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Driver moves to start in wake of Alonso announcement this week?
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Driver moves to start in wake of Alonso announcement this week?
Posted By: James Allen  |  29 Sep 2009   |  4:45 pm GMT  |  180 comments

Fernando Alonso will be announced as a Ferrari driver on Thursday of this week according to reports in Spain, Italy and Germany. This should in turn give rise to a series of driver moves which will establish many of the teams’ line ups for next year. It’s almost October, historically much of the grid is sorted out by this time, announcements made.

Picture 35
As I posted yesterday Kimi Raikkonen’s move away from Ferrari has been underwritten by Santander and by going to McLaren they get some return on investment. Nico Rosberg looks like he’s heading for Brawn, with Jenson Button caught in a situation where he’s under pressure to accept the deal on the table or possibly risk losing his seat, as Damon Hill did in 1996, his championship year with Williams.

Presuming they sort a deal out, the one to make way would be Rubens Barrichello, who is on Frank Williams’ list, along with Nick Heidfeld. But Nico Hulkeberg looks like he will get his chance and two Germans might not make sense.

Many sources are saying that Robert Kubica is destined for Renault, where presumably he will be paid more than he would at Williams – I thought a couple of months ago he would head there, but it seems that is not happening.

It remains to be seen what sponsor package Renault will be able to put together after their recent troubles, although the team made it clear that they want to stay in F1 and clean up their sporting credentials by racing on. Jarno Trulli could find himself back there again and it would probably be his best option. He fell out spectacularly with Flavio Briatore, but is still well regarded by the engineers, including stand in team principal Bob Bell. He is also well regarded by Mike Gascoyne, so I’d imagine there is a seat at the new Lotus team if he wants to go that route.

Toro Rosso are staying with the same two drivers, but there is a chance that Sebastian Loeb might do the final race of this season in Abu Dhabi with the team, according to Le Parisien newspaper today.

Heidfeld might find his face fits at Force India, which used to be Jordan when he drove for the team. It looks like Adrian Sutil will stay there for another year.

The Toyota team are not able to confirm their budget until mid November and that will be too late for many drivers to wait, so they may end up with second choice drivers as a result, if indeed they carry on racing.

Meanwhile Gazzetta dello Sport are reporting that Alonso has already been working with the engineers at Ferrari on cockpit dimensions for next year’s car and has requested some of his favourite engineers from Red Bull, McLaren and Renault be hired by the team, much as Michael Schumacher brought with him his favourites from Benetton when he joined Ferrari in 1996/97

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180 Comments
  1. Jeb says:

    I’m new enough to the world of F1 that I’m wondering if this kind of massive driver shuffle is more the norm or the exception?

    1. James Allen says:

      We haven’t had a big shake up for quite a few years

      1. Hugo says:

        James,why do you think Ferrari has decided to keep Massa and not Kimi?

      2. James Allen says:

        A family thing, it would look callous to drop him because of his situation, plus he was still improving when he had his accident and if he is like Hakkinen will continue to improve after it. I guess they thought Raikkonen had plateaued

  2. ian says:

    well, i’m thinking that Kimi going back to McLaren could well be a bad move for him – at least in terms of being shown up by another team-mate – how often does he ‘not feel it’ in a race, then try to make amends by throwing fastest laps together in the last quarter?
    As for Brawn, am i the only person that feels bringing an almost done double title to a team in its 1st season earns you a certain level when it comes to your next deal? especially given all the ‘wilderness’ years he put into the BAR/Honda outfit!
    I hope we will see a few new faces next season, and i hope also that Lotus and Mike Gascoigne will find a Brit to jump in at least one of their cars (is Ant Davidson up to much??)

    1. Tom says:

      At Ferrari perhaps, but he never had these mood swings at Mclaren. He was always on it.

    2. James says:

      Davidson is constantly asked by Crofty and viewers/listeners to the 5live coverage if he’ll have a seat next year at any of the current or new teams, and he just goes all quiet and coy when he comes to answering.

      A lot of people reckon he’ll be going to Manor (or Virgin, when the deal is announced, which makes sense as he’s currently the reserve driver for Brawn and will probably have a few ties with Virgin boss Richard Branson).

    3. Kedar says:

      Ya but remember these “wilderness” years were when he was paid a huge pay check and broke a contract with Williams in highy publicized mannor

      1. artorwar says:

        Agreed, and I’ve never forgiven him. You’re as good as your word, nothing more, and I personally wouldn’t trust him. He did a stellar job at the start of the season but next year when the old faces are performing at full capacity I would have thought the wilderness will beckon again. I love this sport, only time will tell haha, its going to be a long off season.

    4. **Paul** says:

      Perhaps if Kimi got back to McLaren he might discover his form again. He’s rarely shown what he had during his McLaren years at Ferrari. Kimi on song vs Lewis would be a great match up, I think plenty of people at McLaren really rate him still. It’s almost like the story of footballer changing clubs and not doing so well, but returning to an earlier club and regain his form again? It’d be great to see the battle if that were the case, I’m sick and tired of seeing Heikki tanking his car up with 35 laps of fuel in Q3 whilst Lewis goes with a more aggressive strategy. McLaren have the car, and they have one of the drivers.

    5. Monktonnik says:

      If the reports of Button’s predicament is true I feel that it would be unjust and cynical, especially when you consider that he is the driver who hasn’t openly crticised the team this season.

    6. Chris says:

      Depends if Button wants money over success really. He said on Top Gear once that he would give in the celebrity lifestyle if it meant he had won a race (this was pre-Hungary 2006) so really he should extend that to being a consistent frontrunner.

      This season has shown that Button needs the best car in order to be successful. It would be worth being paid less if it means he is at one of the top teams for next year. What will mean more to him in 30 years, having a few extra million quid in the bank or being remembered as a F1 legend?

      1. jeremy says:

        he’s already taken a 50% cut so the team could survive this year. a WDC and WCC in the same year deserves a bit of that back i reckon.

      2. Evo II says:

        if they reckon that Button was so instrumental to the success, indeed they should give back to him. they probably don’t, and they are right.

        also, this 50% story is a bit funny, we was jobless, so 50% of what??

        he lucked into a good car and weak rivals, now he can decide if we wants to be the playboy again..

