2005 Totally Biased Season Preview

The reviewers this time are:

RGC: Richard G. Clegg

EC: Emma Crawley

PF: Pete Fenelon

Note that the views of the authors are not necessarily the views of their employers, their friends, the other authors (who are quite frankly, often appalled) or any other sentient lifeforms. It should also be noted that all three of the reviewers are highly over-worked individuals and that this review can be seen as a form of primal scream therapy.

New Rules

RGC: Quite a bundle of rules this time with new rules for tyres, engines, aero, gearbox and qualifying. Crappy weather has caused a great deal of hassle with a number of teams test schedules which could lead to a grid mix up for the first few races.

EC: I like the idea of the teams testing in snow, could add a great new winter aspect to the series..

PF: The new engine change rules seem to mean that you might as well retire if you're out of the points, and change your engine for the next race. They are a real bugger's muddle. Oh, and if you're the last car on any particular lap, you might as well retire. I can see races with *exactly* 8 finishers this year.

RGC: Ski Sunday with James Allen? I like it. "And now, here's Eddie Jordan for the rapid slide downhill event. McLaren are his only real competition for this trophy."

RGC: Qualifying will be an absurd mish-mash of two sessions allowing the audience to experience the thrill of mental arithmetic while wondering who is joining Schumacher on the front row. Simultaneously it will make watching Saturday qualifying pointless as you still won't know the grid order until Sunday. Who says F1 rule changes are all about improving the spectacle for TV? This one adds nothing but confusion and is bound to reduce the audience for Saturday Qualifying. Plus it will reduce the variability in the grid and hence create fewer "upsets" in qualifying. Not impressive.

PF: Well, I've promised not to be nasty about F1 this year but incomprehensible qualifying rules and a botched engine-change rule already lifts it into the realms of "Confused - you will be!"

EC: As ITV have said they won't be showing Sunday qualifying then most of the audience won't have a clue who is where on the grid before Martin's walkabout.

RGC: Tyres must last the race and both qualifying sessions or you will have to put your hands on your head and stand in the naughty corner. This rule change will also reduce televisual appeal as the Schumachers will have fewer mechanics to run down and there will not be so many people to run around the pits in flames if the petrol catches fire. Pitstops now will be petrol only giving them the thrilling frisson of a visit to your local Q8 station. Teams are allowed to change tyres but they can't fill up with fuel at the same time. They can polish the driver's visor but only if Simon Says they can. If they roll a six they can clean out the sidepods.

EC: You forgot to say that they can't do anything unless they've paid Bernie enough back handers, I mean compliments.

PF: And of course told Mr Tilke how wonderful his circuits are.

RGC: Maybe the way forward is via the Concorde agreement. They can change their tyres if all ten teams agree on it.

PF: But nine teams will agree and Ferrari will claim that they're special little snowflakes!

RGC: Engines will now have to last forever by law but you're not allowed to accelerate to top speed for the first eight races and get it checked by an authorised dealer after the first ten thousand miles. Well, OK, it's only actually two races but that's two more than Mercedes could manage. Gearboxes can be changed as and when you feel like though. There's all kinds of fuss about the legality of "seamless shifts" (disappointingly, this isn't a radical new form of undergarment) and much speculative talk of "dog engagement rings" which is sort of romantic if you're a dog. "You may now hump the bride's leg." Apparently, seamless shifts are OK if and only if the driver feels a jerk when changing gear. B.A.R. are protesting this since Jenson Button clearly is a jerk but apparently doesn't feel one.

RGC: On the aero front, hemlines are being worn up this year. Front wings must be higher, diffusers must be lower and rear wings must be in-the-middle-er. This has, apparently, "slashed downforce" according to every lazy motor racing journalist ever. Well, downforce has been slashed more often than Kirk/Spock and, while I'm reusing lazy motor sport journo cliches, the engineers keep "clawing it back" (and I so wish I hadn't just thought of clawing backs in the context of Kirk/Spock slash fic). This all leads to complicated aerodynamic things which we haven't a hope in hell of understanding. The practical upshot of it all is funny little extruded wings all over the car and lots of those exciting close-up shaded drawings (usually by Giorgio Piola) in formula one magazines.

PF: Downforce has been slashed to, oh, about the levels the teams were running with at the end of 2004, complete with pustules and flaps all over the cars, making them look like something made of play-doh and balsawood by the kids who took the special little bus to school.

Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro (Bridgestone)

RGC: So, they didn't develop the old car for the last part of this season and they're not going to have the new car ready until midway through this season. What the fuck do they do with their time in Maranello? They can't be spending all their time polishing their trophies. After much off-season shinnanegans, Ferrari are bound by law to be a formula one team until the 22nd century at the earliest. In return for this, Bernie will rob from the poor to give to the rich and implement the so-called Schumacher-Levy to pay them off for the privilege. It's all in the traditional spirit of Italian politics really. I can see them winning the championship with ease -- but I don't think every race is on the cards this year. The Ferrari seems to have evolved some kind of biplane front wing thingy. It's a shame old Murray isn't here to make "Red Baron" comments about it. The team is referring to this biplane arrangement as a "pre-conditioner", and we just have to hope that Michael doesn't start rubbing it into his scalp "because I'm vorth it."

PF: They're pretending they're not going to win as much this year. Somehow I still see them winning at least two-thirds of the races....

1) Michael Schumacher

RGC: Oh god.

EC: See! He's got you convinced, I bet the Pope was too after their recent meeting. No wonder the old bugger isn't feeling too well these days.

RGC: I wonder if the pope believes in the doctrine that Schumi is infallible?

RGC: We were bored of writing about Michael four years ago. What remains to be said? He's now announced that he wants ten titles. I've lost count of how many he has already... six I think. He's not going to retire until he gets a bus pass and even then it will be a Ferrari bus pass and he'll probably race in F1 bus racing. Mind you, by then the aero restrictions will be such that F1 cars will resemble buses anyway. (Plus there's lots of sponsor friendly big surfaces on a bus to stick your advertising). He will almost certainly win the championship, probably with one hand tied behind his back while crediting it all to the team and spewing a lot of flannel about how he is just one element in the machine. The British press will say he is arrogant and cheats. Last year would have been terrific if he could have been edited out of it. The problem with supreme displays of sublime driving skill raising him to a level above any of his contemporaries through exquisite genius and innate mastery of all levels of his sport which will stand as a shining beacon for generations of formula one fans is that you can soon get fucked off with watching it. It's not his fault. The other children should try harder.

PF: Seven titles, 94-5 and 2000-2004. It's not that he wins, I don't mind someone winning all the time if he's demonstrably better, it's the bitching and moaning from Ferrari, the hobbling of any intra-team challenge, and the influx of "we'll support whoever's winning" schufauxsi that annoys me. I don't think Michael is the greatest driver the world's ever seen, because he's never really had to prove it against consistent competition over a period of years. But he's still bloody good.

2) Rubens Barrichello

RGC: Do you remember those 1980s drug adverts that started with someone saying "So, I've tried heroin." and meandered predictably to the "I could give it up any time. Couldn't I?" punchline as a bleak and haggard face stares, haunted at the camera? Much as I'm a fan, Ruben's "I can beat Michael" press releases are starting to have that kind of slightly desperate feel to them. He was within about 30 points last year but only because of the artificially close situation caused by the new scoring system where 2nd place is nearly as good as 1st (and, much as I hesitate to bring it up, he only won races after Michael had the championship comfortably in the bag). His problem is that Ferrari are in danger of forgetting quite how good Michael is. Rubens is his closest team mate and many highly-rated drivers have been pitted against Michael. But as soon as a highly-rated driver is pitted against Michael they become a lowly-rated driver. Rubens is damned good but Michael is better and so it appears, he's just damned. His long-term career plan to hang on in quiet desperation until Schumi retires is looking something of a forlorn hope at this point.

PF: Exactly, Rubens is probably one of the top 3-4 drivers in F1. If he wanted to, he could try to beat MS in a McLaren or a Williams or a BAR or whatever, but he's *settled* for second best.

BMW WilliamsF1 Team (Michelin)

RGC: Well, if Frank's engineers produce another car like last year's he'll have Patrick rub their noses in it and say that next time they should go in the litter tray. Fourth in the championship and the only satisfaction they can draw from it is that Ronzo the Grey's McLaren was even turdlier. Being shafted by B.A.R. and Renault has got to have Frank shifting uncomfortably in his wheelchair. Rumour has it that this year's car isn't sticking to the track in quite the way it should and Patrick has been nailing bits of 2 by 4 on the rear wings as a "gurney flap" in an attempt to generate some kind of downforce. As measures of engineering hopelessness go, this is one step short of thumping it with a shoe. In any case it looks like another troubled season for the men of Grove. They're already talking down their chances and saying that the new car is "reliable" (read slow). I can't help thinking there is something very wrong with Williams. Add to this we need to consider the fact that they're essentially using last year's engine because the BMW engineers couldn't get organised in time or a larger engineer stole their engine or they had a verrucca that day or forgot their engineering kit or some such feeble excuse. You may detect I don't think they'll start the season well they've changed both drivers from established "names" to "up and coming" (having pinned their hopes on landing the questionable talents of Jenson Button). Must try harder.

