No decision in F1 is ever taken in isolation. There are upsides and downsides in everything. There are always reasons that things are done that may not be immediately obvious. Ferrari has been weak in the Constructors’ Championship in recent years, because Felipe Massa did not deliver enough points. The cars have been good but not great. They have allowed Fernando Alonso to win races and mount a title challenge. But he could not do much in the Constructors’ championship on his own.
So look ahead at 2014: Infiniti Red Bull Racing will have a weakness because Dan Ricciardo will be finding his feet and trying to cope with pressures of being Sebastian Vettel’s team-mate. Lotus is going to take a knock back without Kimi, but Mercedes GP Petronas is likely to be stronger, if they have the cars to be competitive. That means Ferrari has a good chance to do well in the Constructors’ championship if the new car is up to standard and the two drivers can both score regularly. McLaren may rejoin the frontrunners but is in going into a series of “interim years”. That is one point.
Secondly, Ferrari has sent out a clear message to the F1 world: “This team is not run by a driver. We are bigger than that”. There is a risk, of course, that Fernando will blow up and there will be some self-destruction (as happened with him and Lewis Hamilton at McLaren in 2007), but that is only in the worst case scenario. Maybe Fernando is older and wiser (maybe not) but if he blows up then he will likely depart in 2015 and it will him take a while to settle elsewhere. It will knock him back… In the worst case situation, a destabilized Alonso will go elsewhere and have to build a new winning team, but he does not have much time to do that. The clock is ticking as well because his career cannot go on forever. In that scenario Ferrari would still have Kimi in 2015 and could then make a bid for Sebastian or Lewis in 2016. So, there are a lot of positives despite a few possible negatives.
It’s true that pissing off the best driver out there may not seem smart, but now and then it does no harm if they are taken down a peg or two, lest they get to be too comfortable. And it helps produce a better show… which is never a bad thing.
However, the hiring of Raikkonen is not the only thing going on. Behind all the kerfuffling, Ferrari has also swooped in to grab Lotus’s head of aerodynamics Dirk de Beer. He and James Allison worked together very fruitfully at Lotus and so the hiring may also help push Ferrari forwards…