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Tied up in knots over Vettel to Ferrari
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Posted By: James Allen  |  15 Oct 2012   |  7:28 pm GMT  |  286 comments

Ferrari’s mysterious blogger, The Horse Whisperer has made one of his occasional interventions on a day when the BBC F1 website ran a story with a strong line that Sebastian Vettel is headed to Ferrari in 2014.

And, as always, the Whisperer’s view is interesting for what is said and for what is not said.

It started with the BBC F1 site, where this morning’s headline was “Ferrari plan for arrival of Vettel”

Underneath the thrust of the argument was, “Ferrari sources say they already have a deal in place with double world champion Vettel, with an option for the 25-year-old to join them in 2014,” adding that, “Vettel’s potential move to Ferrari has been sanctioned by Fernando Alonso, their number one driver.”

Later in the day a couple of lines were added: “But Red Bull team boss Christian Horner insists Vettel will not leave. He told BBC Sport: “Sebastian Vettel, without a shadow of doubt, will be part of the Red Bull Racing team in 2014.”

The Horse Whisperer ran a post mid afternoon ridiculing the story of a “presumed agreement between Vettel and the Scuderia – however inexistent (sic)”.

The Whisperer pointed out an interview Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo had given this morning on Italian radio – before the BBC Online story broke – where, as the Whisperer put it he, “again put off all discussion about who might drive alongside Fernando Alonso in 2014 – after all, given that we don’t yet know who will have that role in 2013 there is not much sense in talking about the long-term future.”

What Montezemolo said was, “In the last 20 years I’ve always said I don’t want two roosters in the henhouse. I want two drivers who drive for Ferrari, not for themselves. I don’t want problems and rivalries. Two roosters damage equilibrium and create tension.”

The Whisperer was critical of the cut and paste type F1 websites that had leaped on the Vettel-to-Ferrari bandwagon and then later in the day did a 180 degree U Turn taking Montezemolo’s line as a total rebuttal,


“This phrase (about roosters and henhouses) was immediately picked up by a wide range of sources, many of whom were exactly the same ones who had just written the precise opposite, as the denial of a possible partnership – which remains completely hypothetical, better to stress that before someone takes advantage of the poor Horse Whisperer – made up of Alonso and Vettel,” wrote the Whisperer.

At its heart was a subtle point and not everyone will have appreciated its full nuances, as he went on to leave some wriggle room,

“It’s a pity that Montezemolo had simply stated a principle, nothing more, nothing less. At Ferrari there will be room for anyone who demonstrates they have the talent to drive a scarlet car and to work in harmony both with and for the team.”

This is because Montezemolo himself had issued a clarification after the BBC story came out, saying, “I was making a general point, there is room at Ferrari for anyone who shown he has the talent to drive the red car and knows how to work in harmony with the team.”

I know who writes the Horse Whisperer column and he’s a prominent figure within the Scuderia, so this is a careful message.

So what’s going on here with this non-denial denial?

Well as with any story of this kind, first of all there is always the tactic of destabilisation. This is a story which destabilises the internal harmony at Red Bull at a crucial moment in the championship. If it turns out to be true and Alonso is in on it at this stage, then it will not be destabilising for him and Ferrari, mystifying though it is.

Vettel to Ferrari alongside Alonso would be one of the biggest stories of recent F1 history, up there with Senna and Prost at McLaren in 1988-89 and the fall-out from Alonso and Hamilton at McLaren in 2007.

Alonso is an extraordinary driver who gets the maximum from the equipment and knows how to lead his team to compete for a championship; since 2005 he has been in contention in five of the eight championships and has won two of them.

But all the evidence from Alonso’s career shows that the one thing he cannot cope with is being beaten in qualifying or a race by a team mate. So as Ferrari has based its team around him since 2010 and he has another five years with the team, it makes no sense to put a driver like Vettel alongside him. As Montezemolo also said in his interview today, it leads to internal tension and problems.

The stories of Vettel having some kind of agreement with Ferrari have been around for a while, but were given fresh impetus today by the BBC story. The Corporation is still riding high from Eddie Jordan’s scoop on Hamilton moving to Mercedes, a story which left SKY’s F1 team wrong-footed.

As I have written here several times in the last six months, my sources in Italy, which have never been wrong on a Ferrari story in the last 20 years, say that there does appear to be some kind of understanding between Vettel and Ferrari, but it is conditional on many things and is not necessarily for 2014, as has been suggested. So there is substance to this, but not necessarily as it’s being portrayed.

Vettel is contracted to Red Bull to the end of 2014, so to leave before that would require some significant change. As his is consistently the highest performing car of the last three years, it’s hard to imagine performance clauses which would lead to him finding an exit route (or wanting to) unless it’s a clause saying he can leave once he’s won three world titles for the team.

However, much as Hamilton felt he could only grow as a man and a driver by leaving the McLaren team that had raised him from an apprentice, it’s not hard to see why Vettel would leave for Ferrari, to prove himself elsewhere.

But it’s not clear why he would wish to do so with Alonso still in situ and in his prime. As Jackie Stewart has observed, he is only 25 and has plenty of time on his side. He can go to Ferrari a few years later and have the place to himself.

So the 2014 move makes little sense from either driver’s point of view.

But as the Whisperer reminds us, “At Ferrari there will be room for anyone who demonstrates they have the talent to drive a scarlet car and to work in harmony both with and for the team.”

This leaves plenty of room for Vettel. At the right time.

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1

Conspiracy Theory Alert:

Horse Whisperer is FA.

As soon as Vettel is lured by romance to join Ferrari – FA will jump into a Red Bull with his good friend Webber – and sweep up WDCs.

2

+1

But that might be possible in 2015 when Vettel clearly has no contract. Ofcourse only if Vettel thinks he can win races and c’ship with Ferrari and possibly Ferrari will throw all their resources on Vettel alone.

3

Vettel isn’t going to Ferrari. If there is a contract, it has conditions meaning it almost certainly won’t take effect (e.g. RB come lower than 4th next year, etc.)

This whole thing is purely designed to make Alonso and Vettel look better. Alonso vetoes Hamilton as teammate, looks like he only wants 2nd rate teammates, so raise some story about him approving of Vettel coming in, even though we all know it will never happen. Vettel too gets some kudos for looking like he’s prepared to leave best car on grid and 2nd rate teammate of his own to go head to head with Alonso.

IT WILL NOT HAPPEN.

Neither of these guys has the balls for it, unfortunately, as it would be great viewing and would only enhance my opinion of both.

When it doesn’t come off, both will voice disappointment and carry on with 2nd rate teammates happy in the knowledge they are safe as number ones and will hoover up all their team’s points.

4

James

BTW can u imagine Vettel, Hulkenberg as teammates either in rbr or ferrari ffrom 2014 onwards? I can.

5

James

People keep saying Vettel is too young and has plenty of time to join Ferrari. But Vettel will be 26-27 in 2014 , the same age as Schumi when he joined Ferrari but with much more exp and double the titles (at that age).

I think that’s the right time to join Ferrari. Ferrari anyways replaces drivers when they turn around 35. Maybe Seb Vettel shud return to Redbull after 10 yrs with Ferrari. That way he will always be clear no.1, and won’t have a competitive teammate.

6

Hi, does anyone know how to follow the Horse Whisperer’s blog? 🙂

7

You make a lot more sense than other 250+ comments before urs. 😀

8

Haha, I think I found it on my own but whatever I read didn’t make any sense. Maybe something was lost in translation or maybe the Horse Whisperer was having a vodka and Red Bull.

9

It’s normal practice to say, we haven’t signed anyone yet for 2014. But if it were true, they still would not reveal secrets early.

