Approaching the age of 27, Fernando Alonso is in his prime.
Yet, the former world champion finds himself in, by his standards, uncompetitive machinery. He is proving his worth, however, forging commendable results in unlikely circumstances, just as he managed driving for Minardi in 2001.
With Ferrari, McLaren, and BMW so dominant at the top, it seems that only a substantial slice (or several!) of luck or those three teams robbing each other of valuable points will see Fernando finish any higher than ‘best of the rest’ this season.
In addition, the greater the gap between Renault and Ferrari this season, the harder it will be for Renault to even maintain such a gap next season.
However, there is hope. The relative performance of teams is set to be equalised somewhat (in theory) in time for the 2009 season.
New aerodynamics regulations and the fact that tyres will have to be ‘slick’ (smooth) should make the cars rely more on mechanical grip, making overtaking and close racing a greater possibility.
As all the teams adjust to these significant rule changes, Renault will begin 2009 on more of a level playing field. All this is perhaps irrelevant, however, should Alonso choose to leave Renault, if he has the option…
Alonso has demonstrated negative traits in the past, most dramatically with his handling of competitive teammates, and not just most famously whilst at Mclaren with Lewis Hamilton.
When he believed Fisichella held him up in Montreal in 2005, he ranted and raved to the team over the radio, before proceeding to lose concentration and then control, breaking his suspension in the process.
He has always believed himself to be more important than his team. Some teams may not have him for such attitudes.
The undeniable quality of Fernando’s driving should dictate that he will be able to haul himself into title contention eventually, even staying with the Renault team, perhaps reconstructing Ferrari around him like Michael Schumacher did.
He must be careful, however, that he doesn’t run out of years in the process should he commit to an uncertain long-term future there.
Looking at the hard facts, Fernando Alonso is a double world champion, the man who ended Michael Schumacher’s dominance, and the most successful driver currently on the grid.
It would take an unfortunate series of events to prevent Alonso from at least challenging for the title again before the end of his career.
With teams and drivers more closely matched than has been the case for a while, it will be difficult for Fernando, even if he does manage to produce a fully competitive season again, to rise to the top of the pile again.
However, his levels of ability and determination dictate he will not remain in the doldrums forever. Be it as soon as 2009, or later, he will indubitably be in the fray once more.