Scuderia Ferrari or Team Alonso?

2011 F1 season preview

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2010

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Ferrari, Hockenheimring, 2010

Halfway through 2010 Ferrari threw its weight behind new driver Fernando Alonso in his pursuit of the championship.

The notorious switch of positions in the German Grand Prix last year eventually ended an eight-year period in which the FIA tried to prevent the use of team orders.

It began after Rubens Barrichello handed victory in the 2002 Austrian Grand Prix to Michael Schumacher, and ended when the rule forbidding team orders was cut from the 2011 regulations.

Much ink has already been spilled on the rights and wrongs of it – what’s of interest here is what it means for Ferrari in their post-Schumacher era.

Alonso is the team’s favoured son and it’s equally clear he operates at his highest level when he doesn’t feel under threat from his team mate. This raises obvious questions over Massa’s role in the team.

If Ferrari were content to use team orders halfway through the 2010 season when they were illegal, how much earlier will they be prepared to use them this year now they’re legal again?

It’s in Felipe Massa’s hands to keep himself from being relegated to Barrichello status. To do it, he needs to keep Alonso in sight. But he often struggled to do that last year.

I’ve made the error of writing Felipe Massa off once before and I’m not going to make that mistake twice. But he has a long way to come if he’s going to recover from the pummelling Alonso dished out to him last year.

Massa repeatedly said throughout 2010 was that he couldn’t get the tyres to work. He wasn’t the only driver who struggled with the narrower front tyres on the Bridgestones – Schumacher had the same problem.

Ferrari showed their faith in Massa by extending his contract to the end of next season. But that’s no guarantee they’ll keep in him in the car if he fails to perform this year – after all, Kimi R??ikk??nen had a contract for 2010.

But that brings us back to where we started. If Ferrari really are now Team Alonso, then a Massa who’s not quite quick enough to beat his team mate, but isn’t going to rock the boat, could suit them quite nicely.

The 2011 season should tell us a lot about the new balance of power at Ferrari.

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103 comments on Scuderia Ferrari or Team Alonso?

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  1. RandomChimp (@randomchimp) said on 6th March 2011, 10:15

    It’s in Felipe Massa’s hands to keep himself from being relegated to Barrichello status.

    Too late.

    • Yeah, that happened as soon as he signed up as Barrichello’s replacement.

      • Nope – he was a willing #2 to his mentor Schumi, and he was on equal terms with Kimi.

        That happened as soon as Alonso signed up and won at Bahrain – that pretty much meant Massa was never going to get in front of Alonso in the standings again. You could also make a case for Alonso passing Massa at pit entry in Shanghai.

        • Dev said on 7th March 2011, 8:41

          i think Santander bought out Kimi’s contract so they can have number 1 status for Alonso at Ferrari. this was my opinion when it was confirmed that Alonso would race for Ferrari. There is no doubt that Alonso would face a tough challenge from Massa if two cars & drivers are treated on par. Let’s not forget that in the rookie season Lewis Hamilton made Alonso look ordinary.

          Alonso was number 1 from the 1st race last season and same will be the case for this year as well. Massa will have to look at making a switch if he wants to ever come close at getting a shot at WDC.

    • Odinsthor (@krss77) said on 7th March 2011, 22:17

      Yeah, Massa is already lost! This season is his last in Ferrari!

  2. The FIA tried to the use of team orders

    Doestn quite make sense Keith :)

  3. James said on 6th March 2011, 10:21

    IF Ferrari are serious about winning the drivers championship, then they’ll have to back Alonso from the off.

    • F1iLike said on 6th March 2011, 14:09

      Say what you want about what they did in Germany last year, but fact is, it VERY nearly paid of! Just those small points where almost pivotal. And would have been, had they not messed up in Abu Dahbi… So…..

      • US_Peter (@us_peter) said on 6th March 2011, 18:25

        So the ends justify the means?

