The ‘Paul Di Resta Strategy’ Theory

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The 'Paul Di Resta Strategy' Theory
Why Renault should buy into replacing Jolyon Palmer with Robert Kubica
Jonathan Simon | July 15, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
 

Ku-bicka or Ku-bit-sa? That was in fact a genuine question to be answered by the Polish driver at the 2007 season opening Australian Grand Prix. At the time, he preferred Ku-bicka over the latter, not because it was correct but because “it made him sound faster”. Now it’s unknown whether or not he will perpetually remain on the list of 33 sole race winners in Formula One, along with Heikki Kovalainen, Pastor Maldonado, Jarno Trulli and Alessandro Nannini who also similarly injured his arm in a helicopter accident back in 1990, but let me just explain how desperate I am to write a column on something as significant a nature as of him returning to the sport.

I took an extra five minutes in the shower this morning day dreaming about why I need to get into contact and send a pioneering letter to the Renault Sport Formula One Team, missed a couple trains as a result of that, along with randomly texting a friend about this, along with randomly bugging our trusted Formula One expert on The Simon Racing Report in Paul Smith – just to publicise the shear irritation as to how Jolyon Palmer is still in that seat.

Now irrespective of the lackluster Formula 1 career that Palmer has had so far, any logical manager would understand that you need to give people patience and time to develop, but that should really only apply with signs of positivity, in which Jolyon has had no glimmer of strong results. Let’s use a trusty old friend in google and do a search for ‘Jolyon Palmer’. If you’re not already depressed scrolling down to the bottom of page one, I’d be baffled. Almost every piece found is in relation to a past negative, or his current dilemma of the precarious tight rope he walks in his current race seat. The closest thing to a positive is Jolyon labeling himself as the “master of 11th place” – or as Ayrton Senna would call, the tenth loser.
 
We’re all human and it’s rude to tell the team to kick someone out from their job for constantly being the tenth loser. You’re removing a person from their job, passion, as well as something they’ve done their whole life. But if I showed up to my job and was constantly the 11th person to finish work, if I was the eleventh guy to get a shot at the most beautiful woman at a club – or the eleventh option on an NBA team, I’d be laughing my way into the unemployment market faster than Valtteri Bottas’ recent ‘legal’ jump start at the Austrian Grand Prix.
 
That’s The Art of War by Sun Tzu, that’s the business of Formula One. That’s why Romain Grosjean was kicked out of Enstone at the end of 2009 and why he found his way back with future signs of positivity. There was minimal logical reason to keep him onboard at the time, but he worked his way back into the sport respectfully. Maldonado remained in the sport mostly due to monetary factors, but that sole race win was also a heavy influence as on the right day, he was one of the quickest drivers on the grid as a GP2 Champion himself.

But do I dare bring up Nelson Piquet Jr’s demise from Formula One? I guess the story is set… If Palmer is still in his seat after the summer break and he ‘accidently’ crashes at the Singapore Grand Prix, we’ll probably find Nico Hülkenberg somehow leading the race during the safety car period, before he is unfortunately taken out by Sebastian Vettel who claims his fellow German brake tested him going into the Singapore Sling. Palmer is then kicked out at the end of the year and Renault face the same discipline and wrath Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds had to endure. So why take that unnecessary situation onboard when there’s a low risk initiative of bringing in Robert Kubica?
 
I don’t want this column to be more toxic than the Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel volatile social media revulsion, but what I appreciate about Jolyon most is that he’s maintained reasonable professionalism for the abundance of criticism he’s received. However, do you really need to read between the lines and gaze into the pressure you can visibly see? Losing his cool talking to Jennie Gow on BBC Radio 5 live’s F1 preview show was a sign he could feel it, but most importantly, Palmer didn’t let himself go physically the way Davide Valsecchi has – whose recent passion in the Formula 2 commentary booth (and F1 Sky Italia) is still as fat as Juan Pablo Montoya at the end of 40 days of lent and food sacrifice.
Think about it, Palmer took four years to win the GP2 Championship and whenever it takes someone more than their rookie season to do so, it’s high likely (but still possible) that they won’t be achieving much success at the top level in Formula 1. Congratulations, you’re a 23 year old senior out of college who outplayed a 19 year old one and done freshman, but guess who’s getting drafted higher in the NBA draft?
 
Even Stoffel Vandoorne isn’t showing the most promising signs in a difficult car this season. He’s another example of someone who should’ve been a rookie champion if not for his abysmal first few rounds to his GP2 career after his win in Bahrain. The difference here is that he HAS shown glimpses of promise, positivity and potential. I’m all for any human on this planet having a successful career and life, it’s for the good of the world. But we’re starting to bottleneck at the top and as much as I’d love for Jolyon to succeed, Palmer’s ‘almost scoring points’ cliffhanger story each race, or the fact that he’s 26 years old leaves me desperate to tell Renault, what the fuck are you doing?

In comes Robert Kubica…
 
I can’t see much of a downside in comparison to the Palmer situation – if it works, you bring in one of the hottest talents from 7 years ago, becoming the New York Knicks of Formula 1 in a good way. If it doesn’t, you don’t face the #Wengerout bullshit and disloyalty, the public scrutiny the Los Angeles Lakers face for every decision they make in a high pressure market, because you took a well calculated risk and had all rights to do so. Palmer’s contract is off the books, you give Kubica another season in 2018 to figure things out and if it still doesn’t work, you bring in your test driver in Sergey Sirotkin to the seat who has been the hot 17 year old talent for six straight years already.
 
I would rather have a one handed Robert Kubica than Jolyon Palmer 100% on the right day. The risk vs reward situation is simple, if Kubica fails to perform, he has the ‘rust’ excuse of not being in Formula 1 since 2010, the same excuse overweight baseball players have used for years during spring training. If it does work out, it’s a future feature film directed by Ron Howard. You’ll get flair, speed, the occasional mistake here and there, but most importantly you’re getting the extra tenth or two you need out of Robert Kubica. Whereas the other side from Palmer? I cannot be bothered bearing through another race of the good old Paul Di Resta strategy, going on a one stop strategy in a four stop race, letting everyone constantly pass you by not battling with them and finishing 11th or 12th yet again.
 
Let’s now give “Paul Di Resta Strategy” a google search and here is my theory on it – the first result I find is a 2011 article from ESPN with Di Resta “thanking his team for an aggressive strategy”, quite the contrary to Di Resta’s career as aggressive strategies were far from his forte, but it proved that by trying something different against his then teammates of Adrian Sutil and Nico Hülkenberg, Di Resta gathered a decent points finish. Scroll down the page and you’ll see what I mean by the Paul Di Resta Strategy. It’s a lose-lose situation which Jolyon Palmer has found himself in, if it doesn’t work, you’re slow and uncompetitive. When it works, you’ve really only made places on strategy and not on pure pace, less impressive to other prospective teams. It’s an illusion because even pitting a pre-2011 Hamilton (who was abrasive on his tyres) against the Paul Di Resta strategy, his pace would far out supersede the need to go on conservative strategies regardless.

Rubens Barrichello also stated clearly in 2012, Williams should have had far more points than they had with Maldonado and Bruno Senna, the Brazilian stating that with his experience and speed they wouldn’t be in the situation they’re in now with their inexperienced drivers. You’re already scoring very valuable 11th places with Palmer, so what’s there to lose with putting Robert Kubica in the car (who technically has equal to more experience than Jolyon, although in older cars)? Robert also doesn’t have to worry about the British media constantly covering his every move and that will mean slightly less pressure and exposure to any movement he makes on and off the track.
 
