The Inside Line #85: Betting on red

TILI Logo PrintAnd finally, some good news. For Ferrari that is, when new signing Sebastian Vettel took to the wheel of a car adorning a Prancing Horse logo for the first time last week. Sure, it was a 2012 Ferrari – funnily enough, the same car Fernando Alonso used to narrowly miss out on beating Vettel to the third of his four straight world titles – but it was a Ferrari all the same. And Vettel’s face when he got out of it after some reasonably vigorous laps was a picture.

It’s been a strange year for the German, and one that, in years to come, we’ll probably look back at as being an anomaly. Over the new year, his great friend, mentor and confidante Michael Schumacher had a skiing accident with horrendous consequences. Soon after, he became a father for the first time. Then came the pre-season, where the RB10 could barely string two laps together, and it became plainly obvious after only a handful of races that a fifth straight title was a pipedream. And perhaps strangest of all was the sheer statistical advantage Daniel Ricciardo enjoyed over him. What appeared to be an unbreakable axis between Red Bull, Christian Horner, Adrian Newey and Vettel crumbled for several reasons [1], and by December, he was pounding around Fiorano dressed in red. Has Vettel’s career peaked, or is there another chapter to be written from next March with Ferrari? With the technical regulations largely intact season on season to 2015 after last year’s dramatic overhaul [2], it’ll be fascinating to find out.

Meanwhile, the guy who made Vettel look second-rate for much of the season was extolling the virtues of the guy who’s replacing him as he threw things into a suitcase in Monaco last week. Ricciardo was preparing to put a full stop on a crazy travel schedule that had seen him busier since the season finished than during it, with the FIA prizegiving in Qatar preceding a trip to London for Red Bull, a stop for a few days in Melbourne and finally home to Perth, but was multi-tasking as usual, and had some words over the phone about Danill Kvyat, and that moment at Monza when the Russian arrived at 350km/h into the chicane at Turn One without any brakes at the Italian Grand Prix. After one of the most outrageous saves of the year, Ricciardo admitted he was impressed. “I was watching the (Monza) race with my engineers afterwards when he had the brake failure and we all just said ‘whoa’ – he’s got some car control, that’s for sure,” Ricciardo laughed. “And he’s got some balls, let’s just say that.” Quite how that skill and, well, testicular fortitude translates to next season in a top-line team [3] will be as fascinating as how Vettel gets on with Ferrari.

That’s all for next year; on this week’s final episode of ‘The Inside Line’ for 2014, we run the rule over the top five teams in the constructors’ championship in part two of our season review. Some, like McLaren, didn’t have a lot to cheer about; others, like Williams, could celebrate one of the more dramatic turnarounds in form we’ve seen in a long while. Sir Jackie Stewart weighs in with some thoughts on Vettel’s Ferrari move, Toto Wolff predicts more tension between Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg next season, and McLaren, well, does nothing. Jenson Button’s standing, in this writer’s eyes, has gone up several notches with his measured response to being kept in the dark about his chances of a 2015 seat; David Coulthard describes McLaren’s approach to its drivers as treating them like light bulbs – unscrew one, screw in another – but Button, as a former world champion, surely deserves better than that [4].

For one last time in 2014, you can watch ‘The Inside Line’ on Fox Sports 5 and ESPN if you’re in Australia, and check local guides if you’re watching elsewhere.

– — —- —-

[1] Reasons too spicy to list here.

[2] Recommended listening – Motorsport Magazine’s end-of-season podcast reviewing 2014. It’s a bit clunky and there’s barely anyone under 55 in the collection of experts, but the analysis of Vettel’s driving year-on-year is well worth the investment of time.

[3] The Dan and Dany show will be fun to watch next year, and Ricciardo predicts they’ll be a harmonious pairing. “I’ve known him for a few years and we got on well from the start, so it’ll be good to have him around,” he says.

[4] For all of that sentiment, the cheerleading from the British press has been insufferable this week. I’m not sure I can stomach another end of year review that paints Kevin Magnussen in the same light as, say, Pastor Maldonado, for no reason other than that he’s not Jenson Button.

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One comment

  1. Regarding footnote 4: It took me all of about three programs, mid-season, to unsubscribe from the BBC F1 podcast after finding it. Not only the woeful talent (“We’ve got a girl!”) but, as you say, the cheerleading was atrocious.

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