The 2005 F1 season, for most fans, would be a fascinating memory. It was the age old saga of three gladiators fighting out for the ultimate prize.
The King Michael Schumacher, fighting to retain his throne, the sensational protege Kimi Raikkonen in the fastest car on track, and the talented Fernando Alonso in the best car on track. Ultimately the best car won, while the fast and the experienced succumbed.
Who was the better driver amongst the two emerging stars, we'll never know. Raikkonen's dominant victory from 17th on the Grid at Suzuka is perhaps the best race of the decade, but Alonso was not much behind there as well. He started 16th and ended 3rd, something which could have been better if not for a screw up by the stewards whcih meant that Alonso had to concede a position to Christian Klein, twice.
Throughout the season, the only season that held Kimi back was his car's reliability with numerous technical failures including the last lap disaster of the European Grand Prix. Alonso, drove with finesse, and extracted the most from his reliably fast Renault, and edged out the Finn.
2006 was entirely Alonso's. Raikkonen's McLaren was no longer a threat, and the Spaniard cruised to a second championship. When Alonso decided to move to McLaren in 2007, there were hushed expectations of witnessing the two next big things in the same team. But Raikkonen was destined for better things, or so it seemed, and the Finn was chosen to replace the seven time World Champions Schumacher at Ferrari. The Prancing Horse chose Kimi's raw talent over the doctoral Alonso.
A very turbulent season of '07 ended with Raikkonen winning the title in the last race of the season, in a car that was not the fastest on track. Alonso ended second, a failure that can be easily pinned on McLaren's inability to control their rookie protege Lewis Hamilton.
The war was still open though. Raikkonen was the best racer on track as long as he was comfortable with the car's setting. Alonso was the best driver, able to squeeze out more from his car than anybody else. Six seasons hence, and the two are still on the same WCs. Kimi went out of F1 loaded with Alonso's Santander cash, came back stronger, and is now back at Ferrari partnering Alonso, who has been the runner up twice in his four year stint at Ferrari.
Alonso, who has been involved in scandals like the Crash-gate and the Spy-gate, has held his position in the sport for his sheer brilliance to extract the maximum from his car. While Kimi, a cool head, who refused to reveal any details even when his employers bought out his two remaining years and left him without a drive in November, is a natural talent and sensationally fast if the set up suits him.
The two contrasting individuals have lost to the sheer brilliance of Red Bull, Brawn, and now Mercedes, all because their Generation made them believe that F1 was all about legacy. Kimi ditched the team that spotted him and managed to squeeze him into F1, Sauber, and moved into fellow Finn Hakkinen's seat at McLaren. From then he went to Ferrari, to be immortalised as Michael Schumacher's successor.
Alonso, started with Renault but soon moved to the Team that won his idol Ayrton Senna his Championships, McLaren. When things did not go his way, he moved back to his mentor Briatorre's Renault, but sensing an opportunity to be at Ferrari, the most illustrious team on Track, he pulled all his strings and sponsors, and got there. And he looks set to repeat it if he moves to the aspiring McLaren-Honda; while Kimi stays and hopes Ferrari can get him back where he belongs before his clock runs out.
Neither's plan went as they had hoped. McLaren let Kimi down in 2003, 2005, and the disastrous 2006 was enough for the "Iceman" to switch. Ferrari did get him the elusive WDC, but things ended bitterly after they failed to keep up as per the changes.
For Alonso, McLaren was the biggest mistake of his career, besides the cheating part of Crash gate and Spy gate. Ferrari was an aspiration that should not have materialised. Imagine Santander's money supporting Lotus in 2012 and 2013...
F1 is a cruel sport, with a lot of broken hearts at its core, but Kimi and Alonso would be remembered as the two best could-haves of our generation. Imagine, if McLaren had managed to handle their rookie driver better in 2007, and if Ferrari had managed to run the car as per Kimi's style in '08.
The battles of 2008 would have been a notch higher if it had been Raikkonen vs Alonso instead of Hamilton vs Massa. 2009 could have been much less disatrous for Raikkonen had Ferrari continued focussing on him. The Iceman could have been stronger, and not just pulling out fastest laps of the race out of his bag every now and then, a record that still stands.
The unsaid career long war between the two is perhaps what F1 is all about. Sheer racing ability vs maximum driver capability.
And though, statistically Alonso seems a long way ahead of Kimi, the two are much more matched on track. Alonso might be leading Raikkonen this season, but it has not been a fair game. The car was set up with Alonso in mind, and Kimi has had his share of problems. This will not be the season we will remember them by.
Nor will it be a clear fight next season or later, depending on where Alonso moves, because the cars would not be the best on track. And a fight between the best, needs the strongest weapons.
For us, they will always be the racers that succeeded Michael Schumacher as the top dogs on track. The Silver Kimi, and the Blue and yellow Alonso; who were marred by the Bull.
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