Ingram's Flat Spot On: Who might trailerize whom?

Ingram's Flat Spot On: Who might trailerize whom?

Ingram's Flat Spot On Who Might Trailerize Whom? by Jonathan Ingram Wouldn't it be interesting if Michael Schumacher and old rival Fernando Alonso were in the mix for this year's Formula One title along with Alonso's old rival Lewis ...


Ingram's Flat Spot On


Who Might Trailerize Whom?
by Jonathan Ingram

Wouldn't it be interesting if Michael Schumacher and old rival Fernando Alonso were in the mix for this year's Formula One title along with Alonso's old rival Lewis Hamilton?

Michael Schumacher warms up for his F1 return in the GP2 2011 development car at Jerez.
Photo by GP2 media service.

There's been a lot of speculation along these lines and such a prospect would be intriguing. But what about the three respective drivers and their teammates in the upcoming season? There's bound to be some intense internal rivalry at Mercedes, Ferrari and McLaren in the coming months.

From the viewpoint here, the most intriguing match-up is Schumacher versus Nico Rosberg at Mercedes. If you consider Rosberg's heritage as the son of Keke, then it matches a young champion in the making versus the aging king. It puts a young driver who has shown flashes of brilliance together with the F1 standard for brilliance for the last two decades.

There's a bit of intrigue, too, because of Schumacher's close ties to team founder Ross Brawn during their Benetton and Ferrari days, and the fact that Brawn seems to continue to embrace the idea of having a number one driver. Will the team, for example, go out of its way to have Schumacher running the quicker set-ups in early season testing to help his re-entry to the sport?

There's also the question of Schumacher's ability to keep up with all the younger drivers at age 41, much less his teammate, already more familiar with the current generation of F1 machinery. But Schumacher is fit after recovering from fractures in his skull and vertebra in the motorbike testing accident, he's motivated and he remains unmatched in skill behind the wheel from the historical perspective. Also, all drivers will have to learn how to start with a full tank and end with a depleted fuel supply while managing one set of tires. So I'd give the nod to Schumacher.

The other two key pairings pose the same question in each case and difficult answers. How will it go for drivers known for their lack of cooperation with a teammate considered to be an equal when paired this year with a driver clearly capable of being an equal -- or better?

Lewis Hamilton.
Photo by Daniel James Smith.

Since McLaren will have the two most recent F1 champions, the team is exhibit A, especially given the bitterness that arose between rookie Hamilton and then defending champion Alonso in 2007. That season tested McLaren's "all drivers are equal" policy to its limit, a policy expected to work better with defending champ Jenson Button's addition to the team.

The experts have touted Hamilton's establishment with the team and an ability to adapt to the changing conditions in races without refueling as his strong suits. Button is expected to handle the issue of tire wear better over the course of a race, due to favoring a balanced car and understeer on corner entry versus the oversteer favored by Hamilton.

What happens if McLaren begins to run a development car midway in the season to advance its technology and competitiveness? Who gets the new -- albeit untried -- set-up? The guess here is Hamilton, again because he's more adaptive. (It was Rubens Barrichello who came on strong with Brawn's developments last year, not Button.) Hamilton, who is deeply entrenched in the McLaren culture, is the pick here to come out ahead of his teammate over the course of the season.

And at Ferrari? Alonso has migrated to a team that has favored the concept of a number one driver in subtle and overt ways in the past while denying it publicly. Will Alonso be number one at Ferrari?

During contract negotiations, Alonso was in position to extract favorable terms with Ferrari, which was committed to the departure of Kimi Raikkonen, as the only top drawer talent available. Also, it's likely Alonso was better prepared to negotiate a number one status before signing after his experience at McLaren

On the other hand, after nearly winning the title in 2008 and following his harrowing experience in Hungary last year, Felipe Massa has brought a lot of emotion to F1's most passionate team. In 2008, he reversed the expected number one role of defending champ Raikkonen at the team with his fiery dedication and driving skills. By early 2009, it was clear Massa was staying and Raikkonen going.

Can lightning strike twice? Can Massa unseat newly arrived Alonso as the favored son at Ferrari?

Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso.
Photo by Ferrari Media Center.

On the basis of pure driving skill as well as a more supple and mature personality, I'd give the nod to Alonso, with or without any favored status. While in his first stint at Renault, he was a maestro of tire wear on Michelins en route to two championships and has a driving style likely to suit the circumstances of handling changed by the reduction of fuel on board over the course of a race.

Jonathan Ingram can be reached at jonathan@jingrambooks.com.

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About this article
Series General , Formula 1
Drivers Jenson Button , Michael Schumacher , Rubens Barrichello , Kimi Raikkonen , Fernando Alonso , Ross Brawn , Lewis Hamilton , Felipe Massa , Nico Rosberg , James Smith