Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Losail International Circuit, 2023

2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #2: Fernando Alonso

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For the last decade, almost everything Fernando Alonso has done in motorsport has been fuelled by an absolute belief that is one of the elite – if not the most elite – drivers on the planet today.

For his 20th season in Formula 1, with 355 grands prix under his belt, Alonso made the jump from Alpine to Aston Martin. For a driver who has doggedly pursued a third world championship that so far remains excruciatingly out of his grasp for, Alonso’s move into British Racing Green felt like a last roll of the dice in his quest to finally return to the front of the field.

It turned out to be the best move Alonso has made in over a decade. Not only did F1’s most experienced driver enjoy his most successful season since 2013, he proved he is still more than capable of competing at the very front of the field.

Alonso’s arrival already made Aston Martin one of the most intriguing teams heading into the new season, but their impressive testing pace only inflated the hype higher. At the opening round in Bahrain, Alonso was quickest of all in the final two practice sessions before qualifying fifth on the grid. Despite being tagged by team mate Lance Stroll on the opening lap, Alonso overtook both Lewis Hamilton and Carlos Sainz Jnr to move up into third place where he would finish, taking a memorable podium finish on his first outing as an Aston Martin driver.

Fernando Alonso, Aston Martin, Bahrain, 2023
A stunning start to the season included a string of podiums
The next round in Saudi Arabia confirmed Aston Martin as the second fastest team behind Red Bull. After qualifying third, Alonso was promoted onto the front row of the grid thanks to Charles Leclerc’s penalty. He sent the Aston Martin garage into rapture when he beat Sergio Perez off the line to take the lead but only stayed there a handful of laps before he inevitably lost the position. Despite a time penalty for an incorrect starting position, Alonso managed to hold off George Russell to secure his second straight podium – the 100th of his career.

Although Aston Martin were not as strong in Melbourne as the opening two rounds relative to their rivals, Alonso found himself on the podium once more. This required a bit of luck, however, as after spending the vast majority of the race behind Hamilton unable to get by the Mercedes, Alonso was hit and spun around by Carlos Sainz Jnr at the final restart, but allowed to reclaim his original restart position of third for the finish thanks to the third red flag.

Baku was the first time Alonso failed to reach the top three all season, but only just. He pulled off a brilliant move on Sainz following the Safety Car period to pay him back for the clash at Albert Park, then was just eight tenths from Leclerc and third place at the chequered flag. But he was back on the podium in Miami, putting in a flawless performance over the whole weekend to finish third behind the two Red Bulls for his fourth podium over the opening five rounds.

In Monaco, Alonso came agonisingly close to a potential victory. He missed out on pole by just 0.084s after Verstappen broke Aston Martin hearts with a stunning final sector at the end of Q3. Alonso might have been in a good position when the rain fell but a call to pit for mediums allowed Verstappen to switch to intermediates without losing any time, denying Alonso a genuine but admittedly slim chance of a win.

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Everything looked set up for a memorable home grand prix in Spain, but Aston Martin were never as strong in Barcelona as they had been in the earlier rounds. A rare error by Alonso in qualifying damaged his floor, meaning eighth on the grid was as good as he could manage. He finished behind Stroll in the race for the first time all season, with seventh place his worst result up to that point.

Fernando Alonso, Max Verstappen, Red Bull, Monaco, 2023
Alonso pushed Verstappen hard in Monaco
Although that could have been a sign that Aston Martin’s days at the front were numbered, Alonso returned to the front at the next round in Canada. In a wet qualifying session, he took third on the grid but was promoted to second thanks to Nico Hulkenberg’s penalty. Although he was overtaken by Hamilton at the start, he chased down and passed the Mercedes driver to take back second place and managed to keep within reach of Verstappen ahead despite being asked to do substantial fuel saving over the closing laps. He held on to take second place and his sixth podium from the opening eight rounds.

Returning to Europe, Alonso sat third in the drivers’ championship. However, Aston Martin suddenly found themselves under intense pressure from their rivals with McLaren jumping into the fray with their heavily revised car. Although the rise of McLaren meant Alonso fell out of the fight for podiums, he continued to deliver solid performances. He was routinely ahead of Stroll and only fell out of the top eight for the first time in Hungary – something he considered as a fair reflection of his team’s pace at the twisty Hungaroring.