PF: You must remember that Patrick isn't the gaffer on the technical side any more -- technically, he now reports to Sam Michael. That's a bit like Tony Blair reporting to someone newly-elected to your local council, except Patrick gets *angry*. Oh and Patrick owns a fair chunk of the team. Could be fun.

RGC: "You wouldn't like him when he's angry.... and we've yet to find another setting."

3) Mark Webber

RGC: Well, it's time to prove himself for the man from down under. Webber's career so far has all been "up up up" and finally he's in a front-line car. However, the Williams is something of a questionable vehicle. I reckon it'll need considerable development and skilled testing throughout the season. Anything short of a race win and it'll reflect badly on Webbo but in the circumstances a race win will be bloody difficult. In 2005, this man will be the dictionary definition of "It's tough at the top."

PF: Are they calling him Jonesey yet? :)

4) Nick Heidfeld

RGC: So to accompany a well-liked and highly-rated team mate, Williams have hired a promising German lad from Monchengladbach who's just been serving an extended sentence at Sauber. When will these people learn? Those who forget Heinz-Harald Frentzen are condemned to repeat him. Anyway, quick Nick lest we forget, outqualified Kimi when they were team mates. Could do well but remains an unproven quantity (spot me hedging my bets). There's a high chance that Williams will end the year wishing that they had taken the Pizzonia.

EC: Well technically they still have Pizzonia so they could just swap them over, question is would anyone notice the difference?

RGC: I bet that adds a certain urgency to Nick's race performances. "No pressure Heidi, but Antonio is at number three on my speed dialer. Now, where did you get in qualifying?"

PF: You forgot about Heidfeld's stint at Jordan, then again so did he I think. Apparently not only did Nick not take any wages from Jordan, he also took no expenses, so did the whole of last season out of his own pocket... That does show determination to keep going in F1, even though he's still the dullest F1 driver ever. And that includes, oh, all the rest of the modern lot.

RGC: Duller than Nigel Mansell? That's quite a claim.

West McLaren-Mercedes (Michelin)

RGC: Given Mercs inability to design an engine that doesn't grenade in one race weekend I have to question their chances of getting one which will last for a couple. I'm expecting the silver arrows to be doing the formation smoke trailing more associated with the red arrows. Like Williams, the main question we need to answer about McLaren is "Where did it all go wrong?" They've got the money, the organisation, the team-spirit, the infrastructure, the talent, the drivers and a shiny silver paint-job. Why aren't they winning? Rumour has it that a shining light was seen to escape from Adrian Newey's left ear some time in mid 2000 and his career since then has been the biggest case of losing it since Columbine high-school.

PF: It was when Newey started being courted by Bobbeh at Jagwah. That's when it all went wrong. Then Newey was going off to design Americas Cup yachts. Then Newey designed cars that they couldn't even be arsed to race. Then, er.... er.... well then the engines started going pop as well.

5) Kimi Raikkonen

RGC: Well, in an attempt to shake his image as Mika Hakkinen's acne-ridden mini-me, Kimi has been getting pissed in famous nightspots. This adds a much needed dimension to his character and brings the total dimensionality to one. He has talent, but I swear you can see Ron's hand up his arse working his mouth during press conferences. I've just had a horrible vision of them covering Keith Harris and Orville. "Ah wish ah could drive, right up to the pole but I can't." "Extensive modelling studies at the McLaren Performance Enchancement Centre show that you can." "Ah can't." It's hard not to see Kimi versus JPM as a cut-rate Prost versus Senna, but Kimi's not as clever as Prost and JPM's not as delusionally brilliant as Senna. Nonetheless this is could be one of the two best team-mate battles to watch.

PF: Keep taking the tablets, dude.

6) Juan-Pablo Montoya

RGC: Apparently JPM has been told to lay off the burgers by the McLaren health specialists. Williams team doctor somehow lacked that keen insight or maybe they were hoping to land the lucrative Sugar Puff's sponsorship through Montoya's Honey-Monster like appearance. Anyway, he's leaner, it remains to be seen if he's meaner. He is a good driver but is he a good McLaren driver? In recent years McLaren has preferred a certain type of driver and JPM doesn't neatly fit within that stereotype. He's always been one to call a spade a "fucking inadequate spade and I don't know how they expect me to dig with this piece of crap." I hope that McLaren doesn't siphon off his outspoken personality along with the excess adipose tissue.

