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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

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!