Who will be Alonso’s next Ferrari team mate?

2013 F1 season

Fernando Alonso, Felipe Massa, Ferrari, 2012Another crucial part of the 2013 F1 driver line-up was settled yesterday when Ferrari announced they would retain Felipe Massa for 2013.

But with Massa only securing a one-year extension on his Ferrari contract, the decision about the long-time future of their line-up has merely been postponed for another 12 months.

What sort of team mate do Ferrari want for Fernando Alonso? Here’s a look at the prominent choices.

Massa: A stopgap?

Ferrari’s decision to retain Massa for 2013 was a long time coming. They waited until after their original option on his contract expired.

Promising young drivers such as Sergio Perez were spurned on the grounds of having “too little experience”. Perez, of course, was eventually taken up by no less a team than McLaren.

Massa has belatedly upped his game in recent races. In Japan he finished on the podium almost two years to the race since his last top-three finish in the 2010 Korean Grand Prix. The single podium Massa has achieved since then compares to the 20 Alonso has racked up, including four wins.

Massa’s points tally as a proportion of Alonso’s has steadily fallen since their first season together in 2010. It was 57% that year, 45% in the next, and so far this year Massa has just 38% of Alonso’s points haul.

To put that into perspective, Mark Webber had a difficult season alongside Sebastian Vettel last year, yet still scored 65% of Vettel’s tally.

It’s clear that Massa’s performance is in decline. How far Ferrari are prepared to tolerate that depends on what role they expect him to play.

The Vettel rumours

Fernando Alonso, Sebastian Vettel, Hockenheim, 2012On the eve of last season Red Bull announced a contract with Vettel which would keep him at the team until the end of 2014. However Helmut Marko subsequently revealed Vettel has a performance clause in the contract which could allow him to leave early.

The rumours about Vettel potentially moving to Ferrari began in June. They resurfaced on Monday when the BBC claimed a deal had been done for 2014.

Vettel already has as many world championships as Alonso. Given Red Bull’s performance in recent years, were he to arrive at the team in 2014 he might already have three or even four world championships to Alonso’s two and a tally of victories that also outstrips Ferrari’s incumbent driver.

Clearly, Vettel would be a vastly more competitive team mate than Massa. And it would be a surprise to see Ferrari buck their trend of preferring drivers who fall into clear ‘number one’ and ‘number two’ roles.

Luca di Montezemolo insisted that policy was not changing when he dismissed the Vettel story on Monday: “I don?t want to have two roosters in the same henhouse, rather two drivers who race for Ferrari and not for themselves. I don?t want problems and rivalries.”

But not everyone at Ferrari necessarily shares this view. A question using a similar phrase was put to team principal Stefano Domenicali four months ago. He was asked whether Vettel could only join Ferrari after Alonso had left because “two cocks cannot live in the same hen house”.

Domenicali replied: “I think they are both intelligent guys and they could easily coexist together.” Not exactly singing from the same sheet as Montezemolo. And not a view Ferrari tried to downplay or hush up – they reported it on their own website.

It would be an inspiring and very special sight to see Ferrari put two of F1′s greatest talents in their 2014 cars. The ‘clear number one’ policy has failed to yield a championship for Ferrari’s drivers or a constructors’ title for the team in the last three seasons, nor will it this year as things stand. Perhaps Ferrari are beginning to realise it’s time for a change of approach?

Hulkenberg to join ‘Ferrari B-team’

Nico H???lkenberg, Fernando Alonso, Interlagos, 2010There are several reports claiming Nico Hulkenberg will leave Force India for Sauber next year.

On the face of it this seems like something of a sideways move, even if Force India are behind Sauber in the constructors’ championship at the moment.

But the recent news about Vijay Mallya’s financial situation does not inspire confidence in the long-term prospects of the team. Whereas Sauber appear to be going from strength to strength as they rebuild following the BMW era.

Perhaps most significantly, it means a move from Mercedes to Ferrari power for Hulkenberg, and a move to a team where Massa served his F1 apprenticeship before becoming a Ferrari driver.

It indicates Ferrari may have their sights on a different German driver to join them in 2014.

A door opens for Bianchi

By vacating a seat at Force India, Hulkenberg could create an opportunity for Ferrari Development Driver Jules Bianchi to land an F1 race seat.

