F1 Season Preview: The Contenders

2017 saw the long-awaited dogfight between Hamilton and Vettel but it petered out towards the end, missing that tense showdown that everyone wanted. 2018 promises to be even better. Hamilton and Vettel will be going at it again but they could be joined by Alonso, Verstappen, Ricciardo and maybe even Bottas—some of the best drivers on the grid going all out for glory, what’s not to love?

Here we’ll take a look at the potential contenders and their hopes for 2018.

Lewis Hamilton

Wolfgang Wilhelm/Mercedes AMG F1

The reigning champion has lofty ambitions for 2018 with the Brit claiming that he’ll be “stronger than ever” and “unbeatable”. It’ll be hard for him to live up to the latter but nevertheless, he is an exceptional driver in what is still the car the beat.

A fifth world title could be looming for Hamilton which would put him ahead of Vettel, equal with Juan Manuel Fangio and behind only the great Michael Schumacher. But he won’t, by any means, have it all his own way—Mercedes dominance has been dwindling and with the Renault power units almost level with Mercedes and Ferrari, there are more drivers than ever to race him to the title.

Sebastian Vettel

Foto Studio Colombo/Ferrari Media

2017 was, undoubtedly, a disappointment for both Vettel and Ferrari, to be leading the title for the whole first half of the season and then not win it was a huge blow for them. As such, Vettel is looking for redemption in the shape for his fifth world title—he wants to beat Hamilton to five, show that he can win titles outside Red Bull and take Ferrari back to the top.

It won’t be easy. He needs to prevent the ‘red mist’ from descending on him like it did in Baku and Singapore. But more than that, he needs Ferrari to up their game and be there for all the races, without any of the petty failures that cost him so dear in 2017. The determination on Vettel’s side will be stronger than ever, that fifth title is his sole objective for 2018.

Fernando Alonso

Steven Tee/McLaren

After three miserable years with McLaren-Honda, 2018 could be the year that Alonso is a championship contender once more. The two-time champion has been left disappointed with woeful reliability and an almost comical lack of power but now, McLaren-Honda is no more with the team instead being powered by Renault.

Over the years, the Spaniard has become renowned for being at wrong team at the wrong time but in 2018, he might actually be in a good place—a third world title for Alonso is no longer a laughable prospect.

Max Verstappen

Marcel van Hoorn/Red Bull Content Pool

Verstappen is one of the brightest young talents on the grid, showing his class in every race that he didn’t break down in during 2017—and even in the ones that he did. If Red Bull can start the season strong and Renault can provide a reliable power unit, few would doubt Verstappen’s ability to take a title over the likes of Hamilton, Vettel and Alonso.

The Dutchman is not one to be underestimated for 2018 and he could just give the old guard a run for their money.

Daniel Ricciardo

GEPA Pictures/Red Bull Content Pool

After spending the majority of both 2016 and 2017 in Verstappen’s shadow, Ricciardo will be desperate to show his worth and put up a proper title challenge. Few doubt Ricciardo’s talent but most think that he’ll be eclipsed by Verstappen in a straight, season-long fight.

One of the worst kept secrets of the paddock is that Ricciardo is looking around for 2019. If Red Bull don’t provide him a championship winning car for 2018, he’ll likely jump ship to either Mercedes or Ferrari so this really is Red Bull’s last chance to keep Ricciardo.

Valtteri Bottas

Steve Etherington/Mercedes AMG F1

This season is crucial for Bottas. If he doesn’t deliver he’ll be out of a Mercedes drive. Being in the Mercedes, arguably the best car on the grid, means a sustained title challenge is expected of Bottas—whether he has the ability to deliver that or not remains to be seen.

In 2017, Bottas seemed to do best at low-grip tracks like Austria but that won’t be good enough with the added competition in 2018. He needs to deliver at all tracks to convince the F1 paddock of his worth. He can’t be counted out for a title challenge but he’s not one to put money on.

