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Mixed signals from Monza on the Alonso Ferrari marriage
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Mixed signals from Monza on the Alonso Ferrari marriage
Posted By: James Allen  |  14 Sep 2009   |  6:26 pm GMT  |  145 comments

The saga over Fernando Alonso’s move to Ferrari looked on Friday like it was finally being cleared up. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said that Fernando Alonso will join Ferrari one day, but hinted strongly that it will be 2011, rather than 2010. But the signals continue to suggest that this situation is fluid.

Raikkonen: Contract but no announcement

Raikkonen: Contract but no announcement


My understanding of the much rumoured agreement with Alonso has always been that it was for 2011, with a clause for 2010 if there was a vacancy. I wrote about this last Christmas.

Both Felipe Massa and Kimi Raikkonen have firm contracts for 2010 and it was always a question of whether a deal would be struck for Raikkonen to leave or more recently, whether Massa would not recover from his injuries.

Of the two Massa is the cheaper one to buy out of his contract, by some margin. But after his accident and the sense of family which exists at Ferrari, it would be tough for him to be the one to make way.

Throughout the summer there have signs that Ferrari was looking to move Alonso in for 2010, but no deal appears to have been done to move aside one of the existing drivers to date. It’s interesting that Ferrari were not in a position to come out and announce over the Monza weekend in clear terms that their drivers would be Raikkonen and Massa for 2010.

Of course with the pair of them having contracts you would say that this is not necessary, but such has been the level of discussion on this, you would think that once the situation becomes 100% clear some sort of confirmation announcement would be made.

This suggests that the situation is fluid and team boss Stefano Domenicali suggested as much on Sunday night.

Judging from Montezemolo’s comments on Friday no pay-off deal has been done yet with Raikkonen. I think that there was one on the table, but Raikkonen wanted paying in full for the season and it was up to Ferrari to decide how to proceed.

However there was no mistaking the desire to get Alonso into a Ferrari car, especially now that Santander has come on board with a very substantial five year sponsorship commitment.

“Sooner or later I’ll make it happen. We’ll see when,” said di Montezemolo in relation to Alonso.

“For next year we have Raikkonen, Massa, Fisichella, Badoer, Gene, and I hope Michael Schumacher, so we have a bench as long as Real Madrid’s.

“We have two great champions with the 2007 champion and the man who was 2008 champion for 15 seconds when he crossed the line. So I think we have two extraordinary drivers.”

“I’ve always liked Alonso, because he is a great driver that I spotted back when he was in Minardi. He won titles, and I’ve always thought that sooner or later, all great drivers come to Ferrari.”

But then on Sunday night Stefano Domenicali said that he didn’t want to talk about whether Raikkonen would be staying with the team, despite the fact that he has a contract, “I think that, as we have said, we don’t want to discuss this now, because I don’t think it is correct.

“As you know, Kimi has a contract with us next year, and this is what we can say now. We are happy with the performance of Kimi because he is playing fantastically, he is driving very, very well, ” said the team boss.

There is no doubt that Raikkonen has been on fantastic form in the last four races, scoring 30 points (more than anyone else) a win and three podiums. And this is in a car which Ferrari stopped developing.

There has been talk of a Massa test before the end of the year. This makes sense as it might well be to assess whether he is still at the same level as before. Brain surgeons I have spoken to say that head injuries like that can often leave the patient with epilepsy and there is much to be discovered about the Felipe Massa who hopes to return from the accident. Let’s all hope he is 100% the same man, as Montezemolo assured everyone he is over the weekend.

So perhaps Massa might be the one to make way and Ferrari would field a line up of Alonso and Raikkonen in 2010. But is Alonso going to have to wait until a Massa winter test? Then again, where would he drive in 2010 if Renault lose the case over the Singapore race fixing allegations?

Alonso was asked by Italian colleagues on Friday night whether he thought the tifosi would support him this weekend because they know he will soon be a Ferrari driver, he replied, “This we cannot say yet 100%. There is still some work to be done on it.”

There is indeed.

