Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Jeddah Corniche Circuit, 2021

2021 F1 driver rankings #6: Fernando Alonso

2021 F1 driver rankings

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As he returned to Formula 1 after two years away, Fernando Alonso took a few races to play himself in. But once he’d done that he left little room for doubt that he is every bit as quick and tenacious as he was when he won his last world championship 15 years ago.

Fernando Alonso

Beat team mate in qualifying 11/22
Beat team mate in race 9/18
Races finished 20/22
Laps spent ahead of team mate 626/1127
Qualifying margin +0.35s
Points 81

When Esteban Ocon was eliminated in Q1 in Bahrain and Alonso pressed on into the final 10, it looked as though the two-times champion was going to dish out the kind of pummelling Stoffel Vandoorne suffered at his hands back in 2018. But that proved a false dawn.

At Imola, where he dropped out in Q2 and skidded off the track on a wet reconnaissance lap, then fell behind Ocon in the race, Alonso admitted he wasn’t fully comfortable in the Alpine yet. Ocon left him behind in qualifying at Algarve and in Spain Alonso couldn’t match his team mate’s delicate touch with the tyres which allowed him to eke out a one-stop strategy. Being eliminated in Q1 in Monaco condemned Alonso to a point-less afternoon.

From Azerbaijan it was increasingly clear Alonso had clicked with the A521, and his old verve was more easily evident from this point in the season. His feisty Baku restart was classic Alonso and delivered sixth place, the first of six consecutive points finishes.

Starts have long been a key strength of Alonso’s, one he demonstrated again in France on his way to ninth. However he became frustrated by rivals exploiting the run-off areas in ways he felt was unacceptable, notably in the Austrian races, and as the stewards declined to get involved he vowed to take advantage of the rules in the same way. Few could therefore complain about his audacious approach to turn one later in the year at Sochi, therefore, though he lost many of the places he gained through the move later in the lap.

His points scoring streak continued at Silverstone, where he provided the best argument for sprint qualifying races seen all year with a battling drive on soft tyres. But in Hungary he paid a high price for being narrowly out-qualified by Ocon: While his team mate took advantage of the first corner melee to win, Alonso was left to play a vital defensive role against Lewis Hamilton, repelling him long enough to safeguard his team mate’s win.

Failing to make the cut for Q3 at Spa meant his points-scoring run ended there. But at Zandvoort he was back on full attack with a combative start and opportunistic move on Sainz for sixth place. He was eighth at Monza after an off in Q2, and finished eight places ahead of Ocon in Sochi after that cheeky start. This could have been even better: After using fresher tyres to pass Max Verstappen, Alonso was on course for a podium at one stage but stayed out too long when rain fell.

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Fernando Alonso, Alpine, Losail International Circuit, 2021
Qatar podium was highlight of Alonso’s first season back
His frustrations with the stewards threatened to get the better of him at times. At Istanbul, where he was fortunate to avoid a penalty for a double yellow flag incident in qualifying, Alonso was knocked into a spin by Gasly at the start, then had an avoidable collision with Mick Schumacher. In the following race he branded F1’s enforcement of its rules “random” after the stewards turned a blind eye to Kimi Raikkonen passing him off-track at turn one. Alonso attempted to do the same with Antonio Giovinazzi, but had to surrender the position, costing him time.

Mexico and Brazil yielded a pair of ninth places, though Alonso demonstrated his remarkable capacity for reading the race beyond his own cockpit in his teamwork with Ocon at the latter. In Qatar he delivered his best performance of the season, qualifying a superb third and finishing there after passing Gasly, thanks partly to a late Virtual Safety Car which protected him from Sergio Perez.

That helped secure Alonso 10th place in the championship standings, just seven ahead of Ocon, who delivered a superb fourth in Saudi Arabia on a rare late-season off-day for his team mate. Having confirmed he will see out the second year of his contract in 2022, Alonso hinted at remaining in the cockpit further into his forties, and on the strength of this season there is no reason why he shouldn’t expect to remain competitive if he does.

