Raikkonen’s Red Return

FELIPE’S FERRARI FAREWELL

Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said at Monza that he wanted to get the driver line up for next season sorted. The first major step towards that was made, with Felipe Massa’s departure being announced on September 10. The Brazilian said on his Twitter and Instagram accounts:

“From 2014 I will no longer be driving for Ferrari. I would like to thank the team for all the victories and incredible moments experienced together. For next year, I want to find a team that can give me a competitive car to win many more races and challenge for the Championship.

“Lol bye” – F. Massa, 2013

While Massa’s early career with Ferrari was indeed successful, scoring an excellent 11 wins, his accident in Hungary 2009 appeared to have damaged more than just his head, and his form took a dip. His 2010 season was his comeback, so some margin for recuperation can be left, but he failed to score any podiums in 2011, by which time it might not be so big of an ask that he had returned to form.

However, since the mid point of 2012, he has been extremely strong scoring points in every race of the second part of 2012, rounding off the year with a superb 3rd place in his home race. He has only failed to finish in the points three times this year, once in Bahrain (tyre failure) then Monaco (Brake failure) and Germany, where he spun off.

Massa’s former team mate and one of the most popular drivers in the sport, Kimi Raikkonen was confirmed as his replacement on September 11. The pair were teammates from 2007 to 2009, when Raikkonen won the ’07 title, and Massa came oh-so-close to doing so the following year.

OH I DO LOVE WHEN SILLY SEASON BEGINS TO FALL INTO PLACE…

This move opens up a space at Lotus, which could be taken by di Resta or Hulkenberg, the two other names tipped to replace Massa at Ferrari. Hulkenberg looks most likely to join Lotus at this moment, with that leaving the door open for Massa to return to Sauber, the team at which he started his career.

Massa’s future has not yet been decided, though. I would expect Massa to go back to the Swiss team, who have just recently confirmed that Russian teenager Sergey Sirotkin will join the team, providing that he gains his FIA Superlicense. If Massa did go, it’s unclear whether his long-term race engineer Rob Smedley would jump. The two are the closest Driver-Engineer pairing you will ever come accross, and I would be surprised if Smedley didn’t follow ‘Felipe Baby’ to wherever he next settles.

ROOSTERS IN THE HENHOUSE

Ferrari’s team mantra has always been that the team’s needs outweigh any of the individuals that are a part of it, prompting some questionable moves in the past. Just ask the outgoing Massa about Germany 2010, but don’t tell him that Fernando is faster…

Anyway, this ideology of the team coming first means that they tend to back one driver for the World Championship and the other plays a support role. Eddie Irvine and Rubens Barrichello bore the unfortunate ‘No. 2’ role when partnering Michael Schumacher, similar to Mark Webber’s position in Red Bull now, but with Raikkonen AND Alonso there is very little to tip the scales.

In fact in 2008, Luca di Montezemolo famously said that the duo would not be a good idea, possibly after the fallout of Alonso and Hamilton’s 2007 scuffle. The team have rarely employed drivers of a similar level really – Berger and Alesi were arguably even in the 90s, but neither was capable of winning the Championship. You have to go as far back as 1953 to find a Ferrari team with two World Champions – Alberto Ascari and Guiseppe Farina. The two Italians are the only from that country to have won the WDC, with Ascari the only one to do it for the Scuderia. However, in 1953, Ascari was far superior to Farina, probably due to the latter’s age.

McLaren are a contrast to Ferrari and always give both drivers an equal shot at the Championship if they can. When they signed Button in 2009, they had the two most recent champions in the sport, and after three years together, the pair hadn’t really come close to the Championship, with Button coming second in 2011 the best attempt. So, with two Goliaths of the sport in the same team, who will be the victor? Will we see another 2007-esque strop from Alonso, or will we see a disappointing season from Kimi like in 2008?

Just know that as the two drivers closest to Vettel, Ferrari have very real designs on the Constructors’ Championship.

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