nibbling rather convincingly at McLaren on a regular basis.
RGC: Ah yes, I'd forgotten the amazing McLaren poisonous engine which Ferrari tried to protest on safety grounds (as part of the "amazingly spurious protests" which started in '98). Presumably they were worried about Mercedes employees licking the engine block. (No wonder Merc employees get disgruntled if that's part of the construction process).
PF: Clearly that guy who ran onto the track at Hockenheim had been licking the block, or something.
PF: Maybe losing a title will give Hakkinen a bit of a Haug-sized boot up the behind. I've never really been able to warm to Mika - his driving is tidy and unspectacular, without looking inch-perfect like Prost's used to; he's not brilliant in traffic (anyone remember his "battle" with Gazza Mazza at Indy?). That said, he seems to be a permanent fixture at McLaren and will, I predict, be exactly as good as the car. No better, no worse. He seems to lack that depth of self-belief and charisma that lets some drivers pull a team up by its bootstraps to raise its game.
KF: Unspectacular?! His amazing overtaking maneouvre on Zonta and Schumi was the move of the season IMO. No, he doesn't project charisma but then they don't call Schumi 'the robot' for nothing either. Yep, he does seem to have a confidence problem but he also bounces back stronger. He won his first DWC after a mid-season crisis of confidence, then went on to wipe the floor with the rest of the field.
RGC: His ability with a banzai lap is quite astounding. His ability with overtaking seems to phase with the moon. A brilliant move on Schumi but stuck behind a Minardi waiting to be let past (and on a track where you can't say there wasn't a long straight to out power him on) sort of sums it up doesn't it?
PF: I think there you have it... "amazing overtaking manoeuvre" would be something, but then you add "...on Zonta". May as well have added "...driving his auntie's old Mini Metro". I think Mika will be operating on a higher level of motivation this season than in 2000, but I am not sure the team can actually back his ambitions up with a complex and fundamentally new car.
PF: Corporate Man is, according to Ronzo and Big Norbie, in a position to win this year's championship. Whether this is a gentle indication to him that if he doesn't up the stakes a bit his drive isn't safe, or a hint that they'll be running Mika in an ex-hire-car A-Class I don't know. I think David has reached a sort of Gerhard Berger like level within F1 - you know he's good for a couple of wins a year, and that he's obviously a good driver and a nice chap, but you're fully aware that when it comes to championships he won't be troubling the scorer. Really, with the arrival of Montoya on the scene, I think David's maybe the sixth or seventh best guy there, whose positions have been raised a bit by the car (I rate Mika, Michael, JV, Montoya, Ralf and probably Rubinho above him as drivers).
KF: Where does this guy's motivation come from? I have to quote the classic
song here courtesy of the Descendents...
I'm the one
Nice guys finish last
Thank you Milo. Personally I think David's on a mission - whether he can
accomplish it and come back alive is another question. Personally I
enjoyed seeing Mr Nice Guy lose his cool and give Schumi the finger -
like seeing Mika crying in the bushes, there is something about the loss
of emotional control that reminds you these guys are human. Anyone who can
drive a race to 2nd with 3 broken ribs is obsessed as well as brave (and
hey, it is a pretty damn cool reason to delay your wedding - I'd go for
I've been here for you all along
I'm the one
Who's shoulder you've been cryin on
No one knows as good as me...
I'm the one
Nice guys finish last
Thank you Milo. Personally I think David's on a mission - whether he can accomplish it and come back alive is another question. Personally I enjoyed seeing Mr Nice Guy lose his cool and give Schumi the finger - like seeing Mika crying in the bushes, there is something about the loss of emotional control that reminds you these guys are human. Anyone who can drive a race to 2nd with 3 broken ribs is obsessed as well as brave (and hey, it is a pretty damn cool reason to delay your wedding - I'd go for it).
RGC: Hmm... I don't think we've ever had music in these reviews before. Well, I suppose there are some good things about Davy then. Perhaps he should be rebranded as a Norman Wisdom like lovable loser. Ron Denis could be Mr. Grimsdale. Incidentally, "in a position to win this year's championship" means only that he's sitting in a McLaren or Ferrari come race day. Right position, wrong driver. Still, if they ever do a live action version of Thunderbirds he'll be suited for a major part. FAB.
