Michael Schumacher could rue his departure from Ferrari because Fernando Alonso is perfectly placed to beat the German to the world title again, team boss Stefano Domenicali said on Wednesday.
Seven-times Formula One world champion Schumacher, 41, will come out of retirement this season to race for the new Mercedes team having left his consultancy role at Ferrari, who have signed Spaniard Alonso.
The former Renault driver beat Schumacher to the 2005 and 2006 world titles and Domenicali is confident his new recruit can repeat the trick.
“Let’s not forget Fernando is the only driver on the track who in his career has beaten Michael [to the world championship],” Domenicali told a packed news conference at Ferrari’s winter ski retreat.
“Fernando has everything to beat him.”
Ferrari fans around the world were upset by Schumacher’s exit, especially after he nearly returned for the Italian team last season as a temporary replacement for the injured Brazilian Felipe Massa.
A neck injury prevented the German from making a comeback on that occasion.
“Of course, it is right not to forget that what has happened has left its mark. Now we have to turn the page. We have to show Michael that this is a strong team. We want to win,” Domenicali added.
“We thought of Michael last year because he is an extraordinary and strong driver. But Fernando and Felipe are able to beat him even if Michael is still very strong.”
Schumacher is testing a GP2 car in Jerez this week and has caused controversy in Italy by wearing a red helmet, like the one he sported during his years of triumph at Ferrari.
“Obviously to leave a family is difficult. Some feelings clearly remain,” Domenicali added with a smile on his face.
A relaxed Alonso, who has replaced Kimi Raikkonen, has been enjoying himself at the annual ski retreat, his first official Ferrari engagement, and many fans and journalists have commented how natural he looks in the red uniform.
But the cars themselves will make the difference and Domenicali acknowledged that fuel consumption, where Mercedes are expected to have an advantage, could be crucial for the coming season which starts in Bahrain on March 14.
“I believe this year consumption will be fundamental. We are working very hard with Shell on this. We have relative expectations but we are going in the right direction. Let’s not forget Renault too,” he said. — Reuters