      3. Chris says:

        First of all, you have no idea of the contract situation. He might have been offered an improved deal. As with most of the driver talk, it is speculation. If Brawn think he is a world class driver they will make him an offer that represents that. And if they make him a lower offer…where else is he going to go? The top drives will all be taken so he would be a complete idiot to move anywhere else. He doesn’t sound in-demand after all…

    7. Buck says:

      Seeing as Kimi is quite capable of “throwing fastest laps together”, (tieing the record for most fastest laps in a season not once but twice) I don’t see him being shown up by Hamilton.

      A lot of people seem disappointed in his performance at Ferrari, especially last year (when he still managed to tie that record), but there was a lot of evidence th car was simply not working for him as well as it did for Massa, particularly in qualifying.

      Much has been said in the press this year about Button’s inability to generate heat in the tires, but I can’t remember too many similar excuses being offered up for Kimi last year. Those fast laps late in the race could well point to problems such as the tires.

      At any rate, should Kimi find the Maclaren more to his liking next year, and it seems quite a few people here believe so, a lot of Hamilton fans (along with the Ferrari brass) may be dismayed that the sleeping Finnish giant has awoken.

      1. Peter says:

        Agree. Kimi had outperformed Montoya at Mclaren before if he will be motivated because he has the car capable of winning he will give Lewis hard time. Lewis’ advantage is his age and the fact that he is still hungry.
        Hope Heikki gets a seat, too as I think he is much better than he has been able to show as Hamilton’s team mate. He needs a team that focuses on him.

      2. Andy says:

        “Much has been said in the press this year about Button’s inability to generate heat in the tires, but I can’t remember too many similar excuses being offered up for Kimi last year. Those fast laps late in the race could well point to problems such as the tires.”

        This very same fact was, in fact, brought up many times last year as an explanation for Kimi’s struggles on qualifications. Just like Jenson, Kimi has a very smooth driving style that leads to this problem when tires are such that you need to drive very aggressively to heat them for a lap.

      3. Buck says:

        You are correct. I meant to write “Much has been said in the press this year about Button’s inability to generate heat in the tires, but I can’t remember AS many similar excuses being offered up for Kimi last year.”

        Yes, that’s a playful little swipe at the British press who understandably love their drivers.
        :-P haha

      4. Monktonnik says:

        The same smooth style that keeps the tyres in better shape on long stints.

      5. Williams4Ever says:

        “Much has been said in the press this year about Button’s inability to generate heat in the tires, but I can’t remember too many similar excuses being offered up for Kimi last year.”

        This is just an example of difference between press coverage British Driver gets in F1 vs a Non-Brit.

        If not for Mark Hughes repeatedly stressing in 2007-08 seasons and then this year “How Barichello is better working around the problems of car and getting most out of it unlike Button”. The Brazilian would have been chewed up and spitted off the uninformed Fans.

        F1 may have global following but “World of F1″ still lives in era of it being a Brit/European thing…

    8. RPJ says:

      or Gary Paffet, Paul Di Resta…they were being banded about a couple of years back

    9. ian says:

      wow, so many replies to my lil post – and – as i expect from the F1 fans – all sensible and well made points :)

      i will just say – i hope to see Jenson with a #1 on his Brawn next season, and Lewis alongside someone other than Kimi (like some have pointed out, he didnt exactly leave in good terms) And by the by, anyone think Nelson Piquet Jr has a hope of being in ANY F1 car next season??

  3. Dank says:

    “(Alonso) has requested some of his favourite engineers from Red Bull, McLaren and Renault be hired by the team…”

    McLaren and Renault I can understand, but Red Bull?

    1. James says:

      Alonso did drive for Minardi, which was once Toro Rosso. So one can assume that maybe some of his former engineers are now at Red Bull.

    2. Mattw says:

      Alonso used to drive for Minardi – now Torra Rosso

    3. Hi,
      I think it may refer to his time with Minardi in 2001 (IIRC) which became Torro Rosso which is obviously part of the Red Bull family.

      Craig.

    4. Anthony says:

      Adrian Newey

      1. krad says:

        Adrian had left McLaren 18 months or so before alonso joined

      2. Declan says:

        I know you are kidding – but imagine that! Not only does Ferrari pay for Alonso, pay for Kimi to move to McLaren, pay for Schumacher as a consultant but also buys the most expensive technical director!

      3. Anthony says:

        I mean, what else would he want from red bull?

    5. Antonis says:

      maybe James actually means Torro-Rosso/Minardi?

    6. Tom says:

      Good thinking! Disrupt and weaken all your rivals’ technical teams – it’s like Manchester City signing players from other top teams in the Premier League.

      1. Declan says:

        Yes – but then you don’t gift your competition one of the top 3 drivers on anyone’s list … and also pay for it.

    7. Alex Yarnell says:

      Did Red Bull go on a bit of a ‘shopping trip’ around the time they got Adrian Newey’ – so there may very well be some serious talent at Red Bull.

    8. momo says:

      Red Bull has some Mclaren engineers that went with Newey.

    9. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

      Why not? They’ve produced a terrific car this season. Adrian Newey is the most clever designer out there. And Geoff Smith, one of the best aerodynamicists in the sport, is sitting idle with nothing to do.

    10. Lee Bailey says:

      Alonso’s former race engineer during his WC Renault days now works at Red Bull.

    11. Dank says:

      Paul Monaghan, who was Fernado’s race engineer in 2003 and 2004, is likely to be the best contender from Red Bull to follow the Spaniard to Ferrari? The two are best pals?

      Geoff Willis is on the market as well. Speaks good Italian and would fit in well at Ferrari also?

      1. James Allen says:

        I think you are right on the money with Paul Monaghan

      2. Declan says:

        But is this the ferrari way? If rumours are correct, Kimi is ostracized for keeping a distance from the team so surely the cocoon of new engineers cannot help Alonso endear himself to the team?

      3. Jasper says:

        Alonso is probably just trying to build a race team around him that he feels happy and comfortable with. He’s probably learned lessons after the bad year with McLaren, where I believe he pretty much just walked into whatever Ron Dennis had laid on for him in terms of his race team. Alonso knows he has to make the relationship with Ferrari work because there’s no where else to go really. Let’s hope it does, because Alonso being in a competitive team is important for the sport. 2010 is shaping up to be a great year, as all the top drivers should be in competitive teams, with the chance to win races!

