CAR blog: has Ferrari hit the self-destruct button by hiring Kimi?

Published: 11 September 2013

Apologies for the misunderstanding. Just for a moment I thought the reason why Ferrari have lost three – soon to be four – world titles on the bounce to Red Bull was down to the Milton Keynes team’s driver line-up and nothing to do with the genius of Adrian Newey. Can you believe it?

It was only a momentary slip because we all know that Newey’s pin-sharp designs have been the cornerstone of Red Bull’s successes since 2010 and, as a consequence, Ferrari’s failures. But how else do Ferrari want us to interpret their decision to rehire Kimi Raikkonen next season? Fernando Alonso has driven out of his skin for the past three-and-a-half years, yet the team is prepared to risk him – their biggest asset – by hiring Raikkonen as equal number one driver in 2014.

Alonso won’t view the decision as a vote of confidence; hence his inappropriate radio messages at Monza last weekend. And all this in a team that isn’t renowned for its tact and diplomacy with drivers. Each time Ferrari have fielded two greats at the same time, it’s ended in tears – most recently with Nigel Mansell and Alain Prost in 1990.

It’s sure to happen again next year. Alonso and Raikkonen are highly skilled and competitive drivers, neither of which will give an inch on or off the racetrack. You also sense that part of the reason Kimi’s going back to Maranello is to prove that they backed the wrong horse in 2010, when they sacked him in favour of Alonso.

Undoubtedly it’s time for Felipe Massa to move on, but there were plenty of alternatives out there. Alternatives that wouldn’t have unsettled the team’s equilibrium, and the most glaringly obvious candidate was Nico Hulkenberg. The 26-year-old German has been on the Scuderia’s shortlist since 2010 and he once again proved his talents in the Italian Grand Prix, when he qualified third and raced to fifth in his recalcitrant Sauber.

But, hey, all of this is Ferrari’s problem. The reasons for the change are now irrelevant because the deal’s done. It’s going to happen. It’s going to make compelling viewing and that’s great news for F1 fans around the world.

By Tom Clarkson

F1 correspondent, BBC pitlane man, accesser of all areas, head beans-spiller