After the 2013 Hungarian Grand Prix Alonso said he would like “somebody else’s car” and so seemingly unknowlingly echoed the words of the Second World War German fighter pilot Galland who memorably demanded “a squadron of Spitfires” in the summer of 1940. However, Alonso would like a permanent change of car whereas Galland had a preference for the Spitfire only in certain tactical situations. Furthermore, Galland did not approach the makers of the Spitfire but it would seem that Alonso has approached (through his agent) the makers of “somebody else’s car” in Red Bull Racing.
Demanding your competitor’s equipment, whether in war or sport, is always controversial and in either situation is usually the product of a deep sense of frustration. Alonso has finished runner up in the driver’s championship for two out of his three years with Ferrari but a clear downward trend in results for the team since Canada makes another year without a world championship at Maranello seem increasingly likely. Indeed, Alonso’s past four results have been second, third, fourth and at the weekend in Hungary, fifth.
Alonso’s fifth place was in addition to an eighth place for Massa which meant Ferrari took a meagre 14 points home from Hungary. As a result, Alonso slipped to third in the driver’s championship with Raikonnen now Vettel’s closest challenger and Mercedes increased their lead over Ferrari to take control of second place in the constructor’s standings.
Both cars had competent starts off the line and Massa overtook Raikonnen shortly before Alonso ran round the outside of Rosberg. However, Rosberg would clip Massa’s front wing as he was also passed by Massa, although the damage was minimal and Massa would race to the end without changing the wing. These three overtakes on the first lap were the only competitive moments when the Ferrari’s could take the race to the other cars for when the pack had settled down it became clear that Ferrari’s race pace was decidedly average.
Up front, Hamilton drove an exceptional race with some key passing moves, although these did not involve the Ferrari’s because quite simply the red cars were too slow to even be in the way for Hamilton. Although the Hungaroring has low lateral loads, that Hamilton was able to race hard in hot weather is further indication of the progress that Mercedes have made in recent races. Indeed, on the evidence of Hungary and Germany it is clear that Lotus have leapfrogged Ferrari to become the prime podium scavengers behind the duelling pair of Red Bull and Mercedes. This change in the competitive order was made amply clear by Grosjean driving around the outside of Massa on lap 29 which would have probably helped him finish ahead of both Ferrari’s had the stewards not deemed it an illegal overtake for being outside the bounds of the track and handed down a drive through penalty as a result.
However, it was after the race that first really interesting event involving Ferrari happened, with the news that a representative of Alonso had met with Red Bull. This was unconvincingly denied by a smiling Alonso after the race and thus the inevitable speculation has flowered. Alonso’s representative could have been discussing the future of other junior drivers that he also manages but in reality it seems that both Alonso and Red Bull think such a meeting is in their interests. For Alonso, it is the strongest motivational message he can deliver to the Maranello design team. For Red Bull, it allows them to use (however unrealistic) the supposed interest of another top level driver as a lever in their own negotiations to replace Webber. For them, it also has the added bonus of destabilising a distant, but still theoretical, title rival.
Ultimately, should Alonso really want to join Red Bull it is hard to believe that he would have allowed his manager to meet Red Bull in such an open manner for if there was a deal to done it would undoubtedly be negotiated with much more discretion. As a result, perhaps as would be expected di Montezemelo, has reminded Alonso of his responsibilities as an employee of Ferrari – whilst admitting the responsibility of the team is to provide a more competitive car. In truth, this has the feel of a minor event and its seems unlikely that Red Bull would hire Alonso to race Vettel – indeed Vettel himself very publicly made it clear that Alonso would not be his preferred teammate. Thus, it seems most likely that Alonso stays at Ferrari until 2016 although whether he stays beyond that looks uncertain unless titles are forthcoming.
Both Ferrari and Alonso will be hoping that they are, and the recruitment of Allison and the rules reset next season certainly provide an opportunity to return Ferrari to title winning form.
Click here for FIA lap chart.
Stefano Domenicali: “Today’s result cannot put a smile on our faces because at no point in the race were we competitive. After a promising start to the season, we are experiencing a drop in competitiveness. We must use the next few weeks to gather some ideas and act promptly. I expect the whole team to react strongly with the intention of improving the car to allow our drivers to express all their potential”.
Fernando Alonso: “Finishing fifth today, maybe we actually did better than what should have been within our g.php, because Mercedes, Lotus and Red Bull were quicker than us, a fact we had already seen from Friday’s practice. This race ends what’s been a generally difficult month for us and, with Silverstone and Nürburgring, is part of a cycle where we were not up to par. But there are still nine races to go and the points available are more than enough.”
Felipe Massa: “Today’s race was difficult from start to finish, because right from the first lap, at turn 5, after making contact with Rosberg, I lost the left part of the front wing. At that time, stopping to change the nose would have lost valuable time, so we decided not to come in, but from then on, the balance of the car was never the same and I lost a lot in terms of performance, suffering a lot with understeer and oversteer and my tyres degraded more than they should have done. I definitely can’t be happy with eighth place, because both in the race and in qualifying, we lacked the pace to fight for the lead.”