Red Mist: Who will replace Seb when he leaves Ferrari?

One of the biggest Formula 1 talking points, until the subject will be resolved later this year, will be the feud for the Ferrari number one seat, or in other words who Sebastian Vettel’s place at the Scuderia.

The quadruple F1 World Champion’s contract with Maranello expires at the end of the year following what has been a pretty barren Prancing Horse stint so far — there’s still a season of that to run, remember…

Anyway, there’s been more than enough flatulence about Lewis Hamilton’s Ferrari future — Italian motorsport bible Autosprint, after all, ran a doctored image of Lewis in a red Ferrari suit to taunt the Tifosi its cover in September 2018 already and there was a literal shitstorm on the subject a few weeks ago, once Hamilton had taken his latest title and surprisingly shortly after we regurgitated the matter again some months ago.

The facts are simple — both Seb and Lewis are out of contract as this current F1 era lapses after this season.

Speculation becomes complicated; Vettel is clearly not the happiest chappie following young Carlito Leclerc’s arrival at Maranello. Unlike with the previous German maestro at Maranello, the Monegasque lad is allowed to beat Vettel, as he can, has and will again, rather than Ferrari having a gorilla in its second car contracted not to beat the number one in Schumi’s superteam years.

So, should he not stop? Is Vettel likely to sail into the twilight of his career having to deal mano-a-mano with superbly talented young upstart? Would you…?

Then the story of Mercedes — the one about the racing team being sold — plausibly as the next acquisition to satisfy Roger Penske’s voracious recent racing appetite — with Merc stepping back to be just an engine supplier – will allegedly see Lewis free to go and allegedly let Toto Wolff follow him to #4 Via Abetone Inferiore.

Both of which juggernauts would suit Maranello just fine — but can Lewis and Toto ever be able to pull off a “Jean Todt” at polemic-infused Ferrari, that is. But evidence suggests that ‘casino’ was a negotiating ploy of sorts and a highly unlikely scenario.

However, I will argue — there’s a dark horse — ready to repeat history.

According to recent speculation in the German press, the honeymoon may be over at Renault. Asked about Daniel Ricciardo’s commitment to the Regie, team boss Cyril Abiteboul said cryptically, “I think my answer would be different today than it was a few weeks or months ago…”

Is that smoke we see there?

Danny’s (Italian roots etc) has also long been tipped to dress in Red sooner or later and should this latest speculation prove to have legs, we would see Dan oust former Red Bull teammate Vettel, this time, from Ferrari.

Thus the possible answers to the question posed in the title are twofold:

  1. Seb stays and things between the drivers remain as they are or get worse because it is doubtful they will improve unless he unconditionally he may have to play the number two role if Carlito keeps betaing him;
  2. Dan arrives with his big smile, chills things up at Maranello and pushes Carlito harder than he has been pushed before without the aggro they are going through now with their current explosive pairing.

No, it is not a given that Seb will leave Ferrari at the end of this season, but the above also applies for when he does leave which should be well before his 22-year-old teammate’s deal ends in 2024.

Step up the Honey Badger!

So over to you: Who will race in Red alongside Leclerc next year?


Red Mist: An Italian Thinking Out Loud

Sunday’s Ferrari casino may well be a defining moment. For two race cars to take each other out is a no-no, but for teammates to do that is shamefully unacceptable, for Ferrari teammates to do that is, well… let’s just leave that one there.

Two Ferraris have often crashed together in Formula 1, but that has invariably been the result of a separate issue — like Lauda and Regazzoni taken out by a Brambilla-Andretti clash, or Kimi and Vettel rendered hors d’combat after Seb’s tangle with Max. I don’t ever recall two Ferrari drivers taking each other out though?

Teammates have never been immune from clashing — McLaren’s Prost vs. Senna most famously in Japan ’89, Hakkinen and Coulthard again for McLaren in Austria ten years later, Jordan’s Fisichella and Ralf Schumacher in Argentina ’97; Montoya and repeat offender Ralf in the US in ’02 and more recently, Mercedes’ Rosberg and Hamilton, properly the second time around in Spain 2016. Don’t forget Webber and our latest repeat offender, Vettel in Turkey 2010.

Feuding teammates are noting new either — and boy, has Ferrari had its fair share — Prost vs. Mansell and Villeneuve and Pironi’s tragic spat, to name but two. Sadly, these things always end up in tears.

Now add to our little pot of collusion, a few more factors; like Italy and its press fed up with Ferrari, its drivers and management. Finger-pointing is at its best at times like this, no?

And then there is all the other stuff allegedly going down in that paddock and beyond. This Penske-Mercedes malarkey for instance. If that is real, significant winds will blow change through that silver cloud and with a soon out of contract Lewis — and even Toto appearing a bit bored with all this winning they’ve been doing lately, would both not want a real new challenge?

What about that eternal Ferrari critic Flav and his chosen Spanish son — has he not just now suggested a return to the Scuderia as one of Fernando’s few F1 options? So, what are the chances of Hamilton and Woolf descending on Maranello — or even more bizarrely, Alonso and Briatore? And all of them? I’m nuts you say?

Well, stranger things have happened in F1 and remember two things here — one, Briatore was the architect of the Schumacher era Ferrari Superteam back at Benetton and it was he who beat Maranello at the end of it — with Alonso, of course. And then those silver guys… well they just won five world titles together, so why not opt for a fresh conquest to actually break all those records dressed in red…?