So hey! Jolyon, like Nike says, just fucking do it. Forget the 11th place finishes, try something different this weekend at Silverstone, as well as Hungary, try and save your seat. Kubica, a realistic man stating he has an 80-90% chance of making an F1 comeback therefore means you have nothing else to lose. On the other hand, stay the same over these next two races, you’ll probably end up losing the seat. So trying something different, and whatever is ‘different’, is the job interview for your next F1 seat.
 
So hey! Renault, tell Palmer it’s time to jolly off this summer – and all Cyril Abiteboul simply needs to do is ensure he doesn’t sign four drivers to two race seats and find himself in a pickle, break off Palmer’s contract and send him to Le Mans or DTM (partnering up with his great strategic inspiration of Paul Di Resta) and bring in Robert Kubica. You announce the comeback three days before Friday practice ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix as everyone will just be returning from the piña colada and palm tree beaches, or maybe that’s just Lewis Hamilton.
 
Lewis will return to the paddock for his first interview, calmly and soothingly stating “It’s good to see Robert back in the paddock inspiring us all to keep fighting”, before being labelled rude and a cry baby by Formula 1’s entire social media and reddit page for his vicious, volatile and unprofessional comments. Win-win for Formula 1 and their new positive social media presence, win-win for Renault and Kubica.
 
Hülkenberg recently stated in the May 2017 edition of F1 Racing magazine, that he believes Renault will be at the front by 2018. The same reason Lewis Hamilton left McLaren in 2012, the same reason Hülkenberg left for Renault last year. Now it probably won’t be at the same whiplash effect of Mercedes, who had the backing and structure of Ross Brawn who set the team up for success, much like he did with Honda/Brawn GP for 2009 and the Schumacher/Ferrari era. In this instance however, if everything goes to plan, you set up a solid driver lineup that will succeed in the status quo, but not have to deal with the backlash McLaren receives for their lackluster performances either, as you were never competing for championships in the first place. It doesn’t help having a driver with as big a fan presence as Alonso, for all the talent you get, you have to live with the anger and publicity of being dug deep in a tough situation.
 
Hülkenberg has recently said he’s fully focused on the Renault program and with Kubica’s previous experience in F1, despite it being 7 years ago, his biggest challenge will be adapting to the physical fitness required to pilot this machinery.

Think about Herbert’s accident, Lauda, now add Kubica to that list. If everything plays out well, this comeback story will be up right up there depending on both results and Renault’s competitiveness – not mention how he fairs against Hülkenberg. It’s a common theme in life and sports, ‘what could have been?’ So rather than ask those questions, let’s bring Robert back when he’s ready and test this story out once and for all.
 
Let’s be realistic though, we all want this story to happen but there is minimal chance it will succeed. Formula 1 drivers are wired differently, 300km/h close to barriers without batting an eye lid, they know the consequences of motor racing, but they still race regardless. Give Robert a shot and if Renault don’t, Ferrari should instead give Roberto a shot once Kimi Raikkonen “bwoah’s” his way into retirement at the end of the year.

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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

F1 2007 or 2017?

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F1 2007 or 2017?
2017 Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Driver Recap
Jonathan Simon | March 29, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
 

With only five total overtakes at Australia, it was the first time since the 2010 Formula One season that I could remember a race that had a perfect mix of strategy, drama, track action and boring periods. You see, the boring periods of the race make the rare entertaining moments extra special because you don’t expect it, like your jump scare in any Scream movie.

The 2011 – 2016 Pirelli tyres were much like the beginning of Heikki Kovalainen’s career, exciting at first but you got over it after that introduction phase. Whereas the 2017 Pirelli rubber is your red wine to the elegant steak that is a 2017 Formula 1 car.

This season also greatly replicates the 2007 Formula One Season's pecking order. The two horse race between Mercedes and Ferrari clones the dramatic McLaren and Ferrari dual in '07, along with the Red Bull to BMW Sauber comparison which is right there ready to clean up more errors than your defensive anchor at mid-field. Your mid-pack teams follow, along with the McLaren/Sauber to Super Aguri/Spyker clean up at the back of the grid.

Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel

A brilliant weekend from the German who returned to the blisteringly quick form he has shown throughout his illustrious career. After Kimi Räikkönen signed his contract extension in 2017, Sebastian looked out of place in a Ferrari that struggled to compete for victories against the dominant Mercedes FW07. I’ve always said that racing drivers sometimes need a reset/refresh epiphany to get back into rhythm. Whether that’s a pit stop for a fresh set of rubber, a new race or a brand new season, the German received that extra motivation heading in 2017 with the quickest Ferrari during his tenure with the team. He made the most of it, taking advantage of Mercedes’ early pit stop to blister into 2017 with a round one victory. As long as the dreaded finger doesn’t return, there are no issues.

Kimi Räikkönen

After showing he could still compete with four time champion Vettel last season after his contract extension, Kimi could play a solid number two role for Seb this season if he maintains the same pace he showed in Australia. Whilst Sebastian powered his way to a front row start, Räikkönen qualified over half a second off his teammate and this was further replicated in the race when he finished 22 seconds off the pace. Nothing to panic about though, let’s see if Kimi can challenge his teammate in the next few rounds, but Vettel will be pushed enough by the Mercedes of Hamilton as it’s now a two team fight for the title.

Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton

After Lewis notified the team of his lack of rear grip, I was concerned that the team had gone into panic mode and pitted the three time world champion too early. Sergio Pérez in the Force India was on an identical strategy to Hamilton, however as a leader Hamilton is expected to preserve the tyres longer and better compared to a middle of the pack car. His pit stop at the end of lap 17 was only a couple laps earlier than his scheduled stop on lap 19 and with Vettel allowing Mercedes no breathing room for error, I would’ve expected Mercedes to stay out until there was a clear track advantage. Instead, the few seconds they had behind Verstappen were obviously less than adequate. Maybe the team didn’t expect Lewis to find it so difficult to overtake in 2017? Regardless of this, the Mercedes is still the faster car of the two championship challengers but the team now has no margin for error compared to their previous years of dominance.

Valtteri Bottas

The Finn stayed quiet all weekend (both metaphorically and vocally), nonetheless to only qualify just under three tenths from his teammate in his first race in a silver arrows was a solid performance from the 27 year old. He was close to catching Hamilton for P2 towards the end of the event, although Hamilton was much quicker throughout the overall race weekend. Valtteri still has some pace to find, Hamilton’s poor strategy and the fresher tyres for the former Williams driver helped make him look a little bit better. Hats off to the man for being classy and stopping for every fan as he left the track late in the night in front of us, brilliant man behind the scenes with a shy humble smile.

Red Bull Racing

Daniel Ricciardo

Daniel is possibly the hardest driver to judge this weekend, as both he and Max were extremely close together based on lap times throughout all sessions. We didn’t get to see the full race potential from the Aussie after his sensor issues during the reconnaissance laps. His mistake in qualifying was also a rarity, signifying that the 2017 cars are indeed much tougher to drive. That isn’t the first and won’t be the last time we’ll see the rear of the car snap unexpectedly like that. It happened to Jolyon Palmer towards the end of practice two and will generally occur during mid-speed corners where you’re able to apply and increase throttle application mid corner (the weight will rapidly shift to the rear).

