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News of the Day: January 2, 2012

Around this time of year, a type of “news” story that’s always around becomes a lot more prevalent. You might call it the “This Guy Has Something to Say, and Here It Is” story. It isn’t “news” in the sense of something of note happening — someone getting hired or fired, a rule change being made, etcetera — it’s the sharing of a couple of statements someone involved in the sport said in an interview, something that fans might find interesting. Or not. Probably depends on what kind of mood you’re in and how starved you are for something to read about F1, because, to be honest, it’s usually a bit dull. Minor measures could be taken to make them a bit less dull (see below for some ideas), but most F1 journalists, presumably saddled with numerous deadlines and strict word limits, tend to stick with just-the-facts reporting.

Today, Autosport and ESPNF1 both led off with “This Guy Said Stuff” stories on their home pages.

Nico Rosberg Says Things About His Team Missing the First Test

Autosport interviews Nico Rosberg.

You probably heard about Mercedes deciding to skip the first preseason test at Jerez in order to continue developing their 2012 car, and ever since then you’ve probably been wondering, “Hmm…but what does Nico Rosberg think about that decision?”

Well, wonder no more. Autosport has interviewed Rosberg about this and other matters — although if you want to know about the other matters, you’ll need to pay up. Nonpaying readers, this is what you’ll need to be content with: Nico Rosberg doesn’t have a problem with the decision to delay testing. As he stroked his attractively stubbled jaw, the dashing German explained to Jon Noble that he has full confidence in the team, specifically in the restructured tech part of the team, and if they say it’s important to have that extra time for car development, then he’s happy to get on board with that. “This year,” he said with the barest hint of a wry grin, “we would not have managed to do the first race if we had run the car that late.” He leaned closer with a slightly conspiratorial air, the leather of his jacket creaking with the movement. “But with the way the factory is now optimised, I am confident that we can quite happily make it happen…”

“Quite happily make it happen.” Let’s hope he’s right. We need Mercedes out there being competitive. It would be a great thing to see their drivers on the podium in 2012.

Adrian Newey Says Things About the RB8

ESPNF1 interviews Adrian Newey.

He’s obviously not going to say anything specific, but what Adrian Newey does say gives the impression that he is not too bothered by the 2012 rule changes. No exhaust-blown diffusers allowed? Well, it’s not as though it’s the first time he’s had to work a change like that into his car design. I takes a lot more than that to faze Adrian Newey, my friends.

No need for a wholesale overhaul of the basic design, Newey says. The RB8 will be an “evolution” of the very successful car of the past three years, and it’s going to “kick your ass” even more comprehensively. (Note: “kick your ass” is a direct quote from me, not Newey.)

But, the ESPNF1 interviewer asked, isn’t it really bloody annoying that this innovation you’ve perfected is now against the rules?

No, Newey is not too upset about that, because he’s been in F1 a long time, and that’s just the way it works. A team comes up with something awesome, and sooner or later, for one reason or another, it’s banned. “That’s the nature of the business,” he said mildly.

Newey also hopes Red Bull will be able to maintain the crazy-fantastic reliability they enjoyed during the 2011 season — but perhaps “enjoyed” is the wrong word. According to Newey, they have “hard work and discipline” to thank for that reliability. It’s not as though it’s something that simply fell from the heavens.

It became clear during the course of this interview that nothing the ESPNF1 staff member said was going to upset the coolness of Adrian Newey in any way — not mentioning of the forbidden exhaust-blown diffusers, not bringing up how unusual and unlikely the reliability of the car was last season, nothing. Flustered and frustrated at his inability to shake the man up, the interviewer ended the interview by leaping from his chair and yelling, “Yeah? Well, you could have at least made sure your fly was zipped before you got here!”

But Adrian Newey merely cocked an eyebrow and smiled pleasantly as he rose to leave and thanked the staff member for his time, never looking down in even the briefest moment of self-doubt. Naturally, his fly was impeccably zipped — in fact, much to the staff member’s annoyance, it was the most expertly zipped fly he’d ever seen. Damn that man…

Don’t Count Rubens Barrichello Out Just Yet

Andrew Benson BBC blog entry.

Andrew Benson, being a super-cool “insider” with “sources” and whatnot, has some actual information to provide today that requires little or no embellishment. Williams is, as Benson reminds us, the only decent option for an open race seat right now, and there is a surfeit of recently sacked drivers out there who would be only too happy to plant their jumpsuited behinds in that very seat. Williams is free to essentially sit back, relax, and ponder the possibilities, secure in the knowledge that whoever they do offer that seat to will absolutely not say “no.”