        • F1iLike said on 6th March 2011, 23:30

          Well, it is a team sport. Last year, yes, team orders where banned. But for sure, honestly, Massa was out and Ferrari isn’t going for 2nd. Never. Winning is all and sometimes you need to do radical things.. I’m not against team orders.. But I’m sceptical to them if they’re not on the right terms.. But IT IS about winning.

  4. RBAlonso (@rbalonso) said on 6th March 2011, 10:24

    I personally have never rated Massa to the extent that I do Raikkonen, Hamilton, Vettel or Alonso or even Kubica. I think that with as many top drivers in f1 just now the focus should be on a number one driver. I am an Alonso fan so this should be no surprise to you but, history proves that more championships are won this way. Lest we forget last year when Ferrari took full advantage of this with Red Bull squabbling, I think that a better start for Alonso this season could result in Red Bull having to publicly back Vettel. That said I think that won’t happen.

    • George (@george) said on 6th March 2011, 12:09

      More drivers championships maybe, there’s a reason McLaren beat Ferrari in the constructors last year…

      • RBAlonso said on 6th March 2011, 18:49

        I agree to an extent. If you mean that telling Massa he was number 2 and therefore losing unnecessary performance I agree. However, the McLaren’s rarely raced that often on track whereas Red Bull’s drivers were always side-by-side and Massa was on the podium for 4 of Alonso’s 5 wins.

        Interesting to hear your thoughts mate.

  5. f1yankee said on 6th March 2011, 10:29

    if massa doesn’t like being no. 2, all he has to do is be faster than alonso. i don’t think he will be. if he isn’t taking points off of red bull and mclaren (like last year) he’ll be out of a drive.

    • Todfod said on 6th March 2011, 17:36

      I agree. Ferrari probably do not expect Massa to match ALonso throughout the season, but I’m sure they expect him to take points of the Mclarens and Red Bulls. Last year he didn’t manage to take points of rivals, and was responsible for Ferrari not taking the 2nd spot in the WCC. Another repeat of 2010 and he deserves to get fired.

  6. dennis said on 6th March 2011, 10:34

    One of the things that would probably put the biggest smile on my face is Felipe driving circles around Alonso.
    I doubt this will happen, though.

    • ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 6th March 2011, 12:14

      Well let’s hope that Alonso doesn’t get any incriminating evidence to blackmail the team like he did in 2007!

      It would be fascinating to see what happened if Alonso was given team orders though. Imagine if it was in Brazil in the final race for example.

      • snowman said on 6th March 2011, 19:08

        Think just hearing Alonso being told to let Massa by would make me forever love team orders!! It’s unlikely but who would have thought he rather than Raikinen would be so close to championship few years ago.So won’t write him off just yet.

  7. W-K (@w-k) said on 6th March 2011, 10:41

    It’s all very well Ferrari making Alonso the No.1 driver, but in Italy it is all about Ferrari winning the Championship not the driver. So they have to keep the second driver on side these days so that he also scores points. And as we saw last season, a ****** off Massa doesn’t perform.

    • Lee said on 6th March 2011, 12:58

      I disagree with this, the Tiffosi have historically craved the drivers title far more as they want the best driver in their car. The constructors championship does not have the same sense of history about it as the drivers title. Winning the constructors title and missing out on the drivers is not as greatly celebrated by the fans as if its the other way round.

      • Calum said on 6th March 2011, 20:37

        Teams want a Consructor’s Title though – Sir Frank regards it as the highest prize in motorsport! because it would hurt to lose the pinnacl

  8. I think it’ll always be Scuderia Ferrari. If Massa was brutally quick this season then they’d tell Alonso to help out. It’s always going to appear like it’s Team Alonso though because Alonso is the better driver across a season, a great team leader and can galvanize the team around him which will make it hard for Massa to beat him over a season.

    There was a report (possibly in la Gazzetta dello Sport) that Massa would help Alonso last year provided he got a fair shot this year and Ferrari do seem to give their drievrs an equal go until it becomes clear that there’s one driver in a much better position.