PF: See above, Coulthard appears to be delaying his wedding due to the fact that he's been dumped. The trouble is, DC isn't a loser -- he is still on the edge of that tiny group of top-class drivers, but he has just a gnat's more self belief than talent and I think he's frustrated by that gap. He also doesn't seem to be able to polarise a team around him.
KF: Yeah, what HAS happened to him? He's really giving that 'nice guy' image a bit of a hammering (it would have been sensible not to wreck his relationship in the process though - doh! Does this mean they're going to have to rename that lorry? [DC's dad has a fleet of lorries, one of which is named after DC's ex-Heidi]. A bit like a tattoo on the arm of someone indecisive... cross it out and put in the next unfortunate...). So what does the rest of the season hold for Mr fed up of being a Nice Guy? Is this the beginning of a downward spiral into drugs, booze, and commentating for ITV?
PF: Popular wisdom seemed to say that Williams would have a lousy 2000, as they got used to working with Munich's finest. In fact, they positively scintillated. The new BMW engine was surprisingly reliable and powerful, the chassis seemed to have no major vices and both drivers looked like the genuine article. So, hopes for their sophomore season with BMW must be pretty high - a new wide(r)-angle engine, a chassis that seems to be testing well, Michelin rubber and yet another CART champion in the team. Williams have been away from the top step of the podium for a while, and I can't see them remaining absent from it for much longer. Expect the top two to become the top three as this season progresses.
RGC: Everyone seems to be into wide angle engines at the moment. It worries me that we'll end up with Tom Walkinshaw hammering and sawing his into a flat eight to try to coax extra speed.
PF: Bring back the Subaru-Motori Moderni Flat 12, say I!
PF: Ralf had the chance to grow up a lot at Williams last year. The limelight was on Button, any shortcomings were potentially maskable by excuses related to BMW power, and yet he was still best of the rest behind Maranello and Woking. This year he must be regarded as a potential race winner if the Michelins are any good.
KF: I distinctly remember the look on his face on the podium after coming second to Damon at Spa on team orders - that was his first big lesson in team politics I think, and having to cope with being team leader but being overshadowed by his team-mate in the media is another. He's done pretty well all in all, although the odd temper tantrum behind the scenes suggests he's not as placid as all that really. Interesting.
RGC: Well who wouldn't be pissed off having been told to finish second in a race you could comfortably have won. Let's remember he's only a baby yet and should be expected to have tantrums sometimes.
PF: This is arguably the first time Williams have had two "Williams Drivers" (i.e. opinionated headcases) since.... well, a hell of a long time ago really. Neither of them are shrinking violets, and any attempt to enforce team orders is likely to result in serious acrimony. Which is EXACTLY as it should be! Let's take bets on the first time Frank or Ratprick come out with the line about "they're just employees", though...
PF: No, you can't. Zanardi had been in F1 before, but nobody minded much. Montoya is young, bloody aggressive and eats, sleeps and breathes racing. He was banzai in F3000, was banzai in CART and is going to be the mutt's nuts in F1. World champion material, and most likely candidate to depose the Kaiser from his throne. Juan-Pablo is going to have a debut season that resembles Jacques Villeneuve's rather than Sandro Zanardi's.
RGC: Now let's not carried away here. He's slightly tubby and has hair like action man. That's no qualification to be a challenger for world champion. I'm yet to be convinced that he's competent.
PF: JV: Slightly tubby. Bad hair. World champion in a Williams. Now shut it.
PF: To be fair, MC Flava Flav did start to trash Fissi towards the end of the season, claiming that he was getting by on talent rather than hard work (reminds me of when I was at school). Benetton's last season, and the first for the 111-degree Renault engine. But this year's car looks terrible and hasn't been testing well. Lots of talk of a "transitional season", which sounds like excuses for mediocre performances to me. Expect to see them tussling with Jaguar and Sauber, I think, unless the engine really comes on strong. I expect the '02 Renault to be much better now Gascoyne is fully on board as technical director.
