LEWIS HAMILTON: THE FASTEST MAN IN F1
While Lewis Hamilton is widely recognized
as Formula 1’s fastest driver, it’s Fernando
Alonso – his 2007 McLaren teammate –
who’s more often been cited as F1’s best
over the years. They’ve each said on several
occasions that they consider the other their
biggest rival, the driver they respect the
most. “I had to dig so deep with him as my
teammate it was insane,” recalls Hamilton.
Alonso’s distinctive strength isn’t really
his single-lap, out-and-out peak pace, so
much as a savage relentlessness. His speed
perhaps has a slightly lower peak than
Hamilton’s, but the spread of that peak is
amazingly wide. Yet, as with Hamilton, this
skill isn’t as readily rewarded in the Pirelli
era of F1 as it was in earlier years, when F1
was flat-out start-to-finish.
“That full-burn racing you had in the
A KING WITHOUT HIS CROWNS
Bridgestone era was what F1 was all about,”
recalls newly-crowned FIA World Endurance
Champion and nine-time F1 grand prix winner
Mark Webber. “Flat-out all the way; not just
flat-out around the pit stops and a few critical
laps like we have now. In that type of racing,
Alonso was just a monster. I don’t think he
was ever the outright fastest, and he’s
definitely past the peak of that now, but he
remains mind-blowingly good on a Sunday.”
Jenson Button had Hamilton as a
teammate for three years, and this season
he’s raced alongside Alonso.
“In many ways Fernando is an even
tougher challenge to race against than
Lewis,” he says. “In a race, it’s a bigger
challenge, a more consistent challenge,
I would say. He’s always there. On some
race days, Lewis was untouchable. And on
others, it was like, ‘where is he?’ Fernando
is always there, always competitive. If he’s
in front of you, you’re holding on, and if
he’s behind you, he’s pushing you a lot.”
The one weakness that might be aimed
at Alonso is his apparent tendency to divide
a team. It happened at both McLaren and
Ferrari. When he was replaced at the
Scuderia by Sebastian Vettel, those inside
the team said Vettel’s inclusive attitude and
work rate behind the scenes were in stark
contrast to Alonso’s. It’s a trait that’s left the
Spaniard with a difficult reputation. The two
most dominant teams of the last six years,
Red Bull and Mercedes, were wary of taking
him and – as he now admits – the only way
he can win another title to add to those he
garnered in 2005 and ’06 is if the
McLaren-Honda partnership comes good.
It’s more than feasible that the “best”
driver of his generation retires one day
with just those two titles to his name and a
set of career statistics dwarfed by both
Hamilton’s and Vettel’s.
“Best” is a subjective term, but most agree that Fernando Alonso’s F1 stats don’t match his abilities.
With the clock ticking, Fernando
Alonso knows his Formula 1 legacy
could be made or broken by the
performance of the McLaren-Honda
package. So far, it’s been frustrating.
When his McLaren-Honda stopped on track
during Brazilian GP qualifying, Alonso took
the chance for some impromptu sunbathing.
Alonso’s most recent F1 title came in 2006.
Since then, second with Ferrari in 2010, ’ 12
and ’ 13 have been his best title showings.
BACK IN THE DAY