  4. HBT says:

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I was always under the impression that Damon Hill never had a chance of retaining his seat at Williams for 1997, H H-F having been signed at the end of 1995 for the ’97 season, whereas Brawn are at pains to point out that nothing has been decided yet and won’t be until the season’s over.

    1. PJ says:

      Correct. As I understand it, Frentzen and Villeneuve were both already signed. I remember reading that Williams tried to get out of the contract with JV but couldn’t (or ultimately weren’t prepared to pay the required amount).

      I guess Brawn want to keep their options open just in case Rubens somehow wins the WDC. They’d look pretty foolish (and lose out on much publicity value) dropping the WDC even if Button is the beeter choice long term.

    2. Niko says:

      That’s how I understood it, but he did have an offer from McLaren to race for them in 1998. Apparently Ron Dennis offered him a pay-as-you-drive deal, which Hill felt was insulting to his status as a world champion. If only he had accepted!

      To comment on your article James: great insight as ever, but I can’t see Renault dumping Grosjean for Trulli unless he performs very badly over the next three races, and I was under the impression that Liuzzi has a drive for FI next year?

      1. Paige Michael-Shetley says:

        Hill also reportedly had an offer from Ferrari, although I’m sure he didn’t want to be Schumacher’s lap dog.

        The big mistake was on Williams. Hill is one of the most criminally underrated drivers in F1 history, and he was a great driver in his era. You don’t score the wins in the wet that he scored without having some serious talent.

  5. Kirk says:

    Silly season finally gets into gear.

    Would be very interesting to know what Massa makes of his new team-mate, how it might affect the dynamics inside the team. Kimi may have been hot and cold during his time, but at least he never rocked the boat. Lets see if Ferrari can handle Alonso’s demands better than McLaren did.

    And I’d keep any inside/secret information well away from Fernando whenever he’s in Maranello. Better safe than sorry eh… ;-)

  6. albert bostock says:

    In your oppinion james who would then have the storgest line up, mclaren or ferrari, presuming kimi does go back to mclaren?

    1. krad says:

      definitely mclaren. Both drivers are champs and both could have been double.

    2. Chris says:

      A Kimi/Hamilton partnership at Mclaren, assuming the car is quick and reliable, would be formidable. Watch the toys knocking eachother out as they fly out of Alonso’s and Massa’s prams.

    3. Francisco says:

      If I picture this question 2 years back, the answer without reservations McLaren. However I was very impressed with Massa in 2008.

      Nowadays, asumming everybody has a competitive car looks to me 51/49 (Ferrari/McLaren). Having Alonso has an edge.

  7. Albert Bostock says:

    Who would in you opinion James have the best line up for next year?

    Presuming Kimi goes to Mclaren and Fernando to Ferrari?

    Looks like Mclaren slightly edgeing in to me.

    Do Kimi and Lewis get on? I remember after Lewis crashed in to Kimi in the pits in Canada that Kimi didnt seem to annoyed in the first instance and just patted lewis on the back?

    1. Phil says:

      Kimi’s a Finn, they don’t do wild emotion, a very stoic people. That’s probably why Kimi didn’t gel at Ferrari – a team dominated by passion, whereas he thrived at McLaren – a team dominated by cold precision. Coincidence?

      1. Dan says:

        well said phil, spot on

    2. lola says:

      Kimi patting lewis shoulder after the accident in canada?
      I do not think so.
      There are plenty of videos on youtube showing Kimi yelling at Lewis while e was passing by almost ignoring Kimi, but then breafly patting kimi shoulder on a manner that was like saying: “just chill out pale!”

      1. Andy says:

        Funny how people remember things differently ;). If I recall correctly, Kimi simply walked past Lewis, pointed towards the red light and walked away. Certainly didn’t see any yelling going on.

      2. Francisco says:

        Hilarious by Kimi.

  8. Silverstoned says:

    What about Monte’s u turn regarding extending Schumacher’s “advisory” role?
    James, I’ve got to ask you: Schumacher hanging about the Ferrari garage these last 3 years. Why? What advice? He’s a clever chap, why does he not find a new challenge?
    When you started commentating, did Murray Walker come and stand around cheering on your co-presenter?
    Please shed some light on this James.

    1. DK says:

      I think one of Shumi’s contirbutions was putting wet tyres on Kimi’s car and send him out on a dry track in Malayisa 2009….

    2. Janet says:

      Wow, exactly my thoughts? what gives? Does Schumi not remember that this was the team that pushed him out in order to get a certain Finn on the team? What’s up with that? I love Schumi bit enough is enough. Either drive or move on….

    3. Paul Moss says:

      The current Schumacher role at ferrari is a blog post of its own, but yeah i agree, its odd. James, you must know more :)

  9. Kedar says:

    James,
    A question to you about the new Sauber team. I heard that the new owners “Investors” may not be so Sauber (clean in German) after all. After all the “Holier than thou” and no cheating in F1, do you think that there is some dirty money coming in from the Middle east in the name of “Sovereign Funds” Whats your take on this?

    1. Paul says:

      That sounds borderline libellous!

    2. Williams4Ever says:

      Well spotted Kedar. I was mentioning this potential issue to another F1 fan other day. In Greed of Bernie/Max, F1 risks of becoming money laundering vehicle.

  10. Dean says:

    Given what happened in 2007, I’m surprised Alonso would ask Macca engineers to jump ship and join Ferrari. With Kimi and Lewis, McLaren now have the best chance in years to win the constructors in 2010…Would hate to see Alonso drain McLaren’s chances.

    1. Carlos says:

      Towards the end of the year when things are already bad between Alonso and Ron Dennis, he said in an interview that much of the team shunned him, but he still had a group that he was close to. He went on to say that his friends in the team felt pressure not to be seen hanging out with him so it was a lonely couple of months there.

      1. DAN says:

        Also considering that Hamilton a few months ago was threatening to leave McLaren and had showed no loyalty
        to the team who made him, some of the folks working there and having witnessed first hand the internal tension between Lewis and Fernando in 2007 might have now come to the conclusion that Fernando was after all a more respectful driver worth backing up. Fernando probably earned respect from his mechanics and engineers (at every team he worked for) because of his technical abilities. Since then the McLaren guys had 2 years to judge Lewis working on his own after Nando’s departure. It could be they realised that his own technical abilities to set up a car “on his own” were much more limited? If Fernando can really bring guys from 3 previous teams to partner him at Ferrari that would really say a lot about the respect he got for his technical skills.
        You don’t earn such respect by accident. Let’s see if this really happen now.

