Ruminations on Ferrari driver choices

Michael Schumacher, German GP 2006

Michael Schumacher, German GP 2006 

 © The Cahier Archive

Ferrari team boss Jean Todt told journalists after the German Grand Prix that he will announce his future after the end of the Formula 1 season but he said that the driver line-up would be confirmed before that. There is much speculation that the driver announcement will be made at Monza in September but things could happen more quickly than that as we believe that a Ferrari option on Kimi Raikkonen comes up next week. If Ferrari wishes to extend that option - to stop Raikkonen going to Renault - then it will have to pay. The big question is whether or not Raikkonen is set on joining Ferrari or whether he will settle for a Renault drive. There is also the matter of whether Ferrari can allow itself to take the risk that Michael Schumacher will not suddenly announce his retirement and leave it without a star number one driver. Felipe Massa looks like he is now good enough to move into that role but he has yet to win a Grand Prix and it is hard to imagine that the team would go into 2007 without either Schumacher or Raikkonen.

That is also the problem facing Renault because, whether the team admits it or not, Fernando Alonso's decision to go to McLaren was a big surprise. Renault can push Giancarlo Fisichella into the lead role and bring on Heikki Kovalainen or perhaps hire Mark Webber to go alongside Giancarlo, but neither line-up is very convincing faced by a Ferrari that could be fielding Raikkonen or Schumacher or both, and McLaren with Alonso.

Everything thus depends on Michael Schumacher and that is why Todt's remarks about his own future are interesting because most people see Todt's role being dependent on Michael. If one stays, the other will do the same and neither has any great desire to work with someone else. And that means that a key figure in all of this will be Luca di Montezemolo, the boss of FIAT and ultimately the boss of Ferrari. He knows that Todt and Schumacher are looking at the short-term. He must look at the long-term and he appears to have decided that Raikkonen is the future for Ferrari. If he sticks to that belief, others will have to make their decisions with that in mind.

If this is the case and Schumacher decides not to retire then the Finn and the German will go head-to-head at Ferrari and perhaps Webber will get the Renault, but students of Michael Schumacher and Jean Todt think this unlikely as they have always argued that having two team mates fighting is self-destructive and that no good will come of it.

All in all the delays at the moment are witnessing some fascinating discussions.

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