Analysing Alonso's Relationships with Teammates: Can He Handle Kimi Raikkonen?
Fernando Alonso is widely considered to be the best all-rounder in Formula One.
He's quick, calm and determined and is great at building a team round him. Next year, with Felipe Massa confirming his departure on Twitter, he'll have a new challenger to his bubble at Ferrari.
According to BBC Sport's Andrew Benson, a two-year deal has been confirmed for Kimi Raikkonen. The Finn was Ferrari's 2007 world champion but had the final year of his contract paid off in 2009 in order to bring Alonso into the team.
Raikkonen might not have loved being dumped for Alonso, but will it affect the pair's relationship? Since entering F1 in 2001 with Minardi, Alonso has faced up to six teammates in four teams.
We take a look at the drivers he's shared garages with over the years, and how he fared personally as well as on track against them.
Here's a hint: they are mostly harmonious—so long as Alonso has the upper hand. Given that Raikkonen will offer the Spaniard a greater challenge than Massa has in recent years, that could be interesting for 2014...
2001, Minardi: Tarso Marques/Alex Yoong
Teammate Comparison (combined)
Races: 17 (14 Tarso Marques; 3 Alex Yoong)
Head-to-Head (where both finished): Alonso 2-0; Alonso 1-0
Qualifying: Alonso 12-2; Alonso 3-0
In his debut season, Fernando Alonso partners F3000 race winner, late-‘90s Minardi F1 and Champ Car racer Tarso Marques.
He outqualifies him on his debut by a huge margin and goes on to beat him 11 more times in qualifying, starting behind him only twice.
Along the way the Spaniard claims several qualifying scalps, including Jacques Villeneuve’s BAR and the Benettons of Giancarlo Fisichella and Jenson Button.
He is partnered by Alex Yoong for three races during the season and whitewashes the Malaysian.
2003-4, Renault: Jarno Trulli
Head-to-Head (where both finished): Alonso 8-6
Qualifying: Alonso 17-16
Alonso's first season with Renault culminates in an impressive sixth after a 2002 season as test driver for the team. He beats his very experienced teammate Jarno Trulli by 22 points in the Drivers’ Championship, finishing sixth with the Italian eighth.
Claims his maiden win in Hungary and beats the McLaren of David Coulthard in the points too, with two poles and three more podiums. Equally impressive is his qualifying tally, as he matches the renowned one-lap specialist Trulli blow for blow, the teammates outqualifying each other on eight occasions.
Alonso doesn’t win in 2004 while Trulli takes his first and only Grand Prix victory in Monaco, but the Renault is not as competitive and often lags behind the BAR of Jenson Button as well as the Williams and McLaren at different stages.
But Alonso adds another four podiums to his tally across the season and still manages fourth in the championship, 12 points and two places ahead of Trulli. He even beats the Italian at his own game, shading him in qualifying 9-8.
2005-6, Renault: Giancarlo Fisichella
Head-to-Head (where both finished): Alonso 24-5
Qualifying: Alonso 26-9
Alonso has to cede the early advantage to Renault new boy Fisichella, who wins on his debut in Australia, but he goes on to absolutely dominate the Italian over their two seasons together.
While Fisichella stutters after his victory with a collision in Malaysia, engine failure in Bahrain and a spin in San Marino, Alonso racks up three straight wins.
Further victories in Europe, France, Germany and China ensure the Spaniard claims his maiden world championship despite the pace advantage of Kimi Raikkonen in the rapid, yet frail, McLaren. Fisichella, meanwhile, can only get on the podium twice more. Fisichella earns 58 points to Alonso’s title-winning 133.
Having battered Fisichella in 2005, Alonso went on to enjoy further dominance over him in 2006. Taking seven wins yet again on his way to a second title. Fisichella improves, becoming a more consistent top-five finisher, but again manages the solitary success, coming from pole in Malaysia.
A midseason run of five straight poles and four straight wins puts Alonso on the cusp of the crown while Fisichella can only earn four more podiums. 134 points this time for Alonso; Fisico improves to 72.
2007, McLaren: Lewis Hamilton
Head-to-Head (where both finished): Alonso 8-6
Qualifying: Hamilton 10-7
The Spaniard finally meets his match in rookie Lewis Hamilton and is the first and only time in his career he is beaten by his teammate in the points.
Alonso starts off harmoniously with second in Australia to Hamilton’s third and leads his younger teammate home in a Malaysian McLaren one-two. But he trails behind Hamilton in Bahrain and then in his home Grand Prix, leaving the rookie leading the championship after Catalunya. Alonso triumphs in Monaco, but the first cracks start to appear as Hamilton is told to back off and not challenge him for the lead.