  11. Jonathan says:

    Did Kimi Raikkonen have any say regarding the hiring of engineers when he moved to Ferrari?

    1. lola says:

      I think Kimi hardly say anything ever….

      1. Adrian says:

        Probably went along the lines of:

        “I have a car?”

        “Yes Kimi”

        “It is fast?”

        “Yes Kimi”

        “I have engineers?”

        “Yes Kimi”

        “Good, let’s go racing”

  12. Swayze says:

    Under your
    “Mixed signals from Monza on the Alonso Ferrari marriage” post

    My reply was

    “I am sure they would not like to announce Alonso as their driver if it was proven that he knew of the alleged crash and sc deployment plan
    They would much rather wait for a couple of weeks to be absolutely certain he is available and untarnished in this scandal”

    Not a bad guess was it. We should have had one of your competitions James :-)

  13. Goutam says:

    If Alonso goes to Ferrari, Kimi ends up in mclaren!! Seems to me, corporate firms(Sponsor Firms) are having a bigger say in the driver market.

  14. Dustin B says:

    Has anyone in F1 mentioned Bruno Senna in the last 6 months? I’ve heard Hulkenburg and Petrov being thrown around, but nothing about Senna.

    I’m surprised none of the new teams (or even Renault) have been actively pursuing him…he seems like he would be able to attract sponsor money better than any other driver on the grid.

    1. Ray.C. says:

      According to Bruno’s recent twitterings, he seems pretty confident of being on the grid in 2010.No idea where. I’ll bet James has an idea.
      If Ruby is headed to Williams, it would be amazing to see Bruno as his team-mate, for a whole range of reasons…but “they” say Hulkenberg.

    2. Adrian says:

      Is it just me who would like to see Senna at Lotus?

      And if they can find a title sponsor with Black and Gold livery…

  15. F1 Kitteh says:

    I don’t understand Toyota, they are trying to win a race, if they don’t win they won’t stay. But by taking this half hearted approach and ending up with second best drivers .etc.. they are virtually guarantee they won’t win a race.. so ..why are they bothering at all?

    1. michael c says:

      absolutely – if they havent decided to leave already then unless they are pulling a Rubens or Jenson out of the hat this may be the final straw for Toyota Head Office

  16. Mark V says:

    James,

    Which team do you think Bruno Senna will be driving for in 2010? With his strong links to Santander, should we expect him in a Ferrari powered car?

  17. jeremy says:

    Could Jenson be holding out to secure the title first to ensure his stock is at a premium?

    Brawn may also be putting the pressure on him to snatch the title to confirm the deal. What happens IF Barrichello snatches the title, does Jenson lose his seat to RB?

  18. Werewolf says:

    Button is in an unenviable position. If he loses the title to Barrichello, will it still be the Brazilian to make way (and put no. 1 on a Williams)? No-one seems to be connecting him with any other team. If he does win and/or stays, then he maybe forced to accept a deal below the normal rate for a world champion (when he is supposedly driving for peanuts this year) and have to face Raikkonen as a team mate, which is daunting from every angle, not the least of which could be Mercedes favouritism. To add insult, could Raikkonen even end up on a better deal?

    1. Richard Mee says:

      I agree. And in the harsh light of day I think Button’s recent wobble in form has put him into this position. Whilst he’s a staggerngly good driver with a unique style – very likable and commercial with it. His seeming hesitation to land the killer blow has perhaps put some distance between him and the likes of Alonso & Hamilton. The latter are the drivers whom we see get their demands met PDQ.

  19. Hagis says:

    No matter about who Alonso brings with him to Ferrari.

    No one can touch the super team of Massa, Smedley and Salvi.

    1. Oli says:

      It does seem that Massa and Smedley are perfectly matched. You can hear the frustration in Smedley’s voice at the moment- he wants Massa back in that car.

      1. Monktonnik says:

        Yes. So he can sound frustrated at him.

      2. Williams4Ever says:

        “It does seem that Massa and Smedley are perfectly matched.”

        Yup who can forget “Felipe Baby, we are getting clear visor for you”. Sounded like couple madly in love LOL

  20. guy says:

    I sense a return of the epic Ferrari/McLaren battles… This is going to be fun!

    1. Steve Evans says:

      Yes, Mansell/Prost Senna/Berger in 1990 springs to mind! I can’t wait it’s been years since Mclaren/Ferrari had such strong lineups ;-)

  21. Ronnie Mirza says:

    James to start off with i have my doubts as to whether Alonso can pull off a “Schumi” by getting the team behind him. To further add to his woes Massa is no pushover and it will be interesting to see how Alonso reacts when Schumacher visits the team on race weekends.
    Furthermore Massa has established a strong emotional bond with Stefano Domenecili after the fatal accident. The writing is on the wall that it has all the ingredients to develop into a Dennis-Hakkinen relationship bond.

    1. Dan says:

      I can’t imagine Monte creating a strong emotional bond with anyone but himself. He turned his back on everyone that brought him 5 successive championships. A guy like that is nothing but self-serving ego.

    2. Philip T says:

      Unless you are referring to the death of a spring or a crash helmet, I fail to see what was ‘fatal’ about Massa’s accident. There wouldn’t be talk of a ‘strong emotional bond’ with Stefano if Felipe had died!

    3. em says:

      It wasn’t a fatal accident.

    4. Med says:

      “Furthermore Massa has established a strong emotional bond with Stefano Domenecili after the fatal accident.”

      Steady on – it was bad, but it wasn’t fatal

      1. Ray.C. says:

        It may prove to be fatal to his championship hopes if Alonso is deemed #1.

      2. James Allen says:

        It’s pretty clear that post-Todt and Schumacher the team now operates a dual number one policy. The fastest man wins.

      3. Ray.C. says:

        I agree James, but it has been a while since they bought themselves a double world champ.

    5. tEQUILLA sLAMMER says:

      what “fatal” accident?? Fatal means somebody died!!! F1 isnt about bonds…its about technical input from the driver to improve the car, and Massa does not match Alonso on that score!! Ferrari have been itching to get Alonso in the car and they are not about to mess it all up like McmoRons did in 2007….if Massa dont beat Alonso from the start then he is going to be No2 driver….simple as that!!!Alonso is signed for 5 years at Ferrari, and that tells me that they are looking to him as their main challenger in the drivers c`ship!!! #:)

    6. Steve Evans says:

      He means fateful i’m sure.

