Ferrari Where Did It All Go Wrong?

This post is not really for the benefit of my readers, all 17 of you, although please by all means give it a whirl. It’s more like therapy for this blogger than a regular post aimed to benefit the general F1 public.

The Monaco GP was exciting, action packed and provided some drama concerning Pirelli (what a shocker) and produced the fourth driver to win a GP this 2013 season. Sadly Fernando Alonso was not that driver. He was not even close.

Fernando's special helmet for the Monaco GP. As it turned out, the only special thing come the end of Sunday.

Fernando’s special helmet for the Monaco GP. As it turned out, the only special thing come the end of Sunday.

The F138, Ferrari’s current racer, which is well regarded by many in the pit lane to be a fast piece of equipment, looked tired and worn out this past Sunday. Stranger still was the man at the wheel of the F138, who usually can drive any problem out of a chassis, just could not. Not in the beginning of the race, not in the middle, and definitely not at the end.

Yet, for the last three years around the streets of Monaco Fernando, driving the worst cars Ferrari has produced since 2007 was always fast and a real threat for the win on Sunday. Huh?

His record with Ferrari at the principality is as follows :

2010 starts from pit lane finishes 6th (Webber in an interview on the bbc says his win was helped due to Fernando’s colliding with armco in final practice. point made)

2011 starts forth finishes second

2012 starts fifth finishes third

Does anyone else see the irony here? Or is it just my biased perspective because Alonso is the driver I regard as the best and one of a few drivers that for me makes F1 super exciting to watch.

Yes, there seems to be some talk about a plastic bag that was lodged in the front wing, but this seems rather thin as far as a cause for the dip in performance from Friday to Sunday afternoon.  And apparently some piece of Sergio Perez’s body work was an extra passenger on the Ferrari as well, but by then the writing was all over the carbon-fiber wall.

I had to painfully watch as Perez, Jenson Button and Adrian Sutil made easy work of Alonso and the ailing car in red. Ok, with Perez it didn’t look that easy, his race craft still needs some polishing, but you get the point.

As Sebastian Vettel was gaining a position for second and eighteen valuable points for his championship campaign, Alonso was slipping back to seventh. This really should have been ninth. NINTH, if Perez didn’t push his luck just one too many times with Kimi Raikkonen, and took both of them out. It could have been worse, at least some ground was made on Raikkonen. This does not feel at all like a silver lining however.

Alonso succumbing to a McLaren at the hairpin. That is how bad it was.

Alonso succumbing to a McLaren at the hairpin. That is how bad it was.

Where else has Ferrari and Alonso had less then acceptable results? It’s possible that Alonso would be leading or at least being very close to Vettel in the drivers championship had Ferrai called him in immediately after he damaged his wing in Malaysia, or instructed him not to engage the DRS in Bahrain. The gap to Vettel was 17 points going into the race weekend, now it stands at 29. I don’t think this is that much of a problem (yet), but six races in and Ferrari have only performed at the top level on three occasions. This is 50% and that to me is a failing grade, no other way to spin it. And this percentage will not yield the Drivers Title.

Fernando has said that in races where Ferrari have had no problems or dramas, they have two wins and a second. Very true. Problem is, as we all know in F1, the best laid plans always go awry. Here is my favorite line from any number of caper movies. It goes something like this, the scene is between two or three of the thieves, and the leader is explaining to the other two a very important part of any heist. At which point he states, “You need to have a back up plan, because it never goes according to plan.” Ferrari, it is time for the back up plan.

Listen, you have a fast car that is managing its tires very very well. You currently have what many consider the most complete driver on the grid. Need I mention you are the mighty Scuderia Ferrari. Keep the plan simple, no gambles, no rolling the dice, just by the book racing. Time to put it all together. Time to move on from the early season jitters. Time to start acting like every race is the last one and that only the best result will get you the championship. This is not the time for “We will get it right at the next race.” It will already have been too late.

Of course do I really don’t know what I’m talking about? No. I have never raced anything, well BMX, but I was eleven years old and that doesn’t really count now does it? I don’t have any idea what it must be like in an F1 team, what it really takes to go motor racing at the highest level, let alone for the most famous team of them all. I am sure everyone in the team is working flat out. This result surely is not the norm for the year in regards to Ferrari and Alonso’s performance. I understand that. Monaco is the most unique race on the calendar.

Team Leaders Stefano Domenicali and Pat Fry. Time to lead our boy back to the top step and fast.

Team Leaders Stefano Domenicali and Pat Fry. Time to lead our boy back to the top step and fast.

I am willing to put this result down to a track that has really challenging and specific characteristics. That Alonso’s brilliance is in the first laps when commonly he can pass 2-3 cars on the start or further into the first lap, settle down and then drives to consolidate the best possible position. It could be that on this beautiful day in Monaco it just was not Alonso’s day. It does happen from time to time. I get so use to the results that he has racked up over the last three years, that I guess I have just begun to take them for granted.

