Posts filed under ‘Drivers’

Machinations of the F1 circus

What’s the difference between Formula 1 and a circus? A circus has more clowns. And so it goes.

Anyone but the most ardent F1 fan freely admits that his favourite sport is quickly becoming nothing short of a total farce.

Consider this: by the end of the year the last four world championships will have been decided not by who crossed the finish line first, but by the legal wigs in the courts. There is a chance, not a big chance but a chance none the less that each of these championships will change hands because of the legal rancour.

One, the 2007 Constructors title, already has with the trophy sitting in a glass case in Maranello when, a team in Woking actually accrued the most constructor points. In three days time Lewis Hamilton could be handed the Drivers Championship if BMW and Williams are expelled from the Brazilian Grand Prix. In any other race they would have been but it is unlikely the FIA will have the guts to alter the destination of the title, especially when it was won by Bernie’s favourite team.

With Renault-gate picking up momentum there is a chance that the Enstone-based outfit could be disqualified from the 2006 Constructors Championship, as that was when confidential McLaren information first came into their possession. If so that particulary trophy would be headed in the direction of Ferrari. The 2006 Drivers Championship could accompany too as part of the same penalty although the 2007 fudge means that is unlikely.

At this rate I don’t know why F1 bothers holding motor races. Max Mosely is eager to cut costs. Perhaps each team should hire a cabal of lawyers and see who comes on top in the dock?

Today the world awaits the fate of the new rising star of F1, Lewis Hamilton. The odds are that the FIA will agree some fudge that sees the BMW and Williams cars disqualified but not the drivers. That will be good enough for Kimi to retain his title.

Whatever the outcome it won’t be especially satisfactory for the sport.

November 15, 2007 at 10:23 am Leave a comment

Reflections on the Alonso saga

Time often breeds clarity and the morning after the night before a smidgen of the fug surrounding Alonso’s departure has lifted.

The popular view is that Renault remains the most likely destination for the Spaniard, who is expected to sign a long term contract with the Enstone based outfit where he will assume clear number one status within the team. The gambling markets confirm this as Alonso is 8-11 on to rejoin Briatore, with Red Bull and Williams at 3-1, and Toyota 8-1.

Who are the winners and losers from the divorce:

Winners

  • Lewis: Lewis Hamilton emerged as the biggest winner as he has firmly established himself as clear number one in the team. Ron Dennis’ utterances on driver equality will ring hollow in 2008 given that Hamilton regards the team as family and Alonso’s replacement will almost certainly be inferior to Lewis and will have to learn the car from scratch
  • The team: McLaren should be in far better shape to compete in 2008 without Alonso. He ripped apart the team this year and Ron Dennis and co will be far better off without their temperamental Latin superstar
  • Rosberg/Kovalainen: One lucky driver, probably one of these two, will jump from laggard to leader by taking the  vacant seat in McLaren. The bookies have Kovalainen as slight favourites: it makes sense if Alonso jumps to Renault and the phlegmatic nature of the Finn will suit Ron Dennis

Losers

  • Alonso: At the minute Fernando Alonso is the big loser. He’ll move from one of the most competitive teams and his chances of winning a third world title in 2008 are slim to none.
  • Ron Dennis and McLaren:  Although Ron had to let Alonso go it isn’t difficult to construe a couple of scenarios where McLaren ends up with egg on their collective face especially if Alonso can snare a couple of victories in a relatively uncompetitive car next year. And imagine if he turns out for Ferrari in 2009 and wins another hat full of titles. Who’ll be the village idiot then?
  • Nelson Piquet Jr: An odd one this but if Alonso does turn out for Renault do you think he’ll want a highly rated rookie snapping at his heels? No. Given the rumptions in 2007 expect Alonso to pay close attention to his 2008 team mate and that may spell curtains for Piquet’s 2008 F1 ambitions.
  • Ferrari: Without the distractions of two number one drivers McLaren will now put all their efforts behind home-boy Lewis Hamilton. If Ferrari continue to follow a policy of equality it could spell doom for their 2008 championship homes
  • McLaren’s sponsors: The reason why Vodafone and Banco Santander backed McLaren was Alonso. Vodafone won’t be too fussed as the emergence of Hamilton will pay dividends in their home market but Santander will be peeved at the general hatred to McLaren among the Spanish populous. That’s one reason why Rosberg is a better fit than Kovalainen: his marketing potential is greater.