  22. This all could be very interesting for Alonso – Massa is not going to be a wing man and (from what us punters glean) he is well thought of at Ferrari and Rob S his engineer isnt going to sit back and not have his man going for the title.

    Kimi and Lewis is fantastic – Lewis is settled in Maclaren and Kimi (for me) is a turn up and drive the wotsits off a car at a race. Two massively talented drivers in a massively talented team.b

    Question for James please
    Kimi usually puts in super quick laps towards the end of grand prix is this because he does not do so much testing and “learns” the car during a grand prix? (I appreciate he is a massively talented driver).

    Thanks and as ever very imformative article.

    1. Martin says:

      I reckon it is simpler than that. In 2008 especially, he was in a fast race car that rarely suited him in qualifying. It would generally take until after the second stop for him to get clear air. Since he usually wasn’t leading the race, he still had something to achieve, and the track is often at its best late in the race.

      He’s fit enough to be go flat out at the end and he probably enjoys taking the car to limit. If there is nothing to be gained, it would be more fun to do it when the car isn’t fat with fuel.

  23. David Rotor says:

    It’s unfortunate the the sport has so many problems right now (barking mad
    rules, inconsistent application of the rules, and teams cheating … etc)
    because the driver situation is as good as I can recall.

    It’s pretty much a given we’ll have four WDC’s on the grid next year (Button
    or Barrichello, Hamilton, Raikkonen, and Alonso), all of them looking like
    they will have a chance to add another championship.

    Add in legitimately fast guys looking for their first championship, with at least Vettel, Webber, Rosberg, and Massa having a realistic shot at it, and several more with a look in (depending final team lineups) for at least a win; Sutil, Kubica, Glock, Trulli, Heidfeld, maybe even Buemi.

    2010 looks like it’s shaping up to be a great year with nearly the entire field in play for at least a win, and nearly half the field looking like they could mount a championship bid.

    1. Werewolf says:

      An anorak moment for someone to correct if I’m wrong. I think 1968 was the only time more than 4 champions were on the grid: Brabham, Hill, Clark, Surtees and Hulme.

      1. Werewolf says:

        To take it the other way, was 1959 the only season to start without any champions?

      2. Martin says:

        I think you’re right. 1994 had 9 races without a champion.

        The first race of 1968 (the only one Clark started) also had Rindt and Stewart. Plus Jacky Ickx a two-time runner up for those sports car fans.

      3. DAN says:

        Mario Andretti (1978 WC) also took part to some races in 1968.

        In 1968 we had on the grid 8 existing or future WCs for a total of 14 titles. In 1973 we had 7 WCs for 13 titles.

      4. Anthony says:

        Nope!

        In 1999 we had Hakkinen, Schumi, Villeneuve and Damon Hill…

      5. Werewolf says:

        Was there a fifth?

      6. DAN says:

        1973, the first season I fully followed, was not bad either with 4 World champs: Stewart, Hulme, Hill and Fittipaldi and 3 young guy who would soon be champion too: Lauda, Hunt and Scheckter.
        Possibly the best F1 season ever with wins for Lotus, Tyrrell and McLaren. If not the best season at least a classic.

      7. Werewolf says:

        I remember 1973 fondly, too. The Lotus-Tyrrell-McLaren battles, the JPS colours, Peterson and Revson’s first wins, the emergence of Hunt (Reutemann and Pace were strong youngsters, too), Scheckter’s chaos at Silverstone and the sheer majesty of Stewart. There was some good TV coverage (for the time), as I recall.

        But some of the shine remains dulled by Cevert’s death at the Glen, which I recall devastated many of us at the time.

  24. Michael S says:

    The Alonso and MS comparisons are getting played up big time. However, Michael is still part of that team and very much in Massa’s corner. Will he want someone coming in running roughshod on his old team and records or does he do all he can to keep Felipe at the top. Alonso like Kimi will not be keen to take advice from Michael

  25. Opposite Lock (Ken) says:

    James,

    I know this isn’t the right story to ask the question, but I can’t find a way to E-mail it to you.

    Why is Bernie making public statements that USF1 doesn’t look as though it will be ready to race next year? Does he know something Peter Windsor isn’t telling?

    1. Monktonnik says:

      I was wondering why PW is now doing the press conferences again, and if the rumours were true.

      Those brief moments with James talking to the drivers were like the old days

  26. George says:

    Nice to see some change this year, I think we’ve had about twice as many mid-season changes this year as there were at the beginning.

    I hope if Ant Davidson gets a seat (and I hope he does), that it’s not another complete dog like his previous cars. He seemed to get test driver gig on anything that had half a chance.

  27. Erik Cramer says:

    Maybe Renault should jump on the chance of signing Kubica an Kovalainen, both of whom are better than they have been able to show lately and dont need to be shown their way around a circuit. Trulli and Heidfeld had their chance and could move on to the DTM, the F1 retirement series. That being said, none of the three rookies have done anything noteworthy so maybe they can make their case based on experience. If Rubens does not become champion this year he will still be sulking about it next year making him both unsufferable and a PR liability, sponsors want young smiling heroes, not whining old men.

    1. john g says:

      with three new teams (possibly) i’d imagine that heidfeld and trulli have a lot to offer. experience counts for a lot, and heidfeld is still a great racer with incredible mechanical sympathy and massive understanding of the car. of course, they wouldn’t bring as much money in as someone like bruno senna, but i think they should be looking at a rookie and an old hand for balance.

      i’d say both (trulli and heidfeld) are more valuable than the likes of heikki, who is clearly a class below alonso, hamilton etc, and i think is forever going to be a no.2

  28. SteveK says:

    Am I alone amongst F1 fans by not giving a toss who goes where?
    I’m a fan of the sport and have no particular allegiance to any team let alone any driver.
    To me, the real “talent” are the engineers and my heroes include Colin Chapman and Gordon Murray – probably the greatest contributors of all time to the sport I love.
    The over-tightening of the regulations has squeezed any real talent from the sport and left us with a grid totally lacking in any real innovation – indeed lateral thinking, the greatest skill of any real engineer, is positively discouraged.
    While it’s good to see Lotus coming back into F1, it’ll be a poor imitation of a once pioneering team, following where its namesake used to lead.

