Raikkonen, Alonso and Ferrari: What will happen now?

In July, while Kimi Raikkonen was in a limbo between a move to Red Bull and staying at Lotus, F1 media was in a storm of these news. Ferrari was even not in the game during those days. Kimi Raikkonen has expressed media his view about his decision in following words “There has to be an overall package that feels right to me. Whatever the decision, it might feel stupid to somebody else, but then it might just feel right for me” These strange words have prompted me to think that he may be considering Ferrari. I have written this on Twitter but in a sarcastic way, because this was a ridiculous probability in those days.

But, within days, we started to read these in internet, talked talked and occupied headlines for 2 months. Finally, Kimi signed with Ferrari for 2 years deal and he came back to the team which fired him in 2009.

There were two many question marks about this news, therefore I wanted to share my view by answering followers’ questions.

Q1.Will Ferrari keep 1st driver system? Will team let them race? (Hikmet Meryumoğlu-Hasan Harun Karaduman)

Actually, Ferrari already hasn’t had any 1st driver since Schumacher era has ended. This was mostly based on Massa’s outstanding performance in Schumacher’s farewell season. Contrary to expectations, team had not named Raikkonen as 1st driver, treated Massa and Raikkonen equal. Hence, Massa has become faster than Kimi in first half of 2007 season. Eventually, Kimi had gotten the upper hand by beginning from French GP and equal treatment had continued up until Felipe Massa’s championship hopes ended mathematically. Reverse situation was seen in 2008 season and equal treatment continued until Raikkonen’s title hopes ended mathematically. Alonso and Massa started 2010 season equally, however Alonso’s first driver status began much earlier than expected, when the points difference was around 40. This was due to several reasons including Alonso’s ambition, egoism (remember how he pushed Massa out of the way while entering pit lane in Chinese GP)his tremendous speed and leading the team. Later on, Massa could never challenge Alonso and Spaniard became natural 1st driver. But again, the team never called him as first driver.

As a conclusion, it is not reasonable to name one of them as a 1st driver, especially drivers are such two ultra speedy champions. Unless one of these guys clearly dominates the other one, there wont be number 1 driver in Ferrari.

Q2.If Vettel/Webber’s Turkish GP accident will repeat between Alonso and Raikkonen, whom will Ferrari support? (Talha Ömer Gol)

First of all, I don’t expect such kind of a crash between Alonso and Raikkonen, as both drivers are very expert in defending and attacking. For at least five or six years, we haven’t watched such an incident where these drivers were included. Lets say this happened. What will be the result? Had I been team principal, I would definitely not blame one of them even if one driver has the shame. Instead, I would solve the problem behind closed doors. Otherwise, this could cause them be offended. I don’t expect a Red Bull-wise “defending the guilty” behavior from Ferrari. In short, none of the drivers will be defended in that case.

Q3.Will Raikkonen afford 2nd driver role? Will he accept supporting Alonso? (Onur Baran Okten)

Actually, this is a dead born question as Raikkonen wont be 2nd driver. While transferring him, Ferrari didn’t aim having a support driver, instead they aimed creating a super team. However, it is a reality that if Alonso will be clearly faster and Raikkonen becomes natural number 2 driver, Kimi’s motivation will decrease a lot. We can predict this from how he behaved during 2008 season and in the first half of 2009 season.

Q4. I think Raikkonen is a better driver than Alonso now, especially after his rally experience. Will Alonso afford being number 2 driver? (Dinçer Yılmaz)

This is totally reverse of previous question. All of us agree that Raikkonen is a better driver in comparison with his first F1 adventure. Rallying should have definitely taught him a lot. However, I don’t expect a performance which will overshadow Alonso. I expect very close performances from those two guys. Lets say, Kimi started to pass Alonso consistently, then I don’t expect a demotivated Alonso, instead he could fight to the end. If after then, Ferrari focuses on Raikkonen, this will open the way for Alonso leave the team.

Q5.Will Ferrari be able to manage these two drivers? What kind of a management method should they conduct? (Gökhan Eroğlu-Berker Yıldırım-Efkan Sefa Bekar)

Before approaching the subject as Ferrari, I shall state this: Next year Formula 1 will see the most difficult driver line-up since Senna-Prost dual. Hamilton and Button were two champions too but they weren’t a contrast synthesis like Raikkonen-Alonso. They went on very moderately for quite a long time, remember Turkey 2010, they made jokes on the podium after a tooth and nail fight. From this point of view, we should say that Ferrari aspire to a very difficult job.

Will Ferrari be able to manage these two drivers? Obviously, the Ferrari that we have been seeing in recent years don’t look like they can. It isn’t logical to expect such a tough work from a team that is used to uplift one of their driver and make the other one support him and as a result offending him.

What kind of a management method should they choose? Firstly, Luca di Montezemolo as well as Domenicali will have to be within the team much more than before. His leadership will prevent the discomforts that may come especially from Alonso side. Secondly, they should specify on-circuit rules very clearly. For example, who will go first in the qualifying, with which order will they come to the pits at the race, will they be free to attack each other on the circuit no matter how the situation is, at what rate will they attend to the simulator working and test sessions should be talked and they should get the approvals of the drivers. In order not to repeat Red Bull’s famous “Multi 21” in Ferrari too, the drivers should be warned and informed very clearly.

Thirdly, the drivers should be evaluated with their characters. Alonso who lives at the factory and Raikkonen who dislikes such things shouldn’t be treated same. They shouldn’t demand excessive from a Raikkonen who obeys the minimum conditions.

