2002 Totally Biased Season Preview

Well, it's that time again... Time for the pointless ramblings of a few petrol-heads who really should have better things to do with their time.

This year, in a vague attempt to liven things up we got together with three bottles of wine and a few snacks. The results certainly show that we'd been drinking more than last year. Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

RGC: Richard G. Clegg
KF: Kriss Fearon
PF: Pete Fenelon

RGC: Last season was... was... zzzzz... (thunk). I'm sorry I must have nodded off there. Last season was not the most thrilling we've ever had. Some races were as boring as James Allen reading the ingredients of a bottle of Mogadon (or maybe just talking about tyre compounds). We also had some classics. Brazil springs to mind, as does Indianapolis. Ferrari had the whole thing tied up earlier than a dominatrix in a hurry. Mika didn't seem interested. David didn't seem interesting. The BMW engine let go so often that tribes of native americans thought it was a serialisation of War and Peace. Rubinho was obliged to come second (both contractually and by reason of not being fast enough). End result a Schumi cruise to victory.

PF: The most interesting race was Minardi's race to get onto the grid. Actually, Schumacher in the rain was usually at least watchable, but as far as vintage moments were concerned this season dried up pretty early on.

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro (Bridgestone)

RGC: Same old same old. Can't we just paste in last year's entry here? How many championships will they win? (Pause for a show of hands in the room). The consensus here seems to be about 1.5. The most exciting question we can find is what car they'll run in Australia, the new one or the old one?

1) Michael Schumacher (Germany)

PF: How much longer does he want to go on? Will keep on winning as long as Team Schumacher (Ross Brawn, Rory Byrne and Jean Todt) keep delivering the goods for him? Zzzzzzzz. On course for Championship 5 - do we see anyone stopping him this year? JPM? Kimi? David?

RGC: There's more people who *could* stop him this year than last year... but it's encouraging that there's so many who could be second, really.

KF: Kind of, but he's the Steve Davis of F1 isn't he? There have only been a couple of genuine flashes of temperament, which I suppose makes him a very good employee. I wonder if people were as blase about Fangio: Come on, stop winning, it's BORING!

RGC: Of course his exquisite driving talent is always a joy to watch etc etc... yeah... but you're right - it's more fun to watch him struggle and lose than it is to watch him cruise to victory.

2) Rubens Barrichello (Brazil)

PF: What can you say about Rubens. Seems to have been around since before the flood and like Jean Alesi, he's the man who has just won one race. This is no reflection of how good he is - I'm sure he could've equalled DC or Mika if he was at McLaren, say.

KF: He's cute. I can't believe he's only won one race.

RGC: I think it's a conspiracy to stop him doing that embarrassing "falling off the podium" trick he always does. So is he going to be at Ferrari next year?

Chorus: No.

PF: Where would he go next? He wouldn't last ten minutes at Williams. Frank and Ratprick would destroy him, boil him alive and eat the pieces.

KF: He needs someone to be nice to him; Jackie Stewart was good at that.

RGC: I still think he's a great driver and he's been incredibly unlucky.

West McLaren Mercedes (Michelin)

PF: Zzzzzzz. Well, they kept Newey, and he didn't go off to design America's Cup boats. Mercedes are down on power, though...

KF: What's Ron going to do now Mika's gone? Who's he going to hug at the end of races?

PF: I Think he's got Kimi as a *young* replacement...

RGC: Well, let's face it, McLaren are such a boring team that none of us can find anything to say. They're grey.

KF: Silver.

RGC: Anthracite.

PF: Grey.

RGC: Chassis will be fine...

KF: Let's hope they've got traction control sorted out.

RGC: It's humiliating for Mercedes to be taken roughly from behind by BMW!

PF: And they've managed to keep Adrian Newey chained to his tome of power in the Artist's Garret, and not to go and play with his mate Bobby at Jaguar.

KF: Yes, but that means his only way out is to design a crap car!

