Alonso and Ferrari at a crossroads in 2014

2014 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Korea International Circuit, 2013Should Fernando Alonso finally win an overdue third world championship, he will set a new record for the longest gap between consecutive titles.

Niki Lauda had to wait seven years for his third world championship, and that included two years spent in ‘retirement’.

But if Alonso were to win this year’s world championship eight years will have passed since his last one. During that time he has come within touching distance of the title on three occasions.

He almost made it three championship victories in a row in 2007. His finishing position of third that year belied the fact he was just a single point behind world champion Kimi Raikkonen.

His championship chances faltered that year as his relationship with McLaren disintegrated. That sent him back into the arms of Flavio Briatore and the Renault team who had delivered his first two titles but were now struggling.

A widely-anticipated move to Ferrari followed in 2010. Alonso arrived at the Abu Dhabi finale eight points ahead of Mark Webber and fifteen clear of Sebastian Vettel, but a calamitous strategy decision sent the title Vettel’s way.

If any season reinforced the view that Alonso is overdue a third title, it was surely 2012. Ferrari started the season with a remarkably poor car by their standards, yet by the time a much-improved chassis appeared at the fifth race Alonso was only four points behind Vettel, thanks in part to an inspired victory at a wet Sepang.

Alonso seldom failed to exploit any points-scoring opportunity to its fullest in a gruelling 20-race campaign. But at the final race, a nerve-shreddingly tense encounter at a slippery Interlagos, Vettel mustered a performance worthy of his adversary to deny him the title once more.

But what seems to frustrate Alonso most are the seasons, like the one just past, when he hasn’t had a car capable of regularly competing for victories. This was surely not what he expected when he joined F1’s most experienced, most successful – and richest – of teams.

Four years of grinding pressure from Red Bull and Vettel finally told in the middle of 2013 as Ferrari’s development programme again came up short. At Monza a team radio message from Alonso (from which we usually hear surprisingly little given he is the star driver of F1’s most popular team) hinted at the true extent of his frustrations when their qualifying tactics went wrong.

His management team were widely rumoured to be investigating potential new destinations for their man, who remains contracted to Ferrari until 2016. Astonishingly, it seems even a rapprochement with McLaren is not out of the question, as the team prepares to re-form its great alliance with Honda next year.

Fernando Alonso, Kimi Raikkonen, Melbourne, 2013But most significant was Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo’s stinging rebuttal to remarks Alonso made about the quality of his car – comments which had largely been overlooked until Montezemolo spoke out.

With that, a fissure appeared in the previously rock-solid relationship between driver and team. This had immediate consequences for Alonso.

Ferrari previously tolerated Felipe Massa’s chronic under-performance in the three years since his return from injury. During this time he was obliged to suffer several indignities in the name of supporting Alonso’s championship bids.

Now Ferrari determined they needed an equally capable driver in the second car. Out went Massa, and back came the very driver Alonso was originally hired to replace: Raikkonen. No one could miss the significance of that hiring.

As he begins his fifth season in red Alonso’s opportunities and threats are clear. The change in engine regulations potentially presents his best chance to break the Red Bull hegemony since he joined Ferrari. The aerodynamics division – a source of the team’s recent weakness – has been bolstered with highly-rated arrivals from Alonso’s former team.

But he now faces a stronger adversary within his own team – the one he beat to the 2005 title, and the one who beat him to the 2007 crown.

For all his qualities as a driver, Alonso has been found wanting the most when under pressure from the other side of the garage. This was true on the infrequent occasions when Jarno Trulli and Giancarlo Fisichella ran him close at Renault, and most obvious in that tense season alongside Hamilton in 2007.

A fascinating aspect of the coming season will be whether an older, wiser Alonso is better equipped to handle the days when Raikkonen is quicker.

All will be well if Ferrari finally produce the goods and Alonso delivers the title. As in 2005, when he brought Michael Schumacher’s five-year dominance of F1 to an end, Alonso could be the man to break the Red Bull-Vettel hegemony.

But if the cracks which developed in the relationship between Alonso and Ferrari last year continues to spread, it could be a different chapter from 2005 which is replayed: Alonso announcing a surprise change of teams – perhaps even a return to McLaren.

It’s going to be a fascinating 12 months for Ferrari, and much is riding on the next red machine to emerge from Maranello.

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Images ?? Ferrari/Ercole Colombo, Lotus/LAT

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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85 comments on “Alonso and Ferrari at a crossroads in 2014”

  1. Ferrari have to win the 2014 or lose all their respect.

    1. Not sure if this is true. This is a sport with a lot of variables so not winning does not mean that they lose respect.They had a worse period from 79 to 99.They came back from that with a bang !!!! We sport fans in general have very short memories.

    2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      7th January 2014, 15:18

      @full-throttle-f1 – Certainly, they need to win the title in next few years, but the general weight of expectation surrounding Mercedes next year may to some degree counteract some of the tifosi’s disappointment if they don’t win. If they finish second to Red Bull again though, yes, they may loose some fans.

      1. It almost always is the case that the WDC winner had the WCC winning car, so let’s start with that…will Ferrari provide the necessary equipment to FA and KR? Then let’s see if the cars these days naturally favour one driver more than the other. And if KR likes the car, the 2014 style of driving and racing better, then we’ll see how FA deals with that. And whatever happens, I’m sure Ferrari, FA, and KR will live to fight another day. Unless I’m mistaken, I think the only reason for the FA to Mac concept is that when FA was expressing some frustration at Ferrari last year, someone at Mac was asked and said they would take him back in a heartbeat…might have even been Ron Dennis….not sure. Keith is right with his last line that it will be a fascinating 12 months at Ferrari, and much is riding on the next red machine…but what else is new? That is the case every year, even when it comes down to defending a Championship winning year. Much is riding on RBR’s campaign too…they’ll either defend their titles or they won’t…and then they’ll be trying again in 2015.

