Sunday, October 13, 2013

Engine Blood: Special "Christ On A Bike, What's Going On Here?" Edition

During our brief (long) break, there were a couple of huge stories in terms of driver moves that we really wish we could have reported on.  So we're going to do it now, several months out of date, because we're just that awesome.
* STOP PRESS - Red Bull crowns a new Canberra Milk Kid!
Yes, as Mark Whinger carefully restocks his pram with toys and pushes it off to Porsche to retire into obscurity, Daniel Ricciardo is the man handing him his coat and saying "you'll be off, then".
Talk about trading him in for a younger model; Ricciardo is a fellow Aussie with a robust defensive style, an eye for a spectacular overtake and plenty of testicular fortitude.  He brings with him the quality of not being psychologically shot after several years in the shadow of Seb Vettel, though the upcoming draconian weight limits may prove difficult for the Moai-faced youngster.
In a situation reminiscent of the one Sergio Perez found himself in after signing for McLaren last season, he has reacted to his promotion by largely spending his time facing the wrong way on the track, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne looks on pointedly.  Oh well: maybe he's getting it out of his system while he still can.
* In a decision that even we would have to say is just about verging on acceptable, Ferrari have finally put Felipe Massa out of his sometimes literal misery and left him free to rebuild his reputation elsewhere, unfettered by accusations of certain teammates being faster when all evidence is to the contrary.

I think said teammate put it best when he said (and we paraphrase here, out of laziness) that Massa was the World Champion when he crossed the line at Interlagos in 2008 - a feeling that lasted all of one minute, but nonetheless, here is a man who knows what it takes to be a champion, because to all intents and purposes he was one; had Ferrari not had a lamentable flirtation with pitlane traffic lights some three years before they worked properly, he would most likely have scored points in Singapore and wrapped that sucker up good.

The horrendous head injury he suffered in 2009, whilst driving out of his skin and again trouncing a teammate considered to be one of the best three drivers in F1 in the least competitive Ferrari since 1993, needs no further introduction, but it was Hockenheim 2010 and "Fernando is faster", whilst Alonso showed his usual frustrating inability to overtake under pressure (see Vitaly Petrov, Abu Dhabi 2010) that really broke the man.  

As a perennial favourite round these parts, we at Engine Blood sincerely hope he can get a seat worthy of his undoubted talent and try to get his head back in the game.  A little tip: anything Williams or below does not count.  We won't tempt fate by doing a career retrospective just yet...
* The reason for dropping Massa?  Consistency, or lack thereof.  So obviously, Ferrari have dug deep and looked for a consistent driver; a solid but unspectacular natural support driver, who can nick the odd win and help secure the title for Alonso, without bruising his fragile little ego. 
(Now we think about it, isn't Rubinho free next year?  At least he already knows where the factory is.)
This is clearly an important decision, and from the many fantastic candidates that fit the bill exactly, Ferrari went for this quiet, unassuming fellow:

Oh dear.

* Yes!  Kimi Raikkonen will be moving from apparently not getting paid by Lotus to being barely tolerated by Ferrari again.  On the plus side, he has settled well into his role at Lotus, and has in fact finished in the points in nearly every race since his return last year, including a couple of wins.  On paper, he's a great buy, not least for thinning out the competition.

However, let's look at the "cons" column for a second: he was a PR disaster at Ferrari last time out, with his lapdancing exploits and unwillingness to deal with the hype machine, personal appearances and the sponsors.  This may seem like a small concern for a world champion, but rightly or wrongly this is the modern face of F1, and of the recent champions, Raikkonen and Hamilton did not excel in these departments compared to Button and Vettel.

On top of this, hello?  Alonso?  He has got to be fuming.  He's already essentially blamed his inability to win a title for Ferrari on the team itself - including that little incident with Petrov that we can't stop mentioning - and this seems to be a move that would further marginalise him.  Alonso expected the full Schumacher package of dominance, title after title and a willing patsy as a teammate, so employing one of the very few drivers who is a) considered as talented and b) seems unlikely to take any team orders on board would likely unsettle him.

There's all kinds of names linked with Ferrari, and one feels a heavy-hitter like the oldest and grandest team in F1 history will not exactly go begging for talent - and nor will Alonso have to look far for a drive.  We predict this situation will end explosively, but as this whole entry has hopefully proved, there's plenty of intrigue to be had when the top teams have a reshuffle.

And THAT'S all the blood that was fit to drain a couple of months ago!