3) David Coulthard (UK)

RGC: DC says this year's car is "meaty" with "big old sidepods" and "looks like you can barge your way among other cars and not have bits fall off". Guess they designed it with his fitfully berkish driving technique in mind.

PF: Sounds like he's been listening to dodgy old rock bands. Spinal Tap's "Big Bottom" perhaps? Oooh, look at the mudflaps on that.

KF: Sounds like he wants to play dodgems. Let's hope it works with walls.

PF: Has to win the championship this year or Autosport will finally disown him. Regular as clockwork, three weeks before the season starts, 10p price rise and "Can Coulthard Win Title This Year?" on the cover. The article inside should just say "Naaaaaaah!".

KF: Yes, yes, it really *HAS* to be this time. I mean, it's got to be his year one year, hasn't it?

PF: <Rocky and Bullwinkle>"This time, for sure...." "But that trick *NEVER* works"</Rocky and Bullwinkle>

RGC: Yes, 'cos the other eight times he said it was his year it wasn't. I confidently predict he'll finish in the top 5. Kriss actually admits to hoping he's the champion.

PF: This is just 'cos Mika's gone.

KF: No really, it's his turn this year!

PF: At this point Richard and Kriss, an ex-couple, spent ten minutes debating the wisdom or otherwise of David's sex life. Far be it from me to cast aspersions upon this though it was suggested that he adopts the Irvine Technique - abandon your championship challenge and get a shag - as opposed to Coulthard's failed technique last year of abandoning his shag for a chance at the championship.

KF: I don't think I'd be entirely comfortable working for a company where my colleagues could tell by that day's performance what I'd been up to the previous evening, and how strenuous it was. Although he insists that a night of passion before the race gives him an appetite to win the morning after, which must make him unique (most men seem to have an appetite for pulling the duvet over their head and demanding a cuppa before they're ready to tackle anything as complicated and demanding as getting dressed). Perhaps since they've medical evidence that sex is excellent cardivascular exercise we'll be hearing a lot more about his training routine. Watch out for the spin off video in a couple of years - I don't think anyone's taken the 'sex for fitness' angle before, it's usually the other way round.

RGC: He says he could win "if only the public were behind him" - is his car powered by applause? Home advantage?

PF: Home advantage my arse! Ferrari used to have home advantage at Monza when they used to run four litre engines and jungle juice fuel. THAT'S home advantage.

KF: He only needs to know how much you care.

4) Kimi Raikkonen (Finland)

KF: Ickle Kimi! I'm fascinated by his private life, bet he's a drama queen in private - not a typical restrained and civilised Finn.

RGC: Now do tell, you've more experience of Finns than most of us! Finland is the country that bought us the World Air Guitar Championships - how civilised is that? "Mika's a perfect gentleman, Kimi's a little beast" according to an anonymous Sauber engineer. Then of course there was the Peter Sauber shag ban - well, at least, they weren't allowed to bring their girlfriends to races.

PF: Presumably they brought the T-girlfriend and alternated on who had priority on her each race.

KF: He won't do as well as David, because DC's more experienced and disciplined.

RGC: But most of that experience is bumping into walls.

PF: But David's not number one... at least not officially

KF: Everyone said that about Mika but he was.

RGC: David is a natural number two. Kimi will either outdo David or be so close to him that he'll be more impressive...

BMW Williams (Michelin)

RGC: No ciggie sponsorship, so why were they smoking so heavily last year? Still, looks like Frank and Ratprick are back on the winning trail. No shortage of talent on the driver front (and they've got Pizzonia testing in case the existing drivers bash into each other too much). According to Gerhard it may be a case of "Nice engine, shame about the chassis?" or is Gerhard displaying his famous sense of humour?

PF: Typical pair of Williams drivers. A prick and an arsehole.

KF: Which is which?