Max Verstappen

An extremely underrated race performance from the Red Bull young gun this weekend. The team may have set the car up for longevity during the race, but with a two tier fight quiet visible at the top of the pecking order between Mercedes and Ferrari, Verstappen was 6 seconds away from snatching P4 from Räikkönen. This reminded me a lot of the 2007 Bahrain Grand Prix when Nick Heidfeld snuck himself past Alonso and up into P4 despite being in the third best car on the grid by a long mile. Max had brilliant long run pace and I’m looking forward to watching the RB13 tip toe around Monaco in a few rounds time.

Williams

Felipe Massa

He basically received a free Formula 1 car that he doesn’t have to give back, was beeping his way leaving the track as if Brazil had just won the world cup and also performed outstandingly well to give Williams some optimism this season. Not much to say about Massa, the start was crucial in terms of getting past Romain Grosjean in the Haas and the 2008 almost world champion runner-up achieved the best possible result he could’ve this weekend.

Lance Stroll

Whilst any smart team principal or sports coach understands that you need to be patient with young talent to develop, the opening signs with Lance Stroll are not optimistic. As stated earlier, the 2017 cars are a different beast to handle and jumping from Formula 3 to Formula 1 may not be as easy as it was in the past, but the sample size to prove this point is obviously small at the moment. Massa had a tendency to spin a lot and make an abundance of mistakes in his early years in Formula 1, however Lance has been completely demolished by his experienced teammate which doesn’t support his case as a future world champion. He also looks nervous in front of the press and whether that coincides with his driving or not is difficult to perceive. Let’s see if Massa’s leadership along with the ideal mentorship supports the Canadian through his rookie season. If Jolyon Palmer managed to get a second season in the Renault, we can’t give up on Lance after one grand prix weekend (And all the drama from testing, I know...).

Force India

Sergio Pérez

Pérez produced some thrilling overtakes this event, despite Force India going along with the same strategy as Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes (after the Mexican started from P11). His move around the outside of Carlos Sainz into Turn 3 reinforced the point that overtaking was difficult, but in a good way. By trail braking into the corner around the outside, he closed the door by only a whisker to get ahead of the Toro Rosso. It was a move that replicated Fernando Alonso’s around the outside of Lewis Hamilton during the beginning of the 2013 race. The aim is to now get ahead of Williams (and possibly Haas depending on whether or not Grosjean maintains his comfortability in the car this season) in terms of overall performance as it is extremely close in the mid pack.

Esteban Ocon

Points for the young Frenchman in his first race with Force India is a great way to leave Australia with some ever so slight confidence. Most other young drivers / second drivers struggled to match their teammates and this was the case with Ocon. However despite the gap in qualifying between himself and Perez, Ocon made minimal errors and the late race battle between himself, Alonso and Hülkenberg was the vital point of the race. If Hülkenberg had managed to come out top in the three wide battle, Ocon would not have a world championship point alongside his name. It’s most important that Ocon steps up his level of improvement before the midway point of the season. If Bottas fails to impress on his one year deal, Mercedes need to be comfortable in his replacement when its contract time come the end of the season.

Haas

Romain Grosjean

Grosjean may well have the Alonso factor to him in that he is one of the best on the grid in terms of extracting performance from a mid-pack car. P6 in qualifying and a potential P7 in the race before his retirement (due to a water leak) is mightily impressive for a team that enters their second season in the sport. A lot forget that the Frenchman was close to winning races and scoring consistent podiums in 2013 after rejuvenating his career from his miserable 2009 season, as well as his controversial 2012 campaign. If Haas can manage to avoid the brake issues they suffered in 2016, Grosjean in a comfortable car can score some good points in 2017.

Kevin Magnussen

A weekend to forget for Magnussen, even Mark Webber couldn’t put effort into caring about his clash at the start of the race with Marcus Ericsson. Not only did he qualify 11 spots down on his teammate, he’s also a driver who has critical experience in F1 which means there are no excuses for qualifying dramatically off the pace. Years ago I predicted a McLaren lineup in 2017 to consist of Magnussen and Vandoorne, fighting for the title. We obviously know that didn't pan out accurately. K-Mag has yet to get used to the Haas machinery, but so far he’s further cemented my analysis of the ‘first’ driver being far more superior to the ‘second’ in a team.

Toro Rosso

Carlos Sainz Jr

Quiet weekend for Carlos who mentioned he struggled with handling issues in the Toro Rosso this weekend. If that’s the case, it’s quite impressive he still managed to edge Daniil Kvyat who is yet to bounce back from his Red Bull to Toro Rosso demotion. These two drivers were the closest of any teammates this weekend from my analysis, swapping positions two times in the final stint as they battled for the bottom end of the points.

Daniil Kvyat

We will need to wait for the first few rounds of the championship to play out before we determine whether or not Daniil Kvyat has completely forgotten the depression filled Red Bull axing. So far he performed solidly at Australia but let’s assume Carlos wasn’t 100% this round and lacked pace, I doubt the Toro Rosso is finishing any higher than where they eventually ended up. Therefore Kvyat should be proud that he was driving around like a torpedo (probably to Vettel’s dismay) and scoring valuable points. He only scored 16 points last season when he switched into the Toro Rosso compared to the 42 points his teammate scored in their head to head battle. The Russian needs to ensure he isn’t on the back foot going into the European rounds of the season.

Renault

Nico Hülkenberg

Quite a disappointing round for Renault who just didn’t have the overall pace to compete for points at Australia. Hulk was at touching distance of the final point in the thrilling three wide battle with Ocon and Alonso. I was standing over at Turn 1 watching the big screen expecting a simple move from the Force India, when I turned my head to the track to see three wide action along with sparks lighting the track up. I was as excited for an overtake for the first time since the 2010 Bridgestone days.

Jolyon Palmer

Struggle city is the title of this chapter for Jolyon Palmer’s Formula 1 book. Shall we maintain patience with the 2014 GP2 Champion? We can be lenient with his mistake at the final corner of practice two, the car snapped away and looked a handful to drive. However Palmer wasn’t at ease with the Renault this weekend and his errors in Q1 means he goes back to the drawing board to figure things out for China. He was running well in P14 before his brake issues forced him into retirement as the team also apologised. That’s a frustrating weekend to forget for the Brit who is under pressure to perform this season.

McLaren

Fernando Alonso

Do we potentially give Fernando driver of the day had he scored points? Even Fernando himself said this was one of the best race performances of his career. He has a history of saying this though and uses the phrase to let people know that ‘I drove my butt off and this car can’t do any better, so I’m going to hype up my performance to make myself look good’. Realistically though, it was impressive in comparison to the testing grief McLaren faced.

Stoffel Vandoorne

Yet again another number two driver completely demolished by their teammate. In all fairness to Vandoorne, although he finished last and behind the Sauber of Giovinazzi he still managed to complete 55 consecutive race laps in a car that couldn’t get anywhere near that mark during pre-season testing.

Sauber

Marcus Ericsson

What more to say for Marcus Ericsson? Impressed the paddock by making it through to Q2 in a Sauber that was predicted to be the slowest car on the grid for 2017. Bill Belichick would be proud, the Swede basically ‘did his job’ this weekend and his contentions for a strong result were effectively over after the clash with Magnussen on the first lap, with his retirement on lap 21 the icing on the cake.

