Serious issues between Alonso and Ferrari: As I alluded to in the Indian GP Post Race Review (link), Alonso is a pretty calculating individual and I noted his post qualy comments about “Fighting Newey, not just Vettel” as strange . Of course at times he speaks off the cuff but you can spot when he is making a coded statement that has hidden but significant meaning. Well today we have an explanation from La Stampa that says Alonso was furious after Ferrari’s technical boss Pat Fry blamed the drivers for a sub-standard qualifying performance.
Fry said in a TV interview, “the [qualifying] result reflects our current potential”, after Alonso was fifth, ”but in order to be where we wanted and where we were capable of being, we needed to be perfect today and we weren’t,” he added. When Alonso heard this he apparently flew into a rage saying, “I want my 1.2 million followers to know that the key aerodynamic components at the rear of the Ferrari are still the same as they were in May”. It apparently took a lot of persuasion from Dominicali to persuade Alonso not to press the “send” button on the text. (link)
There are times when I’m highly sceptical about news stories, usually if there are no direct quotations or even named sources. But La Stampa is the newspaper of Turin, owned by the Agnellis and very much part of the same family as Ferrari.
But let’s just back up for a moment, what Fry said could mean a number of things. Drivers and team personnel use the ‘royal we’ all the time to mean either the team or an individual – this is more often done by drivers who usually mean themselves. Fry could have been referring to the setup of the car or any number of factors, yet Alonso has taken this personally and reacted.
thejudge13 has been saying for some time there are deep rooted problems in the Ferrari camp and for Alonso to react this way to Fry would suggest he is either a bit paranoid or there is some serious history of conflict between the two.
It all seemed to begin when Alonso spent an inordinate amount of time in Singapore pontificating about who should drive along side him in 2013. There was lots of use of the ‘Royal we’ from him inferring that he was a key part of the decision making process – and Fernando concluded there were no superstars out there worth recruiting so Ferrari should keep Massa.
The Padrino, Luca de Montezemolo responded a few days later at the Paris motor show saying “Alonso should first win the title and we will then consider not putting a driver beside him who will bother him”. I’ve cited that quote several times in this blog over the past 2 weeks because the more I read it the more of a confrontational rebuke it becomes directed at Alonso.
thejudge13 also observed the start of serious relationship problems for McLaren when Dennis in effect rebuked Hamilton in Canada telling SKY that the last time he (Dennis) checked, it was him that employed Lewis and not the other way around. Further, he stated that Lewis would be getting a smaller contract than last time as economic times were tough.
Connected with the Luca de Montezemolo put down of Alonso was the rather pointless 2 paragraph release from Ferrari.com – a day after they confirmed Massa – in effect saying ‘all options had been considered’ BUT it was the team NOT Massa’s team mate who had made the decision to retain Massa’s services. Another snub for Alonso.
It’s now becoming clear that all was not well behind the scenes at Ferrari because out of nowhere immediately following the Japanese GP Dominical told SKY that he would not accept any excuses from his engineers about the wind tunnel issues. Prior to this the Ferrari wind tunnel matter had been briefly but was just a news byline for me up until this point.
The following week we had a 1200 word fairly long-winded explanation about wind tunnels et al from Ferrari.com almost flying in the face of what Stefano had said. This enormous apologetic appeared huge overkill as a mere release of information to fans. In the meantime Alonso has been trotting out the team line before each weekend about new upgrades, with the sub-text that it will still not bridge the gap to Red Bull.
Stefano also said in the same post race Japanese interview that the race strategy would have to change. He inferred that Fernando could no longer look at each weekend and set the target of beating his closest rival as the objective in the race. I commented at the time this seemed amusing as Alonso surely wants to win races as much as he wants to win the WDC.
5 days later in the Korea press conference, Fernando responded to Stefano stating “I think we’ve been attacking in all the races. We were fighting in all the races the maximum we can, approaching the races to maximise the points we have available. Sometimes we were on the podium, sometimes we were fourth, sometimes we were fifth and this will not change now“.
Is it possible Luca just spices things up to get some creative tension going? Today in La Gazzetta he switches sides and supports his No.1 driver, “Alonso is right to push the engineers”.
So, not much tea leaf reading is required, but obviously the lack of car development has been a growing irritation and is now an enormous issue between Fernando and the team.
What is great for the fans is that clearly so much information today is disseminated to the media, that at times F1 people forget what is in the public domain and what is not – like Dominicali and the wind tunnel comment. It would be fascinating to know is who decides what goes out over Ferrari.com as it has been crystal clear to me for a few weeks that the press releases are being used for internal political positioning.
What next? Alonso walks out on Ferrari? I think not, because there is nowhere for him to go.
I think we should re-interpret Fernando’s post race tweet quoting his previously cited samurai inspiration. Originally it appeared to be a philosophical reflection on his battle with Vettel – “If the sword breaks, fight with your hands, if they cut your hands, push the enemy with your shoulders, even your teeth.” Could this have actually been aimed at lack of weaponry provided by the Ferrari technical department to take the fight to Vettel?
What is certain is that the wind tunnel issue is not about to be quickly resolved and will in no doubt compromise the development of the Ferrari race car for 2013. Maybe as the Ferrari lead driver is about to be surpassed by Vettel in number of WDC’s he clearly feels the clock is ticking and could be wondering whether Maranelllo is the right place for him if he ever wants to be drivers’ champion again.
(This page will update throughout the day as new stories develop – check back later)
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