2011 F1 season review
Fernando Alonso’s second year with Ferrari was a fascinating case study in what a world class driver can achieve with a sub-par car.
Rare were the occasions when Alonso did not qualify and race the 150° Italia close to the limit of what appeared to be its potential.
When either of the Red Bulls or McLarens slipped up, Alonso was almost always the first to capitalise.
Last year with (narrowly) the second-quickest car at his disposal, Alonso came within a strategic blunder of winning the world championship. This year the Ferrari was emphatically the third-quickest car out there, so the best he could usually aim for was the podium.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||15/19|
|Beat team mate in race||13/15|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||847/1016|
He duly brought the car home in the top three in more than half of this year’s races, while his team mate never placed higher than fifth.
A single victory came at Silverstone, and this was rather opportunistic, for it came in the middle of a row over the technical rules which temporarily removed part of Ferrari’s disadvantage. Alonso romped home to win by 16 seconds in slippery conditions.
But on ordinary Sundays Alonso had to make inroads into the top four as best he could. At Catalunya and Monza he achieved this with spectacular starts, squeezing through impossibly narrow gaps to claim the inside line for the first corner and take the lead.
It was a testament to Alonso’s impressive form that he often found himself battling for position with Mark Webber in the much faster Red Bull. They crossed swords several times in 2011, Alonso coming out on top at Valencia and the Nurburgring.
His domination of Felipe Massa was near-total, though this was scarcely a surprise after last year. Massa occasionally pipped him in qualifying but Alonso’s supremacy was never in serious doubt.
The Ferrari made its sole appearance on the front row in Canada, in Alonso’s hands. But he produced an oddly indifferent performance, being shadowed by Massa before dropping out in a needless tangle with Jenson Button.
He had a run-in with the other McLaren at Sepang, breaking his front wing. This was especially unfortunate for Alonso as Lewis Hamilton ultimately received a penalty for his over-zealous defending earlier on in their tussle.
Remarkably, Alonso remained in the hunt for the runner-up place in the championship until the final race, thanks to some particularly strong drives in the closing stages of the season. He beat Sebastian Vettel to second place in Japan and when the Red Bull driver failed to finish in Abu Dhabi, Alonso pressed Hamilton hard for the win.
Alonso only slipped to fourth in the standings when Mark Webber scored an improbable win in the final round.
Nonetheless Alonso ended up just 13 points shy of second-placed Button. He deserves the lion’s share of the credit for that achievement having seldom left a point on the table all season long.
F1 Fanatics on Fernando Alonso
The only driver to consistently squeeze so much out of their car aside from Vettel, often beating the faster Mclarens and Mark Webber to the podium.
Pushed as hard as he possibly can and looked like he treated every lap as a qualifying lap. All he needed is a better car to battle for the WDC.
I also think this was the best Alonso has ever driven. The 150° Italia isn’t anywhere as good as the F10 of last year, yet he scored more points. He only had one win, but most of his wins last year were inherited after Vettel had to retire or Massa moved over.
Always got the most out of his car. Made excellent starts, qualified consistently well, made some beautiful overtakes and gave Red Bull and McLaren something to worry about on occasions when Ferrari didn’t look at all competitive.
His win at Silverstone was no doubt aided by the rule changes, but that shouldn’t detract from what was a fantastic drive.
2011 F1 season review
- The 2011 F1 season: The complete F1 Fanatic review
- Your 2011 F1 predictions revisited
- 2011 F1 statistics part 3: Stats and facts highlights
- 2011 F1 statistics part two: Vettel’s domination
- 2011 F1 statistics part one: car performance
- New 2011 rules produced best racing of last four years
- What F1 Fanatics really thought of the 2011 season
- Sebastian Vettel voted F1 Fanatic Driver of the Year
- F1 Fanatic’s article highlights of 2011
- Dominant Red Bull join F1′s top teams
Images © Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo