There has been a significant reaction to the comments made by Fernando Alonso over the radio at the start of Q3 in Monza yesterday.
Heading out on circuit behind team mate Felipe Massa on an out lap, he was told that he would have to let Nico Rosberg through as the German was on a hot lap.
Alonso’s response is not clear in one key word, but appears to be “Quindi c’e da farlo passare..veramente siete dei scemi eh! Mamma mia, ragazzi!”
This translates as “so I have to let him (Rosberg) pass..really you are idiots, Good grief, boys..”
However the unclear word is the crucial one. Listening to it through several times it sounds more like “geni” (geniuses) and the tone of his speech is ironic, which makes the use of the word “geniuses” ironic. The Italian media itself isn’t sure which word he used, while Alonso himself said afterwards that his choice of word was “geni”.
It’s not the first time that his language skills, while admirable, have caused problems. His criticisms of the car this summer have partially been accentuated by using the wrong word.
Either way, it indicates his impatience with a team which is not giving him the tools – either in the car or in the strategy – to fight with a formidable enemy in the form of Red Bull and Vettel.
There is a lot of tension within the team at the moment; Alonso is a champion who wants to win and he doesn’t take well to not winning, as Luca di Montezemolo, Ferrari’s president accepts.
Operationally Ferrari were trying something ambitious – getting Massa to give Alonso a tow, increasing his top speed by some 20km/h if you get it right and meaning it takes around 2/10ths of a second less to travel the length of the straight. Ferrari have done this before; it’s hard to pull off because if the car in front is too close, the following car loses downforce on the vital exit of the Parabolica corner.
So Ferrari was wrapped up in its slipstreaming plan and put the cars out some 12 seconds ahead of Rosberg.
Alonso clearly didn’t feel he needed to let Rosberg past and he was right – at the end of the Ferrari’s out-lap Rosberg had still not caught them and so they would not have to deal with a slowing Mercedes on their own hot lap.
So he was showing that he was ahead of the game and they are not on his level. It’s not a team-building stance and drivers have to always lead while maintaining team spirit.
This latest episode of Alonso showing up Ferrari as not being “on it”, comes at a delicate moment for the Ferrari team following Luca di Montezemolo’s public rebuke to Alonso after the Hungarian Grand Prix.
Montezemolo spoke about this yesterday, “In a family every now and then it does some good (“to tweak someone’s ear”, as he described it at the time.)The important thing is to remain a family.
In the paddock yesterday afternoon there was an awkward moment of theatre, (and shown in the image above), where Alonso was passing as Montezemolo was addressing a small group of media, including JA on F1.
Anxious for an opportunity to project an image of happy families to the media, Montezemolo said, “Alonso, is it true that you are going to drive for Marussia next year?” Alonso smiled and Montezemolo then tried to ask him about his radio message for the team about the Rosberg gap, but Alonso ducked it and they did a sort of semi man-hug and Montezemolo then called him “Fernandino”, which means “Little Fernando”.
So what does it all mean? For all the smoothing out of tensions on the eve of this crucial him race for Ferrari by Alonso in the press conference on Thursday where he committed his future to Ferrari and called it “the best team in the world”, Ferrari is clearly not performing like that at the moment and the frustrations are clear. At the same time, he’s not projecting the right image as a team leader, not observing the mantra ‘You win together, you lose together’.
This tangled human drama also extends to the choice of second driver; Alonso does not want Raikkonen and hiring him would further upset the Spaniard. He wants Massa to stay.
Massa played the loyal number two yesterday, sacrificing his own hopes for his team mate – although ironically on the second run he was too far ahead of Alonso and ended up with a faster time – and this sends a message to rivals for his seat, like Raikkonen, who would never do that.
Montezemolo said yesterday that the team would decide next week on its second driver, that the result of this race would be significant for Massa but that there are other drivers beside Raikkonen out there. Clearly Nico Hulkenberg’s performance, outqualifying the Ferraris in a Sauber will have made a huge impression at a vital moment and could swing the deal his way.
It’s a fluid situation and Ferrari is in need of some stability now to steer through this difficult moment and set a course for the future.