Antonio Giovinazzi

Initially Giovinazzi thought his race call up on Saturday morning was a joke, however his performance was far from that. To jump into the difficult 2017 machinery, let alone a Sauber and qualify only a couple tenths off his teammate is a solid performance to say the least. Pascal Wehrlein will obviously step back into the car for the rest of the season, however teams will now keep an eye on the Italian in the circumstances where there is a potential mid-season driver switch. The first seats to look at here are the McLaren seat of Alonso (if he leaves the sport) as well as the Renault of Palmer (if his performances decline further, as well as Giovinazzi’s financial situation).

 
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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

Podcast Transcript: 2017 iWCGPS Preview

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Podcast Transcript
2017 iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series Preview
Jonathan Simon | February 28, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator
 

Achange at the top of the pecking order in 2016 meant Martin Krönke would claim his first world championship, a long awaited one in the series. It wouldn't come easy however, as the German would have to fend off five-time world champion Greger Huttu all the way into the final round at iRacing's laser scanned Circuit of the Americas.

RaceSpot TV commentators Jonathan Simon and Wil Vincent preview and analyse the upcoming 2017 season.

This transcript is summarised and edited. The full podcast is available via the following links on YouTube and iTunes , as well as Stitcher which is embedded below.

Calendar Changes

Jonathan Simon: We have the shortest calendar in series history as it’s gone down from 16 to 12 races. The four races removed are Phillip Island, Watkins Glen, Motegi and Okayama. Out of those four I’m really disappointed to see Watkins Glen go because that always gave us some brilliant racing action. What are the advantages and disadvantages of having a shortened calendar?

Wil Vincent: The advantages are that people who are racing in multiple top level world championships are able to place more focus onto each of their respective series [leading to better performances].

JS: Yeah, I think the disadvantages are for the smaller teams who need more track time and need more opportunities to score more points.

WV: I disagree, if you look at the first couple rounds of the championship over the past few years and how close qualifying was, what the smaller teams have said year after year is the trouble of keeping up that development level throughout the year. Now you lose four races and have more gaps, that gives the smaller teams a better chance of maintaining their development level through the season.

VRS Coanda Simsport Martin Krönke, Mitchell deJong, Martti Pietilä, Mack Bakkum

JS: Mack is an exciting addition, he’s joined a team that provides the perfect culture and environment for him. He’s going to get faster, more rational and it’s going to make him smarter on the car setup side.

WV: Let’s go back to 2015 when he burst onto the scene at Motegi and had some great results towards the end of the season. Fantastic, although now his expectations have to be more than just a load of top five finishes.

JS: Defending world champion [Martin] Krönke is a great team leader and advisor for this squad, the most consistent driver in the series. [Mitchell] deJong is cool, calm and collected along with [Martti] Pietilä who is another great presence and leader to have.

WV: In the first few rounds last year, Coanda had a miserable start but they found a way of bouncing back and that really showed how strong they were as a collective team because they were ‘really’ playing catch up.

JS: Yeah, what scares me the most is the potential they showed at Spa last year. When they put their minds to a round and test extensively, that car can be seriously quick.

Team Redline Greger Huttu, Olli Pahkala, Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola, Bono Huis, Freek Schothorst

JS: A lot [of people] think [Greger] Huttu is in the decline phase of his career. He only finished 21 points off Krönke, he hasn’t lost it and he’s still the dominant sim racer he’s always been.

WV: Olli Pahkala is a driver I would put in the championship battle along with Huttu and Krönke. However Aleksi Uusi-Jaakkola has been very hit and miss in the past and that hurts the overall dynamic of the team. It has an effect on the amount of people who are able and willing to test the nuances of a race car. The good news is that they’ve got new faces.

JS: Bono [Huis] and Freek [Schothorst].

WV: Yeah, that’s more people behind the wheel who are able to test, develop and take the fight to Coanda as a unit.

JS: It’s going to take Bono some time to adapt to iRacing though so rationally, I don’t think there’s any pressure on him this season.

WV: [Laughs] I completely disagree. If you’re a successful driver such as Bono, the pressure on him from a casual fan is huge. They’re going to expect him to get results.

JS: He has the perfect personality to deal with that though; he probably won’t show up for a single interview anyway this season. I just hope Freek and Aleksi figure out their consistency issues and this team has the potential to be deadly. I think Redline should focus on maximising their own potential first instead of worrying about beating Coanda.

ineX Racing Joni Törmälä, Jake Stergios, Robin Friskopps, Simon Cattell

JS: Joni Törmälä’s emergence was as fascinating as Leicester City winning the premier league last season. Who else on this team though is going to support him at the front of the grid?

WV: Jake [Stergios].

JS: Possibly, but he isn’t in the same form he was in years ago.

WV: Jake’s schedule was so heavy last year and there was too much to balance. (1) I think he’ll be much like Randy Orton and come out of nowhere.

JS: [Laughs] Don’t forget, Robin Friskopps is potentially the most consistent driver in the world championship behind Krönke. Simon Cattell also returns to the series. They’re all solid points scorers, obviously nobody predicted Joni to become what he is now and the team hasn’t prepared for that in a way.

(1) That won't be the case in 2017 as there is a more flexible 12 race calendar compared to 16 in 2016.

Apex Racing UK Alex Simpson, Graham Carroll, Peter Berryman, Antoine Higelin, Michael Dinkel, Patrik Holzmann, Jamie Fluke, Marcus Jensen

JS: This could potentially be the final season for team owner Alex Simpson. I want to see how much [Graham] Carroll and [Peter] Berryman improve after their rookie seasons. Last year Berryman was our rookie of the year, but I believe Graham is still the slightly better driver.

WV: The situation with Apex though is that they’re the largest team on the grid and they’ve never won a race in the world championship series. When I spoke to Graham Carroll at the 2017 Autosport International, he did say that he’s only in this series to win. They are our dark horse team for 2017.

JS: This team has such a great foundation now too. Michael Dinkel is a great team leader and basically he and Patrik [Holzmann] were a package deal together, get one you get the other. Holzmann on the right day and in the right mindset and team atmosphere can be the quickest driver on the team. They can help the weaknesses of guys such as Antoine Higelin who needs to improve his pace to make a long overdue step up in the series.

WV: They are one of the hardest working teams in sim racing but I’m sorry, they need to win a race this season and start scoring more podiums consistently.

JS: The good thing for new drivers Jamie Fluke and Marcus Jensen is that as rookies, it allows them stay away from the limelight and enjoy limited pressure in their first season in a large team.

Apex Academy Pashalis Gergis, Kevin Ellis Jr, Ferenc Kern, Alex Bergeron

JS: These four drivers are technically not part of the main team, they aren’t allowed to share setups although they’re still able to communicate and share knowledge with the main team drivers. Some drivers in the main team were surprised not to see Pashalis Gergis promoted though.

WV: The first thing these drivers need to do is qualify to start every race. (2) Alex [Bergeron] just scraped into the series and really needs to make a statement. Gergis and [Kevin] Ellis Jr are fantastic having watched them before.

JS: And for drivers like Ference Kern too, as long as you have the self-motivation and work ethic then it will help develop yourself within the team.

(2) Out of the 50 World Championship Drivers, only the top 35 qualifying times are allowed to proceed to the race.

Orion Race Team Ilkka Haapala, Marin Colak, Dion Vergers, Davy Decorps, Riley Preston, João Vaz

JS: You’ve got Ilkka Haapala who is a great team leader and former race winner, knows the car, setup and has all the knowledge needed to lead the team. Marin Čolak is a former WTCC driver and very quick along with veterans Dion Vergers, Davy Decorps and João Vaz who are still with the team, along with Riley Preston who was a great addition last season as a rookie. What can Orion do to improve from here?

