News and views on motorsports

Monday, April 10, 2006

Kimi And Schumi

According to this article on PlanetF1, Michael Schumacher is expected to continue racing for Ferrari in 2007. This in turn is according to some German daily. First of all, I really hope Michael does continue and if he does its most likely with Maranello for I can't see him in any other team. Michael and Ferrari are synonymous and really has come as a package. Despite whatever trouble in recent times, I think he's still quick enough to do the job. In addition, key personnel such as Jean Todt and Ross Brawn have signed extensions already. The only one who's missing is of course Rory Byrne who hasn't been involved in the design of the cars lately but is still a consultant to the Scuderia.

If its true that Michael will remain at Ferrari for some time to come, what will happen to young Kimi Raikkonen? Its no secret that McLaren still want him in their cars. However, you sense that he's a little fed up by the constant unreliability each season that forces the young Finn to have to work harder than he should have to, through no fault of his own. Although, he's been known to make mistakes. But everyone does. Even Michael himself and Fernando Alonso. Lots of speculation surrounds these Kimi and Michael over the last year. Some have said that Kimi has in fact signed up for Ferrari although this has been denied many times by Kimi himself.

If Michael stays on, would Kimi join Ferrari? Michael himself has said that he would welcome the young Finn into the team. Obviously, he is still confident that he'll be able to show the young pup a thing or two. And why not? He's vastly experience and has moulded the team around himself for the last ten years. They know him inside out and vice versa.

Some might call it suicide for Kimi then to join Maranello whilst the former weltmeister is still present. But is it really? Recall 1988 when Ayrton Senna joined Alain Prost at McLaren. One could argue quite rightly that at that time, McLaren was very much the Frenchman's personal fief. He joined the team in 1984 and quickly became Ron Dennis' favourite driver. In effect, marginalising Niki Lauda and later on, Keke Rosberg from the team and winning the 1985 and 1986 titles. The latter year being his best ever. I thought The Professor was highly political and was very much able to bend the will of the team to his needs in preference to his teammates.

But then in comes Aryton Senna after 3 seasons at Lotus. Even back then, he was my favourite driver but I just couldn't see him breaking Prost's stranglehold on McLaren. I mean, two world champions fell aside trying but it remained Prost's team essentially. But the fact is, despite a brand new car and team to get used to, Ayrton Senna did manage to take the 88 world title. Alain Prost could not have been very happy with that and indeed towards the end of 1988 and especially in 1989, relations between the two deteriorated to an all out war.

Granted, that Honda looked on favourably on Senna having worked with him at Lotus in 1987. In fact, Senna joining the team was probably a condition of Honda for supplying Woking with engines. Would Kimi enjoy such favour at Ferrari? Well, he might. Both Jean Todt and Ross Brawn have admitted to being fans of the young Finn.

Would Kimi be able to rally the team (or at least half of it) to his cause? Well, there's the big question isn't it? Michael has had such a rapport with the team members that its hard to believe that Kimi could do such a thing. And of course, the Finn does strike one as being a little cold. But teams love quick drivers and winners.

Kimi would not come cheap to Ferrari and therein lies another problem. How are the supposedly cash strapped Scuderia able to pay both their considerable retainers? It doesn't seem possible. However, if they really wanted the Finn that badly and fork out his asking price then one would imagine they'd want to maximise their returns and give equal treatment to both. Why pay a gazillion bucks to someone who's just going to pay second fiddle to Michael?

A Kimi / Michael squad would probably be a most exciting prospect, one that hasn't been seen since the days of Senna and Prost. They would push each other over the limit just as the legendary pairing had done. To many observers, one of the ingredients of McLaren's domination in the late eighties was because of the rivalry between the drivers pushing each other to greater and greater heights.

The safe bet would be on Michael to win the confrontation but if Kimi manages to beat him, it would mean a whole lot more. And if not, Michael would further seal his title as perhaps the greatest ever. But the risk Kimi would take is that if Michael did beat him, it would probably destroy himself psychologically and he perhaps may never be able to recover from it. My take is that in equal cars, the battle could go either way. Perhaps not five years ago but now it could.


ferrarista said...

Ooh...the prospect of having Kimi and Michael driving for the Scuderia is very enticing...and I seriously hope that it comes to pass...However, I fully agree with you when you say that Ferrari might not have the funds to afford both drivers...And given that Michael has always been the favoured son, I'm not very sure I want Kimi to join Ferrari in the first place...Having followed the progress of the team for ages, I just can't see Kimi blending into Ferrari...He is just too emotionally detached!!

patrick said...

I'm with Nigel Roebuck on this - either Schumacher or Raikkonen will probably be at Ferrari next year, but I can't see them both there.

For what its worth, I think Kimi would be quicker - he's at the right end of his career - and winning would simply matter more to him. Michael might be smarter though, and like Lauda in 84, that might just be enough to give him the title.