PF: Given that WILLIAMS decided to get rid of Montoya after some of his radio outbursts I think things might be interesting in Castle Ronzo. I mean, Williams is Team Fucking Forthright.

Mild Seven Renault (Michelin)

RGC: I'd dearly love to say something nasty about the lecherous, repellent, orange, ludicrous, tasteless, imbecilic Flavio Briatore here. However, he did a damn good job last year so I suppose I should be nice. Not a bad job for a man who learned all ke knows about management from reading Diceman. I really can't bring myself to be nice about him though. The car is strangely "ribbed for her pleasure" at the back end. Testing performance has been OK, I'm expecting lukewarm things from this car. In the early season we should see them fighting with B.A.R. and McLaren, beating up Williams and being shaken down for their lunch money by Ferrari.

PF: Yeah, that's about right...

7) Fernando Alonso

RGC: This guy really is bloody good. OK, there's the occasional "over-enthusiastic acceleration into the debris of a previous accident" type incident but, such is the enthusiasm of youth. His tufty little "potato eye" beard thing irks me marginally but other than that he has what it takes if he can curb his reckless impetuousity. Alonzo versus Fisico is the team mate battle to watch if JPM versus Kimi suffers repeated engine failure.

PF: No battle involved here. Alonso should take Fissi to the cleaners, the dole office and the door by mid-season. He's still improving, Fissi is at best stagnating.

8) Giancarlo Fisichella

RGC: Can I say, "At bloody last!" This guy has beaten every team mate he's had. He's won a race in a Jordan. He's driven a series of the crappiest cars on the grid since time began (to my amusement, Atlas F1 described him as "running with the minnows" which is either his Indian name or shows they don't really grok pondlife). He's never stopped smiling throughout and meanwhile, decent cars have been pissed away on the likes of Coulthard and Irvine. For christ sake, Mark bloody Gene (a man born to test if ever there was one) has driven a Williams while Fisico was tooling around in a bloody Sauber. Some days he must feel like banging his head off the dashboard and weeping "Why? Why? Why cruel god?" Anyway, he has finally wound up in something which has the same number of tyres, mechanics and top end revs as a car. Talk about hungry, this guy must make David Blaine in his placky starvation box look merely peckish. Don't fuck it up now Giancarlo.

PF: Too little, too late. He's a nice chap, but I just don't sense fire in his belly any more. I think this is his true make-or-break year, if he doesn't take the frankly scary Alonso to pieces that's the end.

Lucky Strike B.A.R. Honda (Michelin)

RGC: Bloody hell, what happened here then? By some freak mischance B.A.R. produced a good car last year. Who could have predicted that? After guiding them to this they thanked Dave Richards with a golden "fuck off" and I certainly couldn't predict that. They then got into a court battle to keep Jenson Button and won. They didn't have to fight to keep Takuma Sato but they kept him anyway. Inexplicable. Technically they have a trick gearbox and a wiggly front wing. The gearbox is legal only if there are delays in the power train. They should get Virgin to run it. On the subject of fitful reliability, they've ground to a halt a lot in testing and trundled round at reduced speed much of the rest of the time. Then again, Takuma Sato does that on some race days too. While Williams are talking themselves down pre-season, BAR are talking themselves up up up. Their pre-season press releases essentially say "If we don't win a race this season you can punch us and steal our satchels."

PF: The Button situation could still see him going to Williams next year, in fact he's guaranteed a seat there if BAR has less than 75% of the constructors championship leader's points at (I think) mid-season... which must make Heidfeld feel a bit shaky.

9) Jenson Button

RGC: To my surprise he did well last season. But given the intermittent nature of his team mate it wasn't hard to be the top cock on the dunghill. The unexpected brilliance of the B.A.R. caused a lot of those predictable "Britain's next world champ" type headlines. I'm yet to be convinced that this irksome little west-country wanker is the real thing. I think he's more suited to being an interview guest for Loaded magazine than driving an F1 car. He'll be crying into his Tauntons if he doesn't win at least one race this year.

PF: I think Jenson was the most improved driver not only of last season but of the decade so far. He stopped looking like a playboy and started looking like someone who wanted to win races AND WAS PREPARED TO PUT IN THE WORK. In the absence of Lewis Hamilton from F1 - yet - I think Button probably is the person most likely to be Britain's next World Champion, but it'll be in the brief niche between Schumacher retiring and Hamilton getting his act sorted at McLaren.

