Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2012

2012 half-term driver rankings #1: Fernando Alonso

2012 F1 season

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari, Hungaroring, 2012For the first four races of the season, Fernando Alonso had one of the poorest Ferraris of recent seasons at his disposal.

The brilliance of the damage-limiting job he did with it can be judged from the fact that he returned from the opening flyaway races just ten points behind then-championship leader Sebastian Vettel.

In Spain the team made significant progress with the car and they’ve made incremental progress with it ever since. Every step of the way, Alonso has wrung the maximum out of the chassis, and his team have lauded his efforts.

Early in the year it was all he could do to get the Ferrari into Q3, but he managed it, edging out Sebastian Vettel in China and Kimi Raikkonen in Bahrain.

It gets taken for granted that he will destroy team mate Felipe Massa every weekend. Instead it’s considered noteworthy if Massa laps within a respectable margin of Alonso’s times.

As has often been the case in F1 history, wet weather conditions offer the best opportunity to true greats in unworthy cars, and so it has been with Alonso. He emerged from the rain to win in Malaysia not simply because McLaren made errors, but because he was faster than them when it mattered.

Beat team mate in qualifying11/11
Beat team mate in race10/10
Races finished11/11
Laps spent ahead of team mate657/672

Rain in qualifying at Silverstone and the Hockenheimring presented a further chances for him and he seized them, leading both races, winning in Germany and only slipping behind Mark Webber in the closing stages in Britain.

There have been few mistakes to speak of. The ill-handling car got away from him during qualifying in Australia, and he made a mistake trying to pass Pastor Maldonado during the Chinese Grand Prix.

And a clear shot at a podium was missed by Ferrari in Canada as they failed to bring Alonso into the pits early enough to keep him safe from the likes of Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez.

It is a testament to the standard of driving Alonso has produced this year not only that he is leading the championship by 40 points, but that some people seem to think the title race is already over.

Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez, Sepang, 2012The Ferrari has not been consistently close enough to the pace for the title to be in a foregone conclusion at this stage. But with Alonso in this kind of form anything is possible.

Arguably driving better now than he did in either of his world championship seasons. His Ferrari this year is certainly not at the same level as his Renault in 2005 and 2006, yet he leads the championship by 40 points, a huge margin. That is to his immense credit, especially considering how far off the pace his team were at the start of the season.

He’s made the most of every opportunity presented to him, either through the weather, the failures of his nearest rivals, or just incredibly smart driving, and you can?t ask for much more than that.

I’ve never been a big fan of Alonso or Ferrari, but the one surefire way to win me over is to do incredible things in a mediocre car. And Alonso has done just that, leading the championship after eleven rounds in a car that (to my infinite glee at the time) looked nigh on undriveable in Australia.

I think everyone?s list will be agreed on the fact Alonso is number one, he has been quite simply outstanding. Three wins, finishing every race in the points, it is difficult to think of an occasion where he has not got the best out of the car. And then when you consider what an awful car it was at the start of the year, and Massa?s performance in comparison it is really astounding he leads the championship at the halfway point.

Fernando Alonso 2012 form guide

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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66 comments on “2012 half-term driver rankings #1: Fernando Alonso”

  1. He definitely did amazing job. I’m sure this year would be remembered as his best season ever if he win the title. There will be a lot of people believe it’s still his best season even if he can’t win.

    1. Totally agree. I’m struggling to think of another championship in recent memory that would be quite as impressive as this if he manages to pull it off. Kimi descending from the heavens to snatch it in Brazil was pretty impressive, but part of that was Lewis and Fernando fighting amongst themselves. Now I’m curious, time to break out the books.

      1. Prost in ’86 is usually noted for a driver dragging a lesser car to the top.

        1. thats cos Mansell and Piquet took points off each other in the Williams Hondas

    2. I just hope that people wont start doing what they always do, changing their minds and their quotes. Mclaren is in great form but the tracks that are coming through should allow Ferrari to score nicely still there are some wrecking circuits and the lead may tumble, then people will start saying that Hamilton is rocking or Vettel is rocking, and forgetting that they have rocked all the way their cars or their team haven’t. Alonso has had almost perfect 3 years of form, well a career of form and so did the others.

  2. Apart from that mistake in quali in Australia, Alonso has not put a wrong foot, that is simply amazing. The fact that 24 races and counting he is in points show what an amazing form he is enjoying.
    Being a fan, obviously I would want him to win the title, but even if he does not, this year would be remembered as one of the best if not the best year of him.
    And for the rest of the drivers, this should sound alarming, Alonso WILL be in the hunt for the title for next year as well, as we will not have much change in regulation for 2013

    1. Drop Valencia!
      17th August 2012, 10:37

      The mistake in qualy in Australia had no bearing on anything, he had already extracted a time more than 1 second faster than Massa, and even the Toro Rosso of Ricciardo was untouchable to that Ferrari!