    3. Its just the pressure they put on themselves by stating how they almost deserve to win titles @full-throttle-f1. Sure, they want that title, they have the drivers to deliver and should be able to build a car good enough.

      But the same can be said for Mercedes who bought a championship winning outfit only to struggle. They need it as bad as Ferrari. And for McLaren it would be just what they need too, although I can imagine that the Woking team will feel less preassure to do so with their lineup and the coming year being a bit of an in between year.

  2. I’m not expecting any issues for Alonso next year, even if Kimi beats him in the points.

    1. I believe Trulli was outperforming Alonso, at least in Qualifying and off-course in 2004, but then he was fired by Alonso’s Manager to eliminate 2005 challenge.
      While Fisichella was actually 1 second off Raikkonen pace, but you never know..will be exciting!

  3. Great article Keith! My thoughts:

    1) I do believe Alonso is better prepared for dealing with a strong team-mate now than he was in 2003-7. However, no one can change 180 degrees his personality and if they will be both fighting for the championship, it’s way more likely that Alonso will try something off the track, let’s say, than Kimi. Which won’t play in his favour at all, as I also believe LdM to be even less tolerant than Ron Dennis to such antics. Yes, some interpreted his recent quotes as Kimi being the number 2 driver but I think such interpretation is false and derives from deliberately wrong translations to english. Only an idiot can believe Kimi would even consider to agree with that. He certainly doesn’t have Massa’s mentality

    2) But by far more important is the car’s pace. No matter what happens intra-team, if Ferrari is again off-pace Alonso won’t be there in 2015, as near as certain to me

    1. Haha, any off-track tactics and politics targetting Kimi will get responses like -___- from Kimi.

    2. Kimi will not agree to be number 2 ?? What about in 2008 when they “fixed” his car and Massa constantly beat him? Massa, a driver that never was on the level of Alonso, Raikkonen or even Vettel!

      1. Why would they “fix” the car of the guy who won them the championship the previous season and who was leading with something like 6 races in? Ferrari never did anything to Kimi’s car. Kimi just didn’t come to terms with the car over a race distance. And don’t forget they were in a battle with McLaren for the Constructor’s and Driver’s Championships and so having Raikkonen at the front was beneficial to Ferrari. So all in all, your suggestion of Ferrari “fixing” Kimi’s car is absolute bullc**p!

  4. if ferrari is fast enough , kimi will win his second titles. no chance for alonso , no respect !

    1. I’m not agree with you. FA is the best driver in the F1 championship. He’s quicker than KR and we will see it this season…He already beat him in 2005 (with a slower car).
      This season will be really interesting, we will enjoy!

      1. Alonso never won a race in 2005 by beating Kimi on speed. The unreliable Merc was the sole reason for Alonso’s Championship. If the Merc was half as reliable as the then Renault, Kimi would have won the Championship in 2005 at least 3 races to spare.

        1. Really? People are so stupid. Its as though every single time Kimi wins Alonso will get 0 points. No way. Kimi would have only beaten Alonso with a race to spare or maybe Alonso would have taken it to the final round in China, where fyi, he beaten Kimi on speed. Might I mention Malaysia and Bahrain again where he also beat Kimi on speed. And Alonso was the better driver that season although some might argue that had the reliability problems of the McLaren not been there Kimi would have been champion. But truth is, that considering the blistering pace of the McLarens, Kimi should have been a long way ahead. But even with reliability, he wasn’t. He might win the races, but Alonso would surely be second. And btw if the McLaren was half as reliable as the Renault, Kimi wouldn’t have been champion, or not at least with 3 races to spare.

  5. Well if they can’t win a title after a major rules change then they won’t for quite some time.

  6. I think all these rumors about a possible return for Alonso to McLaren are bullcr**. Just think about it, Ferrari seems to have finally finished their reorganization – they filled the ranks in the technical team, got their wind tunnel and simulator sorted (kind of), and they can build their own engine. McLaren on the other hand seems to be in a downward spiral towards Honda engines. Raikkonen or not, if he has a chance to fight for the top spot this season, Alonso will be happy. I’m more interested how Kimi will fare with Alonso as team-mate. Will he be able to keep his ‘interest’ in F1 if he gets beaten?

    1. P.S. The only way Alonso would be quitting Ferrari after 2014 is Massa winning the WDC with Williams :)

    2. @klaas

      a downward spiral towards Honda engines

      That’s a strange choice of phrase. A “downward spiral” from being an engine customer to having an exclusive (for the first year at least) works deal?

      1. Because Honda have been out of F1 and will be going into it almost blind.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          7th January 2014, 15:14

          @joshua-mesh – What, despite the fact that they have millions of dollars, highly intelligent engineers, previous F1 experience and the luxury of seeing how the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault engines fair in 2014?

          1. what, despite the fact that they have millions of dollars, highly intelligent engineers, previous F1 experience

            Just like McLaren, only for some reason with all those resources they got only 1 title (barely) in 10+years.

            and the luxury of seeing how the Mercedes, Ferrari and Renault engines fair in 2014?

            I will see how these fair in 2014 but that wouldn’t help me build an engine.

          2. @klaas @william-brierty I think William has a point here: don’t forget the engine development restriction which does not affect Honda – quite an advantage, and they will surely have a lot of on-track feedback from mcLaren throughout 2014.

        2. @joshua-mesh On the other hand, they might benefit from being interested spectators this year, and, considering the engine freeze doesn’t affect them until 2016, it might be good for them.