PF: Well, JPM's clearly never had piles - a perfect arsehole. As for Ralfie - well, he's living in a little world of his own these days. Nutcases both, and it's nice to see JPM comprehensively destroying Ralf's confidence. This is PRECISELY what we want to see at Williams. Strife. Conflict. Turmoil. Jones vs Reutemann, Mansell vs the Universe.

5) Ralf Schumacher (Germany)

KF: Hasn't found his feet as a person. Seems far too vulnerable to what people say and think about him, hasn't got the self-belief.

RGC: He's still a baby brother who was picked on in the playground.

PF: Yeah, by Slugger Williams and Ratprick the Skool Bully. He's not able to survive at Williams if he's like that.

RGC: Have you seen the film of a kart race where they were trying to give Ralf an interview and Michael took it over for him because Ralf was "overwhelmed?"

KF: He's doesn't seem to understand the mentality of someone who doesn't care about his opinion, or see why they aren't affected by the kind of mind games that get him all wound up.

RGC: He's as good a driver as Montoya. But he's mentally fragile whereas Montoya is just mental.

6) Juan Pablo Montoya (Colombia)

PF: The best driver in the world at the moment, INCLUDING Schumacher. Has the talent, the attitude and the ability to survive in the snakepit that is Williams. Surely a matter of time before he is the man to outdo Schumacher.

RGC: He's still too tubby and marginally thuggish.

KF: It's just puppy fat. What's your excuse :-P

RGC: I'm big boned.

PF: Yeah, he knows the Medellin Cartel and he's well-hard.

RGC: Ralf says that Montoya wasn't bothered at Monza after 9/11 because "it's ok for him, he's from Colombia where people get killed in the streets every day so he's used to it"

PF: Yeah, this shows more about Ralf's grasp of psychology.

KF: The fact that he's surviving at Williams is a testament to his mental robustness.

Sauber Petronas (Bridgestone)

RGC: Rinland (Rinland Rinland, the aerodynamicist that we'd quite like to be) looks to have continued last year's successful formula. That strange, wide front wing support and narrow lower front suspension mount may look bloody peculiar but it seems to work. Sauber must be regretting his loss (fortunately after penning this years car). Failing to predict Sauber would do well was one of our most embarrasing gaffes in last year's preview. How will they do this year?

KF: I don't think they'll do as well this year, partly because they've lost Sergio and Kimi, partly because the other teams are getting closer.

RGC: A movable aerodynamicist and Finn? Isn't that illegal these days?

PF: Sauber shocked me, I just didn't see them vaulting the rest of the midfield, but it's a sign of how polarised F1 is around the top three teams that they didn't achieve a great deal in absolute terms. Prost dropping out might play to Sauber's advantage, it may mean that Ferrari can concentrate a bit more on them. It'll be fascinating to see old Ferrari vs new Sauber at the start of the season.

7) Nick Heidfeld (Germany)

PF: Poor Nick - if he gets trounced again by a rookie it's not going to look good... and people were expecting so much less from Kimi. I hope it's his last season at Sauber and he can get himself further up the grid. I'd like to see Heidfeld do better. Now, OK, Kimi didn't take him apart, but Kimi coming *close* to Nick was tantamount to beating him because the expectations on Heidfeld were so much higher. Really needs to get some career momentum going.

KF: He's not helped by so much public whinging about McLaren preferring Kimi. He really ought to shut up and prove it.

RGC: I think he's right in his grievances in some ways, because he did do better than Kimi - scored more, qualified better, and he still finished second in the "get a decent drive" race.

PF: Yes, but he was *EXPECTED* to do that. In fact, he was expected to blow Kimi into the weeds. The fact that he could only claim a modest advantage over the much less experienced Raikkonen is sufficient to deflate his claims to greatness.

KF: But he was McLaren's test driver as well... if they'd wanted him they'd have taken him on merit.