Alonso’s first major error of the year came in the sprint race in Spa. Pushing to try and move up the order, he lost control of his car in the wet at the fast downhill sweeper at Pouhon, spinning into the gravel and out of the race. He made up for that error in large part in the grand prix, moving up from ninth on the grid to finish fifth for another decent points haul to head into the summer break.

Fernando Alonso

GP start2 (x4)19
GP finish2 (x3)15

There was more rain in Zandvoort when the season resumed in late August, but Alonso kept his head in typical fashion in the difficult conditions in the race to move up to second when Perez went off track in the wet and finish there with the bonus point for fastest lap to boot. But Singapore was the first time he finished outside of the points all season thanks to an uncharacteristic messy weekend including his first notable mistake during a grand prix all season.

A strong start in Suzuka allowed Alonso to gain four places from tenth and run in the top six in the early laps. While he eventually fell to eighth, that was again likely the maximum result that Aston Martin could have hoped for given that their car was now clearly no longer among the top four in the field. He had to contend with a burning seat in the awfully hot conditions in Qatar but despite sliding off the circuit at one point following a mistake he managed to finish inside the top six.

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Remarkably, the United States Grand Prix was the first time all season that Alonso failed to progress into Q3. Despite starting from the pit lane, Alonso rose as high as ninth until he was forced to retire with floor damage – the first time he failed to reach the chequered flag. He didn’t see the finish in Mexico either as debris from Perez’s turn one accident damaged his car and resulted in Aston Martin calling him in early for the second straight Sunday.

Fernando Alonso, Sergio Perez, Interlagos, 2023
After a thrilling scrap, Alonso beat Perez to the flag in Brazil
Aston Martin’s slump in performance seemed to have placed a ceiling over how high up the order Alonso could challenge for, but he still had only final outstanding drive in him before the season reached its end. In Brazil, he started from fourth on the grid but at the restart, he pulled off a brilliant overtake on Hamilton into Descida do Lago to move up into third before spending 15 laps with Perez pressuring him within DRS range in the later stages. Eventually the Red Bull got by and the podium seemed lost, but Alonso’s dogged determination kicked in and he fought his way back on the final lap and held Perez off to pip him to the finish line by half a tenth and take his eighth and final podium of the season.

Las Vegas was not Alonso’s best performance of the year as he fell victim to the very slippery track at the start and spun, dropping to the tail end of the field. Despite the setback at the start, he still managed to recover into the points in ninth. He capped off a memorable season with a solid weekend in Abu Dhabi, qualifying and finishing in seventh place and, in doing so, securing a strong fourth in the championship – equal on points with Leclerc but ahead by virtue of scoring more third place finishes.

Although the second half of the season had not been as fruitful as the first, seeing Aston Martin sink down to fifth in the championship by its end, Alonso’s first year as an Aston Martin driver was ultimately much more successful than he could ever have imagined. His most successful season since 2013, Alonso had been on the podium more than any other non-Red Bull driver, had obliterated the much younger Stroll across the season in his first year at the team and had shown that he was more than capable of fighting for grand prix wins and, with it, a championship – even at his senior age.

In a year which was all about Max Verstappen from the first lap of the first race of the season, Alonso may not have been his closest rival over the course of the season but he was the most outstanding.

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Will Wood
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27 comments on “2023 Formula 1 driver rankings #2: Fernando Alonso”

    1. lol@your personal hate for FA.

  1. Agree with Max for #1 of course but the drive of the year was FA’s at Interlagos

  2. At least I got #1 right.

  3. Agree. He had to do a lot more wheel to wheel racing than max and it’s not that hard to believe Max could have done much if not any better in ALO’s car.

  4. Deserved. Agree with the top 5 except for Norris being 3rd.

  5. Agreed, and Max was of course more consistent but the drive of the seasosn was Alonso’s at Interlagos.

  6. Deserved ! I’m still amazed by that Brazil masterclass amongst other brilliant racecraft, what an old fox.

    1. Absolutely. Of course Max was more consistent and deserves #1 but Brazil by FA was the drive of the year. While few if any of Max’s drives will be remembered. Too little of a challenge for him

  7. Deserved. On the first half of the season, Alonso was the driver that show some “drive” to compete.

  8. I know they all have contracts for next year but I would love to see Alonso in the RB next to Max. It would give us a guaranteed fight for the Championship. But it probably will be a boring next season again if the RB is still dominant. At least I enjoyed to see Alonso fight for the podiums this year.

    1. I know they all have contracts for next year but I would love to see Alonso in the RB next to Max.

      I second that.
      Also I’d love to see Hamilton in a Ferrari (against Leclerc on Saturdays and Sainz during the race). Or Norris in the seat next to Hamilton.

