Insight: Pérez threat too much for Alonso...

Insight: Pérez threat too much for Alonso...

13 September 2012 – The F1 silly season is in full swing. Most of us have expected Sergio Pérez to be confirmed alongside Fernando Alonso at Ferrari. But, as explained in this exclusive GPUpdate.net column, whispers coming out of Maranello suggest that the Spaniard is pushing to retain Felipe Massa in order to lower the threat to himself.

Racing drivers are selfish, egotistical and arrogant; that tends to be why people employ them. When it comes to selecting your line-up, in any form of motorsport, the two simple goals tend to be: win the championships for drivers and teams. So, employ the best two drivers to do it? As we have seen on countless occasions in the past, that particular formula can often end in catastrophe.

Over the weekend of the Italian Grand Prix, Ferrari’s home race, all of the attention was on Lewis Hamilton and his possible switch from McLaren to Mercedes. That was great news for the red team, as they remained very much out of the spotlight. Behind the scenes, though, Luca di Montezemolo and Stefano Domenicali have a very tough decision on their hands. We already know - because the team confirmed it on their website - that the pair had a lengthy discussion on Monday.

Think back to the glory years. Michael Schumacher dominated and, although he was treated badly at times, Rubens Barrichello assisted for team glory all the way through from 2000 to 2004. After the episode of Monaco 2005, the Paulista finally slung his hook. But he put up with Austria, 2001 and 2002, because there was simply no other competitive seat that he could have filled. The McLaren and Williams arrangements were sorted and so Rubens lived with the stress. This was ideal for Ferrari; one driver had the edge, meaning the pair of them couldn’t fight each other, to easily sew up double titles time after time. Of course, big reasons for this were the particular struggles of their closest rivals, developing Michelin tyres as the Ferrari-Schumacher-Bridgestone partnership went from strength to strength.

They no longer have that luxury. Several teams are now contending, meaning Ferrari has to have two strong drivers in order to stand any chance of winning the constructors’ title. Think about it. Why wouldn’t Ferrari want Pérez? He is out-racing his customer-engined Sauber and overtook both Ferrari cars at Monza. He’s been on the podium three times and is impressing far more than Massa did in any of his three Sauber campaigns. Surely this one is a no-brainer? Think again.

Fernando Alonso is no idiot. His current circumstances are familiar to 2005 and 2006: race-winning car, slower team-mate and a half decent shot at the title. The problem for Ferrari now is that too many other cars are finishing between Alonso and Massa. Back at Renault, Giancarlo Fisichella may have been slower but, as the grid wasn’t as full of such competitive cars, losing a place or two didn’t prevent them from winning the teams’ title. This leaves Montezemolo in a tricky position.

Ferrari clearly needs Alonso. That has been proven this season alone and the fact that, back in May 2011, they agreed terms up to and including 2016 only backs that up. The issue: as much as Fernando may want Ferrari to win, his own intentions come first. Should a Mexican roadblock be put in place, there are obviously going to be tears. Alonso remembers 2007 all too well and we publically saw how the Spaniard, then the reigning double World Champion, reacted (childishly at times) against Lewis Hamilton, even though both were to blame for their eventual loss of the title. Older and wiser nowadays, there is no chance in hell that he wants a repeat performance. Pérez has a sheer ability when it comes to raw speed and simultaneous tyre management: a vital combination in the modern age of Pirelli tyres. So, could he take on Alonso with identical equipment? Given a while, of course he could.

Equally, Ferrari know as well as anybody that running two star drivers can end in, quite literally, a tragedy. In 1982, there was fierce competition between Gilles Villeneuve and Didier Pironi. In front of their home crowd at Imola, the latter disobeyed team orders to win. Two weeks later, Villeneuve was on the limit in qualifying at Zolder, desperate to beat his team-mate, when he struck the back of Jochen Mass at high-speed and lost his life. Pironi suffered career-ending injuries in Germany that summer and Keke Rosberg won the title for Williams.

Having spoken to sources in Maranello, my understanding is the following. Alonso is desperate to keep Massa. The pair are on good terms and Felipe has proven that he can still perform. Drafting Pérez into the team would only be a distraction. Sure enough, if Massa always did what he did in Italy on Sunday – ie. finish one place behind Alonso in every race – then you can be sure that Ferrari would have signed a fresh contract long ago. One problem. As has been demonstrated between 2010 and now, that is not often the case. Perhaps some similar performances between Singapore and Brazil could yield Massa another year, but it is probably too late.

Alonso has power at Ferrari. Domenicali knows it. So does Montezemolo. And, quite frankly, neither of them can afford more lashings in the Italian press. They must perform and, therefore, they must keep their lead man happy. Pérez has already hinted that he intends to stay at Sauber and, as a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy, his time will come. For now, Ferrari is in need of a solid performer. And that is not Sebastian Vettel, as the Scuderia keeps suggesting; this is no more than a smokescreen to mask reality. Can you really imagine Vettel being allowed to race alongside Alonso, in the squad Fernando is building up? Carnage would ensue.