And fourthly, the drivers should be told that they have their own responsibilities. I mean, giving the set up of Alonso who sleeps at the garage to find the right set up to Raikkonen who arrives to the circuit just 15 minutes before only makes Alonso unhappy. This should be taken into account too.

Ferrari have aspired to a very tough duty, but you know what they say, as you make your bed, so you must lie upon it or one who loves roses should endure the thorns.

Q6.Does the same incident that happened in Malaysia likely to happen in Ferrari too? (Tahsin Armutcu)

Actually, they can’t ask for such a thing easily neither from Kimi nor from Alonso. These two guys both would like to show everyone that he is faster than the other. Even if such a demand comes from the team, maybe they want it at the first part of the season, but as the season progresses both will disobey this decision. So, theorically the event that happened in Malaysia may occur, but Ferrari most probably won’t even ask something like that from them in order to maintain the balance in the team. 

 Q7.Did Ferrari aim for the Constructors’ Championship or Drivers’ Championship with this transfer? (Erol Pazarbaşı)

They aimed to win both titles. Ferrari last won the Constructors’ Championship in 2008 and after that year they couldn’t even come close to winning from points’view. As well known, F1 incomes are distributed  according to the Constructors Championship standings and if you become the winner rather than 2nd, you earn much more extra income than Raikkonen’s one -year salary. If you add the sponsorship and advertisement revenues incomes too then it is worth hiring Raikkonen for this goal.

For the Drivers’ Championship, having a strong second driver means the title candidate steals more points from his rivals. We have to accept that Massa couldn’t support Alonso in this sense almost at all. Next year, Alonso or Raikkonen, whoever is closer to the championship, the points that his team mate steals from the rivals will be very effective. Ferrari for sure have taken this into account.

Q8.How right is it for Raikkonen to go back to the team that fired him? (Ahmet Coşkun)

Even if he was fired, Raikkonen never told any bad words about Ferrari after he left. But on the contrary; even if he wasn’t fired from McLaren, he declared many times that he wasn’t happy while he was there and didn’t want to go back there. So in fact, he liked the atmosphere in Ferrari and he had a continuous emotional bond with them. So his return shouldn’t be seen that absurd.

It also has the success and money sides. Ferrari, thanks to their history and fans’ support as well as the sponsorship supports, have always been the team that pays the highest salaries to their drivers for long years.  The Ferrari drivers have been the most earning drivers of Formula 1 since the Schumacher era. Furthermore, you can be sure that, except from a few exceptional seasons, Ferrari gives them a car that is capable of winning and a candidate for title. Raikkonen that considered all these together, made his choice to their way.

Q9.Ferrari got affected on Raikkonen decision following Alonso’s words, or are there other reasons? Did  possibility of Alonso leaving the team cause this? (Onur Ömer Öztürk-Harun Bodur)

Actually, we can say that Alonso completely caused it himself. Of course we are not in the team, we can’t know what kind of things happened there. We can only interpret the clues and say something. When I put all the rumours and all the talks together, I personally can comment that while the team wasn’t thinking Raikkonen seriously, suddenly went to that point. Why?

1.Ferrari weren’t  evaluating any possibilities that can disturb Alonso. Because of that, while we didn’t even hear Raikkonen’s name we had heard Hulkenberg and Di Resta names. These drivers are young and fast, and also they are drivers who can accept being the 2nd driver behind Alonso at this point.

2. With Hulkenberg, signs and the pre-contract were done. The contract was completed at the Hungary GP weekend and Hulkenberg apparently thought, not for sure but, he joined the team.

However, Alonso’s growing unhappiness since the middle of the European season and his criticizing the team candidly and also indirectly and as a last straw, Alonso’s made public his unhappiness in the Hungarian GP apparently led Ferrari into concerns. In addition, Alonso’s manager’s meeting with Red Bull absolutely put everyone under stress. A team like Ferrari can be exposed to very bad results if they race at the unknown, close-lipped 2014 season without a champion driver. Because of that, they activated the plan B, and Raikkonen was transferred just in case. So actually, if Alonso were the old loyal Alonso, Hulkenberg would probably be a Ferrari driver.

Q10.How should we evaluate Ferrari’s deal with Kimi instead of Hulkenberg from the perspective of importance that is given to the youngsters?  Do they miss the young weapons by opting to hire Kimi? (Onur Ömer Öztürk)

While all top teams at the grid gave opportunity to the young and inexperienced drivers, Ferrari don’t take this risk at all. Remember, McLaren gave the seat to Hamilton when he was 22 and had no experience in F1 at all. Mercedes gave chance to Rosberg, Red Bull to Vettel at 2009 and to Ricciardo at 2014, Lotus gave Grosjean chance twice when he was very young. Ferrari don’t do this at all. Of course the most important reason is the amount of Tifosi community. The team’s managed with Italian mentality, the impatience of the fans and the possibility of the negative effects of excessive pressure over young drivers cause them not to be hired earlier.

Hulkenberg actually has sufficient experience and he can handle this pressure. This is already the reason that they signed with him. But a possible Alonso leave spoiled all these plans and the team directed itself towards a guaranteed name.

Hulkenberg and Bianchi will have their seats when the time comes. None of the drivers plan his future without having a certain answer from Ferrari. I mean, Ferrari cant miss any candidate. With a few exceptions, they can give the seat to whom they want and whenever they want.  The attraction of the red…

Q11.I think Alonso must have dictated “some clauses” when Raikkonen was hired. How do you think? (Turul Kalafat)

I don’t think so. I think they didn’t even ask Alonso when Raikkonen was hired. As I emphasized at the previous questions, Alonso lost some of the advantages of his 1st driver status after criticizing the team in front of public. He might be promised to have “equal treatment” and was only settled with the praises in the declarations such as “Alonso is a great driver, he is a superb leader” etc. etc.