 

This is how the drivers stand according to SkyBet:

Lewis Hamilton – 6/5

Sebastian Vettel – 10/3

Max Verstappen – 4/1

Daniel Ricciardo – 15/2

Fernando Alonso – 11/1

Valtteri Bottas – 14/1

Kimi Raikkonen – 33/1

Carlos Sainz – 50/1

Nico Hulkenberg – 50/1

Stoffel Vandoorne – 80/1

Esteban Ocon – 150/1

Sergio Perez – 200/1

Lance Stroll – 250/1

Romain Grosjean – 250/1

Kevin Magnussen – 400/1

Brendon Hartley – 500/1

Pierre Gasly – 500/1

‘David against Goliath’ the battle between Vettel and Alonso

Two of the best drivers on the grid battled several times, each other for the title of the world champion. Fernando Alonso is a two time world champion currently racing for McLaren-Honda, before that he was a test driver for Benetton, joined Minardi in 2001, Renault was his next station from 2003 to 2006, then signed a contract with McLaren where he raced for only one season and returned back to Return in 2008. Fernando’s next step was Ferrari, from 2010 to 2014. In 2015, he returned to McLaren and he is racing there since now.

The Spaniard, while he was racing for Renault, finished first on the drivers’ championship for two consecutive years. Nando, won his first title in 2005 and the following season celebrated his second and final title.

Sebastian Vettel

Vettel born in Heppenheim on July 3rd, 1987, at his early steps as a Formula One driver, Sebastian joined BMW Sauber as a test driver and made his official debut at the United States Grand Prix in 2007, then he signed a contract with Toro Rosso and remained there until 2008. The next stop in his career was Red Bull Racing, during his period with the Bulls he celebrated four championships (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013). In 2015, the German fulfilled his childhood dream, signed a contract with Scuderia Ferrari and he is still racing for Ferrari alongside Kimi Raikkonen.

David vs Goliath

Credit: Getty Images / Red Bull Content Pool

Fernando Alonso and Sebastian Vettel fought each other for the championship while they were racing for Ferrari and Red Bull respectively. Two times Fernando was very close to beat Vettel and win the championship with Ferrari, the first was in 2010 and the second was two years later in 2012. The Spaniard wished to become David and finish ahead of his opponent, but unfortunately Goliath was stronger, and Red Bull was unbeatable those years.

In 2010, Sebastian Vettel finished first in the drivers’ championship, the difference to his rival Alonso, was just four points. The German scored 256 points, whilst the Spaniard collected 252 points. In 19 races Vettel and Alonso were fighting wheel to wheel for the world title, during those races Sebastian retired three times and finished out of the points only in Belgian Grand Prix. Furthermore, Vettel won five races same number of victories with his opponent Fernando Alonso.

From the other hand, Fernando Alonso retired in Belgium, didn’t finish the Malaysian Grand Prix and finished out of the top ten at Silverstone. In the last six races of the 2010 season, Nando won three Grands Prix and finished twice third. Fernando played his final card for the championship in the last race of the season in Abu Dhabi.

Vitaly Petrov the Russian title decider

A thrilling race took place in Yas Marina, before the race, Fernando Alonso was leading the drivers’ championship with 246 points, followed by Mark Webber and Sebastian Vettel which collected 236 and 231 points respectively. Lewis Hamilton had also mathematical chances to win the title as he had 222 points and he was 24 points behind Fernando Alonso. The Spaniard, had to secure the first two places in order to win the title without having to consider the other results.

On Saturday’s qualifying, Sebastian Vettel secured the pole-position, Lewis Hamilton was the second quickest driver on the grid and Fernando Alonso took the third position followed by Jenson Button and Mark Webber. At the first lap of the race, Sebastian Vettel was leading the race, followed by Hamilton and Jenson Button. Alonso had a slow start which cost him the third place and dropped him down to fourth. After the first pit-stops, Alonso re-joined behind Petrov. Fernando was on hard tyres and Petrov had already done his pit-stop, Alonso couldn’t overtake Vitaly. Even when the Spaniard tried to attack the Russian, Petrov was always in position to defend his position.

