2014 F1 season preview
Earlier this year, before he’d driven the new Ferrari F14 T for the first time, Fernando Alonso was asked by a fan why he stopped doing the kind of post-victory celebrations he used to perform during his Renault days.
He gave a surprisingly revealing answer: “For that you need to win so many races you need to have so much confidence that this race you will win, so I will celebrate like this or celebrate like that. We are not in a position to be so confident at the moment, we’re just hungry to win, hungry to make some points.”
Alonso arrived at Ferrari four years ago on a mission to make up for lost time. After back-to-back championship wins with Renault he’d narrowly missed out on a third title in an acrimonious season with McLaren, then endured two uncompetitive years back at his old team.
But as he alluded to in the answer above his time at Ferrari has not yielded the sustained success he enjoyed in his championship years.
During the V8 era Ferrari were unable to replicate the dominance they enjoyed with Michael Schumacher in the early 2000s. Yes, they won the constructors’ title in 2007 and 2008, and Kimi Raikkonen claimed the drivers’ title in the first of those years, but championship success has eluded them since.
So the return of competition between engine manufacturers is one that Formula One’s oldest team should welcome. But that doesn’t mean they have discounted the value of aerodynamic development – far from it.
The team’s wind tunnel has been the focus of extensive work. It was taken offline last year so it could be upgraded and improved, in the hope of avoiding the kind of development blind allies which the team have ventured up in recent seasons.
It was during one of those times in the middle of last season that an exasperated Alonso remarked that he wished he could have one of his rivals’ cars for his birthday. President Luca di Montezemolo took exception to his remarks and publicly scolded his driver. Soon after that Ferrari took the surprising decision to rehire Raikkonen for the forthcoming season.
That Ferrari should want a top-drawer driver like Raikkonen – who won the drivers’ championship with them at the first time of asking – is, in itself, not unusual at all. But it is surprising because they’ve retained one champion while hiring another.
This is not the Ferrari way. “I don’t want to have two roosters in the same hen house,” said Luca di Montezemolo two years ago. Well that’s what he’s got now.
It hasn’t happened in over six decades, and even on that occasion in 1953 Alberto Ascari was the team’s emphatic number one, eclipsing the declining Giuseppe Farina who was 12 years his senior.
Raikkonen will be the toughest team mate Alonso has faced since Lewis Hamilton. Alonso’s game will have to be at its sharpest to retain an edge over one of the few drivers whose relentless race pace can rival his. This absorbing contest alone could provide sufficient entertainment for an entire season.
But it has inevitably provoked questions about whether Ferrari will go as far with Raikkonen as they did with Felipe Massa when it comes to sacrificing his performance to benefit Alonso’s.
Asked how team orders will be handled between the two world champions Raikkonen said the pair respect each other and will do as they are asked.
“I don’t think there’s any way of telling things right now because obviously every situation’s different but we know what we have to do and we’ve said before we’re going to race against each other like every year,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter who’s your team mate but sure we have respect against each other and obviously we’re try to come out on top. But we know what the team expects from us and I think time will tell what happens.”
Raikkonen isn’t the only hiring to arrive from Lotus. James Allison has taken charge of technical development of the chassis which will be a confidence-boosting appointment from Alonso’s point of view as Allison worked on his championship-winning Renaults.
He is at the helm of Ferrari’s restructured technical department. They will be acutely aware of how the ground lost mid-season last year blunted their championship chances.
The return of limited in-season testing – the absence of which Ferrari bitterly protested in recent years – is another change they will appreciate. Particularly as the early signs are Ferrari aren’t quite on the same level as Mercedes with their F14 T.
This is Ferrari’s first turbo-powered F1 car in 26 years. It’s been almost as long since they last had a driver line-up with the combined strength of this pair, and that will surely make Ferrari one of the most dangerous forces on the grid this year.
Ferrari’s F1 record
Over to you
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Images © Ferrari/Ercole Colombo
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