KF: Well that appears to be his management style - slag off the driver he's getting rid of 'to encourage the others'. It worked at Williams (though they normally have the sense to choose drivers who can take it) and it worked at BAR who've pulled their socks up a bit. Frentzen's transformation in his first year at Jordan suggests this isn't ideal for everyone and it certainly hasn't worked with Wurz. Making the car too short for him wasn't a stroke of genius either... you have to wonder about their engineers...
RGC: "The beatings will continue until morale improves" style of management.
Actually, thinking about it Benetton's kind of like the early parts of
"Harry Potter and the Snotty Otter" (or whatever it was called) where
favourite cousin Fisi was showered with gifts while heroic (but slightly
geeky) Harry Wurz was locked in the cupboard under the stairs with the
spiders until he behaved better.
F1 engineers have a proud history of building cars which the driver's don't
quite fit into. Adrian Newey managed that Leyton House that was fine unless
you wanted to press the pedals in which case feet were a disadvantage (shame
they didn't have Johnny Herbert). And of course there were FAT-1 and FAT-2
the specially widened Mansell McLarens. Really guys, take a look at
the drivers, you might like to build cars which they fit into. I mean don't
go over the top - there's no need to build a condom pocket and fluffy
dice into Irvine's or a mini-gym into Schumi's but my tip for the top is
"at some point the driver will have to fit into it."
F1 engineers have a proud history of building cars which the driver's don't quite fit into. Adrian Newey managed that Leyton House that was fine unless you wanted to press the pedals in which case feet were a disadvantage (shame they didn't have Johnny Herbert). And of course there were FAT-1 and FAT-2 the specially widened Mansell McLarens. Really guys, take a look at the drivers, you might like to build cars which they fit into. I mean don't go over the top - there's no need to build a condom pocket and fluffy dice into Irvine's or a mini-gym into Schumi's but my tip for the top is "at some point the driver will have to fit into it."
PF: Blimey, you'll never make an aerodynamicist. I mean, it's a miracle Adrian Newey didn't try to get Ronzo to sign Zippy the Pinhead. Actually, the old Newey Leyton House/Marches had the opposite problem -- all you could do in them was press the pedals, if you wanted to take your feet off the accelerator or brake you ended up with nowhere to put them but on the clutch pedal, which obviously did F1 clutches no good at all. Cost them a few races. Ergonomics are important.
PF: Definitely heading into the realms of "damaged goods" now. Fissi has been knocking around a long time, and there seems to be no attention from the teams further up the pecking order. His best bet is to concentrate on beating his team-mate, piling up the points and providing good technical feedback in the hope that he can stay at Renault as their works effort builds up. Sinking into Ivan Capelli-like midfield obsucrity, though.
KF: Aaah. He is lovely though.
RGC: I'm not sure that will help much unless EJ decides he wants models sitting in his cars instead of on them.
PF: EJ usually has models sat on his cars... trouble is, looking at last year's reliability he seems to have had supermodel bimbos doing fundamental engineering work on them. Jordan REALLY need to re-establish 1998-9 levels of reliability and ally that to the speed they can occasionally find.
PF: Not a bad first season, and most of the people who've had better ones had a hell of a lot more racing experience than buggeroidowndeadboy. Button clearly belongs in F1, but I think a year or two of F3000 would've helped his racecraft. Benetton this season is going to do him no favours and it'll be interesting to see how he copes with the distinctive managerial quirks of this most eccentric of the big teams. Also, remember he's still only "on loan" from Williams, and factor that into the psychological equations.... in some respects I'd be surprised if he has as good a season as he did in 2000.
KF: He's remarkably self assured for his age, which is a useful quality given that lack of nerve can be so dangerous. Hopefully he's going to stop playing dodgems this year and pissing off all and sundry (or maybe he'll accidentally push off Schumi and get punched - who knows - being smacked by Senna did wonders for Irvine's reputation!)
RGC: So are we agreed that the best thing for Button is that Schumi punches him in the face? Perhaps he could even be head-butted by Jean Alesi? Also a knee in the groin from Jos Vertappen and a knife between the ribs from Flavio wouldn't go amiss. I'll drink to that.
PF: Hmmmm. Sure we got that the right way round? Sorting Flav out would be popular round here. Mind you, Jos is a bit handy, especially when hanging round kart circuits.
