Jason Coulter argues that Fernando Alonso is still the best driver in Formula One, despite what the Driver’s Championship standings may say.
We’ve reached the half-way point of the 2014 Formula One season, and so far it has surpassed all expectations. At the start of the campaign, fans feared a boring series of one-two finishes for Mercedes, and although they have dominated – it’s been far from boring.
Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg may be streets ahead in the drivers’ championship, but this writer believes neither can be considered the best driver on the grid. That honour goes to 2005 and 2006 world champion Fernando Alonso.
The season has proven to be yet another let-down for Ferrari. The team have struggled each year since 2009, with a slow, sluggish car. For a driver of Alonso’s calibre, this must be torture. In 2010, he joined the biggest name in Formula One with victories, trophies and world titles on his mind. Unfortunately for the Spaniard, that hasn’t been the case at all. This is his fifth season at Ferrari, and in that time the team have won 11 races. All of them have been Alonso’s – and there have been none this year.
Since joining Ferrari, this is the first season he hasn’t been a team-mate to Felipe Massa. Many feel the Brazilian seriously underperformed compared to Alonso, but I feel his mid-table drives were much more reflective of the team’s speed than Alonso’s occasional victories.
Massa is a very talented driver, and this year at Williams he has proven the doubters wrong. His brilliant qualifying pace has sadly not been reflected in the drivers’ standings, primarily due to retirements that are no fault of his own.
This season, former world champion Kimi Raikkonen joined Alonso at Ferrari. Before the season began, this was touted as a titanic battle, and a real test of Alonso’s – and Ferrari’s – true pace. With 11 races completed, it’s fair to say the battle has been a little one-sided. Alonso has beaten the Finn in every race, with Raikkonen scoring a dismal 27 points and occupying 12th in the drivers’ standings. Hindsight is, as we all know, a wonderful thing, but one does wonder how well Massa would have done this year with this Ferrari.
But over-performing in an under-performing car isn’t new to Alonso. When he returned to Renault in 2008 after a year at McLaren, he found the team struggling to compete with the front-runners. Renault finished 4th in the constructors championship that season, and 8th in 2009. Both years saw Alonso alone sparing the team’s blushes.
There are many other statistics that show just how talented Alonso is. In 13 seasons, he has only been beaten by a team-mate once. The man in question being Lewis Hamilton in 2007, where the pair finished with 109 points each. With both drivers winning four races, it came down to Hamilton having more second places to his name than Alonso. To phrase it another way, Alonso has never been out-scored by a team-mate.
We’re going through a great era for Formula One drivers. Hamilton, Sebastian Vettel and Nico Rosberg can lay some claim to being the best in the field, but for me the best is Fernando Alonso. Given the right car, he can beat anybody and it’s a testament to his attitude that he sticks with the ailing Ferrari team.
Will he add to his two world titles? This writer hopes so. His patience with Ferrari is being tested more with each fallow season, and the Italian team must know that an uncompetitive car in 2015 will surely see their star man looking for a new challenge.
There are strong rumours that McLaren are looking to bring him back into the fold, and unless Ferrari can find their form again who knows where Alonso will be driving in the coming seasons.
Jason Coulter, Pundit Arena.
Featured Image By Mariom990 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.