Fernando Alonso's 2010 - a fine fight back frustrated 23 Nov 2010
Ferraris much-talked-about strategy error in Abu Dhabi, which saw Fernando Alonso trapped in traffic he could not find a way past, arguably cost the two-time world champion a third title this year. It was second-rate ending to a first-rate comeback. From victory at 2010s Bahrain opener, to his mid-season lows, to overhauling an incredible 47-point deficit to arrive at Yas Marina as title favourite, its been quite a year for the Spaniard.
Hed started the season, his first with Ferrari, particularly hungry for success. Two years in relatively uncompetitive machinery at Renault had reaped very little reward and he was raring to go in what was widely expected to be a championship-contending car. The Italian team were just as determined to make 2010 count, after a miserable 2009, and the F10 looked menacing in pre-season testing.
But then so did Red Bulls RB6, and at the Bahrain season-opener Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webbers lightning pace threatened to upset Alonsos plans. But two technical issues for the Milton Keynes squad meant their qualifying speed came to nought and it was the Spaniard who grabbed victory. It was the perfect start to his Ferrari career, to his assault on the championship, and to his out-psyching of new team mate Felipe Massa.
However, it was only a matter of time before Red Bull would fulfil their winning promise, and fulfil it they did, ultimately winning nine Grands Prix. But, at the start of the season at least, whenever the RB6 lost its way, it seemed to be the F-duct-charged McLaren that picked up the pieces. Ferrari, meanwhile, floundered over the first seven rounds, with Alonso only securing very occasional podiums as McLaren and Red Bull divvied up the lions share of the points.
For Alonso, it was maddening, and an unluckily timed safety car at Junes European Grand Prix saw his frustrations finally boil over. Rather than dwell on misfortune, in true champions style he aimed to convert anger into success at the next race in Britain, but it wasnt to be as his 14th place at Silverstone took him to even deeper depths. It was at this point that many began to question whether hed be better refocusing on 2011.
Alonso, however, had other ideas, and at the next round in Germany he took victory in the most controversial manner possible, when team mate Felipe Massa let him through into P1. It was far from glorious, and theres no doubt the subsequent mudslinging and Ferraris FIAs fine tarnished his victory, but in one swift move Alonso had revitalised his championship hopes. Ruthlessness has always been part and parcel of world champions, and Alonso worked hard to make amends over subsequent races.
Although a DNF in Belgium - his only one of the season - appeared to scupper things once again, brilliant victories in Italy, Singapore and Korea saw him take the lead in the championship for the first time since March. It was a relentless resurgence, and at this point none of the other four contenders could match the Alonsos combination of pace and consistency.
In Brazil Red Bull were back on fine form, taking a one-two victory and the constructors title. Alonso, however, was still right in the mix, with third place maintaining his lead in the drivers standings. And he seemed happy enough to pick up the scraps left behind by the rampant Red Bulls. A cynical approach maybe, but when he was still leading by eight points as he journeyed to the finale in Abu Dhabi it was a logical - and understandable - one to take.
But then at Yas Marina the dream fell apart. Third on the grid may have been better than his biggest rival Webber could muster, but losing a place at the start to McLarens Jenson Button and then being dumped into insurmountable traffic (led by Renaults Vitaly Petrov) after a poorly-timed pit stop saw his title hopes hit the skids. Perhaps he had assumed it was in the bag. Either way, the sheer frustration on display as he harangued Petrov on the slow-down lap showed just how much a third title meant.
The failure was a bitter pill to swallow, even if its root cause did lie more in the teams strategy than Alonsos driving skills. If he was guilty of anything it was overconfidence - hardly a flaw for a Formula One driver at the top of his game. And there are plenty of positives in his 2010 campaign. Having been ruled out after just a few months, he never gave up and for that alone he should be praised. Vettel may have charged to glory, but he still managed to finish ahead of Webber, despite this being very much Red Bulls season.
If anything his formidable talent has been even more obvious this season than it was when he took his two titles for Renault. They came in relatively dominant style in relatively dominant cars - or at least cars that won their teams the constructors championship. This year in a Ferrari only good enough for third in the team table, his formidable talent almost brought him what could have been considered the best of his three titles.
Even in the darkest days of his 2010 season, Alonso kept the faith and aggressively pursued a third championship. His focus never wavered once and though in the end Vettel won out, that he came so close to uprooting both Red Bull drivers is testament to the determination and single mindedness that has marked him out as arguably the greatest driver of his generation. Hell be a force to be reckoned with again in 2011 - of that you can be sure.
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