Sebastian Vettel led the race all the way, Lewis Hamilton finished second, Jenson Button third, and Fernando Alonso, after 40 laps of battling with Petrov, finished seventh. That result was enough for Sebastian Vettel to secure his first world title in his Formula One career.

Two years later…

Credit: Pirelli

In 2012, the two drivers crossed their swords once again. Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso fought closely, but at the end the Germans always win. Vettel scored 281 points in 20 races, whilst Alonso scored 278 points. The German, finished five times on the top step of the podium, retired in the European Grand Prix and finished out of the points in two races, the first was in Malaysia and the second in Italy.

Fernando Alonso, won three races during the season and finished ten times on the podium. The Spaniard, retired in Belgium and in Japan, but despite those two retirements he finished in the top-10 in the rest races.

In Italy, Sebastian Vettel retired on lap 47 due to failed alternator, after that race the German won four consecutive races, finished third in Abu Dhabi, second in the USA and sixth in the final race of the season in Brazil. In Brazil, Sebastian Vettel needed to defend his 13 point lead in order to secure his third championship. The fourth position, would be enough for Sebastian to give him the title, even if Alonso won the race.

Fernando Alonso, qualified eighth whilst Sebastian Vettel set the fourth quickest lap on the grid and placed behind Hamilton, Button and Webber. The rain altered everything during the race, the teams were confused about which strategy would be correct for their drivers. On lap 23, the safety car deployed, Sebastian Vettel and Fernando Alonso were fifth and fourth respectively. The damage on Vettel’s car didn’t allow him to set a quick dry laps, few laps later the rain forced all the drivers to pit for intermediates.

At the end of the race, Fernando Alonso finished second and Sebastian Vettel sixth, still Vettel collected enough points in order to celebrate his third world title.

Hopefully, one day we will see these top two drivers to fight, once again, each other for the title.

Alonso to Williams: wishful thinking or winning combination?

When Formula One returned to action at the end of the summer break, it looked as though Ferrari’s decision to retain Kimi Räikkönen had brought silly season to an early close.

But during preparation for the Belgian Grand Prix, the driver market was given a second wind when rumours emerged that Williams had offered Fernando Alonso a seat for 2018.

Steven Tee/McLaren

At first glance, it seems like a sensational story—the final, erratic death throes of what’s been a rather damp silly season. The two parties just don’t seem in the slightest bit compatible. Alonso is hunting for his third world title; Williams is currently fighting to hold off Haas and Toro Rosso to fifth in the Constructors’.

Then there is the monetary aspect: while Williams is believed to have only the sixth largest budget of the ten teams, Alonso’s services come with a price tag in the tens of millions.

But on the other hand, there remain several details in the background of this story that suggest an Alonso-Williams tie-up would be a serious consideration for all involved.

Steven Tee/McLaren

For one thing, this is not your average silly season rumour, sparked out of nowhere and fanned into a frenzy overnight—it was first reported in the highly-respected German publication Auto Motor und Sport.

It also goes without saying that (financial questions notwithstanding) Williams would love to have Alonso driving next year’s FW41. In terms of base performance he would represent a marked upgrade on Felipe Massa, and as teammate to the maturing Lance Stroll, Alonso’s experience and ability would prove the ultimate benchmark—as Stoffel Vandoorne can no doubt attest.

Nor is that the only benefit to the team of signing a driver of Alonso’s calibre. When quizzed on the rumours by SkySports in Belgium, Williams’ technical director Paddy Lowe said: “You need great drivers and great cars to win races. With a greater driver in the team, everybody is motivated to work that bit harder for performance because they know it’s going to be exploited and deliver great results.”

Alonso is not a questionable rookie like Pastor Maldonado or Bruno Senna, nor is he a former winner seeing out his twilight years like Massa or Rubens Barrichello—he is a proven champion with both the ability and the drive to win again, whose presence at Williams would lend total credence to their ultimate goal of becoming title contenders once again.