PF: Team Bullshit at least achieved a modicum of respectability last season, although they still seem to be about as popular as certain unmentionable social diseases. They still seem to attract more press because of politics than because of achievements on track. Suede-shoed jazz fanatic ex-Chancellor Ken Clarke is now non-executive chairman of the team. Maybe a real politician can calm things down a bit. This year's car seems to be a dog relative to last year's, and BAR are going to be measured pretty directly against Jordan who have the same engine. I don't think it looks good for BAR. I'm not even going to put in my usual praise for Adrian Reynard here because even he seems to be losing interest.
KF: The fact that they're still around and have got a grip in the second year is a testament to Pollock and says that he is doing a little more at BAR than mouthing marketing bull - the sponsors still believe him, anyway, and they managed not to be humiliated by the Minardis.
RGC: I don't think "a tradition of beating Minardi 50% of the time" is going to shift many Lucky Strike baseball caps.
PF: It's a testament to the engineering side of the team knuckling down and working properly as a team, and having decent Honda works power. Pollock's part in it is confined merely to being the number one driver's bezzie, and to keeping the money flowing.
KF: The fact that people still believe him and he's still getting the money is exactly what I meant...
PF: JV's career is starting to remind me of Emerson Fittipaldi's - from Champion to a team that he's too emotionally attached to (in Emmo's case, his brother's attempt at a Brazilian national squad, in JV's to his bezzie's publicity-led corporate wankfest). Still one of the best drivers out there, how much longer can this farce go on? Jacques, get the hell out and go racing with people who understand it.
RGC: Actually, he'd be a natural in touring cars where whizzing off into the boonies and clonking into people occasionally is de rigeur. But where's he going to go if not BAR? Can't see him and Schumi getting on (they both think the other one is a psychopathic nutter). He's not going to fit in at McLaren is he? He's already done Williams. At Jordan he'd be the sulky disfunctional teenager in a happy family. Jaguar already have a cocky loud-mouth bleach blonde they wouldn't need another.
PF: JV is BAR's most tangible asset, and it's difficult to imagine any top team not keeping tabs on his plans. Maybe Toyota want him once their car's up and running properly.... who knows?
PF: If there was a world championship for testing, Olivier would be
twice the legend that Fangio is. Did uncounted thousands of miles for
McLaren last season and relaunched his race career on the back of it
(Alex Wurz hopes the same will happen for him). Must be regarded as the
hired gun at BAR. I don't think he'll blow Jacques away, nor will he
be blown away by him - I think their differing styles will leave them
pretty close in the championship at the end of the day, and from time to
time Olivier's more methodical approach will outshine Jacques' raw talent.
(Actually, Ollie will race in No. 9 because that's the number he won in
at Monaco. Nice to see BAR have copied one attribute of a winning car).
(Actually, Ollie will race in No. 9 because that's the number he won in at Monaco. Nice to see BAR have copied one attribute of a winning car).
PF: Good looking car, and full works power. But the embarrassing reliability record in 2000 must have hurt them a lot - I'm not sure whether their attempt to go out for all-out performance instead of reliability this year is going to backfire or not. Like everyone else, I have a lot of time for Jordan, I just wish they'd translate all their potential into consistent results - in a rational universe they'd be up there with Williams, but they seem to lack the ruthlessness as a team that'd lift them to that level consistently.
RGC: Can't disagree there.
PF: A year where H2F was a lot better than the car, to be honest. Jarno gave him a bit of a wakeup call from time to time, but Frentzen is now a fairly seasoned old pro who races sensibly and tends to drive no harder than he needs to. I don't see him as title material, unless the Jordan is absolutely exceptional.
KF: He does seem to be cruising a bit.
RGC: Curious driver Frentzen. He does seem prone to dozing fits and loss of motivation (hmm... and I should know).
PF: I wonder if H2F reached some sort of peak in 1999 -- perhaps having one hand on the hem of the title was enough for him? Maybe he knows he hasn't got it in him to go that extra step further. Realistically, a title bid would have to come in the next couple of seasons.
PF: I think Jarno may actually emerge ahead of Frentzen this season. He's actually growing into the role of an F1 driver fairly unobtrusively. On the rare occasions the camera bothers to stay on him he looks smooth and quick - I think his career holds more in store than No. 2 at Jordan; a good season this year could see him on the verge of bigger things.
