Fernando Alonso has said he would be prepared to help Felipe Massa to win the Drivers’ Championship if necessary. For the past three seasons, Alonso has been very much the dominant Ferrari driver, but Massa had a dramatic resurgence in form towards the end of 2012 in which he outpaced Alonso on several occasions but always allowed his team leader to take as many points as possible in order to challenge for the championship.
Autosport has quoted Alonso as saying, “Felipe is one of the best drivers in the world. I have been repeating this for three years, and at times people look surprised when I say this during press conferences.”
While there is no doubt that Massa has the speed to win the championship – he very nearly did so in 2008 – he will have his work cut out to beat Alonso, who is certainly one of the top drivers in Formula One at the moment. But knowing that he will have Alonso’s support if the circumstances demand it will be reassuring, particularly considering that the Ferrari drivers have arguably the best working relationship of all the drivers in top teams.
It’s no secret that Mark Webber resents being required to help his super-successful team-mate Sebastian Vettel. The internal politics at Red Bull have flared up a few times, most notably at Silverstone in 2010, when Webber was forced to race an old-spec front wing so that Vettel could use the only available new part, even though each driver had been assigned a new wing and Vettel’s had been damaged earlier in the weekend.
The other teams likely to contest the title – McLaren, Lotus and Mercedes – have never tested their driver pairings in situations that necessitate team orders. At McLaren and Mercedes, that is simply because their driver pairings are new for 2013 and their drivers have therefore not yet worked together. At Lotus, neither Raikkonen nor Grosjean was in with a realistic shot at the title towards the end of the season, and consequently team orders were unnecessary.
Ferrari seem to be keen to emphasise the family atmosphere that is part of working at Maranello. The messages that are coming out of Ferrari’s Wroom International Ski Meeting are all about co-operation between the drivers and the unity of the Ferrari family. They no doubt realise that a united team will be strong under pressure, and want to gain a psychological advantage over their competitors even before the season begins. Considering that stable technical regulations are likely to make the grid even more competitive than it was in 2012, such internal strength could be significant in maximising results through the season.