        3. Because Honda have been out of F1 and will be going into it almost blind.

          You do know that Honda’s make other engines too? They also developed engines up to the last development freeze and the main innovation since then has been exhaust blowing maps which are now a dead end. I don’t think they have suddenly forgotten how to build engines.

          Given that the Honda engine was already fired up last year and the engines are all new for 2014 there’s no reason to believe Honda’s engine will be below par. They have an extra year of development and whilst they will lack the on-track testing of the other manufacturers they will still be able to benefit from feedback from McLaren to help develop their engine through to the start of 2015.

          1. Question about Honda’s ability to test their engine.
            As they are not supplying engines for the 2014 season, are Honda free to test the engine as much/little as they like? And could they put it into non-F1 spec ‘mule chassis’ for track testing?

          2. @timothykatz good question. Currently there is no contract signed between Honda and FIA, so there may be no legal grounds to restrictions. Other teams are already suspected to try their engine in non-f1 cars, I don’t know if they can or not. Anyone?

        4. W (@yesyesyesandyesagain)
          7th January 2014, 16:55

          Honda were developing F1 engines only a few years ago and have continued race engine development in the intervening years, so they already have top staff ready to go. With an extra year to work they should be plenty capable of delivering a competitive engine.

          1. I think the chances are just as great of Mac seeing an upward climb with Honda engines in back, as seeing a “downward spiral.” I think it is just too bad they couldn’t have them for year 1 of the new look cars. I can’t wait to see what the Honda powered Mac cars can do.

        5. Quite wrong. Ferrari, Renault and Mercedes have expressed concerns that Honda will dominate 2015 as they will know how and where to improve and they can focus solely on that whilst not having to spend resources on 2014.

          1. I don’t buy that. I certainly would say at a minimum that them sitting out 2014 is no guarantee of 2015 success. Firstly, Ferrari and Mercedes should have the upper hand with the engine/chassis marriage. Secondly, the teams will have one more year’s experience over Honda. Thirdly, it’s not just about best engine…the chassis will have an equal or greater role. Let’s see how the Honda powered cars are before we speak of Honda domination. Besides, if in fact Honda will dominate by sitting out 2014, well, that’s not against the rules, and is certainly a ‘trick’ if in fact it is one, that the other teams would have used had they been able.

            I think it is gross oversimplification to suggest Honda will dominate 2015 because other teams in 2014 will have to spend resources on their overall effort, not just their engines. I doubt Ferrari, who get extra money from F1 just because…along with Mercedes, and Renault, not to mention RBR, are so lacking in resources that they will not be able to solve issues with their engines that might crop up in 2014, and instead I think they will have the upper hand in experience that Honda will not have an inside line to until they are in it.

          2. @Robbie It was in one of the F1 Fanatic Round-Ups. It isn’t a guarantee Honda will be supreme but the current engine manufacturers have said that Honda will have an advantage going into 2015. No offense if I take their word for it rather than yours but they have said that Honda might be at a more advanced stage come winter testing. I just spoke of what was said by primary sources.

      2. @keithcollantine I’d say it’s perfect: McLaren are moving from the engine manufacturer which was widely regarded as the most powerful in F1 for the last 10 years, and has only recently been beaten due to tricky exhausts which were supposed to be banned. They are moving to a manufacturer who is returning to the sport with a much shorter development lead time, whose V8 and V10 engines weren’t great, and whose approach to engineering by committee doesn’t suit the world of F1 at all.

        Like Williams-Renault, McLaren-Honda doesn’t actually mean what people want think it does anymore.

        It doesn’t mean MP4-4 and 15 wins out of 16.

        It means Earthdreams and Spygate. It means Super Aguri and top rank drivers bolting for the exits. Not only is there no guarantee that Honda will be up to spec in 2015, it is highly likely (based on recent evidence) they’ll be backmarkers.

        All McLaren have done with this “Works engine” deal is ensured they’ll have *two* seasons of trying to bed a brand new engine in, and the likelihood that the second of the two will be the worst on the grid.

        1. Hmmm…I suspect McLaren-Honda will be somewhere between the suggestion by @mashiat that they will dominate, and the suggestion by @hairs that they will flop.

          I see no reason why they would dominate just by sitting out 2014, and in addition to my argument to that effect posted above, I’d point out to @mashiat and the teams that are supposedly fearful of Honda, that Mac will also be having to spend resources on things for 2014 and 2015 not engine related too…just like them.

          And just because of the past does not guarantee Honda will repeat history, and they have very bit the chance that the others do in nailing their engine. Mac will have a one-off year this year and then they will start their Mac-Honda marriage in earnest after that with a long-term project.

          Everything remains to be seen as to who will and who won’t be competitive, with the safe bets being the manufacturer based teams of Ferrari and Mercedes, and with Newey always a threat even with a ‘customer’ engine.

          1. Remember when considering Honda that they currently have the most powerful 1000CC V4 MotoGP engine the bore and stroke of which is very similar to the 2014 1600 V6, they also have a lot of Indycar experience with turbocharged V6 engines and finally, were one of, if not the, 1st. manufacturers to sell hybrid cars. Honda have a lot going for them.

  7. Ferrari’s Lack of success in recent years in down to the incredible job Red Bull Racing have done. They created a fantastic car and had a driver who could extract the most out of it 99% of the time. People who are claiming that they will lose all respect for Ferrari if they don’t win next year don’t seem to grasp that.

    Now yes Ferrari have under-achieved, but in the last four years they were very unlucky really not to win two DC. I personally see Ferrari and other big teams like McLaren, lack of success in recent years, to a large extent the sheer brilliance of the Red Bull Racing Team.

