For the first four races of the season, Fernando Alonso had one of the poorest Ferraris of recent seasons at his disposal.
The brilliance of the damage-limiting job he did with it can be judged from the fact that he returned from the opening flyaway races just ten points behind then-championship leader Sebastian Vettel.
In Spain the team made significant progress with the car and they’ve made incremental progress with it ever since. Every step of the way, Alonso has wrung the maximum out of the chassis, and his team have lauded his efforts.
Early in the year it was all he could do to get the Ferrari into Q3, but he managed it, edging out Sebastian Vettel in China and Kimi Raikkonen in Bahrain.
It gets taken for granted that he will destroy team mate Felipe Massa every weekend. Instead it’s considered noteworthy if Massa laps within a respectable margin of Alonso’s times.
As has often been the case in F1 history, wet weather conditions offer the best opportunity to true greats in unworthy cars, and so it has been with Alonso. He emerged from the rain to win in Malaysia not simply because McLaren made errors, but because he was faster than them when it mattered.
|Beat team mate in qualifying||11/11|
|Beat team mate in race||10/10|
|Laps spent ahead of team mate||657/672|
Rain in qualifying at Silverstone and the Hockenheimring presented a further chances for him and he seized them, leading both races, winning in Germany and only slipping behind Mark Webber in the closing stages in Britain.
There have been few mistakes to speak of. The ill-handling car got away from him during qualifying in Australia, and he made a mistake trying to pass Pastor Maldonado during the Chinese Grand Prix.
And a clear shot at a podium was missed by Ferrari in Canada as they failed to bring Alonso into the pits early enough to keep him safe from the likes of Romain Grosjean and Sergio Perez.
It is a testament to the standard of driving Alonso has produced this year not only that he is leading the championship by 40 points, but that some people seem to think the title race is already over.
Arguably driving better now than he did in either of his world championship seasons. His Ferrari this year is certainly not at the same level as his Renault in 2005 and 2006, yet he leads the championship by 40 points, a huge margin. That is to his immense credit, especially considering how far off the pace his team were at the start of the season.
He’s made the most of every opportunity presented to him, either through the weather, the failures of his nearest rivals, or just incredibly smart driving, and you can?óÔéĽÔäót ask for much more than that.
I’ve never been a big fan of Alonso or Ferrari, but the one surefire way to win me over is to do incredible things in a mediocre car. And Alonso has done just that, leading the championship after eleven rounds in a car that (to my infinite glee at the time) looked nigh on undriveable in Australia.
I think everyone?óÔéĽÔäós list will be agreed on the fact Alonso is number one, he has been quite simply outstanding. Three wins, finishing every race in the points, it is difficult to think of an occasion where he has not got the best out of the car. And then when you consider what an awful car it was at the start of the year, and Massa?óÔéĽÔäós performance in comparison it is really astounding he leads the championship at the halfway point.
- 2016 F1 season driver rankings #1: Ricciardo
- 2016 F1 season driver rankings #2: Hamilton
- 2016 F1 season driver rankings #3: Verstappen
- 2016 F1 season driver rankings #4: Alonso
- 2016 F1 season driver rankings #5: Rosberg
Browse all driver ranking articles
Images ?é?® Ferrari spa/Ercole Colombo