Fernando Alonso set for pastures old?

Speculation that Fernando Alonso and Ferrari could be about to go their separate ways has reached fever pitch. The whisperings which have been swarming for a number of months are becoming louder with Autosport reporting that an announcement is not far away.  This has further been compounded by the fact that Sebastian Vettel has confirmed his departure from Red Bull at the end of the season. The four time world champion was coy about his destination but both Helmut Marko and Christian Horner spoke of him moving to Ferrari. So, does this confirm that Alonso is on his way out? In 2011 Alonso signed a contract extension which would see him remain at Maranello until the end of 2016. This in itself has seemed increasingly unlikely to be honoured in the recent months but now it looks like the two-time world champion won’t make it to 2015 with the team.

Following qualifying for the Japanese Grand Prix, Alonso let little away but revealed he had a plan. “I still have not decided completely,” he said. “I have a plan in my head, I have had my mind set for the last two or three months. I have the privileged position because more or less I can choose wherever I want to go in the moment that I want to go.” That plan could involve a return to McLaren, having previously driven with the Woking based squad back in the ill-fated 2007 season. There were obviously fireworks at the time between him and team-mate Lewis Hamilton, and Alonso also found himself intertwined into Spygate. Many have questioned whether Alonso and Ron Dennis could work together again after their infamous falling out but it has been seven years, so you would imagine it would be water under the bridge now. Alonso has not hidden the fact that he wants to win another world championship and Ferrari have admitted it could be another two or three years before they are back in contention. McLaren are not any better off than Ferrari but Alonso could be banking on the Honda engine helping to catapult McLaren back to the front end of the grid, rather than the midfield where they currently lie.

McLaren’s Ron Dennis told Sky F1’s Martin Brundle that no drivers have been signed yet for the 2015 season by McLaren but that the team want to sign the most competitive drivers available. McLaren seem to be Alonso’s only viable option for a competitive drive, with Mercedes confirming that they are keeping both their drivers for next year and Red Bull promoting Daniil Kvyat to join Daniel Ricciardo. The Alonso to McLaren rumour is not a new one and has been mentioned for quite a while and the Spaniard has returned to teams in the past. After the 2007 season he returned to Renault before moving to Ferrari for 2010. His deal with the Scuderia was announced at the end of 2009 – after fierce denials from Ferrari that they were dropping Kimi Raikkonen – and he arrived to partner Felipe Massa. “I’m very happy and very proud to become a Ferrari driver,” Alonso said at the time. “Driving a single-seater from the Prancing Horse is everybody’s dream in this sport and today I have the opportunity to make this dream come true.” But now that dream seems to have fizzled out and become more of a nightmare.

Alonso moved to the team with high hopes of winning championships but he has been unable to do that with under-performing cars. He came very close in 2010 but lost out in the season finale in Abu Dhabi after a rather frustrating race stuck behind Vitaly Petrov. He finished fourth in 2011 with just a solitary win. He finished second again in 2012 and 2013 again with a car not capable of taking the fight directly to Vettel and Red Bull. 2014 has proven to be another disappointment and he is currently fourth in the championship with Ferrari slipping to fourth behind Williams. His year with McLaren 2007 is the closest he has got to winning another championship since his titles in 2005 and 2006. He eventually finished third despite tying on points with Hamilton. Alonso took four victories and eight further podiums that year. 2010 was close as well – with five wins – but since then the wins and even podiums have fizzled out. His last win was the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix and he has only picked up two podium positions – not enough for a man who harbours a dream of winning a third world championship.

He has obviously become frustrated in his current situation. Ferrari have been ruthless this year as they strive to get back on top and both Stefano Domenicali and Luca di Montezemolo have exited the team. It has often been stated that no individual is bigger than Ferrari, but what does the future hold for Alonso? Is he on his way back to McLaren or does something else lie ahead for the Spaniard? Time will tell…

Stefano Domenicali resigns as Ferrari Team Prinicpal

Stefano Domenicali has resigned as Team Principal for the Ferrari F1 team, it has been confirmed.

The resignation, which comes following a disappointing start to their 2014 campaign, will take place with immediate effect. Ferrari have promoted Marco Mattiacci, the current President and CEO of Ferrari North America to the role.

