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Alonso joins Ferrari – nine months after the story first broke
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Alonso joins Ferrari – nine months after the story first broke
Posted By: James Allen  |  30 Sep 2009   |  4:13 pm GMT  |  144 comments

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.

The waiting is over. He's Ferrari's man (Photo:Darren Heath)

The waiting is over. He's Ferrari's man (Photo:Darren Heath)


Formula 1 has it’s dream scenario, which harks back to the Prost vs Senna days – Hamilton in a McLaren vs Alonso in a Ferrari, two drivers on the same level with some history between them. F1, like any sport, works at its absolute best when it has a really great rivalry and we now have that. Except that it’s even better than that because Kimi Raikkonen is also in a McLaren and he’s out to get Alonso too.

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.”

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1

“When Schumacher retired the only choice for Ferrari to replace him was Kimi Raikkonen, the only obviously supreme driver around at the time.”

I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that Schu was contemplating whether or not to retire, and Raikkonen’s arrival (clearly not as a No.2 driver) was what made him go, then and there as opposed to a year later…

2

Hi James,

Love your writing. When things get a bit quieter for you, could you explain this under steer/over steer scenario for those of us who do not really understand. I have heard people say the next year it will easier for both Ferrari & Mclaren as both their drivers will drive the same way. (is this true, or is it just forum folklore)

I am also very curious to the sudden improvement from Kimi Raikkonen? I sort of do not believe it is motivation. I honestly do not think people with motivation problems get to top of any sport. Do you have any real theories on the perceived improvement in his form since Massa’s accident?

Cheers

3

DC’s engineer once put it so eloquently…here it is…

Understeer is when the front of your car hits the wall. Oversteer is when the back of your car hits the wall.

Gem.

4

Thanks Scott. On the second question I think it has a lot to do with motivation, Ferrari wanting to get rid of him fired him up. On the first that’s more of a Peter Windsor/Mark Hughes kind of question.

5

So Alonso is already choosing his engineers eh?

Then Massa’s should get dedicated access to MichaelSchumacher as one of his RaceEngineer/Strategists/TestDriver!

6

I just hope that 2010 doesn’t see a strong McLaren and/or Ferrari run away with the show. The mix of teams and drivers capable of winning is what keeps things unpredictable. If Red Bull, Brawn (and Williams?) can stay in the hunt the season will be much more dynamic.

7

Off topic, but I had a reminder of how short Hamilton’s time in F1 has been when it was mentioned on the BBC that he’s never raced at Suzuka. How time flies….

8

I can’t wait for ’10. However, I am curious if Kimi will sign a 1 or 2 year deal… 1 year seems like a quick stop and might not get the team behind him….

Not sure how Massa will look but Alonso, Kimi and Hamilton will be tops if their cars can support them

9

“When Schumacher retired the only choice for Ferrari to replace him

was Kimi Raikkonen”

Kimi had already signed with Ferrari when Schumacher announced his retirement.

10

hi, nice comments, i agree with most of them.

well i look forward to see cracking races, Alonso’s magic on tracks for many coming years, f1 fans whose have doubts in alonso’s abilities will be answered in 2010, dont you remember Japan 08, when he was driving like hell and while driving changing is stratgy. he is supereme. 07 was a difficult year for him and lost the title with just a point, remember he was left alone by his own team, how do you feel when your own house is against you? but he fight until last lap.

he is the only driver who can break MSC records.

11

Interesting fiction there, i may buy this book when its ready.

12

I wonder how Alonso will get on with Schumacher.

Schumi will still be there “helping” the team (Massa) and if Massa is managed by Todt junior and dad is no longer friends with Ferrari…..A tangled web could develop.

13

Poor Massa.

14

This is the real reason why Kimi never fitted at ferrari. Compare the difference!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h1HsF5cBWJo

15

There are plenty of videos shots on the tele and probably on youtube if one cared to search where other drivers walk past without regard and kimi continues to sign.

One video makes no valid basis to make a remark.

16

While I agree that the top echelon of drivers will be fantastic – half of the tracks are dire.

If F1 really wants to “race”, let’s do it at proper tracks.

17

Absolutely in agreement, other James H. There are only a handful of F1 tracks where a great driver can make a difference. Singapore, for instance, was pimped to the hilt, yet to my aging eyes it seemed more like a video game in which the crappy chicane was the only place to pass, except that the only driver that tried to pass there was fined for trying to pass. F1 should not be a mass marketing exercise. It should be about talented drivers going as fast as they dare. At some point, even diehards like me will be alienated by the BS.

