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. Friday 19 January 2018

  2. 15:02

    Overview: 2018 Formula 1 grid line-up in full

    F1
  3. Pirelli: F1 unlikely to return to tyre competition 13:24

    Pirelli: F1 unlikely to return to tyre competition

    Pirelli Racing Manager Mario Isola says he doubts that Formula 1 will ever return to competition between two tyre manufacturers…

    F1
  4. Video: Verstappen and Ricciardo in Crazy Carts 11:19

    Video: Verstappen and Ricciardo in Crazy Carts

    Red Bull pair Max Verstappen and Daniel Ricciardo are going a little stir crazy waiting for Formula 1 to return - and take to…

    F1
  5. Thursday 18 January 2018

  6. Video: Kubica on Williams reserve role 12:14

    Video: Kubica on Williams reserve role

    Robert Kubica talks about joining the Williams team and what his reserve and development driver role will involve through the…

    F1
  7. Russell steps up to Formula 2 with ART 09:27

    Russell steps up to Formula 2 with ART

    Mercedes-backed GP3 champion George Russell will graduate to Formula 2 with ART in 2018. Russell, 19, stormed to last year's…

    F2
  8. Folger to miss MotoGP season through illness 09:07

    Folger to miss MotoGP season through illness

    Tech 3 Yamaha rider Jonas Folger will sit out the 2018 MotoGP season, having struggled to recover physically and mentally after…

    MotoGP
  9. Video: Marrakesh's most dramatic moments 07:02

    Video: Marrakesh's most dramatic moments

    Watch every crash, spin, slide and save from last weekend's Marrakesh round of the all-electric Formula E championship.

    FE
  10. Wednesday 17 January 2018

  11. Chaves unconcerned by one-car Harding entry 16:32

    Chaves unconcerned by one-car Harding entry

    Gabby Chaves has played down suggestions that Harding's one-car effort could prove to be disadvantageous, pointing to the…

    Indy
  12. Video: Jenson Button vlog: From LA to Tokyo 13:48

    Video: Jenson Button vlog: From LA to Tokyo

    Catch up with Jenson Button in his latest vlog entry as he jets from Los Angeles to Tokyo for the launch of Honda's Super GT…

    Misc
  13. Kari stays in GP3, switches to MP Motorsport 10:06

    Kari stays in GP3, switches to MP Motorsport

    Niko Kari will continue in the GP3 Series this year, having switched from Arden to category newcomers MP Motorsport. Formula…

    GP3
  14. Tuesday 16 January 2018

  15. Fenestraz joins Carlin for Formula 3 campaign 13:54

    Fenestraz joins Carlin for Formula 3 campaign

    Formula Renault champion Sacha Fenestraz will contest this year's European Formula 3 Championship with Carlin. Fenestraz…

    F3
  16. Kubica gets development role with Williams 11:32

    Kubica gets development role with Williams

    Robert Kubica has landed a role as Williams' reserve and development driver for 2018, which will involve test and practice runs…

    F1
  17. Williams confirms Sirotkin for 2018 seat 11:18

    Williams confirms Sirotkin for 2018 seat

    Williams has announced that Sergey Sirotkin will partner Lance Stroll for the 2018 campaign, with Robert Kubica, on the comeback…

    F1
  18. Video: Rosberg's Twitter Q&A with fans 08:42

    Video: Rosberg's Twitter Q&A with fans

    2016 Formula 1 World Champion Nico Rosberg responds to a variety of questions posed by fans on Twitter.

    F1
  19. Monday 15 January 2018

  20. Aitken secures Formula 2 step with ART GP 18:30

    Aitken secures Formula 2 step with ART GP

    Renault junior driver Jack Aitken will graduate to Formula 2 with ART Grand Prix this season, the French team has…

    F2
  21. Bird feared Marrakesh retirement amid issues 15:10

    Bird feared Marrakesh retirement amid issues

    DS Virgin Racing's Sam Bird feared mechanical gremlins would force him out of the Marrakesh ePrix, as he collected a podium…

    FE
  22. Ducati launches its 2018 programme, livery 11:52

    Ducati launches its 2018 programme, livery

    Ducati has become the first team to launch its 2018 MotoGP programme, taking the wraps off its Desmosedici GP at its Bologna…

    MotoGP
  23. Ticktum heads 2018 Red Bull junior line-up 10:16

    Ticktum heads 2018 Red Bull junior line-up

    Red Bull has announced its junior programme line-up for 2018, with Macau Grand Prix victor Dan Ticktum leading the six-driver…

    F1
  24. Racing legend and pioneer Gurney passes away 09:08

    Racing legend and pioneer Gurney passes away

    American racing legend Dan Gurney has passed away aged 86, his family has announced, due to complications arising from…

    F1
  25. Video: Formula E drivers react to Marrakesh 09:02

    Video: Formula E drivers react to Marrakesh

    Formula E drivers offer their three-word reaction to the Marrakesh ePrix, after varying fortunes up and down the grid at the…