10) Takuma Sato

RGC: "What are we to make of young Taku?" I ask myself rhetorically. Some days he drives like he's on a mission, with control, restraint and a near-clinical perfection. Some days he drives like he's on acid, with a few warm saki for a chaser and a grudge against the crash barriers. Death or glory? Prace your bets now. More betting opportunities after the break.

PF: Banzai! Banzai! Banzai! Tora Tora Tora! (Not Takagi). You say Sato ever win race, YOU WRONG! I think Taku-san has reached his natural level now, regular points-scorer, occasional barm-pot, and I don't see him going any further in the sport. If you want a seriously bloody scary driver, Hayanari Shimoda was incredible at Le Mans a couple of years ago. He definitely had the Red Mist and was chucking a P675 around like it was a Formula Ford with a jet engine up its arse. A man to watch.

RGC: And, before I forget, I must say "Taki Inoue". I think that should bring a smile to everyone's face.

Sauber Petronas (Michelin)

RGC: Well, another season with the same engine as Ferrari but this year they will have their own gearbox and different tyres. Another lucky break for them is that thanks to new engine regs they have to use the same engine as Ferrari which I think helped them to be the "best of the crap teams" last year. I think that's the most they can aspire to this year. I find it hard to imagine they'll manage given that a major sponsor has taken their bat and ball to form "Red It's Our Bat and Ball Racing".

PF: We will have to get used to a marginally new colour scheme as the Red Bull money's gone, although Petronas' colours aren't all that different. Seems like it's going to be Sauber-BMW next year, so they're gradually moving away from being Maranello's biatch. Last year they used the same engine, rear suspension, gearbox, tyres, and in fact almost everything other than the tub and some bits of bodywork from Ferrari. And hey, Peter Sauber's new wind tunnel's finally active. (The old jokes about it being Eddie Irvine can be safely forgotten, thanks).

11) Felipe Massa

RGC: Competent yet unexceptional apart from his driving style which is unique. The only explanation I can find for his continued employment is that someone told Sauber management things would be smoother if they had a Brazillian.

PF: Flattered to deceive, I was hoping Massa would be up with the big teams now but I think he'd be better in a formula where the cars didn't corner on rails and slid about a bit under him.

12) Jacques Villeneuve

RGC: Jacques confuses me totally. I can still remember that first brilliant race in Australia '96 where he held off world champion in waiting Damon Hill until car problems demoted him to second. His first season took him to the verge of a championship against a vastly experienced team-mate. His second season took him to the world championship while utterly destroying a highly-rated team-mate. His career since then has been sung to the tune of "Whatever happened to the likely lad?" After most of a year off his peculiar stint at Renault was as unconvincing as a pantomime cow (in fact the pantomime cow would have been a better driver). If he was a teenager the moodiness, changed behaviour and loss of motive drive would make you start to think he was on drugs. This season should be prefixed by a stern wagged finger and the warning "You have let me down time and time again. You have gone to your room to think about what you've done and you don't seem to have improved at all. Either you will drive properly young man, or you won't drive at all."

PF: "On the edge. Fer Sure. F1 has no heroes - apart from me." Jacques was unutterably shit in his return at Renault last year, and nothing convinces me that Mr "Can't test; won't test" will be any better this year. He'll be stunning on a couple of fast corners, won't be arsed on any of the Tilkedromes, and will get into an acrimonious spat with Peter Sauber about having scruffy overalls, funny-coloured hair and untied shoelaces. I think this one will end in tears, recriminations, and legal negotiations to get him the hell out of the car as fast as possible. Jacques excels in excellent machinery. He's a twat in anything less. I wonder if Bernie was involved in brokering him back into F1 'cos it needs stars, after all he was instrumental in getting him in there the first time... Who next? Berger, Patrese and Boutsen perhaps? ;)

Red Bull Racing [Cosworth engine] (Michelin)

RGC: Well, Jaguar have been sold on and are now Red Bull. Given Jaguar's press releases, frankly it's only the colour of the Bull that's changed. According to their advertising, "Red Bull gives you wings". Maybe but I bet the buggers don't give you a decent chassis, gearbox or suspension. Given that a whole bunch of the sponsors have fucked off a whole bunch of the staff have fucked off and the good driver has fucked off I feel obliged to search around for something good to say. Their paint job is very nice indeed. Apparently the engine is good too but we only have Cosworth's word for that and in this chassis it's not going to get a chance to prove much. If they can do something about the chassis which is essentially last year's chassis and therefore essentially shit then they have a chance of respectability. Sacking everyone who popped their head over the parapet and replacing them with people I haven't heard of is... well, it's continuing the Jaguar tradition of bang and blame generating more heat than light.