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1

I have a few friends from Italy who I IM, and 3 think Raikkonen is likely to stay for 2010. No Idea where Alonso goes, maybe to McLaren for one year 🙂

2

James,

This is slightly off the Alonso/Ferrari subject but the Brit papers this morning are suggesting Jenson could be on the way out of Brawn and that talks over a new contract have stalled, possibly to make way for Rosberg…?

Can you shed any light on this or do you have any info on it from inside sources?

3

Jenson would like a higher offer, Brawn want it to be known that they have alternatives, I’m sure they will settle on a deal. Jenson’s stock has risen this year, but I can’t see another good move for him elsewhere an he’s very close to the team

4

What alternatives does Button have ? I really see none.

5

Hi James,

You yourself has often said that Kimi doesn’t build the team around him and isn’t good at car development. Personally I don’t buy that a driver develops a car, but that’s a separate topic.

If Kimi is so poor in this department, why is the Ferrari so much better now than earlier in the season especially after Massa was no longer in the picture and the driver all people think are great at development is in a slower Renault?

(I think the Renault is quite fast, but they haven’t had a perfect weekend)

6

Ferrari stopped developing this car, if you remember, in August, so Kimi’s doing a tremendous job in it.

7

“I think that there was one on the table, but Raikkonen wanted paying in full for the season”

I thought legally, he was entitled to nothing less?

8

If both parties agreed to a deal, the contract is null.

I presume the speculation of the deal on the table was a buyout from Ferrari for a % of his original contract. Surely he wants to maximize his earnings and he knows he will have a drive on the grid from any other team on a whim’s notice.

9

True, but if he has a contract entitling him to £10million (for example), they can agree to call it a day for £5million, or whatever But Raikonnen could also insist on 10 and sue for 10 if Ferrari breached their contract by sacking him and paying nothing.

The point being, he would suffer financial loss and be entitled to his actual damages, which is the point of contracts.

Of course, Raikonnen could just forget the whole thing and go and drive for another team from scratch.

10

It is very remote, but if Kimi negotiates a deal to get out for 2010 and Massa is not fit to race when Ferrari test him at the end of the season that leave Alonso and Fisi to race together like the old days. That will be very ironic, will’t be?

11

A lot of people is raving for the last fine performances of Kimi with a “dog” of a car.

We miss Massa on the equation.

For what we know, Massa could have finished the last 4 races on front of Kimi.

Beside with all we can say about Fisi, at a certain point he was driving within 2 tenths of Kimi laptimes.

By the time fisi was putting some decent times, he had only about 90 laps made on the F60 against a couple of thousands for Kimi.

As Kimi always says: “Let’s wait and see”.

After all, he may still not be anymore the thunder that he used to be and the F60 may not be such a dog.

12

I don’t think it is a question of Alosno going to Ferrari in 2010. It is a question of which driver will partner him in 2010.

I think Alonso made an important point (a flag to the world confirming he is on his way to Ferrari) in one of his interviews over the weekend when he said that maybe he wasn’t the fastest driver or the most technical driver, but that he was the most consistent … a side-swipe at Kimi (who was asleep and disinterested for large parts of the season) and Massa who has always had a mix of up and down races.

I think Ferrari want Alonso for 2010, but, because of Massa’s injury, they now don’t know whether they should hold on to Kimi or not.

If they pay Kimi off, he can afford to go to any team on the grid: he’ll already have a fat pay-cheque in his pocket for 2010 and so money won’t be an issue. He knows he hasn’t got a Ferrari contract for 2011, so it would make sense for him to move in 2010 with his Ferrari salary intact and then take a 2 or 3 year contract with another team.

I think it is possible Kimi will go back to Macca now Ron is out of the day-to-day F1 picture, but unlikely.

Think it is more likely that he will go to Brawn on a 2 year contract with an option for a third year based on perfomance targets. I think talk of Kimi being pushed out of Ferrari, and Mercedes suddenly getting into bed with Brawn is not a simple coincidence.

Kimi has had a long relationship with Mercedes and I think Haug would be keen to see Kimi in a Merc car again.

Kimi is not a great team player and has always been a bit of a maverick.

Tough for him in corporate Macca and tough for him in familial Ferrari.

But working with pure racing pragmatists like Ross and Haug would be a very good fit for Kimi.

So, if Massa is well enough, then it will be Alonso and Massa at Ferrari … with Kimi at Brawn.

If Massa can’t return, it will PROBABLY be Alonso and Kimi at Ferrari.

13

Kimi and Jenson would be difficult for Jenson more so than Ross and the team. Jenson relies on the team interaction whilst Kimi is well known for not being so involved with his teammates. Kimi would really bring out the driver in Jenson. I personally think Jenson is a fantastic driver and needs that push to be on it 100%. When he and Barri are pushing each other for lap times, he really shines. He hasn’t been consistently pressured all year.

It would be great from a marketing standpoint, 2 WDC’s (assuming Jenson clinches) and the new Mercedes deal. The possibility to repeat both championships back to back would be ideal for investors and stakeholders alike.

14

Well said. Kimi is more like a lone wolf. As I remembered he was never a buddy to his team mates, Nick, DC, JPM and Massa.

James, do you know if Kimi has any good buddy among the drivers on the grid?

15

If you go by the drivers parade and paddock pics, Kimi pretty much always hangs about with either Heikki or Sebastian Vettel. Apparently Vettel and Kimi play badminton occasionally as they live fairly close together in Switzerland. But I’m just going by what I’ve read and seen in pictures.

16

I think Ferrari were ready to announce Alonso and pay out Kimi but two things intervened:-

Firstly no-one can be certain that Fernando didn’t know about a “Crashgate” deal given that his strategy was so questionable…. and therefore he may get some of the mud and, less likely but possible, some of a ban…. a Fisi/Badoer partnership doesn’t look good…

I just wonder if Kimi’s geniality towards Macca have made Ferrari think that Kimi may get a huge slug of money from the red team which would fund his time at the silver team… they may then baulk at paying Kimi out on the deal in those circs…

Finally now Ferrari have no choice but to support Kimi regadless of any Schuey influence isn’t it amazing that he gets the car he needs…

I don’t believe that Ferrari have really understood Kimi or put their all into supporting him until now…

17

I reckon Kimi is the problem, everything was set for a Monza announcement. To leave Kimi’s contract would have to be bought out, and he’d have to find a drive for next year, perhaps he was moving toward a Renault seat and suddenly thanks to Crash-gate that option less certain, so maybe Kimi’s got cold feet about leaving and knocked back the payout offer from Ferrari…. So what are Kimi’s other options, Brawn, not likely Ross was so excited about working with Kimi he left Ferrari, so I suppose that leaves McLaren…. Doubt we’ll get resolution until after the Renault hearing, which might be bad news for Alonso’s by then he might just be desperate for a drive…. Bet Webber is glad he has a contract for next year!!!!

18

What an unpredictable season both on and off the track!

Except for the horrible scandals, it truly has been one of the best seasons in living memory.

Now, with regard to the driver market I agree with many comments above that Kimi and Alonso hold the key to the driver’s market but James, do you think that the teams are still waiting to see who pulls out?

I mean we know the 3rd car option is unlikely but from what I understand Toyota’s future in the sport is still not secured, despite John Howett’s statement to the contrary; Renault’s future possibly hinges on the outcome of their hearing; and of the 3 new teams it seems that only USF1 have all the ingredients to definitely be on the grid next year (forgive me if I am wrong).

Therefore could we possibly find ourselves in a situation where the 3rd car is a possibility?

And if so could we see Alonso, Massa & Schumacher in the Ferrari; Hamilton, Rosberg & Kubica in the McLaren; Button, Barichello & Kimi in the Brawn… Now that would be a dream scenario!

Given the nature of this season nothing would surprise me!

Anyway keep up the fantastic work… Your site is absolutely the best F1 site on the internet “for sure”.