Zak Mauger/LAT Images/Pirelli Media

But would Alonso even entertain an offer from Williams? If a credible shot at the 2018 title is not something Williams can provide him, what makes them any more attractive an option than joining Renault instead, or even remaining at McLaren?

At the very least, Alonso might be tempted into switching to Williams by nothing more than a desire to enjoy racing again. After three years of disappointment at McLaren-Honda, the prospect of driving a package with no horsepower deficit or reliability concerns to hold him back may prove all the enticement Alonso needs to make the move.

There’s also next year’s driver market to consider. With no championship seats available to him now, Alonso’s next best hope is that the final year on Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes contract results in a vacancy at the Silver Arrows for 2019.

And if Alonso is planning on just “seeing out” the 2018 season until a better drive becomes available, he will find more freedom to do so at Williams than with McLaren or Renault—either by insisting on certain performance clauses in case the need for an early exit arises, or by negotiating to take a fraction of his usual superstar salary in return for an open one-year deal.

Steven Tee/McLaren

There is also the chance, however slim it might seem at present, that Williams will in fact be the team to join in 2018.

As well as commenting coyly on the merits of signing a “great driver”, Paddy Lowe also told Motorsport following the Belgian Grand Prix weekend that he was overseeing “substantial changes” to Williams’ design philosophy in the process of constructing next year’s FW41.

His words came at the same time as Felipe Massa criticised the team for falling behind in the 2017 development race—the assumption is that Williams is already calling a halt on this year’s programme to allow Lowe a headstart on designing a much more competitive 2018 challenger.

If that is the case, it would mark the next major step in Williams’ painstaking long-term plan to return to its former status as one of F1’s top teams. The first phase came in 2014, with the acquisition of Felipe Massa and a Mercedes engine supply, and a substantial increase in budget supported by new title sponsors Martini.

The result was the rapid FW36, which between Massa and Valtteri Bottas took more than four times the podiums than its predecessor did points finishes (not to mention pole position at the Austrian Grand Prix) and lifted Williams up from ninth to third in the Constructors’ standings.

Andrew Hone/Pirelli Media

Since then, Williams has enjoyed consistent running within the championship top five—its best string of Constructors’ results since its partnership with BMW in the early 2000s—and has created the perfect foundation from which to take its next great leap forward.

In Paddy Lowe, Williams has the talent capable of designing a race-winning FW41; in Martini, Lawrence Stroll and their past seasons’ results, they now have the money needed to make that design a reality.

None of that will be lost on Alonso, who has been on the grid long enough to know the signs of a team making genuine progress.

All that remains in doubt is whether Williams’ promises can sway him more than McLaren-Honda’s.

Why Fernando Alonso could end up in Indycar in 2018

Fernando Alonso in IndyCar for 2018?  What was impossible to think a few weeks ago, is getting pretty serious after the Belgian GP.  Now it seems to be, that a year out in the indycar series could be the last chance for the two time world champion to get a competitive car in F1.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. .
Sunday 30 July 2017.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _R3I4275

Currently these are not just serious weeks for McLaren (article is incoming in the next two days) – but also their star driver is facing a tough few weeks of decisions, probably on the destiny of his career.

After a solid performance for McLaren-Honda in the Hungarian GP back at the end of July, everyone was sure that a extension of the McLaren-contract was only few weeks away.  But now, after the Belgian GP everything looks different.

After more engine problems in Saturday’s Qualifying, everyone thought about points when the Spaniard was running P7 after a tremendously strong start. But again, a few laps into the race the Honda Powerunit showed the poor performance on the long straight.

Alonso got passed car by car on every lap and his radio messages were angrier then ever before. In the end he pulled the car into the garage, after he told the team that he had some engine problems.

The media reported after the race, that he pulled the car into the garage on purpose. Honda said on Monday, that they didn’t find any problems on the power unit. The suspicion gets stronger when you listen to the team radio, before he reported the engine problems – In that team radio Alonso asked engineer Mark Temple if there was any rain coming. After receiving a negation of his question, the Spaniard told the box “engine problem, engine problem”.