WV: Podiums would be nice. I don’t really know what the direction of this team is, Orion are slightly a cut above mid-pack teams but still not at the level of ineX Racing for example. You’ve got great talent here, Riley Preston…

JS: He’s really good, his issue though is that being from Australia he does have to deal with latency issues which may have been the cause for most of his DNF’s last year.

WV: I have to say that they do have one of the nicest liveries too on the grid.

Radicals Online Kazuki Oomishima, Mogar Filho, Yuta Saito, Paul Ilbrink, Cem Bolukbasi, Daniel Arent Wensing

JS: This team definitely needs to bounce back from the issues they had with the tyres and ERS last season.

WV: The biggest thing for this team in 2017 is how they will be without Andy K. (3)

JS: It’s a huge culture change…

WV: There’s loads of potential this season, I really don’t know which direction this is going to go.

JS: You’ve got Kazuki Oomishima who we all know famously from his near win at Montréal in 2014. Throw in Mogar Filho who scored a pole position last season at Suzuka, Yuta Saito is always entertaining, Paul Ilbrink’s experience, Daniel Arent Wensing as a rookie, along with the amazingly talented Cem Bolukbasi who is aiming to be Turkey’s first Formula 1 driver, they will be the most fun team to watch in 2017.

(3) Andy Kirschetorte is now the former Team Manager of Radicals Online

Vortex SimRacing Balázs Remenyik, Stephen Michaels

JS: Balázs Remenyik comes in as a rookie, but do you remember this name Wil? Stephen Michaels! A very successful driver many years ago with Twister Racing. My concern with him is that he seems to be the type of driver that whether it’s his fault or not, he just seems to always be caught up in incidents much like Riley Preston.

WV: He had a lot of bad luck back in the day, in 2013 he had some fantastic races along with some retirements as well.

JS: He did previously score a podium at the infamous 2013 race at Indianapolis. They do really need to bounce back from losing Michael Dinkel who was their officially classified team captain last year. But it’s not a risky team at all when you have solid drivers such as Remenyik and Michaels.

Thrustmaster Mivano Racing Jorge Montañés, Fabrizio Gobbi, Massimiliano Ficarra

JS: Mivano are still finding their feet in the series a couple years in so far, if [Fabrizio] Gobbi and [Massimiliano] Ficarra really improve they could lighten up the grid.

WV: They’ve got a lot of potential, but at the moment everything is a big unknown.

JS: Yep and don’t worry about Jorge Montañés, he’ll get onto the grid and score some good results with no trouble.

Positive SimRacing Diogo Oliveira, Daniel Bida

JS: Team owner Javier Álvarez who is one of the best team owners in sim racing, wants good growth and by adding Daniel Bida to the team that’s a good step forward, but it’s only baby steps right now.

WV: I agree, two very good drivers in Bida and [Diogo] Oliveira. It’s hard to piece where these two will end up [in the standings] come the end of the season.

JS: Diogo is a great personality to have with the team too.

WV: He needs to try his best to finish up in the top 10 to 15 range more often.

JS: They also need to attract and find the hidden gem driver, such as the Mr. Irrelevant in the NFL or the 2nd round pick in the NBA draft who turns into an all-star. This team has lost some promising talent over the years and it’s very difficult for them to attract big names in the current state they’re in. That’s basically how I was signed to the team. They took a chance on me when I was very much unknown, I ended up performing so well I’m one of the most successful drivers in that team’s history and they trusted in my character, work ethic and speed.

Single team drivers André Böttcher - Heusinkveld CORE Motorsport | Victor Prieto - Champs iRacing | Lukas Gotsch - MSP-Drivers Home | Isaac Price - CORE Sim Racing | Tomo Meglic - SimRacing Bay | Vincenzo Amico - Shinya Michimi SimRacing

JS: Why don’t all six drivers here just combine into one team and work together?

WV: That’s the easy way out. André Böttcher will end up getting into the top 10 as usual.

JS: If he races…

WV: Yes, if he races. Isaac Price will be interesting to see too.

JS: He may be working behind the scenes with Vortex [SimRacing] which is a rumour I’ve heard so that’s definitely good for his campaign.

WV: Lukas Gotsch has fantastic pace, Tomo Meglic occasionally too. Vincenzo Amico could be a dark horse in this mix, if he gets everything hooked up that guy can really wheel a race car.

JS: Yeah, well let’s see if he’s ‘wheely’ good this season then. He’s always making the grid but his pace hasn’t been impressive. But hey, he’s on his own so you can’t blame him and that makes things very difficult [to improve pace]. Especially for someone like Victor Prieto who is a rookie and is on his own too.

Final Predictions

Drivers Champion

JS: I’m going to pick Martin Krönke solely based on his amazing championship performance last season, but I just don’t want to doubt Greger Huttu who I still think has another title in him.

WV: Martin Krönke, because it’s going to take a while for Team Redline to consistently win races again with multiple drivers and while sorting themselves out, Coanda could run away with the title.

Team of the season

JS: If Apex Racing UK can manage their extensive driver lineup throughout the season then I think that warrants enough to hand them team of the season.

WV: The best overall team will be Team Redline. They have enough talent to consistently put themselves towards the front of the grid.

Best Pro Series Driver

JS: I think Mack will have the upper hand on Bono Huis as he has more experience on iRacing. But this can still change halfway through the season if Bono seamlessly warms up to the series. Freek will be close behind these two but the few retirements he’ll probably have places him outside the top two on my list.

WV: If Mack can’t keep a cool head, then it’ll be Bono.

Most pole positions

JS: Huttu and Krönke aren’t really strong qualifiers, they’re more known for their race pace, consistency and mental mindset. It’ll possibly be a tie. Mitchell deJong is known for his strong pace too. I’m counting on Huttu improving in qualifying so I’m going to go with him.

WV: As Bono struggled in the Road Pro Series with qualifying, I’d say Mack.

 
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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.

Italy’s Spanish Brother | Why Fernando Alonso had to leave Ferrari

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Italy's Spanish Brother
Why Fernando Alonso Left Ferrari
Jonathan Simon | Jan 17, 2017

The Simon Racing Report - RaceSpot TV Commentator

With the move of Valtteri Bottas to Mercedes this week, it’s a good chance to reflect on another previous driver change in one of the biggest teams in Formula 1. Fernando Alonso both joining and leaving Ferrari was a necessary and inevitable move in both directions. So why was it the best decision for the Spaniard to leave Ferrari? Alonso’s timeline with Ferrari was never going to be boundless, although it wasn’t as extensive as we all expected it to be. What's most to influence for both his success and failure however, is the intelligence and leadership of one of the greatest drivers of all time.

30th of September 2009

It was finally the day Fernando Alonso was confirmed to have signed a three year deal with Ferrari, as one of the deadliest driver/team combos in Formula 1 history was conceived. Stefano Domenicali was still the team principal for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro (1) and Luca Di Montezemolo was President and Chairman of Ferrari. That’s how long ago we’re talking about…

(1) Ferrari dropped the Marlboro name from the team at the British Grand Prix in 2011. Tobacco sponsorships and advertising in Formula 1 were banned years before that.

Just a month earlier, Crashgate turned into a frivolous outcome for both Flavio Briatore and Pat Symonds, while the spicy and feisty Spaniard of Alonso was approaching the one year anniversary of his only win one of two wins of the 2008 season which ironically included Singapore, as well as Japan.

