Remember this time last year? F1 on its summer break and the Sunday Afternoon Club resorting to picking over the bones of the first half of the season so that it might make the wait until the second that little bit more bearable? Well, here we go again, eleven half term reports for you to brawl over in the space below. There’s no order — we’re starting with Ferrari — and the grades we awarded last year are back too. Only this time there’s three: one for the team and one for each driver.
So, Ferrari. As I write, Fernando Alonso has still got a job driving a red car, and Luca Di Montezemolo is on the defensive, telling the Italian press he had every right to have gone on the attack last week after his extremely well remunerated number one let the world know he wished his other car wasn’t a Ferrari. And that at the same time his agent let folks know what Alonso really wanted was actually a Red Bull. I wasn’t alone in hearing echoes of Ferrari’s dismissal of Alain Prost and Niki Lauda. Uniquely in F1 Ferrari doesn’t care who it fires, rule number one and all that.
Was Alonso justified? Nah… however thrilling it might be when a scrap goes public, it is just not cool to dis’ your team. Not that I don’t have more than a little sympathy for Alonso who has for four years now carried the team on his shoulders, largely alone. Two wins in the first five races suggested this year’s F138 was to be his reward and that this year would belong to Alonso and Ferrari. Just like it did last year… Only this year the promise has faded even before the trucks rock up at Spa. If anyone is going to challenge Vettel for the title in what’s left of 2013 it is Lewis Hamilton, not Fernando Alonso. Ferrari still has to find the way forward not just this year, but next year and the year after.
So what does it do? Well it needs to forget about Felipe Massa for a start. Not that doing so will necessarily solve anything, though it is worth noting that when Massa’s meandering form did put him ahead of his teammate in qualifying in the latter part of last season and the early part of this, Alonso responded. Replacing Massa however would signal a commitment to rebuilding and Ferrari certainly needs to do that, and do that soon.
Like McLaren it’s hard not to come to the conclusion that Scuderia Ferrari is broken; that its way of doing things, adapted and upgraded to a carbon and computer aided era, nonetheless belongs to the past. Red Bull’s success is not all about Adrian Newey. There are systems in place at Red Bull that just work better, better than McLaren’s, better than Ferrari’s. Just having the money is no longer enough. There’s been a shift in the balance of power this year and it’s Lotus and Mercedes, effectively new teams, unburdened by dogma and protocol that are filling in the wake behind Red Bull.
The F138 is a beautiful single-seater Ferrari and single-seater Ferraris are generally up there somewhere between nine and eleven on the scale of all things good. But the team cannot live on a diet of romance alone. It looks lost this year, since that strategic second place in Canada Alonso no longer looks like a man who can affect a race, he just circulates doing his own thing and hope it works out. And that’s tragic; he doesn’t look like the hero he did last year. The shine has come off him. No wonder it’s spilling out in public. He must be beside himself with frustration as he writes the final chapters of his career from the sidelines and not from the front.
Will Ferrari come back fighting or come back not thinking about F138 and completely dedicated to the 2014 turbo car? And what’s Alonso going to be up to? His Instagram suggests he’s hitting the beach, but I wouldn’t entirely bet against him making a visit to Milton Keynes.
Half term grades
Ferrari: B minus
Massa: C plus