Michael Schumacher has posted a short quote on his website saying that Ferrari’s move to hire Fernando Alonso has his full backing and, what’s more, he was in on it from the start.
Much has been made of the apparent strain in relations between the two following their intense battle for the 2006 world championship. Alonso was very angry with Schumacher after the seven times champion blocked the track in qualifying in Monaco that year, preventing him and others from beating his provisional pole time.
But Alonso admired Schumacher’s ability to get a team behind him and is the natural heir to Schumacher in more ways than Kimi Raikkonen.
I remember back towards the end of 2002 that Schumacher had his eye on Alonso, who was then only a test driver for Renault. Asked whether he felt Raikkonen or Juan Pablo Montoya was the driver most likely to challenge him for his crown he said that it was neither; Alonso was the next great driver.
It’s never an easy relationship between a benchmark driver of one era and the young up and coming guy who pushes him off his perch. The older one is raging against the dying of the light, the younger one smells blood.
When Schumacher came into F1, Ayrton Senna was the big beast and Schumacher made a point of getting right up his nose, with the result that Senna took a swing at him during a test session in Hockenheim.
Can you imagine a scenario in which a retired Senna, had he survived, in the capacity of ‘team consultant’ might have mentored Schumacher? Neither can I. Yet that is what Ferrari will have next season with Schumacher hovering in the background as Alonso gets down to work.
Kimi Raikkonen kept himself to himself and let Schumacher deal with Felipe Massa and the engineers. How will Alonso play it?
We have time to ponder such matters as it is pouring with rain here in Suzuka and the cars are not bothering to go out on track.