The timing couldn’t have been more ideal for Alonso. The Renault F1 Team was in turmoil, Brawn GP’s championship winning car was in a performance decline, Kimi Räikkönen was out of the team for next season, Felipe Massa’s injury recovery would keep him out until 2010 (2) , Ferrari subsequently switched their development focus to the F10 and angry Alonso had a chip on his shoulder to beat Ron Dennis…And McLaren. All of this while Ferrari showed brilliant late season form in 2009 to finally sign Alonso to the team, in what was the worst kept secret in Formula 1 at the time.

(2) Felipe Massa was struck by a suspension spring that had fallen from Rubens Barrichello’s Brawn GP car during Qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix.

This was a man who even stated in 2009 that he would end his career at Ferrari. Statements in the modern day that shouldn’t be taken literally of course, because we all remember Lewis Hamilton mentioning he was going to race for McLaren for the rest of his career after winning the 2008 championship, and how Wayne Rooney sported his “once a blue, always a blue” t-shirt before leaving for Manchester United.

 

So why did Alonso’s latter prime while at Ferrari not result in a single world championship for five seasons?

 

 

Q1 | 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix

(3) Unfortunately not 26 as Toyota had literally cried their way out of the sport in this press conference.

Let’s wind back to Q1 in the sandy, salt salivating deserts of the 2010 Bahrain Grand Prix. Just a few months earlier I remember visiting the race track on a December trip and envisioned the scream of 24 Formula 1 cars (3) into the first corner and couldn’t for the life of me believe how anybody would be capable of taking the fight to Alonso. The man had already cemented a reputation as one of the angriest athletes in sports, there was no humanely and insanely possible way in which anybody could knock off both himself and his now lusciously long lady attractive hair.

 

This is where the beauty of ‘Formula 1’ comes in.

 

Formula 1 drivers are limited to their machinery. Alonso could sit in a HRT (Not Hormone Replacement Therapy, the Formula 1 team) and the man would still not score a point in what was the longest season in F1 history at the time. (4)

(4) 2010 held 19 races on the calendar, the 2016 season has since surpassed that with 21.

A new onboard camera, the frightening red rosso corsa painted brightly on the Ferrari F10 and the contrasted Spanish and Asturias flag colours on his helmet were coming out of the final corner at the Sakhir Circuit. It hit me right at that moment that Alonso was going to be a demon in the red Ferrari. Sebastian Vettel would have an unusual spark plug failure during the race and Alonso would take the chequered flag and win his first race with Ferrari. (5)

(5) Alonso joins Juan Manuel Fangio / Luigi Muso (1956), Giancarlo Baghetti (1961), Mario Andretti (1971), Nigel Mansell (1989) and Kimi Räikkönen (2007), as drivers to win their first race with Ferrari

(Source: GPUpdate)

Fernando Alonso’s leadership throughout the season was far from cerebral, taking a more pragmatic, emotional and relationship based approach. His performances on track clouted Massa’s ability to return to form from his accident in 2009 and throughout their years at Ferrari as teammates, Alonso made Massa look so bad that I started to question whether Massa was even capable of winning races anymore.

 

2010 German Grand Prix

(6)

The conflict of interest now begins to cause controversy. The German Grand Prix begins on the 25th of July 2010, exactly one year to the day where Felipe Massa suffered his accident in qualifying for the 2009 Hungarian Grand Prix. “Fernando is faster than you” (6) is born and conceived by a reluctant Rob Smedley and Fernando Alonso wins. Not only had Nando asserted himself as an intimidating number one driver, his leadership and presence was enough to gain the trust of Ferrari who were now obviously submissive to the Spaniard in the public eye. Submissive in a sense that Ferrari allowed Alonso to be who he wanted to be, the same way great leaders tend to avoid changing natural characteristics of the employees they nurture.

 

Now here is the first of 126 NBA analogies I’ll make today. Steve Kerr (current coach of the Golden State Warriors) allows Stephen Curry to shoot 3’s from ridiculous distances, because he can at a high percentage. This is despite the fact of it being a ridiculous shot for anyone else and as a result, makes him more comfortable executing offensively on the floor. He allows Draymond Green to lead, speak and be boisterous the way he does because he wants Draymond to be more comfortable showing up to his job as a player. It allows him to keep to who he is, yet still fit in with the overall team culture. Gregg Popovich (current coach of the San Antonio Spurs) asked Manu Ginobili why he kept making flashy, risky passes and he responded “This is what I do Pop”. So Coach Pop accepted that being ‘Manu’ was part of the overall package you got with Ginobili.

 

The reason that all links to Nando, is that Ferrari did the right thing by allowing Alonso to be who he is. Angry, passionate, reveal ambition and provide flair, all while still maintaining the overall Ferrari culture of old.

 

Back to 2010, the end of season shift in momentum that season was a result of brilliant victories at Monza, Singapore and Korea.

 

A return to the top step of the podium for Ferrari at Monza was mostly a result of Ferrari making a good strategic call for the first and probably last time in team history. Alonso passed Button coming out of the pits and later celebrated the win by swerving across the finish line. This iconic celebration purely and genuinely signified the joy and importance of a home victory that Ferrari had been waiting for in the post Michael Schumacher era. The joy which Alonso had soaked in both through his champagne on the podium and metaphorically through his leadership for the team.

 

(7) *As of the start of the 2017 F1 season. Grand Slam = Pole position, win, fastest lap and lead every lap. The last grand slam before Alonso's was recorded by Michael Schumacher at the 2004 Hungarian Grand Prix.

Alonso even went out of his way and took the time at Singapore to stay close to the pit wall as he crossed the finish line, in order to celebrate and further cement his relationship and commitment with the team. Let’s not act like nobody noticed Vettel finishing only 0.293s behind in second place while doing this, along with Heikki Kovalainen’s combusted Lotus Cosworth in smoke to the same side of the race track. It was the first, and so far only grand slam of his career. (7)

 

The Spaniard now moved onto Korea, a new track with a memorable turning point to the season. The triumphant return to the championship lead was a double whammy for Red Bull as both drivers also failed to score points. Alonso’s post-race radio celebrations from both himself and the engineers were enough to cement the already great reputation and passion to win at Ferrari. Both Andrea Stella's (8) motivational comments, as well as Stefano Domenicali's "Avanti Fer, Avanti!", are chilling and nostalgic to listen to after what was a thrilling race and substantial turning point in the championship at the time. Thank you very much to JohnTocky on YouTube who saved me a whole paragraph of linking Alonso radio messages from 2010. Most of my favourite ones are already here, along with the celebration at Korea @ 2:11.

(8) Alonso's race engineer for his entire time at Ferrari was Andrea Stella, who has since moved to McLaren along with Fernando.

Please don't ask for more. There are more Fernando Alonso radio YouTube clips than the amount of times Juan Pablo Montoya was able to swear by the end of this sentence.

 

Oh no... Just wait, there's more...

 

With the effervescent culture that Alonso had instilled within the team through his own performance and emotional eruption, motivation was high throughout management, engineering and more. This was a vivacious period of time that would go on for most of his years at Ferrari. His constant "never give up" phrase over the years was there to keep his team’s attitude on a positive track. Ironically however, 2011 at Korea would contradict his iconic phrase and the packed ball of emotions would crack. His honesty with the team was a tool that would gain trust with designers and engineers. If the car performed well, he would distribute praise where appropriate. If the car was lacking to competitors, he would call out the team and blatantly say improvement was needed.