    FE
  26. Sunday 14 January 2018

  27. Audi's Müller tops Formula E's rookie test 18:20

    Audi's Müller tops Formula E's rookie test

    Audi's Nico Müller clocked record pace as he comfortably topped Formula E's one-day rookie test in Morocco. Formula E…

    FE
  28. Buemi: Fanboost issue contributed to defeat 15:56

    Buemi: Fanboost issue contributed to defeat

    Sébastien Buemi pinpointed an issue with Fanboost as a contributing factor to his defeat at the Marrakesh ePrix. Buemi…

    FE
  29. Rosenqvist hails Mahindra, plays down title lead 13:08

    Rosenqvist hails Mahindra, plays down title lead

    Mahindra's Felix Rosenqvist praised his squad for a pre-race battery change at the Marrakesh ePrix, which he went on to win, and…

    FE
  30. Video: Marrakesh E-Prix race highlights 07:47

    Video: Marrakesh E-Prix race highlights

    Watch race highlights from the Marrakesh E-Prix, the third round of the 2017/18 Formula E championship.

    FE
  31. Saturday 13 January 2018

  32. Rosenqvist overhauls Buemi for Marrakesh win 17:03

    Rosenqvist overhauls Buemi for Marrakesh win

    Mahindra's Felix Rosenqvist made it back-to-back victories as he overhauled long-time race leader Sébastien Buemi to triumph at…

    FE
  33. Harding confirms Chaves for full 2018 season 14:06

    Harding confirms Chaves for full 2018 season

    Gabby Chaves will return to the IndyCar grid full-time in 2018 after completing a deal to drive for Harding Racing. Harding…

    Indy
  34. Video: Marrakesh E-Prix qualifying highlights 13:38

    Video: Marrakesh E-Prix qualifying highlights

    Watch highlights from qualifying for the third round of the 2017/18 Formula E championship in Marrakesh

    FE
  35. Fukuzumi gets Arden F2 and Mugen SF seats 11:58

    Fukuzumi gets Arden F2 and Mugen SF seats

    Nirei Fukuzumi will embark on a dual campaign in Formula 2 with Arden International and in Super Formula with Team Mugen in…

    F2
  36. Video: Formula E drivers preview Marrakesh 10:18

    Video: Formula E drivers preview Marrakesh

    Nick Heidfeld, Sebastien Buemi, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Felix Rosenqvist preview the third round of the Formula E championship…

    FE
  37. Puig appointed Repsol Honda Team Manager 09:42

    Puig appointed Repsol Honda Team Manager

    Repsol Honda has appointed Alberto Puig as its new Team Manager, following the resignation of Livio Suppo. Suppo announced…

    MotoGP
  38. Video: Marrakesh ePrix virtual lap with Lynn 08:44

    Video: Marrakesh ePrix virtual lap with Lynn

    Ride onboard with DS Virgin Racing's Alex Lynn for a virtual lap of the Marrakesh Street Circuit, ahead of Saturday's third…

    FE
  39. Friday 12 January 2018

  40. Brown expects 'substantial' gains with Renault 11:02

    Brown expects 'substantial' gains with Renault

    McLaren chief Zak Brown says the operation can expect a "substantial difference" in performance this season amid its alliance…

    F1
  41. Airbags compulsory in MotoGP from 2018 10:32

    Airbags compulsory in MotoGP from 2018

    Riders' race suits, across all classes within the MotoGP World Championship, must be fitted with airbag systems from the 2018…

    MotoGP
  42. Zhou stays with Prema for third F3 season 09:00

    Zhou stays with Prema for third F3 season

    Ferrari-backed Guanyu Zhou will continue with Prema in the European Formula 3 championship in 2018, marking his third season in…

    F3
  43. Video: What inspires Bottas' helmet designs? 07:12

    Video: What inspires Bottas' helmet designs?

    Mercedes driver Valtteri Bottas talks about what he looks for in a helmet design after asking fans to design his lid for the…

    F1
  44. Thursday 11 January 2018

  45. Pirelli reveals compounds for Azerbaijan GP 16:09

    Pirelli reveals compounds for Azerbaijan GP

    Formula 1 tyre supplier Pirelli has revealed its compound selections for the Azerbaijan Grand Prix. Pirelli will expand its…

    F1
  46. Video: FE drivers look ahead to Marrakesh 13:58

    Video: FE drivers look ahead to Marrakesh

    Following the festive break, Formula E drivers look ahead to this weekend's third round of the Formula E championship around the…

    FE
  47. Video: McLaren previews Grand Prix Driver 11:15

    Video: McLaren previews Grand Prix Driver

    McLaren teamed up with Amazon Prime to produce a documentary charting its 2017 campaign; watch the official trailer for the…

    F1
  48. Gasly hopes STR can maximise testing time 09:46

    Gasly hopes STR can maximise testing time

    Pierre Gasly believes Toro Rosso-Honda must ensure it establishes a reliable base early on, in order to maximise track time…

    F1
  49. Video: Bottas' helmet design inspiration 09:14

    Video: Bottas' helmet design inspiration

    With applications for Valtteri Bottas' helmet competition still open, the three-time Grand Prix winner explains the idea behind…

    F1
more news