Since 2010, Ferrari had employed a strict one-rooster policy: one dominant driver and a strong number two. An idea that was also seen during the Schumacher era, this policy functions as a strategic model to boost the odds of the first driver’s championship odds. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out too well during any of those years.
The second driver of those years was Felipe Massa, who, prior to crashing, had been treated as an equal by Kimi Raikkonen. When Fernando Alonso joined the team, he brought with him the expectation that he would be given first driver status and was granted it. Obviously, this broke Massa’s will to put in his best performances, making him less useful as a strategic piece than Rubens Barrichello had been for Schumacher. As such, the team has been unable to claim a championship in either category for six years.
Last year, a falling out between Alonso and the team saw him lose that favour, and the one-rooster policy has evaporated.
One of two teams to adopt the “vacuum” nosecone style, Ferrari’s F14T (FIAT?) carries the distinct pleasure of being one the better-looking cars on the grid. A steeply sloped nose with a gap below sucks air under the car and redirects it to secondary aero gear without increasing drag. The sloped nose itself could provide some additional downforce to the body as well.
Poaching James Allison from Lotus, they now have a very skilled aerodynamicist to oversee development of the car over the season.
As one might expect, Ferrari has made the best use of their own engine, producing better reliability and quicker times than either of their customer teams. According to some, they have allegedly worked out a clever throttle solution that affords fantastic fuel-saving when the drivers are off-throttle. What exactly that is, well, if it were public knowledge then all of the teams would be working to replicate it.
Though behind Williams and Mercedes in both pace and reliability, the F14T still looks like a strong car. Better still, it has one of the strongest driver pairings on the grid.
Fernando Alonso – God-status gone
Three of the last four years, Alonso has been runner-up in the F1 drivers’ championship. His performance in 2012 stands out as the most stirring, as he started the season in a car with twitchy handling but still managed to carry his contest with Vettel to the final race of the year.
With Ferrari building an initially strong car last season, the Spaniard seemed likely to finally secure an elusive third championship. Ferrari failed to develop the car quickly enough to keep up with the other teams, leaving Alonso frustrated at yet another missed opportunity. In retaliation, he made disparaging comments about the car and team—a move that has seen drivers more respected than him fired on the spot.
Team President Luca Di Montezemolo publicly reprimanded the driver. Deciding not to sign Massa again, against Alonso’s wishes, highlighted the team’s displeasure more clearly. In the past, Alonso has demonstrated an inability to cope with strong teammates; a fact highlighted by his defeat at the hands of Lewis Hamilton in 2007 (Alonso was an incumbent champion and Hamilton was a rookie).
Alonso may be an excellent driver, but he may be in for a rough time if he hasn’t gotten his demons sorted out.
Kimi Raikkonen – Ferrari’s last champion returns
When it became public that Raikkonen was looking to leave Lotus due to a lack of pay, many teams immediately showed interest. Red Bull, McLaren and Ferrari all seemed keen to sign the Flying Finn, and it was Ferrari who won the bid. Good news for Raikkonen and Ferrari fans, possibly bad news for Alonso.
Raikkonen holds the distinct accolades of being a world champion and the last driver to lead Ferrari to the double: drivers’ champion and constructors’ champion. Troublesome facts for Alonso.
Having taken two wins during his two years at Lotus and plenty of podiums to boot, Raikkonen has been on excellent form since making his return to F1. Even missing the final two races of last season for back surgery, he had accumulated enough points to finish the drivers’ championship fifth.
So long as Ferrari don’t push him to do too much PR work, there should be none of the issues that led to his diminished form in 2008/09.
Nicknamed “The Iceman” for his unflappable personality and driving, Raikkonen will provide results so long as the car is up to the challenge.
Jerez Total Laps: 251 Laps (2nd)
Bahrain Figures (Test 1 &2 Combined)
Total laps: 624 (3rd)
Alonso: 357 Laps
Raikkonen: 267 Laps
Alonso: 1’34.280 (7th)
Raikkonen: 1’35.426 (9th)