November 3, 2007 at 7:21 am Leave a comment

Alonso in McLaren shocker

I’m not sure you can technically call it news but Fernando Alonso and McLaren have parted company. To avid F1 watches this will come as no surprise. Heck, to those who have only half a pulse and need help urinating this won’t be a bolt from the blue.

Details are sketchy at the minute but the rumour in the paddock is that the terms of Alonso’s departure limit where he can drive in 2008.  The extreme view is that he is barred from competing for any of the manufacturer teams, which … err … leaves Red Bull, Williams, Spyker and Super Aguri —  not who’s who of the grid.

However, Alonso’s divorce from McLaren was all but guaranteed after the Hungaroring fiasco and he would have had some leverage in negotiations. I suspect that a deal of some sorts has been reached that prevents Alonso from joining either Ferrari or BMW while contracted as a McLaren driver (ie, for another two years).

As I mentioned a couple of days ago my sincere hope is that Alonso joins Toyota and tries to catapult them up the grid — with the resources at hand, Toyota could and should contend in a couple of years. I suspect a more likely scenario is either a return to Renault (although Alonso did poor cold water on that suggestion a few days ago) or a short stint at either Red Bull or Williams before joining either Ferrari or BMW in 2009.

Just because the season is over doesn’t mean the drama is muted.

November 2, 2007 at 5:10 pm Leave a comment

Where will Alonso go in 2008?

Name a team that hasn’t been linked with Fernando Alonso. Spyker? Torro Rosso? Those are probably the only two as the Spaniard’s name has been bandied around the paddock like a cut of cheap meat. The good news for Alonso fans is that this mess should be sorted out shortly. After McLaren threw away Championship at Interlagos, Ron Dennis promised that Alonso’s future would be decided within two weeks, which by my reckoning is this Sunday. After his public falling out with most of Woking, F1-Pitlane takes a look at the some of the likely (and less likely) destinations for Ron Dennis’ least favourite son.

Renault

The theory: Alonso will return to his spiritual home and the open arms of team boss Flavio Briatore to once more turn Renault into contenders. Flavio has yet to commit to any driver next year so has full flexibility (for instance, if he needs to send Kovalainen to McLaren to snare Alonso) and he hasn’t exactly quashed recent speculation of Alonso’s impending move. Given that Team Alonso spent more time in the Renault motor home than the McLaren garage in Brazil and ink on the contract appears crusted.

The reality: Things weren’t exactly tickety-boo for Alonso last time round at Renault, what with his accusing the team of bias as the 2006 title went to the wire (sounds familiar doesn’t it) and the fact that the 2007 car was well off the pace. However, Renault turned all resource to the 2008 model some months ago so the car should be more competitive, which will suit Alonso. It appears Alonso needs Renault as much as Renault need Alonso – a win/win.

Odds: Evens – by process of elimination Renault appear clear favourites

McLaren

The theory: The logic is simple: keep your friends close and your enemies closer. I mean why would Ron want to let one of the three best drivers of his era skedaddle to another team? Exactly, he wouldn’t so he won’t.

The reality: If life were that simple then I’d be sitting on a beach in the Caribbean supping a Pina Colada. Don’t forget that Alonso managed to insert an A380-sized wedge between him and the rest of the team and he still continues to take constant pot shots. That isn’t the sign of a man attempting reconciliation. Given the bad blood between Alonso and the team it would be an astonishing turn of events were Alonso to remain with the Working based outfit. One thing is for sure, the team cannot afford a repeat of the 2007 season – they are £100m worse off, morale has been destroyed and their reputation among pundits and fans has taken a pummelling. Alonso probably doesn’t figure in their plans

Odds: 4/1 – the tabloids in Spain and England will rub their hands with glee it if it happens

BMW

The theory: BMW are on the cusp of breaking the Ferrari/McLaren duopoly and a winter push could seem them winning Grand Prix and possibly challenging for the World Championship in 2008. Add in a top rated driver like Fernando Alonso and you have an even more compelling driver/car package. For BMW there is an opportunity to stick the knife deeper into Mercedes’ heart if Alonso were to allow BMW to leapfrog their German enemies.

