Trust us, you did not want to be in that Ferrari motorhome on Sunday evening. Amid post-race tension regarding the split strategies that saw Raikkonen end up behind Alonso, various reports have surfaced on conspiracy theories, sabotage stories and other types of fiction. We aim to analyze the situation and clarify the myth.
Here’s how the race went down:
Raikkonen was leading Alonso from the get go and was ahead of him until the closing stages of the GP. In the first stint, times were looking similar, but Alonso kept a close gap to his teammate right until the first stop. At this stage both drivers were on a 2-stopper strategy.
Now, here’s where it gets interesting.
By standard intra-team rules, if both drivers are on the same strategy and running a similar pace, the leading driver gets the advantage of pitting first. Like Alonso stated after the race, he switched to a 3-stopper AFTER the second pit stop. So if they were on the same strategy ahead of the first pit stop, it’s a bit suspicious that Alonso pitted first even though he was behind Raikkonen.
Sure, there were statements concerning faster tyre deg for Alonso and such. Let’s pretend they are true. After the second pit stop for Alonso, Raikkonen stayed out and it became painfully evident he was going to lose out to both the charging Vettel and his teammate since he was more than 2 seconds slower per lap than both of them. Even so, he stayed out for a couple of laps more, which made absolutely zero sense because Alonso closed the gap down to 5 seconds. Herein lies the true problem: why was Raikkonen allowed to stay out for so long when it was crystal clear he was losing a massive amount of time?
So after analyzing the split strategies, we get down to the politics.
Let’s make one thing clear: Ferrari DID NOT sabotage Raikkonen’s race. They didn’t spend weeks of manufacturing tailor-made upgrades for him just to destroy a race where he was finally getting comfortable. They have stated since the beginning of the season that they will help Kimi get more comfortable in the car and based on the amount of upgrades he received so far, they kept true to their word. It’s very rare to follow two different development paths so Ferrari providing Kimi with personalized parts really shows they are eager to get him back to his very best. Sabotaging his race by employing the slower strategy? That makes no sense whatsoever considering the massive support he received from the team so far. Claiming otherwise is just conspiratorial non-sense.
The problem lies on the Finn’s side of the garage. Alonso is accustomed to calling the shots at Ferrari and making pro-active decisions, often switching strategies in the middle of the race. Him and Andrea Stella have been together for years and have a tendency to work extremely well both on and off-track.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the garage, Raikkonen works with rookie Antonio Spagnolo. We’ve seen a couple of times during live feeds that they have often had communication issues. In Barcelona, they didn’t react to a seemingly obvious situation when Raikkonen just couldn’t cope with the tyres in the second stint. They should have realized immediately after Alonso pitted that Kimi, despite being soft on tyres, could not make them last too long without dropping off significantly. They allowed Alonso to close in fast, which cost them 6th place.
It’s simple, really: Alonso’s garage made a tactical switch that benefited him, while Raikkonen’s side chose to stick to the original plan when it was obvious it was not the right decision, based on Kimi’s times.
Beating Alonso requires a lot more than outright speed (which Kimi had this weekend, by the way). They have to be ready to employ strategic calls mid-race and that requires extensive communication and breaking down some barriers. This is not just Kimi vs. Fernando, it’s one garage against the other.
And if the pace difference is always going to be as minimal as it was in Spain, the outcome will be decided by the side of the garage that calls the right shots.