It’s fair to say that in the eyes of many, the 2013 Formula One world championship was a bit of a damp squib.
Those who were hoping that the dominant era of both Sebastian Vettel and the all-conquering Red Bull team, would start showing signs of waning, were left bitterly disappointed as Christian Horner’s side completed their fourth successive double winning championship.
Whilst the grid has now long been filled with the big names of Button, Hamilton, Webber, Raikkonen and Alonso; none have been able to produce the level of performance and consistency that Vettel has in the incredible Red Bull car.
Such was the dominance of Vettel, and his team, that the young German had comfortably wrapped up the drivers’ championship with three races to spare last season. In a period that is now akin to the dominant Schumacher/Ferrari era of the nineties, fans around the world are becoming increasingly frustrated with current predictability of F1.
During this most monotonous of seasons however, there was one moment that really got us fans excited for 2014 – the return of Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari.
When rumours began to surface that Raikkonen was close to a Ferrari return, not to replace Alonso, but to race alongside him, there was genuine shock amongst fans. Could this F1 dream team really become a reality? And if true, could these two titans of the track really co-exist as teammates?
As a man who always looks like he would rather be having a beer with his mates after a hard days snowboarding than driving an F1 car, it was a surprising move from Raikkonen to say the least. Kimi famously walked away from F1 in 2010 after growing disillusioned with the sport, along with the demands that being number one driver at a team like Ferrari required.
Ferrari is one of the world’s great sporting institutions, like the New York Yankees or, uh, Manchester United. It’s not enough to merely represent organisations of this stature; there are responsibilities and standards that must be met both inside and out of the sporting arena. These sorts of responsibilities never seemed to sit well with Kimi; all he ever wanted to do was drive, and drive fast.
There had long been questions over Kimi’s long term future at Lotus, so to hear that he could be on his way out was not a surprise, but to go to Ferrari? That was a surprise; especially after the long-standing rumours that Vettel would eventually join Ferrari.
It’s no real secret that Ferrari has long been giving admiring glances toward the Red Bull garage. Adrian Newey, the genius behind the unstoppable Red Bull car, turned down an approach from Ferrari in 2011. It certainly wouldn’t surprise me to learn that Ferrari turned their attentions to Raikkonen after failing to land Vettel.
Now this is just a theory, but the fact that Felipe Massa, who was all but out the door in 2012, was handed a one-year extension for the 2013 season, only gives more credence to a failed Vettel move. A one-year extension lent itself as the perfect stop-gap with minimum disruption before Vettel supposedly came in for 2014. Once the Vettel move never materialised – could it be that Kimi was plan B?
And what of the current King of The Tifosi?
Fernando Alonso has wrung his Ferrari for every millisecond of speed in recent years; doing a good job just to cling to Vettel’s coattails given that his car is just not in the same league as the Red Bull. With Alonso firmly in place as the long standing number one at Ferrari, the question now is, can two of the most monstrous egos on the grid really sit happily side by side?!
It seems a strange move for Ferrari who have long favoured a number one driver, like Schumacher or Alonso, being supported by a reliable wingman to watch his back and provide the cover needed on track. The role Felipe Massa has carried out so professionally in recent years, and Rubens Barrichello before him.
How a team can accommodate two of the most dominant and successful drivers of recent times, who accept nothing less than first position, is sure to be fascinating. History shows us that when teams who attempt to run two ‘number one’ drivers alongside each other, it doesn’t often end well.
The most obvious example of two heavyweights clashing in the one team is of course the infamous Prost/Senna rivalry at McLaren. The cerebral Frenchman and visceral Brazilian’s rivalry was legendary, coming famously to a head during the thrilling climax of the 1989 season.
Senna’s title victory following the final race was short lived, as the Brazilian was controversially disqualified for an illegal manoeuvre, stripped of the win, and in turn, the Championship. The championship was then awarded to Prost before the Frenchman moved to Ferrari the following season.
Lewis and Jenson, both former World Champions, were teammates for three years. In that time neither hit the heights of their former glories. Whilst the car must take a certain amount of blame for this lack of success, both underachieved and neither benefited from McLaren’s 50/50 approach.
In 2007, Alonso himself joined McLaren in the belief that he was to be their new number one. Little did the Spaniard envisage the rise of Lewis Hamilton however. During Hamilton’s fearless rookie year he finished second in the Drivers’ Championship and showed he certainly wasn’t afraid to ruffle the feathers of his illustrious teammate.
The pair clashed numerous times and in a season filled with behind the scenes spats and falling outs. The season ended acrimoniously, as Alonso, who by this point was not even on speaking terms with his teammate, hightailed it back to Renault after just one year.
This huge move for Raikkonen does seem to suggest that Ferrari are going all out to return to their former glories. However, if first and foremost Ferrari cannot produce a car capable of really competing with the supreme Red Bull, then whether or not the two get on will be least of The Tifosi’s worries.