8) Felipe Massa (Brazil)

PF: We know next to nothing about him, but we said that about Kimi last year. Won the Italian F3000 championship, but a lot of that's bush-league teams and weird pay-drivers, so I don't really have a feel for how good he is in absolute terms. Then again, Sauber seems to be the new Ken Tyrrell as far as talent-spotting goes...

RGC: 21 - he's a bit old to be a Sauber second driver. [Comments comparing Peter Sauber and Jonathan King were, rightly, deemed in poor taste by Ms Fearon at this point.]

PF: Peter Sauber's picking drivers over the age of consent now. Has he had a warning? Massa is the man that Jean Alesi thinks is mad.

RGC: That's quite worrying really, isn't it? Equivalent to Lauda thinks you look a bit funny, Mansell thinks you whine too much, Berger thinks you're a bit of a playboy and Irvine thinks you've got a huge gob on you.

Jordan Honda (Bridgestone)

PF: I always want Jordan to do well - better than BAR. Mind you, I want everyone to do better than BAR. It's a pity Jordan seem to keep threatening to start the diet, keep promising to give up smoking, keep saying they'll lay off the booze...

RGC: Oh, they will (do better than BAR that is, don't know about the rest)!

PF: ... but how serious are they? Mind you Eddie's got the sidies under control now - he looks like "the fun stops".

RGC: He looks like he should be the chair of the Campaign for the Legalisation of Marijuana. I think Jordan have found their level and it's about 5th.

PF: They're still at the stage where a push could take them either way. Honda are going to go their way rather than BAR. Could be what they need to sort them out.

9) Giancarlo Fisichella (Italy)

PF I hope he's very 'appy - something I've not heard from him for a very long time. He's become anonymous hasn't he? All a bit Thierry Boutsen. You expect him to do a good job but he never gives you a monster race. Has he peaked, do you think?

RGC: Hard to tell in that crappy Benetton. If he did peak it was a world-record for the anti-climactic climax.

PF: I can't see him in a McLaren or a Williams.

RGC: This is his chance to prove himself. Another guy who's got to burn his teammate off totally.

KF: I would like to see him do really well, but it's difficult to see how when he's going back to the place he started off in.

10) Takuma Sato (Japan)

PF: I think he's there on merit. He had it in F3, I reckoned he was as good as Pizzonia, for example.

RGC: I think he's there on a combination of merit and nationality.

PF: I think he's going to be the first Japanese guy to be a regular podium visitor - I was impressed. But not this year.

Lucky Strike BAR Honda (Bridgestone)

RGC: BAR have dropped a Pollock (we've been saying something only one letter different about them for a long while) - and not before time. I'm convinced he must have had some kind of Jedi mind power to persuade the team to employ him in the first place. He got Reynard to come in, got a recent world champion, got one of the largest engine manufacturers in the world on board...

PF: ... and he muffed it. Bye bye Craig - don't make a noise on the way out!

KF: I don't think he ever got the credit he deserved, they suffered a lot from the overblown predictions in the first year and were never taken seriously afterwards. I don't think he'll be able to go back now - it will be interesting to see what he does in the future. Meanwhile we seem to have one of the most laid-back team managers in history to replace him. Does Dave Richards ever lose his cool?

PF: Pollock ran the team like you'd expect a PE teacher to, specifically, Bullet Baxter out of Grange Hill, without the charisma.

KF: They could do with a change of management style: "The beatings will continue until morale improves" didn't seem to work.

RGC: I suggest the "If you build a working racing car in time then you can go and play with the other children" as a replacement management philosophy.

11) Jacques Villeneuve (Canada)

PF: When Jacques thinks there's a ghost of a chance he'll go for it and...

RGC: ...spin it and crash it into the wall.

PF: ...when he hasn't got a chance he'll drive like a granny, except at Spa where he'll try his usual heroics at Eau Rouge and reduce a chassis or two to shredded carbon fibre. I can't see Jacques' attitude working with Dave Richards. He may have some readjustment of attitude to do but it will do him good in the long run if he wants to stay in the game. It's serious now - it's his boss not his mate he has to answer to. And his boss understands motorsport now.