“There are special moments that come along in everyone’s professional life, when one needs courage to take difficult and very agonising decisions,” Domenicali said. “It is time for a significant change. As the boss, I take responsibility, as I have always done, for our current situation. This decision has been taken with the aim of doing something to shake things up and for the good of this group of people that I feel very close to.”

“With all my heart, I thank all the men and women in the team, the drivers and the partners for the wonderful relationship we have enjoyed over all these years,” he continued. “I hope that very soon, Ferrari will be back where it deserves to be. My final words of thanks go to our President, for having always supported me and to all our fans. I only regret that we have been unable to harvest what we worked so hard to sow in recent years.”

Domenicali has been involved with Ferrari for a long time, having joined the team in 1991. In 2003 he became Sporting Director before taking over from Jean Todt as Team Principal in 2008. Ferrari’s President, Luca di Montezemolo thanked Domenicali for his time with the team. “I thank Stefano Domenicali, not only for his constant dedication and effort, but also for the great sense of responsibility he has shown, even today, in always putting the interests of Ferrari above all else,” he said. “I hold Domenicali in esteem and I have watched him grow professionally over the twenty three years we have worked together. I now wish him every success for the future.” In his first year as Team Principal, Domenicali successfully navigated the team to the Constructors Championship, although they have failed to win a Drivers Championship in the six years with him at the helm. Ferrari currently lie fifth in the championship – with their drivers fourth and twelfth – and di Montezemolo reportedly left in the middle of the Bahrain Grand Prix, signifying his dissatisfaction.

Di Montezemolo also spoke highly of Mattiacci. “I also want to wish all the best to Marco Mattiacci, whom I know to be a highly regarded manager and who knows the company well,” he concluded. “He has accepted this challenge with enthusiasm.”

It is unclear as to where Domenicali’s future lies, but at least his situation with Ferrari is clear. Martin Whitmarsh, who had a similarly long career with McLaren, lost his job as Team Principal at the start of the year and McLaren are as yet to make comment as to what he is doing now.

2014: Ferrari launch F14 T

Ferrari have become the second team to officially launch their 2014 challenger.

Like McLaren, Ferrari’s launch took the form of photographs and videos being uploaded to the team’s website. The F14 T – named by a fan vote – is the sixtieth car built by Ferrari and has been in the works for over two years. The design features some similar aspects such as pull-rod front and rear suspension; however the most obvious changes are at the front and rear of the car.

Regulation changes to lower the chassis and nose have led to teams running what has been dubbed an ‘anteater’ nose, but Ferrari have offered a different interpretation. The rear wing has also changed significantly to encompass the rule changes. As well as the obvious changes inside, there are a number of changes outside to accommodate an intercooler for the turbo-compressor system and to manage heat rejection from the ERS. The F14 T also has a redesigned braking system.

“I think that this year, that the technical challenge is, as far as I remember, the biggest one we have had in the last decade of Formula One,” Team Principal Stefano Domenicali said. “Connected to the challenge is the opportunity to make sure that this challenge will be taken in the right way from our group of engineers. We have a total new powertrain; we have a new set of regulations that are very interesting, but you really have to look carefully in depth to be sure we take the opportunity to improve the level of performance.”

“The most important thing that we have to avoid is to fall under the big pressure that we have,” Domenicali concluded. “This has been very clear with my people. We need to stay very focused on the job, we need to make sure that we do the very best job that we can.”

This year Ferrari will have a formidable line-up in the form of Fernando Alonso and Kimi Raikkonen. Alonso has been with the team since 2010 and is entering his fifth season with the team, while Raikkonen returns having left the team at the end of 2009. 2014 will be his fourth season with the Scuderia. Both drivers are world championships, with Raikkonen winning his with Ferrari in 2007. He has spent the past two years driving for Lotus, having spent two years out of Formula One following his Ferrari departure.

“It’s nice to come back to the Ferrari team,” returnee Kimi Raikkonen said. “It’s the place I won my championship in 2007 and obviously the aim is the same – we want to do the best that we can. We will try to win the world championship but time will tell what will happen.”

“If we are the strongest team? I hope we are going to be,” Raikkonen continued. “Obviously I think we both drive very well and we’ll both want to win. Time will tell what will happen and if we can bring the championships back.”