The point here is that, if it were to happen (Alonso & Vettel) it would be a major departure from Ferrari practice for over 40 years where they always had 1,5 pilots. Sometimes 1,25.

Vettel has admitted to dreaming of Red Cars at night. With or without Fernando, it will happen some day! Make bets only about which year.

10

Perhaps what the “Whisperer” isn’t saying is that Vettel will be replacing Alonso. FA has not won the championship. LdM said a week or so ago the FA will have a say on teammate if he wins the championship…?

11

James, do you think there may be a subtle campaign behind the scenes at Ferrari to put some pressure on Alonso?

How does Luca’s comment that you reported here not long ago, about “First Alonso has to win a title, then we won’t bring in a driver who will bother him” … how does that relate to this article, in your view? any connection, or none at all?

12

Can’t believe the fuss about this to be honest – the only winner from this is Vettel. RBR have fashioned the team around him and they won’t want to lose him. The “deal” is nothing more than a trump card for his contract renewal – which will probably see him as the highest grossing F1 driver in history when it is agreed.

13

With Ferrari confirming Massa only until the end of 2013,the rumours on Vettel wont die down soon

14

Once Seb has 4 WDCs, Alonso will not “agree” to have him as a team mate. After all, Alonso is so almighty only with his blessing can anything get done in modern F1. Right?

Vettel is not leaving RBR. He would be more nuts. More nuts than Lewis was leaving McLaren. (This statement to be re-evaluated in 3 years time).

15

Hi james, i think vettel may go there in 2015, if i just read following 2 para from your column together

“Ferrari sources say they already have a deal in place with double world champion Vettel, with an option for the 25-year-old to join them in 2014″

“Sebastian Vettel, without a shadow of doubt, will be part of the Red Bull Racing team in 2014.”

it seems almost everybody is fixed on 2014 vettel move, why it cant be 2015? as vettel’s contract expires at end of 2014

16

At least it’s an interesting story. Vettels clause in his contract makes speculation completely valid for the next 2 years. Whether he did it as a move to prepare for Ferrari or as a contract bargaining chip, we won’t know for a while longer.

17

I could be wrong, but I believe Ferrari were vehemently denying that they signed Alonso, up until the day that they announced it.

18

I don’t get all this whining about drivers being stupid to leave a winning team. Drivers have changed teams since racing began and for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it doesn’t work out and their careers peters out and often it does work and they become an even bigger ‘legend’.

Sure, Vettel has a good car atm and with Newey, chances are the next few Red Bulls will be good. But then, Newey has also produced some dogs so it certainly isn’t a sure thing.

And how would history evaluate Vettel with 8 titles if he all won them with a Red Bull? Everyone would say it was mostly down to being in the ‘right car’. Schumacher is a legend because he went to Ferrari and became successful. Senna was willing to take on Prost at McLaren, leaving Lotus where he was cherished like a god. Berger was willing to do the same at McLaren against Senna. Prost took on Mansell at Ferrari, then the favoured child. Piquet went to Williams from Brabham and complete #1 status. Clark remained a Lotus guy and he hardly features as a legend because of it IMO. And don’t let me start on Fangio.

Practically all the F1 greats have changed teams during their careers but the perceived wisdom of many posters here is that you should never leave a winning team…..Wonder who is right?

19

I don’t suppose you have considered that there might be no “right” answer?

Tying yourself indefinitely to a team just because they are winning now is of course foolish, but so is leaving for the sake of it if you can’t see the potential to become a winner in a team that you might be going to.

While many of your examples are relevant, and I don’t doubt that Seb will eventually drive elsewhere (though not convinced it will be Ferrari in 2014), I think if anyone somehow cobbles together 8 titles nobody will give a rats down the line if they did them all with the same team or not.

