Ferrari's driver changes: Jean Alesi's verdict on impact of 2021 switch
F1 legend and former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi talks F1's big 2021 moves and reverse grids on the latest Vodcast
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 05/06/20 11:03pm
Ferrari's break with tradition to form a youthful line-up of Charles Leclerc and Carlos Sainz next season will prove easier for the team to manage, according to their former driver Jean Alesi.
F1's biggest team will field their youngest line-up in half a century in 2021 when 25-year-old Sainz replaces four-time champion Sebastian Vettel, 32, next to the 22-year-old Charles Leclerc.
Alesi was a similar age to Sainz when he was signed by Ferrari in 1991 as F1's hot young property with the Frenchman racing for the Scuderia for five campaigns and claiming the only Grand Prix win of his career with them in Canada 25 years ago next week.
But Alesi, who had twice finished second for midfield outfit Tyrrell in an eye-catching first two seasons, was signed as team-mate to vastly experienced multiple champion Alain Prost.
But asked during an appearance on the Sky F1 Vodcast if having two young drivers might prove more difficult for Ferrari next year, Alesi said: "It's maybe the opposite. They will have something easy to control.
"They have two young kids, they have two professional drivers. Carlos, I understand, is a very hard worker and he has the experience with McLaren and Renault. He is coming from very experienced teams.
"So for the management it's going to be easier to control these two drivers. When you have a world champion, when you have a charismatic driver, it's very tough to make him soft."
Vettel implied there was no longer "perfect harmony" in his relationship with Ferrari when the two parties unexpectedly last month announced their impending split.
Unless he wins the title when the delayed 2020 season begins, Vettel will walk away from Maranello without the fifth world crown he coveted when joining in 2015 with the aim of emulating his childhood hero Michael Schumacher.
"I have massive respect for Sebastian because [he is a] four-time world champion. He put his talent and everything into this challenge to be world champion with Ferrari, and he failed," said Alesi, who raced for seven teams across 201 grands prix.
"He failed but not because it's his fault or not because it's the fault of the team, something didn't go well. I was actually very surprised of this move [being announced] before the championship had started.
"But that means a lot I think for someone like him to be brave enough to say 'it's enough, I will finish the season with Ferrari, but next year I don't know what I will do'.
"But for sure something didn't go like it was supposed to."
Alesi left Ferrari when Schumacher joined for 1996 and believes there is a key difference between that ultra-successful era to the Vettel one now.
"When you welcome a world champion like Sebastian, you want to give everything you can," said the Frenchman.
"The second thing is if you are able to. And when the team is now able to give what the champion is asking then the trouble starts. If I take the Michael Schumacher example, he took my place but he arrived with a full technical team. He worked with the same people he used to work [with at Benetton] to be world champion. It took him four years to be world champion, but it happened.
"Sebastian's situation was different. He arrived in a team and he tried to teach and to bring the technical team to work as he wants. But he didn't bring with him Adrian Newey, so that changed a lot."
Alesi opposed to reverse F1 grids
Meanwhile, Alesi believes reverse-grid races are not the right fit for the pinnacle of the motorsport ladder.
F1 chiefs and team bosses have held a fresh round of discussions about whether they should be introduced for the second leg of the unprecedented Austria and Silverstone double headers, but opposition from Mercedes was sufficient to shelve the plans again.
"The reverse grid is very good for the categories like Formula 3, Formula 2 and Formula 4, but not Formula 1," said Alesi, whose son Giuliano races in F2.
"If I look what I did in my time, there was a little more technological freedom for the engineers. At the start of the grid you had V12, V10 and V8 engines At the beginning of the races when I started in P5 or P6 with my Tyrrell, I maybe had 25-30 kilos less than the McLaren-Honda or Ferrari.
"So my car was much more competitive and that mixed [it up]. So for 15 laps I was overtaking Senna, I was overtaking Nigel Mansell - my heroes. Everybody thought I was different but I had a light car. Then slowly then they started to burn the fuel they start to be again fast and coming back, but that made the race extremely interesting as something was always happen.
"But now when you start with the same engine, same tyres, same aero the top teams will always make a difference."
The Formula 1 season will begin on July 3-5 live on Sky Sports F1 with the Austrian GP. The race is the first of eight in 10 weeks in Europe, with every race live on Sky Sports.