What is now coming to light and is reported here by Benson is the fact that Williams might, in the end, not make any changes at all to their 2011 driver lineup. Rubens Barrichello recently has shown himself willing to do everything just short of falling on his knees and begging to keep that seat, including finding sponsors if he needs to. As much as people love the guy, it seems a popular fan opinion that it’s probably just about time for him to retire. However, as Benson points out (and Barrichello himself has argued), it might be a good idea to keep some continuity where the drivers are concerned, especially in the face of the many other changes the team is undergoing.

In addition, Benson has been “told” that Patrick Head was somewhat less than charmed by Barrichello’s many complaints about the team, and he points out that now that Head has severed professional ties with the team entirely, that’s “one less barrier” to Barrichello being retained.

The other names you hear most often in association with the Williams seat are Adrian Sutil and Bruno Senna. Sutil is apparently trying to negotiate too short a contract for Williams’ liking (see Auto Motor und Sport and James Allen’s site). In the past few days there have been intertubes rumors that’s Senna is close to a deal — but there are intertubes rumors about lots of things, of course. Dimitris Papadopoulo seems to think there is something to the Senna vs. Barrichello idea, though.

My personal preference is to see Bruno in F1 next season — period. He’s an agreeable, sensible guy who keeps his feet on the ground and is being realistic about exploring all options, but I have no doubt this Williams seat would be his first choice. And let’s not forget what happened when he and Barrichello went for the same seat back in 2009! Maybe it’s time for a little turning of the tables…

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Maybe I WILL Say Something About the Schumacher Controversy, After All.

Unusually,  I had stopped reading comments on the Schumacher/Barrichello incident on James Allen’s blog fairly early on.  I suppose I had just seen enough of people everywhere (not just there) basically accusing Schumacher of attempted murder and of “trying to run Barrichello into the wall.”  Because really?  Do you actually think that he wanted that to be the outcome?  And don’t you think that if Schumacher actually had wanted to run Barrichello into the pit wall and KILL HIM DEAD, he probably could have managed to do just that?  I mean, I’m about as far from an F1 driver in terms of driving skill as it’s possible to be, but I’ll bet that even I could manage to run someone who was driving alongside me into a wall if I really wanted to.  (Okay, yes, I’d probably kill myself in the process — but still!)

What would actually be really, really difficult for me — and probably for most people on Earth — to pull off is what Schumacher actually did on Sunday: leaving Barrichello just enough room. An amount of room that was enough to just barely avoid a terrible crash, but one that simultaneously conveyed the message, “Want to overtake me?  Well, it won’t be easy or, you know, not terrifying — and maybe you’ll think twice before ever trying it again.”

I had read enough comments, from people who surely know a lot more than I do, to be reassured that I was not the only person thinking this way, although the opinion was definitely in the minority.  Today, James Allen — who, as far as I’ve seen, is playing his cards pretty close to his chest in terms of exactly what his opinion is on the whole controversy — posted a high-resolution photo of the incident along with a quote from one of the commenters on his site.  It’s a comment I really agree with, and one that puts it all a lot better than I could!

As I said on Sunday, I personally think it was probably too dangerous a move to try when there was only a single point at stake.  Because no matter how skillful the drivers involved, there was always a chance that something might have gone wrong.  But then you could say that about many, maybe even most moves in F1 racing, to greater and lesser degrees.  Don’t you think?

For the record, I’m neither a pro- nor anti-Schumacher partisan. In case that wasn’t already clear.  If you think I’m really off base with anything I’ve said here, please don’t hesitate to tell me!  I won’t take it personally.  I know I still have a lot to learn about all this.

One last thing:  There’s an image from Sunday’s broadcast that keeps coming back to me as these debates rage on.  It’s a shot of a bunch of guys on the Williams team watching the move on their monitors.  When Barrichello completes the move and passes Schumacher, they’re all elated, cheering and laughing.  The looks on their faces seem to say “OMG LOOK WHAT OUR GUY JUST PULLED OFF!”  Not “OMG OUR GUY WAS JUST ALMOST MURDERED!”  Take from that whatever you want,  but I wonder how much those guys’ feelings about it have changed since then…

What He Said.

. . . you should be allowed to race. What’s the problem? If you don’t win the championship by one point, so be it.

You had your chance, you had to go, and then you win the championship by one point because somebody let you win? What’s the point?

Rubens Barrichello

Okay, sorry — I’m officially done obsessing over Hockenheim . . . NOW.

I’ll tell you one thing I’ve learned: It might not always make me do a happy dance, but Formula 1 is never boring.