“Schumacher won in the fifth year here with Ferrari and I’m in the fifth year now,” Fernando Alonso said. “Hopefully I can repeat some of the success he had. Obviously in the last four years we’ve had some opportunities – in 2010, 2012 we were very very close in the championship – so this year we will try again and hopefully this year will be the good one.”

Full details of the car, including photographs and videos can be found here: http://f14t.ferrari.com/en/#countdown. The team will be on track next week in Jerez.

Vote for Ferrari’s car name

Ferrari have become the latest team to announce the launch of their 2014 car. The as yet un-named challenger will be launched on Saturday 25 January. Before the car is unveiled, however, Ferrari have offered fans a unique opportunity to be involved with the naming process.

By visiting http://2014f1car.ferrari.com/en/#countdown fans can vote five times for any of the following five options: F14 T, F14 Maranello, F14 Scuderia, F166 Turbo, F616. So far over 105,000 votes have been cast from all over the world with F14 T and F166 Turbo leading the way. 

Over the years Ferrari’s cars have been called F138, F60 and 412 T2 to name but a few. A number of cars have also carried the year in their names e.g. F2012, F2008, F2007 etc.

As well as being able to vote for the name, fans can submit questions for Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, and Stefano Domenicali. This can be done via the team’s Facebook page; by emailing askstefano@ferrari.com/askkimi@ferrari.com/askfernando@ferrari.com; or tweeting with the hashtag #askstefano/#askkimi/#askfernando.

The answers to the questions will be revealed after the launch of the car, with the name being revealed on Friday 24 January. Get voting and asking!

A Review of the Year: F1 – January & February

It was a Formula One season that saw Red Bull Racing and Sebastian Vettel clinch two more world titles. 2013 brought with it plenty of thrills and spills, from cars launching and driver news in January, to prize-giving galas and more driver news in December. Here is part one of a review of the year in Formula One.

January 2013

After the off-season, things got going once again in January.

Early in the month it was announced that Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull had been nominated for Laureus Awards for the third year in a row. Vettel, who at the time had just become the youngest ever triple world champion, was up for the World Sportsman of the Year award while Red Bull were nominated for the team equivalent.

Jules Bianchi, who would later become a Marussia race driver for the 2013 season, was victorious at Felipe Massa’s annual karting event in Brazil, Desafio Internacional das Estrelas. The French driver beat GP2 driver Felipe Nasr by 15 points and a host of racing drivers from Formula One (including Fernando Alonso, Kamui Kobayashi, and Massa himself), Indy Car and Stock Car racing.

Ferrari announced in January that they had signed former McLaren test-driver and racing driver Pedro de la Rosa to their testing line-up.

There were changes to the FIA set-up when they announced that they had replaced outgoing doctor Dr Gary Hartstein with Dr Ian Roberts. Hartstein revealed in a series of Twitter messages after his sacking in November 2012 that he was unsure why he had been replaced. Dr Roberts had served as the Chief Medical Officer at the British Grand Prix for a number of years and also sits on a number of motorsport medical advisory panels.

The Lotus F1 Team became the first in 2013 to unveil their new car – the E21. A launch was held at the their factory and interviews were held with Team Principal Eric Boullier, Team Chairman Gerard Lopez, and Technical Director James Allison. Drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Romain Grosjean took the covers off the car, giving the world its first look at what they hoped would be a title challenger.

Just three days after Lotus, on the 31st January, it was McLaren’s turn to launch their car. It was also used as a way of launching their 50th celebrations. Bruce McLaren set up McLaren back in 1963 and a poignant video was shown before the launch itself. This was followed by a convoy of McLaren’s most iconic cars – from the M8D CanAm Sportscar to the McLaren P1 supercar. Sam Michael and Jonathan Neale offered their thoughts on the MP4-28, which was unveiled by Jenson Button and McLaren’s new recruit Sergio Perez.

Toto Wolff revealed that he was leaving Williams for Mercedes. It was later announced that he would form part of the management line-up at the team for 2013, alongside Team Principal Ross Brawn and Niki Lauda.

February 2013

Ferrari became the third team to launch their 2013 car, doing so from their factory in Maranello. Team Principal Stefano Domenicali and drivers Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa offered their thoughts on the year ahead.