Q12.How big role James Allison has in the transfer of Raikkonen? (Zuhal Oren)

When Ferrari fired Raikkonen in 2009, they had mentioned three basic reasons for that. First, insufficient support from Raikkonen in the technical issues. Second, being reluctant to join the sponsorship activities. Third, lack of his leadership.

As James Allison has been working with Kimi for two years, he was probably asked about Kimi’s contribution to technical issues. As far as we understand, he said that Kimi had improved and was giving feedbacks very efficiently. This influenced the team to decide on Kimi positively.

I should remind one thing. Kimi must have acted this role obligatory in Lotus as Grosjean’s feedback is insufficient. I don’t think Kimi would be so keen for technical support when Alonso and De La Rosa are there.

Q13.Is James Allison’s alignment with the team an advantage for Kimi? (Ahmet  Coşkun-Zuhal Oren)

Yes it does but not an extra advantage. Considering that Alonso will have the same advantage, the result will be equal. Kimi has been working with James Allison for last two years, Alonso worked with Allison during his entire career in Renault (2005-2006-2008-2009) and won two championships with him. So their status are equal, Allison is an advantage for both of them.

 Q14. Raikkonen has helped Massa in 2008. If the situation comes to the same stage, will Raikkonen help Alonso? (Ahmet Coşkun) If it is the last race of the season and Raikkonen goes to the championship, will an aimless Alonso let him pass by ? (Mustafa Erkan)

Two questions are the opposite of each other. If Ferrari manages the equal treatment duly and one of the drivers beat the other with a very big margin and runs towards the championship, the other helps his team mate after his hopes are over for the championship. Both Alonso and Raikkonen are drivers of this maturity.

Q15.Raikkonen couldn’t dominate Massa, but Alonso outpaced him very clearly. Theorically Alonso must be faster than Raikkonen, mustn’t he? What has changed in Raikkonen ? (İsmet Hacıbeyli)

Theoretically yes, I mean on the paper this should be correct but we can’t make a theorem like that for a sport like Formula 1 that changes very rapidly. The cars have changed, tyres have changed, drivers have changed, rules have changed, there are dozens of variables like this. Here is what I claim, if Alonso had raced at Ferrari in 2008 with Massa, he couldn’t have done the dominance that he has been doing for last three years. They would finish very close to each other, Massa could even finish ahead Alonso. That year Massa had a very good harmony with the car and the tyres, he could warm his tyres very quickly and he could maintain his dominance at race like Vettel does. But as for consistency, he was almost the same. He was having problems with rain again (remember, he had 5 spins in Silverstone that year), he couldn’t gain so many positions after falling back.

Kimi had lost his motivation after so many back-to-back problems (in France the broken exhaust, in Canada Lewis’ hit at the pit lane, in Spa fight with Lewis and missing the win…) Since then up to now, he has driven so many cars in different categories, they all fed Kimi with something too. He grew old, he got mature. He has been the most consistent F1 driver from points’ view. He showed that he hasn’t lost anything from his racing spirit. In short, Raikkonen is not a piece of cake for Alonso. The comparison in the question is not valid.

Q16.Will Ferrari be the last stop for Kimi ? (Fulya Guray)

Most probably yes. If Raikkonen wont say anything that humiliates the team in front of the world and be fired (I don’t expect it at all), Raikkonen will retire from Ferrari at the end of 2 years.

Q17.How long will Raikkonen and Alonso remain as team mates? (Abdullah Top)

A very difficult question. The answer totally depends on Alonso. If Alonso doesn’t drop behind Raikkonen and if he can pass him at least in a noticeable way, then the duo will race together until Raikkonen retires. If Raikkonen starts to pass Alonso while both drivers have equal results and a rival from other teams opens the gap because of this, Alonso may leave at the end of next year. A possible McLaren move shouldn’t be disregarded for Alonso.

Q18.Does a similar fight as of Alonso-Hamilton happen between Raikkonen-Alonso? (Fulya Guray)

For sure there will be a historical competition, no one should expect a peaceful Ferrari. But I don’t think there will be the rivalry of Alonso-Hamilton in 2007 at all. Here Raikkonen will be the balance element. Kimi Raikkonen has never complained for any of his team mates, and he never quarreled with anyone in his career. Therefore, he will focus on his job. And as Raikkonen won’t provoke Alonso, there won’t be a fighting atmosphere as was in 2007. If you remember, in 2007 not only Alonso and Hamilton but the engineers at the both side of the garage were divided too. 

In 2007 the issue worsened a lot because McLaren managed the process very bad. Things won’t come to this stage in Ferrari.

Q19.How will Raikkonen’s arrival affect Alonso?  (Efkan Sefa Bekar) Which driver will dominate and why? (Elçhin Zodorov-Hikmet Meryumoğlu)

I prefered to answer these two questions together because I will discourse the same subjects. Let’s evaluate all the variables and have a conclusion.

How does Raikkonen’s arrival affect Alonso?  Of course psychologically it won’t affect positively. Let’s take a look at Alonso’s career in the competitive teams. He raced in his Renault career in 2003 and 2004 with Trulli, in 2005 and 2006 with Fisichella, in McLaren with Hamilton, again in Renault in 2008 with Nelson Piquet Jr, in 2009 with Piquet Jr and Grosjean.  In Ferrari he has raced with Massa for 3 years.  Among all these team mates, Hamilton was the one that pushed him the most and he had a historical fight with him. Fisichella pushed him a bit in 2006, he then lamented in front of the public that his team doesn’t support him. Massa pushed him a bit in 2010 and there came the famous pit lane fight in China and in Germany “this is ridiculous, Felipe is slower than me” incident happened. So in short, a fast team mate doesn’t work for Alonso.  In this case, fight and unhappiness are almost inevitable. As character, Alonso is at the same time very stubborn. A fast team mate also motivates him, because he never gives up. With Raikkonen’s arrival a faster team mate than Massa will give him a faster reference point and he will push more.