    Massa has shown quite strong mental strength in the past too such as Brazil 08, his back to back wins in 08 when there was rumours he was on his way out, his speed in 09 with a bad car and having lost the title and his performance at Hockheinem a year after his accident so if he has that reassurance he could bounce back and try to regain some control. However, there must be some doubts in his mind because as Webber showed last year drivers need to feel that the team really is behind them.

    I don’t know if he’ll be on his way out anymore if he performs badly this year. Ferrari have shown incredible faith in him in the past which should give him a confidence boost too but more importantly, the main contender for his seat has been sidelined so that eases some of the pressure on Felipe. His biggest challenge may not be hanging onto his seat but whether he can catch Ferrari’s attention again and show he can challenge for the title like a couple of years ago.

    • BasCB (@bascb) said on 6th March 2011, 11:44

      Personally I think that Ferrari would like Felipe to be the second man and pull in the points behind Alonso and wins when Alonso cant.

      Massa surely does not see this role as his, so he should prove it in the first races and get the team behind him or possibly leave Ferrari to go somewhere else (but where) in the future.

      • or possibly leave Ferrari to go somewhere else (but where) in the future.

        Ferrari have gave Massa so many chances in the past and it really is a special team to a lot of people even if you don’t believe in the history Ferrari have been a top team for a decade so there’s always that feeling that they can pull something back. Massa also had a bad year after coming back from injury, he’s only had one really bad year against Alonso and he has been in a similar situation with Kimi and these tyres could give him a fresh chance so although he may have taken a confidence knock last year this year he could start to reverse his fortune or at least believe he can. For all those reasons I feel that if anyone asks for the divorce it’ll be Ferrari not Felipe.

        • BasCB (@bascb) said on 6th March 2011, 13:05

          I would love it to see Massa storm Melbourne in a couple of weeks and go on to a further 2-3 wins in the first races to lead the WDC. Not that I expect it, but It would be great.

          If he gets the mental side together after the disappointment of the second half of last year and still getting back from Hungary 2009, I am very curious how Alonso will behave next to him.
          I find it hard to believe Ferrari would really ask him to support Felipe and Alonso would do that.

          • ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 6th March 2011, 14:01

            But haven’t you heard the song that Stefano Domenicali was heard singing after Hockenheim last year? I think it went something like this, from memory…

            “If I could do the same again, I would my friend, Fernando”

            (sorry for the poor joke)

          • IceMan said on 7th March 2011, 11:52

            though i am a Alonso fan i would love it if Massa beats Alonso.If that happens Aloso will go mental and i don’t think he will help Massa.But it can happen.Alonso of late has been very mature compared to 2007. After all any world champion will go mad if a rookie gives him a bad time. :)

    • Yeah, I agree with this. Far too much credibility is given to the assumption that Alonso will be Ferrari’s number one driver through thick and thin. If Massa outpaces Alonso from the off, then he will get their backing – as he did in 2008 when Raikkonen was the defending world champion but was struggling to string two points finishes together.

      I see Ferrari now as in the same situation as McLaren were during their championship years – where Hakkinen was favoured over Coulthard because he showed himself to be the better driver, rather than the other way round.

  9. Patrickl said on 6th March 2011, 12:01

    Massa didn’t say that he couldn’t get the tyres to work in general. He said that he couldn’t get the “harder” compounds to work.

    I compared the qualifying results and indeed his results on the soft where worse than on the supersofts. On the supersofts he was usually only one position behind Alonso in qualifying and on the softs more like 2 or 3.

    On the other hand I’m feeling that it was mostly in his head too. He stated after Germany that his problems to deal with the harder tyres had let Alonso catch up to him. Now of course we know that the real reason was that Alonso was running a richer mixture and had more engine power available.

    When a person gets it in his head that something is going to make him fail, then it’s no surprise that indeed he does fail.

    • ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 6th March 2011, 12:06

      If it is in his head, the Pirelli tyres might just do wonders for him.

