Earlier in the year, TJ13 had suggested that Christian Horner was indeed a man with a Vettel shape footprint on his neck. There were many articles and news stories about the turmoil in Milton Keynes, particularly from the multi-21 fallout from Sepang.
Some Red Bull fans criticised TJ13 for having an unfair bias against their team, lead driver and senior management personnel. I did comment at the time, the annual Ferrari in fighting would most likely begin again in the autumn.
I was wrong, it has begun. TJ13 was highly surprised at the recent love in instigated by Il Padrino and reported the event with much amusement. For those of you new to TJ13, the image portrayed was of poor little Felipe having a tough time, but being re-assured that even as he receives the love of his wife and family, the worldwide Ferrari family wished him to know they loved and supported him equally.
TJ13 sources have revealed that in fact Massa’s traumas in Monaco and in Germany were because the team were experimenting with a new anti-spin system, that’s based on the KERS and also can brake or slow the car down via the engine. This may or may not be legal but we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt. In all three instances Massa loses control of the car in strange circumstances, such that last week Anthony Davidson remarked he did not believe any of the accidents were driver error.
When asked following the German GP to explain his strange spin under braking, Massa included in his reply that “the team didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with the car”. He shrugged and shook his head in bemusement.
Ferrari is again having problems with the correlation of the car development between the wind tunnel and the on track results, just as they did last year. Dominicali then stated following the Japanese GP that the wind tunnel issues would not be allowed to be an excuse for the engineers and designers.
Of course, 2 races later in India we had the infamous incident of the wild-eyed Spanish matador – incandescent with rage – screaming and threatening Fry and Dominicali that he would tweet to the world that his car had not been developed aerodynamically since May.
Alonso’s demeanour following the German GP was his usual mix of philosophic comment and passionate call for the team in frustration to find more pace in the car, and it appeared we were about to see his level’s of angst rise further this weekend as clearly the Ferrari is not improving.
Yet a number of observers commented in the build up to this race that Fernando appeared very relaxed, almost nonchalant in his dealings with them privately and with the media.
Stefano Dominicali was conspicuous by his absence from any pre or post race live interviews with either of the BBC or SKY. I am told he was not available for comment with the written press reporters either.
The cold hard fact is that Ferrari has been heading in reverse since their uber dominant weekend in Spain. In Hungary even at the most optimum with fresh tyres and clean air Alonso was nearly half a second behind the pace of Mercedes, Red Bull and Lotus with Massa finishing behind one of the MP4-28’s which have been woeful for most of the year.
P5 was probably the best Alonso could have hoped for and without the stewards’ bizarre decision to penalise Grosjean for being millimetres from the edge of the track having passed a limping Ferrari, it could have been worse for Fernando.
As an aside, to punish Grosjean for his incident with Button would have made some sense, but the TV footage reveals a number of drivers had left the track at turn 4 earlier in the race defending their position – including Vettel. Once again, the race management under Charlie Whiting’s guidance has fallen into disrepute for its inability to be consistent in its rulings.
During the post race driver pen interview’s, Fernando commented, “We didn’t have the pace with the soft, we didn’t have the pace with the medium and we were not quick enough.. July – the month in general has not been so good for us in terms of how competitive we have been this month – in Nurburgring, Silverstone and Hungary. We need to… to… react… and we need to… [speaks a burst of Spanish] win 3 or 4 consecutive races that will close any gap with the leaders and we need to do it”.
All this was said whilst Alonso was looking away from Lee McKenzie, picking at his cheek and twirling his side burns. The usual passion and determination was lacking, and Alonso appeared to be disillusioned and flat.
Further, Fernando’s comment about winning 3 or 4 consecutive races is delusional – and he knows it. This clearly demonstrates his utter lack of belief that the team can deliver him anything remotely competitive to fight the Red Bull, Lotus and Mercedes cars.