Talking of who dominates …. Principally, don’t even think of a world that one of the drivers continuously beats the other. Especially when both drivers are that similar in the qualifying/race balance… Neither Alonso nor Raikkonen are extra talented in qualifying like kinds of Vettel or Hamilton. But both are exceptionally quick in the race pace. When these two drivers are such alike, the difference will be defined by their harmony to the different circuits. We know that Alonso is naturally fast at the circuits like Barcelona, Monaco, Singapore while Raikkonen is equally and naturally fast at the circuits like Malaysia, Spa, Hungary. At some circuits Alonso will shine, at some of them Raikkonen will. When his team mate is at the front, the driver who gets to him closest will be higher at the points’ standing.

The subjects that put Alonso’s distinction will affect the overall season result. It is known by all that Raikkonen doesn’t like simulator work. Moreover, it is believed that Red Bull’s decision not to transfer Raikkonen lies on the disagreements at the simulator work hours. Furthermore, another important subject is the meetings at the race weekends with engineers after the session is over until the circuit closes. Raikkonen is a driver that tends to leave the circuit as soon as the session is over. While Alonso wonders everything that goes within the car and tries to learn them all, Raikkonen isn’t interested in these. All these matters can make Alonso put Raikkonen a step behind. Of course there is also the matter of the possibility for the team to accept Alonso a leader within them.

During the year when one of them starts to dominate the other, looking back to the previous experiences we can guess that Alonso will keep fighting, and Raikkonen will not push so hard. And this is not a positive factor on behalf of the Finn.

Based on all these indicators, I think that an Alonso who is outpacing Raikkonen is more likely than the opposite possibility.  The Spaniard will unite his talent with hard working soul, and he will manage to come back after the failures with his ambition and motivation.  In addition, his superb fast team mate may even facilitate his job by stealing points from rivals.

Raikkonen, on the other hand, will try to convert his natural talent into on-circuit speed and try to eliminate all the negative possibilities.  He will never be a piece of cake, maybe in contrary to the expectations he will beat Alonso.

In conclusión, if one of the drivers doesn’t have any technical problems (for instance, not adapting to tyres..) I expect very close performances, but I guess overall Alonso will be one step ahe

Mclaren-Honda marriage in 6 questions

The news of the legendary Mclaren-Honda partnership’s return that had been speculated since 2011 is now confirmed with the declaration made last week.  McLaren, starting from 2015 onwards, put an end to its 18-years partnership with Mercedes and made an engine supply agreement with Honda.

Even if it is not valued neither Ferrari nor Mercedes, Honda is actually one of the most devoted constructors of the sport. They were always a part of the game during the 49 years since the year of their debut to the sport, in 1964, till today with a few exceptional times.  Furthermore, their landing up at Formula 1 only 4 years after starting to produce road cars indicates how F1 perception is penetrated into the DNA’s of the company. In short, we as F1 fans should be grateful to Honda for the support they give to the sport.

Honda had a lot of success during their 49 years history but the most memorable was the success that was a result of the partnership with McLaren and made today’s Red Bull dominance look as nothing compared to this success. Honda expanded their success in the sport every year after coming back to sport in 1983 with Williams and finally, they won the championship with Piquet in 1987. In 1988, the legendary McLaren-Honda team started to dominate with Senna and Prost in all the circuits. In 1988 the team won 15 pole positions and 15 race wins out of the 16 races. In the only race with no wins in Monza, Senna retired because of a backmarker’s mistake during lapping.  The team won 4 championships and a 2nd place out of the 5 seasons between 1988-1992. In short, they showed a brilliant performance. If we get excited when we see these names together, McLaren-Honda, it is because of these golden era.

And now, Honda returns with McLaren to F1 to which had taken a break after the fruitless Bar-Honda and Honda Racing days. Let’s examine this news with 6 questions.

Why have Honda returned to the sport?

Obviously, the engine suppliers don’t come to Formula 1 without any goals. They try to carry know-how from their main business to F1 and from F1 to their business. If these two field branches have no connection between themselves, then it can’t be anything but the publicity to the brand. When Honda left F1 at the end of the 2008 season, they had only one win to their accounts and that came in an eventful and rainy Hungarian GP. The engine, the most expensive part of an F1 car as it is still, was a 8 cylinder engine and this wasn’t a technology that Honda used on their road cars.

However, the turbo charged V6 engine that will be used starting from 2014 is an engine kind that Honda have been producing and using on their road cars for many years. While possessing such a technology, it wouldn’t be a reasonable move not to enter F1 which has a high advertisement power already. Especially if you enter to the sport with the 2nd most successful team of the sport’s history, then it can only be called as cherry on the cake. 

How will it affect the McLaren/Mercedes relationship?

Not badly as expected, but not well as unexpected. How so? Namely, the engine suppliers are not only in charge of supplying engines to the teams with their deal. Engine /aero / tyre variants influence each other, so these 3 forms should be in a very good harmony and bond. In this context, Mercedes will fulfill their basic responsibilities to McLaren. That’s what I mean with “not badly as expected”. 