PF: The guys I admire (and feel sorry for) are the engineers and technicians and mechanics who stuck with Jaguar through all of the uncertainty. Initially I thought that Pitchforth and Purnell were another bunch of Ford corporate wankers (see Rietzle, Ressler etc), but they kept their nerve after Ford pulled out, they kept the team going, and they negotiated a solution that sees Stewart, er, Jag, er RBR looking at least stable for the foreseeable future. Dieter Mateschitz has got lots of money, lots of enthusiasm, and he's hired good people to run the team for him.

14) David Coulthard

RGC: An exciting year for David as he has to think up a new press release. "This year probably not my year," claims square-headed Scottish corporate whore. It's also going to be a challenge for him to be so upbeat about his team. "I firmly believe Red Bull has designed the best car in the pitlane," is not going to be convincing is it? David needs to redesign his corporate zombie-speak for the revolution of lowered expectations: "Our team has the shiniest pit bikes.", "We were amongst the best organised teams beginning with R.", "I am convinced we're the best caffeine drink sponsored racing team in the world." In Christian Klien, David might finally have found a team mate crap enough for him to outqualify. Maybe. In his last year in a reasonable car David scored just over half the points of his younger team-mate and his irksome grin never quite graced the podium. The Twynholm museum of motoring mediocrity is unlikely to be collecting any more silverware this year either.

EC: He's grown a beard, bet he's been wanting to do that for years but Ron wouldn't let him!

PF: Er, yeah, Mr Mateschitz told him that "you don't have to shave every day". Which must save a man with a chin that size several minutes. Actually, if your billionaire team owner tells you to stop shaving, I guess you stop shaving. At least DC's old enough to need to shave. Oh yeah. Let's see... how will he do this year? -- well he's testing surprisingly well and he's sounding full of piss and vinegar rather than whatever bland corporate liquid he was full of at McLaren. He's not going to win races, I doubt he'll even see the podium, but I reckon he'll enjoy this season more than any since he's been at McLaren. I reckon a good grab-bag of points finishes, and a guy who's finally "found himself".

15) Christian Klien

RGC: Well, he didn't embarrass himself as much as many people predicted last year. He didn't shine either. "No praise, no blame," as the I-Ching says.

PF: Unlikely to do the whole season, as F3000 sensation Liuzzi is signed up and has been guaranteed a race drive. In the absence of a two-seater I guess they'll get half a season each unless Klien proves to be stunningly good. Klien can't be used as Third Driver but Liuzzi can...

Panasonic Toyota Racing (Michelin)

RGC: So, let's all take a minute and imagine you're Toyota Racing. You have spent a squillion zillion Yen and built state of the art facilities. You have hired well-known designers. You have hired a race-winning driver (OK it's only one race but it's more than Button and Sato together can claim). You have done everything required to build a top-line race-winning team and you have sustained the interest and investment for years. Yet still you're unbelievably rubbish and Honda piss straight off into the distance away from you every race laughing wildly and having invested considerably less. I'm sure there's a moral to be drawn here but I am pointing this out only because it gives me a measure of cruel amusement. The poor poor bastards. They have to do better this year, not only because they couldn't actually do worse if they remember to put the wheels on but also because they'll all be reassigned to making slot-screen tellys or oiling robots on the Yaris production line if they don't shape up. If they don't get at least sixth in the championship then someone at Toyota will be falling on their sword. Their main job on the grid at the moment is being a counter example to the idea that "Any publicity is good publicity."

PF: I still believe Toyota is a fundamentally corrupt and dishonest team, although I hope Mike Gascoyne can turn them around technically. Alas my least-favourite F1 team is now led by my least-favourite F1 driver, and I'm finding it hard to say anything positive about them. Away with them.

16) Ralf Schumacher

RGC: You would Ralf too if it happened to you. Yup driving for Toyota would have me retching on my racing booties. The uncanny management genius of Willi Webber has manoeuvered Ralf from Williams to Toyota, a move somewhat akin to jumping ship from the Titanic to the Lusitania. I can't see him shaping up well against the talented and eager Trulli.

EC: Since his move Ralf has started to claim that Williams were never a top notch team and couldn't fight their way out a paper bag. Would be interesting to know what kept him there for so long if it was so bad. Let's hope that Toyota live up to his high expectations.