KF: Now this guy is frightening. He may not look like Arnie Schwarzenegger but they have pretty much the same diet and exercise routine. How does he fit in with the laid-back attitude at Jordan? I'm intrigued as to where his proto-feud with Button is going. Or maybe they're both going to have to watch their backs for Raikonnen.
RGC: I think it will be an exceptional race where a Sauber is on a par with the Jordan. But you're right - Trulli takes it seriously and will be damn good I think.
PF: Of the current midfielders Trulli seems to be the one with the brightest future. He's maturing and he combines talent and hard work -- he also doesn't say daft things to the press quite as often as some of the others.
PF: Walkinshaw seems to have fundamentally misunderstood F1. He's excelled in pretty much very other form of motorsport he's tried (I vaguely recall a very abortive Indycar effort that never got off the ground, though) but the Arrows saga has gone beyond farce and into the realms of daytime soap opera. Revolving-door design policy, sponsors coming and going on a regular basis, the clapped-out old Pug engine, and decidedly mediocre driver lineups mean that Arrows is now back to the sort of status it had in the 80s - crap, with occasional flurries into mediocrity. Why the hell Arrows let de la Rosa go I don't know - he sometimes made the pretty (and pretty quick in a straight line) car look almost good.
KF: Absolutely - he was one of the few Arrows drivers that looked like serious competition for the top 6 never mind the midfield. Arrows lost their chief sponsor a week before the season started so that's not looking too promising. But having to find $18.6 million a year just to race at the back of the grid is hardly inspring.
RGC: Arrows should be used to losing their chief sponsor before the start of the season by now. Wonder if Microsoft would sponsor them? "We go slowly and crash regularly."
PF: Give up, Tom, and spend your hard-earned on Gloucester Rugby Club instead. Arrows must now be a target for a buyout by another manufacturer who wants to come into F1 -- wonder what General Motors or Volkswagen-Audi are planning in the long term?
PF: Jos da Boss has spent so much time in gravel pits it's a miracle he's not going to feature in the much-mooted cinematic remake of Blake's Seven. A professional blind date of the F1 scene, this is actually the first time the mediocre Dutchman has retained his seat. An eloquent statement of the potential of driver and team. More famous in 2000 for a silly court case to do with thumping someone at a kart circuit than for anything he did on the track. The flying fickle finger of fate is hovering over Jos, I can't see him staying in F1 much longer.
KF: Well, he's only 28 - his birthday is the same day as the Australian GP - he has a while to go before giving up altogether. And he seems to have been keeping out of the gravel traps recently. Let's see if he can keep out of prison this year too.
PF: Yeah, but he's acquired a reputation, and it'll take a long time for him to live it down -- he'd need a couple of impeccable seasons to lose his wild-man spinner image.
PF: Who else would really want to sit in Uncle Tom's Cockpit? Number two at Arrows isn't an attractive seat, the only kind of driver it's going to end up with is someone whose sponsors kind of like the idea of seeing their car lapped a couple of times a race or parked by the side of the track. I don't see greatness hovering over Bernoldi's shoulders.
PF: Very poor. Any points Sauber score post-Imola will be entirely in races of attrition, I think. Any they score pre-Imola will have something to do with divine intervention. Despite the car having last year's Ferrari powertrain on it (so it'll be pretty bulletproof) I just don't see it doing anything positive, and the driver lineup doesn't inspire me either. Youth's one thing, but picking someone from FRenault just implies desperation.
PF: Well, Nick managed to stay in F1. But team leader at Sauber isn't usually a ticket to anywhere interesting. In order to maintain career momentum, Heidi is going to have to annihilate Raikkonen (or whoever succeds him if they yank his superlicence for talking in class). Career prospects looking very shaky, I'd start looking for CART or GT drives in 2002 if I were Nick.
KF: Aaah - I have fond memories of all the times he's stripped his gloves off and tossed them on the ground before stomping off to the pit garage in a huff after breaking down again. Bless. Maybe he'll kick the tyres too next year.
