So, the big news is that Massa has left Ferrari and Raikkonen has returned to his old team. The move seems odd to me in several ways.
For a start, Ferrari has operated a number one driver system (whereby one driver is clearly the team leader to maximise the opportunity for winning the Drivers’ title) for as long as I can remember. Raikkonen is not a number two driver (he, along with Alonso, is one of the best drivers on the grid).
The contract is for a single year, with an option to extend it to 2015. Now, that could be so that any problems with Alonso can be axed after a single season, but why bother? Why not take on Hulkenberg or Di Resta, have them be a solid number two to Alonso, and when the Spaniard retires there’ll be a smoother transition. Besides which, even if it works out between Alonso and Raikkonen, they’ll retire at about the same time. Much easier to have a driver stay on when the number one leaves, I feel.
In 2012 there was much murmuring of a replacement for Massa which never came about. However, during it the claim was made and never refuted that Alonso had a veto over any potential team mate, which has clearly been removed since.
There’s a lengthy and interesting rundown of the history and possible future of the two chaps here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/0/formula1/24048992
In it, Eddie Jordan, who predicted Hamilton going to Mercedes, prophesies that Alonso will end up going to McLaren (presumably in 2015). A little bird has whispered similar things to me.
Looking ahead to 2014, there are some reports that the Mercedes engine will have an advantage, perhaps as much as 100bhp, over its rivals. That’s a hefty difference. It has long been thought that Mercedes would benefit most from regulation changes (especially regarding the engine), but, if there is an advantage, it remains to be seen just how large it is. It’s also worth recalling that in 2014 (I think) McLaren will still use the Mercedes engine, but will shift to Honda in 2015.
Leaving aside next year, the forthcoming race will probably still see the top three teams tussling at the sharp end. On race day I expect the Red Bulls to retain their significant advantage. However, Singapore, being a rubbish processional street circuit, is hard to overtake on and Mercedes are pretty sharp in qualifying. Plus, Alonso has starts like Speedy Gonzales. If Vettel’s behind a few cars after the end of lap 1 then he may have a hard time cutting his way through the field. Reliability aside, that’s the likeliest way we’ll end up with a race that isn’t a tedious Vettel win.
I was pondering the odds on Mercedes to top score (I’d want something fairly long) with Ladbrokes but the slackers haven’t put the odds up yet. They did put the 2014 title odds up, but they were very tight-fisted.
As always, your thoughts, comments, witticisms, haikus, theodicies and tips are welcome.