      Even if they aren’t any better, theoretically, there might be a placebo effect of some kind.

    • When a person gets it in his head that something is going to make him fail, then it’s no surprise that indeed he does fail.

      Absolutely agree but this year he could start with a good belief that he can fight back. If he fails as badly as last year then I can’t see him recovering.

      • OEL said on 6th March 2011, 15:40

        “When a person gets it in his head that something is going to make him fail, then it’s no surprise that indeed he does fail.”

        To be honest, I think it started after that horrible pit-entry move in Shanghai. You can’t try to put your teammate in the gravel trap – you just don’t do that – no matter how much faster you are.

        • To be honest, I think it started after that horrible pit-entry move in Shanghai. You can’t try to put your teammate in the gravel trap – you just don’t do that – no matter how much faster you are.

          It was clear Alonso was asserting his authority but there wasn’t anything actualyl wrong with the move. It was impolite and not what you’d usually expect from team mates but Massa was caught napping and Alonso exploited it. Alonso was desperate to catch up after his blunder at the start. It wasn’t very nice but there wasn’t anything wrong with it.

          • OEL said on 6th March 2011, 15:51

            Had Massa been unaware, his race might have ended like Hamilton’s in 2007. Now if THAT would’ve happened, would you still say the same?

          • VXR said on 6th March 2011, 16:00

            Had that move not come off, many pundits would have been asking what the hell Alonso was playing at.

          • That’s true but it did come off because Massa left Alonso the door open in the first place and as the move was happening wouldn’t have risked a crash. Massa provided Alonso with the opportunity. If it had gone wrong I imagine Ferrari would have been very annoyed but it worked because Massa gave room and then yielded.

          • OEL said on 6th March 2011, 19:19

            “Massa left Alonso the door open”

            Aren’t the drivers supposed to take the safest, quickest, easiest line in the pit entry? I wasn’t aware drivers were allowed to cross the white line at the entry before that race (but to be fair Hamilton did that even worse). Felipe drove the safest line in the pit-entry and braked early in the tricky conditions not to risk a “Hamilton a la 2007″. Past flew the mad, gambling, late-braking Alonso and forced his way through not only in order to avoid losing time waiting for Felipe, but also to show him “This is my team now, get lost, Ferrari don’t need you now I’m here.” Or, optionally and unlikely, he gave Felipe that hint by accident. Nevertheless, he also destroyed the chances of having Felipe as wing-man later in the season right there (appart from Hockenheim, ultimately cementing that fact).

          • RBAlonso said on 6th March 2011, 20:32

            The incident was never at the pit lane. The pit lane begins after the gravel trap. Alonso was catching Massa the previous lap and Massa lost control at the hairpin. Alonso was alongside by the edge of the ractrack and Massa, sensibly, yielded. Admittedly, this is forceful but had Alonso lost the championship by a point and not done the move he would blame himelf. There is a reason he is a champion.

          • Have to agree with RBAlonso. Alonso pulled off a fair overtake in an unusual but legal place on the track while Felipe was driving more conservatively. Fernando’s biggest crime was being rude as much as it pained me at the time to watch it as a Massa fan!

        • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 6th March 2011, 20:50

          That’s racing. Alonso did nothing wrong.

          • Bren said on 6th March 2011, 22:26

            and lewis and vet had already done exactly the same thing lap before.

          • Mike said on 6th March 2011, 23:16

            Seconded.

          • OEL said on 7th March 2011, 7:59

            “That’s racing. Alonso did nothing wrong.”

            Apparently not.

            “and lewis and vet had already done exactly the same thing lap before.”

            If my memory is correct, they exited the pits side by side because Hamilton refused to give way, almost leading to crashing into the Williams mechanics. If racing in the pitlane is what you want with the risk that it means, then I have nothing to say to you.

          • Keith Collantine (@keithcollantine) said on 7th March 2011, 8:26

            Alonso and Massa weren’t in the speed limit-restricted part of the pit lane at that point.