Options for Alonso look slim, after Ferrari extended the contracts of both drivers into 2018 for Räikkonen and until 2020 for Vettel, and the extension of Bottas’ Mercedes contract looks as good as safe. Renault’s team boss Cyris Abiteboul indicates that the french team, isn’t currently the right location for the two time world champion. “There is one thing, i don’t want: A frustrating Fernando in a Renault.”

Next to stay with McLaren, who are probably getting forced to hold the Honda engine in 2018, the spanish driver doesn’t have many options. “My market value was never higher”, he told the media after the race on sunday. “I will win next year, no matter where i am”, he told the media before the summer break.”

But what does he mean with that?

Sabbaticalyear from F1 – Going to Indycar?

If we piece the puzzle together, there is one realistic option that is available for Alonso. And this is the Indycar series. Why? Here are some points:

 

Winning car with Andretti

If Alonso will go to the indycar series, he will get the spare place on the Andretti team for sure – the team that he competed alongside McLaren in the indy500 with in May. Andretti is one of the best teams in the series and with Takuma  Sato they have also the current Indy500 winner in the team. Honda also resolved the engine problems that stopped Alonso at this maiden race a few laps before the end – and differently to F1, they have the best engine.

 

Popularity in the USA

In the whole month of May, starting with his first test with the indycar, Alonso was getting more popular on every event. Hundreds of autographs and fans stood there cheering for the McLaren-Honda-Andretti team from the grandstands. The Spaniard admitted a few days after the race, that he enjoyed the warm welcome to the world of the Indycar series, because he got respect from every side, from the other teams, drivers, fans and media. “Thats different in F1” he said.

New try at the Indy500

With a full season of Indycar, Alonso could attend the Indy500 directly, and with a high chance again with McLaren. He could give the whole story another go – Something he could only try in some years again, if he stays in F1, because the Monaco GP will again collide with the Indy500 in 2018.

Most competitive driver

The Indy500 showed that Alonso is not only able to impress with an F1 car. The Spaniard in his current form in F1, could possibly let his driving skills shine, in a series where the drivers are most of the time more important than the cars.

The best option for McLaren

For McLaren this scenario would be also a good one providing that they are forced to stick with Honda in 2018. It would be much easier to look at 2018 and give Honda a last chance of building a stronger engine package, without the pressure of staying with Alonso.  A driver replacement for one year could be Jenson Button, for example. Alonso stays with Andretti in the Honda family and could stay in touch with the woking based team.

F1-Comeback in 2019

The most important point is, that Alonso also has the opportunity to come back into F1, probably stronger than he is now. In 2018 he could also wait and see if Honda (if they will stay with McLaren) get their problems solved – if now, he could use other options. The contract from Lewis Hamilton expires at the end of 2018 and also Renaults goal is, to be fighting for victories and the championship in 2019. The two time world champion could see the whole evolution of the driver market from a relaxed point of view from the USA and decide than what he wants, without risking another year of driving in the midfield.

It will be another cracking decision at McLaren in the weeks to come. We will have to wait and see!

 

 

 

 

Warum Fernando Alonso 2018 in der Indycar Serie fahren könnte.

Fernando Alonso 2018 in der Indycar-Serie? Vor wenigen Wochen hielten wir das noch für verrückt. Nun könnte gerade das die letzte Möglichkeit für Alonso sein, in der F1 wieder an siegfähiges Material zu kommen.

Hungaroring, Budapest, Hungary. .
Sunday 30 July 2017.
Fernando Alonso, McLaren.
Photo: Steven Tee/McLaren
ref: Digital Image _R3I4275

Das Schicksal des zweimaligen Weltmeisters Fernando Alonso ist ungewiss.  Glaubten viele nach dem Ungarn GP, dass der Verbleib vom Spanier bei McLaren nur noch Formsache sei, schwenkte das Pendel nach dem Belgien Wochenende in die andere Richtung und die Frustration des 36-jährigen Altmeisters erreichte ein neuen Höhepunkt,  als er nach einem grandiosen Start reihenweise beim Rennen in den Ardennen überholt wurde.