  8. Steph (@stephanief1990)
    7th January 2014, 14:46

    Alonso will be fine against Kimi – a man Ferrari got rid of because he wasn’t delivering as well as Massa. He’s never really had an issue with team mates. He’s had the odd heated moment but his actions afterwards largely depend on how the team handles him (Flavio always flattered him, Dennis had no interest in pacifying him). He’s certainly never clearly been beaten by a team mate and no one will really understand what went on in 07 except those involved. Alonso has all of the cards really; he knows he can beat Kimi who is good but not often spectacular, and he has enough time with Ferrari on his contract to see how the field changes next year and then make up his mind where his best bet lies. I still think he wants to win a title with Ferrari but that won’t be enough to stop him from going somewhere he actually will win. It’ll be interesting though to see how all of the drivers (Alonso included) cope with the very different driving styles required this season.

    1. I think Alonso will sooner retire than move to another team. I think if Alonso is beaten by Kimi, he’d rather take it as a sign that he is now over his peak and is just getting too old for F1. He’s not a kid anymore and so I doubt he will throw any toys around if he is beaten fairly.

      1. Kimi is older.

    2. Dennis had no interest in pacifying him

      If by pacifying him you mean treating Hamilton like Ferrari treated Massa then I would agree.

  9. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    7th January 2014, 15:08

    I disagree with the two key premises of this article. I think that deploying 2014 as the litmus test of Alonso’s need to be #1, and his own performance level, in that he’ll be head-to-head with Raikkonen, is absurd, and is especially so when people were suggesting that Raikkonen would have made a good supporting act to the Sebastian Vettel Show over at Red Bull. Nobody even floated the idea that Raikkonen could challenge Vettel if they were teammates, so why are we expecting such a close fight between Alonso and Raikkonen? Alonso is a clever guy, he knows that because he is nested down in the team he will, initially at least, have a very comfortable margin over Kimi. He also knows that he is running out of options. If he throws the toys out of the pram in 2014 he will end the still potentially lucrative partnership with Ferrari simply because he didn’t get his way (i.e. Ferrari didn’t keep Massa). But Alonso has no motive to cause upheaval in the team, and because he has the talent to bring the performances that will innately divert the team’s championship focus onto him, why should there be fireworks? Alonso historically only kicks out when he feels something is unfair, and although his definition of “unfair” has occasionally been a touch inventive, the guy is born to win championships, and if that requires maintaining a good relationships with Kimi, then he will it. To assume that Alonso is the same fractious character he was in 2007 is to be fanciful, and if it has occurred to us that 2014 is an important year then it has certainly occurred to Alonso.

    I disagree in the second respect with the way McLaren is characterized as a highly plausible alternative for 2015. Yes, 2014 is crucial in that it will establish the longevity of Alonso’s partnership with Ferrari, but a key problem with saying that is he has nearly no alternatives. Obviously McLaren, which we be a “works” team in 2015 will be the most likely, but one can’t help but look at the hugely complex character that Alonso is and summize that old grudges may linger on. OK, Ron Dennis is no longer such a central character at McLaren, so from Alonso’s perspective arch enemy #1 is removed, but let’s remember that Alonso was not exactly a popular character in the team after he left, so I can’t imagine that every team member would welcome him back with open arms. Also, if Alonso were to join McLaren in 2015, it would most likely be alongside Kevin Magnussen, and because Kevin is a home grown McLaren protege, we could arrive in the same situation we did in 2007. Personally, I would be very surprised if Alonso goes to another team before he retires.

    Yes, 2014 is a crucial year for Alonso, but not because a) he has anything to prove, or b) needs to salvage a dying relationship with Ferrari, but simply because it is an excellent chance to win his third world title. Just because Alonso has a track record of being an often divisive character doesn’t mean that he won’t realize the importance of keeping the team around him in 2014, and for all the criticism he received after 2007 he got nearly no credit for so vehemently rallying Ferrari around him 2010, something that is easily the equal of Schumacher making Ferrari his own in 1996. Alonso is one of the cleverest guys in the paddock, and I’m pretty sure he’s realized what we’ve all managed to realize: that keeping a neutral team atmosphere at Ferrari in 2014 is not only crucial for his 2014 campaign but for his career.

    1. I fully agree with your novel William, except for the fact that the McLaren guys wouldn’t be happy to see Alonso back. I think any engineer or mechanic would rather go like: “Oh we got a podium again with the 4th fastest car” that “Oh we’ve got massive oversteering again with THE fastest car”.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        7th January 2014, 15:40

        @klaas – I love writing novels, me! And so much more interesting than Jane Austen too…

        Yes, I’m sure most McLaren employees would be fine with an Alonso return, but on the basis of what he could achieve on track, not because they would be at all happy to see him. Say Maldonado hypothetically returns to Williams in 2016, are the Williams engineers going to be happy to see him? OK, many of the McLaren personnel have changed since 2007, but Alonso’s emphatic disdain of the McLaren “culture”, by which I mean their procedures and routines, must have alienated many. Alonso effectively said, on top of accusing them of favouring Hamilton, that he disliked the way they went motor racing. With a potentially revitalized Ferrari team around him in 2014, and only the prospect of a team that grated against him as an alternative, I see no motivation for Alonso to go elsewhere for the rest of his career.

        1. Nathan (@il-ferrarista)
          9th January 2014, 0:27

          What exactly does it mean that Alonso disliked Mclaren’s ‘culture’ and their way of going motor racing??

          And exactly what is so different at Mclaren from let’s say Ferraris environment?