Then what does “not well as unexpected” mean? In the long-term engine supply deals (and McLaren-Mercedes is the best example of it today) the parts of the deal work more closely than normal. They exchange their comments about the main structure of the next year’s car. McLaren will lose this extra special status. But it won’t make a significant effect. 

Is it a risk for McLaren?

Of course it is a risk for McLaren that they will use the engine produced by a team that were out of sport for five years. Especially, while the other teams will be racing with the engines in 2015 that were fixed and cleaned of the errors thanks to experimenting and learning from them in 2014.  McLaren is a big team and it can’t bear the similar unsuccessful experience that Williams went through with Cosworth. Probably what gives comfort to McLaren is the truth that Honda are experienced in turbo charged V6 technology. In short, yes it is a risk but not a big risk.

What are McLaren’s advantages?

McLaren have two big advantages:

1.Instead of paying 20 million Euro per year, keeping this amount on the pocket. Of course McLaren didn’t take this risk without any price. Honda’s returning with one of the most successful teams of the sport had a price and it is thought to be the free engine supply. 

2.Finding an engine supplier that only works for it. If we remember; Honda were, especially in 2008, very generous about the budget, they made to the team the highest expenses of that season. The situation will be similar and McLaren will have the luxury to use all Honda’s sources in 2015.

Will the old days come back?

It wouldn’t be correct to call it impossible. Many remembered and got emotioned the legendary red white colours of McLaren-Honda and Senna years after the news was released. It is very normal. However, McLaren and Honda and Formula 1, they all changed. Williams-Renault got united again in the sport but the expected result didn’t come. The Senna surname came back to F1 but it only helped the old Senna fans to sadden. I mean, F1 changed so much and nostalgia doesn’t make the cars faster.

To see the overwhelming dominance of those years again in F1 is very difficult if not impossible. FIA has interfered to the sport to break the dominance of first Ferrari then Red Bull in the last 10 years.

This duo can be champions. Today everyone knows that Renault engine is not stronger than Ferrari nor Mercedes but inside the Red Bull chassis Renault engine became champion in the last 3 years. When Mercedes-engined Brawn became champion in 2009, other Mercedes engine McLaren had a lot of trouble for a long time. In short, in the balance of engine /chassis, chassis has the upper hand over engine.  If the great days are to return, we should expect it from McLaren not from Honda.

Another subject is that McLaren-Honda had two legendary drivers like Senna and Prost. Expecting from Button-Perez duo to improve McLaren and to put a huge dominance is quite senseless. McLaren have to hire a driver like Hamilton again for its driver line-up. Who knows, maybe this driver will be Vettel.  

 What does this return mean for the sport itself?

As I said before, Honda are one of the huge fans of this sport so their return is great news for the sport. Especially after Cosworth’s leave because of not finding turbo engine interesting, it would be a bad scenario for F1 to be left with only 3 engine suppliers. Honda’s coming back will be both a big help for the teams that will suffer economically from the over 20 million euros costs  (because Honda will probably be the cheapest engine supplier) and F1 will regain one of its frequenters.

I think this news will trigger the other Japanese engine supplier, Toyota, to return to the sport. Toyota produce turbo charged V6 engines and have this technology. And we know how insistent they were to have success in F1 once. They will also keep an eye on Honda and will be ready to catch an opportunity to return. I hope my forecasts prove right in the future.

Equality of drivers in Ferrari: An Oz GP analysis

Everybody smiles at Ferrari after having made one of the best season opening in the recent years. The team was almost invisible in 2011 and started last year 1.5 secs. off the pace. Now, they are finally at the front of the grid from the first race in last 3 years. Thus, this gives confidence to everyone at the team. Actually, my reason to write this article is to evaluate what happened at the Australian GP and analyze Ferrari a little bit.

Felipe Massa, after having experienced a nightmare season in 2011, then showed a poor performance at the first half of the season of 2012. At such a period while everybody thought that the team should send him, team backed him and Massa proved them right with his performance afterwards. By the way, I would like to declare one more time that I see Massa as “co-champion” with Hamilton because of his performance and result during the 2008 season. Last year there were 6.5 champions on the grid not 6, and this year there are 5.5 champions not 5. Massa came back at the second half of the 2012 season and started this year very strong.

In Melbourne, he managed to pass Alonso at the qualifying despite only with a banker and he managed to stay ahead of Alonso until the first pit stops. The driver who would come to the pit lane first would be actually the supported one at that moment as Vettel had already come to the pits and he could have stayed in front of the two Ferraris lapping with the new tyres. Massa came to the pits and he really came out in front of Alonso. Until this moment, there was nothing against Massa. While the second pit stops were expected to be around on the laps 24-25, suddenly Alonso was called to the pits at lap 20. For sure, this totally unexpected move must have had something to do with Sutil holding up the front group. But afterwards we saw that the main goal of this move was to make Alonso stay ahead of his rivals at the front after the 2nd pit stops. After seeing this; the wise pit walls of Red Bull and Force India called their drivers to the pits but Alonso still managed to stay ahead of this two. In the meantime, Alonso’s outlap was 1.51.100, Sutil’s was 1.51.500 and Vettel’s was 1.51.700.

What about Massa? He asked the same question to the pit wall too. What’s happening, what am I going to do? He was called to the pits one lap after he asked this question and he exited the pits behind this trio. So what on earth happened that Alonso was called to the pits that early? His own decision or team’s decision?