RGC: If I was driving a Prost I'd kick the tyres... I'd also check if there was filler concealing the rust, if the exhaust pipe was loose and what the mileage was. I can see Pedro Diniz's role at Prost being confined to winding back the mileage to increase the resale value. "Fancy a second hand motor? Lovely fuel economy. Did most of last season on one tank of petrol."
PF: Best thing to kick on last year's Prost would've been that criminally awful engine, but it's hidden under the bodywork. Nothing convinces me that Heidfeld is destined for greatness. Sauber are going to struggle to keep up with Prost, I think, and will definitely be the "third" Ferrari team. (Six Ferrari engines! Pity we aren't back in the V12 days so they'd actually sound different....)
PF: I must've missed the week Raikkonen was fashionable. Perhaps it was when we were at Le Mans? There are dozens of drivers with more legitimate claims to an F1 seat than him - hell, my sister's been driving a Land Rover nd a Fiesta for a few months!. The thought that Raikkonen is in F1 while the likes of Minassian and Junqueira are in CART because no F1 teams are interested in them makes me start to wonder what the pinnacle of motor sport really is. Like so many spotty young erks, Kimi is "on probation" for four races - if he's as crap as everyone expects he loses his Superlicence, stops being milk monitor and gets replaced by someone who has a clue. The cult of youth stops here, I think.
KF: On the plus side, nobody's expecting him to be any good so he's not exactly going to be under pressure to perform, is he? He'll either be doing a Ricardo Rosset and failing to qualify or playing dodgems at the back of the grid because he's hardly had any time in the car. Good luck to him though.
RGC: God help us if he does do well. Eddie Jordan will be hanging around primary schools looking for his next driver. Wonder if Kimi has to have blocks on the pedals so he can reach them. Next time you're in Finland Kriss, see if there are F1 talent scouts in school playgrounds.
PF: Sauber clearly think he's going to be good -- or if they don't I'm puzzled as to why they hired him! I just don't see Kimi making any favourable impression; the best he can hope for is keep his nose clean and not create too much in the way of on- or off-track politics. He may get a second chance.
PF: Superrat is Bobby's boss (and now a customer of mine!). R2 doesn't look to be all that much better than R1, unfortunately, and I just don't see Jaguar moving all that far up the grid this year. Last season was, frankly, embarrassing -- and for them to start saying that much of it was because Stewart (who had become a fairly solid points-scoring team) were useless left a nasty taste in the mouth. Rahal and Lauda are two of the cleverest men in racing though, and if anyone can apply some logic to harnessing the blue oval's resources into a decent F1 team I think they can. File under "let's see how they do in 2002".
RGC: I wonder if the Blue Oval didn't make this team the Silver Tabby instead as a form of deniability. After all, it would be a bit of an embarrasment to have Ford's name on that wheeled shed they made last year. As for Rahal and Lauda, I think Prost already showed us that, in management at least, brains aren't enough to make a car go fast.
PF: Prost's main problem was his engine supply. Just you watch as he starts to get some good results this season!
PF: ...what? Jacques Villeneuve maybe, when he chucks his toys out of the BAR pram in favour of Takuma Sato? Eddie proves that being a 34-year-old playboy isn't the lifestyle for a 21st century F1 driver. Sure, it's nice that he's a free spirit and all that, but his manner grates more often than not and his performances never seem to be any better than those of the car. Often says he'll be gone when he stops enjoying F1 - and on the basis of Jaguar's potential this year I don't see him sticking around all that much longer.
KF: Spending more and more time looking frustrated, possibly due to contemplation of the time he's got left to win the DWC and the tools he has to work with. Still, he's one bloke who has the mouth with trousers to match (allegedly). But like the class clown who suddenly gets promoted to be a prefect, he looks uncomfortable being expected to be serious about his job in public.
RGC: When you said "the tools he's got to work with" I thought you were talking about Gary Anderson and Johnny Herbert - but they've left now.
PF: Ahhh, this from a man who idolised Anderson a few years ago.
RGC: Anderson looked reasonable in '96-'97. He's gone reputation has gone down like um... some similie I can't remember about prostitutes.
PF: Smart choice of driver. If Burti does well, it looks good for Jaguar. If he does badly, they can pin it on him. From his point of view it's also pretty clever, because nobody really has great expectations of the team this year. I think he's a man on his way up in the sport, and no. 2 at a currently-mediocre team is nowhere near a true reflection of his potential. Give him a couple of years and I think we'll be seeing him much nearer the front of the grid. I expect him to start keeping Irvine fairly honest as the season progresses.