  3. Alonso has been the standout driver of 2012. He’s always been on the pace and he has made the same mistake twice. He’s also shown that he thrives under pressure from what we saw in Australia and Malaysia. Alonso also doesn’t throw away oppotunities to win. I can’t see Alonso losing this championship now, he is the complete package, and as long as Ferrari stay competitive enough, Alonso should be champion.

    1. he has made the same mistake twice

      “He has never made the same mistake twice”.

  4. I agree with the rankings Keith, but I can’t put a hair between the way Hamilton and Alonso have been driving the only visible difference is the difference in the points. You could say that Hamilton has had all the bad luck and but that bad luck has had nothing to do with Alonso, and so nothing can be taken away from Alonso for that. You can also say that Alonso has had just as much good luck as Hamilton has had bad… but they have both shown that when the cars are close they are clearly the best two drivers F1 has.

    1. @Harvs Well, this is a Spanish website, what do you want?

      Seriously, I basically agree with you but I put Alonso ahead of Hamilton just because we know all that Alonso has done but there are more assumptions regarding Hamilton’s performance. For instance, we think that Hamilton could have won the Spanish GP without the penalty but we don’t know that for sure. And Hamilton has also lost to Button a couple of times. While Button is clearly no Massa, it shows that Lewis wasn’t able to get the maximum out of the car in these rare moments. There is simply more evidence for Alonso’s greatness this year than there is for Hamilton’s. But it’s very possible that Hamilton’s racing engineer thinks otherwise.

      1. True true, but saying that Massa is no button you could also say that there is nothing to prove that Alonso has been getting the absolute best from the Ferrari as there is not a good enough driver in the second seat, also Alonso is the clear number one driver at Ferrari as Hamilton has to compete with button, as McLaren will not choose sides with its drivers.

        p.s. other users, don’t go all rage at me, this is a conversation not a aggressive verbal argument

        1. We give Alonso the benefit of the bought that he is getting the best out of the car but we don’t know for sure, similar to Hamilton in Spain, as you said – “For instance, we think that Hamilton could have won the Spanish GP without the penalty but we don’t know that for sure. And Hamilton has also lost to Button a couple of times.”

          That’s my point, I’m not at all trying to take anything away from either Alonso or Hamilton, as I said in my first post they both have done a fantastic job and i can’t separate either.

          1. @harvs It is really hard to compare. For all we know, de la Rosa might have done a better job than, say, Vettel.

            I do rate Alonso’s half-season better than Hamilton’s, though. Hamilton has been consistently very good, whereas Alonso has had some outstanding drives.
            It’s all still fairly subjective.

          2. I don’t understand why you think the 2 drivers have been nearly as good as each other when quite honestly Hamilton has fluffed his lines on more than one occassion. He has been on pole several times this year only to lose out on the victory one way or another and not always down to bad luck (Button in Australia) comes to mind as one of those occassions when Hamilton has been let’s say conservative when he shoudl have probably been aggressive to assert his authority on the race.

    2. A reason why I would not rate Hamilton higher is that he showed poor pressure-handling at Valencia when he failed to defend his second place in the closing stages by flat-spotting his tyres. Also he has been very complaining when his team has made mistakes. Alonso did not blame his team for Montreal.

      1. people defend hamilton for valencia, but the fact remains he chewed up his tyres, and even if he hadnt crashed with maldonado, might have lost several places in the last couple of laps as the tyres had hit the cliff.

  5. I have done a simple calculation just to illustrate how difficult it will be to overhaul Alonso in the standings:

    Suppose Alonso gets the same average number of points per race in remaining nine races (14.91 per race), which is not unthinkable. If he manages to do this, Webber will have to score more than 19.35 points per race, Vettel 19.58, Hamilton 20.13 and Raikkonen 20.24. Already it is clear that this will be quite a task. Especially because his competitors will keep taking point off each other.

    Suppose Alonso has one DNF and scores the same average of 14.93 per race in the other 8 races. Webber will need to score more than 17.7 points per race, Vettel 17.9, Hamilton 18.5 and Raikkonen 18.6. This will be hard enough in my opinion…

    1. But realistically I doubt he’d manage it, essentially he needs to average 15 points a race. That said though, he is still in the best position to win he championship and will remain so unless one team gains a decisive edge come Spa (such as Red Bull regaining 2010 pace and Vettel driving as he did in 2011).

