If you’re looking at Ferrari’s signing of Kimi Raikkonen from a distance, you could imagine that Fernando Alonso may not be too happy with the arrival of the Fin at a team that’s been his home for a few years now. The fact is, Alonso has often been accused of having an “Alonso clause” which states that he’s the #1 driver at the team. Whether that clause exists or not is pointless because Alonso is the kind of driver that doesn’t need such a clause.
As the press digest the Raikkonen announcement, many are wondering if the recent, curt commentary that Alonso has had over race radio or in the press about the pace of the Ferrari or the decisions they team have made during a race are signs of a fissure forming into a serious crack in the harmony of Ferrari and Alonso.
Perhaps but the notion is more damning of Felipe Massa’s position within the team and the lack of any real representation of a threat to Alonso than what, apparently, Raikkonen poses. While admiring and ruminating on Massa’s terrific team-player attitude and top-shelf car skills, what the media are effectively saying is that dumping Massa and getting Raikkonen is a major improvement and a real threat to Alonso. Rumors even had Alonso threatening not to drive a few weeks back due to the signing of Raikkonen.
Those are, of course, all rumors and now it seems that McLaren have chimed in saying they would be interested in acquiring Alonso if it were possible contractually. This was prompted, I assume, by the press assuming that Alonso just isn’t going to stay at Ferrari with Raikkonen coming on board such is the threat to his #1 status and a real threat to his on-track performance.
To be honest, I think a lot of this is rubbish. This is a two-time champion who is arguably the best, most complete driver on the grid and while Kimi will do what Massa couldn’t—score more points and bolster Ferrari’s ability to make a real charge for the title—I am not convinced that he will relegate Alonso to a supporting role and dominate the Spaniard in 2014.
If there is any truth to Alonso being upset, it could be that the team was supposed to be built around him and him alone similar to what 7-time World Champion Michael Schumacher enjoyed while at Ferrari. A driver like Alonso has little to fear from any driver on the grid such is his skill and the total package he represents when driving in anger.
Felipe Massa beat Kimi Raikkonen when the Fin was previously at the team in 2008 and Ferrari paid Raikkonen to go away in order to bring Alonso over from McLaren. Now McLaren are being out-maneuvered in the top-shelf driver market and they are suggesting that a disgruntled Alonso might have a home in Woking. Alonso says it’s rubbish:
“Not really,” the Spaniard said, when asked if a return to McLaren attracted him. “I keep repeating every weekend – and I don’t know why I have to keep repeating – I love Ferrari and I will stay in Ferrari until the end.
“It is nice to have the comments from the other team principals every year saying they respect my job and my profesionality – especially McLaren as there were so many rumours that we had a lot of problems that year, but I always say that I had no problems with anyone. It was just the philosophy of the team or rather one man in the team that is no longer there.
“It is good to have these comments, but I have no intention (of leaving). I have three more years with Ferrari and I hope many more to come if we can extend the contract and that will be my hope.”
I tend to believe Alonso on this point as Ferrari is re-signing Raikkonen to bring the best driver pairing they can get in 2014. They know the car is the weakest link in Alonso’s quest for the title but it wasn’t the weakest link in Massa’s quest to be a points-scoring teammate. Massa left a lot on the table, which is something Alonso rarely does due to a lack of focus, apathy or disinterest. I doubt Ferrari felt the same level of focus and commitment from Kimi in 2009 when the Fin showed up, drove the car and went home.