PF: Shut up. Shut up shut up shut up. I wear a Minardi watch, I'm proud of it. (It even tells the time to within 107%...). I like Stoddart's attitude. He's going to keep Minardi in Faenza (so they won't have to take someone on at the dole office), he's going to fund development of the old Cossie (as the "European V10") and he's recognised that although this year's Gustav Brunner chassis is going to be good the team aren't going to achieve much this year (it was designed with no particular engine in mind, so is bound to be a bit of a compromise). His aim is to make Minardi a midfield team within a few years, which I think is reasonable. Forza Minardi! Personally, I'd love to see Minardi trounce BAR - a triumph of passion over corporate whoredom. Highlight of 2000 for me was Mazzacane keeping Hakkinen behind him at Indy. FORZA FAENZA!
RGC: Don't think Kriss likes continual reminders of Gazza Mazza ahead of Mika Mika Mika.
PF: Gosh, perhaps we should go back to 1995 when the McLarens were stuck behind the Pacifics at the Nurburgring; that was quite jolly!
PF: Someone's obviously trying to interest Spain in forms of motorsport that (A) aren't bike racing or (B) don't involve Carlos Sainz coming close to mowing down banks full of spectators. Alonso came very good towards the end of the 2000 F3000 season and looks like he deserves a good crack at F1. His team mate is going to be "experienced".... see below...
PF: Stoddart is talking to five "experienced" drivers. Despite my enthusiasm for Minardi, I'm sure this means it's likely to be some old tugger who's done a few straight-line aero test sessions at Brunthingthorpe or racked up a few DNQs for one of the no-hoper teams of the mid 90s. If it gets as good as Morbidelli I'll be ecstatic.
RGC: News just in is that it's Tarso Marques. Actually, I think he's pretty good. I saw him at Spa in 97 and standing up from the bus stop chicane I saw him overtake three drivers in as many laps in treacherous conditions. That makes me think there's something about him.
PF: Hasn't been bad in CART either -- not quite set the world on fire, but I think he has it in him to work on the Fisichella sort of level, given the right kit.
PF: is "management genius" an anagram for "very rich dad"? Actually, Alain's never been popular in France... Must be ecstatic to have got rid of the Pug, and as yet this year's car seems to be so good that Jean Alesi hasn't had a purple wobbly about it yet. Can this be the season that Prost achieve something more than mediocrity? I'd dearly like it to be, and I suspect that the combination of Alesi and a decent reliable car could spring the odd moderate surprise.
RGC: Hmm... surprises like running out of fuel, hitting people, throwing his helmet and generally acting the berk.
PF: They're not surprises with Alesi these days, they're what I expect as a matter of course. Probably nadgered off that Sly Stallone is making his film about CART now so he can't act as a double!
PF: Still enjoying it, still ranting, still got the car control, still thinks like a rock ape. F1 is a better place with Jean and I for one will miss him when he finally retires. He's kind of like an elderly pet Alsatian chasing a chiahuahua -- you can still see the teeth occasionally, but his bark is by now *far* worse than his bite.
KF: Somehow you can't help thinking that of all the drivers likely to suffer from having an advertising hoarding fall on his head, he's the one least likely to show any lasting effects. Bit of a shame that was the highlight of his season.
PF: What more was to be done with that gutless shed of a vehicle?
PF: I rate him just a fraction higher than that, I think he didn't let himself down at Minardi last season. Mind you he'll need a stonking chequebook, Alain's paying about 2m a race for Maranello castoffs.
PF: I hope we haven't seen the last of him. Never going to get a fair deal at BAR which really is Team Villeneuve (for the time being). Good racer, unlucky, deserves another go, but these days unless you land a top test seat it seems that the waters close over you very quickly once you've lost your race seat.
KF: Spa. One spectacular crash in 1999, one spectacular overtaking maneouvre executed on him in 2000. Oh, and nearly being hit on the head by the crane moving your car out of the gravel. Not what you want to be remembered for.
PF: Think he's booking his hols for that week this year?