    2. @HH, perhaps a series of insults directed at Maldonado and attributed to Alonso will be the only way to tighten the odds.

  6. Absolutely brilliant what he’s been doing this year. If he wins the championship I think it’ll go down in history as one of the greatest seasons anyone’s ever had. Some of his drives this year have been a privilege to watch.

    1. Someone in the forums said that If Fernando was to win the championship this year, he would surpass Lauda as one of the greats this sport has ever witnessed, don’t think that’s questionable. I can’t describe Fernando’s season so far in words other than: superlative in every department. My admiration for him just keeps growing & his demonstration of total calmness (albeit Australia Qualifying) is just inspiring to a major extent & has aided me in keeping calm when something negative happens for me, I can just imagine Andre Stella in my mind saying ‘Just keep calm’.

      1. Someone in the forums said that If Fernando was to win the championship this year, he would surpass Lauda as one of the greats this sport has ever witnessed

        Yep, that was me. I said that if he won the championship this season, he’d surpass both Lauda and Stewart to become #6 after the big five (Senna, Schumi, Prost, Clark and Fangio).

        1. Michael Brown (@)
          18th August 2012, 2:45

          100% agree. Another person said something else that I also agree with. It went something like this: “Many years later people will ask about Alonso being one of Formula One’s greats. This will be the season that proves it.”

  7. People may say Alonso has been lucky but he is the only driver to have won a race not starting on the front row. He won from 8th and 11th whereas the lowest anyone else has won was from 2nd. This underlines how impressive he has been this year.

    1. I think that’s an overlooked statistic. I was quite suprised myself when I read that.

    2. His win in Valencia was due to Hamilton’s bad stop and Vettel&Grosjean’s retirements. He wouldn’t have even finished on the podium, which makes his performance less impressive than, say, Raikkonen’s P11-P2 rise.

      And even then we’ve seen numerous times how big of an advantage starting on fresh tires can be. In Australia, Perez went from last and stayed all the way in 2nd for lord knows how long, and were it not for Rosberg’s brain fade he would’ve finished above Kobayashi and Raikkonen. Alonso himself, in the very same race, starting 10 positions higher, finished all the way up in 5th on a day where McLaren and Red Bull were above the rest. Vettel came back from 11th in China after having an appalling start and being held up by Di Resta and would’ve fended off Hamilton and Webber if he hadn’t hit the cliff at the end. Raikkonen very nearly beat everyone in Bahrain. There’s loads of examples.

      1. His win in Valencia was due to Hamilton’s bad stop and Vettel&Grosjean’s retirements. He wouldn’t have even finished on the podium,rise.

        Actually, he was catching Hamilton quite drastically even before the SC, and he likely would’ve passed him had there been a few more laps. Fernando overtook Grosjean fair and square on the restart. Even if it weren’t for Vettel’s retirement he still should’ve finished second. I don’t understand to why you’re trying to put down a very proving performance.

        Frankly, do you even remember why he started eleventh? Ferrari’s brain fade during qualifying, thinking they could get through Q2 on prime tyres.

      2. His win in Valencia was due to Hamilton’s bad stop and Vettel&Grosjean’s retirements

        he was already 2nd after the restart he overtook all the other driver except Vettel & that is a pretty staggering performance

      3. Alonso had driven well up to that point in Valencia and would’ve had a podium anyway.

  8. Beat team mate in qualifying – 11/11
    Beat team mate in race – 10/10
    Races finished – 11/11
    Laps spent ahead of team mate – 657/672

    Pretty worrying if your name is Felipe Massa.

    1. @brickles Particularly when you add in the fact that Massa was running behind Alonso in Australia when he retired, so that would be 11 out of 11.

      The 15 laps Massa has spent in front of Alonso have all come on occasions where Alonso has pitted before him (most of which came in the Chinese Grand Prix). So Massa is yet to spend a lap in front of his team mate on merit.

    2. now multiply that for 3 seasons.

      1. So Massa is yet to spend a lap in front of his team mate on merit.

        Wow, just wow.

  9. And people wonder why I constantly walk around in an Alonso jacket? :P

  10. One comparison I like to make is between Alonso this year and Schumacher in 1998. Both drivers started off with a car that was not a race winner, both drivers scored their first win of that year in tricky conditions and both did incredible jobs just to keep in touch in the title fight. Later on, both driver’s cars improve and are consistently challenging for wins despite not being in the quickest car.
    However, one divergence I can see between Schumacher in 1998 and Alonso in 2012 is the sheer metronomic efficiency of Fernando. Schumacher that year made several mistakes while pushing too hard (off the top of my head running wide in Austria and smashing his front wing, and an accident in Monaco) while this year Alonso has done virtually nothing to cost himself points. I’m not suggesting that Alonso is a better driver than Schumacher, but that the staggering way in which Alonso conducts himself on the racetrack is really something quite special. Not the quickest but the best.