Nachdem Ferrari beide Fahrer für 2018 bestätigte und die Vertragsverlängerung von Valterri Bottas nur noch Formsache ist, blitzt Alonso nun auch nach den neuesten Aussagen von Teamchef Cyril Abiteboul bei Renault ab. “Es gibt eine Sache, die ich nicht möchte: Einen frustrierten Fernando in einem Renault zu haben”.

Neben einem Verbleib bei McLaren, denen voraussichtlich 2018 nichts anderes übrig bleibt, als mit Motorenpartner Honda weiter zu machen, gehen Alonso gute Optionen in der F1 aus. “Ich hatte noch nie einen so hohen Marktwert”, zeigte sich der Spanier in Belgien entspannt. Die Außenstehenden fragen sich: Was meint er damit?

Sabbatical-Jahr in der Indycar Serie?

Alonso betonte immer wieder, dass er 2018 gewinnen würde, egal was passiert. Fügt man alle Puzzleteile zusammen, ist das realistische Bild neben einem McLaren Verbleib ein Jahr Auszeit in der Indycar Serie. Warum?

Siegfähiges Material bei Andretti.

Würde Alonso in die Indycar-Serie wechseln, würde er natürlich den freien Platz beim Andretti Team, mit dem er bei den Indy500 teilnahm, bekommen. Andretti ist einer der besten Teams in der Indycar Serie und mit Takuma Sato stellt der Amerikanische Rennstall von Rennsportlegende Mario Andretti auch den aktuellen Indy500 Sieger. Honda hat die Motorenprobleme, welche Alonso im Mai bei den Indy500 stoppten mittlerweile in den Griff bekommen und anders als in der Formel 1, hat man aktuell den wohl besten Motor.

 

 

Erneute Teilnahme am Indy500

Mit einer Indycar Saison würde Alonso auch direkt am Indy500 teilnehmen können, dann sogar wieder zusammen mit McLaren. Er könnte sein Ziel, dort zu gewinnen erneut versuchen.

Indy500 zeigte: Alonso ist konkurrenzfähig

Das Indy500 zeigte außerdem, dass Alonso nicht nur F1 fahren kann. Der Spanier würde in seiner aktuellen F1-Form in der Indycar-Serie möglicherweise noch besser zurecht kommen, als er es im Mai getan hatte.

F1-Comeback 2019

Der weitaus wichtigere Punkt ist aber, dass Alonso wohl sofort die Möglichkeit hätte, in die F1 zurückzukommen. 2018 könnte er abwarten ob Honda sich in der F1 doch noch mit McLaren fängt – Sollte das nicht der Fall sein hat er weitaus bessere Optionen als aktuell. Der Vertrag von Hamilton bei Mercedes läuft aus, während es Renaults Plan ist, 2019 Siege einzufahren und um die WM zu kämpfen. Der Spanier könnte sich in diesem Falll also entspannt aus den USA ansehen, wie sich die Lage auf dem Fahrermarkt entwickelt und dann die bestmöglichste Entscheidung treffen, ohne ein weiteres Jahr hinterherfahren zu riskieren.

Das Beste für McLaren

Doch auch für McLaren wäre dieses Szenario das Beste von allen, vorausgesetzt wenn man dazu gezwungen wird, 2018 Honda als Partner zu behalten. Man könnte Motorenpartner Honda nochmal eine letzte Chance geben, ohne voreilige Schlüsse zu ziehen. Als Pilot könnte man beispielsweise Jenson Button nochmal für ein Jahr aus der Rente holen.

Man darf gespannt sein, welche Entscheidung um den Spanier in den nächsten Wochen fallen wird. Fakt ist: Seine Optionen sind begrenzt.

 

 

 

Fernando Alonso – A little column about the all time greatest

While the last race weekend on the Hungarian GP showed us again, why Fernando Alonso is still one of the best drivers on the grid, the Spaniard turned 36. A good reason for me  to look at the driver and show what makes him so special.

