Feb.24 (GMM) Fernando Alonso’s departure from Ferrari, replaced by fellow former champion Sebastian Vettel, was one of the highest-profile driver changes in the history of formula one.
But according to Flavio Briatore, a guiding hand throughout the management of Alonso’s fascinating career, it was simply the natural result of the Spaniard spending five years at Maranello without adding a third title to his tally.
Alonso’s former teammate Felipe Massa tells a similar tale, revealing that his frustrated friend had even tried to leave Maranello “two or three years ago”.
“I think maybe last year the car was not so good, the results were not there but he kept fighting, kept trying to change the team,” Massa told F1’s official website.
“But the team was already changing completely inside and they decided to change even Alonso.”
Speaking with Italian radio Rai, Briatore agrees with Massa that Ferrari’s new pairing of long-time Red Bull driver Vettel alongside Kimi Raikkonen is also a good one.
“I believe the change of drivers was appropriate,” said Briatore.
“Vettel brings something different to Ferrari and helps to motivate a group that, in terms of management, is completely new.
“Sebastian is good,” the Italian added, “but it is difficult for the driver to really bring something.
“They (drivers) can say ‘this works’ and ‘this does not’, but the involvement of the drivers was stronger a few years ago when the engines and aerodynamics were less complex.”
Nevertheless, the change has put the smile back on Vettel’s face and the improved atmosphere throughout the entire red-clad team has been conspicuous at pre-season tests.
Ferrari president Sergio Marchionne even played down team boss Maurizio Arrivabene’s claim that it took some convincing to woo the German from Red Bull.
“No,” he insisted, “I just asked him to come to us.
“Sebastian is a true ‘Ferrarista’, so it didn’t take much to convince him,” Marchionne added.
Alonso, too, seems more than happy with his switch from red to grey, even though his new McLaren-Honda has not been impressive in winter testing.
“I feel very happy,” he was quoted by the Spanish daily AS in Barcelona last weekend, before his crash on Sunday.
“Very, very happy,” Alonso reiterated, “with everything, with the project, to be involved in something as successful as McLaren-Honda.
“Last week I drove the (1988) MP4-4 of Senna, which was a car I had on a poster in my bedroom, and I had a kart in the same colours,” he revealed.
“I was in Japan last week and I saw again their project, the resources they have and I have no worries.
“I know we have many teething problems, many things to put in place and to improve, but if I want to win a championship I know I need to be here, whether it takes one, three or five years,” Alonso added.