KF: He's going to end up sitting at home with his feet up watching the home shopping channel.

PF: On the edge, for sure.

12) Olivier Panis (France)

RGC: He looks a little like Jamie Oliver. I hope he can cook because he's going to need a second career soon. "'ere Jools, this front suspension mounting looks well dodgy. I'm just going to pop down to Sainsbury's for a new one. Pukka."

PF: In my alternative universe OP won the 1997 world championship. Unfortunately he's now got to play second fiddle to the guy who did. Which is a pity because he doesn't tend to chuck his toys out of the pram.

RGC: I think this is probably his last season and I hope he enjoys his move to sportscars.

Mild Seven Renault (Michelin)

RGC: Wow - I'm really surprised they actually finished last season this high. Wide angled engine modelled after Flavio Briatore's wide angled gob.

PF: Bloody Flavio Bloody Briatore (grunt). Bloody Blue Peter bloody paint job (grunt). Most interesting engine out there, let's hope it works. Also the most interesting designer - I like Gascoyne's attitude.

KF: Trulli and Button crashed into each other all the time in Button's first season - I wonder if they're still talking to each other.

PF: Racing's finest tag team. Move over, D'Von and Bubba Ray Dudley!

RGC: Seriously though, I reckon this could be the start of the Renault come back. I can see them achieving a modicum of respectability this year - something they didn't manage last year.

14) Jarno Trulli (Italy)

PF: Will work his balls off and get a fifth place a couple of times. No justice in the universe, he really does deserve something better.

KF: The fittest man in Formula 1.

PF: He should be on Superstars - he's the Brian Jacks of his day.

RGC: A lot of people say that Trulli's race technique is fatally flawed - he crashes a lot more than he ought to - very good qualifying speed, but it doesn't translate into races.

PF: He shouldn't be down in the midfield, there's too much traffic. A better qualifier than racer.

15) Jenson Button (UK)

PF: I think Jarno Trulli will eat Button alive as a protein supplement. Button wants to do nothing other than drive cars and shag women and to be honest I think he'd skip the driving cars in a pinch. Far too enamoured with his boy superstar status.

KF: Nothing wrong with wanting to drive cars and shag women...

RGC: But he should be able to drive cars better.

KF: He's not concentrating really - seems quite lost to be honest, what with the changes of management and everything. Maybe a mistake to blame his management for not getting him into a proper team in his second year.

PF: His manager was Steve Robertson's dad. Steve Robertson managed to have a playboy lifestyle when he was only in F3, and where's *he* now? Mexico, I think...

RGC: See you in Sportscars...

Jaguar Racing (Michelin)

RGC: Is there any form of motor racing Ford are good at? I presume they do OK in those "fat old men turn left" championships in the states but this is really embarrasing. The management restructuring must have left employees baffled. The lack of proven design personnel is worrying (they've offered money to just about everyone it seems). The choice of drivers is inexplicable. This car would be lucky to do well in Formula Ford, never mind Formula One. I'm convinced that SuperRat Lauda is a very bright and very canny individual - but so was Prost.

PF: <bleat> Last one there turn out the lights. How much more money are Ford going to pump into it before they realise that the team is a dead loss? What are they failing to understand about F1 that Stewart understood? Everything. And how do you turn Cosworth into a pile of crap? Takes real *talent* to mess the team up that badly.

RGC: The shits are deserting the sinking rat. They should save money by having an etch-a-sketch on the team principal door instead of a name plate. 'Wanted: Team Manager. Temporary, part-time position only.'

16) Eddie Irvine (UK)

RGC: Well the self-proclaimed second best driver in the world doesn't hold out much hope for this car. At the launch he said he would be more than happy if the car got a few points and maybe a podium at Monaco. That must have pleased his bosses. The few minutes he's managed to spend outside his bedroom fitness routine testing the car don't seem to have made much of a difference except to say that what happens on Jaguar's wind tunnel in the US does not translate to the race tracks over here.