  29. Steven says:

    Hi James, where do you think Heikki Kovalainen will end up? His stock has obviously dropped since he joined McLaren but what options are there open to him? Is one of the newer teams more likely than an established team?

  30. Alex Yarnell says:

    Do you think Kovalainen is out of F1 – or do you think McLaren have enough affection for him to manuvere him into a Force India?

  31. Steve says:

    I think Kimi back at McLaren will be a great fit for him and the team. They have their poster boy in Lewis who can get the lion’s share of the media coverage and allow Kimi to quietly go about his business as he likes to. However, unlike Heikki’s unfortunate tenure, Kimi will deliver the goods on a more regular basis and make for a high scoring team, assuming the car for 2010 is better at the start than that of 2009!

    As a McLaren fan I’m disappointed Heikki didn’t work out and I have some doubts as to whether he actually got a fair crack, but I am excited about the Lewis/Kimi team for 2010.

    Where does this leave Heikki for 2010?

  32. john says:

    Damon Hill did not have any chance to keep his seat at Williams for 1997 season.

  33. VV says:

    It’s a shame that Williams couldn’t snap Kimi up. Surely he’s the ideal sort of driver for Frank and Patrick? He doesn’t moan, just gets in the car and drives. Fast. Williams isn’t a manufacturer team, so there would be less PR guff to bore him senseless.

    I hope Rubens gets a drive next year. He’s driven really well this season (thus far) and deserves another shot – he’d be ideal to accompany the novice Hulkenberg at Williams. And fairly cheap, no doubt, which would appeal to that team’s owners.

    Didn’t a couple of Renault engineers to go Red Bull a couple of years back? That might explain the Alonso connection.

  34. RPJ says:

    James, where’s Livy headed, Williams?

    1. Martin P says:

      Same place my mum used to tell we were going on holiday – Kerbst-on-edge.

  35. RPJ says:

    Sorry, kovy

  36. brandon says:

    Norbert Haug has stated he wants a german driver so it sounds like Mercedes will be buying into Brawn if Rosberg (who’s clearly talented..) goes there. I would be amazed that Kimi is going back to Mclaren after leaving the team so noisely and who frankly has looked even less interested in F1 recently.. only Massa’s absence has made him look good. I would have predicted Rosberg to Mclaren and Bruno Senna to Brawn if JB is champ. but not heard anything about Senna recently..

  37. Ross says:

    James.

    Im guessing two germans at Williams not make sense but two Germans at Force India would be ok is because of the Merc engine deal.

    Why has a german driver with a german engine became so important to them? They have passed Frentzen, Ralf Shumacher and Glock in recent years and I dont recall in a golden era of german drivers there ever being a german mclaren tester.

  38. RPJ says:

    James, where is Kovy headed? Williams, or in a testing role for McLaren?

    1. DAN says:

      It says a lot about Heikki that so many people on this blog are asking where he is heading for next year. I saw him beating Schumi at the Race of Champion in Paris a few years ago and he is a brilliant driver. At Mclaren something did not click but at some other team I am sure he could do well.

  39. Opposite Lock (Ken) says:

    I can’t help but think that a part of Renault’s negotiated settlement with the FIA prior to the hearing, for damage control of their public image, was that Renault will stay in F1 for the next year or more in exchange for a suspended sentence and no fine. They fired those involved (except Witness X) and are trying to compartmentalize the cheating by saying it was done by three rogue individuals.

    Whether the sponsors will buy it or not, who knows? The negotiated stay in F1 will be much cheaper than a massive fine and irreparable image damage that would have come otherwise.

  40. Reminds me when Frentzen had his name hanging for as many teams around 1999. Jordan, Ligier(Prost), McLaren, Sauber, Williams etc. I know Jacques is present at most races, how many teams is his name being considered for? Are they not supposed to allow 3 car teams for 2010? I’m very interested in how USF1 will do with Youtube sponsorship and seasoned pros at the helm. It’s always hung on Alonso, as he is the best, and when they give him the best car again, you will know he is. (Aside from his stupid dedication to Flavio (good riddance btw) he is still superior to most of the new drivers, and the blossoming old ones.)

  41. Vinay says:

    James,

    A question for you. Its been mentioned that Kimi and Lewis like oversteer where as it was not the case at Ferrari.

    How much does a driver’s driving style have an impact on the design of the car itself? How much can be accomplished my a set up change over a race weekend?

    Would like to hear some technical details on that.

    1. James Allen says:

      A lot can be done by changing set up, You can make the car handle like a roller skate or a shopping trolley. as for design, the really good guys can drive anything as long as it’s balanced.

      1. Ray.C. says:

        “the really good guys can drive anything as long as it’s balanced.”

        I feel this is what Lewis has been doing, (Driving ‘around’ the car) much like Schumacher used to do. Kovy may not be the best driver, but Lewis is probably making him look worse than he is.
        Maybe it’s me, but I think LH, like MS is a cut above the rest, and he’ll prove it next year alongside the 2nd best.
        I know I’m straying off-topic here, but if next years McLaren is half decent…it’ll be 1988 all over again…and I’m a Ferrari guy.

      2. James Allen says:

        No, Ferrari will be strong next year. They’ve had a big focus on the 2010 car and they have ideas, I’m told. It’s one thing to spend lots of time in the wind tunnel quite another thing to do it when you have good ideas.

      3. Vinay says:

        James,

        If the “really good guys” can drive anything, then what’s the reason for the great drivers like MS and Alonso to take an entourage of engineers with them where ever they went?

        Surely, good working relations and friendship may not be the only reason. Don’t you think that they knowing his driving style has anything to do with it?

    2. CarlitosF1 says:

      Great insight James, thanks. It’s also hard for me to buy the classic excuse of underperforming drivers: “car not suiting me, suiting my teammate’s driving style who has #1 status in the team and blah blah blah…”

      Anyone into racesims knows that there’s quite a few ways to turn oversteer into understeer and viceversa: aero, antiroll bars, camber, differential and so on… So if you master setup you just need the car to be fast out-of-the-box and you should be able to adapt it to your style via setup.

      Which leaves me in total darkness about what the hell did Ferrari change in the F2008 to make it so hard to drive for Kimi. Especially considering that the F60 seems to be undrivable by anyone but Kimi…

  42. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    Interesting that none of the top teams want Button.

