February 14th, 2013 (F1plus/Ernie Black).- The title is a bit of a stretch, we will admit that. However, it does beg the question of how long Alonso is willing to go on without winning another title.
We have to examine this from multiple angles. Alonso has been close to winning with Ferrari in both 2010 and 2012. The problem with being close is that it offers a reason for optimism. 2011 was a year to forget for Ferrari, although since joining the Italian team, Alonso has driven exceptionally well.
Like him or not, Alonso is damn good driver. In terms of performance, he outperformed Vettel last season and only lost out because his car simply wasn't as good as the Red Bull. Yes, that might be considered a bold statement; however, most team bosses that were asked agreed that Fernando was the driver of the year. I don't want to take anything away from Sebastian, he is a deserving champion.
With Alonso's performance clearly not in question, we must look to Ferrari and ask a few questions. The team has worked very hard, the development rate has been incredible but something is missing. There wasn't one occasion last season that Ferrari were clearly faster than anyone else. Aerodynamics again seemed to take the blame. If we look back to 2009, Ferrari scrapped their season due to a problem with their wind tunnel. This wind tunnel has again been pinned as a cause of concern and perhaps the root cause of Ferrari's problems.
The team has been using Toyota's old wind tunnel, which was said to be state of the art, a few years ago. Logistically, it's a nightmare. The team is based in Maranello and the wind tunnel is located in Cologne Germany. I tip my hat to the team for making the effort, however, one must wonder what the team might have done if this option was unavailable. The other question that is raised, is who was in charge of sorting out the wind tunnel the first time? What happened and why haven't heads rolled?
The first tests in Jerez Spain last week made a few things clear. Red Bull and McLaren are solid and planted. They are both fast and as Mercedes driver Nico Rosberg assessed, they seem to "handle as if on rails". Nico also mentioned that the Ferrari did not seem comfortable on the first two days. We can all attest that the time sheets agreed with Nico's assessment. He did however say that the team may have sorted things by day three as Massa set the fastest time of the four day tests
Let's go back to Alonso for moment. If Ferrari come out of the gate like lame horse and struggle to compete, the Spaniard's patience with the team may run out. 2013 will be Alonso's fourth season with the Italian team and while he hasn't shown signs of slowing down, he is getting older. His days in Formula One may not be over but his opportunities to win championships decrease with every year in which he fails to win.
If Alonso does not win this year, I expect the relationship to sour. I expect politics and contract talks to stall.
Might we see Alonso move back to McLaren? Stranger things have happened. Might he end up as Lewis Hamilton's team mate again? This is only speculation and just a discussion point, however as Murray Walker used to say, "Anything can happen in Grand Prix racing, and it usually does".