News and views on motorsports

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Fernando Alonso: Future World Champion

Three years ago this chap made his debut in Formula 1 with the Minardi team. From his first race onwards this lad whipped every team mate he had, including the hapless Alex Yoong. And not only that, he also managed to man handle the ill handling and underpowered Minardi and challenge the faster Arrows Cosworth cars. Seeing such spectacles I knew then that this guy had all the makings of a future race winner and definitely a future world champion. He was just 19 years old at the time.

And yes, at this weekend's Hungarian grand prix my faith in this guy has paid off. Three years ago, perhaps only Flavio Briatore and the Renault team recognised his speed. Certainly he was overshadowed by the over publicised Jenson Button and also by that other rising star Kimi Raikkonen. Had this guy debuted in another car but the Minardi I am pretty sure that his talent would have long been recognised since then. Even perhaps to the extent that like Raikkonen he would have been given a full time drive in a top team in 2002.

Alas, Frank Williams decided to loan his protege Button to the Renault team (then known as the Benetton team). And I supposed after his magnificent year 2000 season was probably justified. A little more experience was needed and was provided by Jarno Trulli.

When Briatore decided to ditch Button at the end of last year, there was shock and horror amongst the racing press especially the British press, known for their blind biasness when it comes to their local heros. But I wondered what was the fuss all about. Didn't anybody remember year 2001 and just what Alonso managed to accomplish in the dismal Minardi?

I guess people have short memories. But they'll surely remember Alonso now. Such a serene effort from the young man. Smooth as they come. Plus, he managed to lap a 5 time world champion in what still can be seen as the best car in the paddock bar it's Bridgestone tires. One hopes this is the first of a long line of victories and ultimately world championships. At 22 he has perhaps 13-15 years of Formula 1 in his future. Plenty of opportunities for world titles. Who knows if he is as lucky as Michael Schumacher he might he just go after his records.

Logically speaking that perhaps is asking too much. Like I said, luck had a lot to do with Schumacher's successes. And also I doubt if Alonso has the same level of technical awarness and force of personality to bring a team together the way Schumacher has done at Ferrari and to some extent during his stint at Benetton. To reach Schumacher's level you need that AND the speed.

Still I am sure with Briatore looking after him (as he did Schumacher back in the day) Alonso will enjoy a ton of success. Hopefully Renault will provide him with a car that will be able to do this. However, with a major engine configuration change next year it's going to be very tricky.

Three years ago I said Raikkonen, Montoya, Button and Alonso would be the future world champions. I am glad that at least 3 of them have worked out. The future is looking bright for Formula 1. Perhaps the classic battles of the 80s when Piquet, Prost, Senna and Mansell were all batlling it out will return soon.

Enough of Schumacher and definitely enough of Ferrari thank you very much. And once again, congratulations to Fernando Alonso.

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