18

F1 has always been a mass marketing exercise, even in the days when Stirling Moss had Dunlop on his overalls. It’s also a sport

19

Mr Arren prease, in your expert opinion, is there any chance Kimi won’t have a drive next year for either being too expensive or for being forced to take a sabbatical in exchange for muchos diñeros?

20

Not looking that way at the moment. You never know, though

21

A contract cant be broken unless its mutual, why will kimi agree to break it to not race? He can be defiant and stay and there is not a damn thing Ferrari can do then, even the CRB will force Ferrari to honor that contract.

Kimi is leaving because he realized its a waste of time staying on at Ferrari because they have been overcome by financial lust. And he will be asked to leave at the end of 2010 anyway. Alonso was on his way one way or the other.

22

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.

Hi James, first of all, just finished reading your insightful book on Schumacher a wonderful read thank you.

I don’t mean to be gossipy but can you explained in more detail about Ron (he’s been a bit of a hero of mine, i l’m a Mclaren) What sort of person did FA think Ron was and what sort of person did FA find?

23

I can’t claim to answer for James, but FA probably found that Ron was exactly what Juan Pablo Montoya claimed, a real hoot to hang out with, but a difficult taskmaster to work under…

24

Cheers KNF

But there’s nothing wrong with being a hard taskmaster, maybe he was too intense, that’s how he always came across… still think there’s more to it though…

Now if James reads this i think Ron would be a good idea for his next book like Schumy he split people down the middle with his ways.

25
Paige Michael-Shetley

James, a couple of questions:

1) What are you hearing about the approval for Sauber’s reinstatement? It’s been said that there would be a ruling on it this week as to whether or not they would be guaranteed a spot on the grid. Obviously, the implications for the driver market of them being guaranteed a spot would be significant, as it’s an existing team with decent resources that will be powered by Ferrari engines.

2) When can we expect what the announcement of confirmations about what seem to be certainties now about the driver market? (i.e., Raikkonen to McLaren, Rosberg to Brawn, Kubica to Renault, Barrichello to Williams)

26

I am all time supporter for Kimi. I think for 2010, the greatest beneficiary will be Kimi. This is because he got double salary (from Ferrari and also Mclaren) which makes him still the highest paid F1 driver for 2010. On top of that, he got the best car on the grid (most reliable engine – Mercedes).

So for Kimi, nothing to feel sad about for leaving Ferrari. In fact, he should celebrate now. His position now is better than Jenson winning the WDC.

27

Alonso and Massa…..two extremely quick but equally temperamental drivers. Boy, does Ferrari like a challenge!!

28

I can’t help but hope this backfires on Ferrari. I’m sure I’m in the minority with this opinion.

I’m dissapointed in the disrespect shown to Kimi. 9 wins, 26 podiums, a WDC, and 2 constructor’s champsionships. I guess I don’t see where Kimi hasn’t lived up to his end of the bargain.

Kimi is not a demonstrative, emotional person. But personally, I do not believe this means he isn’t motivated or doesn’t care. I think people read way too much into his demeanor. It’s kind of funny how some drivers get the benefit of the doubt (problem with tires, mechanical problems, whatever), whereas with Kimi it’s always blamed on “motivation”. I make no claims to knowing Kimi, but his stats seem to indicate he isn’t unmotivated.

Oh well. Good luck to Ferrari. They’ve got the latest prize they’ve wanted. Now to see if the whole thing doesn’t blow up in their face.

29

I agree with all you. This is one of the most sensible and intelligent posts about Kimi i’ve ever come across. I find it ridiculous that people simply assume Kimi is unmotivated. All drivers are out there to win. That’s why they race. Only Kimi can drive a car that has no right to be on the podium around Spa and win. Kimi bowed out of Ferrari with grace and dignity today. He deserves a lot of respect. I hope he makes Ferrari regret replacing him with Alonso next year.

P.S. I am fed up with all the derogatory ice-cream jokes. What’s wrong with grabbing an ice-cream after his car has been retired from a race?

30

I’m scratching my head over the whole ice-cream incident myself, the car was already retired and it wasn’t as if he could do anything else…

Would there have been this much criticism if Button and Hamilton went off for waffles and a pint after their first lap off in Spa?

31

Well said. It seems that if you are not extravagant in F1 or a playboy you are unmotivated. So does that mean that the quiet, reserved Mr. Schumacher was unmotivated? No. So just because Kimi keeps to himself and is not media friendly does not make him any less motivated than anyone else. Let’s see all the armchair critics get in the current Ferrari and drive it faster. Fisi was up his date in Spa. Where is he now?? Wherever he goes he is still gonna be the same Kimi. He’ll do the best with what he is given. For the record, I’m quite partial to the odd ice cream myself

32

I share your thoughts. Way too many latin emotions in the mix. There will be big bust up sooner or later. I hope Rob Smedley and Felipe show them the way home.

