Well, it’s finally been confirmed; Fernando Alonso is joining Ferrari next season for three years initial term. The team has also confirmed that Felipe Massa will be racing for them again.
Add in a very strong supporting cast of Vettel and Webber in a Red Bull, Button and Rosberg in a Brawn and F1 looks like it has reinvented itself overnight into something utterly un-putdownable.
After all the pain and misery of the off track politics in 2007, 2008 and 2009, the scene is set for some classic years of racing. Lucky old BBC!
The Alonso to Ferrari story is a story which first came to light at New Year 2008, when Pino Allievi wrote it in Gazzetta dello Sport.
The story had no quotes, no attributions, was short and to the point. It said that Alonso had an agreement with Ferrari for 2011, but that it might start in 2010 depending on how the year panned out.
I posted on it at the time, saying that Pino has never been wrong in my experience, when it comes to Ferrari stories like this. There are all sorts of reasons, but let’s just say it’s the way things are done in Italy. Lots of people have doubted it, but Pino hasn’t let us down.
It’s the right move for Alonso and the team in many ways. Alonso is the leader the team has been lacking since Michael Schumacher retired in 2006. He will fit well alongside Felipe Massa who is fast enough to push him and beat him, as he did with Schumacher and Raikkonen. It will be interesting to see how Alonso copes with Massa as he will find it hard to make any demands which impact on Massa’s chances.
Alonso almost went to Ferrari in 2002. He had agreed a deal with Jean Todt to become the Ferrari test driver (ironically the role Massa then took) in the garden at Todt’s villa near Maranello. He was with his then manager Adrian Campos. But soon after he was persuaded by Flavio Briatore to join Renault with the promise of a race seat (Jenson Button’s) for 2003.
Alonso had not signed the Ferrari contract and he told Todt he wasn’t coming. Todt vowed that he would never drive for Ferrari as long as he was there. Alonso went on to win two world titles with Renault at a time when he would have been second fiddle to Michael Schumacher had he made his original move.
He went to McLaren because, unlike most young racers, Ferrari was not his childhood dream, McLaren was. This is because it was Ayrton Senna’s team. But almost as soon as he started there he realised that Ron Dennis was not the person he thought he was and the rest was downhill fast.
When Schumacher retired the only choice for Ferrari to replace him
was Kimi Raikkonen, the only obviously supreme driver around at the time. This strong bargaining position gave Raikkonen the financial deal of a lifetime.
Raikkonen won the 2007 title, coming from 17 points behind Lewis Hamilton with two races to go. But the relationship never gelled and he is leaving the team a year ahead of his contract expiry at the end of 2010, a contract extension which he triggered himself in 2008.
Would Alonso have done better than Raikkonen in 2007 and 2008 with the Ferrari? My own view is that he would, but we will never know.
Ferrari’s press release is focussed very respectfully on Raikkonen. It mentions that Alonso and Massa, backed up by Fisichella as third driver will be the team, but the rest of it is about Raikkonen, thanking him for his service and then there is Raikkonen’s own quote.
There is no quote from Alonso about what this moment means. That is for another time.
Raikkonen speaks with great regret about his departure from the team and you can almost see the lump in his throat, “I am very sad to be leaving a team with which I have spent three fantastic years, during which time I won plenty of races, ” he said. “Together, we have won 50% of the world titles in that period and I managed to take the Drivers’ title in 2007, thus achieving the target I had set myself at the start of my career. I have always felt at home with everyone here and I will have many happy memories of my time with the team.”