What Ferrari needs is a proven race winner, hungry for success and deprived of any for the past four years. A cool-headed Finn with experience and respect for his employer and team-mate. I don’t mean Kimi Räikkönen. I mean the man who McLaren used to replace Alonso. Step forward, Heikki Kovalainen.


Gregory Haines
GPUpdate.net Editor

Twitter: GregoryHainesF1

related

Comments

Latest News
Full
Compact

  1. Sunday 22 January 2017

  2. Vettel wins RoC Nations Cup for Germany 19:19

    Vettel wins RoC Nations Cup for Germany

    Sebastian Vettel single-handedly claimed victory for Team Germany in the Race of Champions Nations Cup, following the withdrawal…

    Misc
  3. Wehrlein withdraws from Race of Champions 14:55

    Wehrlein withdraws from Race of Champions

    Sauber driver Pascal Wehrlein has withdrawn from the Nations Cup at the Race of Champions on medical advice following his…

    Misc
  4. Miles: Halo device not possible for IndyCar 14:36

    Miles: Halo device not possible for IndyCar

    Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar's parent company Hulman & Co, believes that the proposed 'halo' head protection device, favoured by…

    Indy
  5. Video: Race of Champions Highlights 13:26

    Video: Race of Champions Highlights

    Watch highlights from the Race of Champions as Juan Pablo Montoya takes victory in the individual competition.

    Misc
  6. Rossi eyes Le Mans after MotoGP career 10:46

    Rossi eyes Le Mans after MotoGP career

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi says he would like to enter the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future and insists he has no regrets over…

    MotoGP
  7. Video: Wehrlein's dramatic crash at RoC 08:31

    Video: Wehrlein's dramatic crash at RoC

    Sauber's Pascal Wehrlein suffers a dramatic roll at the Race of Champions after tagging rival Felipe Massa.

    Misc
  8. Verschoor extends lead with Teretonga double 08:13

    Verschoor extends lead with Teretonga double

    Red Bull protégé Richard Verschoor extended his championship lead during the season round of the Toyota Racing Series as he…

    Toyota
  9. Montoya takes victory at Race of Champions 07:50

    Montoya takes victory at Race of Champions

    Juan Pablo Montoya claimed victory at the Race of Champions after he beat Tom Kristensen in the final at Marlins Park in…

    Misc
  10. Video of the Day: Bottas at Mercedes 05:00

    Video of the Day: Bottas at Mercedes

    Follow Valtteri Bottas during his first day as a Mercedes Formula 1 driver at the team's factory in Brackley.

    F1
  11. Saturday 21 January 2017

  12. Rosberg expects shaken up order in 2017 15:56

    Rosberg expects shaken up order in 2017

    World Champion Nico Rosberg says he expects Formula 1's pecking order to have been shaken up this season as the sport prepares…

    F1
  13. Ducati: We won't start 2017 as favourites 14:22

    Ducati: We won't start 2017 as favourites

    Ducati boss Luigi Dall'Igna insists that the team will not start as favourites for the 2017 MotoGP title, despite the…

    MotoGP
  14. Video: Vettel's Race of Champions guide 13:00

    Video: Vettel's Race of Champions guide

    Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel, and US action racer Travis Pastrana, take a look at the layout for this year's Race of…

    Misc
  15. Silverstone clarifies British Grand Prix future 10:04

    Silverstone clarifies British Grand Prix future

    The British Racing Drivers' Club, which owns Silverstone, has clarified comments regarding the future of the British Grand Prix…

    F1
  16. Viñales targets corner entry improvements 09:14

    Viñales targets corner entry improvements

    New Yamaha recruit Maverick Viñales believes the team's primary area in which to improve is on corner entry, following his…

    MotoGP
  17. Video of the Day: What's on Abt's phone? 05:36

    Video of the Day: What's on Abt's phone?

    Formula E driver Daniel Abt shares what's on his mobile phone in this light-hearted video.

    FE
  18. Friday 20 January 2017

  19. 17:02

    New: Follow GPUpdate on Instagram!

    F1
  20. Video: FE's di Grassi tries Virtual Reality 15:32

    Video: FE's di Grassi tries Virtual Reality

    Lucas di Grassi scours the show floor at CES for the hottest new tech, from drones to VR headsets.

