From Midfield to the Limelight: How Alonso’s Drive and Attitude are Shaking Up Formula 1
As the 2023 Formula 1 season gets underway, all eyes are on the return of Fernando Alonso to the forefront of the sport. After spending a decade in the midfield, the two-time world champion is now driving for Aston Martin and expected to be a competitive force once again.
After spending a decade or so in the midfield, Fernando Alonso’s return to the forefront of Formula 1 has been highly anticipated. Those who are less familiar with his skills will now have the opportunity to discover his off-track abilities, in addition to his on-track performance. Despite his box-office potential, which was not fully realized during his time in the midfield, he is now expected to be a competitive force once again.
In the midst of Aston Martin’s impressive start to this season, which has brought the two-time world champion back into the limelight, Alonso’s popularity is at an all-time high, which is somewhat surprising. While his position in the hierarchy has drawn more attention to him, there has been a noticeable change in how Alonso is perceived since his return to Formula 1 in 2021. In essence, there are now many reasons to admire him.
In general, Alonso appears to have softened some of his rougher edges (in a positive way), while still maintaining his impressive level of professionalism and dedication. Furthermore, the Aston Martin narrative provides a welcome diversion from the possibility of a season dominated by Red Bull and Max Verstappen.
Despite gaining some perspective over time, Alonso’s fierce competitiveness and outspoken nature have not been tempered. He still has a tendency to speak his mind in a way that can ruffle the feathers of his competitors. However, it’s worth noting that he rarely does so with malicious intent, and in fact, many drivers probably share his sentiments.
Alonso’s tendency to vocalize his thoughts is largely a product of the “pantomime villainy” that he has become known for, as well as his use of mind games to gain an advantage over his competitors. Despite being widely recognized as one of the greatest drivers in Formula 1 history, his decade-long drought without a race win seems to have fueled his desire to emphasize his abilities in other ways.
It’s ironic that Alonso’s penchant for mind games and outspokenness continues even though he now has a car that allows his driving to speak for itself. However, this is just part of who he is. In recent weeks, Alonso has taken aim at Mercedes, making a subtle jab at the team’s self-criticism of their car. He also made a dismissive comment about his predecessor at Aston Martin, Sebastian Vettel, suggesting that he may not have performed as well as Alonso has done so far.
Furthermore, in a recent interview with L’Equipe, Alonso stated that Lewis Hamilton’s weaknesses are becoming more apparent now that he is not driving the best car on the grid.
Alonso’s fans may view his comments as harmless banter, while his rivals’ fans may interpret them as disrespectful. However, it’s likely that Alonso himself is simply being his usual self. The extent to which one chooses to read into his comments is up to the individual, but regardless, the fact that people are talking about what he said means that he has succeeded in getting his message across.
Alonso’s criticisms, jibes, or digs are typically not made without some degree of seriousness behind them. However, it’s important to note that they are not made out of a lack of respect. Despite his competitive nature and his belief that he is better than anyone, including Lewis Hamilton, Alonso does genuinely hold Hamilton in high regard. It’s a matter of self-belief and confidence that drives both of them to strive for greatness.
Hamilton’s first podium of the 2023 season came just 24 hours after Alonso’s dig at Mercedes, and with Alonso finishing in third place, it provided a rare sight of the two former teammates and title rivals sharing the podium, which is not something we often see these days.
To put into perspective just how rare it is for Alonso to share a podium with Hamilton and Verstappen, consider the fact that the combination of these three drivers at the top has only happened twice in recent times – once in Qatar in 2021 and now in Australia. This highlights the degree to which Alonso has been marginalized in the latter part of his Formula 1 career. While Alonso and Verstappen appear to have a good relationship off-track, their on-track relationship is practically non-existent.
Alonso and Verstappen had a brief stint together in the midfield in 2015/early 2016, before Verstappen made the move from Toro Rosso to Red Bull, putting him on a completely different trajectory than Alonso’s career path.
The dynamic between Alonso and Hamilton is quite different. They both share a fierce desire to beat each other, which is evident both on and off the track, and even in press conferences. Their histories are closely linked, and each believes that they are the better driver. However, despite their competitive nature, there is still a mutual underlying respect between the two. Although they can’t resist taking the occasional jab at each other, they both acknowledge each other’s talents and achievements.
The respect between Alonso and Hamilton was evident after the race in Melbourne, where Alonso chased Hamilton for the entire grand prix. Although the Aston Martin appeared to be the faster car, Alonso was unable to get close enough to mount an attack.
Alonso reflected on the race and revealed that despite being in close proximity to Hamilton throughout, Hamilton always managed to increase his speed every time Alonso tried to get closer.
Despite the frustration of not being able to overtake Hamilton, Alonso still gave credit where credit was due and acknowledged the Mercedes driver’s skill and ability to defend his position.
Alonso further praised Hamilton’s performance in the race, highlighting the fact that he made virtually no mistakes and that he lived up to his championship credentials. Alonso admitted that he tried to put pressure on Hamilton throughout the race, but the Mercedes driver did not crack under the pressure. Hamilton only made one mistake, a lock-up at Turn 13, in the 58 laps of the race.
Hamilton, on his part, acknowledged the pressure that Alonso put on him and praised his consistency throughout the race. He also noted that Alonso is not someone who makes a lot of mistakes, which made the task of defending his position all the more challenging. Hamilton counted down the laps and focused on maintaining his consistency to hold off Alonso’s challenge. In the end, it was a job well done by Hamilton.
While the race in Melbourne was intense and exciting, it did not erupt into a full-blown wheel-to-wheel battle between Hamilton and Alonso. However, there is still time for that to happen this season.
It’s quite remarkable to think that the rivalry between Hamilton and Alonso, which once burned so brightly, has not produced many on-track battles between them in the last decade. Despite their competitive spirit and their desire to beat each other, they have not often found themselves fighting for the same positions on track in recent years. However, with Alonso’s return to the forefront of Formula 1, and Hamilton’s continued dominance, we may yet see some memorable battles between these two legendary drivers in the future.
While there have been a few exceptions, such as Alonso’s defense against Hamilton in Hungary 2021, these two drivers have not had many opportunities to fight for top positions on track in recent years. However, with the slip of Mercedes and the rise of Aston Martin, the possibility of a straight fight for a top result, like the one we saw in Australia, is becoming more realistic.
We are now witnessing Hamilton and Alonso battling for position in cars that are pretty evenly matched, and unless there is a dramatic change in the pecking order during F1’s three-week gap before the next race in Azerbaijan, we can expect to see more of these exciting battles between the two drivers in the foreseeable future.
It’s certainly something for fans to savor – Alonso has been trying for years to get back in the mix with Hamilton and Mercedes, and now that he has finally succeeded, we can expect him to make the most of the opportunity, both on and off the track.
While not everyone may agree with his approach or comments, one thing is certain – it won’t be boring. Alonso’s competitive spirit and his willingness to speak his mind ensure that there will always be excitement and drama surrounding his presence in Formula 1. Fans can look forward to more thrilling battles between Alonso and his rivals in the races to come.
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