Fernando Alonso and his Ferrari team will not know until Monday whether he will be able to race in the US Grand Prix at Austin next weekend.
The Spaniard has to undergo a medical check in order to be released to fly to the US on Tuesday, after his spine-jarring incident in Abu Dhabi, where he went off the track while exiting the pits alongside Jean Eric Vergne. He flew over several high kerbs and jarred his back, necessitating a visit to the hospital after the race.
According to Gazzetta dello Sport’s Pino Allievi, were Alonso to fail his medical check, Ferrari would draft in Jules Bianchi, who races with Marussia but is part of the Ferrari young driver programme. With Ferrari locked in a tight three way battle with Mercedes and Lotus for the lucrative second place in the constructors’ championship, that would be a high pressure assignment. The team also has Pedro de la Rosa, who has acted as a ‘super-sub’ in the past for McLaren, when Juan Pablo Montoya was injured.
The noises from Spain and Italy are that Alonso should be passed fit and everything should be normal.
Despite Alonso saying pointedly during the Thursday press conference in Abu Dhabi that his relationship with Ferrari “Was perfect, is perfect and will be perfect,” Allievi notes that Ferrari did not welcome the fact that the photo of Alonso in a neck brace en route to hospital was disseminated by Alonso’s manager Luis Garcia.
Despite Alonso’s protestations to the contrary, things are tense between team and driver, not helped by Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo giving Alonso’s “ear a tweak” in July, after photos of his manager meeting with Red Bull boss Christian Horner were published. Montezemolo did not refer to that in his unprecedented attack on a senior Ferrari driver, reserving his ire for Alonso’s repeated criticisms of the Ferrari car.
Alonso had picked that moment to shake the tree, because it left time for the team to react and reorganise itself technically to ensure that it doesn’t suffer a repeat of this season where the team has failed to keep pace with development
Although there are some in the paddock who feel that Alonso will not race in 2014, informed sources close to the Spaniard say that he will certainly drive for the team next year and will be looking around for the best move for 2015. McLaren’s senior management and incoming engine supplier Honda are keen to explore the option of Alonso, but he wants to see what kind of car they produce next year after they fell even further behind this year than Ferrari.
Meanwhile Ferrari’s “insurance policy” driver for next season, Kimi Raikkonen, had his first visit yesterday to Maranello since he left the team at the end of 2009. He had a brief meeting with Montezemolo and team boss Stefano Domenicali and met some of the staff.
His other priority was to try the proposed seat for 2014. This is very important at this stage as the packaging of the new hybrid powertrains puts a real squeeze on hip space for the drivers and although Raikkonen is still under contract with Lotus (despite them not paying him) it was important for Ferrari to know that they don’t have any problems accommodating Raikkonen.