- The Inside Line
Too little, too late from Ferrari?Kate Walker May 22, 2014
By now, the majority of F1 news junkies will have devoured yesterday's pieces that saw Fernando Alonso complaining of a lack of moral support from within his inner circle - widely interpreted to mean the Ferrari team - and the team's rebuttal, which was published at lunchtime on Thursday.
Rebuttal may be too strong of a word, of course. There is every chance that the Scuderia's decision to publish extracts of an interview with Luca di Montezemolo in which the Ferrari president heaped praise upon the Spanish driver is little more than a happy coincidence.
"Fernando is the best driver in the world, who always gives 200 percent in the races," the release quoted di Montezemolo as having said. "He knows how much I count on him, even away from the race track, in terms of his contribution and the impetus he gives to the team. I think it's incredible that there are still some so-called experts who don't understand that and are always looking for a polemical situation that simply doesn't exist."
Polemical is not a word in common usage in the English language, and it can be defined as "of, relating to, or involving strongly critical, controversial, or disputatious writing or speech". And there is no denying that the Ferrari driver made critical comments to the F1 press corps in Monaco on Wednesday afternoon, irrespective of what the Ferrari president might like to think.
Whatever skills the Ferrari driver has on track, in the paddock he is also well known for his mastery of the psychological game, and for not shying away from opportunities to make whatever point he needs to make, irrespective of the effect that his actions may have on his employers. It may have all ended in tears at McLaren in 2007, but that wasn't for a want of trying on Alonso's part.
That Alonso has now reverted to similar behaviours, to using his influence within the Spanish press - and the Italian media, who cover anything and everything Ferrari - to put pressure on his team. He has not been happy at Maranello for several years, with one high profile team principal saying off the record last year that the Spanish racer had spent several hours begging for a drive with his team.
In addition to the endless 'Alonso to move to x team next year' rumours that have done the rounds since 2012 there has been a not insignificant amount of chatter outlining just how close the Asturian came to leaving Ferrari at the end of last season, with only a few financial issues preventing Alonso from jumping ship. According to paddock legend, an exit strategy had been agreed, but was torn asunder at the last minute by the lack of a buyout clause.
Alonso has long been unhappy with the fact that his Ferrari move has not provided any of the titles he expected. Whatever opportunities he has had to fight for the title since 2010 have come from his own grit, and not from any advantage granted him by the car he was given.
By being so openly critical at the highest profile round on the F1 calendar, Alonso has made his most public statement yet regarding his present unhappiness. And by publishing di Montezemolo's praise so soon after Alonso's remarks that praise and support were missing from his inner circle, Ferrari have attempted to pour oil on troubled waters. I refer you back to the title of this post…