There have been very few occasions in Fernando Alonso’s career where he has been outperformed by his teammate. Sporadic bursts of speed from ailing teammate Felipe Massa do little to assuage the feeling that Alonso is much faster than his Brazilian counterpart.
However, rewind six years to 2007. A fresh-faced rookie by the name of Lewis Hamilton had been chosen as Alonso’s teammate.
Before either of them had driven the car, Alonso must have been happy to learn that he had a novice for a driving partner. There would surely be no testing of his dominance.
The story has been written many times, Alonso and many others were wrong about Hamilton. That much was clear when the young Briton drove around the outside of the double championship winning Spaniard in the first corner of his first ever Grand Prix.
Alonso was unable to cope with Hamilton’s precocious pace; as was illustrated by a number of petulant outbursts throughout the season.
Presumably McLaren had agreed that Alonso would be their lead driver, but that was before anyone knew that Hamilton was capable of going faster than the Spaniard.
Alonso’s relationship with McLaren inevitably ended after one rough season. After two unsuccessful years back at his former team Renault, Alonso moved on to Ferrari on the understanding that his teammate was there to support him in his efforts to win the Championship.
Despite a few grumblings from Massa early on, the Brazilian duly obliged.
Unfortunately for Alonso, Massa’s form has become too poor for him to maintain his position within the team.
Senior figures at Ferrari had been searching for a more ‘suitable’ teammate to Alonso for some time. Kimi Raikkonen’s camp had let it be known that he was open to a return to Ferrari; he is clearly anxious to add to his single title.
Whilst Alonso was apparently not keen on Raikkonen joining, his relationship with the team has been strained over the past year and he is understood to have accepted the decision.
Everyone is well aware of the Finn’s capabilities. He was unfortunate to be driving for McLaren during one of the most inconsistent periods in their history.
In 2004, repeated breakdowns saw him finish only two of the season’s first seven events. This unreliability, coupled with the total dominance of Ferrari and Michael Schumacher, meant that Raikkonen’s time with the Woking-based team was not successful.
He is widely regarded as one of the quickest four drivers in the world; someone who can hold their own against any teammate. His reliability is also feted; until the Belgian Grand Prix, he had finished every race since returning to the sport two years ago.
A combination of speed and consistency will surely frighten Fernando Alonso. He will be facing a real test in every session of every Grand Prix. It will be fascinating to see whether Alonso is capable of controlling his petulant side amidst serious competition, or whether Raikkonen will outperform his teammate and cement his place as a true F1 great.
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