Honestly, I think it is even absurd to ask a question about this subject. Alonso was not able to make this type of a calculation while having two rivals he needs to overtake ahead within the hurry of the race. His engineer Andrea Stella can do it but he can’t make a decision without the permission of the team management and especially without dealing with Rob Smedley.  IN SHORT IN MY OPINION IT WAS A TEAM ORDER. We were thinking up to a point that the team could see both drivers as equal but in Ferrari we saw that equality has a limit too. Yes, all the cards will not be played for Alonso yet as last year, Massa will not be used as a guinea pig, two drivers will not drive with different cars, but Alonso will be given the privilege at such strategic situations. Right or wrong, I prefer not to comment on this subject, everybody has its own right. Ferrari and Red Bull treat like this, Ferrari does it obviously, Red Bull disguises it but at the end of the day two teams favor their first drivers.

Massa declared in his statement implying that he was not happy with the situation. For me Massa’s coming back to his old form was what mattered, I want two drivers to drive under equal conditions. So we can see the answer of the “who is the faster one” question more clearly.

Alonso is already as we used to know: dedicated, fast and very ambitious! On the other hand, Massa showed a strong performance at a circuit that he normally wasn’t good in; I am looking forward to watching him at different circuits. Let the faster win!

Turkish GP returns to calendar for 2013?

Some surprising news comes from Turkey which shows a big possibility of Turkish GP return into F1 calendar by 2013.

On mid-October, the tender for Istanbulpark rent was won by İstanbul MC Racing for 5 M $ per year till 2023. However, the company did not bring the necessary tender guarantee and the tender went to second best Intercity Auto Rental company which is the biggest car rental company with over 30.000 car fillet. Now, Intercity boss Vural Ak gives their first and biggest news, return of Istanbulpark into F1 calendar.

Ak says, “I personally know Bernie Ecclestone for many years. We presented our projects for Istanbulpark to him and he was impressed. He promised to decrease his 26 M $ demand, Turkish state will pay 13.5 M $ and I will pay 5 M $ from my personal budget, so we will finish deal nearly 20 M $ per year. Bernie’s biggest problem was lack of audience, we guaranteed 50.000 spectators. We want to make a 7-years-deal for Turkish GP”

As I understood, circuit owner tries to take potential French GP’s slot June, 22-23 or on summer holiday either right after Hungarian GP August 3-4 or right before Belgium GP August 17-18. But all three dates are hard practically. June, 22-23 is after Canadian GP and Britain GP is scheduled 1 week after potential Turkish GP. It is hard in terms of logistics. The remaining two dates are logistically easier but they harm summer break. For me, the week before Spanish GP (May 3-4) is better for Turkish GP, in other words putting Turkey as European season opener. It is two weeks after Bahrain GP which is the closest Asian circuit to Europe.

It seems the owners plan to make money by having a name sponsor for Turkish GP, some circuit activities, concerts, test drives and so on.

Circuit owners aim to announce final Turkish GP decision and date during FIA 2012 General Annual Assembly (will be held in Istanbul) and FIA prize giving gala.

Oh no! Pay drivers…

On these days most of the seats for the 2013 season have been declared and we sadly see that finding a seat in Formula 1 is totally focused on the financial state of the team.

I see three groups among teams:

1. The ones that are well-financed and choose their drivers for their talents and sporting achievement.

2. The ones that financially their state is on the middle and choose their drivers first to survive and then for their talent.

3. The ones that have critical financial situation and choose their drivers to survive.

The first group consists of Red Bull, Ferrari, McLaren, Mercedes, Lotus and Red Bull’s satellite team Toro Rosso. Thanks to not having financial problems, they choose drivers who can develop the car, can show all the potential of the car even if it is a bad car, have a future and can attract sponsors. The weakest member of this group is Lotus, but they too can pay for their both drivers’ salaries and can even be patient against Grosjean.

The second group consists of Sauber, Williams and Force India. Despite not being so brilliant financially, these teams can be thrown upon their own resources on developing the car, have a development budget (although it is much less than 1st group teams), have a wind-tunnel.  They have a strong basis, while choosing the driver who can bring sponsors, they have the luxury to ask for talent too. These teams are points scoring teams and they need to be sensitive about collecting maximum points to make next year’s fund more. They need drivers who can make it to podium when any chance arises, or at least some first 5 finishes. The situation can be understood clearer when we remember the Williams’ race win and Sauber’s having 4 podiums this season. At this group, Maldonado helped Williams too much with multi-millions that he brought with himself, and Perez helped Sauber too much with Telmex.  They both delighted their teams too with their sporting achievements.

The third group not surprisingly consists of Caterham, Marussia and HRT. These teams only can manage survival thanks to salaries and sponsors that drivers pay and bring. While HRT is in the most critical situation and totally dependant on the sponsors,  Marussia and Caterham were in the race of development at least with an experienced driver till this year. While closing the experience gap; Caterham with Kovalainen, Marussia with Glock; they were trying to gain some economical power with their other drivers Petrov and Pic. Marussia will be able to continue next year in the same way because for the first time since the foundation of the team they managed to get the 10th place and received a fund of at least 13 million $ and relieved for Glock’s payment.  But, Caterham looks like will split the ways with Kovalainen after problem of losing the 10th place that they had received for the last two years.

Finding sponsors to make a driver race is not a new issue in Formula 1, maybe exists since the first days of the sport. We learn this from the memories of the great drivers. For example, statistically the most successful name of the sport, Michael Schumacher, joined this sport paying and thanks to his driver substitution’s not being able to race and he made the most of his only chance and linked successfully the sport. But, today’s tough economical conditions caused the teams to focus more to the profit of sponsors than talent and experience and this is a negative situation for the future of the sport. It looks like the relatively experienced drivers like Kovalainen, Kobayashi, Bruno Senna and Petrov will leave their seats next year respectively to Van der Garde, Gutierrez, Bottas and Pic.

