The Inside Line #99: The good old days

TILI Logo PrintI should have known – I did know – but it jarred all the same. To most observers, Fernando Alonso is one of Formula One’s three kingpins along with Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel in whatever order you prefer [1]; that one of those kingpins is about to mark two years since his most recent Grand Prix victory is quite staggering. As we preview this weekend’s Spanish Grand Prix on Episode 99 of ‘The Inside Line’ this week, it’s amazing to think the great Spaniard’s most recent victory came at the wheel of a Ferrari at the Circuit de Catalunya in 2013.

It was a trademark Alonso drive – a jack-rabbit start, two brilliant overtakes (on the same corner) to dispatch Kimi Raikkonen and Hamilton on lap one – and then a flawless display from the front. Formula One is a better sport for having Alonso at the front – his grit, relentless nature and never-say-die attitude is a combination no other driver possesses, and makes for great viewing. For the spectacle, it’s sad to see what has happened since that sunny Sunday in Barcelona two years ago.

There’s not much Alonso doesn’t have besides a sense of timing. After leaving McLaren at the end of 2007, the team won the title with Hamilton the next year. In five years in Ferrari, in red cars good and (mostly) bad, Alonso finished runner-up in the title race three times. He left Ferrari after the team produced a dog of a car last year only for the Prancing Horse to get its gallop back this season – worse still, with Vettel slotting straight into a car that has made the podium three times in four races, once more than Alonso managed for all of 2014. Meanwhile, McLaren is ahead of only Manor in the constructors’ championship despite employing two world champions to drive its cars [2].

Will he ever win another title? Jacques Villeneuve, who was Alonso’s teammate at Renault for about 10 minutes in 2004 [3], wonders if he’ll win another race. JV has a point; that Alonso comes to his home Grand Prix without a single point to his name this season beggars belief. He remains adamant, even strangely confident, that McLaren will get it right. From this weekend in Spain? It’s a long shot, but things could hardly get any worse.

Alonso is the centrepiece of our Spanish Grand Prix preview on ‘The Inside Line’ this week; check it out on ESPN and Fox Sports in Australia, and in (I’m told) 134 other countries, meaning on a TV near you.

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[1] One man’s opinion: Alonso-Hamilton-Vettel.

[2] Why aren’t McLaren getting more heat about this? Is it because we read (mostly) the British press in this country? Why hasn’t someone called McLaren out on the ridiculous quotes they attribute to Eric Boullier in their flowery, useless press releases? Does anyone other than me care?

[3] Not that being a teammate for any longer would have stopped Villeneuve from getting his name in the press. He’s brilliant at it.

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