Ranking Fernando Alonso’s F1 career moves from worst to best: PlanetF1

Fernando Alonso has a reputation for making poor career choices in Formula 1, but it’s an accusation the two-time World Champion vehemently denies.

“Sometimes I feel from the outside that people feel a little sorry for my career moves [but] the facts don’t tell me so,” the Aston Martin driver recently told Channel 4 about his previous spells at McLaren, Ferrari and Renault.

It’s time to put Alonso’s claim to the test with a ranking of every move in his career since his last title in 2006…

7: Ferrari to McLaren-Honda, 2015

When Alonso returned to the McLaren Technology Center at the end of 2014 you’d rarely find a more scruffy set of balls – a scraggly beard and a huge, mischievous grin on his face – and posed for pictures with Ron Dennis.

Seven years after the team was devastated and $100 million down, it was back.

But was it ever his intention?

Legend has it that Alonso entered a crucial meeting with Marco Mattiacci, then Ferrari’s under-pressure team principal, with the aim of extending his deal beyond the end of 2016 and ended the crushing contract.

Reports at the time suggested that Alonso had attempted a seat swap with Lewis Hamilton or, more believably, that Red Bull – in the process of losing Sebastian Vettel – had bet that it would be impossible. Imagine the surprise in Alonso’s camp when Red Bull moved quickly to sign Daniil Kvyat for 2015…

It’s a classic case of a driver leaving himself with no choice, but there was still hope that Honda – returning to F1 in the second year of V6 hybrid rules and theoretically having the opportunity to learn from the mistakes of others – could survive at that stage. with his success with McLaren in the past.

That hope soon evaporated when the power unit proved sluggish and chronically unreliable in pre-season, ending with an unexplained crash for Alonso at Barcelona and setting the tone for three missed years.

Everything could have been avoided if Alonso had not allowed himself to be railroaded by a team manager who would have easily lived at Ferrari, Fernando guilty of forgetting one of the first rules of Formula 1: The Rampant Horse does not stop for long.

Had he stuck around, surely Alonso would have put up a tougher fight than Vettel against Hamilton and Mercedes in 2017/18, but we’ll never know.

6: McLaren to Renault, 2008

How could he know?

When he left McLaren in 2007 after just one bad season, how did Alonso know the team that would be there in time for F1’s next major rule change would be Red Bull?

Sure, Adrian Newey was already working his magic, but an established World Champion joining Red Bull, still dismissed as a mere party team at that stage of their development, would have represented an almighty leap of faith and would be taken for granted today. one of the greatest acts of genius in the history of the sport, perhaps even more so than Hamilton’s move to Mercedes.

Hindsight, you see, is a wonderful thing.

Part of Alonso’s problem, although the split seemed inevitable for a long time, was that his exit from McLaren was not made official until November 2, almost two weeks after the title was decided in Brazil.

So, like a metaphorical animal, and leaving himself with few attractive options, Alonso naturally went to his safe place, back into the arms of Flavio Briatore and the Renault team that conquered the world in 2005/06.

However, it was already evident that Renault were no longer the same team, with a correlation problem putting them out of contention for wins in 2007.

Alonso would return them there and it was during this time that his reputation as F1’s most complete driver was built: Fernando took one of his most underrated wins at Fuji in 2008, when he had the ability to read the race and call strategy from the cockpit. he left the well wall in shock.

In retrospect, however, this was the moment when Alonso would have been advised to gamble.

And considering his return to Renault was to take a rather sinister turn when the details of Crashgate were revealed in 2009, it would have saved him a lot of trouble.

5: McLaren leaving, 2018

Throughout the Honda years, Alonso and McLaren were adamant that their chassis were of race-winning quality, held back by a criminally under-performing (some might even say GP2) engine.

But the team’s decision, under new management Zak Brown, to replace Honda engines with the same Renault engines used by Red Bull exposed the stark reality.

The lack of a better McLaren without Sand was difficult for Alonso, who confirmed his retirement during the summer break.

But the timing was curious, with Alonso’s decision to leave his influence within McLaren – with his own clothing brand a prominent sponsor of the car – looking more pronounced than ever.

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A few weeks earlier, McLaren announced a restructure, with Andrea Stella, Alonso’s former Ferrari race engineer, promoted to sporting director and Gil de Ferran, a key member of Alonso’s 2017 Indy 500 campaign, taking over as sporting director.

In 2018 Alonso was the closest a driver has come to leading an F1 team since Jack Brabham, but, as with Ferrari in 2014, the team chose to leave at the precise point about to turn a corner.

If he had stayed to orchestrate McLaren’s revival, that elusive 33rd victory might already have come in the 2021 race-winning car.

4: Return to F1 with Alpine, 2021

When it became clear that Alonso’s retirement was just a temporary soul-cleansing break, it became clear that McLaren’s return in 2021 was out of the question.