19

I guess the words credit crunch mean nothing to Fiat, or they have really short memories. I can’t see how paying off Kimi in full (which is reportedly upwards of Eur50mm ?) can be justified from a business perspective unless bringing Alonso one year early will guarantee extra revenue to cover the amount in entirety. Otherwise the management would be doing a great disservice for the Fiat shareholders.

20

surely part the payoff would come from Santander.

21

James, would you care to explain why you would think Kimi’s move to McLaren does not make sense (your response to #4)? On the contrary as others here and in other websites have pointed out, it makes perfect sense to have Kimi in McLaren. McLaren will then potentially have two drivers to win WDC (unlike one now), WCC will also be in their grasp with two competitive drivers and finally Kimi may be available in F1 for only few years after which McLaren can look for some younger fast driver to partner the “senior” Lewis. Not to forget that Kimi getting beaten by Lewis is still alright as there will be no fireworks like Lewis-Fernando relationship (considering Felipe beating Kimi last year). Lewis getting beaten by Kimi is also OK as Lewis and his team must have learnt some lessons from 2007.

Another question I’ve for you is does Kimi also like #1 status in the team but he is not as vocal as Fernando/Lewis/Michael? May be he shows it through his average performances? The reason I ask you this is that as soon as Kimi felt that he was the lead driver his performances improved. His denial that he does not care who drives the second car is perhaps self-delusion or avoiding media-attention on this issue.

22

Pound for pound Kimi is a far superior driver to Filipe.

Would anybody disagree?

23

Agree, easily.

24

I 2nd that.

25

NO. Agree.

26

I see a brilliant marketing opportunity for Ferrari, McLaren and the FIA here. They need to start a reality show to fill their posssibly two vacant driver seats over the off season! There certainly seem to be more than a few top tier candidates floating around… Alonso, Kubica, Raikonnen, the Stig etc….

27

The Renault saga is really a sad one. My guess is Renault will be prosecuted, then Alonso will really be in trouble, maybe an end to his career, which many are hoping for. With the endless comments on “crashgate” it’s better to be pessimistic. It will be a big bonus if all goes well with Renault. Signs will be if Renault starts unloading their gears in Singapore by this weekend, if not I fear there will be 18 cars. SAD & DEJECTED.

28

Heres my take on F1’s sillest season.

*Ferrari – Ferrari’s plans to annouce their driver line up for the 2010 season have been delayed for a number reasons. [Some of which may not be the case]

1. Felipe Massas freak incident at the Hungary grand prix was unexpected. Felipe was largely tipped to remain with Ferrari for the 2010 season, this accident has ofcourse forced Ferrari to reassess their driver options for 2010 pending an F1 test for Felipe that will allow the team to monitor his performance and indeed his overall health and physcological state.

2. Pending that test, If the results are postive Felipe will remain with Ferrari for an additional season. Negative and I believe Fisichella maywell continue as their second driver untill a suitable replacement is found.

3. Renaults Race Fix scandal – I believe it was Ferrari’s intention to sign Alonso for the 2011 season why else would they sign Kimi Raikkonen for 2010? – However dependant on the WMSC verdict on whether Renault will be found guilty and for example if they are and face Expulsion from the Formula 1 world championship where exactly will Fernando Drive for? If Renault are excluded Ferrari will pay off Raikkonens contract and introduce Fernando for 2010 and beyond a year ahead of schedule.

4. Santander’s sponsorship agreement – It’s a long term contract [5 Years] – Although I believe its Santanders wish that Fernando will drive for Ferrari sooner rather than later, the move will happen in 2011. Santander’s association with Mclaren and Lewis Hamilton has sparked global awareness and commerical success for their British branch ‘Abbey’ hence their extension with Mclaren. For that reason Santander are commerically flexible, their assosication with Lewis Hamilton has been highly successful and they can continue to reap the rewards of that partnership for the 2010 season untill Fernando joins Ferrari and thus the assosication with Lewis Hamilton won’t be as important.

5. Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo’s comments at the Santander press conference. -“Sooner or later I’ll make it happen. We’ll see when,” di Montezemolo told Spanish reporters at Monza.