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What’s your verdict on Fernando Alonso’s 2021 season? Which drivers do you feel he performed better or worse than? Have your say in the comments. Add your views on the other drivers in the comments.

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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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82 comments on “2021 F1 driver rankings #6: Fernando Alonso”

  1. He showed that his age is not a problem and he is still motivated. I expect even more from Alonso this year.

    1. Alonso is the driver that can handle any F1 cars.
      Give him a powerful car and he will be cruising and you’ll never see him again until the race ends.

  2. won his last world championship 15 years ago” is just crazy. Considering the average F1 career is usually no more than 3 or 4 years. And he’s not just making up the numbers.

    1. excluding drivers doing just 1 season, I’m confident the average F1 career is much longer than 3 years

      1. @alfa145
        Excluding people with 2 legs, people usually have 1 leg.

      2. 72 people drove in F1 races since the start of 2010, for an average of 70 races per driver (or about 3,5 seasons of 20 races).

        58 of them drove more than 20 races (about 1 season, so including last season’s rookies who drove 21), which is about 80% of the total. Of these, the average number of races is 85, which isn’t a huge increase (less than a season). Obviously not all drivers who drove in 2010 started in 2010, so if you take their career totals you end up with an average number of races of 118, or about six seasons.

        This includes the 300+ club of Räikkonen, Alonso, Barrichello, Michael Schumacher and Jenson Button – and also people like Trulli (252 starts) and Webber (215 starts). Drivers who more properly belong to the generation of the 2000s (or even 1990s) than the 2010s. Excluding both these and the one-season drivers, you get an average of about 95 of career total races. Or just short of five seasons.

        There is a notable difference between the drivers of the top teams and those further down the grid, for obvious reasons.

        1. Ha! Wonderfully detailed response MichaelN, thank you. I think it’s just when I rewatch races and see the likes of Pic, Lotterer, Sirotkin, Firman, Alliot, Caffi et al. They ‘jump out’ at me because i’d forgotten about them, where as the likes of de Cesaris, Barrichello, Patrese, Button; I expect to be there. And of course, they’re the ones who skew the figures in the opposite direction of say, Stephane Sarrazin.

          F1 fans being F1 fans (or any fan of any sport, really) Somewhere someone has an Excel spreadsheet listed with all grand prix entries and they can give an exact mean of what an F1 driver can expect from a career.

          I’ll happily salute the person with that spreadsheet.

          95 races seems right, I would have guessed lower, but then we enjoy watching Sospiri trying to qualify a Lola more than Coulthard finished an unremarkable 11th.

      3. Even including the single season (and 1-offs) drivers the average is 3.8 seasons.
        If excluding the single season drivers then it increases to more than 5 seasons on average.

    2. Across the past 40 years, lowest average is 7 seasons


  3. A deserved position in the list.
    Still an old fox with some trick up his sleeve.
    His intuition during starts is impeccable. Experience and talent still active.
    I guess he is right about the image some media created around him.

  4. When he made his return I feared a scenario like Schumacher in his Mercedes-years, tainting his legacy. But Alonso proved to be a positive surprise.

    1. Was his comeback really that bad though? Considering he was up against the only driver to have beaten the mighty Hamilton. And also taking a pole in Monaco.

      1. No it wasn’t that bad, you are right. But we didn’t know then how good Rosberg really was, and Schumacher was soundly beaten. It was a good performance by all measures, especially considering his age, but these years at Mercerdes, his reputation of an unbeatable driver was tainted.

        1. Not after a mathematical analysis, f1 metrics did that and he was performing just like at his peak, minus what you lose due to age related decline and the lack of recent experience. Furthermore, it’s not like he was never up against a driver that could match him in a similar car before, and look at the case I’m talking about the one in this article!