Somehow, I cannot see today’s line-up strapping into those radical new Ferraris in 2021 — possibly one, definitely not both drivers. And you can probably factor in (another) fundamental change in management at Maranello. Nor can I see too may other proper options beyond the bickering duo who are there now, Hamilton and Alonso. Or perhaps Ricciardo.

If change must happen, it should be radical — just like it was when Briatore’s Benetton Superteam upped camp and headed to Ferrari to commence the previous golden era…

One thing is for sure though, judging by the several case studies we have based on similar F1 team acrimony over the seasons, the wedge dividing Ferrari is right now is likely to soon cut through it — these things always end in tears for one driver or the other, if not both. Especially down Maranello way…

So being, a mellowed Hamilton and his new friend Alonso in a new Ferrari ’21 Superteam may not seem so daft after all…


Red Mist: What happens when they clip the boss?

Tell me something. What happens when a family loses its leader?

Let me tell you. It’s a total casino. The soldiers want to be the bagmen, the goombah eyes the wiseguy; people get pinched, others eat alone, the zips circle and the underbosses and consigliere have their hands full. Every man and his dog is out to make the bones.

To be plain, there’s blood on the street — all hell breaks loose when the person who held it all together, becomes dearly departed.

It’s the same in any family — when a patriarch passes, everything every member holds dear, the pecking order and how it all works, ends up in the air. It all changes forever. In business too — a strong leader suddenly removed from power can very well see the forsaken company shutting down through the ensuing mayhem.

So consider that as I take you back to late last July. You may remember that Ferrari was on a charge — Sebastian Vettel had won his brilliant fourth race of the season at Silverstone and it really and truly seemed that the Scuderia finally had dominant Mercedes-Benz covered. All the work done to turn parent company Fiat, and then Ferrari around, was finally working — the boss’ passionate leadership was paying off.

Then Sergio Marchionne was not well. Next thing he was gone.

My first thought was, ’shit, now what?’ Ferrari found itself rudderless in the torrent and as it happens when a Capo is clipped, your boss or your father dies, all hell broke loose. The timing could not have been worse — I was convinced that Marchionne’s huge loss was about to rock the team he had made his own. Damn, it did so too.

The rot set in on track — Seb went off all on his own at Hockenheim and while he bounced back with a second in Hungary and a win at Spa, it properly fell apart after that. Hamilton out-fumbled him at Monza and except for Kimi’s one-off at Austin, it was all Mercedes.

Back at Maranello, the mattresses were out and it was every soldier for himself — the underbosses had it through the eye and the consiglieri were dodging a one-way ride as chaos ruled the Ferrari Family. Gradually, however, the administration began to rebuild — the Old Cigarette Seller and his lieutenants were snuffed out and the Tall Captain and his gumbahs put in place, while the Casa got new Capi as a fresh Marlboro Man took the previous Don’s Grandson by the hand.

Slowly, slowly, Ferrari started to catch that monkey again, but it was never going to be a quick fix; the chasm left by Marchionne’s passing has proven a tough nut to crack.

Into that untested and shaky environment, the new soldier found a lardy, lazy goombah — Leclerc soon got into Vettel’s head and if that was not bad enough, the Scuderia’s luck could not have been worse. The Canada catastrophe, then Austria and more too as Ferrari appeared to do its utmost to shoot itself in both feet.

Trouble is, it was not doing that, all the team was trying to get right, was find back its feet. That took time. The cracks grew —  Charl got even better of dizzy Seb and a year on from his 2018 fiasco, Vettel suffered another Italian nightmare, while his kid teammate trotted to off his second win on the run at Monza.

Critically, however, Ferrari was winning again and for the past six races, it has yet again proven itself a formidable Formula 1 force. Never mind, the real Sebastian Vettel has stood up since Singapore and he’s been sharp ever since. There’s nothing like a couple of thousand laps in a kart to blow those cobwebs away. Now with that win and a couple of seconds from the past four races, it is he who now has the lad on the back foot.

That’s a good thing — what’s better than two bitter Ferrari teammates fighting it out upfront? Haven’t seen that for a while.

Back to Mexico, perhaps there were issues around Charles’ pitstop, but a bunch of other teams had the same. And Seb drove another solid race, even if Lewis beat him fair and square. Being suckered into believing that Hamilton would stop again and losing track position on another stupid F1 circuit, must be addressed. F1 rules that prevent real racing, rather than promoting it, also needs attention.

Let’s hope that new 2021 F1 rules package changes all that but for now, Ferrari news seems strong again. From what I can see, the mattresses are packed away, the outfit has sorted its issues and the crew has opened those books again. Bring it on — Forza Ferrari!

Glossary of Lingo

  • Administration: top management
  • Bagman: collects/cleans/distributes money.
  • Books Open: possibility of promotion
  • Books Closed: no possibility of promotion
  • Boss; Don: head of the family
  • Button: hit man
  • Capo: crew chief
  • Capo dei Capi: boss of all bosses
  • Casa: house
  • Casino: commotion
  • Clip: murder (also whack/hit/pop/burn/ice/contract out)
  • Consigliere: adviser consulted before making decisions.
  • Crew, Soldier: troops
  • Eat Alone: be greedy.
  • Family: organised clan.
  • Goombah: senior associate
  • Made Man: inducted member of the family.
  • Make Bones: gain credibility by killing someone.
  • Mattresses: going to war
  • Outfit: a clan, or family within the Mafia.
  • Through the eye: the mob is watching you
  • Underboss: second in command
  • Wiseguy: made man
  • Zips: newer immigrant Italian mafiosi.