Hamilton claims his maiden win in Canada before the two go wheel-to-wheel for the victory at Indianapolis, which Hamilton wins. After the European Grand Prix, in which Alonso takes the win and Hamilton non-scores, the Spaniard trails him by two points in the standings.
The now infamous Hungary scandal erupts in the next race, as each driver tries to spoil the other’s qualifying session. With the trust broken, there’s an inevitable McLaren Civil War, and it becomes a grudge match within the team.
After Hamilton wins the race, Alonso claws back points in Turkey, Italy and Belgium (which he wins). That leaves him two points adrift again, but a spin in the torrential rain of Fuji while Hamilton goes on to triumph leaves him 12 points off the lead with two races to go.
Hamilton’s China nightmare, where he wears his left-rear Intermediate tyre down to the canvas and beaches the car in the pit-lane gravel, hands Alonso—who finishes second to Raikkonen—a lifeline, and four points separate the pair as they enter the finale, with Raikkonen a further three points behind.
Hamilton suffers a disastrous final round, running wide at Turn 3 on the opening lap before suffering a temporary gearbox problem. Alonso manages third, but Hamilton’s recovery to seventh enables him to beat the Spaniard on a countback. Raikkonen steals past both to win the title.
2008-9, Renault: Nelson Piquet/Romain Grosjean
Teammate Comparison (combined):
Races: 35 (28 Nelson Piquet; 7 Romain Grosjean)
Head-to-Head (where both finished): Alonso 13-3; Alonso 4-0
Qualifying: Alonso 27-1; Alonso 4-0
Moving back to Renault returned Alonso not only to familiar surroundings but a team in which he was firmly entrenched as the No. 1. That immediately made the situation different to McLaren, despite the similarity of Alonso being paired with a young hotshot in Hamilton’s GP2 rival Nelson Piquet.
However, the story would prove very different. With the Renault proving a difficult car, a much trickier offspring of the title-winning 2005 and 2006 winning Enstone machines Alonso had last raced, Piquet struggled to get up to speed. The Brazilian did net a podium, but languished in 12th with just 19 points. Alonso, by contrast, managed to drag the difficult Renault to wins in Singapore and Japan to finish the year fifth on 61 points.
The following season Piquet toiled as Alonso’s dominance continued. This iteration was even worse than its predecessor, with Alonso only managing one podium, in Singapore, and no victories despite qualifying on pole in Hungary. He finished ninth, scoring 26 points.
Piquet fared even worse, scoring no points and eventually being dumped from the team after the Hungarian Grand Prix. It would later emerge that his crash in Singapore 2008, which brought out a safety car and handed Alonso the win, was orchestrated by the Renault team. While partnered with his Alonso he qualified in the top 10 just five times.
Piquet’s replacement was Romain Grosjean, a young Frenchman who was thrust into F1 long before he was ready. As such, he was no match for Alonso and looked incapable of getting out of the ‘teens in qualifying and the races.
2010-13, Ferrari: Felipe Massa
Head-to-Head (where both finished): Alonso 51-5
Qualifying: Alonso 58-12
Alonso replaces Kimi Raikkonen for the 2010 season and comes close to winning the title at the first effort, pipped by Red Bull’s Sebastian Vettel at the final round.
At the team he joins Felipe Massa, Ferrari’s nearly champion in 2008. He enjoys a strong opening season against the Brazilian and ultimately goes on to utterly control him in the following campaigns.
Alonso’s strong willpower proves too strong for Massa, who gradually recedes into a No. 2 role. He rarely troubles Alonso, and the two form a relationship built on strong mutual respect, aided by the fact that Massa is effectively beaten into a shell of his former self.
The Brazilian never looked the calibre of driver he was before his accident in 2009 against Alonso.
Can Alonso Handle Raikkonen?
What have we learned from this trip down Memory Lane? The obvious conclusion is that, when Alonso's happy, he's dominant.
But that would be a bit hasty because there has only been one season in which he's been truly challenged.
The fact is that Alonso is often paired with a driver who will allow him to achieve the maximum, rather than push him to this goal. The Spaniard did not get riled by Hamilton because he was being challenged by his teammate, he did so for the combined reasons of Hamilton being a rookie, being beaten for the first time and not feeling McLaren's full support in his title bid.
But he's older and wiser and a better driver for it. The likelihood is that while Raikkonen would push Alonso race-to-race on speed, would he be able to mount as impressive a title tilt?
That would light a fire within Ferrari and be fascinating to see. But to suggest the pair would have a negative dynamic would do both an injustice. They carry intense respect for one another; and you could argue Alonso's not had a teammate he personally feels has earned that approach before.
Could he handle Raikkonen? Definitely. But there will be sparks along the way.