          • OEL said on 7th March 2011, 8:31

            Ok, that’s true, but it’s still not the place on the circuit where there’s the most runoff. Personally, I don’t like overtaking manouvrers in the pit-entry because it’s too narrow for two cars side by side, but I seem to be the only one with this opinion. Very well, you’re free to have your opinions.

  10. AndrewT said on 6th March 2011, 12:05

    i don’t think Massa would gather more points than Alonso, but i seriously expect only a very narrow gap between them. if you are set aside in the middle of the season, your motivation would certainly fade away, no matter how Montezemolo puts emphasis on its “temporary” aspect. however, a fresh start could bring anything, and we saw once Massa outperforming his higher rated teammate after in their first season together failed to do it…

    • Bren said on 6th March 2011, 14:31

      the motivation after germany is not an excuse for poor performance and the more and more its used as an excuse the worse it makes Massa look as a team player and driver.

      i dont know if he did lose motivation, i hope for his sake he didnt. cos if he did this will be his final season at ferrari. what manager would want a driver like that?

      i expect a better massa this season. and like someone said if he out performs fernando like he did kimi. he WILL get support. its not like red bull who were only really behind seb even when he was 30points off the leaders.

      what ferrari did was a bit crude. but no different to kimi getting a handful of wins from montoya in 05. which everyone has forgotten.

      • OEL said on 6th March 2011, 15:43

        How motivated can you get to help someone who tries to put you in the gravel trap in the pit-entry and in another race persuades the team to let him pass?

        • Bren said on 6th March 2011, 22:34

          they were racing get over it, like lewis and vet were also at same point of pit lane. i hope you didnt complain about germany then if ur complaining about when they did race, u cant have it both ways.

          and anyway whats being motivated to help fernando got to do with anything?

          how about being motivated to help himself? this is what im saying. using motivation as an excuse for poor performance really makes massa look bad in every possible way.

          i personally have more respect for massa than to think that.

          • Todfod (@todfod) said on 7th March 2011, 6:16

            I would have to agree with you every statement. Massa is a professional, and he should have understood that the Hockenheim incident was just a result of him being sub par all year. It was a time for Ferrari to support one driver for the WDC, and honestly, Massa never looked like a challenger. And honestly, if Massa didn’t have the motivation to help his teammate out, and help the team secure 2nd spot in the WCC, he should have been fired. I hope he does better this year and is motivated to do the best he can either for himself or the team.

          • OEL said on 7th March 2011, 8:05

            Felipe had a massive problem with getting heat into the tyres. To get over that you’ve got to be at your best. You’re not at your best when you’re teammate tries to kill you (yes, I’m overreacting, sorry).

          • OEL said on 7th March 2011, 8:10

            Also, forgot to say I was one of the few who thought Ferrari’s decision at Hockenheim was the correct one. I just enjoyed seeing Felipe in the lead for every lap that went by, knowing what would happen. After all, had not Vettel tried to put Alonso in the wall, Felipe would never have been leading.

  11. ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 6th March 2011, 12:11

    Massa must certainly be the biggest dark horse for 2011.

    He is in what is probably one of the best two cars and ever since Abu Dhabi 2010 has put in some good times, both at the Pirelli test and the pre-season testing – matching or beating Alonso regularly.

    Even in the second half of 2010, when most people said he was going terribly, he was consistently running in the top 5 (except Japan) when the team didn’t ruin his opportunities.

    The only doubt is if his run of career bad luck can finally turn around. I know the saying that you make your own luck etc., but if you look at, for instance, Australia, Hungary, Italy 07, Melbourne, Hungary, Singapore 08, Hungary 09, Europe, Singapore, Brazil 10, I think there is more to it. Webber’s luck turned around in 2010, maybe it is Massa’s turn in 2011, in more way than one…

    • Even in the second half of 2010, when most people said he was going terribly, he was consistently running in the top 5 (except Japan) when the team didn’t ruin his opportunities

      .

