It appears there have been few tears shed at Ferrari following 2007 F1 World Champion Kimi Raikkonen's departure to make way for Fernando Alonso next year, with Stefano Domenicali contending that the Spaniard is 'better' at development and motivating the team than the no-nonsense Finn, and has the potential to be 'similar to [Michael] Schumacher'.
Raikkonen claimed the crown in his first season with the Scuderia
two years ago, but in 2008 his form dropped off dramatically, amidst accusations that his commitment had gone and his heart was no longer in it. Despite a brief resurgence after team-mate Felipe Massa's Hungaroring accident thrust him into the role of de facto
team leader over the second half of 2009, the writing had long since been on the wall for the man from Espoo and rallying beckoned.
Following Alonso's first two visits to Ferrari's Italian headquarters, an engineer remarked that 'in two days he has seen more of the Maranello factory than others in two years' – understood to have been a scarcely-veiled reference to the Oviedo native's predecessor [see separate story – click here
] – and now team principal Domenicali seems to corroborate such sentiments.
“Ferrari needs someone for the team similar to Schumi,” he told German publication Auto Bild
, explaining the need for a more natural leader. “[Raikkonen is] very fast, but also very closed. In a car that is capable of winning, he was and is perfect – but if the car needs to be developed and the team fired up, Alonso is better.”
Prior to arriving at McLaren-Mercedes for his ill-fated single-year sojourn at Woking back in 2007, Alonso had boasted that his development skills could produce as much as an extra second's worth of lap time from a car. However, that season saw the 28-year-old fall out spectacularly with team-mate Lewis Hamilton and more particularly the McLaren management and team principal Ron Dennis, with whom he rarely saw eye-to-eye. There are fears that the presence of two Latin characters at Ferrari in 2010 in the political Alonso and apolitical Massa might lead to similar friction – but Domenicali is swift to dismiss such notions.
“I've spoken to Fernando about [what happened at] McLaren,” the Italian revealed. “He felt betrayed, and also that his relationship with Lewis was not always correct. At Maranello that will not happen – I can guarantee that.”
In Raikkonen's defence, it has been noted by former ITV-F1
commentator James Allen that one of the reasons the 18-time grand prix-winner was hired in the first place was that his predilection for doing his talking on the track was regarded by then Ferrari team principal Jean Todt as a strength rather than a weakness. However, his friend Tony Wilander's comments when it was first announced that Raikkonen would be joining the Prancing Horse were perhaps the most telling of all.
“How will the Ferrari team be with Kimi?” he mused. “Very different from Schumacher's. Let's not forget that Michael arrived at Ferrari together with people who had already worked with him at Benetton. Kimi, by contrast, doesn't know anyone. On top of that, Kimi's less of a perfectionist, and he will not visit the factory as often. However, I'm sure it will be enough to win the championship.”
It has also been reported that the 2010 Ferrari F1 challenger will feature distinctive nose bumps, like those seen on Red Bull Racing's RB5 this year.