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GP Week : Issue 162
22 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Ever since making his F1 debut with Minardi in 2001 and trouncing his team-mates by an average of over one second per race in qualifying, Fernando Alonso has marked himself out as one of the greatest drivers ever to grace this sport. The Spaniard’s performance since he joined Ferrari, and particularly this year, has put beyond doubt the question of him being the greatest driver of his generation, and people are now asking if he can be considered the greatest driver of all time. Looking at his achievements this year alone, it’s easy to see why he should be considered as the greatest. In a car that was arguably the seventh quickest on the grid, he won superbly in Malaysia, is the only driver to have scored points in every race, and has racked up five podium finishes so far, the most of any driver. His record is especially impressive as he’s done so without ever having the fastest car. Alonso’s real strength lies in his completeness as a driver. Unlike all others on the grid, there’s nothing about Alonso’s driving that needs improving. Be it qualifying pace, race pace, race starts, attacking, defending or tyre management, his abilities are second to none in many if not most areas. Once he’s given a car that’s capable of winning, you’re likely to see him on the top step of the podium. His spare capacity for decision- making in the cockpit during grands prix is just as extraordinary. While other drivers will be asking their pitwall for updates on strategy, Alonso has been known to call strategy himself from his race seat. He did this to great effect at the 2008 Japanese Grand Prix when, in a tight fight with BMW’s Robert Kubica, he instructed his team to short-fuel his second stint, and duly went on to win. Those two years he spent at Renault after his bust-up with McLaren while he waited for Kimi Raikkonen’s seat at Ferrari to open up were hugely wasted years in the short lifespan of such a talented racer. Instead of battling for points finishes he could have been winning races and championships with McLaren, had the relationship not turned so sour, before then moving onto Ferrari as he did in 2009. To his credit, Renault returned to (legitimate) race-winning ways in 2008 under his guidance, a feat they are yet to repeat. His achievements at McLaren are of equal importance when considering his standing among the greats of the sport. He joined McLaren in 2007, the team having gone a full season without a win. The MP4-21 was on average more than one second off pole position, yet with Alonso’s guidance and experience over that winter, McLaren landed 12 podium finishes and three wins in the first seven races, before securing many more over the remainder of the year. Further strengthening Alonso’s case is his history of winning multiple races with three different teams, a feat matched by no other driver on the grid. Only Prost, Piquet, Lauda, Fangio and Moss have done likewise, a formidable list I’m sure you’ll agree! Discussions and arguments about who the greatest driver of all time is will continue for eternity, but Alonso deserves to be a part of that argument as much as any other. Regardless of his world championship tally when the time comes for him to retire, Alonso’s abilities as a racing driver are sure to go down in F1 folklore as some of the best we have ever seen. Count yourself lucky to be able to see him in action. FERNANDO: GREATEST EVER? OPINION OPINION NAOISE HOLOHAN Asst Editor