Once again, Ferrari has affirmed that Michael Schumacher will be closely involved with the team, even when he is not present at the race. This time, it’s their technical director, Mario Almondo, making the announcement.
It all sounds wonderful, with Michael supplied with a remote connection to the team for instant communication, a big office at HQ for the man and even a role for him as talent scout at karting events. Well, okay, the karting is new but haven’t we heard all the rest before? Isn’t it a case of “methinks the lady (in red) doth protest too much”?
What this constant repetition and confirmation of Michael’s position within the team does tell us is that Ferrari too is a bit nervous about the coming season. For years they have relied on “the dream team” to deliver the results and suddenly it is broken and scattered. Who can blame them for wondering whether success has departed with the mighty three, Schumacher, Todt and Brawn?
So they cover their fears with frequent declarations that nothing has changed, Michael and Todt are still on board, even though in different roles, and the red machine will roll smoothly on into the future. It’s themselves they’re trying to convince, not us.
It is apparent too that Ferrari has begun to have doubts about Kimi’s suitability for the team. Last week he was promised a talking-to about his offtrack behaviour, this week we are given the promise that he will smile a lot more. Now there’s one that might not be so easy to deliver, and I’m not even sure I want to see what the frozen-faced Finn’s smile looks like. We are so used to the flat delivery of the men from the land of lakes and forests, after all.
My theory is that it’s not so much that the Finns have absorbed the icy nature of their homeland but rather that their language produces the deadpan, passionless sound that we hear when they speak English. We call them the icemen but in reality they are as passionate as anyone else – it just doesn’t come across that way when they speak a tongue foreign to them. Remember Mika Hakkinen’s despair and tears when he threw away an Italian Grand Prix through a silly mistake?
And now Ferrari wants Kimi to smile. Pardon me for saying so, but there is implied criticism of their new employee in that idea. And that is hardly the way to welcome your new hope for the future.
All signs of nervousness in the Ferrari camp. If I were to wish them well (and I don’t – you know I’m backing Button for 2007), I’d tell them that we already know that Michael will continue in an advisory role and just to get on with it. But as for Kimi, my advice would be to leave the poor guy alone; give him the car and he’ll produce the goods – who cares about his public persona if he’s the fastest man on the track?
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