20

Jim Clark not a legend? How old are you? I started watching F1 in the mid-60s and at that time there was unanimous agreement among GP drivers and journalists that Clark was the phenom of the era. Senna before there was a Senna. Today he is still considered up there with Fangio, Stewart and the younger boys. He had legendary drives in non-Lotus cars including Ford Falcons and even a NASCAR race in an oval. He dominated the Indy 500 whenever he competed there. His only fault was the fragility of Colin Chapman’s inventive devices. (The Newey of his era?)

21

Well, I am 45 and have followed F1 since 1982 so that’s 30 years. And yes, Clark was good but I have never seen him named in any top 3 of the best drivers. After all, he lacks the defining aspects for such elevated status: equally strong competition and the ability to win titles in multiple teams instead of ‘lucking’ into a good car/team and then staying there forever.

22

The Times named Clark as the best F1 driver in their list of the Top 50 F1 drivers, in 2009.

Clark holds the record for number of Grand Slams (pole, win, fastest lap, led every lap), with 8 from 76 starts. Also holds the record for the percentage of laps led in a season, and highest percentage of championship points attained (100%, though this was in an era where only your best x of y results thru the year counted for the championship). He is third all-time in win percentage (34.25%) behind only Fangio and Ascari, though with more starts and wins. He is 2nd all-time in pole percentage (45.21%), just behind Fangio.

Clark had John Surtees, Graham Hill as teammates at Lotus thru the years. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that had he not died that Clark would’ve won in 1968. And of course he had horrible luck in the final race of 1964, when he was on track to win the title.

You just have to see what other big drivers of the time (I’m thinking Jackie Stewart) had to say about him. It’s clear that David Hobbs on Speed regards him as one of the best ever.

23

could you pls enlighten us as to who it is that has decreed that winning titles in multiple teams is a “defining aspect” of legend status?

Guess by your logic Senna isn’t a legend either since he only won his titles with McLaren.

24

Your examples go back to the period of F1 where the driver had much more of an impact on the outcome of a race. Consider the last 20 years, when the dominance of the car eclipses to a great extent the driver, and only one WDC winner has ever moved teams and gone on to win another title.

25

Clark is not a legend?

26

A crazy statement from LexN. Clark is a true legend. He would’ve won more titles were he not cut down while still in his prime.

27

Vettel to Ferrari in 2014 makes perfect sense. Will it happen? Someone knows. Alonso wants to show he can beat the best while Vettel wants to do likewise.

Later in the day a couple of lines were added: “But Red Bull team boss Christian Horner insists Vettel will not leave. He told BBC Sport: “Sebastian Vettel, without a shadow of doubt, will be part of the Red Bull Racing team in 2014.”

The above is an interesting comment. This could mean Vettel is a Red Bull driver on January 1st 2014, then a Ferrari driver thereafter.

Clause in the contract. Newey leaves F1 after the 2013 season. Maybe. In another article, perhaps on this site, Newey talks about the 2014 aero regs being more restrictive. Apart from the money, why would he want to put such compromises into his designs. He must be getting frustrated, surely?

Two roosters in the hen house. Maybe 2014 will be a cock fight for the number one status, the loser leaving with the tail between their legs. Contracts mean nothing.

28

Agree, contracts mean nothing, just ask Raikkonen.

29

James, is the key to this not really what Adrian Newey will do at some point?

If RB win a 3rd tittle this year, might he not move on after 6 years (although maybe 2014 is key due to rule changes)? do you think he could join a different team? I personally could see Newey go back to McLaren for some unfinished business, back to Williams to help them back on top or who knows team up with Brawn at Merc! But he could go to Ferrari given that engines will once again play a major role 2014 onwards and last time I checked RB do not make those!

30

not sure who it was but RB were being interviewed over what v6 they were going to use and joking they said maybe we will build our own:)

31

Ferrari would love to get Newey – but he wants to stay in the UK

32

James, would you elaborate on “But all the evidence from Alonso’s career shows that the one thing he cannot cope with is being beaten in qualifying or a race by a team mate” please?

