To me the annoyance is that some think Alonso is better than Raikkonen, and that Ferrari dropping him is proof of that.
My opinion is that they are both pretty evenly matched (illustrated by their many on track battles) and the Ferrari decision is purely a commercial one (to get Santander) or they never would have paid Raikkonen off to get Alonso on a year early (it just doesn't make good business sense).
It's made pretty obvious by the fact Santander only signed with McLaren once they had got Alonso - and only stayed on board when they realised that Lewis Hamilton was a great way into the UK banking market.
I also believe that Raikkonen and Alonso are evenly matched, which is one of the reasons why I think the pairing Raikkonen - Ferrari did not work. Whether it was a "racing incident" or one part was at fault, I just don't know. But I suppose that everybody (more so, their fans) expected more from that relationship. I don't mean more in terms of championships (that always depends on the competence; both 2008 and this year championship seem to be a scramble among drivers trying not to win the championship, while 2005 championship was a battle between two sharply focused drivers), but more in the sense of performance.
I was surprised when Raikkonen decided to exercise his option to unilaterally extend his contract with Ferrari, because I thought that the relationship was clearly not a fruitful one. I was also surprised when Ferrari opted by honouring that unilateral extension by paying it out, instead of by actually having Raikkonen on the team. It was an awful lot of money to pay to get out of a relationship, but maybe Ferrari felt that it was not worth it to extend a sub-optimal relationship for one more year.
Which leads me to the "Ferrari decision was purely a commercial one". In the way that I see that reasoning used, it seems to me that it means that Ferrari wanted / needed Santander money, and so they had to put up with whatever wishes Santander had (in this case, changing Raikkonen for Alonso). I don't believe that is the case, for the reasons I will later expose, but even if it were, there would be nothing untowardly in changing one driver for another that evenly matches the first one. That is the prerogative of the team. And there is nothing untowardly when one of the parties to an agreement exercises its option to unilaterally extend it, and the other decides to pay out that party because it is not interested in extending the relationship. Both parties fulfil their obligations.
But I digress. I said that I did not believe that Ferrari was forced by Santander to swap Raikkonen for Alonso for commercial reasons. First of all, if I am not wrong, the money Santander pays for having its name on the car goes directly to Philip Morris, and Ferrari does not see a penny of it. Philip Morris has a multi-year agreement with Ferrari by which it pays Ferrari some USD 100 – 130 M a year, and it “owns” and “sells” advertising space in the car. It was thought that this agreement would come to an end in 2011 and that Santander could become a more standard “Title Sponsor” of Ferrari, but Philip Morris decided against this, and the long standing partnership between Ferrari and Philip Morris will go on. In a nutshell, Ferrari does not profit from having Santander’s logo on the car. That Santander money goes to Philip Morris.
It is true that there are other Santander funds that were made available to pay the Alonso – Raikkonen swap. But those funds were used to pay for something that Ferrari wanted. It is not as if Santander forced the will of Ferrari, or if Ferrari received funds free disposable funds from Santander for accepting Alonso on the team. Without Santander, Ferrari would have had to wait for a year to get Alonso on board (and during that year lots of things could have happened, by the way) because it would not have had the money to pay Raikkonen out of the extension of their agreement. But that is the only commercial advantage gained by Ferrari by having Santander as main sponsor. The other Santander money goes to Philip Morris, as owner of Ferrari advertising space, so to speak.
So all this talk about obscure commercial interests that cut Raikkonen career short is just not accurate, in my view. Raikkonen was interested in driving one more year for Ferrari (or in getting one more year of his super-salary, a cynical could say), Ferrari was not interested in having Raikkonen one more year, and Santander provided the means to fulfil both parties wishes.
The final result is that Raikkonen got his salary, he had the chance of driving for other F1 top team (McLaren) but declined it to fulfil his dream of rallying, Ferrari got the driver it wished (that, in any case, was evenly matched to the one it had before, so it was not worse off), Alonso is driving for a team that allows him to challenge for a WDC again, and Santander got the advertising it wanted.
How this has embittered Raikkonen fans so much as to be still arguing against Alonso and Santander one year after the fact is something that puzzles me. Why they insist in searching sordid (and unsubstantiated) reasons in the whole transaction I can't understand.
EDIT: Sorry Butoneer, I began writing my long post before you published yours. I'll refrain from talking about Raikkonen here.
Edited by e34, 30 September 2010 - 14:09.