    1. The difference is that Alonso is racing Red-Bulls, McLarens and Renaults whereas Schumacher was racing McLarens, mainly Mika. That being said Schumacher was clearly a cut above in his generation.

    2. I think the difference in errors also comes frome the fact that Schumacher had reduce a gap in points, Alonso has the benefit of defending a lead. He doesn’t have to push to hard anymore. Whenever Schumacher was ahead in de standings, he rarely made mistakes himself.

      1. I can’t find any article to back me up, but I remember Schumacher saying he found it easier to be the one chasing someone in the championship. I think he said it in 2006. Alonso may be consolidating now, but I’ve got a feeling that Alonso will have to push very, very hard come the end of the year!

      2. Another factor that makes up for the difference in errors is the relative difficulty of driving the cars between then and now. Without refuelling, drivers seldom have to drive on the limit in races. Downforce and power delivery are also much improved since 1998.

        1. they have to control their tyre wear more now and there is tighter competition, they are still driving on the limit -just different limits. and alonso is doing the best of that.

  11. For the first four races of the season, Fernando Alonso had one of the poorest Ferraris of recent seasons at his disposal.

    I’m so sick of people bringing this up. I did some calculation on qualifying performance of both Ferrari drivers since 2009: it shows how much percent the driver is off the fastest lap time in the session in which both drivers still competed (excluding rain affected qualifying sessions).

    2009: Raikkonen +1.10%, Massa +1.02%, Ferrari +1.06%

    2010: Alonso +0.56%, Massa +0.97%, Ferrari +0.77%

    2011: Alonso +1.21%, Massa +1.60%, Ferrari +1.41%

    2012: Alonso +0.60%, Massa +1.19%, Ferrari +0.89%

    So comparing the last four seasons, 2012 was actually their second best year if you compare qualifying performances in the first four races. The idea that the Ferraris are so much worse than the rest of the field is based on gossip, that started in winter testing and was actually based on claims that Ferrari people made themselfs. The idea was further induced by the fact that the field has tightened up in th 2012 season, resulting in higher starting positions and further encouraging the illusion. People, please stop claiming that the F2012 is a bad car!

    1. You elude to the fact that this year the field is much closer together. So 1% is worth a lot more than it did a few years back.

      1. That’s correct, Ferrari’s qualifying poisition have been the lowest of the past 4 years, but that doesn’t mean that the F2012 is the worst car the Italians have made in the past 4 years.

      2. Just to back your comment up with numbers: the average starting position of the Ferrari drivers in the past four seasons:

        2009: 10.0
        2010: 4.0
        2011: 6.4
        2012: 11.8

        So yes, relatively speaking the Ferrari has been the worst in the past four seasons. But this isn’t due to the Ferrari’s lack of pace (see the original comment), but due to the field tightening up.

        1. it IS a lack of pace, as it is all relative to the competition no matter how close it is. just look at nascar, where it is tight as hell, and you can be 24th when only .3 behind over a lap.

    2. @andae23 I take your point about the size of the deficit having fluctuated but we can only every define how good an F1 car is by comparing it to the competition. Ferrari had the eight-quickest car on pure lap time in Australia and that’s very poor by their standards. I believe the equivalent figure in 2009, another year when they started the season off the pace, was sixth.

      1. Then I would say the formulation is inaccurate: this year’s Ferrari has been, if you take into account the progession the rest of the field has made in the past few years and judge a car on its pace relative to the other cars, one of the worst Ferraris in the past few years.

        I think it’s a matter of perspective: most people look at the car’s pace in comparison to the other cars, but I much rather look at the absolute performance of a car. Then I would conclude that the 2012 season is extremely competetive, with Ferrari being the main victim of this. A ‘fine’ car won’t cut it in 2012.

        1. If you looked at absolute performance you’d think the 2004 Minardi was a rocket because of its pace relative to a 2005 McLaren (maybe you wouldn’t, I can’t be ***** to check the numbers, but you get my point).

        2. It seems that a ‘fine’ car with an exceptional driver seems cut it just fine… In a way the 2012 Ferrari allows Alonso to shine as the car is not the best, but still close enough.

          Let me put it this way. If you would put Alonso in Heikki Kovalainen’s Caterham. He could not do much more in terms of positions. There simply too much gap in terms of performance between the Caterham and the rest of the pack ahead. I am also relatively sure that also in this hypothetical case Alonso would not be #1 on the ranking list.

