Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Engine Blood 21/01/2014: Special "Don't Call It A Comeback (Even Though It Is)" Edition

* Kamui's BACK!

Yes, the one-man excitement machine himself, Japan's Kamui Kobayashi, makes a welcome return from the wilderness to drive for...  Oh, it's Caterham.  Cancel the excitement alarm, lads - he'll be backmarkin'!

After exploding onto the scene with Toyota in 2009, filling in for an injured Timo Glock and immediately mixing it with the then-newly crowned champion Jenson Button (who described Kobayashi as "absolutely crazy"), he took a shunt-filled half a season to adjust to life at Sauber, but really impressed in his three years with the Swiss kingmaker.

Unfortunately, he was jettisoned for last season after the team's finances became a huge concern.  For two years they had existed on Sergio Perez's Mexican sponsorship money; with Perez heading to McLaren, and Hulkenberg on Sauber's shopping list, Kobayashi's meagre sponsorship was deemed insufficient, and he was shown the door not long after scoring an emotional first podium at Suzuka.

In a last-ditch attempt to secure a seat for 2013, he raised millions of pounds of sponsorship in a sort of crowdsourcing-type affair, as youngsters are wont to do, but decided to wait until 2014 to try to secure a front-running drive.

Sadly, a punchline is not necessary.

* Completing 2014's grid will be his Caterham teammate, Marcus Ericsson.  The Swede is a debutant at the highest level, but has been in GP2 for...  HOW LONG?  Jesus.  For all you number watchers out there, Ericsson will wear 9, Kobayashi 10 (again, slow hand clap for the inventiveness there, guys) whilst formerly numberless Max Chilton has opted for 4.

No-one fancies zero, then?  Or is Damon Hill making a comeback?

* But will Caterham be a going concern after 2014?  Owner Tony Fernandes thinks perhaps not, having oddly followed his aggressive pursuit and hiring of two drivers - at the expense of the more-than-passable Giedo Van Der Garde and the common or garden Charles Pic - with the delivery of an ultimatum: score points or I'm off (probably).

Last season the team finished last in the Constructors' Championship - the first time that has happened to them, as they've usually had HRT or Marussia to prop them up.  But an unlikely thirteenth place from the latter's Jules Bianchi condemned Caterham to the doldrums, and Mr Fernandes is getting a wee bit annoyed at being bottom of the league; let's face it, life with Queens Park Rangers will do that to you!

And that will be our last attempt at football humour.  Thank you.

* Maybe it won't matter, though, as the circus is coming back to town: yes!  It's the latest Formula One expansion!  The FIA are asking for parties interested in running a new team to come forward and pay them a small fortune for the privilege of applying.  No guarantees of a place - they want hard currency for even giving you the time of day. 

These often turn into fantastic fun; think of it as an episode of "Who Wants To Be Tony Fernandes?"  We might get another one of Prodrive's increasingly ill-fated attempts to get on the grid, or another US F1 debacle, or even better another appearance of Stefan GP, a team whose entire entry strategy consisted of getting a website, phoning Kazuki Nakajima up and just turning up to some races with a old Toyota, hoping to sneak onto the grid unnoticed.

(Actually, we've just looked it up and prospective team principal Zoran Stefanović IS giving it a go for 2015!  Oh, please, good lord, let it be him!)

Anyway, it seems a NASCAR team owner called Gene Haas wants to be Tony Fernandes.  Now, he's not to be confused with Carl Haas, who ran Team Haas in 1985 and 1986, best known for employing Alan Jones way past his prime; also not to be confused with professional wrestler Charlie Haas, a three-time WWE Tag Team Champion; further not to be confused with Gene L. Coon, Gene Roddenberry, the Jean Genie or the band Gene, and most definitely not to be confused with Carl Coon, who I just made up.

Anyway, he...  Er...  Ah.  Can't remember what we were talking about, so...

* Finally, and neatly bookending our returns special, almost as if it were a deliberate choice of layout or something, comes the (several days old) news that Ron Dennis, the Emperor Palpatine of Formula One, has harnessed the powers of the dark side to throw Martin Whitmarsh from a precipice and retake his position as the Blood Lord of McLaren Formula One.

Particularly narked after a winless season last year, and presumably getting no sympathy from Tony Fernandes, he wrested his throne back from Mr Whitmarsh, who they will probably say is on gardening leave, though Dennis appears to be swilling a viscous red liquid from a cup that looks suspiciously like the unfortunate interloper's skull.

Dennis climbed atop the grisly peaks of Mount Horror to boom this ominous warning across the valleys below: "[McLaren's shareholders] mandated me to write an exciting new chapter in the story of McLaren, beginning by improving our on-track and off-track performance.  NOW COWER BEFORE ME, PUNY MORTALS!!!" (source: mainly BBC Sport, some filler)

And THAT'S all the blood that's fit to drain!  Good gravy, it's not long now!

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