PF: I have two words to say about Irvine: Auld gobshite.

KF: He seems to blow hot and cold about the car's performance. Either it does have good days or it's his natural tendency to blag overcoming his better judgement. Funny how people are asking when Irvine is going to retire but not mentioning anything about Salo.

RGC: How can Jaguar have Irvine and Lauda but still not be able to construct a proper wind tunnel? Christ, put the two of them in an underpass and ask them to talk on the subject of "underrated formula one drivers" for a few minutes.

17) Pedro De La Rosa (Spain)

RGC: I think he can get ahead of Irvine this year.

PF: He certainly seems to believe in himself. This is the best he can do really - grin and bear it and hope for a number 2 slot at another team. Or, just maybe, No. 1 once Irvine's been given the boot.

Orange Arrows (Bridgestone)

PF: They're going to trounce Jaguar because they're not lumbered with the appalling mess that Jaguar have. On the other hand, they have Tom Walkinshaw, who seems to prefer spending money on lawsuits to cars. I've said it before and I'll say it again - WHY DOESN'T TOM UNDERSTAND F1?. He seems to have succeeded in every other form of motorsport...

RGC: I wish my mobile phone bill was cheaper - why am I paying these people? If only there was some way for both of them (Jaguar and Arrows) to lose.

PF: They're doing it on 1/10 of the budget of Jaguar after all.

RGC: I can't bring myself to prefer Tom Walkinshaw over Niki Lauda. I think the addition of Rinland to the design team will help Arrows this year. The most they can hope for is being less mediocre than Jaguar.

20) Enrique Bernoldi (Brazil)

PF: He'll get someone stuck behind him for x laps at Monaco and get a lot of publicity. Unfortunately it will probably be Frentzen. He's not that bad though.

RGC: I admired the width of Bernoldi's car at Monaco last year. Who will he be seeing in his rear view mirrors this year?

PF: He'll have a trail of Toyotas and Jaguars behind him, and possibly Jacques.

21) Heinz-Harald Frentzen (Germany)

KF: It says a lot about his experience at Prost that he is pleased to get a seat at Arrows. I wonder if he has a clause in his contract that bans him from coming near the pit garage with a hacksaw.

PF: There is an air of him being an old gunfighter, a grizzled old veteran fated to stick around and fight the last fight - from lost cause to lost cause.

RGC: It is a career wasted isn't it? He remained loyal to Sauber and joined Williams when they became shit.

PF: He's never been able to get a team behind him. Jordan were more behind Damon, and he has to do that at Arrows to have half a chance.

RGC: He'll have to pull the car behind him too.

KL Minardi Asiatech (Michelin)

RGC: Does anyone remember the Bloom County spin-off record "U stink but I luv U"? Sums up my feelings about Minardi. What is this KL thing?

PF: Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia. Minardi are half Italian, half Malaysian, half Australian. (Yeah, that's three halves. The third's the overdraft).

KF: Sounds like a trendy restaurant in London.

PF: "Chuck another coconut curry pizza on the barbie." Paul Stoddart is a cross between Ken Livingstone and Russell Crowe - and has the talent spotting ability of both.

RGC: At my signal unleash an improved transport policy for London.

22) Alex Yoong (Malaysia)

KF: I hope he retires a lot in hot races and will stand with his jacket off. He is very cute.

PF: Can he drive? Who knows?

KF: Who cares?

RGC: I thought he wasn't actually too bad last year. Driving-wise, not tottie-wise that is.

KF: Well it's not as if you could watch F1 for the totty is it? Not if you're a straight woman anyway.

23) Mark Webber (Australia)

PF: Serious hopes for the team centre around Mark Webber who's been in F3000 since the pleiocene era when cars were powered by putting your feet through the bottom of the car like the Flintstones. Rumours that his car will be fuelled by Fosters at the Ozzie GP are entirely true. He's the first Australian in F1 since David Brabham in '91.