RGC: Maybe he was having a torrid affair with one of their mechanics. I didn't realise he'd left Williams as a shrewd plan to inveigle his way into the obviously superior Toyota. Clearly I'm not blessed with his keen insight. (After saying that, I bet Toyota do something unlikely like produce a decent car).

PF: Ralf drove for Williams for longer than any other driver. If he didn't bloody like it, why didn't he move on? And Williams reckon he moaned more than any other driver they've ever had. This is the team Mansell did two stints with. This is the team that had Piquet in the same team as Mansell. This is the team that had Jacques Villeneuve in it. Jesus, this is a team that had Prost. How much of a moaner must Ralf be? I assume Weber's negotiated gigabucks for his mediocre charge here because Toyota and Ralf Schumacher stand about as much chance of winning a race as I do of fitting into one of Jennifer Aniston's frocks.

17) Jarno Trulli

RGC: So what happened here then? By any measure the boy done good in the first half of the season. Then there was a certain dozing off at the wheel (to let Rubens through at the last corner) and suddenly the flavour of the month has turned to shit in Flavio's mouth.

EC: I blame the silly haircut, how can he fit so much under his helmet and not suffer from over heating?

RGC: Cue lots of bizarre allegations of giving him crap engines and finally he ends up cast into outer darkness at Toyota and all within a few months of his rather impressive race win at Monaco. Now you can say he lucked into it slightly, but a win at Monaco also says you drove round the place at speed without pranging the car and not even Schumi can do that reliably.

PF: Quite stunningly simple. Trulli didn't renew his management contract with David Dickinson Flavio Briatore. So Flav lost the 20% (or whatever) of Jarno's salary that he was taking. Hence it wasn't worth Flav paying him any more. Hence Jarno was out. Makes you spit sometimes doesn't it? Although he did go right off the boil last year...

Jordan Toyota (Bridgestone)

RGC: They're in their last season running as Jordan having been aquired by some shady looking Russians called Midland. If they'd have aquired Jordan a few seasons ago it would have been a prime time to run the "trundle along in the Midfield with Midland" slogan. Apparently Eddie Jordan will be kept on to run the commercial side of the team. Racing pundits were shocked by the revelation that there was a side to Jordan other than the commercial side. It's actually good to see them still here though after Pete was (rightly) expressing severe concern about their continued existence last year. EJ says that Jordan will be shedding their "Rock and Roll" image --- presumably they are intending to concentrate on their "on the slide" image instead.

PF: EJ should be put in a big box, lined with soundproof material, with the lid nailed on, and dumped off the edge of a cliff somewhere. Only then might Jordan-Midland actually achieve something. Trevor Carlin who's i/c the sporting side there is a pretty good guy who's got a great record in other formulae, so let's see if he can turn the team back into something respectable....

18) Narian Karthikeyan

RGC: He's widely known as "The world's fastest Indian", so phone in your punchline folks is it:
(a) Shame he's driving for this bunch of cowboys.
(b) He'll slip through the pack like a vindaloo through a drunk's digestive system.
(c) Shami didn't get a better drive. Naan better than him at Korma-ing but will his motivation Saag if he can't show the Phal range of his talents in a car that's a Pilau junk.

EC: Carry on like that and he'll come round in his Tata pick-up to run you over! Yes, through my association with Tata (we are in the process of becoming a dealer) I am sponsoring an F1 team! Don't worry, I won't let it go to my head.

RGC: Karthikeyan is good but, actually, I'm not at all convinced he's F1 good. However, it is good to see an Indian guy in F1. I hope he makes the most of the opportunity. His real competition is to be the best guy in cars with numbers higher than 17. If he can do that he will find a place for next year. Frankly I think this is as far as he gets but it's pretty damn good.

EC: Bernie will make sure Narian keeps a drive as long as it takes to get an Indian GP onto the schedule. Having said that I think he's as good as any other driver who has appeared with this team lately.

PF: I've seen Narain in F3 and he was pretty good, he seems to have done well in Dallara-Nissan (although I'm surprised he got into F1 ahead of Montagny or Kovalainen, but these days if you're not racing with a top team you might as well take a test drive or whatever). F1 needs him, as EC observes. He is just about there on merit, and I hope he does well because it'll help the profile of F1 in a major market.

RGC: I've seen Narain in F3 and he spun off under the safety car during the rain taking out another driver with him. I guess he's showing early signs of being every bit the driver David Coulthard is.

