F1 Racing September 2012
F1 Racing September 2012
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F1 Racing September 2012

Alonso: F1's fastest driver?

With two world titles and an ability to make his Ferrari win races it shouldn't, Fernando Alonso is frequently cited as the best driver in the sport. So we assembled a panel of experts to ask: is that true?

An hour or so after winning the Canadian Grand Prix, Lewis Hamilton was still on a high and he found one aspect of his victory particularly sweet - beating Fernando Alonso.

"I love racing with Fernando; he's, like, the best driver here," Hamilton said. Why the man Alonso regards as his biggest rival chose that moment to remove the qualifying "one of" he usually applies to that statement is irrelevant. Hamilton was merely adding one more voice to a view that this year seems hard to dispute.

Firmly ensconced alongside Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel as one of Formula 1's 'big three', regard for Alonso's abilities has rocketed this season following his stunning performances in a Ferrari that began the season 1.5 seconds off the pace.

"He is simply one of the all-time greats," Mercedes team boss Ross Brawn announced at the British Grand Prix. "He wins races he shouldn't win... races he's got no right to win. And that's the mark of a great driver.

"He's not had a great car this year but he's on top of the championship. He has managed to get there because of what he is: the driver he is."

So what exactly makes Alonso so good? And is he really the best in the world?

To answer that question, F1 Racing has assembled a panel of experts who have raced against him, worked with him and observed him throughout his career.

They are: Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali; their reserve driver and Alonso's former Renault team-mate Giancarlo Fisichella; Lotus (formerly Renault) trackside operations chief Alan Permane; ex-F1 drivers and now television pundits David Coulthard, Ivan Capelli and Martin Brundle, and former Jordan, Stewart and Jaguar technical director Gary Anderson, now the BBC's technical analyst.

They're rated him on different aspects of his character, and this is what they've got to say...


Fisichella: He is a great driver, a fantastic driver. It's unbelievable how he judges the limit of the car, the circuit and the tyres. In a race, he is so consistent. He understands when is the moment to push, when is the moment to save the tyres. He's always, always on the limit when he needs to be. At the moment he is a good step ahead of the others.

Capelli: He's always operating at 110 per cent on very single lap. And he's able to drive through problems with the car.

Permane: In Monza qualifying in 2006, half the car was ripped off. We measured the downforce he'd lost, calculated what that should have translated to in lost lap time - yet he lost nowhere near that. It's like he refuses to accept it.

Brundle: He's Senna-like in his innate feel for where the grip is, and he knows how much grip to expect before steaming into a corner.

Anderson: The guys at Ferrari feel he does things with the car that they have never seen any other driver do. They say that often: "That was him; that was not the car." They just don't believe that could happen. The people saying that weren't necessarily in the same position when Michael Schumacher was there; they've moved up a bit, so they might not have known Michael as well. But they are second to none in their appreciation of Alonso's talents, his motivation and his lack of criticism. When things are bad, he's part of the team.

Coulthard: He's spent most of his career at the front so you don't see him doing a lot of overtaking and you could argue Lewis is a better instinctive racer. But Lewis is involved in more incidents, and Alonso's passes on Mark Webber and Romain Grosjean around the outside into Turn 2 in Valencia show his skills. He knows when to give it up - that shows strength of character and racing ability

Our guide to cockpit protection
We look at the area in an F1 car that surrounds the driver and is always at the forefront of safety developments
A conversation with Franz Tost
We catch up with the Toro Rosso boss, to get his opinion on tyres, cost-cutting... and why EJ rates him so highly
Where have the Italians gone?
Since Jarno Trulli departed F1 last year there have been no Italian racers in the sport. We find out why…
Heikki: the drive of his life
Catching up with Heikki Kovalainen on the golf course, we discover why he’s finally ready for a return to the fast lane
Lauda vs Hunt
Alan Henry looks back at the incredible rivalry and friendship between two great racers during the battle for the 1976 title
When Maurice met Jody
Maurice Hamilton visits Jody Scheckter’s organic farm in Hampshire and finds out how the South African champion made an unlikely move from fast cars to ethical sausages



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