Bianchi was quickest in all three days of the recent Young Drivers’ test at Mugello, two of which he spent at Ferrari, one at Force India.

He has driven the VJM05 on eight occasions in 2012. And he has just taken over the lead of the Formula Renault 3.5 championship, which will be decided in Spain this weekend.

Is Bianchi a Ferrari driver of the future? It’s much too early to say. As their handling of Perez showed, it’ll take a few years of him racing in F1 before they’re prepared to make that call.

More 2013 driver market moves

Esteban GutierrezSauber are already losing Sergio Perez to McLaren next year, and there are rumours Kamui Kobayashi may follow him out of the door.

Kobayashi is in his third full season with the team and achieved his first podium finish in Japan last week. But he has been out-performed by the less experienced Perez, who has already appeared on the podium three times.

Kobayashi’s lack of financial backing may swing the decision, which would be a terrible shame for him, the sport and its ever-diminishing connection to Japan.

Perez’s place at the team may be taken by another Escuderia Telmex-backed driver, Esteban Gutierrez. A fellow Mexican, Gutierrez won the inaugural GP3 championship in 2010.

A haul of just 15 points in his first season of GP2 didn’t do justice to the promise he showed while partnering the more experienced Bianchi. But the high hopes many had of him for this season were not realised as he dropped out of contention for the championship following a series of mistakes.

Gutierrez is Sauber’s test driver and drove for them in the last two Young Drivers’ Tests. However he is yet to make an appearance for them at an F1 race weekend.

When Perez withdrew from last year’s Canadian Grand Prix due to injury, Gutierrez missed out on his chance to drive the car, the opportunity going to Pedro de la Rosa instead.

Over to you

Can Massa hang on to a Ferrari seat beyond 2013? Will Ferrari ever choose “two roosters” and sign Vettel?

Is Hulkenberg being groomed for a Ferrari future? And who else might be a candidate?

Have your say in the comments.

2013 F1 season


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Image ?? Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo, Red Bull/Getty images, Williams/LAT, GP2/Alastair Staley/LAT

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89 comments on Who will be Alonso’s next Ferrari team mate?

  1. Salcrich said on 17th October 2012, 14:16

    And who says that Hamilton doesn’t have a performance clause that allows him to change his mind in 2014? Could Mercedes have agreed to such terms given how keen they were to get him? Replacement for vetted after he moves?

  2. Jake (@jleigh) said on 17th October 2012, 14:21

    I would love to see Vettel in a Ferrari in 2014 just so that we can finally see how good he is up against a truly top class driver.

  3. Sasquatsch (@sasquatsch) said on 17th October 2012, 14:25

    According to Joe Saward, it is not Vettel who will go to Ferrari next, but his teammate Mark Webber since he is the ideal number two driver. :)

    Vettel will probably go to Ferrari when (or the year before) Alonso retires.

    • Bullfrog (@bullfrog) said on 17th October 2012, 15:12

      Webber makes a lot of sense to me, from Red Bull’s point of view. I just couldn’t see them weakening their team by letting Vettel go – but they could replace their number 2. They’ll give Vergne and Ricciardo two years to prove themselves as potential Red Bull drivers – that was long enough for Perez and, arguably, Hulkenberg and di Resta to show they’re ready to step up. Those last two could also be available, and they’d make a great alternative to the Toro Rosso guys.

      Talking of Webber, he’s been on one-year contracts for years, so handing Massa one doesn’t necessarily mean it’s his last year with Ferrari, if he can maintain his current form. In the last five races, he’s scored 124% of Alonso’s points…

      By the end of 2013, Vettel could have won 4 back-to-back championships, so he may be looking for “a new challenge” (no doubt with a little persuasion from Bernie). But something tells me Seb is smart enough to stick with a team and designer that’s winning now, and not in 2 years’ time.

  4. Kévin (@the13iceman) said on 17th October 2012, 14:28

    Vettel can’t go to ferrari, di montezemolo doesn’t want to manage 2 stars, but why not a return of Kubica?

  5. Chris (@tophercheese21) said on 17th October 2012, 14:52

    Di Resta?

  6. sumedh said on 17th October 2012, 16:08

    Alonso to win in 2012, Vettel to win in 2013 and bring the no.1 to Fernando’s den to give Formula one its first ever pairing of two three-time WDCs.. You read it here first!