19) Tiago Monteiro

RGC: I must admit I've never heard of this guy. According to the web he's a 28 year old portuguese who has been racing in F3 and Formula Nissan. I'm not sensing greatness here --- also his helmet has some red and yellow flames like an early 80s heavy metal album cover.

EC: I know exactly who Tiago is having had the pleasure of meeting him while we were in Miami for the Champcars race in 2003. (Picture proof available on my website). Apart from having very nice teeth (the bloke is always smiling!) he has done reasonably well in the championships he's entered. He came 2nd in the 2004 Nissan World series (Karthikeyan was 6th) so I think he will hold his own in F1.

PF: Tiago did pretty well in CART in 2003, in a small new team. He made a few mistakes, but rookies in 800bhp cars tend to... Good in Dallara Nissan, and I think he's definitely got what it takes to stick around in F1 even if he doesn't quite hit the top of the sport. And he seems to have a bit of personality, which will be something of a surprise in these increasingly bland days. Good luck to him.

Minardi Cosworth (Bridgestone)

RGC: Well, I guess Minardi remain the last bastion of the crap privateer teams owned by someone I can spell. Paul Stoddard has unleashed a slew of press-releases saying essentially "It's not fair" and "If you don't let me win I will cry."

EC: His name is Stoddart. ;-)

RGC: Hmm... I really should do research or something before writing this. Anyway, apparently their most interesting race of the season will be the race to get a legal car put together. Paul says that he should be allowed to race with an illegal car until his legal car is ready and also that it's totally unfair that the FIA treats Ferrari differently to other teams. I think he believes both too.

PF: "Please Mr Ecclestone, let me run my 1986 turbo car on gumball slicks with a 1200bhp quallie engine?" Twat. Paul Stoddart should either start paying what it takes to do F1, or sell up and get out. His whining is getting on my nerves. Apparently their 2005 car will look unusual. If they ever finish it. "The dog ate my homework sir."

20) Christijan Albers

EC: Never trust anyone with a 'j' in their name that isn't needed...

RGC: A man whose career so far seems to be based upon the idea of collecting the set of every type of motor racing. He's done F3, F3000, DTM and Touring Cars and hopes to use this opportunity as a springboard to get into Hill Climb or Top Fuel Dragster Racing.

PF: He tried to get into Minardi before, but apparently there were vicious spam email campaigns orchestrated by (I kid you not) Jos Verstappen fans.

21) Patrick Friesacher

RGC: Fresh from several years of bare adequacy in F3000 I can only imagine he's landed in F1 by mistake when F3000 was rebranded as GP2 (or whatever the hell it is now). Probably didn't know which classroom he was meant to go to and ended up here by mistake.

PF: Mediocre and been around for ages. Next contestant please.

Goodbye and Adieu and Farewell

Jaguar Racing

RGC: Roll up roll up... see the amazing self-destructing team. Changes its management more often than its tyres. Watch the amazing chassis of flexing, bounces up and down more vigorously than Eddie Irvine's bum after he's pulled another blonde in a seedy nightclub. An astounding array of missed opportunities, inexplicable decisions and wasted money. It's not just my admiration for JYS that makes me think they should have stayed as Stewart.

EC: I think they should have let the Donkey be in charge, it couldn't have done any worse than the blokes from Ford.

RGC: For those tuning in late, Jaguar pit crew carried around a Shrek Donkey for most of last season. Unfortunately, Donkey's website seems to be closed at the moment. Perhaps he's been poached by another team.

PF: Lions led by donkeys, I admire the Jag front-line people. And as I said, Purnell and Pitchforth did a bloody impossible job very well.

Olivier Panis

RCC: Won once in the wet. Pete was there. Broke legs. Drove in a more restrained way following this. Not a bad career really, I don't think he has much to complain about.

EC: Pete broke his own and/or Olivier's legs?

RGC: On the subject of Pete's legs you are more qualified to comment than I. However, Panis definitely broke his legs while doing jolly well in a Prost during the Canadian GP if I recall correctly (and if I don't I'm sure someone will comment).

PF: I liked Olivier. Couldn't qualify. Raced well. Last F1 driver who was older than me.

RGC: I think Schumi is now the oldest boy in the school.

de Matta, Bruni, Baumgartner, Pantano

RGC: "And don't let the door hit your ass on the... too late." Well, the only one of these I'll miss is de Matta and him not much.

EC: Now appearing in a Champcar race (not so) near you!

RGC: Anyone see any of them getting back into F1 ever?

EC: Erm, no. Well not unless they pay Minardi enough.

PF: Nope. Pantano particularly pissed on his chips with his little tiff with Jordan.

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