 

There wasn’t any self-deprecating style of personality with Fernando, meaning the team was designing a car for an assertive and confident figure. If the car wasn’t as quick as their rivals, why put the blame on yourself? An objective argument would claim that he’s responsible for living in Maranello to spend excess time on the simulator (which he’d constantly been doing in the previously linked articles anyway). This is in order to spend time with engineers and the wider team, providing his 'presence' which in turn also motivates the team. But even so, Ferrari didn’t hire him to improve design quality and innovate on a new front wing, or come up with a concept to rival the F-Duct.

 

It would be interesting if F1 drivers had to design their own cars though. Considering Ferrari threaten to form a breakaway series year after year, maybe that's the new concept and idea they need? F1 drivers designing their own cars. What about the driver stepping out of the car to change his own tyres? 1 lap races? What about holding the championship round while incorporating the Monza oval? Anything that would be better than elimination qualifying right?

 

Therefore it’s an anomaly as to how one of the now greatest driver/team relationships of all time deteriorated over the following years. Entertainment value was at a high for the fans, Ferrari had tapped into the wider Spanish market and the guy could give interviews in four languages. (9) Don’t forget that confidence behind the wheel was as good as it’s ever been. It resulted in one of my personal favourite Fernando Alonso career moments, almost attempting to bump draft Lucas Di Grassi at around 275kph (170 mph) on the uphill run at Beau Rivage in Monaco 2010. (10)

(9) Alonso can speak Spanish, English, Italian and French

(10)

 

2010 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix

Ferrari however would look poorest at their richest and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix of 2010 marked one of the moments where their excessive passion and obsession for perfection would come out in the wash in the most difficult of periods. Alonso’s ability to motivate and lead his team to work hard on supporting his pursuit to a third world championship, would haunt them dearly as learning to lose was as hard as winning.

 

Ferrari yet again made another terrible strategic call, what a surprise! You would think a season of constantly putting Felipe Massa on the dud strategy (in order to test out what works for Alonso) would make a difference for their number one driver. It backfired, Petrov happened (11) and the Ferrari team surrounded and comforted Alonso post-race while he lamented what could have been. Massa also swung past and gave the strong ‘dap’ handshake all F1 drivers have adopted. The pound hug without the hug.

(11)

 

2011 FIA Formula One Season

The 2011 campaign came along and was already gone before it began. Red Bull’s RB7 was phenomenal both aerodynamically and via mechanical grip, as was its ability to nurture itself into the new Pirelli era of Formula 1. Ferrari’s only victory of the season came off the abnormal race at Silverstone where off-throttle blown diffusers were banned and almost randomised the grid. (12) Nothing to see here…

(12) Off-throttle blown diffusers were initially banned before the 2011 British Grand Prix. This concept proved advantageous for teams such as Red Bull Racing, who significantly lost out along with McLaren during the weekend. Ferrari took advantage of the shakeup and Alonso took victory by over 16 seconds to the dominant Red Bull cars of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber. Due to complaints from most teams, the ban was lifted following the event.

Let’s appreciate this for one moment.

As an engineer, team principal, team chef, janitor and you name it, would you rather work to help a driver succeed who isn’t talented and confident enough to start a grand prix like that? Or would you work to support Alonso?

If you’re not convinced, let’s look at some more ‘big balls’ moments.

Two wheels on the grass, wheel spin, engine starts to rev... but who cares right? I'm not done yet. Blame Alonso, there are countless of these.

Nailing a race start in Formula 1 is the bat flip after a home run, the touchdown dance or absolutely posterizing and dunking all over the guy who tried to take the charge near the rim. Neither of these mean you win the race/game, but they all get the adrenaline pumping and the heartbeat racing.

 

2012 FIA Formula One Season

2012 was one of the best examples of Alonso’s ability to extract pace from an underperforming car. Underperforming in a sense of expectations, the team had yet again failed to provide a championship dominant car the way Adrian Newey had for Red Bull Racing. We also have to remember that they didn’t have the budget of a 2016 Mercedes, although contradicting this is that they didn’t have the budget-to-points ratio either of a 2016 Force India.

 

After a long while, you may end up in quick sand such as Williams and the moment they weren’t ‘underperforming’ anymore, it’s a bad sign for the future of your team.

 

Alonso had now been recognised and exemplified for something different. It was no longer Minardi Alonso, young Alonso, angry Alonso at Renault, angry Alonso at McLaren, 08/09 quiet Alonso and angry Alonso at Ferrari. It was either ‘most respected on the grid’, ‘best driver in a bad car’ and so on… This was a man who evolved in character for the better.

 

The Australian Grand Prix in 2012 reminded me of the passion Alonso brings to both the fans and his team. After spinning off right in front of my eyes in qualifying at Turn 1, and then seeing him angrily protect the possession of the steering wheel away from the marshals, it was more than obvious this wasn’t the spirit the Spaniard wanted to start the season off with.

 
Paul Gilham/William West | Getty Images

Paul Gilham/William West | Getty Images

Fifteen minutes before the 2013 race the next year, I wasn’t sure if a full, red dressed demon had popped up behind us at Turn 1, or if it was a Ferrari/Alonso fan. After the man whipped out his Spanish Flag and wrapped it around him, it was obvious to me that it was the latter. Heading into Turn 4 of lap one, the crowd now as quiet as Luca Badoer’s 2009 season, Alonso decided to wrap around the outside of Hamilton into the corner while the Spanish fan behind us pierced our ears and shattered the pit wall glass as he yelled “FER!?…. FERNANDO!!!!!!!!” and jigged around with my friend (also an Alonso supporter).

 

I was horrified, knowing it was who else but Lewis who had been humiliated for attempting to slot up the inside of Massa. This further cemented how petrifying Alonso, his fans and his team could be. Maybe not petrifying, but at least intimidating…

 

Ferrari had recognised their lack of qualifying pace and as a result, put a copious amount of focus on race setup and then tailoring it to take advantage of the unusual Pirelli tyres. His aforementioned starts were more than exhilarating and helped ‘hide’ the poor qualifying results Ferrari would eventuate on the Saturday.

Fernando Alonso | Qualifying and Race Position Differential
Note: All data excludes performances where drivers were not a classified finisher

2012
Career
Qualifying (Avg)
5.55
7.06
Race (Avg)
2.95
5.14
Difference (+/-)
+2.6
+1.92


Qualifying and Race Position Differential (Career)

Pole Positions (Career)

Of course we must consider the variable whereby most drivers gain positions from qualifying to the race, due to opponent retirements. However Alonso was always known as a poor qualifier throughout his career. It was his launch control starts in the Renault and his well-timed aggressiveness in the Ferrari that would always compensate for that on Sunday. He will always be known as one of the best drivers to launch off the line in the sport’s history.

 

Also notice how the three leaders (Hamilton, Vettel and Rosberg) in both Qual / Race Pos Diff, as well as pole positions have all driven some of the most dominant F1 cars of all time. Therefore we can't look too deep into these statistics. 

 

 

2012 European Grand Prix

Take Valencia 2012 for example, the greatest performance of Alonso’s career and he even claimed it to be the best win he'd felt in his career. The emotional energy and toll it puts on everyone around you now means results need to happen. To put heart and soul into a single victory and cheer with the sea of red, yellow and blue in the stands will come back to haunt you if it doesn’t go well come the end of the season. For a human being to go through an event like that, only to realise it would be false hope without a world championship, it’s those ‘nostalgia’ moments that make Alonso and his posse around him realise that it’s too much to endure and tolerate again.

