- The Inside Line
Fire and IceKate Walker September 11, 2013
The Iceman and Alonso. Formula One's most taciturn Finn, paired with one of the paddock's most eloquent talents. A passionate and fiery Latin temperament coupled with one of the most laid-back men in motorsport history.
Ferrari are either total geniuses or completely mad (geni or scemi, maybe…), and we'll have to wait until mid-2014 to work out which is which.
On the side of geni comes the good sense of having two of the sport's fastest drivers on the same team. Pace should mean points, and points most definitely mean prizes. Both Raikkonen and Alonso are top-tier drivers capable of squeezing every last drop of performance from a car, both men are capable of delivering championships, and both men are entirely logical targets for the Scuderia. A winning team needs winning drivers, after all.
And on the side of scemi comes every version you've ever heard of Luca di Montzemolo's comment that he didn't want to put two roosters in a henhouse. Partnering Alonso with Lewis Hamilton at McLaren went down about as well as a suicidal lead balloon wearing concrete boots. Several seasons have elapsed since then, but there's no real indication that the Spanish racer has become any better at dealing with a competitive teammate.
Quite the opposite, really: on those rare occasions when Felipe Massa out-performs Alonso in qualifying, the atmosphere in the Ferrari motorhome is several shades past awkward and into walking on eggshells mode. Luckily for the team, who then have to work in an atmosphere most kindly described as strained, Massa hasn't been beating his teammate into a cocked hat.
But Kimi could prove to be a real problem when it comes to internal harmony. He's quick, he has no interest in mind games, and he just wants to race. Sometimes he'll be faster than Fernando, and sometimes he won't. But on those occasions where Fernando is faster than Kimi, the only message emanating from the Iceman's cockpit will be a four-letter version of 'leave me alone, I know what I'm doing'.
There is a growing discontent at Maranello with Alonso, who has had to be reminded on more than one occasion that Ferrari is bigger than any of its drivers.
While racing drivers are trained to put themselves first in the cockpit, Ferrari drivers - be they champions or not - must always think first of the Scuderia, of the men and women proudly wearing red overalls in Maranello, and of the unwavering support of the tifosi . The holy trinity of prancing horse, devoted worker, and passionate fan will endure far longer than any one driver. Michael Schumacher understood this intuitively, but Alonso is still learning.
With Kimi getting his head down and concentrating on the racing, Alonso will need to work hard to restrain any negative outpouring of emotion he might feel towards the car. While the Spanish racer's frustration has often been justified, any complaint will stand in stark contrast to Kimi's indecipherable mumbles.
In victory, and in positivity, Ferrari adore Alonso's passion. But the flipside of a passionate nature is that it also rears its head in the tough times. Faced with Kimi as a teammate, Alonso will do well to live by that adage so beloved of grandmothers around the world: if you don't have anything nice to say, better to not say anything.