        2. @Matthijs: Soundly beaten is a bit harsh. The 2010 to 2012 Mercedes was rather fast on a single lap, but had a major tire eating issue. MSC had more trouble on hot tracks and often got the wrong end of the strategy in a midfield car, and quite a few DNF’s when he was in a good point scoring position. Points only tell part of the story, one needs to check lap times in Q and Races to figure out what really happened.
          Yes, Rosberg was three times ahead at the end of the season, but on average their lap times were similar.

      2. Bad enough. I think Rosberg was seriously underrated. The problem was how comprehensibly Rosberg beat Michael. It was a bit like Alonso vs. Raikkonen or Massa.

    2. MSC was out for 3 years and – to my knowledge – didn’t do ANY racing during that period.

      Nando came back after 2 years in which he basically took part in every race that would take him.

      The two are hardly comparable.

  5. So my prediction:
    Leclerc (fast as ever but needs to iron out the mistakes)
    Norris (break through year, impressive first half)
    Hamilton (Too many mistakes, he only hit full stride when Merc bacame the rockeship he is used too)
    Sainz (Most consistent, beat everyone who didn’t drive for Merc or RBR, despite changing teams.)
    Verstappen (Best driver of the season. period.)

    1. I suppose the rankings will be like verstappen, then hamilton, then norris, leclerc, sainz, I feel the points don’t tell the whole story at ferrari and keith will have noticed that, and hamilton probably recovered enough in the 2nd half of the season, as well as norris was really excellent for most of the season.

  6. See I just don’t get this ranking. He got Renault to 10th in the drivers where as Ricciardo got them to 6th last year, that’s a solid step backwards and on a par with Ocon who was ranked so much lower.

    If he wasn’t so old and had a break I doubt he would have been rated this highly, which ain’t what the rankings should be about.

    1. This is ranking the drivers. Not the cars

      1. I don’t understand the point… Yeah ranking the drivers, he was on par with Ocon.

        1. Ocon is underrated here and by most people. He should be 7th behind Alonso. The only one who gave Lewis and Max a run for their money in Jeddah.

          1. Ocon is underrated:
            Lost to Perez (twice)
            Lost to Ricciardo
            Lost to Alonso

            His race in Hungary however was so solid, even if he probably wouldn’t have won if not for Alonso, but I don’t think Ocon is that good, Renault singed him until 2024 like Leclerc, verstappen and Norris in their respective teams, but he is nowhere near those drivers

    2. Either you haven’t understood how these rankings work, or you ignore that Alpine was not as good as the year before (McLaren and Ferrari made a big step forward…).

      1. My understanding was that Alpine was not going to put a lot of effort into 2021 given their unlikeliness to gain all that much vs the top teams, and so were going to rather reserve their resources for their 2022 effort. Pretty sure it’s this new chapter about to begin that FA has been waiting for as well. 2021 was just ‘practice’ for him imho and I don’t think he ever expected great things from the car. I’m sure this year though his expectations will be much higher.

    3. I think his ranking is justified and in fact would move him up a place or two.
      Because of the jaw injury, the set up of his car which wasn’t solved until France and dealing with a new team, and his 2 year hiatus should be taken into account here.
      Once he settled in, he drove remarkably well for and his defense of HAM at Hungary was an feat that few if any on the grid could have accomplished.
      And I think it can be assumed he would have surpassed Ocon by a larger margin points wise if not for those factors.
      Alonso is still fast enough, his starts are arguably the best and his race savvy are better than anyone else on the grid. He’s been steadily racing since he was 3 and still loves driving anything. I think he could still win a WDC with a competitive car.
      I agree with Prost, all around he is the best driver on the grid.

      1. Mmm, it’s a shame we can’t have a trial season with everyone on the same car, I’m sure alonso could compete with hamilton, but people like verstappen etc. are starting to have really a lot of years of advantage.