Whatever the issue, the cause, the problem I’m sure that the Ferrari Brain Trust has already sorted it out. I’m now looking to Canada. This is Ferrari country and the birthplace of one of Ferrari’s most sacred of race car drivers, Gilles Villeneuve. Along with Jim Clark and Ronnie Peterson, Gilles was also one of the drivers my dad followed, so I remember watching him on the TV quite a bit. The circuit on the Ile Notre-Dame has been named after Gilles, one of Enzo’s favorites pilots. I had the opportunity to attend a Grand Prix with a friend from Montreal in 2003. We sat at the end of the back straight at L”Epingle corner just before the drivers shoot back to the start/finish line via the Casino Straight. Absolutely thrilling is how I remember it. I can’t wait.

Ok, I feel much better. Thanks for letting me work through that. You’re a very good listener. I feel recharged and ready to go. If I have any more issues I will let you know, and depending on what happens at the next GP, well let’s just say, I may or may not need to ring you up again for another session.

-jp- (and that was the first time on the couch)

10 Comments on “Ferrari Where Did It All Go Wrong?

  1. A couple of years ago, I was starting to write Alonso off, thinking that he was beginning that slide down the other side of the “bell curve” of his career. But then last year, he produced some stunning drives. But I still wonder… Like Button, Alonso has been in the F1 game for quite awhile and sooner or later, a driver – any driver, starts slowing down.

    • Steve
      it was definitely out of character. but considering two weeks prior alonso was driving on another planet, im not to worried. that being said he is definitely a not spring chicken. his race craft is only getting better, but his raw speed might on occasion be now taking the turn. if that is the case it is probably negligible. lets see how it all plays out in canada with is a high speed circuit.

    • I agree with JP. Even if I also believe that Alonso is losing some raw pace, I still regard him as the overall best driver out there (Vettel is getting closer and closer though). Even if I don’t consider him to be in the Hamilton (pre-Merc)/Vettel league in one lap pace, he is still one of the fastest. And even if he loses some raw pace, I guess it won’t affect him that much as he was never considered a qualifying specialist.
      I think he was very close to Vettel in 2010 if not equal, second best with Button in 2011 and the best bar none in 2012. So I don’t think the “slide” has started yet. Or at least not at the end of last year.
      This year his form has not been great considering the high standards he has set himself. Outqualified by Massa in early races, a rookie mistake and a very low-key performance among few very good drives.
      Let’s hope he won’t fade away at lest for a few more seasons for the sake of the sport.

      • hey Tom
        the rookie mistake is the one for me, that hurts. reminds me of 2010, like the accident in FP3 at monaco and the jump start in china. and as you say, alonso was flawless last year. and yes until merc or lotus really become contenders for either championship, it has pretty much been alonso to prevent vettel and redbull from walking it. so for the sports sake, i hope as well alonso stays level or about level to his current performance for 2/3 more seasons. (with a couple of WDC’s thrown in lol…)

  2. Sorry, I don’t agree with all the hype about Alonso’s 2012 season. To a large extent he benefited from the bad luck of all his rivals, especially that of his main rival, Vettel. If not for two alternator failures, the fuel fiasco in Abu Dhabi, the puncture in Malaysia etc Vettel could have wrapped things up with a race or two to spare. 2012 was a lot like 2010 in that respect.

    Alonso by contrast had almost no ill-fortune last year. This year he’s having a more “normal” season – if you look at 2010 he had many of the same issues he’s having now, including crashing out of a race.

    • hey John
      that is all quite true, i think the feeling is because the ferrari was such an awful chassis to drive, alonso’s ability to keep it in the hunt and therefore take advantage of the points you make, alternator failures, etc. is at the center of the hype. lets see what alonso can do this year with a car that by his own admission is a true challenger for wins and the championship. thnx for the commenting. jp

    • John

      I concur that the hype is a bit over the top. The car really improved after a few races, at least the race pace. And the F2012 had bulletproof reliability as well.

      But that said, the car was really a dog at the start and never was the class of the field in qualifying. Alonso had to be on the edge more often than Vettel due to starting lower down the grid. And Alonso also had 2 DNFs. I think the contact with Kimi was more of a racing incident and if anyone was to be blamed, it was Alonso (I may be biased here as I’m a Kimi fan). But for the other DNF, Alonso was not at fault in anyway.

      I’m taking nothing away from Vettel and I don’t think Alonso was miles better than him. But I believe last year Alonso was the best driver (this year Vettel has been the best so far IMO).

      • solid points. as far as this season, im hoping alonso channels some of 2012. starting this weekend of the Canadian GP.

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