PF: Were I Alex I would've stuffed Flav's baseball cap somewhere Naomi Campbell has probably only slipped the odd affectionate ben-wa ball. Alex was grossly screwed about by Benetton, but some of the blame has to land at his own feet - he should've made more noise about the car being too small, and should've fought his corner more. To be honest, I don't think Alex has ever been the same since his Monaco shunt, but I hope a year out of the limelight in the McLaren test team gives him a chance to put his career back together. He deserved better than last year's Benetton farce.
KF: He made a big splash when he first arrived and hasn't lived up to it consistently. But then, he's been in a Benetton. Test driving worked for Panis - hopefully it'll work for Alex too. The guy has balls, and he's more McLaren material anyway.
RGC: And if that doesn't work out he can return to his BMX career if things get Wurz before they get better.
PF: Got this horrible feeling Alex will languish in test hell for more than a year. There's an awful logjam of drivers building up now.
PF: Williams rate him highly enough to want him as their test driver. Which implies he can't be all bad.
RGC: They chose him because he has bushy black eyebrows like Damon Hill who was the last competent development driver to sit in a Williams.
PF: JV was a good development driver, it's just that he had ideas that weren't identical to Ratprick's, and were, ipso facto, wrong.
RGC: If your development driver uses the terms push and loose you're in trouble. If he only ever suggests it should be looser then you're in more trouble.
PF: The evergreen Mika II presumably thinks he's in with a chance of a race seat at Toyota (as does sportscar legend Allan McNish). On his day he's been impressive. I'd certainly like to see all his effort rewarded.
KF: He's going to be knocking on a bit then though...
RGC: You mean "an experienced driver" surely?
PF: See "old tugger who's done a few straight line aero tests at Bruntingthorpe"? Well, Mika II is a bit more than that... but I get this vague feeling that JV might be looking at Toyota if BAR doesn't start to really deliver.
RGC: Sure, that would be really sensible. Join a start up team with a Japanese Engine. Those who don't remember history are condemned to... um... study for science degrees or something.
PF: "Management" at Prost. Hmmmm. Big desk, and a blankety-blank chequebook and pen?
KF: For me he was one of those drivers you'd have liked to see in a decent car just to find out if he really could cut it. Hakkinen was unimpressive in the Lotus all those years ago... it's all pretty relative.
RGC: The Lotus was an easy car to be unimpressive in.
PF: Mika was actually pretty good in the Lotus, relative to the quality of the car, which was either run on a frayed shoestring or had buggy active suspension software. Or both. I don't think Diniz was a natural winner, but he might've made a good number 2 back in the days when the top teams used to have proper number 2s who weren't expected to be race-winners...
PF: Shut up shut up shut up shut up. Minardi are ace. Inexplicably dropped by Arrows (he was by far their best asset after Hamidy and they've lost both). A perfectly reasonable midfield F1 driver, but they're ten a penny if you want to buy kids fresh out of junior formulae, so I don't necessarily see Pedro coming back.
KF: Which is a shame, because apart from Damon Hill at Hungary in 97, when do you last remember an Arrows in the top 6?
RGC: Arrows "We've always been crap and we know it."
PF: Several times, actually....
RGC: I think she meant "In living memory" Pete - not when people were still trying to work out if they were called Footwork or Shadow or what.
PF: Aren't they after him for a Bentley drive at Le Mans? Can't get a CART drive (Ford didn't seem to be able to place him). Can't even get an Opel drive in the DTM unless he brings money. Please, Johnny, don't go looking at the IRL....
KF: Johnny Herbert's got the testing contract for Arrows I believe. Can't keep away.
RGC: Testing at arrows? Wheres the dignity in that? What next, working the stopwatch for Sauber? Advertising exec for BAR? Breast implants and squatting on the nosecone of the Jordan? Actually, I'd like him to start his own team. Team Herbert has quite a ring. It could hire famous racing Herberts (Alesi and Irvine spring to mind).
For the drinks: PF bets that Prost will score more points than Sauber.
For the tip: PF bets that Button will outqualify Fisichella more times than Fisichella will outqualify Button.
In the event of a tie that part of the bet will be split. For the record, last year, RGC paid for the meal and tip and PF paid for the wine.