  7. His defensive driving on Hungary felt like I was watching racing in the 80s again. It was really a great feeling and refreshing to see that the battle is actually more important than overtake. Great racing example for the new generation of fans. Also, I expect he will be able to exploit his WEC knowledge on 18 inch tires in the beginning of new season. He is a formidable driver, and can read the races like no one.

    1. I completely agree, it was a highlight of the season. He really is a great all around driver who seems to have learned from his past missteps.

  8. As i said,i can’t agree with Alonso being that high for this year. I think he has a great reputation (rightfully so) but his lows are somewhat ignored. Don’t get me wrong, this year was a big unknown for Alonso and he returned in excellent condition,but i can’t agree with him being placed that high.

    For instance, his performance at Jeddah is forgotten, but it was one of his worst performance of his F1 career… He was nowhere the whole weekend, spun in the race and finished nowhere close the pack.

    1. Yes, true, I remember some lows, even though he did well overall, he shouldn’t have been this far ahead I think, and closer to ocon.

  9. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
    21st January 2022, 14:33

    I think Fernando was hoping to leave Alpine this season and I’m guessing his destination would have been Red Bull since Checo had such a disastrous season.

    There are just too many changes taking place at Alpine. I think the expectation was for the team to move forward this year but they’ve really taken a step backwards instead and it was a big stride. While they ended both seasons in P5 in the championship, the point haul was nearly half of Ferrari’s and McLaren’s in 2021 year whereas it was much closer in 2020. Granted, Ferrari was on the bench for 2020 courtest of Todt.

    I was glad to see him score a podium especially in a season where we had nearly a record number of drivers scoring a podium and Alonso was unlucky to not have one.

    I can’t help but feel that Renault is another McLaren/Honda situation for him. He wants to be in the top 2 teams or top 3 if he has no choice. A top 5-6 team is the same as driving for Haas for Fernando unless they are neck-and-neck with the other teams.

    1. @freelittlebirds Lol well for one thing RBR has not looked at Checo as having had a ‘disastrous season’ not in the least. And I highly doubt FA had illusions of going to RBR. I don’t think Alpine were at all expecting great things from their 2021 package and I think they have instead been putting the bulk of their time and resources into 2022 and beyond. I’m sure they hope and expect to have made a competitive car for 2022 and the rest will be up to the drivers in a series that should be more driver vs driver than it has been in a long time. I think that is a big reason why FA wanted to come back to F1. Not to lag behind in the previous gen of cars in 5th or 6th Constructors-wise in 2021, but to hopefully have something not only a little closer to the front for 2022, but to also ply his WDC level trade in cars not encumbered in dirty air. I think this year is what FA is stoked for and I think he should be very exciting to watch as long as the car is half decent of course, and with the new regs and the pu freeze I think Alpine stands a better chance of that this year than they ever were last year.

      1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
        21st January 2022, 16:36


        Lol well for one thing RBR has not looked at Checo as having had a ‘disastrous season’ not in the least.

        I suppose Checo could have scored 25% of Max’s points instead of less than 50%…

        1. @freelittlebirds But he didn’t, and they seem pleased with him, so wrt FA going there I doubt he ever thought that was in the cards, and I’d suggest FA signed up with Alpine expecting to be there for at least 2021 and 2022, but mainly with his hopes and expectations and excitement level pinned on 2022 and then take it from there.

          1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            21st January 2022, 18:09

            @robbie well, Red Bull had gotten rid of the previous 2 drivers who had scored the same number of points so keeping Checo wasn’t a foregone conclusion.

            How happy can a team really be with a driver who can only score half the points the car is capable of and could have won the team the WCC if he had just matched Bottas?

          2. @freelittlebirds From the sounds of it they signed SP for 2022 early in the season of 2021 so I think they understood that he was always going to be on his hind foot vs VB who was engrained at Mercedes, and obviously they see value in SP likely in terms of his personality and his work ethic etc that will bode well for him and the team as they move into this new car. I doubt FA was counting on RBR releasing SP after one season just because they released virtual rookies Gasly and Albon.