“For next year we have Raikkonen, Massa, Fisichella, Badoer, Gene, and I hope Michael Schumacher, so we have a bench as long as Real Madrid’s.” – A very good point. Luca doesn’t exactly lie or fib when he speaks to the public, this suggests to me that Fernando is well placed to replace Raikkonen at the end of the 2010 season which in turn may prompt Raikkonen to forefill his ambition of competiting in the World rally championship with Fiat.

6. Ferrari are in the pound seat they hold all the cards whilst we ponder their next move.

29

Can I just say James I really hope the brain surgeons are wrong. The problem with epilepsy is it is very hard to diagnose. I’ve had it for 17 years, after countless brain scans it took 8 years to diagnose it. Then a further 2 years to control it. It cant be pre-diagnosed. Nothing triggers mine, we tried the enforced ones, alcohol, flashing lights, computers, caffeine etc… nothing. They only traced it through something that had never led to a fit.

I think that Massa’s health has a lot to do with the situation. The last combination they want is an Alonso/Fisi combination. Because they either want an Alonso/Massa, Kimi/Massa or Alonso/Kimi situation.

Alonso is not key to the market, Massa is.

30

Thanks for that, Amanda

31

Ferrari have created quite a dilemma for themselves. Given how much Kimi’s results have improved since Massa’s accident, it appears to be clear that the team has been set to support Felipe all this time, with Kimi paying the price. If this is true (and I have no idea if it really is, it’s just how it appears to me), Ferrari have made themselves look fools, give Kimi the support he is getting now and they would’ve won the WDC last year too. And how foolish will they look like if they sack Kimi and he wins the WDC next year (which he will, if he just drives the way he has been doing lately and is given a decent car, like a McLaren). Alonso hasn’t really become the rainmaker Renault must’ve hoped for, they are not any better today than they were on 2007 with Fisichella and Kovalainen and I’m sure some Ferrari employees are still somewhat grumbled at Alonso for his part on the spygate and wouldn’t be happy if he demanded #1 status over Felipe, who is loved very much. Would he really bring something to Ferrari that is worth tens of millions of euros that they would have to pay to Kimi for -not- driving? Di Montezemolo must be pondering this, especially now that Kimi has been able to show what he is capable of when given the chance.

Obviously Ferrari can’t wait until December to announce their driver line-up, both Kimi and Alonso will demand to know much earlier if they will drive for them with certainty. Kimi’s situation in this sense is somewhat weaker, as he obviously can’t just make a deal with another team while having a contract with Ferrari for next year. They should just come out and clearly announce their line-up, the sooner the better. The endless rumor mill is getting tiresome.

32

Hello James,

This is turning out to be a great blog, with lots of great opinions.

The Fisichella signing is the key to Ferrari’s thinking, which will see Alonso come in for 2010 and Raikkonen depart (to McLaren).

Ferrari signed Fisichella to edge their bets with Massa. They will have Alonso for 2010 (so long as he is not implicated in crash-gate) and will have Massa if fit; if not, they will run Alonso / Fisichella, who worked well together at Renault.

If they don’t get Alonso, they will run Fisichella / Massa.

If they have neither Alonso or Massa, they can run Fisichella / Badoer (aka the dream team)!!!

Or is Schumi in the back-up plans (any news on his possible return James??)

Thomas

Canada

33

Also, James:

What do you know about Montezemolo – Kimi relationship? I think that might be the key.

In Monza, Montezemolo seemed to be quite fed up with Spanish speculation (“sponsors don’t choose drivers”). So maybe eventually it will come down to what Luca feels is right.

There was great cameo in a Finnish tv, in which Kimi was presenting a Ferrari road car. While making the program, Montezemolo’s assistant appeared and asked Kimi to come to talk to Luca. Kimi was busy, so he just literally told this guy to f___ off and to inform Luca that he comes when he is done.

That made me wonder whether his relationship with Montezemolo is that good – or that bad?

And I remember seeing Ross Brawn in 2006 explaining the choice between Kimi and Alonso. They decided that team building skills were secondary with the Ferrari team as it then was. So, they went for the faster of the two.

