That was before another stellar drive in Belgium that saw him finish second behind you know who. His drive went some way to reinforcing my opinion, and that of many others, that Alonso is arguably the most complete driver on the grid and very close to the best he can be.
It may be a long seven years since Alonso clinched his second consecutive drivers’ title but there are many factors as to why he hasn’t reached the magic three titles that would elevate him to the godlike status of the Alain Prosts, Ayrton Sennas and Michael Schumachers of the sport.
The best drivers don’t always win
Even the greatest drivers in the world need a bit of help from their machinery. Remember when Schumacher first moved to Ferrari in 1996? He had to endure watching the likes of Damon Hill and Jacques Villeneuve coasting to world titles while he struggled with a dog of a car.
Okay, so Alonso’s Ferrari isn’t quite as much of a handful as Schumacher’s early steeds, but it is clear that Adrian Newey’s Red Bull is the class of the field and has been for the past three seasons.
Yet Alonso has still found a way to win, as he did brilliantly in China and Spain and to collect points consistently to stay in the title hunt.
Consistency is king
What really sets Alonso apart from the rest of the field is his consistency and race strategy.
When will Fernando Alonso win a third drivers' title?
China and Spain proved that he’s almost Prost-like in his planning and execution of when to time his pit stops and when to put the hammer down to dial in quick laps. But he’s also an incredibly patient driver when he knows the car doesn’t have the pace to win.
Bahrain saw his race ruined by a stuck-open rear wing that he had to pit twice to remedy, but he still managed to collect points. Likewise Monaco, when he admitted afterward that he just wanted to steer clear of incident in order to maximise his points chances as highlighted by his post-race comments on Autosport:
As for what Sergio did, I don't have much to say. His approach reminds me of my own in 2008 and 2009, because when you are not fighting for the championship, you can take more risks, while for me today, it was important to finish the race and bring home as many points as possible. That approach has allowed me to close a bit on Kimi in the classification and even if the gap to Vettel has grown a bit, we know that sooner or later, an opportunity will come to close up on him too.
Only in Malaysia was he unable to finish after possibly his only mistake of the season saw him touch the back of Vettel’s Red Bull. Two wins, three second places and a third-place finish is the most Alonso has been able to muster in terms of podium finishes, but that’s not bad from 12 races considering the Ferrari is thought to be slower than both Red Bull and Mercedes and comparable to Lotus.
Just look at what teammate Felipe Massa has been able to get out of his car.
He’s a more mature person
Many of Alonso’s post-race press conferences this season have highlighted how pragmatic he has become, and this has come from years of experience.
He now talks about “maximising points-scoring chances,” “keeping out of trouble” and “staying in the title race." Gone are the days of blaming others or losing his cool, as he often did during his turbulent 2007 season against Lewis Hamilton.
Many interpret Alonso’s demeanour as arrogant, but the same was levelled at Senna and Schumacher before him.
Although he may not join Senna and Schumacher as a three-time world champion this year, a third title will surely come. And secretly Alonso knows this.