33

Don’t remember him throwing all his toys out of the pram at Mclaren?

34

“All the evidence from Alonso’s career……”. Off the top of my head, if you talk only of his F1 career, he’s partnered Marques who offered no opposition. Fisichella who’s a Grand Prix winner and reasonably quick, although not in Alonso’s league, and there was no problem even though Fisi out-qualified him. Then Trulli, who Briatore admitted was probably quicker over one lap than Alonso and who is a Grand Prix winner, and still no problem. Then Hamilton.

I accept that Alonso probably under-estimated how quick Hamilton was in 2007 and one of the 2 red-mist moments of his career was in Hungary. But are we saying that 2007 would have been perfect had Alonso not been the only one causing problems?

I believe it’s on record that he was already being made to feel an outsider the minute that Dennis spoke to him after he got out of the car having won Monaco. Everyone knows that the initial problem in hungary was caused by Hamilton. Then, how would you feel if your team appealed its points penalty but wouldn’t stand behind you about your grid penalty? The only honest thing from Dennis that season was “we were racing Fernando”.

He then had Piquet and Grosjean, admittedly neither of whom will have worried him. Finally, Massa who spent 20 seconds thinking he was World Champion and who’s won 11 Grand Prix. That’s a decent pedigree, the fact Alonso has destroyed him (to use a Whitmarsh expression only correctly in this context) reflects Alonso’s talent, nothing else.

Hence the reason for the challenge. I defer to James’ better judgement as I do think he’s a fantastic journalist and source of information although I sense he’s not that enthusiastic about Alonso and would agree the BBC lot that Vettel 8th and Alonso 10 in that list is fair. Quite how beats me, but there you are.

35

FERRARI DO NOT NEED VETTEL ANYTIME SOON.

Whilst it would be entertaining to watch the complete and utter TRAIN CRASH of Alonso and Vettel both driving for Ferrari, I am sure that Monty will NEVER let that happen while he has breath in his body.

Potentially, Ferrari already have the prefect driver combination in Massa and Alonso (with Massa returning to form quite nicely I might add).

There are other drivers out there that could do a great job of supporting Alonso without de-stabalising the whole team – which is traditionally what Ferrari want.

36

No doubt that Ferrari are lining up Vettel for the future, but if Red Bull continue on this form for the next few years, then why leave. The best thing about Alonso/Vettel at Ferrari is that Alonso couldn’t handle it, he would be throwing all the toys out of the pram again if vettel beat him, would be great viewing

As for Hamilton leaving Mclaren, button may think he is making a mistake, but Mclaren can’t even win a title when they do have the best car, the mistakes this year have been shocking for a top team, glad lewis is leaving

37

James, any noise out of McLaren about Vettel? Surely they have to target him now.

And maybe Vetted has a release clause in his contract if Newey leaves.

38

Ha, I know what the Horse Whisperer means about the “cut and paste” F1 web sites! I’m sticking with jamesallenonf1 for some real journalism 🙂

39

Honda is supposed to be coming back. So Vettel and Kobayashi Honda 2014.

40

Kobayashi really, really needs Honda to come back! But I doubt they’ll come back as a constructor. Engine manufacturer, maybee.

Perhaps Sauber with Honda engines?

41

James,

Off topic, but was wondering what the rumors going round are that who would replace Jake Humphrey? Has Lee Mckenzie got a chance or are the Beeb looking at someone outside of the current team?

42

Don’t know what the fuss is about…

More interestingly, Luca’s quote says they still don’t know who is partnering Fernando in 2013!

I’m sure Vettel has an ‘option letter’ with ferrari for 2014 (I bet Webber and a few other drivers do too…) The options are no doubt conditional on x,y,z so that all the possible scenarios are covered. Anything that they find later wasn’t covered gets counsel from Bernie.

Vettel will no doubt look for another challenge post-Red Bull, probably Ferrari then Mercedes would look good on the CV…

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