      1. All of these scenarios make it difficult for Hamilton. :D
        Although he claims to have difficult team mates, but the ones you named are better.

  9. Fernando is one of the main reasons (if not the main reason) that I am already interested in following F1 next season.

    I personally feel that even if Aston do not improve the car much, Fernando will still be more entertaining, and work harder, than half of the rest of the grid combined.

    If they can give him the tools then this is the worker to do the job in my opinion.

    1. @nullapax Alonso and Hamilton are probably the most entertaining to watch. If Red Bull continue to race in a different category, it’d be nice to see the 2 of them scrap it out for P2 throughout the entire season. I think that would be my F1 wish for next year.

      1. I am keen to watch Lewis as well.
        He is like the old timer in the pub that everyone warns you to keep an eye on.

        Anyone who thinks he is past it is making a bad mistake ;)

    2. I can’t imagine F1 without Fernando and Lewis, but especially Fernando. He’s the only driver left from when I started watching F1 around 2001. With F1 so sanitized these days, I’m afraid it’ll become unbearably dull and unrecognizable once they leave.

  10. Hopefully this ranking puts a big smile on Alonso’s face! He’s been a bit grumpy with good reason the latter part of the season.

  11. Excellent season from Fernando, great to see him battling so hard and back at the sharp end again.

    Fingers crossed Aston Martin can provide him with the car to fight for that 3rd title.

  12. A good year for the “villains” of F1. Obviously Max was to be rated highest, but I’m happy with Alonso’s ranking. Once Verstappen took charge of the championship and the inevitable began to unfold, Alonso helped provide a point of interest for the first half of the season. Not overly optimistic about how competitive Aston Martin will be in 2024, but it would be a shame not to see Alonso in the mix next year.

  13. I would have had Norris second and Alonso fourth. He did make a few mistakes as I now faintly remember, just. Crossing pit entries and such like…

    1. You would seriously put Norris over Alonso. I mean he had some bright moments but you could clearly see the pressure oscar is making on him a therefore comes the mistakes. I would like to remind you that Alonso didn’t have car capable of being on pole position, I would say mclaren had moments where the car could win.

    2. That mistake you are describing was in Singapore. Alonso had a poor weekend there. Overall, Alonso did make quite a few mistakes e.g. bowling in Las Vegas, spinning in numerous other races, damaging his car with errors in Spain qualifying etc And he had sections of the season where is was simply anonymous. IMO, not a vintage Alonso performance.
      I think a solid case can be made for either Norris, Hamilton, Leclerc or Alonso to be rated 2nd best of 2023. There really wasn’t much to separate them. And that seems to play out when looking at various other ratings. For instance, Norris is rated number 2 by Autosport, Hamilton is rated number 2 in the Official F1 Power Rankings, Leclerc is rated number 2 by Eurosport, Norris is rated number 2 by The Athletic etc etc. It’s fine margins between these four drivers. It’s not outlandish to rate any of them as number 2.

      1. lol@quite a few mistakes. Lando easily had more. He also out performed his car more than any other driver. He didn’t make a mistake in Singapore. He didn’t like how the car felt and it ruined his race when they boxed to check for damage. In Vegas multiple people did the same exact thing as him at the first corner. He just didn’t have the room to unwind the steering wheel like Max did. Otherwise Max spins too.

        Guy scored in more races than any other driver besides Max, went further than any other driver before missing Q3 and when he did it was due to an experimental upgrade, he had more Q3s than Stroll and Perez combined, more podiums than Sergio and so on. There’s no one who even deserves consideration for #2 over him.

        Seems like mainly salty Lando fans disagreeing with a smattering of LH fans, many of whom, seem to feel obligated to hate FA.

    3. I am guessing that you’re not Spanish.

  14. Fernando deserves this no question. Zandvoort he made the season’s overtake (Albon and Russel) in the less banked part of turn 3, then cleared Lando like he wasn’t there. All in the same weather conditions (first lap, full tank, rain, no grip). In Canada he needed to go qualy pace for the full distance in order to keep tire temp and he did it flawlesly. He delivered the moment of the season (together with Checo) in Brasil by fending off a quicker RB. And finally he should’ve won Monaco if not for the messy strategy. And those weren’t the only highlights. My point is that when harsh conditions stroke, he maximised and showed he’s second to none in the skill department. Max is a no brainer and also Lando in 3rd.

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