Lee McKenzie asks Fernando, “Are you becoming frustrated with Ferrari, we understand that your manager has been speaking to Red Bull. Are you looking to leave Ferrari and go to Red Bull?” He replies, “No, no no. I am concentrating on winning the championship. These other rumours that [are] always in August. It is a good time for rumours because there are not 4 weeks where there is a Formula 1 race”.
Alonso is unconvincing, and a smile creeps across his mouth as he is answering and he ends with a sheepish grin – as opposed to a sneer of disapproval or a convincing and firm denial of any kind.
McKenzie presses, “Has your manager been to speak to Red Bull?” Alonso again sheepishly responds, “I don’t think so”.
McKenzie again, “Not that you know of?” Alonso is now practically chuckling with embarrassment and grinning like a Cheshire cat and barely completes the response, “Not that I know of” before grinning from cheek to cheek and wandering away.
For those readers who are sceptical of the German publication ‘Bild’, it was they who published pictures and a report of Alonso’s manager this morning. Of course Alonso’s manager – Garcia – also manages Carlos Sainz Jnr yet it is highly unlikely that they would be discussing him as a replacement to Webber.
Finger on the pulse Niki Lauda dismisses the idea of Alonso going to Red Bull stating, “It’s the biggest nonsense I’ve ever heard, a stupid rumour. Alonso has a contract for three more years, 2014, 15, 16 — everybody in the paddock knows that. It’s absolutely not true.” Clearly Lauda has excluded at least one paddock member as David Coulthard counters this stating of Fernando, “I’m sure he has [opt] outs from his contract because he is a double world champion”.
Coulthard fires the speculative fires further when he gives credence to the meeting between Garcia and Horner. “There’s a strong suggestion and evidence that is the case, but it’s not a big surprise. He [Alonso] wants to win – like any of the drivers – look Lewis Hamilton has moved to Mercedes because he’s frustrated at a lack of success at McLaren. Fernando has to be looking at his options”.
If there was any further doubt over the Alonso to Red Bull in 2014 rumour having some substance, the usual double speaking, hedge your bets against all odds Horner had this to say on Webber’s replacement. “We’re starting to get a clearer picture but then other options pop up.” This is on the back of Horner stating 2 weeks ago that it was now between Ricciardo and Raikkonen.
Vettel is asked by Lee McKenzie, “Do you fancy Fernando as a team mate for next season?”. Grinning from ear to ear he replies, “I prefer Kimi”. Lee asks him, “Why’s that?”. Vettel responds, “Umm… I think err… I think err…. I need to be careful now… nothing against Fernando I respect him a lot as a driver, but I respect Kimi on and off track because he’s always between very straight with me – and for that reason I think it might be easier”.
What is clear is the Garcia/Horner meeting is a political event. If Alonso was in a position of weakness in Maranello, his representative would not be pictured meeting Christian Horner. It could be this allows Red Bull to play psychological warfare with Il Padrino and the Italian troops, but only with Fernando’s tacit agreement – which itself is more than an alliance of passing interest. Red Bull could further be sending Vettel a message that the decision who replaces Webber is theirs and not Sebastian’s.
The BBC reporting of this was quite excellent. SKY who at times appear obsessed with their own gushing ideas and beliefs which have them at the heart of F1 missed it completely. It appears being in the paddock does not ensure you are aware of the big F1 story – whether you are an F1 writer or international media organisation.
Ferrari will respond for sure, whether via La Stampa, the Horse Whisperer or another family BBQ for Felipe where Fernando is unwelcome. The Ferrari fun season is beginning and for non-Ferrari fans this may be a time when much sport is made of the happenings in Maranello.
What is clear is that Ferrari are fast losing their grip on the development of their 2013 car; losing their grip on any hope of the 2013 titles and maybe losing their grip on keeping their star driver and double F1 World Championship winner.
UPDATE: Luca de Montezemolo is furious with Alonso (link here)
(How long we will have this before it is removed who knows but click here for the downloaded interviews)