Force India also launched their car on February 1st, theirs being at Silverstone. Deputy Team Principal Bob Fearnley was on hand, along with Technical Director Andrew Green. The job of unveiling the car itself was left to Paul di Resta, Force India’s only driver at that stage. They had not yet announced who would be partnering him for the 2013 season.

Caterham confirmed their line-up for the 2013 season, with it being announced that 2012 reserve driver Giedo van der Garde would partner Charles Pic.

Sauber unveiled their 2013 car at their Hinwil base, with all new line-up Esteban Gutierrez and Nico Hulkenberg in attendance. Team Principal Monisha Kaltenborn and Chief Designer Matt Morris were both there to offer their thoughts on the year ahead. A striking difference was the change from a predominantly white livery to a much darker graphite.

Newly rebranded Infiniti Red Bull were the sixth team to launch their new car – the RB9 – doing so at their base in Milton Keynes. Prior to the launch the team uploaded a video entitled Rhythm of the Factory to their website, which outlined the different processes of putting the car together. Team Principal Christian Horner and Adrian Newey were in attendance, along with Simon Sproule – a representative of Infiniti – and drivers Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber.

Mercedes were first of two teams to launch in Jerez – the location of the first test. Drivers Nico Rosberg and Lewis Hamilton took the covers off it before both taking the W04 out for a spin.

Toro Rosso launched their 2013 car – the STR8 – in the Jerez pit-lane. Drivers Jean-Eric Vergne and Daniel Ricciardo took the covers off it.

Rolex announced that they would become title sponsors of the Australian Grand Prix, following their confirmation as official Timekeeper and Time Pieces in December 2012.

Emirates and the Formula One Group announced a new five year deal which saw them become a Global Partner of Formula One.

Marussia and Caterham unveiled their car at the start of testing. The MR02 was the first car of Marussia’s to be fully equipped with KERS. It was unveiled by their new driver Max Chilton.

Williams revealed their new car at the start of the second pre-season test.

Luis Razia was confirmed as a Marussia driver for the 2013 season.

McLaren became the first motorsport organisation in the world to receive the FIA Environmental Award for the Achievement of Excellence.

It was announced that Adrian Sutil would test for Force India in Barcelona at the second pre-season test. He was later confirmed as Paul di Resta’s partner for the season ahead.

After the announcement that Paddy Lowe would leave McLaren at the end of 2013, the team confirmed that Tim Goss would take over as Technical Director.

McLaren’s Jenson Button set the fastest time on the first day of testing. Felipe Massa was the fastest overall by the end of the four days. Sergio Perez ended the second test (which was in Barcelona) fastest.

Kimi Raikkonen and Charles Pic traveled to Russia to take part in the Race of Stars, an ice racing event organised by Renault.

A busy man, a new ad campaign featuring Kimi Raikkonen surfaced, posing the question – why is Kimi so far away from home?

The third and final pre-season test started in Barcelona.

F1’s Silliest Season?

‘Multi 21, Seb. Multi 21′

After just two races in 2013, silly season kicked off after the Red Bull debacle at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Mark Webber was clearly unhappy after being passed by his team-mate Sebastian Vettel for the win, after the world champion had ignored orders to hold station behind his race leading team-mate. Reports instantly linked Kimi Raikkonen to the seat, with the Finn’s contract with Lotus due to run out at the end of the year.

Mark Webber announced in June of this year that he would be retiring at the end of the season to pursue a career in sportscars with Porsche. This announcement sent silly season into a frenzy and since then rumours have been rife about who will fill his vacated seat. Daniel Ricciardo and Fernando Alonso have both been linked to it, as has Kimi Raikkonen who has also been tipped to drive for Ferrari, Lotus and McLaren in 2014.

There is a saying, coined by Claud Cockburn, which is: “don’t believe anything until it has been officially denied”. This should definitely be remembered in Formula One.

This year silly season really centres around two vacancies: the one at Red Bull and a possible opening at Ferrari. Felipe Massa has once again found himself under pressure to turn his form around, if he wants to remain with the Scuderia for his ninth season with them. Team Principal Stefano Domenicali recently told the official Formula One website: “My favourite choice would be, of course, to keep Felipe because Felipe is a very good guy – very dedicated to the team – and when you look around there are not so many drivers out there that you swap and they immediately deliver.” He found himself in the same situation last season but was given a year-long contract extension for 2013. On the other side of the garage Alonso has a contract through to the end of 2016. The Spaniard is one driver that knows all too well, however, that contracts in Formula One are not always guarantees.