    • Kimi4WDC said on 18th October 2012, 7:09

      In your dreams. Here is mine; When a four times World Champion arrives to Ferrari he will kick out Alonso and Santander together with him. Unless Kimi wins prior to that :)

      • stirper said on 19th October 2012, 2:05

        Why they should fired up the best driver in the grid to take a very good driver??? it make no sens…The problem of Ferrari isn’t a driver problem (since they have the best. L.Di Montezemolo) is a car problem and specifically a wind tunnel problem.
        In 2008 it was a driver problem and specifically Raikkonen…i.e fired

  7. steco (@steco) said on 17th October 2012, 16:16

    in 2014 we will see Robert Kubica in Ferrari… thats gonna be the greatest suprise of all :D

    • Troy Longstaff (@troylongstaff) said on 18th October 2012, 2:19

      As sad as it may be, I think we have seen the last of Kubica in F1. It’s a pity because he was so talented in his prime, but it seems he is more interested in rallying at this stage of his life. I’d be happy to be made a fool of if he returns . . .

  8. Osvaldas31 (@osvaldas31) said on 17th October 2012, 16:23

    I’d like to see Hulkenberg in a Ferrari. He really deserves seat in a top team. And I think, he wouldn’t be thrashed by Alonso. Problem is: Hulkenberg is too good to be number 2 driver.

  9. Gagnon (@johnniewalker) said on 17th October 2012, 16:38

    Binachi was quickest in all three days of the recent

    I think you mean Bianchi

  10. maxthecat said on 17th October 2012, 16:51

    Is this a rhetorical question? We all know Vettel will be at Ferrari in 2014. New rules will mean Red Bull will get left behind somewhat. Teams like Ferrari and Mercedes will have a year or two advantage over the customer teams.

    • So, you mean the same way how Ferrari’s advantage over Redbull in the year 2009 where there was major rule changes ? Unless Newey depart from Redbull, they will be strong enough irrespective of driver lineup. If Vettel leaves Redbull, i suspect Lewis would take the seat in RBR.

      • Gagnon (@johnniewalker) said on 17th October 2012, 23:00

        I think what he mean is Mercedes and Ferrari will definitly an advantage since they allready know the engine n stuff, and they can start to make a car from these as they know what stuff will be on, other team wont.

  11. Mads (@mads) said on 17th October 2012, 17:01

    In a way I would love to see Vettel and Alonso as team mates at Ferrari. To really see two giants of this time, fight it out.
    But no matter how mouthwatering this prospect is, I just can’t see why ANY of them would want it.
    Vettel would turn his back on RB, who is currently doing a lot better then Ferrari. To go to Ferrari, which is currently as much of a home for Alonso as his own underpants.
    All in all, what could be a very hostile environment for a another ruthless hotshot with nothing but championships in his sights. And even if Vettel think that he can drive Alonso’s socks off, that might not be enough. Alonso would still have a better relationship with the team, and could by other means hinder Vettel’s championship campaign. And if it doesn’t work, then Vettel could find him self in a position where there is no room to walk back into RB and pretend like nothing happened. McLaren would probably be open to have him by then, but I don’t think that, ‘probably’, is good enough.
    Alonso would risk his nr 1 status, as well as future success. He might even risk getting bullied out (like Schumacher…) prematurely, if Vettel turns out to be too good and that the two drivers can’t work together.
    Ferrari could benefit from it, because if things turn out well between Alonso and Vettel, Ferrari would clearly have the strongest driver line-up on the grid, but they saw what happened in McLaren in 2007. It can all very quickly collapse when you have two top drivers, both driving for themselves, more so, then for the team. LDM’s comments the other day said it all. The risks involved are huge, and the benefit wouldn’t necessarily be that great. There are good drivers out there that would happily be Alonso’s wingman, with speed and consistency. Currently they want Massa, and if he can keep up his recent form, then I completely understand that. If he can be nearly as good as he was in Korea, pretty consistently, then he would be as good a wingman as anyone. But there are other drivers out there, who I think are ready sooner rather then later, to take that job if Massa does not keep up his form.