          So I agree with andae23. Ferrari is not a bad car. This season just the eight-fastest car is good enough to fight for wins and podiums. Most seasons with eight fastest car you fight for points on a good day.

          If the Ferrari would really be a bad car no one could constantly finnish at the top despite how well the driver performs. This doesn’t mean that Alonso would not be the #1 driver at the moment. Quite the opposite, it makes it crystal clear.

          1. @samixyz and in your hypothetical case, why don’t you put him in a McLaren, RB or Lotus as well?

          2. the unforunate things with these standings type comparisions is, a driver in the worst 3 cars may actually be doing as a good a job as a driver in the top 3 cars, but they never get a high rating for it.

  12. Whenever I think of Alonso’s season this year I’m reminded of this quote in Motor Sport magazine in their German GP report:

    “My God,” said a former Grand Prix winner in the paddock, “If Fernando was in a Red Bull, there’d be no point in anyone else turning up…”

    I still have no idea which former GP winner said that, but it pretty nicely sums up Alonso’s season.

  13. I hope he win this year and the british media begin to give him credit.

  14. Oh noooooooooooo Alonso will grab the championship! Please Maldonado do your hobby thing with Alonso a couple of times!!

  15. I don’t think Alonso will win this season. At the half season he deserve the place where he is. But, it’s a long way to finish. And, in the last race, he finished 5th. 40 points is nothing.

  16. I think it is clear that I tend to lean towards cheering for LH. However, that does not and has never stopped Me from recognising the force that is Fernando Alonso. I watched in awe when as a mere lad, he challenged the great Schumacher. As well, I know better than to ever discount his abilities on any given Sunday. Such skill demands respect. None can deny His brilliance, Just as no-one can deny Lewis’s (tho many try). It remains to be seen what the 2nd half of 2012 will bring. One thing is certain though…, Alonso will be a factor. As always

    1. Exactly Lewis at his best in the best car but clearly not being enough and btw Ferrari has also made mistakes for Alonso so is not been all that perfect, he is missing at least one more win and a podium….
      Now on the Ferrari dog is what ALONSO wants people to think, that he is the best is quite heavy psycology if you remember Vettel last year, there have not being one time when Alonso or Ferrari has compliment the car, which seems to me an actual strategy.
      Whatever it is, is working allrigth !

  17. Alonso is a great driver no doubt.

    Unfortunately he is forever stained from the 2008 season, nothing short of a true gentleman act can ever wear that of. Hasn’t been there yet.

    1. @tvm Why did 2008 stain Alonso’s career?

  18. Now this guy IS one of the best alltime.

    When compared to Mansell for example as I said Mansell really is a bit overated.

    Seriously doubt Mansell could have done for Ferrari this year what Alonso has….

    1. And also Hamilton or any other in this year grid

  19. Taking nothing away from Alonso.. He’s had a brilliant season, especially in the opening stages.. But I’d quite fancy Kimi Raikkonen for a good shot at the championship just by looking at some of the performances.. And I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of either driver…

  20. Just watche the first 4 races. You will see how unstable that Ferrari was compared to the other cars. It was the 8 th fastest car at best and Alonso was in the top of the standings at the end of those 4th races , some of them with rain where according to some drivers ” rain is the biggest equalizer” also stop talking about Alonso good luck!! That is rubbish! Alonso has had really bad luck!! He didn’t have a fast car at the beginning of the season!! He lost a win or podium position in Canada due to ferrRi’s blunder when they decided not to put him and he also lost anothe podium in another race. So stop talking about Alonso’s luck

  21. I don’t think people are necessarily agreeing that the Ferrari is a ‘bad’ car. I think the general agreeance amongst us is that the Ferrari is not the quickest car in the field, and doean’t have the pace on average like the Red and Mclaren, and even the Lotus. Unlike the last 2-3 years where the Red Bull has clearly been the quickest car in the field.

    So I think its fair to say that with a car that is not the quickest car in the field to be where he is in the championship (leading it !) is an outstanding achievement. And clearly deserves to be ranked number 1 in the rankings.

    If he were in a Red Bull, Mclaren or even a Lotus, in my opinion, he would be even further in front.

  22. Absolutely 100% Alonso. His qualifying laps in the wet looked flawless and controlled and keeping his calm in Malaysia while Perez was hunting him down was also noteworthy for me. I would have expected him to panic at the thought of being beaten by a relative rookie without a race win under his belt.

    I do think Ferrari have turned a significant corner with the F2012, both drivers have been displaying that, even Massa recently. Even when the car was hurrendously off the pace he knew it and did what he needed to do to limit the damage.

    Every champion is a worth champion but if he wins it this year that will be even more true.

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