I read a piece by Will Buxton recently, saying that apparently, most people in the paddock are sure the Vettel-Ferrari linkup for 2014 is going to happen, and says that it’s the exact same type of thing Fernando Alonso was meant to have – an 18-month pre-contractual agreement (Alonso signed in mid-2009, for a drive starting in 2011). I myself seem to remember Alonso admitting as such – that he was slated for a 2011 transfer, but was brought forward to replace Kimi.
I know a lot of people are saying Alonso will never allow another serial winner as a teammate, let alone a multiple champion, and I completely agreed. After some thought, however – along with some coaxing from a friend – I’m not so sure any more.
But maybe Alonso has no veto power over this decision – ie it’s a decision made high enough in the food chain that Alonso has no authority to overrule it. Or of course he has no veto power over teammate selection anyways. Montezemolo seems to rate Vettel quite a bit – so I’m definitely not discounting the possibility. After all, he did praise Vettel just some 3 weeks ago, in relation to Ferrari, and with Perez now off the books, at least for the very near future – it has just fanned the flames.
Ferrari hasn’t generally had a habit of pairing two good drivers together – that generally comes with McLaren rather than Ferrari – but since Domenicali, they haven’t exactly paired a numpty with a demon racer either. While I realise Massa now falls into the numpty category, I think when they initially signed him back on for 2010 – they were intending to put Alonso alongside the 2009 Massa, who in my view was putting in decent drives in a less-than-decent car. I don’t think that when they put Alonso on the board for 2010, they were intending to pair him to a numpty Massa – they were intending to pair him with good Massa.
Alonso is not old by any means – there are certainly others (such as Webber, de la Rosa, Schumacher, and as early as last year, Ruby Botticelli) but in modern day F1 he is no spring chicken either. He’s putting in some absolutely demon drives this year (and last year too, though the lesser machinery has somewhat subdued the impact last year) but at some point his powers will wane with age, and not long after that he will definitely retire.
The last time they hired a German driver, things didn’t turn out too bad. When Schumacher was at Ferrari, he was already very close to Vettel – and many people considered Vettel a Schumacher protege. In fact before Vettel had any F1 linkup (through BMW, before Toro Rosso) he was often in the Ferrari garage with Schumacher, leading to speculation that he might be one day groomed to be the new Ferrari lead.
My aforementioned friend brought forth an idea, which I personally thought was pretty logical, which I shall now present to you. In the paddock, the general consensus is that the Hamlonsotel trinity are the best drivers on the grid. Amongst the 3, Vettel is the youngest. In fact it’s still possible that we get a situation where today’s top drivers – bar Hamilton, who is only two years younger, and Vettel – have retired, leaving a potential gap in the talent field where the new top drivers are still getting on their feet, while the old guard have gone (in a similar fashion to the Schumi era – Alonso/Hamilton/Vettel weren’t there yet, but Senna/Mansell/Piquet/Prost was waning).
I wonder – and my friend does to – whether Ferrari is seeing this “talent gap” emerge and are planning ahead by getting Vettel for 2014, and then aligning their big guns behind Vettel, in an attempt to use those years to replicate the Schumacher era.
Now – keep in mind that this was something I and my friend were talking of over a coffee! It’s not the most thorough think-through by any means!
The obvious question is – why not just do that for Alonso, or Hamilton? To answer, in this “talent gap” my friend is proposing – Alonso would probably be retired already, or beyond his prime. As for Hamilton… I don’t know. lol.
It is often said “there is no smoke without fire” – and I certainly think this is the case here. After all, why else would they let a driver that McLaren felt was top-drive-ready slip as a potential Massa replacement?