Fernando Alonso has been in the news a couple of times this week, first for his bullish statements about Ferrari’s competitiveness in 2012 and then again yesterday with the sad confirmation that his marriage has ended.
The Spaniard, now 30 years old, met his wife Raquel de Rosario in late 2005 and married a year later, just after he clinched his second world title.
Apparently the pair have been separated for some months, they were last seen together at a Grand Prix in Hungary in late July, where Alonso celebrated his 30th birthday.
The private life of F1 drivers has been very much a talking point this season with Lewis Hamilton very publicly splitting with girlfriend Nicole Scherzinger and then in Brazil wearing a necklace she gave him following a reconciliation.
Alonso, in contrast, has kept his personal difficulties behind closed doors and there is no sign that it affected his performances in 2011, in fact towards the end of the season he put in some of his most impressive ‘fighting’ drives.
Meanwhile the Spaniard has been talking up Ferrari’s chances for next season, saying that Red Bull have little room for development of their car, whereas Ferrari has got on top of its windtunnel problems and is able to improve by more than its Austrian rival.
“I think we are going to go up,” he said in a Santander press conference. “We had aerodynamic problems when the windtunnel wasn’t working well. We had a different philosophy to adapt to the Pirellis, a different philosophy for the suspension and many other things. So we have a big margin to improve.
“So I think they (Red Bull) will improve by X per cent, and we are going to improve by X times two, so it’s all going to be much closer.”
Alonso has spent a fair bit of time at Maranello lately and is clearly very focussed on hitting the ground running in 2012. Both of his world titles were won thanks to a great start to the season and in recent years it has been vital to start well – only 2010 stands out as the exception, where Vettel lost ground before winning at the last race.
The pressure is on Ferrari technical director Pat Fry and his team to give the team a big step forward. It is a time for strong leadership and clear thinking. And with everyone looking for the new ‘trick’ on the technical side that others will be forced to copy, all eyes will be on Ferrari who have not set the agenda on the design side since the days of Rory Byrne in the mid 2000s.
Alonso has proved time and again that if you give him the car, he will get the job done. And after five seasons without adding the third title he so desperately wants to equal his idol Ayrton Senna, he is as hungry as any driver out there at the moment.
Alonso also welcomed the return to F1 of Kimi Raikkonen. Ironically the last time the pair raced each other Alonso was with the Enstone based Renault team and Raikkonen was at Ferrari. In 2012 the roles will be reversed.
“I welcome him back because he’s a great driver,” Alonso said “He is one of the most talented drivers out there as well as being a World Champion and a nice person, so it will be a pleasure to have him back.
“There is something different about starting a race with Kimi alongside you, rather than any other young driver. Fighting with people like him gives you a greater sense of security.”