KF: Just as well he isn't driving for Benetton who don't seem to pay attention to the fact that bigger drivers need bigger cars (or didn't for Wurz).

PF: It's a sport for little men.

KF: Buy 'em small then, don't try to shrink 'em afterwards.

Panasonic Toyota Racing

RGC: For years, people have been asking "what would Gustav Brunner build if he had the finance?". Who'd've thought the answer would be "a dog on wheels".

PF: Toyota's main problem: Germany and Japan, two countries that lose world wars and build crap formula one cars. More seriously, they're a long way from "the motorsport industry" (Britain or Italy). They've already chucked one designer. Nothing fills me with confidence.

KF and RGC: (Groan) Do we _have_ to mention world wars?

PF: Yes.

RGC: So what's the best Toyota can hope for?

PF: Ten to fifteen points and one podium.

RGC: Not a lot for a billion quid if you ask me.

24) Mika Salo (Finland)

PF: Mika Salo? Bleah.... Mediocre old tugger. The Frank Worthington of Formula One.

RGC: Frank Worthington?

PF: Obscure 70s footballer who played for everyone and kept going for a long time. Mika Salo: voted man least likely to be Hakkinen's team mate (by Hakkinen).

RGC: But huge in Finland (and actually increasingly huge in wherever he is given his intensive training in pie-eating in his off year). Can all those Finns who like him more than Mika H be wrong?

KF: It's a sympathetic pregnancy. He's Finnish so he can't be all bad. But I think the Finns will all support Raikkonen now.

PF: He beggars description. I'm sure he's kind to children and animals but he's never captured my imagination.

25) Allan McNish (UK)

PF: I think he is going to be the find of the year, he's not keeping the seat warm for somebody else. He hasn't got an extensive career of propping up the grid. He's a God in sports cars. He could, and should have been in Formula One 10 years ago. He could have been everything Coulthard has and more. Who was the last person to come into Formula 1 that old? Damon Hill, in a crappy Brabham. So, you've got Allan in a crappy Toyota. Give him a couple of years!

KF: He has more to prove than anyone else on the grid and I really hope that he proves everyone wrong. He's only thirty two.

RGC: If he's the find of the year, it's coz he's buried himself in the tyre barriers so deep they've got to dig him out. Hiring him was a bizarre decision. The only thing he has in common with Hill's entry is that he's a second rate driver in a third rate car. If he's even a tenth of a second off Salo's pace then he's going to be swapped for someone younger and better looking (and that doesn't narrow the field much). He could have been everything Coulthard has - not much of a claim really is it? He could also have been a Scotch nit blocking more talented people from taking a seat in a top team.

Goodbye and Adieu and Farewell

Mika Hakkinen

RGC: So what's is the Finnish for au revoir?

KF: It's "au revoir". I think he'll be back at McLaren. They might get rid of Coulthard, they've had him a long time.

RGC: Far too long.

PF: Good grief. An all Finnish team: Nokia-Mclaren-Mercedes.

RGC: To finish first you must first be Finnish?

KF: Fantastic! I hope he's happy.

PF: I hope Ron's voice has gone away from inside his head. We've seen the last of him, I reckon. Not like he needs the stress or the money and he was driving like an old woman for the back half of 2001. Remember Hill's last half season?

Jean Alesi

PF: (Splutter) My brain hurts. Gone to trade paint with other nutters in DTM. I do hope his McLaren test is embarrassing for Coulthard.

KF: What a nutter. Entertaining though.

PF: He should have signed that Williams deal many many years ago.

KF: And Hill should have gone to McLaren, but we all make mistakes.

Jos Verstappen (again)

PF: My main comment on Jos is "bwahahahahahahaha".

KF: 'verstappen' sounds like a verb doesn't it? I wonder what it might mean...