 

The season of 2012 was very much like a lottery and very much felt like the rubber band system in Mario Kart that would always slingshot you from last place to first. If we have to make video game analogies, here goes…

 

The Suzuka clash with Raikkonen was the unsatisfying takedown in Burnout 3 where you didn’t quite smack into the guy but you still executed the PIT manoeuvre well enough to complete a mission in Grand Theft Auto. While the start of the Belgium Grand Prix in 2012 was so good, it must be listed in dot points:

  • We thought Maldonado hit the accelerator right as the timer ticks to 0 in Mario Kart, whereas in reality he had hacked his way into a triple mushroom start.

  • Kobayashi did his best Barrichello impression by having a terrible start. His screen was later ink-sprayed by Grosjean’s ‘blooper’.

  • Grosjean not only used a red shell on Hamilton, but had a Mega Mushroom, triple green shells, bob-omb and also bullet bill’d his way through the field to achieve victory by submission.
 

 

2012 Brazilian Grand Prix

Alonso would “never give up” as always come the final race of the season, screaming his way past with a double overtake on Massa and Webber at the Senna S, embodying the support his Brazilian teammate had given him over the years.

Intentional or not, Massa was there for the team and the team was now all Alonso’s. I also recall his ‘Super Save’ in the wet, racing my heartbeat as if I was sprinting to the bathroom mid-race, whereas he’d ironically probably been to the bathroom in the cockpit after that save.

The emotion, passion and flair throughout the season would nevertheless result in another failed campaign. Ferrari’s culture is evident as ‘to win or fail’ and Alonso overlapping with this philosophy had started to mentally fatigue both himself and a supporter base who couldn’t cope with another season of Fernando losing out to Vettel. The powerful image of Alonso glaring at the celebrations of Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing has evolved into him absorbing the sinking feeling as another Ferrari championship slipped away. The sight of a crying mechanic in the Ferrari garage that same cloudy afternoon also shadowed Alonso’s future with the team.

 

2013 FIA Formula One Season

The 2013 season began and after the first few races it seemed to be déjà vu of 2012. After a couple of wins in China and Spain (which may now conceivably be his final victory in Formula 1), the season ran away with Vettel yet again and Alonso leaving Ferrari rumours began to boil in the middle of the season. By this time, losing was almost cemented and the glory and celebration of winning was lost. If you win and celebrate like you’ve discovered a solution for world hunger, then expect to lose in a depressing fashion. This was what backfired significantly on Nando.

 

2014 FIA Formula One Season

Of course the 2014 season wasn’t any help, Alonso knew the car wasn’t competitive and he was forced to change teams. The man just had to at this time, all the memories, glory and fight throughout the years were now ineffective and overused. They’d constantly heard the “we never give up” and the “we need to improve”. As any coach of any sport would say, the more and more you use certain quotes and speeches, the less effective they become.

 

The now retired Tim Duncan from the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs was always portrayed to be a quiet leader by coach Gregg Popovich. He was ‘a leader by example’, never showing up late and always putting in work overtime. This meant every time he opened his mouth to say something, the atmosphere around him knew they were going to be valuable words. This is where Alonso’s constant outgoing passion and leadership came back to bite him. If he won a couple championships, nobody would dare to complain and everything would work to plan. However I truly believe Alonso had no backup plan if he were to lose. The man was so driven that he genuinely believed that in a team such as Ferrari, with his assassinating talent, there was no way he could lose. Di Montezemolo later felt Alonso got it into his mind that he could never win with Ferrari, which of course was further demotivation for the overall team who had adored their long lost Spanish brother for so many years.

 

Luck has a spot to play in any sport and in Formula 1, sometimes more than any. If Grosjean wasn’t a “first-lap nutcase” according to Mark Webber, Alonso may have a third championship with Ferrari. The two time world champion could easily have four to his name if we want to clutch at straws. Then again, we could easily say Massa should also be the 2008 world champion, Lewis could have won 2012, Kimi Räikkönen was the 2005 world champion, Eddie Irvine was the 1999 champion and so on... All of this as Vettel once said, is “should’ve, would’ve, could’ve” and that just doesn’t cut it in Formula 1.

 

Despite all his motivation, strategy, tactics, work ethic and overall leadership, the man’s goal to accomplish becoming a world champion with Ferrari never came to fruition. Of course without Adrian Newey, Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, Fernando Alonso would have an extra two championships to his name with Ferrari. Don’t forget, Stefano Domenicali along with Martin Whitmarsh would probably both still be leading Ferrari and McLaren as team principals respectively if Newey had never existed. Maybe Maurizio Arrivabene never arrives well to Ferrari? Maybe Whitmarsh never panics into a Honda deal for 2015…

 

Let's simulate Fernando Alonso's career at Ferrari ten more times.

  • (3/10) He would be triumphant and win the 2010 and 2012 world championships, Stefano Domenicali is promoted to president and chairman of Ferrari as Luca Di Montezemolo retires, all while Sebastian Vettel moves to McLaren and would win his next race in Formula 1 with Ferrari in 2018.

  • (1/10) Alonso would again win the 2010 and 2012 championships and would retire at the end of 2015 once Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg's Mercedes' dominance truly hammered home.

  • (2/10) Alonso would win the 2010 championship while Lewis Hamilton would claim the 2012 championship. As a result, Hamilton would stay at McLaren until 2014, Sergio Pérez is hired by Ferrari for the 2014 season before being fired for 2015. Vettel and Hamilton both move to Ferrari for 2016 and surprisingly, the odd couple becomes the most loved driver pairing on the grid. Fans start to enjoy the pair as they would fail to succeed and win any more championships, therefore becoming much more loved by society. Making the front page, Fernando Alonso would move to Mercedes for 2014 and win a further two championships, Nico Rosberg would win 2016 and shockingly still retire. And meanwhile, I know you're all wondering about Nico Hülkenberg. He's forever snubbed by the top teams in F1 and he stays with Force India until 2016. Alright maybe that's harsh, but that's the business of the sport right?

  • (4/10) The rest would be exactly as it played out in reality. Considering the Ferrari F10, F150 Italia, F2012, F138 and the F14 T were never the most dominant car, as well as the circumstances with Red Bull and McLaren, Alonso was sublime in the Ferrari. What's that final image of Alonso going to be when it's all said and done?
 

Eventually, Alonso asked Di Montezemelo to release him from the final two years of his contract, which also reinforces my point of how F1 contract security means nothing. "Driver X signs a five year deal and within a couple of seasons they're already out", which makes clairvoyance significantly more predictable. There's a method of navigation around F1 contracts which allowed Fernando to burst out of his deal.


Fernando took the risk of moving to McLaren, a gamble of winning the world championship there before his career comes to an end. That gamble instead resulted in a GP2 drive. In November 2008, I still recall somebody predicting on an F1 forum somewhere that the 2009 World Champion would be ‘Honda’s Jenson Button’. A team that was later sold for £1. 2017 is upon us and ironically, Honda again have some interesting power unit concepts. You never know what the future holds, but you can always influence the outcome of your decisions.

 
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Jonathan Simon provides commentary for RaceSpot TV on the iRacing World Championship Grand Prix Series. He also owns and hosts his own podcast called The Simon Racing Report which features guests from around the sim racing world, along with writing columns for the website.