          1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
            9th January 2014, 17:20

            @il-ferrarista – McLaren is quite individual about how it goes about motor racing. McLaren’s procedures pivot around its simulator, and although other teams are increasingly reliant on their’s since 2007, the utter reliance on the simulator is especially prevalent at McLaren. If my memory serves me correctly, Alonso wanted to dial out some of the oversteer he was experiencing in pouhon at Spa in 2007 by adjusting the suspension geometry, but it was tested in the simulator and the lap time deficit of taking out some front end was judged too great a penalty to just make Alonso more comfortable. Hamilton, a driver famed for his ability to drive around balances, could often cope with the car that the simulator said was fastest better than Alonso could. I also think Alonso found McLaren’s lengthy debrief and analysis procedures frustrating and not conjusive to improving the result at the next race. McLaren is great for some drivers. If your technically minded, like Button, and happy to go along with how they run a weekend then you are fine, but if, like Alonso, you want to be in part “running the show” and working on how to extract performance from the car, not just working on making the car faster, then it is not the best team.

          2. @william-brierty ; ah yes, in previous months I called them the Arsenal FC of Formula 1. Both are well known to go their own distinctive way of doing things in their respective sports. Do you agree?? (yeh, I’m a gooner :p)

            And by the way – thank you for an excellent and pretty ample answer ;)

          3. @william-birerty – If Mclaren is great for technical minded drivers then for example a M.S.C or a Vettel would have massive success with them.
            Remember Schumachers talk with Ron in 1995?

            Anyway, don’t you consider Alonso as a pretty technical minded? IIrc he’s one of the best considering car development and setup in general.

    2. @william-brierty, I disagree with two key points of your comment.

      First, I think you’ve exaggerated the statements made by Keith on Alonso’s potential return to McLaren. ‘Even a rapprochement with McLaren is not out of the question’ and ‘perhaps even a return to McLaren’ don’t sound to me as highly plausible alternative, as you put it.

      Second, Alonso is getting older every year, and I’m pretty sure the next world title(s) is really the only thing on his mind at the moment. He’s earned enough money, he’s switched teams back and forth and he will do it again if he sees that Ferrari cannot deliver. I’m sure he will risk a move to any team with a dominating engine when the opportunity appears.

      And since it looks at the moment that: (a) a seat at Red Bull won’t be available at the end of the year; (b) he wouldn’t be happy with Hamilton together at Mercedes; (c) Lotus probably won’t be able to maintain their form this year – then McLaren with their new Honda engines could be a chance Alonso will consider to take.

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        8th January 2014, 11:47

        @phildick – Good points, but in both respects I think I can defend my post quite comfortably.

        Firstly, I was only in part commenting on Keith’s article when I was citing the McLaren return as being characterized as “highly plausible”. Keith is reserved as ever in the article, but even he suggests that it could be a likely alternative if Alonso went elsewhere, which is admittedly not exactly similar to the way BBC Sport have addressed the situation, with Gary Anderson, EJ and Andrew “Assertion” Benson all publishing articles suggesting a return was likely. The media treatment of the Alonso-McLaren link is that it is likely, not just a possibility, and one can’t help but feel that Keith in part proceeds from a similar premise, if not so emphatic. For me, there are simply too many issues surrounding a potential move to McLaren for it to be possible, let alone likely.

        I agree that, yes, Alonso is fully focused on his next title and not phased by the prospect of moving teams, but let’s remember, Alonso is massively intelligent, and if I have managed to work out that putting his entire career on the quality of the Honda engines is a risk, then you can bet he will have too. Then you subsequently have to factor in the Magnussen effect, any potential alienation still in lingering on in the team and the fact that in terms of personnel at least, Ferrari have the strongest team in 2014, and for me the only conclusion that can be reached is that Alonso’s best chance of adding to his titles is to remain where he is. OK, if there is a seat available at either Red Bull, McLaren or Mercedes in 2016 and if he hasn’t managed to add to his title tally by then, then yes, he probably will switch, but I think it highly unlikely for such an astute individual to make what would only be a knee-jerk move to McLaren in 2015. And anyway, there is a 1/3 chance that Alonso will win the title this year, and in doing so patch things up with Ferrari, so we may all be writing this for nothing.

    3. Great post @william-brierty, I agree with your views.

      I hope he gets his 3rd title, it surely is about time. A couple months ago, I was reasonably sure that Alonso would be going to Mclaren in 2015, but Im begining to doubt that. Going to Mclaren is too much of a risk…it would be by no means a finished article, albeit in an advantageous position, will the be able challenge for the title straight off? Its an unknown. Further to this, we’ve hearing about Ron Dennis attempting a buy out of Mclaren, which would bring him back into the F1 fray again…so from Alonso’s perspective, this is another question mark.

      If this year turns out to be a another failure, I expect him to announce his retirement from F1 at the end of his contract in 2016 and follow his buddy Mark Webber into WEC..maybe in a Ferrari LMP1?..haha….Im sure Fernando can go wherever he wants. Aside from WEC/Le Mans, I would love to see him in IndyCar!

      1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        8th January 2014, 9:51

        @jaymenon10 – I didn’t know that about Dennis, so yes, there’s a further reason for Alonso to be cautious. But I think the reason for Alonso not to move elsewhere is that Ferrari should be very strong in the coming seasons. They lost their technical momentum the moment the aerodynamic regulations changed in 2009, and each chassis since then has in part been an evolution of the woeful F60, so Ferrari, like McLaren had a very poor foundation to the previous aerodynamic era. However now it starts from zero again, and with Ferrari combining the talents of Alonso and Raikkonen with those of James Allison and Dirk de Beer (who I expect to create an excellent chassis, it is just a same that the excellent work of both of them may count for nothing if the Ferrari V6 is poor), Ferrari surely have the strongest team, in terms of personnel, on the grid. Alonso would be mad to ignore the potential benefits of his revitalized technical team by planning to move elsewhere in 2015.