RGC: Verstappen - verb, intransitive: to rotate pointlessly. "Without a record on it, the turntable verstappened in silence." Bloody hell. Re-tires more than the Ferrari pit-crew this bloke. See the last time we wrote a "goodbye" to Jos. ('99 actually, though we also wrote one in '98). I'm sure he'll be back if one of the other drivers falls over and cuts their knee. Looks like it's marching season from Orange for this man. I understand he's thinking of suing Arrows for not giving him a drive. I'd be more tempted to sue them for the state of the car.

KF: Yeah, it is very much in the mould of "The Living Dead". Can there be so much testosterone in one human being?

RGC: "Night of the Living Dutch" starring Jos Verstappen - "he needs brains".

KF: Nah - the Dutch are lovely on the whole, there's just the football hooligans and Jos 'his face fell on my fist' V.

Murray Walker

RGC: And there... goes... Murray Walker... He's off off off.

PF: I think he should have gone at the end of '99. But he still went out on a massive high. We've not seen the last of him. Can I put in an advanced order for his autobiography?

KF: I think he's wonderful.

RGC: I'm sure we'll "see him in our earphones" from time to time as a special guest on ITV.

KF: Synaesthesia's a gift - you always knew what he meant.

Alain Prost

PF: He came, he saw... Joining that elite of unsuccessful driver team principals like Chris Amon, John Surtees, Bobby Rahal (at least in F1, his team was good in CART), Graham Hill, the Fittipaldi brothers, Arturo Merzario and now Niki Lauda. He shouldn't have expected support from France because he's been trashing the French for years, ever since Renault buggered up his title hopes in '83. Don't piss in your own jacuzzi, Alain mate. He's threatening to come back into F1 in a management role. Does he have eyes on Niki Lauda's Paramalat cap?

RGC: Perhaps, since Pollock left, BAR are looking for someone to pointlessly piddle money away to no good effect?

PF: Prost's overspend probably fits into BAR's motorhome budget so it's all bloody relative.

Bobby Rahal

KF: Who? Oh the guy who always looked really stoned.

PF: He was set up. But at least he never quit his day job for it. I liked Bobby when he was in CART.

RGC: For his bizarre plot to steal Eddie Irvine away while the Rat wasn't looking he should have been stoned. I mean, I can appreciate his desire to replace Irvine with a Formula One driver, but that was a boneheaded move. And then there was the "you should have seen the aerodynamic design skills of the one that got away" fiasco with his attempted hiring of Adrian Newey ("we've got him, we've got him... oh, we don't got him"). After that a return to the humiliating intellectual desert of the US open-wheel racing scene was inevitable.

Fernando Alonso

RGC: Actually I missed Alonso out on the first draft of this review, but he did really well last year. He impressed people in a Minardi. He didn't bump into people and was as fast and consistent as the hardware available allowed. Now testing with Renault which might turn out to be a sideways step or might turn out to be opportunistic depending on how putrid both Renault and Button are this season.

Thomas Enge, Tarso Marques, Gaston Mazzacane, Luciano Burti

PF: Enge? He'll be back (to be said in an Arnie accent). He'll piss F3000 this year and be back.

RGC: A case of "Do look back at Enge" as Oasis nearly sang?

PF: The rest of them should shut the door on the way out. As backmarkers go, they went. They'll probably turn up in IRL at some point.

KF: Come on, none of them was as bad as Ricardo Rosset.

RGC: Or as funny as Taki Inoue.

The All Important Bet

For the record, last year RGC won drinks and tip but PF won the meal. This year:

For the meal: RGC bets that Kimi Raikkonen will score at least 75% of the drivers championship points that Coulthard does.

For the drinks: RGC bets that Salo will outqualify McNish (judged in terms of races not aggregate time).

For the tip: PF bets that Renault will not finish in the top five.

In honour of Toyota's new venture the bet is to be paid off at the Japanese restaurant in town sometime after the Japanese Grand Prix.

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