Don’t think that I feel sad for all of them, I’m only sad for Kovalainen. I think that after the start up careers in Renault and McLaren he learned much from tough years of Caterham and this process developed his drive and he deserves better places. I’m not sorry for Kobayashi because I think he didn’t even use the 50 % of the Sauber C31’s potential of this season. I find Petrov not bad in speed but he is inconsistent, Bruno Senna-my followers know that well- I don’t find him successful at all. My followers also know that I don’t call Bruno Senna only as Senna; I don’t think he deserves to be called only with that surname at the moment. In future? We cant know. On the other hand, I look forward to Valtteri Bottas and Gutierrez and I trust both of them, I think both of them will be in the title battle within maximum 4-5 years.

In brief, it is sad to see Formula 1, the talent sport,  become materialized with economical worries , I hope either the teams get richer or the teams in this situation leaves their place to the richer ones. Otherwise, while there are 6 champions now on the grid, in the future will be 1-2 champions and the sport will continue to live with mediocre talented drivers. Who else do we have in our hands but Vettel and Hamilton when Alonso, Button and Kimi retire?

Is Vettel only lucky? And Alonso’s championship chances…

Is Sebastian Vettel a balloon?

Sebastian Vettel, after dropping back to the end of the grid because of the big problem he had on Saturday, was either going to prove wrong the ones who criticized him for being a sponger and so lucky or was going to justify them by not being able to make the expected climb on Sunday. He managed to rise up to 11th at the first stint of the race thanks to some overtaking maneuvers and some accidents and then after the contact with Bruno Senna and with the good timing of the Safety Car he made his pit stop and dropped back to the last place again.

Afterwards, with consistent laps and a bit with the help of the second period of the Safety Car he improved. In the meantime, he made some risky overtakes too. Starting from the 24. place, having two pit stops and finishing 3rd isn’t something that a sponger can do. If the same performance had come from Alonso or Lewis Hamilton, today all the web sites, Twitter, the forums would have praised them exceedingly and yes they already would have deserved this too. In short what I want to say is that Vettel is a bit prejudiced. Even after the success of yesterday, it is ridiculous not to put him within the exceptional drivers. Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s…

I need to add one point. Of course, Vettel made the performance of yesterday with his 4 consecutive race winner perfect car with new gearbox and gear ratios. There were two Safety Car periods that helped him. What he achieved is simply not making mistakes and sometimes taking risks. I mean, actually he didn’t do a Kimi Raikkonen/Suzuka 2005, that’s true, but not making mistakes while climbing from down to top is a success too. To understand, having a look at his team mate is enough…

Vettel deserves a big praise with the attack he made on Button. Button said after the race that he hasn’t expected Vettel to make this attack. So, even the huge experienced Button didn’t believe that Vettel was going to take that risk hence they turned the curve with a wheel-to-wheel battle.

Alonso’s championship chance…

There are only two races left in the title battle and Alonso’s hope for the championship began to decrease gradually. Yes, he decreased the gap from 13 to 10 after yesterday’s result, he still says that he is going to fight but when we come to the real world we see that it isn’t that easy. Alonso must take a win for the championship, in this article I am going to explain why it is necessary with the mathematical calculation.

At the moment, there is a 10 points’ gap between Vettel and Alonso. Alonso must take a win and at the the following race either he must take the win again or if he can’t, then he must put at least 2 places difference between him and Vettel. So, if he finishes 2nd then Vettel must be 4th. Otherwise, Vettel will be the champion by having had more wins.

If he can’t win any of the races left, then Vettel must not win the races and Alonso must put in total 5 places gap to Vettel, and one of these must be at least 4th place. For example, in both races even if Vettel finishes 8th and Alonso 5th Vettel still will be the champion.
As seen, what Alonso must do is obviously very difficult with mathematical calculations. Ferrari have two chances, they are; a) Vettel’s DNF with a mechanical failure or accident or b) with a mistake finishing out of the points. It seems RB8, which has a tremendous speed to have a podium even starting last, will face no problems except DNF…

It is not logical that Ferrari will gain 0.6-0.7 secs in 15 days. Therefore, Alonso doesn’t have anything to do but wait and push hard.
Of course I need to add this, If Ferrari can manage to carry the championship competition to Brazil with a 5-8 points gap, I believe that Alonso’s chances will double. Why?

1. Brazil has always been a circuit to have rain surprise in pocket. As we all know, Ferrari’s exceptionally fast in rain. Rain also opens new pages in terms of different strategies. Within a minute, all of Vettel’s advantage may fly away.
2. In Brazil Ferrari and Massa will be extra-motivated, if Alonso can have a fast car, it isn’t a far possibility that Massa will have 2nd place and make the help of the year to his team mate.
3. In Brazil Fernando Alonso is very very fast. Except 2009 (he had DNF) and 2001 while he was racing with Minardi, Alonso had 6 podiums out of the 9 races and he was 4th in remaining three races.

To summarize, to be able to continue the claim on title for Ferrari and Alonso, Alonso either must win in Austin or must finish two places higher than Vettel. Otherwise, Brasil may become a touristic trip with an unrealistic goal even if mathematically the chance goes on.

Will Vettel come to Ferrari in 2014?

Yesterday, Ferrari announced that Felipe Massa will keep his seat until the end of 2013 which also ended the biggest news resource of the season. I think every of us was enough bored about talking and wondering about this. The first part of scenario that I wrote before has become real. Ferrari left a seat empty for 2014. The biggest candidate for that seat again as i wrote is Sebastian Vettel. Everyone talks that there is already a done deal between Vettel and Ferrari from 2014. The aim of this article is to explain what this deal will bring and how likely it is.