      2. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
        8th January 2014, 10:04

        @jaymenon10 – On a secondary note, I highly doubt Alonso would go anywhere after F1. Alonso is, in my opinion at least, currently the best racing driver in the world, and that is not something that is about to change, so it will be a while yet before he retires. And when he does, as a man that has been at the epicenter of the frantic pinnacle of motorsport for over a decade, like Prost and Schumacher, the prospect of a quieter life would be more attractive than anything. Unlike Villeneauve, Coulthard, Webber and Ralf, Alonso will have nothing to prove behind the wheel of a racing car, so whilst I expect to Button in DTM, Raikkonen racing snowmobiles and Massa in the Brazilian stockcar championship, Alonso will hang up his helmet.

  10. Keith, why is his third championship overdue? I’m sorry but if he didn’t get as many points as the man who won the championship, he is not owed anything.

    1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
      7th January 2014, 15:25

      @beejis60 – Yes, he is technically not owed anything, but quite frankly drivers have put in much poorer performances than Alonso managed in 2010 and especially 2012 and have come away with the title, whilst Alonso didn’t. Essentially his performances aren’t being rewarded with titles because of a stronger Red Bull car, and if you consider the fact that of the five times he’s arrived at the final race with a shot at the title, he’s only won two, you could certainly say that he’s driven well enough to warrant a third or fourth world title by now.

      1. @william-brierty

        I agree with your first point that Alonso has put in WDC worthy drives, more so than some others who have won the title put in to win. In 2012, Hamilton drove a better season overall, in my opinion, than Alonso, and wasn’t awarded with a title.

        I disagree with the second part of you point, that he’s driven well enough to warrant a third or fourth title, though it depends on how you want to define warrant. Arriving with a shot at the last race is one thing, being in a legitimate position to win is another. 2010 he had it in the bag and basically didn’t drive well enough at the last race to win – and I wouldn’t place all the blame on Ferrari making the wrong call.

        In 2012, Alonso didn’t really have a chance to win the title, unless others drove poorly, which is quite a different thing. He was lucky to finish P2 with the Hamilton/Hulkenberg collision.

        The only other time he came into the last race with a chance was 2007 I imagine, and again, he still finished P3. He’s definitely WDC material, and it’s somewhat surprising that he only has 2 titles, but that doesn’t mean he deserves to have more than those.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          9th January 2014, 18:05

          @uan – Do you really think Hamilton drove better than Alonso in 2012? Hamilton drove excellently, but there were still his signature weekends where he couldn’t get the car in the window, and, as Australia proved, Button was just as fast, if not faster in race trim. Alonso was simply mesmerizing for me. I started the year a Hamilton fan and ended it an Alonso fan. There were gritty overtakes, there were do-or-die charges through the field, wet weather mastery, wins from outside the top ten and his signature demon starts. For me, and for most people watching F1 in 2012, Alonso served up a perfect season, and probably one of the finest all time season long performances. That can’t be denied.

          When I’m saying that more titles are “warranted” I say that in two respects. Firstly I mean every time Brundle says “that was a champion’s drive” or he overtakes Grosjean around the outside of T2 at Valencia, so on-track feats are one way we can say Alonso is worthy of more championships. But more importantly we must look at Alonso’s performances over a season, and in this respect I certainly feel 2010 and 2012 testify that Alonso is better than just a two-time champion.

          In 2010, Vettel rightfully won the championship. Without the mechanical issues in the first two races and the errors that peppered his European season he would’ve won the championship at a canter. The fact that Alonso managed to arrive at the final race of the season (a race that I would certainly solely blame Ferrari for the poor call due to Alonso’s short 7th gear and the excellent straight line speed of the Renault) in a car that was the third fastest over the course of the season was quite remarkable, especially so given the that Alonso too had had a less than auspicious start to the season.

          However in 2012 Alonso really proved that he deserved better than two championships for me. He cut out the mistakes of 2010, and in a car that was in term of average deficit to pole position the fourth fastest on the grid, so very nearly won the championship. Greatness in F1 is generally measured by those that out perform their cars, and in both 2010 and 2012, Alonso did just that, and I feel proved that he is both worthy and deserving of more world titles.

          Sorry for the slow reply.

          1. Well, the Ferrari F10 was actually the 2nd fastest car in -10, check the statistics, they are somewhere on this site, were 2010 and the pace of those care are discussed in depth.

            (…) And to add little bit on your mentioning of ALonsos excellent 2012 – I think actually that his second championship, ie 2006, was almost as good as 2012..

          2. @il-ferrarista – I don’t know about 2010, but certainly in recent years this site has statistically ranked cars in terms of average deficit to pole position. I that way the F10 is rather flattered in 2nd place, whilst the F2012 was most likely the 3rd fastest car not the 4th. If the performance of the F10 is expressed as the number of races it was the fastest car in 2010, as opposed to how far it was off the pace in qualifying, then I would suggest that the Ferrari had the fastest car at just Monza and Hockenheim, whereas McLaren were the fastest at China, Canada and Spa, with Red Bull the quickest at every other race.

            Certainly Alonso was incredible in 2006, in that he beat the red baron in a car that was marginally faster, all the while fully the exploiting the phases of the race where the Michelins were faster, but Alonso found an all new level in 2012. No mistakes or flaws whatsoever can be found with his season, a season where he took a car that was a lot slower than the MP4-27 and the RB8 to championship contention in Brazil. OK, his campaign was flattered by the way Vettel and Hamilton couldn’t mount a title challenge earlier, but his season was utterly perfect.

          3. I do agree Alonso is a great driver and could have had another title with a bit of luck. But he might also have had just one title if nor for Schumacher and Ferraris bas luck in 2006. (Not to mention the mass damper).

