Eddie Jordan: Spain Preview

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Alonso

Obviously this weekend is a big occasion for PUMA’s partner team Ferrari, simply as Fernando Alonso is mega here, as a local hero and as previous winner of the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona. That in itself puts a lot of pressure on the team, but here are two factors which further increase it: first, the fact that a fortnight ago in Turkey Alonso scored the team’s first podium of the year, which means a race win is the next on the list of expectations. Let’s be honest: the team needs to win soon.

Second, it was announced yesterday that he has committed the rest of his racing life to Ferrari, having signed a contract to wear red until end-2016. That means he has total confidence in the team, the people, the facilities; everything. However, that increases the expectations - starting here and now, at Alonso’s home track.

Don’t forget he is a double world championship, and those six years ahead of him mean he can conceivably beat Michael Schumacher’s record of seven world titles. We should not underestimate how hungry Fernando is for success. However, looking at it purely from a team boss perspective, I’m not convinced I would have done such a deal, simply as it could lead to complacency, whereas I believe there should always be that edginess which pushes a driver. But both parties have their own reasons, and that is what counts.

Talking of Michael, there has been a lot of speculation about his future in Formula 1, particularly after he indicated in Turkey that the ‘joy is no longer there’. As the team principal who gave him his first grand prix drive, I have been asked up and down the paddock this weekend as to whether he should retire, this time for good.

Only one man knows the answer to that, and that is Michael. We in the media can have our opinions, but the decision is not ours to make. He speaks of podiums and the odd race win, and he knows how the car and team really fare. Of course he has to talk things up, but unless he delivers soon, he may discover the decision is taken out of his hands. In my opinion, even if he walks away without having tasted real success second time around, his incredible legacy will not be damaged – there will simply be a small smudge on the reputation of a great driver.

Looking at this weekend, it is clear Red Bull Racing still has the edge, making Sebastian Vettel the favourite. However, we’ll have to see how all the strategies pan out. Vettel can be, shall I say, a bit suspect in traffic. In that respect he is a little like Michael, who often won going away from pole position, but could be in trouble in a bunch.

In Spain, where overtaking is a bit more difficult than at other circuits, we could have a lot of bunching, and it will be interesting to see how Vettel handles it. Mark Webber in the second Red Bull is ready to pounce, but so are a lot of drivers – including Alonso and his Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa.

From here we go to Monaco and Montreal: great places both, whether for racing or as venues. But first we have Sunday’s race, the first on European soil this year, and the indications are it will be as thrilling as the others have all been to date. In the meantime I’m thoroughly enjoying the sunshine in Barcelona.

Motorsport