But who made the choice back then? Montezemolo, Todt, Brawn, Domenicali or Michael even?

34

Todt made the choice

35

I believe Jean Todt never quite liked Alonso after he rejected the Ferrari test drive. May be the sore relation between him and Michael in 2006 made the matters worse for him. At that point in time he also did not seem much interested to go to Maranello as he was preparing himself for Woking with with a good deal in hand.

36

Also left his son’s driver Massa a bit more leeway than he would have had with Alonso. But surely Alonso was never free ?

37

Hi James

Just a quick question: There is obviously much speculation about the possibility of Alonso joining Ferrari, but what I would like to know is, do you think the relationship will actually work, and ultimately provide successful, or end up as an arguable failure like the Alonso McLaren tenure in 2007?

Thanks a lot, Adam

38

How about this, James:

Ferrari already have Kimi and Massa for next year. As long as they say nothing more, almost all other drivers and teams are waiting.

Maybe they are not saying anything just to make all others wait and lose time for 2010 preparation.

Perhaps they will arrive in opening race next season with Kimi and Felipe, and all others will be still wondering!

39

Very interesting reading as per James,

What do you think about the potencial Alonso vs Schumacher battle that could become of Ferrari next season?

Is Alonso waiting for Shumacher to declare his position? …is Schumacher awaiting an Alonso decision?

40

I don’t know about Schumacher. He’ll be 41 years old by the start of next year. I can’t see him doing a whole season, and the third car thing isn’t likely to happen anyway, unless several teams drop out

41

On a side note James, I know its early days, but as we know F1 is ruthless..

What do you make of Grosjean’s 3 races thus far? He seems to be giving it a lot more than Piquet could? He just generally pace wise is a bit closer to Alonso.

I personally don’t think he has ever gotten over his crash at Monaco, where we have seen his quite daring driving drop a notch. He seemed a lot more ‘up for anything’ prior to parking his GP2 car on the armco. What are your thoughts on his potential and performance?

Which to me leads hand in hand with Massa. It’s going to be very tough for him to be as competitive, or even near to it, coming back from his injury… But the fact that he didn’t really have an accident so to speak, do you think that the “fear” factor would be any different, when compared with say cashing full speed into Eau Rouge, with no brakes? He was knocked out with the actual accident having little effect, but having said that we all know what kind of driver Karl Wendingler came back as after his accident, not anywhere near as confident!?

So maybe Ferrari’s decisions have to hinge around what state of mind Massa comes back in. Hence the kind of waiting around. I’m sure we all know that the driver market isn’t really going to move until Alonso and Kimi fill in the first places. Let’s face it there aren’t exactly a million GP2 drivers knocking on the doors of top teams performance wise. So we could be waiting till very late into the year for answers perhaps…

Looking forward to closure on the PK vs Reno saga, and hopefully Alonso confirmed finally at Ferrari!!! Sooner than later! Oh and one last line, so stoked that Montoya made the Nascar chase, really (surprisingly) enjoying the racing Nascar provides, which I would never have been exposed to had Montoya not gone there!

Wow this sport is never short of ink to paper hey!

42

Think he’s on the edge, that’s his way. Time will tell.

43

James,

Do you have any insight on why Kimi has failed maintain the form of his championship year. He’s looked positively bored at times.

On the flip side Alonso used his experience in ’05 to great effect in ’06.

What separates them in the paddock, out of the car, that gives one the edge over the other – if indeed there is an edge?

44

It’s debatable how good Raikonnen’s form was throughout the WHOLE of 2007. I mean, the first half wasn’t too great and he ended up far short of Hammy but come the 2nd half he drastically improved and the rest is, as they say, glorious history ;). I’ve heard that it is the handling of the Ferrari that is not to Kimi’s (certainly that is what was said last year) compared to the Mclaren. Perhaps this is the wider issue with his fluctuating performance at the Prancing Horse, I mean, this year again he had a woeful start to the season (even though, he did have a sick dog of a car and some terrible luck)

One thing positive about Kimi though for any team is that he won’t destabilise the garage…unlike dear Fernando!

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