      I think in Brazil qualifying he didn’t perform but I’m actually amazed he was consistently in the top 5. I hadn’t realised and had thought it had been much worse than that. That’s pretty good considering it was 4 or 5 drivers fighting for the title.

      I too believe that drivers make their own luck but I do feel that Massa has had his fair share of bad fortune although it could be argued he was very lucky to get a Ferrari drive in the first place :P

      • ed24f1 (@ed24f1) said on 6th March 2011, 12:38

        Yes, Brazil qualifying was poor as well, but he came out of his pitstop in 5th, before he realised Ferrari were testing the new lightweight invisible wheel nut.

  12. DavidS (@davids) said on 6th March 2011, 12:22

    To answer the title questions…What’s wrong with Scuderia Fernando?

  13. P5ycH0 said on 6th March 2011, 12:33

    Team FIA.

  14. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 6th March 2011, 13:20

    I’d say it’s unlikely Massa will be able to recover lost ground. Alonso has had the beenfit of always being the number one driver in a team, and with Ferrari eager to avoid a repeat of 2010, all it will take is one or two early good results from Alonso to get Ferrari’s backing from the outset. Especially if Massa has a hard time. The only way Massa can recouperate ihs losses is to have a good opening leg. I’d say he’ll have to out-score (and possibly out-qualify) Alonso in Australia, Malaysia, China and Turkey if he wants the team to take him seriously enough to start backing him the way they have Alonso.

    • AndrewTanner (@andrewtanner) said on 6th March 2011, 16:39

      Agreed. I think his time to impress and change the view of the Ferrari garage is going to be much less than their rivals. I almost expect they don’t want him to.

    • TheRacingCoconut said on 7th March 2011, 10:03

      I agree. He would have to beat Alonso pretty much everywhere in the opening rounds of the championship. I don’t like his chances though.

  15. Choche said on 6th March 2011, 13:47

    Scuderia Alonso, Hamilton F1 Team, Vettel golden boy F1 Team, Kubica Lotus Renault Team, Michael Mercedes Team, etc.

    One scuderia, one leader and a good teammate. Always the best solution. Its unfair talk about only Scuderia Alonso, when the other teams do the same.

    If Massa starts the championship with a good shape, I’m sure that is going to be the same options that Alonso. But obviosly the spanish is the first option for Ferrari, as Hamilton is the first option for McLaren, and Vettel is the first option for RedBull.

    • Solo (@solo) said on 6th March 2011, 14:40

      I think there is a clear difference in the level of equality the other two teams give their drivers.
      In Ferrari there is a strong psychological attention, attention to the car by the mechanics, how they use the test sessions for the benefit of a certain driver with the general setup and even in the strategy department as to make one drivers life easier by sacrifising the other along with many other details.
      The guy that gets the support of the team gets a very big boost. In my opinion Alonso had it from the start he went there.

      In Mclaren and Red Bull, mostly will just be a few less smiles but the car and his car preferences won’t be neglected. In clear equipment position he won’t really be any worse. If the his fast all he has to do is be strong mentally and he can still pull it threw.

      Especially Button has nothing to be afraid of in terms of attention as it is. Mclaren clearly didn’t neglect him at all despite losing to Hamilton on most races.
      He had attention and lots of love as it was.

    • Anthony said on 6th March 2011, 15:41

      The most successful season any formula one team has had is McLaren in ’88…. they had Prost and Senna, they won 15 of 16 races that year. So, I dont entirely agree with your theory.

      • David-A (@david-a) said on 6th March 2011, 17:58

        Did they win 15 races in a season again though?

      • TheRacingCoconut said on 7th March 2011, 10:07

        That MP4/4 was an absolute beast of a machine and you had two of the greatest drivers of all time in control. They also crashed into each other the following year.

        A contradictory example from the same era would be Piquet and Mansell at Williams taking points off each other and handing Prost the championship.

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