33

This will have been very expensive for Ferrari-or maybe rather for Banco Santander.

Kimi apparently did not want to leave Ferrari, he probably earns a lot of money there and gets a very good car (considering the recent races).

I do not think there any other teams on the same level, and that is McLaren.

But then McLaren already have a top driver ,and with quite a few interesting drivers available at the moment, like Rosberg or even Button, I expect McLaren had to be offered some great reward for helping Alonso (of all drivers) to go to Ferrari(of all teams), maybe thats behind the recently prolonged sponsorship deal with Santander

34

Hey mr. Allen,

Fantastic blog! Anyways…

Do you think Fernando will now have ensured his contract stated he be treated as the no. 1 driver or at least he receives preferential treatment?

He once stated that he never really asked for preferential treatment, but surely a guy as smart as he is has learned from his McLaren experience and he knows better now that championship campaigns are maximized when priority is given to just one driver rather than two.

35

That will be the most interesting aspect of this situation. I’ll ask him about it today

36

I am sure you will be met with a very wry smile once that suggest he wants it but he cant get it.

37

James, can you recall who said in Spa 2004 “You’re looking at the TWO BEST drivers in F1” as we saw Kimi and Schumacher together after the race??

– Answer: James Allen.

You didn’t also say then, “Oh and there’s this other chap called Alonso who is also pretty hot..”…

So I’m not sure you’re giving The Iceman sufficient credit there James, by asserting that Ferrari always wanted Alonso.

38

James and Martin comments were made in 2004 so are they still relevant now? Since then we had the rise of Lewis, Alonso, Vettel, Massa, Webber.

Most of us might have made the same assessment back then but things have moved on since 2004 and every year we have to re-asset the ranking based on new guys arriving and performing (or not), etc…

Who is at the top of James or Martin (or all of us) rating now

is bound to be different from what it was in 2004 as old drivers retire and new ones appear every year and drivers results fluctuate from one year to the next.

39

I don’t disagree at all Dan. Just making a v different point about Kimi being regarded back in 2004/5, by Ferrari along with everyone else, as at least as desirable as Alonso. I was quoting JA as proof.

40

Did I? For me Alonso and Raikkonen were always on a par in those days.

41

Forgot to add that Martin Brundle agreed with you 100%.

42

Get real. Kimi doesnt get a lump in his throat. He is counting his money and finishing the touches on his McLaren contract.

43

I can assure you he is not happy

44

Hi James, here is just something I have noticed: from what you are saying here Kimi is not happy of having to leave Ferrari and he expressed his sadness (very genuine I think) as having to do so. For me that means he in fact felt quite comfortable at this team and wanted to stay for that reason. That kind of contradict what many people here on the blog have expressed, aka that he was poorly supported by Ferrari during his spell with them. A guy genuinely poorly supported by his own team and not feeling at ease working there would be more than happy to leave. Ferrari let Kimi be Kimi for as long as he was working for them. They even allowed him to go rallying. When he was at McLaren under Ron all McLaren drivers were banned for risky activities like the race of Champion. I am curious to see if Martin Whitmarsh will give some freedom to Kimi to do his own things as Ferrari did or will again impose the Ron Dennis rules. Martin is not Ron, he is more relax and also very smart so he might give Kimi some room to play. We just have to wait and see.

45

Agreed, when you are asked to make way for a pay driver it is quiet insulting to say the least, Santander essentially are pay driving Alonso to that seat, no wonder Alonso thanks Luca and says Luca was the one to accept it truly.

46

The big question for me is – does Alonso’s contract garentee him number 1 status in the team?

Massa is fast, and he is very close to the Ferrari team (a bit like Lewis at McLaren) – Unless Ferrari prevent it, I can see Massa beating Alonso a few times – and we all know how Alonso reacts to that!

We will see if Alonso has matured since 2007, or if this is still his one weekness.

47

One would be dreaming to expect any different reaction from Alonso, he couldnt even take fisi winning at Renault albeit rare, why should it even change at ferrari for that matter? It would be the 3rd time.

48

This is all fine and well but it will only be exiting if both teams can build a car that is competitive.

49

For some reason every time I think of Fernando and Felipe I only think of the Nurburgring 2007 pre-podium argument they got in, which was in Italian. Should be a crazy good line-up. I’m surprised Kimi doesn’t just stay with FIAT and go to rally with them.

50

These things are forgotten quickly

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