          3. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
            21st January 2022, 19:06

            @robbie I think it’s more along the lines that after trying 3 drivers, Red Bull realized there was little point to trying a fourth driver or fifth driver. In addition, Gasly’s success at Alpha Tauri has proven that the problem is the car, not the driver.

          4. @freelittlebirds I’m sure it’s more complicated than that and I’ll trust that RBR are trying to make the best decisions they possibly can, and have sound reasons within themselves for the decisions they make.

        2. @Michael-RB took Checo for 2022 because they can’t keep changing their drivers every year. That’s the main reason. Similar to Honda in MotoGP and why they kept Pol Espargaro.

          1. These are experienced drivers and both Honda and Red Bull realize they need to give their second drivers more time.

    2. @freelittlebirds

      I think the expectation was for the team to move forward this year but they’ve really taken a step backwards instead and it was a big stride.

      I disagree, I think given the fact they didn’t develop their engine and barely developed their car for 2021 would mean they would go backwards relative given McLaren’s new Mercedes engine and Ferrari’s big PU and chassis upgrade package. 2021 I can forgive them for, and this is no issue at all if they can deliver for 2022. But this is still the same group of engineers who haven’t been able to make a competent power unit despite a decade of development. This is still the same group of engineers who haven’t made a car that is even a consistent top 5 finisher since 2013. Lewis Hamilton was still a 1-time world champion back then.

      1. Alpine was one of the teams that actually improved in the final part of the season or finished strongly. It’s funny you say otherwise lol.🤣🤣

        1. Janith fair enough but I think they were always going to be learning more about their car and pu as the season went along, as with all the teams, so being stronger in the final part of the season makes sense, but I’m not convinced they put a lot of concerted effort into it this year, or at least I’m pretty sure they would have made sure to not harm their effort for 2022 with distracting energy put into the 2021 car.

          1. But on the other hand Aston Martin and McLaren really went downhill. Except for Norris’s P3 in qualifying at the last race. I hope this isn’t a trend for Aston Martin especially.

          2. Janith Personally I’d throw trends out the window for the time being and let’s see what this wholly new chapter brings. The cars are obviously going to feel entirely different for the drivers, so who knows. I think we can count on the power units trending towards converging due to the freeze, but otherwise the cars themselves and how the drivers are going to take to them is such an unknown, and so exciting to anticipate as a result.

        2. More likely track-specific. When you say Alpine had a good end to the season, it was pretty much only Qatar and Saudi Arabia, otherwise, they were about where you’d expect them to be. Last season they were podium contenders at far more races.

  10. So both Ferrari drivers in top 5. A little too generous I would say

    1. Sergey Martyn
      21st January 2022, 15:08

      Well deserved position for and yes, agree to Sumedh about both Ferrari drivers being that high.

    2. As a Ferrari fan I agree. Both drivers committed several mistakes throughout the year. And they had the car to win in Monaco…

      1. Monaco was a total disaster for Ferrari. Leclerc crashing and generating that red flag did not allow Sainz to get the pole position he was about to get (with faster sections until the red flag). Ferrari could have got P1 and P2 in Monaco had Leclerc done it right.

        1. True, they had a chance on that, but sainz was not the only one improving, verstappen and bottas were doing that too.

        2. To be honest sainz was not going to beat leclerc’s time . In last sector leclerc was crazy fast. Not sure about verstappen and bottas . It was half leclerc’s fault and half team for not diagnosing problem

  11. Alonso is must see TV.

    Can be argued how good he is, but certainly he is more entertainjng, charming and more spectacular on track, compared to Ocon.. Though Ocon did get a win, but even there Alonzo had some part in that.

    Just epic, for a fossilized age of 40? And he is this good.

    1. Michael (@freelittlebirds)
      21st January 2022, 18:34

      @jureo that’s a fair point – Alonso provides more entertainment value than Ocon. For instance, I’d rather watch 20 phenomenal goals than 40 tap-ins.