    • Robbie (@robbie) said on 17th October 2012, 17:30

      While I agree for the most part with what you are saying, I don’t buy into the concept that two top drivers ‘driving for themselves’ is what happens nor would be harmful. Really…when isn’t a driver ‘driving for himself’ in the sense that he is always trying to maximize his own performance and be desired in F1 and win himself and the team the WDC and outdo his rival and the rest of the grid to fulfill their childhood dreams and be rich and famous to boot. If it’s a healthy rivalry and both drivers are advancing the team, it’s ok if they themselves want to do their best at all times, but I don’t think drivers have the ability to seperate themselves from the team. Unless you mean they would disobey a team order and screw up their teammate. But that realistically doesn’t happen does it? When the math doesn’t favour one driver, the driver and the whole world knows what his duty is and he’d be a complete idiot to not appreciate that and as the season winds down revert to thinking about the team and it’s sponsors first and foremost. He might not be thrilled about it but only need look himself in the mirror and accept that it just wasn’t to be for him that year. And when the math favours both drivers they should be allowed to duke it out on the track.

    • Kimi4WDC said on 18th October 2012, 7:11

      Alonso will get a boot, if he does not deliver the title before 2014.

      • Francuis (@francuis) said on 18th October 2012, 9:04

        You joking right? If FA leave Ferrari it will be because Ferrari are unable to deliver a fast car for FA and not because FA under perform. Every single team principal will hire FA on the spot. That is why they the team principals voted him the best driver, which is why he is the best paid driver. Not only that, but that is why the biggest sponsorship “Santande” follow FA were he goes. If Ferrari don’t pull up there sock FA will start looking at RBR to give him his much wanted 3rd championship he wants.

  12. umar (@umarbaloch) said on 17th October 2012, 18:19

    I think massa will do a great job in 2O13.but if they’re thinking to bring vettle so there would be a….fight maybe and redbull ‘s car is great and if he would switch to ferarri so massa will come in redbull if he does a impressive job in ferarri.

  13. Jorge Lardone (@jorgelardone) said on 17th October 2012, 19:22

    Alonso never allow Ferrari hire Vettel, his ego is too big to support a better pilot beside him.
    And Alonso means Santander and his millions euros that Ferrrari will not let go.
    The possible scenario for 2014 is that Alonso is going out of Ferrari if he do not win the championship in 2012 or 2013 and then Vettel can be hired by the team.
    If Alonso is at Ferrari, they will seek another driver very obedient and with poor dignity (as Massa) which is what the darling boy of the F1 demands.

    • Jake (@jleigh) said on 17th October 2012, 21:42

      I’m pretty sure Alonso would have no problem having Vettel as his team-mate. I get the feeling he’s pretty sure he could beat him. Alonso has often said he considers Hamilton a better driver than Vettel.

      How about this… Hamilton’s move to Mercedes goes well, he wins the title within the next couple of years and Red Bull fall back in 2014. Vettel then moves to Mercedes to partner Hamilton (there have been rumours in the past and he may consider Hamilton in a German team a slightly easier prospect than Alonso in a Ferrari).

      Neither Hamilton or Vettel will want to be losing to a team-mate for long, so whoever gets beaten over the course of a couple of seasons will then move to Ferrari to try and challenge Alonso.

      In the meantime at Ferrari, I wouldn’t be surprised if they stuck with Massa, but they may also take a shot on a Hulkenburg or Di Resta.

    • stirper said on 19th October 2012, 2:17

      The only really threat for Alonso is Hamilton. he signed for Mercedes…so thread gone..over…all the others (including Vettel ) are just work in process and some formallity for him to establish his nr1 supremacy…

  14. Prisoner Monkeys (@prisoner-monkeys) said on 17th October 2012, 20:56

    I think Ferrari will take Mark Webber. He’d work well with Alonso, fits Ferrari’s driver selection philosophy better than anyone else, and the team have already made him an offer this year. He might have stayed with Red Bull, but this is Ferrari that we’re talking about – they don’t just give up on a driver they want simply because that driver went to (or, in this case, stayed with) another team. I very much doubt we’ve heard the last of Webber going to Ferrari.

    As for Vettel, I don’t doubt there is a contract or agreement of some king between him and Ferrari – but I think he’s being sized up as Alonso’s successor, not his replacement.

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    on 17th October 2012, 12:19