            So Alonso could have had 3 titles or just 1, 2 is somewhere in between and not bad at all.

            Both in 2010 and 2012 he arrived in the last race with the opportunity to win the title. He didn`t win either of those because Red Bull and Vettel both times did whaty was needed to win. A strategy error in 2010 is not bad luck, they underestimated Vettel and focused on Webber. If that scenario had been played out again today Ferrari would probaly have let Webber go and focused on Vettel.

            Alonso is in my view pretty complete as a driver. The only weakness he has is when put under real pressure for a championship. We saw it both in 2010 and especially in Brazil 2012 where he seemed to be very nervous. I think it was easier for him back in 2005 and 2006 when he was the young charge, the pressure was much lower. Now Alonso is getting older each year and every opportunity to win another Championship is more important as the opportunities get fewer and fewer. I think the lack of a third Championship is really bothering him now, especially since Vettel allready has four Championships to his name.

      2. @william-brierty If they put on poorer performances, how did they manage to get more points than Alonso in the end? As I seem to recall in 2012, VET had 17 point-scoring finishes whereas ALO had 18. In 2010, VET also scored in one less event than ALO (15 and 16, respectively), meaning that in both years, the championship winner essentially score more points per race completed than ALO. Is that now considered a poor performance?

        Look, I dislike Vettel as much as a lot of you here, but grasping for straws left and right is a bit glib.

        1. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
          9th January 2014, 18:13

          @beejis60 – You’ve misunderstood me. I’m not just talking about Vettel. I’m saying that previous champions haven’t put in as good a performance as Alonso did over 2012 and 2010 but came away with the title. I think you’ll agree that Button didn’t drive in 2009 as well as Alonso did in 2012, but he won the title. Schumacher didn’t drive in 2003 as well as Alonso did in 2010, but he won the title. Don’t mistake someone with an Alonso helmet avatar as an automatic Vettel hater because I’m not. Vettel drove better than Alonso in 2011 and 2013, and rightfully won the title on both occasions.

    2. @beejis60

      why is his third championship overdue?

      I gave a few reasons why and linked to more on the subject.

      if he didn’t get as many points as the man who won the championship, he is not owed anything

      I did not say he was “owed” another title, I said he was “overdue” one – i.e. that he had driven well enough to deserve one. Of course F1 doesn’t work that way as drivers do not all have the same cars, something you have apparently chosen to ignore.

      1. alonso won at least one title 50% by chance, or better because of his own luck and bad luck from other drivers. he has also got a well-known nickname for his past good luck.
        good driver, but way too much acclaimed. According to your point of view, then I could name at least another actual driver who deserves the same if not more than alonso and got less than him because of bad luck and bad cars.
        back in the past, frentzen could have won wdc if only he had driven a good car, same for other drivers. then also peterson, moss and many others. if you know something about these drivers, you probably realise that alonso’s titles are enough, since people like moss and peterson never got at least one in their career.
        can’t get why people whine for alonso overdue third title when he won in 2006 with the mass damper issue and in 2005 thanks to mclaren unreliability.
        personally I rate him as one of the luckiest drivers of the world:
        took victories in 2005 thanks to raikkonen’s car failures. otherwise he wouldn’t have got that title.
        had few dnfs in his career compared to other drivers(less dnfs=more races finished=more points) because he has driven many reliable cars, except minardi and some renault cars.

        2010-2011-2012-2013 alonso made some mistakes. he could deserve only the 2012 title, but you can’t blame good luck for not always helping him. it has already helped him a lot back in the past.
        people tend to forget easily.

        just for you to remember, in 2013 ferrari was the better car on the grid until the spanish gp, but vettel was already ahead in the wdc standings, although he wasn’t driving the better car at that time.
        maybe it’s time to recognise that it’s not just the car who made vettel’s records and alonso being “forever second” is not simply up to ferrari’s weakness.
        go back to nurburgring 2005 for a forerunner of alonso being “forever second”.
        difference: vettel has a reliable car.

        1. LOL @ Frentzen, title winning 1997 Williams, won 1 race to Villeneuves 7. Back to reality!

          1. frentzen was a great talent and was as good as michael in minor motorsports competitions… people who know something about f1 and motorsports in general don’t judge a driver from one single season, good or bad, but consider the overall driver and his potential.
            maybe you also state that moss, peterson didn’t deserve one title, while alonso deserves 3…don’t make me laugh please, I’ve alrealdy laughed enough when I’ve heard people complaining about alonso missing third title.
            so I could claim that if alonso deserves another title, then hulkenberg deserves to drive for rbr, kubica deserved to drive for ferrari, montoya could have become champion, heidfeld driving for middle team was a waste and so on. alonso can be considered pretty lucky. unlucky drivers are others who never got a chance, interrupted their career or wasted too much time with unreliable cars.

  11. Keith i believe development of the car strongly includes the driver input and do you think it is one of the problem ferrari had in the past four years.

    1. No, it does not. This is not the ’60s anymore where you didn’t even have radio, let alone other equipment that could gather data from the car.

      What’s more interesting is that drivers don’t even set up their own cars. The race engineers do it.

      Ferrari just aren’t building a good enough car. If anything, it could be their simulator that’s hurting them.

    2. Well the drivers need to give input for the set up and development, but it isn’t so important.
      It was also one of the reasons for Kimi being fire according to Luca.
      While it had been Massa giving the input on more than one occasion, I believe the simulator and windtunnel has been a much bigger factor

  12. 2014 could be the start of something special for Ferrari/Alonso if they get their platform right. They know how RBR dominated these past years with the solid platform from ’09.

