Archive for October, 2014

The Alonso Situation

October 3, 2014 Leave a comment

The driver market is wide open at the moment with speculation that Fernando Alonso will be leaving Ferrari at the end of 2014.

Alonso is the key to unlocking the door in 2015. Once Alonso has decided or Ferrari have decided who they want to in 2015 the rest of the grid will fall in to place.

I am no F1 insider and I do not know what is going on behind closed doors but let us look at the options and what we do know.

Ferrari – Staying put. The Latin blood that runs through the Spanish and the Italians oozes incredible passion. The passion lies deep at Maranello and with the Italians which Alonso finds highly relatable. McLaren are much more British and pragmatic which I do not think suits the Spanish/Latin character. This is well documented by Alain Prost often stating how he could not work with the French (Renault) as he had a much more Anglo-Saxon mentality leading to be a pragmatist and blended well with McLaren’s philosophies. I do not see Alonso in the same vain, he is a deeply passionate person.

Change is the big thing at Ferrari though. Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo have both now departed for Marco Mattiacci and Sergio Marchionne respectively. Politics a plenty here and there is likely to be a huge shift within Ferrari and a new direction under Marchionne. This may be of concern to Alonso.

– Positives: Building upon what he already knows. Ferrari have one year worth of experience in learning and understanding how the engines work and will come back stronger. It may be simple but knowing the team and have a good working relationship with mechanics really is key and it is something he would have to learn new wherever he goes.

It will be the first full year James Allison has had control of the design of the car. Key to note that Alonso wanted Allison so to leave when he is about to give him is first produced Ferrari car seems a little strange.

Number one status. Supposedly in modern Formula 1 this does not exist but let’s be honest, Alonso has exclusivity when it comes to lead driver in Ferrari. I doubt he wants to let that freedom go too quickly.

Strong links to suggest that Ferrari and Mercedes have an aerodynamic advantage for 2015 as they already have low shaped noses which are mandatory for 2015. This may seem small but to have that air data of how it shapes around the car is significant.

– Negatives: Alonso does not seem to be either the type of person or the type of driver that Mattiachi wants and I believe Marchionne seems to be in the bracket of tolerating Alonso. Difficulties with management could be an issue in the foreseeable future.

2014 is the worst Ferrari that Alonso has driven. 2010 and 2012 were both glorious opportunities for titles but development against Red Bull slipped and never had the car he needed to beat Vettel. Upgrades and development a concern.

Does he believe in Ferrari? Simple as that really, does Alonso believe that Ferrari can give him a race winning car? At the age of 33 he is getting no younger but is still hungry for World Championships.

McLaren – This link is ever growing and throughout the free practice sessions in Japan it grew even more that Alonso and McLaren will happen in 2015. Strong sources called that Alonso arrived in Japan early on Monday and was headed towards the Honda headquarters but that was never confirmed.

– Positive: Moving to McLaren is a fresh challenge with the entire of Honda backing Alonso who know his capabilities.

Peter Prodromou the chief aero dynamist at Red Bull has moved to the team. Prodromou was second to Newey and certainly knows his aero packages.

Ron Dennis reformed team will start to take shape.

– Negatives: Alonso left on bad terms with McLaren and Ron Dennis at the end of 2007. Alonso is often quick to quell any differences between himself and Lewis Hamilton but more so seemed to be with Ron Dennis and the McLaren team.

Rumblings are that the Honda engine is three months behind development, too heavy and not producing enough power. That is of definite concern considering the Prancing Horse has hardly been a Mercedes beater.

McLaren have not made an all-round good package since 2008 where it was competitive at all tracks. This could also be looked at that under Martin Whitmarsh the team was not as strong but with Ron Dennis back in charge the entire McLaren team is likely to improve.

Red Bull – It is highly likely that this would turn in to a straight swap with Sebastian Vettel who has been linked for many years with a Ferrari seat in the future. Vettel himself having an average season and beaten by his team mate.

– Positive: 2015 car is going to be the last designed Adrian Newey car before he moves on to pastures new, likely to be the Americas Cup in sailing. One season in a Newey designed car is always going to be competitive and Alonso would no doubt utilise that package very well.

Much of the team is still there even though some key people have left. 2015 and beyond are to be transition years for Red Bull, likely to lead to their departure from the sport in a few years.

Many of the Renault mechanics from his championship winning seasons are at Red Bull at will likely feel very much at home there.

– Negatives: The most alarming one here is the Renault engine. It has been under powered and a let-down this season. While Ricciardo has done wonders to win, it has been at Mercedes misfortune or mistake. The Renault engine needs a significant re-design and much improvement. Renault have even threatened to leave the sport in the not too distant future which does not bode well for Alonso, who would want factory backing.

Beyond 2015 there will be new designers and aero dynamists at Red Bull. It will no longer be an Adrian Newey designed car. Conversely it has been documented that Newey will still been in a mentor styled role which will allow him to help the new team. Therefore that is not all doom and gloom.

Alonso has stated that he wants “low-risk” in reality staying at Ferrari is lowest risk option for the Spaniard. Build on what you have try to believe in the new philosophies of those stepping up at Maranello. Arguable Red Bull is also relatively low risk in the short term but that may fizzle out. McLaren to me is a huge, in fact, massive risk. I do not see or understand why Alonso would go somewhere where there are striking differences in how both operate and go about their business. He is not a McLaren type of driver and would be better suited at staying at Ferrari what he knows or blast his final few years in a Red Bull car that will likely stretch it legs for two maybe three years.

I am an avid Alonso fan if you have not noticed. I think he is the all-round best driver in Formula 1 and has been for many years. Hamilton gives him a run but I believe he is still number one. I do not see him at McLaren at all. There is no logical sense to move to a team that is in a bigger state of flux than Ferrari are themselves. The switch to Red Bull I could understand more but I think staying where he is and keeping the faith is the way forwards.

Just my thoughts though…