Just four years ago it appeared Ferrari had struck gold once again as they welcomed the man many believe to be the best driver of the post-Michael Schumacher era.
After being the man who ultimately knocked the team off its perch in the mid 2000′s with Renault, followed by an unhappy marriage at McLaren, which led to a final two-year stint at his spiritual home at Enstone, Ferrari believed they had the man who could bring the glory days of 2000-2004 back.
The new partnership started off on the perfect note as team and driver tasted success at the very first race in the windswept desert of Bahrain and the rest of the F1 grid was put on notice, Ferrari and Fernando Alonso were the combination to beat.
Yet here we stand in May 2014 and the dream that both team and driver had lies somewhat in tatters. Alonso still only has the two world titles to his name and Ferrari has not won a title since the constructors crown it won back in 2008.
Instead of Alonso and Ferrari, it has been Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull claiming all the trophies and the championships and now, as the sport enters another new era, it appears Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes could be the new dream-team in F1.
Ferrari and Alonso have been left licking their wounds for quite some time as disappointing car after disappointing car came rolling out the factory unable to match the might of Adrian Newey and Sebastian Vettel.
Now team and driver are left to reflect on the realisation that it has been a year since they last even won a race as Alonso took an emotional home win in Barcelona.
A new team boss has been installed, as Marco Mattiacci replaced Stefano Domenicali, but that was a more reactive decision as new recruits Pat Fry and James Allison continued Ferrari’s run of being close but not close enough.
If ever any extra impetus was required, the man who last claimed a driver’s title with Ferrari also returned as Kimi Raikkonen ousted the seemingly exhausted Felipe Massa.
The new rules, with V6 hybrid engines and a less of a reliance on aerodynamics, seemed to offer the perfect opportunity for a Ferrari renaissance as the new focus on mechanical development was much more in line with Ferrari’s philosophy.
But such has been the failure of the Scuderia’s 2014 project that they find themselves being lapped by the rampant Mercedes and now being left behind by an underpowered Red Bull.
Yet despite all the recent changes one constant has remained the same throughout, Fernando Alonso as the clear ‘number one’.
It was true throughout the four years Alonso and Massa were together, and now there are suggestions the same is true with Kimi alongside following the strategy calls made as the pair were in close proximity in Barcelona – with Alonso being the beneficiary.
Ferrari are a team who should be looking to the future, to find a way of having an advantage over their rivals, as Mercedes did with the 2014 rule changes, and while it seems clear Kimi Raikkonen does not have a long-term role, questions should be asked on if Alonso does too.
Of course there has been speculation for a while over his future, is a shock move back to McLaren on the cards? Maybe even a switch to Mercedes, but Ferrari really could do no worse than starting from scratch.
Alonso has brought a lot of baggage, the kind that saw his year with McLaren implode so spectacularly, but Ferrari has been prepared to accept it in the hope Alonso can still deliver the world championship back to Maranello.
However, as it becomes apparent that hope is fading I think it is time they began to look elsewhere, there is another great driver just waiting for his opportunity in Nico Hulkenberg, he’s still relatively young and though he may not bring any backing, that’s not an issue if you’re Ferrari.
Then there are good young drivers within such as Jules Bianchi who continues to impress at Marussia.
If Ferrari are looking to rebuild then they should go all the way, the Alonso era at Maranello had its moments, such as the title fights in 2010 and again in 2012, but the Spaniard’s expectations will no longer be met by Ferrari in this period of apparent transition.
There are rumours of Ross Brawn, Bob Bell and Adrian Newey heading to Maranello, but the chances of at least Brawn and Newey are small to non-existent.
Ferrari may still be the third best car on the grid in terms of outright pace, but the team is way off where it wants to be and so is Alonso.
Of course to have a driver with the will to succeed that Alonso has, having him be there can provide the motivation to new personnel to push the team on, but really Fernando himself only has a few more good years left.
Therefore it’s time to step back replace the right people with those who can push the team forward and bring in fresh blood behind the wheel.
Hulkenberg and Bianchi are drivers who could lead Ferrari for the new five to ten years and I believe would bring success back to Maranello. Otherwise the same formula that has been such a huge disappointment in the last four years will just continue to do so in the future.
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