Raikkonen versus Alonso may be just the tonic after Vettel suffers Monza boos
Sky Sports F1's Martin Brundle reviews the Italian GP, the booing of Seb Vettel, and the latest rumours of Raikkonen's Ferrari return
By Martin Brundle. Last Updated: 10/09/13 3:43pm
It's curious that the Italian Grand Prix was less than thrilling but involved so many great drives.
Nico Hulkenberg turned an astonishing third place on the grid into an assured fifth place in a Sauber which was beaten only by two Red Bulls and two works Ferraris. It was very timely given the volatile driver market right now, although he seemed bemused that one drive might make a key difference against a background of career achievements. Nico clearly hasn't worked out yet, with his very calm and mature demeanour, that F1 is a fashion business when it comes to driver choices, and that you have to seize the moment on the 200mph catwalk when the very small number of busy decision-makers take the cap off their favourite pens.
Lewis Hamilton spent the weekend berating himself after a clumsy qualifying performance which left him 12th on the grid. We analysed his mistake while running wide at Parabolica in Q2 at the Skypad and he still seemed in shock that he had made such a basic error. His subsequent race was a lesson in pace and a masterclass in overtaking. A slow puncture with a slightly bizarre pinhole puncture, which Pirelli could only find by pumping the tyre up to a very high pressure, meant that two Championship points was his scant reward. The front of the race would have been so much more exciting if Hamilton and Raikkonen had been up there.
Kimi's race pace other than his contact with Perez into the first corner suggested that he could have kept Vettel very honest and probably beaten Alonso. It was slightly skewed because he was early onto new tyres while they changed the front wing, but he also had to fight his way through traffic. He would certainly have stopped Vettel cruising to protect his gearbox.
As Sebastian once again excused himself from any kind of race up front there was some tremendous wheel-to-wheel action between Alonso and Webber. I take so much pleasure observing the skill and trust between those two brutally tough but fair racers.
Otherwise it was basically a 'Bridgestone' race, meaning virtually no tyre degradation and a relatively easy one stopper. Pirelli can't take softer tyres there because any blistering would be highly dangerous at the 'temple of speed'. And let's face it, as they've taken such a global PR battering for the tyre failures, why the hell would they risk any negativity to make the race exciting anymore? As I've mentioned before though, a big performance difference between the two compounds brings alive both qualifying and the race which should be the target at every GP.
So all we ask for is that the tyres spice up the racing without dominating it, using only two of four available compounds of dry rubber at 20 different circuit layouts and surfaces in wildy varying climates on 11 different chassis and 22 driving styles...
The booing of Seb Vettel on the podium is a key discussion point. I've known him a few years in the paddock and occasionally socially and my absolute impression and experience is that he's a well-mannered, well-balanced, determined and focused individual with a maturity well beyond his years. And he's ferociously quick. He's been smart to garner the support of the likes of Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz and F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. He has clearly cornered the full attention of Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and Helmet Marko. Frankly, that's all a masterstroke for which the likes of Lauda, Senna, Prost, Piquet and co. were applauded for and his rivals can only aspire to. I wish I had invested more time and focus into generating the support and influence of key players then I would have fulfilled my true potential.
No great sports person should ever be booed in any discipline, and I fear we are close to some kind of fan mentality of, 'It's Vettel, isn't this where we boo?' So why is it happening? I spoke with probably 200 fans on the pit straight after the race in Silverstone and asked them why the booing there, and the overwhelming answer was Malaysia and multi-21. They felt he crossed the line between being a competitive champ and the fundamental rules of sporting endeavour. Many others felt that he said 'sorry' at the time and then in China retracted that and he wasn't sorry after all.
Others may well be tired of the victory finger, and I'm sure many more perceive that not signing Raikkonen and hiring Ricciardo is another sop to keep the favoured one happy and dominating. Let's at least wait and see how fast and compliant Daniel is first, but taking Kimi would have been a strong statement and pacified many.
Some fans tweeted me yesterday to say it wasn't a question of red versus blue overalls on the podium because Webber wasn't booed, but Mark hasn't had the audacity to beat Alonso and Ferrari to numerous victories and Championships. I'd be sure that the situation will worry Red Bull and Vettel however much they publicly brush it to one side. It may only be pacified when he beats a World Champion team-mate, or moves teams and wins Championships again as Schumacher did, especially if it's not in a Newey car.
From conversations I've had over the weekend I believe that Raikkonen would ideally like to stay at Lotus where they understand him and life fits his particular way of going racing. He casually wanders out of the track at 5pm most evenings. But some money hasn't been paid to him from this year, let alone next, and he must be concerned about budgets and key personnel going forward based on his own experience. So he likely faces moving back to the Ferrari environment which made him flee to rallying last time, and being team-mates with the man who forced him out, albeit with a fat pay cheque to stay at home. But he's already found out it's not as much fun rallying as he thought, and he's come back an even better all-round driver. I would be sure he'd rather be looking at Grosjean's speed data traces rather than Alonso's though.
Alonso/Raikkonen would be F1's strongest pairing in 2014 and just the tonic we need because we all know what the answer to the radio call 'Fernando is faster than you' would be. Get those TV bleeping machines ready.