As I told on my Twitter account today Ferrari is making their plans under the assumption “Vettel may come” not under “Vettel will come”. Can You imagine? A huge team like Ferrari holds major decisions for only the possibility of a 25 year old driver coming to team. Why? Because Sebastian Vettel is the most valuable driver of 2013-2023 era. He became double world champion at 24 and he is competing for third one at 25. So he is a very good catch for Red Bull, Ferrari and Mclaren. The team who hires him almost quarantees to compete for title. That’s why top teams dont want to let others have him. Ferrari made a pre-deal for this reason because they want to be prior in Vettel’s agenda if they decide to sign with him.

But there is a widely misunderstood point in F1 world, it is believed that deal is already done and Vettel will definitely race for Ferrari in 2014. As again I talked about this on Twitter today, the reasons which causes deal should not happen is more than the causes deal should happen. Let me tell you every of them one by one.
Let’s start with Vettel… First of all Vettel already has a deal with Red Bull which has an option for 2014 season. This means he has to stay in the team also in 2014 which depends on the results of 2011-2013 seasons. What can be the conditions? These kind of options are usually about both driver and the team performance. The worst case scenario could be “giving at least a winning car”. Team is already giving 3rd title for Vettel not just a win and it may be 4th next year. In my opinion, the so-called “option” is 100% realized. Perhaps, there is an “over success” clause in the option, which can be “driver may quit if he had at least 2 titles” which is enough ridiculous and unlikely. In short, Vettel already will have to stay at Red Bull legally.

Second; Vettel has got everything he needs within Red Bull team. A team who trusts him fully, biggest success, marketing power, money and most important asset in the team: success machine Adrian Newey. Why shall Vettel leave such a team? Under these circumstances it would be meaningless. At least until the age of 27-28. Then he can go to Ferrari to fulfill his dream of racing for Ferrari.

Third, Red Bull will lose a retired Webber next year and will they lose also Vettel? Would a 3 years champion team start a new seaon without a top driver? Obviously this would be nonsense and Red Bull would defend their right on the deal and even increase German’s salary as much as he wants. In short, RED BULL WON’T LET VETTEL GO! That’s why Horner told that Sebastian Vettel, without a shadow of doubt, will be part of the Red Bull Racing team in 2014,”. Red Bull won’t let Vettel unless they have a second Vettel, dont forget that.

Fourth, why shall Sebastian want to go to a Ferrari World where fans, mechanics, engineers and executives adore Alonso? Why wouldn’t he do this after 3-4 years to replace Alonso and be adored one? Yes, some may say he will do this to challenge Spaniard but that would be too emotional and risky decision to make such a move while there are many positive reasons to stay in Red Bull.

Let’s come to Ferrari…First and most important reason, as Montezemelo said putting Vettel and Alonso in same team is like putting two roosters in the same henhouse. Fernando is a leader driver. He has the all the qualities of his horoscope ‘Leo’. Since he has come to the team he showed well of these qualities. He made everyone fan of him, not only his garage but also the other garage’s mechanics. He spent days and months at Maranello, he carried the team in the worst and best days. It went to the point that Ferrari even told they are asking the ideas of Fernando for 2nd driver decision. All these happened because he has beaten Massa clearly. In these 3 years, no one has seen the wild face of Alonso except China 2010 (pushed Massa and got into pit) and Germany 2010 (famous Fernando is faster than you event). Let’s not live in pink dreams, Alonso does not want a team mate who is faster than him. As a pure Leo he hates to be defeated and as long as he knows there is someone at next garage who is faster than him, he shows his unpleasant acts in any every occasion. As Ferrari, would you like to bother a superstar like Alonso? At the end of the day you will have a one champion, not two. Yes, constructor championship would be sure in that case but who cares it? Who remembers if I ask who has been the Constructors Champion in 1995? But almost every F1 fan can count the World Drivers Champions of last 20 years.

Second, there is a probability that both drivers will fight and none of them would be champion like Mclaren had in 2007. If you believe that Alonso will beat Vettel easily, entomb your idea to your garden. Some people underastimate Vettel so much. As long as these two guys race together the gap will never be more than 15-20 points. In my opinion, it would actually be something like 10 points. They have some circuits where they fly and dominate separately. One of them is excellent in qualifying, the other stars in races. Yes Alonso is one step ahead of Vettel in terms of talent and experience but the difference is not so big. Please answer me, what would happen if Mclaren has focused on Alonso in 2007? Let me answer, he would quarantee his 3rd consecutive title before Brazil. Same would happen had they focused on Hamilton maybe. Under these facts, it is not logical to think Ferrari will leave his old tradition to focus on one driver.

Third, all champions in today’s grid (apart from Kimi and Button) like one-man-show. Schumacher, Alonso, Lewis and Vettel easily show their discontent as long as they are not flattered. They have done this several times. You put Alonso (who has a rich bad examples history about team mate wars) alongside Vettel who was glum after Webber’s win in Brazil where he was already World champion with 11 wins. Do you think this will work? Come on man!

For sure this is not impossible but I give a very very small percentage for this probability. My personal view is neither Vettel will want to come, nor Ferrari will take this risk. So, what will happen? Ferrari again will focus on Massa’s performance, if he will repeat a 2008 performance again, he will continue with Alonso. Otherwise, Ferrari will hire Hulkenberg and Vettel talks will end up to be opened again after Alonso’s retirement.

Metin Mete

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