    1. Evo II says:

      why would a top team be interested in someone who has spent most of his career being out-qualified by guys like Fisichella?!

      OK, Button, lucked into the best car this year, and made the most of it, but that does not make him a Nando or Lewis…

      1. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        My thoughts exactly. He’s not up there with the big boys and when Martin Brundle said that the two best drivers were Fernando and Jenson I almost fell off my chair from laughing too much.

        Button as World Champion = beat his team mate Barichello while Rubens was getting used to the car. As soon as the big boys started to catch up and Rubens got comfortable, Button dropped back while his slightly above average team mate has fared much better.

      2. Evo IX (not II, sorry :)) says:

        It looks like Button will return to his dear old playboy days, getting trashed by average drivers!

        Unfortunately (for us), he will join the ranks of champions… as one of the least worthy though

  43. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

    I wish there was also a transfer market for TV commentators! Off topic, I know but thought that some of you might find this a little amusing:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2rG4ctEMmy8

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVvjQh6n-cM

    A little lightheartedness for this afternoon.

    1. David Hodge says:

      Very good!

      The BBC are hyper-sensitive about Legard at the moment. Any critical posts on their blog (of which there are plenty) are being removed.

      I hope we’re not stuck with him next year, especially if the red button is not working as it was not for Singapore. Could not even change to Croft/Davidson so had to put up with his inane drivel. We need James back, with his trousers on fire like Murray.

      1. Adrian says:

        Here, here.

        Would much prefer James Allen to Jonathan (lets-quote-another-inane-statistic-while-talking-over-team-radio) Legard…

        James, you considered doing a live streaming audio commetary during races?

      2. Mike from Medellin, Colombia says:

        Yes please. Legard is just not up to the job, he’s just an old school BBC gravy-trainer.

        James, I miss your commentary and your technical and strategy knowledge.

  44. David Hodge says:

    It’s great all this speculation! I am quite looking forward to next season. Fairly stable rules following on from this year. That is a first for many seasons. But what is getting me stirred is the potential McLaren/Ferrari battle. My hope upon hope is that both cars are evenly matched. Or that one or the other teams gains an advantage before the other claws it back… then the pendulum swings again. Next year could be a classic with four great drivers. Then throw in a few jokers like Renault with Kubica perhaps to mix it up. And look at Williams – they are moving nearer the front each season so will they be there also?

    Just one question James. Regarding Force India, you do not include Liuzzi. Does he not have a race contract with them for next year? A considerably underrated driver IMHO. Be interesting to see how he goes at Suzuka this weekend – a more open and traditional racetrack.

  45. Michael Grievson says:

    In glad to see people behind kimi. I’ve always been a fan and thought ferrari would never accept him. The way they have publicly put him down is shocking

    1. Peter says:

      Agree with the media thing. When Kimi eats an icream he gest huge ctitics when Lewis crashes into the wall its because he is so much a racer he was pushing 110% and I have no problem with Lewis.

      1. Michael Grievson says:

        Exactly. Evenwhen he was eating the ice cream he’d already retired because his KERS was flooded from the rain

  46. DC says:

    What about Kimi & Rosberg at Brawn and Lewis & Kovy at McLaren to satisfy both the german requirement and the lewis requirement?

    1. James says:

      The team in it’s current form has been built around Lewis, not for him. An F1 team involves two drivers. No driver is bigger than the team, no matter how much they may think it.

      1. Oli says:

        Indeed. Remember that whilst the WDC is the championship with the most cache, the WCC is where the teams earn their prize money. Even if Macca had favoured Lewis in 08 they still should have won the WCC given the fact they had the best car. It was Kovy’s poor performances that season which lost it for them- when Lewis faltered he should have been there to pick up the points.

        This year given no championship is at stake it’s unlikely they wouldn’t have given him a fair crack of the whip, but he’s shown nothing to demonstrate that he has the consistency even to be a solid #2 driver. He will almost certainly have a home next year, but it won’t be at Macca.

        Also worth noting in 08 he was Ron’s third choice- Rosberg was the first but Williams wouldn’t let him go.

      2. tomo says:

        Very well said. I couldn’t agree more.

        Kovy has let down the team on more occasions than I care to remember.

        He was a POOR rear gunner during 2008. He lacks the competitive edge and people pass him far too easily.

      3. James H. says:

        Was Andretti really a much quicker and more consistent driver than R. Peterson? The evidence that year says he was, but sometimes “the team” has other agendas, James. WADR.

  47. Med says:

    How desirable is a Brawn drive for next year? They were flying at the start of the season after having spent all that time and money on it (despite the winter worries), but they don’t really seem to have been keeping pace with their rivals’ rate of development through the season and I’m wondering where they’ll stack up next year.

    As a Williams fan, I’m also wondering when they’ll announce their engine supplier – hopefully they’ll carry their good form through to next year and a Williams Renault will be winning races like in the good ol’ days.

    James, while we’re talking about changes for 2010, what’s the chances of you replacing Eddie Jordan trackside so we can get some actual F1 insight, or replacing Legard so we have someone who at least sounds like they want to be there?

    1. James says:

      I reckon Brawn are probably gonna be competing around where BMW were this time last season in 2010. The cars wont change much next season, driver style is probably going to be a bigger focus (i.e. who can nurse their tyres better over a race. Agressive drivers such as Lewis could end up making 3 stops for tyres).

      Ross Brawn is a smart bloke, and I reckon he has another ace or two up his sleeve yet, maybe Brawn will try their own version of Red Bull’s pull rod suspension? On the subject of which, I’m sure Adrian Newey has a trick or two to come as well.

      Brawn will have more sponsership next year as well, which will help fund their development program which has been their main issue this year. Then in 2011, they could become the Mercedes works team. I dont think 2009 will be a one off for Brawn at all.

      1. DC says:

        Suppose Brawn becomes Mercedes works team in 2011, what do you think will happen with McLaren?

        Would they still be able to just retain the McLaren Mercedes name and just become a ‘customer engine’ team?

      2. Alistair Blevins says:

        I think McLaren will start producing their own F1 engine in the not too distant future.

        It wants to break into the road car market as a serious contender to Ferrari and Porsche and I think building their own engine gives them that credibility.

        Have no idea if they’ve been investing in the appropriate F1 infrastructure, however given the new MP4-12c roadcar is using an in-house engine then it’s not beyond the realms of possibility.