I won’t lie: Fernando Alonso is my favourite F1 driver, and maybe some of the things that I’m about to say are not from a neutral point of view.

But the fact that he is my favourite driver was not always true. I didn’t cheer for him in his championship years, because i didn’t watch F1 (unfortunately) back in those days. So i will start with the time when I started watching F1, and this was at the middle of 2009.

Ferrari Media

As a Ferrari fan back in the days of 2009 and 2010, a dream came true when the Spaniard joined the Prancing Horse.

I remember many people who didn’t like him back in this time. Even many Ferrari fans were very critical about the decision, to take Kimi Räikkönen out and let Alonso drive there.

But Fernando showed the Tifosi and the world very soon why Ferrari was right to catch him. With the first win on his first race for the Italian team he was was the new star. But I think, with his win in Monza, Italy, in front of all the Tifosi, every Ferrari fan back then starting to cheering for him. He was the new star after Michael Schumacher and until today one of the most popular Ferrari drivers of all time.

I don’t want to rewrite the whole Ferrari story, because we all know how it’s gone back in then.

Ferrari Media

But i want to write something about 2012. For me the 2012 season was a very special one. I don’t know why, but what Alonso did then was magical. Let’s be real: the F2012 was a very poor car at the start of the season. But like today Fernando did  everything possible to keep the title hopes for him and Ferrari alive.

With the win from nowhere in the rain in Sepang he showed again his brilliant driving skills in difficult conditions. And after Ferrari starting to understand the car and improved it with an massive update at the in-season tests in Mugello before the Spanish GP, Alonso was always there.

Especially his magic win at the European Grand Prix in Valencia, in front of his home crowd, was just mind blowing. Sure, the win wouldn’t would have been a win without the failures of Vettel’s Red Bull or Grosjean’s Lotus. But whoever saw the race live will know that Alonso’s moves starting from eleventh were brilliant. Overtaking several cars at the start, he moved his way through the field. The win at the end was just amazing and—for me—with Kimi Räikkönen and Michael Schumacher on the podium, it was the best race ever.

Ferrari Media

Unfortunately in Hungary, exactly five years ago, Ferrari started to drop back in pace. At this time Alonso lead the Drivers’ Championship by forty points from Mark Webber. The second half of the season after the summer break was a nightmare for every Ferrari fan and fans of the Spanish driver. Two pointless races in Belgium and Japan and a dominant Red Bull/Vettel combination made it possible to turn Alonso’s points lead into nothing.

We all know the dramatic season final in Sao Paulo 2012: Vettel’s crash on the start, the hope for all the Tifosi and then the disappointment of losing another title within two years.

We also all know how Alonso and Ferrari fell apart in 2014. And we all know how much worse his partnership with McLaren and Honda went.

McLaren Media

But nevertheless, Alonso always showed his skills and his talent, the same as since his first year in F1 with Minardi. The difference between Fernando and the other top drivers on the grid, is the simple fact that he has never had a really poor year coming from him.

He has always been competitive. With the V10 engines, with the V8 engines and now with the V6 engines; with Michelin, with Bridgestone and with Pirelli tyres. With a bad car or a good car; in an F1 car or on an IndyCar. On a dry or on a wet track. He always shows his skills, and no matter what happens he is always there.

Andrew Hone/McLaren

And I think his last three years with McLaren-Honda showed much more of the “human” Alonso.  It reminds me how Michael Schumacher was getting much more popular in his Mercedes years, because he made the best of his situation back in the disappointing years.

And in the same way, Alonso has showed his patience in the last three years. I don’t know many people who don’t want to see him back on the top. When he came to the autograph session on my first live Grand Prix in Austria few weeks ago, the people went crazy—more than for any other driver.

For me it was a special moment to see my childhood idol next in front of me and it is still a little bit unreal. But that’s another story.

I’m more than certain that we will see Fernando Alonso at the top again someday. And I’m also sure that he will stay in Formula 1, fighting like a Samurai who will never surrender. As he said few months ago: he will not turn away from the F1 stage, without being competitive again.