  12. Can you hear the drums Fernando.

  13. So far, so good with this ranking! I must say I expected a bit more from Fernando and he should have beaten Ocon more convincingly. But he has been so exciting to watch, no wonder he’s #1 on F1 2021 top onboards. Fair #6 !

  14. About 14 places too high but it’s RaceFans, where the facts don’t mean a thing and it’s all decided by the authors’ personal preferences.

    1. Racefans rankings can be argued a bit, I personally would’ve had him 8th or so, close to ocon, but raikkonen first and alonso last is way more an outlier than that and you know it.

    2. So Kimi should have ranked higher I suppose?

    3. @huhhii

      Lol. I’m sure you have reverse grid rankings in mind.. Where Kimi is at #1, followed by Mazepin.

  15. Very evenly matched with his teammate (who, let’s remember, is not considered a driver of the same calibre as Alonso)
    Both had their high highs and low lows during the season
    Then in the ranking he ends up #6 and Ocon #9
    How is this plausible ?

    1. Agree.

    2. Looks like it is more about the drivers’ personal efforts rather than their overall competitiveness. Kubica, had he still had a seat, he would have easily won this ranking.

  16. I’m a big Alonso fan and was impressed with his return on the whole. But he was not better than Gasly this year. Mid-season he also found himself battling with Russell on quite a few occasions, which I would say is to Russell’s credit.

    Looking forward to seeing what he can do next year. But he wasn’t the 6th best driver this year.

    1. I agree. Really can’t see any reason why he and Ocon shouldn’t have been bracketed together.
      He’s certainly a good driver but I don’t see him as the 7th best in the last season.

    2. There is a argument both Ocon and Alonso was better than Gasly this year.

      1. I’d say it can be argued Janith who should be ahead, but yeah, I would also have put Ocon and Alonso together, either just ahead, or just behind, Gasly probably @dbradock and @aussierod

    3. Agree. I’m a huge Alonso fan as well.. but an honest assessment of his performance this year would put him at #8, just behind Gasly and Russell. If the season started for Alonso in Baku, then maybe #6 is deserved, but you can’t not take his first 4 to 5 races in to consideration in to the rankings, just because he was making a comeback after 2 years out.

  17. He was good … but Ocon only 9th, & with a race win.
    Was Fernando really 30% better than Ocon is the question whoever did these rankings needs to be asking.

    1. Race win doesn’t elevate a driver imo, it’s circumstantial, alonso could’ve won that race with more luck on the first lap, however there shouldn’t be that much difference between the 2 in the rankings.

    2. And don’t forget though these rankings don’t have scores, we don’t know how much difference there is, 30% is exagerated, it could easily be an 8 to alonso and 7,5 to ocon example.

  18. Ocon won because of ALO’s defense which would have made a bigger point difference.
    Alonso was out of F1 for 2 years and had to adapt a new team and car.
    Next year will tell us more – he will be at 100%
    Many pundits doubted his comeback would be successful and had to eat crow
    I wouldn’t bet against him

  19. Where is sainz jr? Typical racefans.

    1. Suppose he will be coming next, if like I expect keith looks beyond the points situation at ferrari, think his chances to be any better than 4th are 0.

      1. Sainz>Norris😏
        Results speak for themselves.

        1. Oh, we’ll see about that, very soon!

        2. And sainz 5th, such a surprise, huh?

      2. Sainz stole Peartree’s girlfriend.

        1. Ahah; not an anti-sainz myself btw, just looking beyond the mere points.

  20. Yeah, this is what I thought would be the case. I think perhaps because of his struggling start, I put him down as 8th. I still don’t think I’d rate him higher than Gasly, or in the top 6, but it’s certainly close, in the same way I wouldn’t put Gasly outside of the top 6, but it’d close. Either way, the group of Russell, Alonso and Gasly was a somewhat difficult one to really rank, but I had it 8. Alonso 7. Russell 6. Gasly.

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