    If they learn anything from ’10 to ’13, it would be that long term success is better than short term gains. Get the engine right (Power/Reliability), I believe other things will fall in place. They have hit rock bottom in terms of car design in the past few years (’09/’12). It can’t go any worse than that.

    Or I could be completely wrong. For what it’s worth, Alonso deserves a WDC more than Ferrari.

  13. It almost always is the case that the WDC winner had the WCC winning car, so let’s start with that…will Ferrari provide the necessary equipment to FA and KR? Then let’s see if the cars these days naturally favour one driver more than the other. And if KR likes the car, the 2014 style of driving and racing better, then we’ll see how FA deals with that. And whatever happens, I’m sure Ferrari, FA, and KR will live to fight another day. Unless I’m mistaken, I think the only reason for the FA to Mac concept is that when FA was expressing some frustration at Ferrari last year, someone at Mac was asked and said they would take him back in a heartbeat…might have even been Ron Dennis….not sure. Keith is right with his last line that it will be a fascinating 12 months at Ferrari, and much is riding on the next red machine…but what else is new? That is the case every year, even when it comes down to defending a Championship winning year. Much is riding on RBR’s campaign too…they’ll either defend their titles or they won’t…and then they’ll be trying again in 2015.

  14. I think that there’s a lot at stake for Ferrari in 2014, and Alonso could just be one element that could cause them to fall. If Ferrari turn up with a car as uncompetitive as the F150th Italia, the early F2012 or the F138, then heads will roll. Alonso will probably walk, I wouldn’t be surprised if Domenicali was shown the door, and all hell could break loose. I don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that an uncompetitive 2014 will do a lot of damage to Ferrari in the long term.

    This is despite all the positive steps they’ve made. They’ve hired and re-hired great aero and technical talent, they have a new state-of-the-are wind tunnel ready to go, and next year they’ll have the strongest driver line-up on the grid. All the elements should be there. I really hope it comes together.

    1. And the message might go out to Ross B. “What will it take to bring you back”.

  15. All will be well if Ferrari finally produce the goods and Alonso delivers the title. As in 2005, when he brought Michael Schumacher’s five-year dominance of F1 to an end, Alonso could be the man to halt Vettel’s dominance of F1.

    I’d love to see him achieve this!

  16. I think that the drivers will play a more important role during races and hence I expect a few stand out performances by ALO and VET next year.
    But the championship will go to the team that can develop their car faster. The changes are too massive for one team to get it completely right like in 09 and RB and Merc have the better infrastructure while Ferrari is still restructuring. But it’s just a guess.

  17. This is what I want to happen in 2014.
    The first half of the season will follow predictable pattern with Ferrari falling behind in development. And then, Alonso’s deal with Mclaren will be announced in the summer break, before Monza, much to the anger of Luca. And then out of nowhere, Ferrari will improve in the second half giving Alonso the third championship and he will end up reluctantly moving to Mclaren not knowing whether to be happy about the third title or sad about leaving what will be the fastest car at the end of 2014.

    1. Yeah, like that’ll happen.

  18. Now Ferrari determined they needed an equally capable driver in the second car. Out went Massa, and back came the very driver Alonso was originally hired to replace: Raikkonen. No one could miss the significance of that hiring.

    I don’t think Alonso was ever intended to replace Raikkonen. Call me a cynic, but I believe they wanted to pair them both there and then in 2010, but after Massa’s accident, it would have been PR suicide to get rid of him and not give him their full backing.

    1. No. After Kimi’s lacklustre 08 season, it was always Ferrari’s intention to replace him with Alonso. In fact, from what I recall, the move was being engineered well before the end of that season.

      1. Nathan (@il-ferrarista)
        9th January 2014, 0:50


  19. I felt for him when he helplessly lost the 2010 championship. In the last three years, his race-crafts were simply amazing to watch; I don’t think Kimi joining as his team mate is going to make much difference. He is focused and knows what he wants to achieve. I know a lot of hope is riding on the revised regulations for 2014, but I think that Red Bull and the Mercedes are the two teams which will come out on top as title contenders. Unfortunately, Ferrari is lagging a leader who can bring the team forward. This has been the issue from the winter of 2008. The departure of Michael, Jean Todt, Ross Brawn in quick succession definitely left a void and LDM’s arrogance isn’t helping them either.

    If Sebastian needs to be stopped next year, it may be the guys from the silver arrows

  20. I think it’s quite likely Mclaren will dominate from 2015 onwards. Honda will have a year’s worth of feedback on the Mercedes Engine therefore more time to develop before the specification is frozen in 2015. I predict Alonso will jump ship and I wont be surprise if he already has been talking to Mclaren. I think ferrari on the otherhand will struggle, I have herd rumours that they have the worse engine package and are down on power to the other engines. If Mclaren can get the chassis right I think a ALonso, Magnuson line up will be amazing !

  21. Nothing in the 2014 season would thrill me more than seeing Raikkonen beat Alonso. Even if neither win the title.

    1. I totally agree with you here! I’m kinda tired of Alonso’s complaining and always expecting his team mates to move aside so he can win!

      But regardless, what I hope for the most is an exciting season, I hope the title fight will be taken to the very last race or at least to the race before the final one! Regardless if Alonso, Kimi or Vettel win.

  22. Alonso will go where Santander’s money goes.

    Ferrari previously tolerated Felipe Massa’s chronic under-performance in the three years since his return from injury

    I think this has to be reformulated to “Ferrari tolerated Felipe Massa’s chronic under-performance in the three years since his return from injury thanks to all the business Santander has in Brazil.” There is no logical explanation that Ferrari allowed Massa to stay with them so long.
    Let’s wait and see what can do the Alonso, Raikkönen, Ferrari trident this year.

    1. *Räikkönen

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