    FE
  21. Eriksson stays in Formula 3 with Motopark 13:15

    Eriksson stays in Formula 3 with Motopark

    Joel Eriksson will contest a second European Formula 3 season with Team Motopark in 2017. Swedish racer Eriksson, 18, took…

    F3
  22. Ecclestone: My F1 future now up to Liberty 11:32

    Ecclestone: My F1 future now up to Liberty

    Formula 1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that there are no guarantees over his future in the sport, as Liberty Media's…

    F1
  23. 10:26

    Gallery: Ducati's 2017 team presentation

    MotoGP
  24. Ducati presents 2017 MotoGP contender 10:24

    Ducati presents 2017 MotoGP contender

    Ducati has officially presented its bike for the upcoming MotoGP championship, in which it will field new arrival Jorge Lorenzo…

    MotoGP
  25. Magnussen: Renault faces long recovery 09:54

    Magnussen: Renault faces long recovery

    Haas driver Kevin Magnussen believes that his former team, Renault, faces a long road to recovery before it can fight…

    F1
  26. MotoGP eyes series for British youngsters 08:20

    MotoGP eyes series for British youngsters

    MotoGP organisers have raised the idea of a British-based championship for young riders, following the success of other junior…

    MotoGP
  27. Video of the Day: Countdown to RB13 05:10

    Video of the Day: Countdown to RB13

    Red Bull Racing gears up for its RB13 with this video of ongoing work at its factory in Milton Keynes.

    F1
  28. Thursday 19 January 2017

  29. Liberty offers teams chance to invest in F1 18:06

    Liberty offers teams chance to invest in F1

    Liberty Media has confirmed that it has offered Formula 1 teams the opportunity to invest in the sport, following the FIA giving…

    F1
  30. Ericsson hails Wehrlein's arrival at Sauber 15:02

    Ericsson hails Wehrlein's arrival at Sauber

    Marcus Ericsson has welcomed new team-mate Pascal Wehrlein to Sauber and believes that the "highly-rated" Mercedes protégé…

    F1
  31. Rossi regards Viñales as 2017 title threat 14:30

    Rossi regards Viñales as 2017 title threat

    Valentino Rossi believes that new Yamaha team-mate Maverick Viñales has the ability to fight for the MotoGP championship from…

    MotoGP
  32. Wolff: Bottas deal keeps 2018 options open 13:52

    Wolff: Bottas deal keeps 2018 options open

    Mercedes boss Toto Wolff says the manufacturer's decision to recruit Valtteri Bottas on a one-year deal allows the team to keep…

    F1
  33. 13:23

    Gallery: Movistar Yamaha 2017 launch

    MotoGP
  34. Video: Rossi meets new team-mate Viñales 12:37

    Video: Rossi meets new team-mate Viñales

    Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi meets new team-mate Maverick Viñales ahead of the new MotoGP season.

    MotoGP
  35. 12:18

    Overview: 2017 GP3 Series driver line-up

    GP3
  36. Mercedes signs Russell to junior scheme 12:17

    Mercedes signs Russell to junior scheme

    Rising British star George Russell has joined Mercedes' young driver programme, and will graduate to the GP3 Series with ART…

    F1
  37. Yamaha unveils 2017 YZR-M1 in Madrid 11:36

    Yamaha unveils 2017 YZR-M1 in Madrid

    Movistar Yamaha has unveiled its 2017 YZR-M1, which Valentino Rossi and newcomer Maverick Viñales will ride in this year's…

    MotoGP
  38. AVF signs Isaakyan for V8 3.5 campaign 10:07

    AVF signs Isaakyan for V8 3.5 campaign

    AVF has recruited Matevos Isaakyan for this season's Formula V8 3.5 championship. Isaakyan, 18, placed ninth overall in the…

    FV8 3.5
  39. Massa: Fan response instrumental in return 10:02

    Massa: Fan response instrumental in return

    Felipe Massa says the response from Formula 1 fans, once it became clear he could continue in the sport this season, played a…

    F1
  40. 09:42

    Galllery: Márquez rides RC213V on snow

    MotoGP
  41. Räikkönen honoured in native Finland 09:12

    Räikkönen honoured in native Finland

    Ferrari driver Kimi Räikkönen was appointed as an ambassador for sport in his native Finland during a ceremony held in the…

    F1
  42. Video of the Day: 2017 rule changes 05:34

    Video of the Day: 2017 rule changes

    Red Bull provides an overview of the regulation changes being introduced for the 2017 season.

    F1
  43. Wednesday 18 January 2017

  44. FIA approves Liberty Media F1 takeover 17:41

    FIA approves Liberty Media F1 takeover

    The FIA, motorsport's governing body, has approved the takeover of Formula 1 by Liberty Media, following an extraordinary…

    F1
  45. Video: Inside Mahindra's testing garage 15:02

    Video: Inside Mahindra's testing garage

    Follow Mahindra as they head to Barcelona to prepare their machines for Buenos Aires.

    FE
more news