At the end of 2005, after Alonso had won his first world championship with Renault, he announced that he had signed a three year deal with McLaren from 2007. After a somewhat difficult season with McLaren, however, an amicable agreement was reached which saw Alonso leave his contract early, returning to Renault. Just a year later, Alonso found himself at the centre of another contract controversy.

Kimi Raikkonen was contracted with Ferrari until the end of 2010. This was the company line for most of the latter half of the season in 2009 (Q:”who will be driving for Ferrari next year?” A: “Kimi has a contract with us for 2010″). It was Alonso who ousted him. Ferrari subsequently paid Raikkonen to get him out of his contract and as a result Raikkonen sat two years on the sidelines, racing in WRC.

Last week, two Italian journalists on Twitter hinted that Raikkonen had signed a deal to return to Ferrari. With the next race being the Italian Grand Prix, many expected there to be an announcement from the Scuderia, however the team’s infamous Horse Whisperer moved to dispel that myth pointing out “from 1991, when the Maranello press office first began to put its official pronouncements down on paper, until now, only twice, in 2006 and 2008, has the team’s home grand prix provided the backdrop to an announcement regarding the drivers”. So the uncertainty could rumble on for a while yet.

Elsewhere it has been widely reported that Ricciardo has been for a seat sitting at Red Bull (where it was discovered his hips are too big for the 2014 car, but that’s another story) but again there has been no official confirmation from either party. So, if Ricciardo is confirmed at Red Bull that effectively leaves Raikkonen with two options: Ferrari and Lotus. He has been linked to McLaren but they are expected to keep both of their drivers on for next season.

This is always the case as the season enters its latter stages – who will drive where the following year? If a driver makes a compliment about another team, he’s going there. If a driver follows a team on Twitter, he’s going there (remember Jaime Alguersuari and Force India?). If a driver is spotted talking to a key member of another team, he’s going there. Drivers from years gone by are suddenly said to be making comebacks and anyone with a contract due to expire is a possibility for every team on the grid.

Chances are Ferrari will retain Massa and Alonso, Raikkonen will stay with Lotus and Ricciardo will make the move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull. At the end of the day, all this hooha could be for nothing and everything could remain very much as it is. That’s Formula One silly season for you!

2013: Car Launches: Ferrari

Launch Stats

Date: 01/02/2013
Location: Maranello
Chassis Name: F138
Key Personnel: Stefano Domenicali, Luca di Montezemolo, Felipe Massa, and Fernando Alonso

Ferrari kicked off a busy weekend of Formula One car launches, by becoming the third team to unveil their 2013 challenger. The launch took place at their Maranello base in front of members of the media. As was the case with the Lotus and McLaren launches, it was also streamed online.

The launch kicked off with some history of Ferrari, including a video, and then Team Principal Stefano Domenicali took to the stage to address the team, the sponsors, and the media. He spoke of how the new car is an evolution of last year’s car, but how Ferrari had dedicated a team to preparing for 2014, when the regulations will drastically change.

The car, which had been covered by a drape, was then unveiled after a dramatic light show and a moment of darkness with the sound of a heartbeat acting as a suspense builder. A noticeable difference to the 2012 car was the use of a modesty panel to cover the stepped nose.

After Domenicali had finished talking, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso took to the stage to discuss their prospects for the season ahead. Domenicali pointed out during his speech that Massa had had a strong second half of the season, and Massa revealed he hoped to be strong right from the start. This will be Massa’s eighth season at Ferrari, and he said that he still still gets a good feeling at the launches.

Fernando Alonso revealed that he feels last year, when seven different drivers won the first seven races, was a unique occurrence and won’t happen again. He believes that three teams will rise to the top and win all of the races, and he knows that Ferrari need to be one of them. It was recently revealed that Massa, and new Ferrari test driver Pedro de la Rosa, would complete all of the Jerez testing, with Alonso not getting in the car until Barcelona towards the end of February. When asked how he felt about that, he said he felt it was good as it allowed him to take a step back and prepare further for the season.

To read what Stefano Domenicali, Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso had to say, click here.

For a technical analysis of the F138 head to James Allen’s blog, and check out the team’s website.