Having flourished as a team principal, Andreas Seidl no doubt wanted a clean break from the Ghost of Honda Past, an F1 team dependent on an individual driver, as it had been before McLaren arrived in early 2019.

Only a distant armchair observer of F1’s musical lockdown, when Vettel was fired by Ferrari, Carlos Sainz left for Maranello and Daniel Ricciardo joined McLaren, Alonso had few attractive options to return to F1 and once again returned to his happy place.

His two years at Alpine ended in tears but were mutually beneficial, with Alonso contributing to the team’s strongest season in 2022 and the team handing Alonso the car for his first podium in seven years at Qatar 2021.

More than that, however, his third stay at Enston confirmed to Alonso that he had not lost pace, precision or judgment after two years away.

Maybe it was the platform to do bigger and better things ever.

3: Alpine to Aston Martin, 2023

With a new entry having the chance to shoot to the very top of the third, can Alonso’s latest roll of the dice give him the last laugh?

A few people laughed when it was announced that he had moved to Aston Martin on the first morning of the 2022 summer break, as silly old fool Alonso – whose dream of a third title was gone – joined the team in a competitive slide and cleaned it up. Lawrence Stroll was willing to pay for everything.

However, Fernando looked beyond the team’s teething problems and superficial results to see what others could not – Stroll’s commitment to finance a successful team, build a new state-of-the-art factory and sign top-level figures. from rivals who have won the title.

How could this combination of investment and brainpower really fail?

However, the pace of Aston Martin’s rise – from a lowly seventh in the standings in 2022 to back-to-back podiums at the start of 2023 – has been astonishing, with the team breaking through F1’s glass ceiling in a way few thought possible in the modern era.

Almost a decade after his last F1 victory, Alonso’s return to the top step of the podium may now be a matter of time.

And the glory of a third World Championship? Still unlikely, but not as impossible as it seemed a few months ago.

2: Renault to McLaren, 2007

Alonso’s first session at McLaren has been regarded as the first major mistake of his F1 career. How can he be the first driver in history to go from zero to three Drivers’ Championships in one giant leap when he came down to just one point?

A season with four wins and another eight podiums cannot be considered a failure, especially in the context of Renault’s winless 2007.

Alonso certainly came out of Enstone at the right time, all the more impressive given that his move to McLaren was announced more than a year earlier after Dennis whispered sweet nothings in Alonso’s ear during the podium celebrations of his first victory in Brazil in 2005. .

It was definitely the right move. Instead, Alonso’s difficulties in 2007 stemmed from the threat posed by rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton, or more precisely, his emotional and paranoid reaction to him.

Instead of rising to the challenge presented by Hamilton, Alonso allowed himself to be distracted, the current double World Champion shutting down the willingness to self-criticize so common among the sport’s greats.

What could I, the great Fernando Alonso, learn from the young Lewis Hamilton? A lot, it turned out.

As the season progressed and the team became embroiled in the Spygate affair, Alonso branded himself as more and more hostile within and eventually made the inevitable split.

How different they could have been, how powerful McLaren could have been if Alonso and Hamilton had kept pushing themselves to greater heights instead of dragging the team down with them…

1: Renault to Ferrari, 2010

Alonso left Ferrari at the end of a winless 2014 season. The Scuderia’s previous barren campaign in 2009 did not take away the scent of F1’s most sacred team.

As would be the case in 2021/22, Team Enstone was a holding pattern for Alonso in 2008/09, a place to kill time and do race countdowns before his next big move.

It had long been agreed who would go to his Ferrari, but Felipe Massa’s crash in Hungary in 2009 – which left Kimi Raikkonen a bit distant and left a couple of substitutes to fill the gap – revealed a lack of leadership in the Maranello field.

Alonso filled that hole almost immediately in 2010, winning over the team through the force of his personality, when Massa was tasked with giving his team-mate victory at Hockenheim in July on the anniversary of his life-threatening accident, his reminiscences. The Brazilians who brought Ferrari to the brink of the title in 2008 were already ancient history.

While Alonso and Ferrari never quite complemented each other well, his 2012 was the most complete campaign of any driver in recent history—with the exception of Hamilton’s 2007—(failure not to end in title glory’ doesn’t seem appropriate).

Having come so close, Alonso and Ferrari were always going to go one of two ways from 2012: either go one better the following year or lose out again, only to start wondering if it was ever going to happen.

A lasting memory of 2013, when Vettel and Red Bull secured their fourth consecutive title, is Alonso’s response when asked what he would like as a birthday present in Hungary: “Someone else’s car.”

President Luca di Montezemolo publicly reprimanded him for that comment and the relationship between Alonso and Ferrari was never the same.

What a shame

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