Season Preview 2012: Can you hear the drums, Fernando?

By on Wednesday, February 22, 2012

An open letter to the double world champion.

Dear Fernando,

This could be a very important season, couldn’t it?

After all, Ferrari has now endured three successive seasons without a title, taking just seven wins in that time period. Granted, you took six of those in the last two years, but it isn’t a good return. What’s more, that young German upstart is closing in on your win total, has the same number of titles than you and is slowly becoming an all-time great. And he’s only 24.

2011 will hopefully be seen as an annus horribilis from inside Maranello. Nevertheless, you still dragged that F150 Italia to places it had no right in being, much like you did with the F10 the previous season when you almost won a title that Red Bull should have wrapped up long before they did. So bar a few early season errors in 2010 – including that woefully misfortunate shunt in Monaco – you haven’t really done anything wrong.

Speaking of doing things wrongly, there’s the issue of your team-mate. To the press, you’ll reiterate that you’re happy with Felipe and see no need to change. But is that really the case? After all, you’ve annihilated him for two years and he cannot be relied on as a competent number two driver. Maybe that will change in 2012, but there’s little evidence to suggest it, is there? Was it your outright demand for superiority in the team that has crushed his ability, or was it that soul-destroying day back in Germany two years ago? Even in qualifying you’ve gotten the better of him and Saturday afternoons have never been a strong point. Irrespective of results, Felipe isn’t really quick enough to finish second every time you finish first. Which will make a championship challenge that little bit harder, and you don’t want to give that pesky German even a sniff of an advantage, because he’ll take it.

So seeing as Felipe is out of contract at the end of 2012, who would you replace him with? After all, you’re going to want someone good enough to be your number two consistently, but not good enough to beat you, right? Well, there’s most probably a very long list of candidates being draw up back at base, but the most popular choices appear to be Sergio Perez and Jules Bianchi. Then there’s the ‘wishful thinking’ list that includes Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber and Robert Kubica. Webber would be a good choice, wouldn’t he? It’s obvious there’s respect between the pair of you, while he probably lacks that final tenth to beat you. Kubica would be in the car alongside you by now if it wasn’t for that terrible rally accident last February, but judging by Felipe Massa’s performances recently, it would be a huge gamble for Ferrari to plump for a driver recovering from a serious injury.

More of this is needed...

Speaking of senior figures at Ferrari, it’s a big year for your boss, Stefano Domenicali. He’s under enormous pressure to succeed and word is that this could be his final year at the helm. The reaction to your win at Silverstone last season – where you embraced heartily with Stefano – is testament to the good relationship you have with him. It was the sort of elation not seen between you and a team principal since the days with Flavio, part one. You certainly didn’t greet Ron that way…

The initial observations are that the car isn’t good enough to beat Red Bull or McLaren, which would be a repeat of 2011; itself a worse repeat of 2010. So what do you do? You were utterly brilliant 95% of the time in 2011, yet that yielded just a single victory and 4th in the championship. With Felipe in the other car, finishing 3rd in the WCC seems probable. That is if the car is good enough to deal with Mercedes and Lotus. So really, you’re in a Catch-22 situation if the car is as bad as many fear.

You’re at Ferrari for another five seasons at least, so all hope is not lost if the F2012 turns out to be a bit of a dud. Yet if another season passes without a title, it would be extremely disappointing. A driver of your calibre should already have more than two titles but it hasn’t worked out that way.

So, what do you do?


All feature articles are written in my spare time, but I am trying to finances visits to races this year. If you are willing to help me cover some travel costs, I would be eternally grateful. Many thanks.

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