Who else but Perez? Race for 2013 Ferrari No. 2 seat...
Who else but Perez?
Paul Crossling discusses an array of candidates for the spare 2013 seat at Ferrari. Get involved - who do you think will get the drive? Comment here using facebook...
It has been common knowledge for a while now that Felipe Massa is out of contact at Ferrari at the end of the season.
Felipe has improved a lot since his move to Ferrari to partner Michael Schumacher in 2006, winning eleven Grand Prix and he was even World Champion for about fifteen seconds in 2008, but an injury suffered in qualifying for the Hungarian Grand Prix in 2009 appears to have damaged his career as he has not been on the podium since.
With a decreased level of performance during 2011 and 2012 it would appear that Ferrari are not interested in renewing his contact, and he will be leaving the team at the end of the season.
But the big question is: who will replace him?
For me the choice is obvious, but I will get to that later as I assess the contenders for the drive, their respective qualities, and finally indicate who I think will get the drive.
Felipe is of course the incumbent, and although his performances have improved in recent weeks finishing fourth in Monza recently, he is however only tenth in the World Championship 132 points behind his team mate, which for a Ferrari driver is simply not good enough, considering Ferrari only trail McLaren by 46 points in the Constructors Championship.
With those statistics, is it easy to assume that with a stronger number two driver to Alonso, Ferrari would be leading the Constructor Championship which they have often valued higher than the Drivers’ Championship.
Familiarity is the one thing that Massa has going for him, he knows the team and the team knows him and if he can regain some consistency in his driving he is still the perfect experienced number two driver.
For me Perez is the only obvious choice, he has been a member of the Ferrari Driver Academy for a number of years, and at their home he beat both Alonso and Massa in a straight race to score his third podium of the season, in what is arguably a Ferrari B team.
In fact Perez has had more podiums this season in an inferior car that Massa has had in the last three years.
But despite that Luca di Montezemolo has consistently said that Perez is not experienced enough. While I can agree with his argument and see his point of view, Perez will be entering his third season of Grand Prix racing, in which he has been practically faultless to date, and he is improving race on race.
A lot has been made recently about Lewis Hamilton possibly moving to Mercedes for 2013 to replace a retiring Michael Schumacher, but what if Schumacher does not want to retire? Could he end up back at Ferrari?
The answer is definitely yes. While I don’t think it is likely – he will either stay at Mercedes or retire – I do feel that it would be an ideal scenario. Get Michael back in to the race team, he is still good enough to assist Alonso, while working as a driver coach for Perez (who in this scenario is still at Sauber but has already signed for Ferrari for 2014) while he gains the experience di Montezemolo says he needs before he can step up to Ferrari.
If he leaves McLaren, Ferrari would be mad not to consider him. On his day he is the best driver in the world, but Ferrari are very much an Alonso team, and Hamilton wouldn’t play the number two role. He didn't do it while he was a rookie in 2007, and now he has twenty Grand Prix wins and a World Championship behind him so he isn’t going to start next year.
He is under contact at Red Bull for next year so it is highly unlikely that this move will happen for 2013, but if Ferrari come calling, contracts often count for very little with their prestige. Every racing driver dream of one day driving for Ferrari, and Vettel is no different even going as far as to confirm this in recent weeks.
While I do think that Vettel will one day drive for Ferrari, he will be the big name replacement for Alonso when he decides to hang up his helmet – until then he is staying where he is.
Easy one, no.
As the reserve driver his name has to be considered, but if Perez hasn’t got enough experience they are not going to go for Bianchi, a man who should have walked to the GP2 title last year but struggled, and should have walked to the World Series by Renault title this year but has struggled...
And now for the man who I think will take the drive. This is not based on any opinion but because of the news story of Thursday on Finnish television that his management team are reportedly in talks with Ferrari.
I am not sure if Kovalainen would make a good Ferrari driver, on one hand he is very consistent and will score the regular points Ferrari are missing from Massa in the last couple of seasons, but on the other last time he was in a top team, replacing Alonso at McLaren he did not have the pace to fight at the front, only taking one inherited win in Hungary.
But on that same hand, his front running pace, but not Grand Prix winning pace might make him the perfect candidate; he can score podiums taking points away from McLaren, Red Bull and Mercedes giving the team the Constructors edge, without challenging Alonso for the drivers honours.
He is out of contract as the end of the season, and has made no secret of his desire to leave Caterham for a front running car.
He has all the same attributes as Kovalainen; fast, consistent, but still lacking that ultimate pace required to start beating Alonso on a regular basis.
He has been called ‘the next Michael Schumacher’ for a large part of his early career, and as Ferrari knows, the first one wasn’t too bad in the scarlet cars.
One possible factor is that Ferrari’s young driver Jules Bianchi is the Force India reserve driver, if they take Hulkenberg it would free up a drive for them to place him in a race seat at the team.
A major concern for Ferrari should be the fact that Alonso is now thirty one, how many more years will he race for? Do they need to go for a young potential World Champion who can be a number two for a few years, get moulded into the Ferrari style and then win the Championship for the team post Alonso?
So in conclusion, the best option for Ferrari both in the short and long term, will be Fernando Alonso and Sergio Perez, however I expect to see Fernando Alonso and Heikki Koverlinen lining up in the scarlet cars in March next year.
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