The reality: BMW have already confirmed Kubica and Heidfeld as their drivers next year and although nothing is guaranteed in motor racing it is unlikely that BMW can find space for Alonso. Heidfeld has the added bonus that he is German, which pleases the big-wigs in Munich, while Kubica has the potential to be a multiple World Champion. Given the way that Alonso managed to destroy McLaren this year it is unlikely BMW want to take on that risk.

Odds: 10/1 – Alonso would love to drive for BMW but the team is less keen on the Spaniard

Ferrari

The theory: Massa’s contract was a last, desperate attempt by Jean Todt to exert control over the team but both he and Massa will be booted out of Maranello and replaced with Ross Brawn, whose first act will be to pair Raikkonen with Alonso. The Tifosi will celebrate, Ferrari will win all 18 races and Lewis’ McLaren will get trounced by the Super Aguris in every race.

The reality: It ain’t going to happen. Why do Ferrari need Alonso when they have Kimi? In the last two years Fernando has rankled both Renault and McLaren with allegations of favouritism. Why would it be any different at Ferrari? There is no way that Alonso can legitimately claim to be the number one driver given his team mate would be reining World Champion, and Alonso isn’t famed for taking a beating from a team mate humbly. Nice idea, but no cigar.

Odds: 50/1 – stranger things have happened (Kimi won the 2007 championship).

Toyota

The theory: The difference between a good driver and a great one is the ability to transform a team from chumps to champs. That is what Schumacher did with Ferrari and what Alonso could do if he were to jump to Toyota. Resources certainly aren’t lacking: they could adequately compensate Alonso for his troubles and still have spare cash to throw at the car. From Alosno’s perspective it could be perfect with nary a number two in site. Okay, so he goes through a rough patch for a couple of years but the end results could be legacy defining. If Alonso really did give McLaren sixth tenths he’d probably buy Toyota a whole minute

The reality: Alonso is a winner (2007 excepted) and sitting in the Toyota in 2008 would be akin to driving a 1.4 Corolla around the race track. Utter humiliation isn’t out of the question, which Alonso wouldn’t enjoy. I suspect he’d rather than sit out the season than try to sneak in to the quali top-10. However, Toyota has shown a smattering of speed this year, especially when piloted by Jano Trulli and I’d expect Alonso to take the car to a new level.

Odds: 15/1 – the money must be good and this could be the start of the legacy that the Spaniard craves.

Other teams

The theory: Alonso has also been linked with both Williams and Red Bull. Williams are an improving team as they get grips with integrating the Toyota engine with the rest of the package, while Red Bull showed bursts of speed through out the season but were badly let down by a fragile car. Both teams have vacancies next year and, money willing, would jump at the chance to have Alonso in the hot seat.

The reality: Both Red Bull and Williams are second tier teams with and don’t have access to enough loot to catapult them into the top division any time soon. At least Toyota has the financial muscle to develop the car and that would be a far more likely destination than any other B-teams.

Odds: 100-1 – Alonso wouldn’t stoop that low, would he?

There appears no silver bullet for Alonso in 2008. He has already said that he has an idea for what his 2008 plans are and he also mused that whatever the outcome it would be a difficult year. It is inconceivable that he’d stay with McLaren after what has happened over the last six months and Renault seems the most likely destination. However, the most compelling switch would be to Toyota. If he were to do that then there is an opportunity for Alonso to build a legacy that redefine his sport, eclipses the great Michael Schumacher as the best driver ever and consign 2007 rumpus to a small historical footnote.

October 31, 2007 at 6:28 am 1 comment


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