      3. Monktonnik says:

        Probably because he has beaten a world champion in the same team, has won races from 14th on the grid, has shown this year that he can overtake and win the race without having the best car or strategy and most importantly out scored everyone else in the last half of 2006,including Alonso and Schumacher, in a dreadful car. That in itself is probably the greatest achievement of his career.

        I am not deluding myself that he is the greatest driver in history, but all the bashing going on in this thread is unjustified. His weakness is excelling with a less than perfect car, but even Alonso had to change brake suppliers in 2007 to feel comfortable in the car.

      4. Monktonnik says:

        For some reason this is against the wrong post, sorry.

      5. Finn says:

        Do Brawn not need to keep Rubens in terms of set-up work?

        Rosberg and Button might not be the best combination.

        Rosberg and Rubens might work a lot better.

    2. john g says:

      legard wants to be there… problem is that no-one else wants him there (including martin brundle it seems to me, poor bloke)

      agree that legard and EJ have had their chance and not impressed tho. legard just shouts out the obvious (mostly what’s happening on the screen) and offers no insight or knowledge. EJ just reminds everyone that he used to be a team owner, in between brown nosing bernie.

      1. Michael Grievson says:

        well said. JL is knowledgable but needs more passion. He’s too….british :) Very reserved. lol. If I hear one more Jordon reference I’ll scream.

        Even DC didn’t turn out as expected.
        Jake is doing a good job though and MB is great as ever

    3. sandra graham says:

      James to replace Johnathan Legard. Eddie does amuse. Even if its just the look on David Coultard’s face at the latest eddism.

  48. caanan says:

    Do you think Jacques will slot in anywhere next year or is he dreaming??

  49. Ian Blackwell says:

    Have I got the facts wrong or is Red Bull the only team sticking to its 2009 diver lineup? That has to be some sort of record in itself!

    Congratulations to Mr Allen for calling this one correctly months ago.

    1. James Allen says:

      No, also Toro Rosso and maybe Force India if Liuzzi can have more weekends like Monza than Singapore in the remaining races.

  50. Mark says:

    James,
    Do you think Mclaren & Ferrari will be in a better position than other teams as the KERS unit will be removed & replaced with larger fuel tanks so they won’t have to mess around too much with the weight distribution like some of the others now will?

    1. James Allen says:

      Not really, they will all have to lengthen the wheelbase a bit. I expect both teams to be strong next year.

    2. john g says:

      i think ferrari have KERS (at least part of it) in their nosecone as with these big front tyres, you need a more forward weight distribution than normal.

  51. Ed says:

    James, if Jenson left Brawn, what are the chances of him ending up at Williams… Can they forget his back track on the contract?

  52. john g says:

    james, i don’t think heidfeld will be too keen on joining sutil at the moment!! :) i think liuzzi is doing a fine job actually – i hoped he would.

    drivers i’d like to see back in F1:
    sato
    klien
    davidson
    speed
    also, who was that japanese driver a few years back that the FIA removed his superlicense, but in reality drove about as well as massa did at the time

  53. Harveyeight says:

    We criticise drivers for making unforced errors and the mechanics for failing to attach various nuts and bolts but team managers are just a likely to be cause of their own downfall and they manage it in the comfort of board rooms.

    It is a well-known adage in rugby that the only person who can score an own goal is the team selector. Some F1 team managers have the ability in driver selection that I have in picking business partners (another story).

    Williams, with Hill the WDC, went for JV and then Head spent the whole of the season, and a bit of the following one, moaning about him, this despite a whole season for Head to know his failings. They learnt little from the experience and have made duff decisions since.

    There seems little doubt that Ferrari are sponsor led in the pursuit of Alonso. One could say that he’s bought his drive, at least for 2010. With that sort of investment in him Massa stands no chance. He’ll be driving for another team in 2011. But for a while there will be excitement in the red team’s pits.

    Rosberg and Button will also be a bit fraught. The outcome there will be fascinating. My money’s on Rosberg.

    But Kimi and Lewis, that’s a difficult one. I can’t really get a handle on Kimi. For all the macho posturing of so many drivers in the past, he is the one who seems totally unflustered by the interpersonal conflicts that have beset so many other partnerships over the years.

    I bet Lewis is a wee bit nervous. I have absolutely no idea whether Kimi is.

    Williams needs drivers of some capability. If Rosberg moves on it will be a body blow, one which I am by no means certain they can cope with. Ed’s suggestion of Button drifting back in intriguing but not, I would suggest, likely.

    Let’s face it, the modifier of silly for the season is inappropriate. This is certainly more exciting that the Singapore GP. That was really silly.

  54. cliff says:

    Personally i think Lewis/kimi should bring out the best in both drivers albeit with Lewis maybe shading it only just…Aloso/Massa should be quite tasty on the basis that Massa already knows the characteristics of the F60 which is unlikely to dramatically change in 2010 giving him a little advantage although Fernando is as good as it gets.Should make for an interesting season next year.

  55. Spyros says:

    I wonder if Ferrari really will be competitive in 2010. I know James has commented on this, but I can’t help but feel that the somewhat thirsty engine in the Ferrari (as exposed in Spa) will really hurt them, when they’ll have to carry enough fuel for 305km…

    I suspect it was this, and not Bhp output, that Ferrari would have wanted to improve, if FIA had let them (and a few others) tweak their motor a bit, to catch up with McLaren. Presumably, now that FIA asked for Mercedes to ‘mute’ their engine a tad, they’ll be even better off, as far as fuel efficiency is concerned…

    Kimi could turn out to be the luckiest driver in the 2010 grid..!

    1. Uppili says:

      How do we know that Ferrari did not just bring in Kimi earlier than required at Spa at the same lap as Fisi, just to deprive him laps in free air? Remember, Fisi seemed faster than Kimi in free air and the only way Ferrari were going to win that race is by keeping Fisi behind them and their KERS system would take care of the rest….

  56. Nikki says:

    Hi James

    I was just curious to know how the driver moves get out to the public/press in the first place?

    How does it go from lawyers in a room negotiating to common knowledge, so long before the deal is announced?

    Nikki

  57. raffamuffin says:

    Well it’s all out in the open now, a day early! Let’s hope Kimi doesn’t quit F1 completely and comes over to Macca :)

  58. This is gorgeous, in that weirdly ironic way. Thank you.

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